THE INFLUENCE FACTOR
"I want to play hardball in this business. I want to be on the same level professionally with performers in all areas of music. I love to hear Billy Joel, Kenny Loggins, and the Doobie Brothers. WHy not? I aim to bridge the gap between Christian and pop" - Amy Grant in TIME magazine
A youth pastor at a large Texas church drove to the metro airport to pick up a musical group who was scheduled to give a concert that night at his church.
When the group arrived and retrieved most of their equipment and luggage, the church van was loaded and the groups lead singer - a popular figure in contemporary Christian music - took the passenger seat beside the youth pastor.
The singers first move after buckling his seat belt was to turn on the vans radio and search for the loudest, rawest, rock station he could find.
Rock music with its ear-numbing, bone crunching guitar riffs and rumbles blared throughout the church van until it arrived at the motel. All the while, the group members snapped their fingers and sang along with most of the tunes.
That, in a nutshell, portrays the influence on these religious rockers - secular rock music.
WHO INFLUENCES WHO?
"For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret" (Eph. 5:12)
Here is a record reviewer describing Strypers newest album. Notice the language used:
""Stryper combines the pinpoint harmonies of Styx with the focused guitar attack of Scorpion.""
ANother magazine article describes Vision's new record release:
""In the early 70's, Lynyrd Skynyrd was on the cutting edge of a new breed of music. Now screaming guitars, driving rhythms, soaring electric violins, and those unmistakable keyboards make up Vision, a new band, a new sound, a new purpose.""
When you read articles about these religious rockers, it might say a singer has a "Van Halen" guitar sound, or a voice like Bono of "U2", or drums that have a "Hall and Oates" sound, or music as innovative as "Duran Duran".
All of these comparisons stem from one standard line of reference: secular, gut-level, rock and roll.
The problem for Christians is this" If you're not aware of secular rock groups, you wont have any means of comparison to a religious rock band.
Evidently most of the magazine reviewers - even the so-called "religious publications" - assume that all Christians listen to rock music.
That is not the case!
I personally believe that many Christian young people are discerning enough to know that secular rock and roll came out of the pit of hell. Yet well-meaning, but totally misguided, individuals in religious rock have drawn many unsuspecting youngsters back to the rock and roll sound by either recording, performing, or publicizing it.
The evidence is unmistakable. The religious rockers are totally influenced by secular rock, and that clearly is reflected in the music that religious rock then creates. The result leaves the so-called contemporary Christian music reeking with the taint of the world, the rebellion of hell.
Milwaukee Journal's James Chute characterizes the music in this manner:
""For those whos eyes have not seen and whos ears have not heard, Contemporary Christians Music, or CCM as the insiders call it, is essentially conventionaly rock or pop music with the lyrics changed to protect the innocent.
The lyrics may have been altered, but I seriously doubt the innocent were protected.
Religious rock is now big business.
Newsweek magazine reported in its August 19, 1985, edition:
""Last year , for example, contemporary Christian artists sold more than 20 million albums, and this is only the top of an estimated $400 million gold mine of records, concerts, and souvenirs..."
Those kind of financial statistics create a considerable amount of interest in the recording industry - from record companies, producers, and musicians - all eager to jump on the newest and most popular trend.
A number of secular producers are now crossing over to produce albums in the religious rock realy. John Potoker, who produced Michael W. Smith's THE BIG PICTURE, which has been on the contemporary Top 10 chart for months, has also produced Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.
This is the same Mick Jagger who has recorded songs ranging from the espousal of violent revolution in "Street Fighting Man" to the anthem of satanists, "Sympathy for the Devil." Jagger has been dubbed "the Lucifer of rock and roll" by more than one interviewer.
In fact, one publication suggested, "with voodoo incantations and the screams of demon possession accompanying cuts like "Dancing with Mr. D [the devil], one is left wondering if perhaps the satanic imagery of Mr. Jagger and company is all concocted.""
And now, one of Jaggers former producers has produced an album for Smith, who had made a name for himself writing and performing praise songs like "Hosanna", "Great Is the Lord", and "How Majestic Is Your Name." Apparently the new record represents a sharp change in direction for Smith.
A June 1986 article in Contemporary Christian Magazine profiling Smith and Potoker stated:
""The result of the collaboration is evident in the brashness of Michaels new songs which strike with the abrupt strength of an expertly snapped wet towel on a dry summer day. The music unleashes a rock n roll power only hinted at in Michaels previous work.""
Could it be that Potoker's experience with Mick Jagger has strongly influenced Smiths album? The answer would have to be an obvious yes.
The CCM story entitled "Smitty Gets Gritty" also contained the following observation:
""In concert, Michael will sometimes jump from the stage to dance with the young women who have rushed the stage. He remembers the first time he did it. The show was in California, and Debbie [his wife] was backstage. The next night, the girls agains flocked in front of him, but this time he didn't join them""
Isn't it ironic that an artist who is already quoted as saying "asking for a decision" from young people "is not my call" can still feel the liberty to jump down from the stage and dance with young girls?
Thats the measure of wrongness of religious rock. Where is God in such raw, worldly conduct? How is Jesus glorified in such nonsense?
The truth is, He's not! He is blasphemed!
Smith and Potoker arent the only ones, unfortunately. There are a host of others. The producer, for instance, who did Russ Taff's MEDALS album and Amy Grants UNGAURDED recently listed his musical influences:
""I would say the music for the Eighties in Chaka Khan's FEEL FOR YOU and Hall & Oates' BIG BAM BOOM are definite examples of modern music. I like songs on the Top 40 format.""
That individuals statement clearly shows the influence on his music which, of course, is reflected in the music he wil then produce for others. Hence, the religious rock sound is no different from its secular rock brother.
The hard cold fact is, there is no difference.
"But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to committ fornication" (Rev 2:14)
New bands appear to be the order of the day. Undercover is once such group which favors the "new wave" sound. A promotional flyer describes the band:
""Blue Collar is pleased to present BRANDED, the long awaited fourth album from Undercover. Undercover's raw emotion and driving music has won them a large following throughout the US and Europe. Branded combines a maturing of the band's intense rock with deeply moving lyrics that make Branded a very important album.""
Sometimes its difficult to discern much about a group from simply listening to their music. In Undercover's case, the music is pretty raw and definatly from the "new wave" school of rock and roll.
However, most of the religious rockers are frequently quoted. Undercovers Joey Taylor of the California-based group made the following statements to the San Diego Union:
""Im not connected with Christian music at all. I cant stand Christian radio stations, and Christian TV makes me want to barf. Our music is a vehicle for our Christianity.
Describing Undercover with "punk looks and ragged rock sounds," WHAT ABOUT CHRISTIAN ROCK quotes Taylor:
""Our desire is to be credible to these kids, who, even though they are not violent, rebellious, satanic, punk rockers, they enjoy this style of music. We can reach them that way. But we also feel led to call, reach out to those people who are extremely violent..."
It sounds liek Joey, who sports a modified mohawk haircut and wears chains and leather, is giving us some double-talk which seems fairly typical for most of the religious rockers. I have felt the contradict almost everything they say with conflicting statements, their style of dress, or their music.
The groups who are coming onto the scene now apparently have decided THEY will set the standard for music. They'll play what they please and nobody will tell them differently.
Of course, that is the spirit of the world - rebellion. It came into the world with Satans act of rebellion against God and is now manifest in a number of ways within religious rock. It is still the spirit of lawlessness.
Here is an album review for a group called Bash-N-The Code, which someone suggested has an "adrogynous look" in its appearance:
""They debut a brainstormer of a debut album...what kees the Bash from dance mania is a stunning rock guitar solo obviously influenced by Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. He adds a certain music style to tunes the dance floor often neglects...""
This album review, from Contemporary Christian Magazine, gives the basic direction this group is headed with its music - the dance floor.
Is that what music which supposedly relates to God Almighty should be doing? Or does it really matter anymore?
The very title of the group, Bash-N-The Code, is an attack against traditional Christianity. In essence, the groups title is suggesting, "We dont believe in these 'thou shalt nots' of the Ten Commandments and of Christianity as a whole. By our life-style, our actions, and our group name, we're saying do away with most of that old-fashioned stuff""
Once you get down to the basic premise with these groups, they are suggesting, "Do away with most of the Bible. We have little interest in Bible Christianity. We will have our own type of Christianity."
"If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psa. 11:3)
Another new group is called Stricken. A review stated "the group is visibly more shocking than Motley Crue. The foursome sports on-stage armor and new music they call thunder rock"
Youth Choir, a popular group at Christian festivals, changed its name recently to The Choir. A recent album review on the band stated:
""Daugherty's uniquely arresting guitar sounds are driven to new heights of expression by the propulsive, drum attack. Songs move from a police-like attack...guitar riffs to a full throttle rock with a hot sax. Youth Choir softens the new music palet, prodding the conscience.""
Do you sense anything with these record reviews that bespeak of faith towards God, holiness, or any of the fruit of the Spirit which the Bible admonishes us to reflect? Do you find anything edifying or encouraging in these music reviews about the Lord Jesus Christ directly?
I dont; I only find sacrilege.
Yet the groups persist in their outrageous comments. According to Derald Daugherty, The Choir's guitarist/vocalist:
""The music is basically a cultural thing. And God can use anything. We have chosen this kind of music as a vehicle for God.""
FESTIVALS AND THE GRATEFUL DEAD
It seems ironic there could be any real link between the acid rock group, The Grateful Dead, and Christian music festivals, but thats exactly what writer Brian Quincey Newcomb suggested in the July/August 1986 issue of Contemporary Christian Magazine.
Writing about the festivals where there is "plenty of rock n roll", the article made frequent reference to the music events and the rock group. Newcomb concluded by saying:
""Folks who listen to the Dead dont listen because the band members are great musicians. Often they arent. They dont listen to the Dead because they're innovative. They've been doing essentially the same thing for nearly 20 years. People listen to the Dead because they like how the music feels, they like the atmosphere around the music, and they enjoy other folks who enjoy the Dead.""
Such comparisons might seem perfectly innocent and harmless unless you know something about the history of the Grateful Dead. According to the book, WHY KNOCK ROCK?...
""The Grateful Dead...spokesman and "resident guru" Jerry Garcia, described the group's popular sound, acid rock, as "music you listen to when you are high on acid" The Dead was known as the band that stood for rebellion and drugs, and its fans were heavy dopers. A typical concert was often sotted with LSD as well as pot, and Dead's followers have appropriately bee dubbed "dead-heads". Describing a Dead concert, and article in US magazine stated, "Wine-filled goatskins, marijuana, and assorted other 'party favors' are passed through the crowd.""
Newcombs article on the music festivals also noted the fact that one band, "Adam Again - the newest band on Blue Collar Records - dressed in Salvation Army and Goodwill specials"
Under a photograph of the group, the cutline read: "New music band Adam Again teaches Midwesterners the meaning of "boogie""
I dont know what any of this nonsense has to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
To be frank with you, to compare some type of Christian endeavor with the basest of rock groups (or any rock group at all) is little more than blasphemy. The very idea that any comparison could be offered shows the absolute degeneracy of the individuals connected with the religious rock scene.
People who flock to these events, performers who play them, magazines who write about them, and pastors who give their seal of approval to them either have little knowledge of the Word of God, or are very shallow in their Christianity, or else they are close to being reprobates.
"Who knowing the judgement of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" (Rom 1:32).
DOES INTEGRITY MATTER?
It is clear - even though this sub-heading has been titled "Does Integrity matter?" - that actually linking integrity with religious rock is like comparing Mary, the mother of our Lord, with a common prostitute on the street.
Anyone who would try to do such - as we have seen in this book's pages - would be misguided at least and absolutely ludicrous at worst.
Some years ago the late Keith Green was quoted as saying:
""I do believe that the Holy Spirit is grieved by a lot of what is being passed today as music ministry and gospel music - not so much by the beat or content, but by the lack of commitment and anointing.""
In an article published in Destiny magazine (May/June 1986 issue) on "Todays Music," Larry Tomczak made some of the same observations:
""...Over my past fifteen years in ministry, I have made many friends in the music field, sitting face to face and sharing honest fellowship at Jesus festivals, conferences, and concerts throughout this country. At times I have been grieved by what I've seen. I do not speak harshly or by way of hearsay, as I have been privileged to minister with many artists during 31 Jesus festivals dating back to the very first one in 1973. Ive repeatedly seen musicians ministering out of an "empty well", confessing to me that their own spiritual life was almost nonexistent, having been swallowed up by the demands of the touring "circuit" as they try to get to the top....How many of these artists, and others like them, have compulsive eating and drinking problems, offer shallow presentations of the gospel, persistently battle with immorality, and exhibit a seemingly complete lack of vision for what God is currently doing on earth - all stemming from a lack of a dynamic, ongoing personal relationship with Jesus Christ?""
Evidentally integrity is not even the question - since few of the individuals involved in religious rock seen to have any.
ALBUM REVIEWS OF SECULAR ARTISTS
To give you an idea how far religious rock is slipping from its biblical moorings, consider the fact that Contemporary Christian Magazine recently carried album reviews on two well-known pop artists, Stevie Wonder and Jackson Browne.
Wonder, who has made hit records since he was eight years old, had a big hit this past year with a song entitled "Part-Time Lover"
His latest album was called "a state of the art delight" by the magazine reviewer.
The review on Jackson Browne pontificated:
""Apparently religion is important to Jackson Browne, but he is yet to find a way to make it relevant to his own life.""
After making that incredible statement, the magazine writer then suggested in an unbelievable fashion:
""We would be right to give Jackson Browne a listen to see if there isnt something we can learn from what he says.""
Why should anybody listen to Jackson Browne? Especially any born-again child of God.
What are you going to learn from somebody who is searching for the answers we have already found in Jesus Christ?
Why should I go to a searcher when Ive go God's Word that provides the answers?
This is utter nonsense!
The problem with all of this is the blending of the holy and the unholy. It is a complete violation of Ezekiel 44:23, "And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane."
Performers tour from city to city giving a secular concert in one place and a religious one in another. Record producers ply their production artistry for the Rolling Stone's Mick Jagger as well as the latest Christian star - seemingly without a problem.
Religious magazines review secular artists in the same breath with religious ones and blindly suggest we should listen to them...and readers, who claim Christ as Saviour and should know better, will follow that kind of ignorant advice.
"No man can serve two masters" (Mat. 6:24)
Yet after two thousand years, people still try.
"Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Mat. 15:14)