"For what its worth, Amy Grant is a bonafide star. - Contemporary Christian Magazine cover story
Just as the secular rock world has its superstars - Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, and others - so does religious rock. Who are these individuals and what are they saying to us? I have arbitrarily chosen six - three men, two groups, and one woman - to give a preview of the direction, influence, and musical styles of the music's leaders.
Even though the religious rock has its superstars - a situation which can occur in the ministry alos - the very idea of such is foreign to biblical Christianity. Once again, it is an oxymoron, and impossibility of the melding of light and darkness.
The superstar concept, whether in the ministry or religious rock, has its birth in the pit. It was that same deadly force which threatened to destroy the fledgling group of disciples even in the very midst of the Lord's earthly ministry.
"And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
"And he said unto them, the kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
"But ye shall not be so..." (Luke 22:24-26)
The cause of Satans downfall was that he desired to be God. That spirit pervades the world today, causing the greater part of mans inhumanity to man. Really, it should be a tip-off that "something is wrong" when the superstars are spawned not only in religious rock but in southern gospel as well, and, I might add, in the ministry - where it wll destroy an individual quicer than anything else.
Leon Patillo was lead singer and keyboard player for four year (1973-1977) for the secular rock group Santana - know for its songs like "Black Magic Woman" and others. In the last several years he has become increasingly popular within religious rock and with the same style of music - a wedding of pop/rhythm and blues with religious lyrics.
Yet his career, even within the religious realm, has created a controversial stir according to Contemporary Christian Magazine:
""Last year , Leon went out on tour with a set of sequencers as a one-man show. This year , he's going out with a band - the members of which are all white, al female, and all unsaved.
The flack is already starting to come in. One "know-it-all" even complained that Leon was trying to become "the Christian Prince." But the singer feels quite strongly about the lineup for two reasons. First leon felt led to hire non-Christians based on a very early example: "I really prayed about it and said, 'Lord, am I going the right route with this sort of thinking"? "He said, 'Well, all you have to do is check me out. I did the same thing when I was going out to get My disciples. I went out and caught a couple fisherman and said, "Im going to make you fishers of men."
Of course, He could say that. But the point is that He didnt run down to the local synagogue and try to get a group together. He went out into the streets... "I really believe that, as Christians, we should be the first to do something," Leon enthuses. "We sould let the world copy us. They come up with "We are the World", so we go and get all the Chrisitans together to sing a song. We should be setting the pace, because we're serving the God of all creativity - and we all know how wild Gods imagination is.
Im going to make a stand. Im going to do something different. Im going to let the world stand up and say, "Wow, man, did you see that guy?' And its going to be a perfect setup. As soon as they've got their mouths open or their hearts open and they're going 'Wow', Im gonna throw Jesus right down their throats.""
The overpowering problem I have with Leons remarks is his terrible misconception about the men Jesus called. First, they were men, not women. And these men (Peter, James, John, etc.) in todays vernacular would be considered mature Christians even before they stepped out to follow the Lord. So to suggest an analogy that Jesus did not go into the synagogue but went to the streets instead has absolutely no basis in Scripture or comparison in fact regarding those men He chose to follow Him.
All of these men were staunch believers in the Old Covenant (which is all they had at the time). They were mature in their development - some having been followers of John the Baptist.
However, to equate the disciples of Jesus with the unsaved members of a religious rock band borders on blasphemy or a total lack of knowledge of the Word of God - I suspect the latter case being the true problem.
This is the kind of muddled theology which pervades much of religious rock and its performers. Yet these people are hailed as spiritual leaders to millions of young people. The saddest part is, many gullible Christians buy their message without knowing the scriptural truth.
Like many of the religious rockers who have aspirations of a broader marketplace, the article quotes Patillo as looking toward an impact on that general market. "I get a chance to do a secular concert every once in a while," he is quoted as saying.
Sound familiar? Its a frequent refrain with most of the religious rockers. No doubt most of them have never considered this scriptural application to their lives:
"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
"No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier"
"And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully" (2 Tim. 2:3-5)
Philip Bailey, formerly with the soul/pop group, Earth, Wind, and Fire, credits Leon Patillo with being instrumental in his full-on commitment to Christ. Bailey also stated one of the reasons he stayed in secular music:
""When people talk to us aobut how I can be in secular music, my biggest example was Leon being in Satana. Thats how I cut my teeth. I see it as being such and effective tool, unless the Lord has told you differently.""
The son of a Baptist pastor in Denver and a former youth minister himself, the Los Angeles Times says "rock n roller Steve Tayor breaks tradition with a sledgehammer."
Billboard magazine stated, "Steve Taylor has an edge and vitality rare for any act."
The book, The Heart Of Rock and Roll, attempts to describe Steve Taylors music in the following way:
""...Music that is riddled with satire, quirky, tinged with more than a hint of new wave rock, and anything but comforting?
Watch out when Taylor sets his sights on some of our most revered Christian leaders. He calls them "brylcreem prophets" or "charlatans in leisure suits," and pokes holes in their teachings.
And Taylor doesnt write about familiar places found in Christian vacation guides. He takes us to Madame Tussauds famed wax museum in London (which serves as an illustration of hell and judgement) anbd to the Reptile Gardens Curio Shop, a place located nowhere but in the songwriters own fertile imagination.
He sings about spiritual battles, some of which even angels have not dared to view (like the duel with the devil in the backseat of a Chevy)
And his characters arent all nobel and virtuous. No, they try to get by with everything: marital infedility, hypocrisy, abortion, suicide, and insanity. But they rarely succeed.
Even the religious folk that populate Taylors songs have their faults. In fact, Taylors three recordings present a virtual catalog of the ills and idiosyncrasies of the modern American church - everything from country-club Christianity, through church-supported racism, to spiritual pride.""
How does Taylor view gospel music? Heres a quote from and interview published in February 1986's edition fo Contemporary Christian Magazine:
""I appeared on the Dove Awards last year and I still feel uncomfortable about it. I really dont belong there because Im not really part of that Gospel mainstream. Sure, Im a Christian and that influences the way I write songs but thats just being honest, everybody pushes a point of view. Is Madonna's music just for whores? Is Prince's music just for sexual deviates? Christian musicians should be less concerned about being accepted with their peers and work on saying something different.""
What these people are actually saying is this: The Bible is outdated and old-fashioned. It doesnt apply to modern life. We have abetter way of doing things - our way.
Once again, this isnt new. Its an old story begun in the Garden of Eden and repeated ever since. Religious rockers have simply restated it - another type of Christianity, yet it has no basis in the Bible.
But let me tell you, the Bible is for every age group and for every age. It doesnt matter how old you get, just say it the way it is. There wont be another instruction book given. The same word Moses gave to Pharaoh is the same word you can give to the modern-day monarchs of Egypt.
Taylor is further quoted as saying:
""Ive got to say that when my songs started drawing fire because they were so controversial, I knew I was on the right track. Everything I do I sort of stuble into, and that gives me the freedom to stumble into anything.""
Assessing Taylors musical contributions, annother article noted:
""Extensive touring last year  with Sheila Walsh in Europe and the U.S. confirmed his reputation as a powerful new arrival on the scene. His edgy, punk-influenced sound matched perfectly the cutting insights and brittle sense of irony that set his music apart from the often rote retreads of much of the rank and file.""
Taylor mad a video entitled "Lifeboat" in which he dressed as a woman teaching an elementary school class on values clarification. Then all of the kids throw him out the window while singing, "seeing if the teacher can bounce."
There is no substance to such videos - no Jesus, no God, no nothing.
Perhaps it could be correctly termed a religious nihilsm - characterized by no future, no substance, no hope. Rock music authority, Lester Bangs has said the sound is a "fast train to nowhere" and that quality is evident in secular rocks offspring, religious rock and roll/
Religious rock does not offer hope. Since it is Spiritless, it can give none. It does not offer heaven, for the music within itself produces a vacuum - full of sound and fury but no substance. It provides no foundation to the believer because its birth came from secular rock and roll which has no basis in God.
Like many other religious rockers, Mylon Lefevre is making some radical changes with his approach - but I am as troubled about his old methods as I am with his new ones.
An interview Mylon gave Chrisitian Contemporary Magazine (March 1986), contained the following remarks:
""If the critics are upset now, Mylon thinks they'l have a field dayin the not-too-distan future...
One of the things Mylon may be referring to is a new album due out soon from CBS. He and the band are going by the name Look Up. "Its a Christian album, but you really have to know the Word to know it. CBS aint gonna know it. Every song on there - every note on there - is played by born-again, Spirit-filled Christians. We had a good time making the record. Its an anointed record and its got a good message, but its very shallow. We really avoided certain words and phrases, you know. Its just about themes.""
I have a very hard time accepting his statement equating anything anointed with being shallow. In over thirty years of full-time ministry, I have seen the anointing of God set the captives free. It breaks bondages over people. Every problem in life can be solved under the anointing of the Holy Spirit of God.
The article continues:
"Uh-h. Is Mylon selling out? He doesnt think so. "I wouldnt go into a situation where I had to compromise what Ive been called to do. If I cant teach and preach and make disciples exactly the way I do now, if going and getting on tour with somebody who would want me to water it down.""
Im not sure what Mylon's telling us. First, he states that he's recorded a secular album for a secular company and dropped all references to Jesus. Then he says he wont compromise or water down things. It seems pretty obvious he has.
Since the "music is the message," Im not sure anybody who follows Mylon will know the difference - or care.
The article further quoted Mylon as saying:
""We considered doing a couple of tours, like maybe opening for Eric Clapton. We wouldnt go out with some metal band or something, but if it were somebody who draws a mellow audience like Eric, what I would do with that opportunity is to tell them exactly the same thing I do now. I wouldnt change. I wouldnt compromise teaching and preaching and making disciples for any amount of money.""
If Mylon took such a step - going on tour with a famed rock performer like Eric Clapton - how would he expect to get his message across in an arean filled with thousands of people, marijuana smoke blowing under his nose, and stoned or drunk individuals screaming for songs about drugs, sex, and satanism?
How can anybody get his message across in such a scene?
""Nonetheless, in making an album for the pop market, Mylon set out to work on some general songs that wouldnt have direct or even subtle spiritual messages, but a problem developed. "I went to write this album, and I was going to write some secular-type tunes. Im not opposed to that. If you a plumber, you plumb. If you're a mechanic who gets born again, you still work on cars, not just on Christian cars. I just didnt enjoy it. I couldnt do it, but creating is fun when you're doing what means something to you. If not, you're prostituting your art.""
When aman who has written plenty of rock and roll songs in the past suddenly could not produce one, as Mylon Described, I wondered if the Holy SPirit was dealing with him not to write such songs. That seemed obvious to me. Yet when he couldnt write the tunes, he simply got songs from others. Heres an example, in Mylons own words, of one of the songs:
""A couple of songs dont have any message... Theres one that Dana Key wrote about an old relationship. A girl walked out on him, He just dragged this sucker out of the closet and dusted it off, and it was a good rock n roll n roll song. It aint got nothing to do with Jesus. Its just a song and we recorded it.""
Honestly, I dont understand the logic in any of these comments. I feel buried in a sea of contradictions.
Myloin has already said he was not going to compromise the message and now he was saying he has recorded a song that has no message at all. Its just a rock and roll number. The same story quoted him as saying he "quite rock and roll to follow Jesus"
In a meeting with Mylon and a number of others in August 1986, he was asked, "Why did you record a secular album?" His answer:
""Im going to get it out on the Top-40 radio stations. When I go to town, Im going to bill it as a rock and roll show. Get kids to come to a rock concert. Then Im going to preach to them about Jesus.""
This is not the way the Gospel works. You dont become a prostitute to win prostitutes - thats prostitution. Is that what religious rock has become? A form of prostitution? As remot as that possibility might seem - if temple prostitutes could justify themselves, so could a host of others.
Rez Band, originally called Resurrection Band, emerged from the Jesus movement of the late 1960's and early 1970's. Just like many others in the religious realm, Rez is another of those bands now approaching the secular rock audience.
According to a published story (CCM/April 1986):
""...Rez Band expects to keep their musical orientation essentially the same as its always been - raw, muscular rock n roll accented by the Kaisers' no-nonsense vocals and by Heiss' blistering guitar.
"On our previous album, Hostage," remarks Herrin, "we were enticed into the realm of more keyboards and drum machines - which seemed like nice little toys to play with. But I dont think we, as a whole, felt that comfortable with them.
"on Between Heaven N Hell, we were able to bring ourselves back to our roots. We are more of a guitar/live drum rock n roll band, and I think we're gonna stay that way. We hope to stay a little rawer than whats going on in the area of slick productions.""
Its in the area of production that Rez is considering some extensive changes like many others, according to the article:
""The up-to-now self-produced band has been talking to engineer Ron St. Germain, whose knob-twisting credits include Rolling Stones, Mich Jagger's solo project, and the Duran Duran spinoff, Arcadia""
That kind of change fits neatly into the secular image the band apparently is courting. A girl who attended one of the group's first bookings by its new agence wrote the following letter to a magazine:
""I had the privilege of attending one of their first concerts booked by their new agency at a nightclub in Milwaukee. I was very proud to be a Christian that night.""
I cant imagine any reason for feeling pride with such a group playing in a nightclub. It seems weeping would be the more correct emotion.
Rez has consistantly drawn hot reaction from people who have been exposed to either its music or theology. The band, part of an organization known as Jesus People USA, publishes a magazine, Cornerstone, in which the following letter appeared in Volume 15, Issue 79:
""...Your statement, "We're all, everyone, unrighteous sinners," does nothing to glorify God - an attitude and result I see is quite common amongst "Christian rockers." Christians hearts are not "desperate and deceitfully wicked" as you say, but God has written His law there; indeed, God has given us new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26)! False humility is no substitute for holiness. Neither is the compromise and corruption of "Christian rock" a profitable substitute for us to be a peculiar people who show forth praises of our God - not comformed to this world with punk rock hairdos, garb, and music, but transformed by the renewing of our minds.
So your vision is to live out Matthew 25:40 "As you did unto one of the least of these My bretheren, you did it unto Me."
Consider then what you're doing to thousands of impressionable Christian youth: exhorting them to punk out, rock on, and to consider asa "common" that which the Lord Jesus Christ has made clear (namely our hearts). Instead of leading youth to be holy, righteous, and bold to make a stand against this wicked and perverse generation, you're making them to be twofold more the child of hell than yourselves...""
Perhaps more so than any other group in religious rock, the group Petre - after some fifteen years and nine albums - has demonstrated the growth and appeal of this music medium, which has now created a new industry.
Begun in 1972 by four Bible college students in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the group soon began playing its "primitive," high-decible music at schools, colleges, parks, and prisons, as well as the Adams Apple, a local Christian center. Its first album was released in 1974 as a kind of "test balloon" for religious rock. Another harder-edged release followed three years later.
Today when Petra hits the road, and army of equipment follows:
>Three 52-foot semi-trucks, with and additional 24-foot truck and two buses,
>Thirty-two sound cabinets carrying more than 15,000 watts of power,
>Four hundred lights with 400,000 watts of power, all run by computerized control board,
>Ten tons of stage gear for suspending the lights and sound equipment in mid-air,
>A twenty-member crew of technicians and drivers.
That in a nutshell, tells you something of the growth of religious rock - a group which began as four Bible college students now tours Austrailia, Norway, Canada, and amusement parks in the U.S. and sells some 300,000 copies of each album. The band, which recorded their version of "God Gave Rock and Roll to You" on two different albums is faithful to its rock music roots in its musical approach. According to an article in the October 1986 issue of Contemporary Christian Magazine:
""Back to the Street, with its bigger, punchier rock delivery, rivals the AOR sound of giants like Journey, Kansas, and Boston...
The real focus for the band on Back to the Street was to create a fresh, rock n roll identity...""
The article noted that Petras new album produced several firsts: "a new vocalist, two new producers, and a revitalized rock sound..." The project is the first Christian album for its two producers.
""[John] Schlitt is quick to give credit around the board for the bands rockier bent. "The harsher type sound of my voice did dictate a change for Petra," he admits, "but when I joined the group we all agreed that this was the direction we wanted to go anyway.""
Like many other religious rock groups, Petra's sound appears to be getting heavier and harder. Yet, unlike others, Petra seems to know the world is not listening to its music; the church is.
Founder Bob Hartman says, "Many of the songs are directed to the body of Christ. That, after all, is our audience."
""Hartman is realistic about who hears Petra's message. "There are not going to be a lot of non-Christians just walking in and spending their money to see a Christian band."
In spite of the fact that Petras audience is the church, look at the influence and intent of the groups music:
""Schlitt: "...Im really active on stage. I think that comes from my experience in secular rock."
Hartman: "It'll be more aggressive. People will notice that right away. We are intending to come out more than ever before as a rock band.""
Of course, no listing of the superstars of religious rock would be complete without the name of Amy Grant, who has sold more records - four million at last count - than anyone else in the so-called contemporary realm.
In a Charisma magazine interview, July 1986, Ms. Grant was asked the following question:
"You are a role model. What do you want other Christian women to emulate in you?"
""Uh-oh. Thats scary. I guess I dont look at myself like that, like a role model, in that people will emulate what I do...""
It is almost inconceivable that this young woman doesnt see herself as a role model, or that she doesnt grasp the influence of the role she portrays to others. The book What About Christian Rock? notes:
""Of course, young people who enjoy Christian music may mimic the life-styles of their favorite artists too. Once again, fashions are the most obvious, but some young fans also walk like, talk like, and look like their Christian music heroes. When Amy Grant bounces onstage in her baggy, leopard-print jacket, dozens of Grant groupies in the audience display similarly spotted attire...""
In that same Charisma interview, the young lady from Nashville responded to a question about her so-called crossover:
""...I want to communicate with my peers. By getting into pop music, I am saying I want to be a voice in my culture. Im not always thrilled about what my culture is saying. So I throw myself into this arena that sometimes is distasteful to me also...""
What About Christian Rock? offered her some advice in that regard:
""It is also true, however, that if Grant [or any artist] is grooming to be a major crossover entertainer - appealing to the non-Christian as well as the Christian - she must develop the wisdom and finesse necessary to deal with a demanding media. She must overcome childish impetuousness, and strive toward thoughtful consideration of every remark, every action.""
I wonder if Ms. Grant thought about being a voice in her culture or what impact would be made on those she influences by her latest recording (at this writing) of a love song, "The Next Time I Fall", a duet with rock singer Peter Cetera, formerly of the group Chicago.
The song, complete with a music video featuring Grant/Cetera as young lovers and skimpily dressed dancers in sensual movements in the background, landed in the Top 10 for a brief time. The pair also reportedly appeard to sing the song on TV's "Solid Gold," arguable one of the most licentious programs on the air, bordering on pornographic, with its lurid dancers.
Ms. Grant also performed with Ricky Skaggs on the 1986 Country Music Association's Awards Show. The duo did "Walkin' in Jerusalem," an old spiritual on Skaggs new album.
Evidently, that kind of appearance doesnt bother Ms. Grant. After all, thats show biz.
It has been suggested that what Ms. Grant does would fall under the category of "sanctified entertainment. It has all the diversionary value of entertainment, but it is infused with the power of the gospel."
These words all sound noble, so intellectually bright, so precisely considered.
Yet, the hard-edged honest truth is that Amy Grant's public statements, stage performances, and general musical direction seem woeful for someone who is supposed to be a role model for millions of young people.