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THE LIFE AND DEATH OF CHRISTIAN ROCK: The Second Wave 1985-1995

by Dustan Hlady on Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rock and Roll is demonic.

Or at least it was to some people in this era of Christian Rock. In the first wave of Christian Rock Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill were similarly met with criticism that Rock and Roll was the devil’s music, but the reasons were different.

In 1975.

Rock and Roll was the devil’s music in 1975 because Rock and Roll was so often associated with lewd behavior. Mainly, fun-sex, drinking, drugs, rejection of organized religion or governments. This is an example of one such controversial song:

In 1992.

In 1992 rock and roll, and especially its ancestors like heavy metal and punk, was evil because of its sound. It didn’t matter what they sang about or what their personal faith was.

Bob Larson larsonspeaks  and other pastors condemned the musical style warning that the “evil beat” came from the heathen tribes of Africa.

Interest in the occult and demon hysteria were at an all time high in the church. Every community in North America had stories about local abandoned buildings and the ritualistic sacrifices that happened in them.

This was often connected to an idea that there were world-wide witch organizations. Missing people were often attributed to these groups but the fact is, it was nothing more than a mix of urban legend and public frenzy.

                 DAMAGING CONSEQUENCES OF THE HYSTERIA

1. WITCH OR WICCA?

The Wiccan new age movement was also rising at the time and because Wicca and “witch” are similar words, they were often lumped together. Kids interested in Wicca (worship of the earth) were ostracized as devil worshipers. In an extreme example, the local Wiccan teenager of West Memphis, his best friend and their intellectually-disabled neighbor were blamed for the murders of three children. They were wrongly convicted in the height of devil-hysteria, put in prison for life and on death row. They came to be known as the West Memphis Three. They were released in 2011 after spending 18 years in prison.

This is their story. Warning: It’s a horrific story about the murder of three innocent boys.

2. CHRISTIAN LIARS

Christian comedian Mike Warnke made a lot of money off this devil-delirium.

At his live shows and on his albums he claimed to be an ex- high priest in the Church of Satan. It eventually came out that Mike Warnke was lying. (But he is pretty funny.)

3. EXPORTING HYSTERIA

Africa has been very influenced by evangelicalism in the last 50 years. And devil-hysteria has stowed-away with the gospel. Demon possession, witchcraft and even zombies have been mixed into a hodgepodge of African myths and folklore. Children sick with poverty are often interpreted as being possessed, being a zombie or having the witchcraft. They are often horribly abused in an effort to free them.

Here’s their story. WARNING: this is a horrible story about Christians abusing children.

4. LIFE IMITATES HYSTERIA

Some bands like Venom, Deicide, Iron Maiden and Slayer wanted to cash in on the hysteria. They developed a style of shock-rock that centred around the devil and demonic imagery, and some pretended to be devil worshipers. They weren’t actual devil worshipers; they were just trying to cash in on the hysteria. The fear of these bands opened up a market for the music.

Here is the story of Shock Rock here.

Shock rock evolved into black Metal. Bands in Norway and other northern European countries were influenced by these bands and  took the message seriously. It is unnerving how a the singer of Gorgorth speaks about satan as freedom and supports terrorism against Christians with a genuine fervor.

This musical movement spurred on two murders, terrorism, cannibalism and a wave of church burnings.

Devil hysteria and interest in it was the fuel for what eventually became this movement.

“However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” -Jesus

ALL THAT TO SAY

The bands playing Christian Rock were up against some pretty damaging accusations/mentalities when it came to their music and ministry.

Petra met with a lot of opposition. They were accused of being agents of Satan and of being Christian Rock musicians only for the money, even though every moment of their decades long career was evangelistic and worship-driven. They wrote the songs

WITCH HUNT

and

BEAT THE SYSTEM

as responses to the hostility.

Petra (like many others) were accused of back-masking subliminal messages in their music for Lucifer. Their response was the intro to their song Judas Kiss. It begins with a clear back-masked message. When played in reverse it says:

“What are you doing, looking for the devil when you ought to be looking for the Lord.”

Stryper played gospel-inspired hair metal. They were also accused of being Satan worshipers. It was also very common that they would be attacked as being disingenuous. Part of this was because of how cheezy they were. They talked like brain-dead surfers saying:

stryper“You wanna party? Well the #1 party is in heaven, man.”

It was their practice to throw out copies of the New Testament at their concerts and they tried to pray over and respond to every item of fan mail they received.

They were very young and very genuine. In an interview with Michael Sweet the lead-singer of Stryper told me that only now with all the members in their late forties or older they feel confident having a glass of wine with their dinner.

 

                                            PETRA VS. STRYPER

  1. Songwriting

bobhart Michael-Sweet-Stryper-Interview-pic-2

 

Petra’s guitar player Bob Hartman was their principle songwriter. He was considered the greatest song-writer of this era of Christian Rock. Killing My Old Man, (a song about dying to self and becoming a new creation) was one of the early songs that showed his songwriting promise.

Many of his lyrics read like a teen Bible devotional:

1.) Present a scenario (verse one)

2.) Reveal how scenario is a spiritual metaphor (verse 2)

3.) Suggest application (usually in the chorus and more explicitly stated in the bridge)

 

For example, in the song Mine Field:

1.) A mine field is described.

2.) Mine fields are used as a metaphor for stepping through life. The decisions you make in life are the steps you take in the minefield. The mines are the consequences of poor decisions you make in life.

3.) Listener is instructed to allow God to lead them through the mine field.

 

It’s hard to describe Stryper’s songwriting style. Imagine that Mötley Crüe were a bunch of Christian guys and I think you’d get the picture.

strpermot

 

Instead of…

 

…you get…

 

 

Instead of…

 

 

…you get…

 

 

 

  1. MAINSTREAM ACCEPTANCE

Stryper was able to be just as successful outside of the Christian music market as within it.

The Christian music market was an odd beast. Christian Rock albums were generally not sold in regular record shops. Their only means of distribution was to sell them in Christian book and supply stores. Petra was never accepted outside of the Christian music industry but they respectively sold almost all of their 6 million albums at these Christian book stores and Christian concerts.

Stryper’s albums were sold both in Christian record stores and everywhere else. One reason for this is their brand of music (metal) was extremely religious. Metallica, Mötley Crüe, and Black Sabbath all sang songs rife with imagery of God and the devil. Stryper was an natural extension of that. They were marketed as the good guys of metal.

Stryper has sold ten million albums so far. It’s estimated that 2/3 of those purchased on the non-Christian market.

 

  1. LONGEVITY

Both Petra and Stryper remain active today, recording albums and playing shows. They have disbanded and rebanded multiple times. Both have gone through line-up changes.

If you watch interviews they will tell you why they are still playing, as if they should have grown up and gotten “real jobs” long ago and feel the need to excuse their behavior. Stryper mentions their fans as a factor in why they continue to do music and both bands attribute the main reason to God.

But I think there is another reason they don’t mention, perhaps because it sounds immature or insignificant.

THEY JUST WANT TO ROCK!

Petra and Styper are undeniably the most prolific and successful bands in this era of Christian Rock. But others that should be mentioned are:

WHITEHEART

THE 77’s

LIFESAVERS UNDERGROUND

CRUMBÄCHER

KING’S X

 

 

 

 

Dustan Hlady
dustan j. hlady is the founder of Middle of Nowhere music and sings and writes songs for his band, Friend Friend. www.middleofnowheremusic.com