Every band’s goal was to have teenagers stop their grooving mid-song and exclaim, like a soda commercial actress who’s just realized she’s been drinking diet, “Wait, this is Christian?” The logic was that the more these bands fit in with what was playing on the radio, the more someone like me would feel comfortable passing their album on to my non-Christian friends (supposing I’d had any), giving them a chance to hear the gospel. Korey Cooper, guitarist of a gospel band called Skillet, said it was crucial for artists to prove themselves musically before kids would entertain the message. “You get up on stage and try to rock as hard or harder than everybody else and then you have some cred,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, they can rock and it’s okay, and they love Jesus.’” Likewise, the websiteMetal for Jesus argued that “Christian metal is just as brutal and heavy as the secular when it comes to the music. What differs is the lyrics.” Yes, there’s Christian metal. There’s even Christian death metal (Living Sacrifice). There’s Christian glam rock (Stryper), Christian punk (Relient K), Christian ska (Five Iron Frenzy), Christian techno (World Wide Message Tribe), and Christian industrial (Circle of Dust).
Meghan O’Gieblyn, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, closes her essay like this:
Despite all the affected teenage rebellion, I continued to call myself a Christian into my early twenties. When I finally stopped, it wasn’t because being a believer made me uncool or outdated or freakish. It was because being a Christian no longer meant anything. It was a label to slap on my Facebook page, next to my music preferences. The gospel became just another product someone was trying to sell me, and a paltry one at that because the church isn’t Viacom: it doesn’t have a Department of Brand Strategy and Planning.
I don’t know about you. But as I read Meghan’s story I reflected on my own life around evangelical culture. I even let out a deep sigh. This isn’t what we wanted Meghan or the millions of others like her to get out of church.
Question: If you were having coffee with Meghan, what would you want to say to her?