This is the one hundred and fifty-fifth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of the 1982 Evangelical film, “Rock: It’s Your Decision.”
Jeff Sims is a teenage Christian in conflict with his parents over his love for rock music. His mother has him see his local youth pastor and has him placed under contract to give up rock music for two weeks, and research whether or not it’s good for him as a Christian. Jeff takes him up on his deal, and within a week he becomes increasingly fanatical and ends up alienating everyone in sight. The film ends with him giving a sermon about what he has “researched” about rock music, giving a list of several songs and bands and why they are “satanic” and “occultic”, and that they are promoting sinful vices such as premarital sex, drug abuse, and even goes as far as to spring forth his homophobic views in connection with the music by saying that “some of them are admitted homosexuals”. He then shatters a record against the podium and declares, “I’ve made my decision, what’s yours?”
Jeff Sims is the designated “hero” of this piece of propaganda, but by today’s standards (even by 1982’s standards) many interpret Jeff’s story as less of a movement against sin, and more about the tragic tale of a boy twisted by the controlling fundamentalists (his parents and youth pastor) in his life who ends up turning into a bigoted, hateful, religious fundamentalist jackass whose perceptions on life are heavily warped, and ultimately ends up driving away everyone who cared about him. When he does disown rock music from his life, he tries to force everyone around him to do the same and dumps his friends for listening to the genre. Even when he yells at his own mother for watching soap operas thinking they are evil, the movie still wants you to root for this guy. Alternately, since fundamentalist religion obliges people to be less tolerant of beliefs unlike their own, then Jeff, from a fundamentalist perspective, doesn’t become a jackass at all, but a wide-eyed idealist and his insistence on forcing his views on other people isn’t twisted or inappropriate behavior, but rather Jeff trying to warn his loved ones about the impending traps that will send them to hell. Some viewers (like the Agony Booth reviewer) have even interpreted Jeff as being a deeply closeted homosexual. The audience is meant to see his close friends, Marty and Melissa, as antagonists trying to tempt Jeff back into his old ways, but they make some valid points about him becoming fanatical as he repeatedly tries to push his new lifestyle choices on them and others. Melissa seems pretty justified in being angry with Jeff for canceling his plans to go to a rock concert with her (plans made three months in advance for her birthday) because of a deal with his youth pastor he made only recently. Threatening to take another guy to the concert may seem a bit harsh, but she does apologize for it later. Later, Jeff gets angry with Marty for playing rock music at a party he was hosting in his own house. Yet we’re expected to take Jeff’s side earlier when he refuses to let Melissa listen to a rock station when he’s giving her a ride in his car.