I was listening to some songs from the late 1980s today. One song led to another, and I started looking at top 10 playlists from ‘88 and ‘89. As I was reminiscing about the songs, I got to thinking about how I used to have to sneak around to listen to these songs.
I loved secular pop music and would tape record hours of music at night, using my boom box, so I could listen in private over the next few days. I would also watch MTV when I babysat, or any other chance I got. During the 80s, there was a heavy emphasis on movie music, so movies and music became tied together in my mind. I missed out watching those movies, and didn’t have constant access to the music I liked, so I was always frustrated because I couldn’t get any fulfillment.
I realized, today, that what makes me melancholy about some music videos and movies is there are huge gaps in my experience with “the world.” There were things I loved or wanted to experience so badly, but they were just out of reach; almost like a mirage in the desert. I liked the styles of clothing people wore. They seemed happy, the boy always had a girl, things just seemed right. Even then, I knew that it was just a video, but I always wanted to have these experiences for myself. An example of this is one of my favorite songs, “How Can I Fall?” by Breathe. It features a very stylized game of stickball on the streets of New York, along with two beautiful girls. I first saw that video and thought it would be so cool to experience something like that, knowing that I would never be allowed to hang out on a street corner and would be in trouble if I was caught with a girl. Neither of those things stopped me from wanting the experience, though.
I feel cheated because I was not allowed to have the experiences most other teens had. Even the kids in the churches I attended were given way more freedom than I had. They watched movies (on a VCR, because that was so much different from going to the movies), hung out at the mall, wore stylish clothes, and had friends of the opposite sex. Even those church teens had a more normal life than I did. That was what I wanted, too.
I was told that missing out on those things kept me from trouble. Probably so, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. All of the adults, my parents included, lived through the 50s and 60s and enjoyed the normal freedoms children were allowed to have. The restrictions that were placed on me, and all of the Evangelical/IFB teens, from the 70s until now, are rules created by old white men who were pushing back against what they perceived was wrong with society. The rules were set up and enforced so they could keep their power. Those men are no different from the Pharisees that Jesus condemned in the Bible. Outwardly, they seemed holy; inwardly they hated minorities, were whoremongers, adulterers, pedophiles, drunks, and everything else they preached against.
So, now when I listen to the songs from the 80s and early 90s, it is always with a bit of sadness, realizing they represent a time in life when I missed out on many of the things “worldly” youths experienced. And I understand, now, that I missed out because of fearful men who hated anything new.
Bob Gray Sr, retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple, Longview, Texas
Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
The Scripture says “be NOT conformed” rather “be ye transformed.” The secret is the mind and in the renewing of the mind by being transformed and not conformed to this world.
Someone says, “I’m addicted to movies, pornography, or to internet pornography.” I don’t believe it for a minute! You can quit it right now and walk away from it. It’s not addictive like narcotics or liquor. You can quit that junk if you would produce enough character, decency, discipline and Christianity. The Bible says we are to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God. God is saying because you are justified be not CONFORMED to this world, but TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind.
God has given to the Christian a little world within a world with our local church, Christian schools, and Christian colleges. If you are in one of the Christian schools and are living a loose moral life you are a traitor to the cause of Christ, to the school, to the college, to the local church and to your pastor. Nobody ought to ever cause themselves to be expelled from a Christian school because of being immoral loose living, bad music, pornography, or sexual promiscuity. No member of a local church should ever be involved with immoral activity for you are in essence a traitor if you do.
Thus we have a little world within a world. This bigger world we live in is a godless world and we are forced to interact. Some have to interact with worldliness at home, or in a secular business, or a secular school, and unfortunately sometimes there are students in the Christian school who are worldly and you find yourself having to interact with them. However, I would be ashamed of myself if I were thick with the wrong crowd in a Christian school. I’d be ashamed of myself to be thick with the wrong crowd in a Christian college.
Now, we are required in some ways to interact with a godless Christ-less world. May I point your attention to whom this passage was given? The passage of, “be not conformed to his world but be ye transformed” is a passage written to the Christians in Rome. They were corrupt, pagan, skeptical, and a perverted people. The entire environment was not only un-Christian but also anti-Christian. The Bible says this book was written to the saints in Caesar’s household.
We have this admonition, “be not conformed to this world.” What does that mean? It simply means dress like a Christian and not like Paris, or Hollywood, or New York. It simply means males ought to have haircuts that look like a male and not the Beatles or Justin Bieber. God is saying to his people I would rather you have Dr. Lee Roberson as your hero than Arnold Swartznegger. I would rather you have Jack Hyles as your hero than Garth Brooks.
Paul is saying it is possible to live in the midst of a Roman moral quagmire without lowering your flag of purity. Please listen! That means that it is possible today also to do the same. It is possible today to live in a society controlled by TV, Hollywood, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, and the Internet and still live for God via the renewing of the mind.
It is possible to live in this sex crazed, Hollywood infested world, HBO world, Cinemax world, Showtime world, and hip-hop music, and be not conformed to this world. If it is possible for the saints at Rome then it is possible for the saints of today!
Paul is saying to the saints in Rome man is not to become a creature of his circumstances or the toy of his surroundings, or a piece of clay molded by his peers, but he is saying do not be conformed be ye transformed. It bothers God when his daughters are quick to take up the hairstyles of modern day Romans. It bothers God when any of his children are quick to pick up the modern appearances and so desperately want to be accepted by the modern day Romans.
It probably occurs because God’s people spend more time reading “Glamour Magazine” than the Bible. Young Christian ladies spend more time in “Sixteen Magazine” than in their own Bibles. It bothers God when his sons are so quick to get a tattoo or pierce their ears simply because of the modern day Romans.
God is telling his children they are not to copy this pagan world. There is a difference between dressing appropriately and going gaga over the latest styles and so quick to embrace them simply because we want the Romans to love us. We are not to pattern ourselves after this modern world.
If the world lies on a beach in their underwear then God’s people ought to do the opposite. If the women of this world wear their shorts and man’s apparel then the Christian ladies ought to do the opposite. We are in the world but not of the world!
It thrills God to see his children around town reflecting Scriptures rather than society. When he sees the boys with decent haircuts and without their pants hanging down to their ankles with their underwear showing. God loves it when he sees his young ladies dressed in modest clothing without a vampire look. I thank God I belong to a church where members dress right and people around town know they belong to Longview Baptist Temple.
This is the one hundred and fifty-sixth 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 1989 Evangelical film, “Hell’s Bells: The Dangers of Rock and Roll Music.”
The film examines the relationship of rock music to sex, violence, suicide, drug use, rebellion, miscegenation, the occult, and other activities considered immoral by biblical theology. The film portrays various lyrics and visual imagery in rock music and rock stars as evidence that it is satanic or anti-Christian. It also alleges that perceived hidden messages and satanic backmasking exist in several examples of popular songs and music culture. The music in the documentary is music produced prior to the 1990s.
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.
This is the one hundred and 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 an X-Files-like video about creationism, Noah’s flood, and dinosaurs. Please have a bag nearby. You will definitely need it.
This is the one hundred and fourth 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 music video warning children not to trust in rock music idols
This is the one hundredth 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 Mike King preaching against the rock music and all its attendant evils. Today, King is the CEO of YouthFront — “a [Evangelical] community committed to creating holistic, missional environments for Christian formation.” You can read King’s blog here.
Jack Hyles, First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana
This is the 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 clip taken from a sermon preached by Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana.
This is the forty-eighth 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 a sermon by Evangelical Evangelist David Benoit. Benoit preached a meeting for me at Somerset Baptist Church in the mid-1980s.
Baptist pastor Bob Gray preaching against Elvis, 1956. Gray would later be accused of decades long sexual misconduct. Gray was a serial pedophile. He died before his trial.
Rock music has always been a problem for Evangelicals. Rock music is generally considered worldly, sinful, and satanic, and parents are told to keep their children away from its influences. Rock music is considered a gateway to a world filled with illicit sex, drugs, and satanism. Recently, a homeschooling mom by the name of Leslie published an article on her blog titled, The Truth About Rock Music. Here is some of what Leslie had to say:
Rock music has always had a satanic influence. It does not really take all that much research to figure that out. Just google the Beatles and Hinduism and you will see it almost immediately. They were very open about their Hindu activity and even secular websites confirm this. But, as wild as the 60s were, the society wasn’t quite ready for outright false religion and songs promoting open sex and drug use and so many of their song lyrics had double meanings and hidden agendas.
Of course, all the changes in the last 50 years have made hidden agendas and double meanings unnecessary. This has happened through a very systematic hardening of our consciences. And so evil and ungodly lyrics have been eagerly accepted by a fan base that doesn’t pay any attention at all to what they are filling their brains with.
I then moved on to the artists themselves. Who were these people that were coming into our homes and cars on a regular basis through their music?
With the 80s influences of Madonna and Micheal (sic) Jackson– who were perhaps some of the first openly satanic artists to be played on the radio– the way was paved for many more to come. Recent rock stars such as Beyonce, Kesha, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Jay Z, Eminem, and Nicky (sic) Manaj (sic) (just to name a few), have filled the American culture with an abundance of ungodly, crude, and sexual lyrics and, even worse, very graphic music videos. This, of course, I suspected before I started doing my research. What rather stunned me however was the plethora of satanic symbols and images. As I studied, I found that many of these artists claim to have sold their soul to the devil or to be possessed by demons. This was by their own admission, recorded on video or found in reputable sources.
I write it here because I think most of us are absolutely clueless regarding the danger this music presents to our spiritual health. We just allow this music to play in our homes and in our cars and in the ears of our kids–never giving it a second thought. The tunes are catchy and for some reason that seems to be all we need for it to get our seal of approval.
But fast forward my life to just a few weeks ago when I found myself up to my eyeballs in the lewd depravity of the rock music industry. I just can’t even begin to describe how awful it all is. And maybe worst of all–how precious and beautiful young girls and boys, many of them Disney stars as youngsters, are morphed into larger-than-life rock musicians that promote everything God abhors and how so many of their fans–usually tweens and teens– just follow them down into the dark pit.
If this music is something that beckons you or someone you love, may I encourage you to do your own research? I think you will be more than a little alarmed and shocked at what you will find out. And may we pray for deliverance of ourselves and our families from the evil influence of this demonic music.
Leslie seems shocked to find out that rock music is filled with references to sex, drugs, and darkness. These elements have always been central themes of rock music. Leslie goes on to say that rock music is satanic and many musicians have sold their souls to the Devil or are possessed by demons. For people such as Leslie, such things are frightening. However, if there are no devil or demons, then the only thing that matters is the lyrics. While I agree with Leslie about the lyrical content of many rock songs, I think she greatly exaggerates the effect these lyrics have on people. While it is certainly appropriate to regulate what younger children see and hear, by the time children reach their teenage years they should be able to handle the lyrics Leslie finds so objectionable.
Those of us raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement vividly remember sermons about the evils of rock music. Sermons on sex, drugs, and rock and roll were common. Many IFB preachers would recite lyrics from popular songs, showing, in their minds, the satanic origin of rock music. Some preachers would warn parishioners of the dangers of the mesmerizing “jungle beat” in rock music. Laden with subtle racist overtones, these preachers told teenagers and parents that rock music had a hypnotizing effect. Once under its influence, people would do horrible, vile things.
In the 1960s and 1970s, men such as Bob Larson traveled the country giving seminars on the evils of rock music. Larson purportedly had been a rock musician. He wrote several books about the evils of rock music: Rock and Roll: The Devil’s Diversion, Hippies, Hindus and Rock & Roll, The Day the Music Died, Larson’s Book of Rock. In his 1972 book, The Day the Music Died, Larson had this to say about rock music and its effect on listeners:
The basic rock rhythm is syncopation. …. this explains the erotic body movements of dancers to the accompaniment of the syncopated or pulsating rock beat. (page 15)
The origin of this Negro influence was, of course Africa.. These innovations were connected with heathen tribal and voodoo rites. The native dances to incessant, pulsating, syncopated rhythms until he enters a state of hypnotic monotony and loses active control over his conscious mind. The throb of the beat from the drums brings his mind to a state when the voodoo, which Christian missionaries know to be a demon, can enter him. This power then takes control of the dancer, usually resulting in sexual atrocities. Is there a legitimate connection between theses religious rites and today’s modern dances? (page 179)
I was aware of the connection between demons and dancing even before my conversion. I speak from experience as to the effect rock rhythms have on the mind. …As a minister, I know what it is like to feel the unction of the Holy Spirit. As a rock musician, I knew what it meant to feel the counterfeit anointing of Satan. I am not alone in my experimental knowledge of the influence of demonic powers present in rock music. (Page 181)
In his 1967 book, Rock and Roll: The Devil’s Diversion, Larson wrote:
There is no difference between the repetitive movements of witch doctors and tribal dancers and the dances of American teenagers. The same coarse bodily motions which lead such dancers into a state of uncontrollable frenzy are present in modern dances. It is only logical, then, that here must also be a correlation in the potentiality of demons gaining possessive control of a person through the medium of the beat. This is not entirely my own theory. It is the message that missionaries have urged me to bring to the American public. (Page 182)
On Friday and Saturday nights across America the devil is gaining demonic control over thousands of teenage lives. It is possible that any person who has danced for substantial lengths of time may have come under the oppressive, obsessive, or possessive influence of demons. Knowing this, churches and clergymen need to shed their cloak of compromise and firmly denounce rock dances. Dancing is no longer an artistic form of expression ( if it ever was) but a subtle instrument of Satan to morally and spiritually destroy youth. (page 184)
Evangelical preachers also began alerting church members about the subliminal messages (backmasking) rock groups were putting on their albums. Supposedly, if rock records were played backward, people would hear satanic messages. Led Zepplin’s Stairway to Heaven was supposedly one such song. When played forward the song said:
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow Don’t be alarmed now It’s just a spring clean for the May Queen Yes there are two paths you can go by but in the long run There’s still time to change the road you’re on
Backwards, the words above were supposedly turned into:
Oh here’s to my sweet Satan. The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan. He will give those with him 666. There was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.
In a January 1982 television program on the Trinity Broadcasting Network hosted by Paul Crouch, it was claimed that hidden messages were contained in many popular rock songs through a technique called backward masking. One example of such hidden messages that was prominently cited was in “Stairway to Heaven…
Following the claims made in the television program, California assemblyman Phil Wyman proposed a state law that would require warning labels on records containing backward masking. In April 1982, the Consumer Protection and Toxic Materials Committee of the California State Assembly held a hearing on backward masking in popular music, during which “Stairway to Heaven” was played backward. During the hearing, William Yarroll, a self-described “neuroscientific researcher,” claimed that backward messages could be deciphered by the human brain.
As with the satanic ritual abuse hysteria years later, the backmasking scare quickly faded into the pages of history. The last preacher I remember saying something about backmasking told church members that if you played the theme song of the TV show Mr. Ed backwards it contained a satanic message.
Leslie, the homeschooling mom I quoted at the start, will learn, as did the preachers of my youth, that all the preaching in the world won’t keep teenagers from listening to the popular music of the day. While parents might be able to keep them from listening to rock music at home, once they go to school they will be exposed to the music of their non-Evangelical peers. Once teenagers start driving or riding in automobiles with friends, the radio will be tuned to the local rock station. Unless parents are willing to lock their teenagers in their rooms, allow them no internet access, and remove radios from automobiles, it is impossible to keep teenagers from listening to rock music.
Polly and I grew up in homes where rock music was verboten. Despite these prohibitions, we somehow learned the lyrics of the popular songs of our day. In the mid-1970s, we attended Midwestern Baptist College, a strict Fundamentalist institution that banned students from listening to ANY secular music (except classical). Students were not permitted to play anything other than religious music in their dorm rooms. However, once in the safety of their automobiles, students turned on radios and listened to the rock, pop, and country music.
One spring day, Polly was sitting in the Midwestern parking lot listening to the radio. I walked from the dormitory out to her car to see what she was up to. Playing on the radio was Afternoon Delight, by Starland Vocal Band. Polly was singing away without a care in the world. I laughed and then I asked her if she knew what the song was about. She gave me an innocent (and clueless) interpretation of the lyrics. When I told her what the song was really about, she didn’t believe me. To this day, we joke about this story. Such is life in the IFB bubble. My favorite song, by the way, was December, 1963 (Oh What a Night) by the Four Seasons.
These days, many Evangelicals have taken a different approach to combating the evils of secular rock music. Instead of outright banning rock music — an approach that has proved to be a dismal failure — Evangelicals promote what is called the replacement theory. If church teenagers are drawn to secular bands that have what Evangelical consider bad, immoral, or satanic lyrics, churches and parents suggest that they listen to a Christian alternative. This approach has, for the most part, also failed to keep Evangelical teenagers from listening to secular rock music. First, many of the Christian alternatives are cheap rip-offs of secular bands. Bad music is bad music regardless of the lyrics. Second, many Evangelical teenagers quickly embraced what is now called contemporary Christian music (CCM). However, instead of abandoning their secular favorites, teenagers just added the CCM artists to the mix. Some Christian bands, such as P.O.D., Skillet, and Switchfoot, have been huge successes, both in the secular rock market and the CCM market.
Some Evangelical churches have given up trying to keep church teenagers from listening to rock music. This is understandable, in part, because many Evangelical churches are now using rock music in their worship services. In the 1960s, few churches had drums. But today? Many churches have full-blown bands, complete with percussion sections.
If you are not familiar with what is going on with music in many Evangelical churches, I think the following video clip from a Hillsong New York worship service will prove instructive.
Evangelicals, to some degree or the other, have been waging war against rock music for 60 years. Based on the videos above, I think I can safely say that rock music has won the war. Like all battles waged against popular culture, prohibition only makes what has been deemed sinful more enticing and popular. Teenagers will always be drawn to that which parents, pastors, and other authority figures say they can’t have. Teenagers are built to try the forbidden and test boundaries. We all did it, and here is the lesson that adults need to learn: we survived. Instead of treating teenagers like toddlers, how about teaching them to make responsible choices? Surely by now we have learned that telling teenagers to Just Say No doesn’t work. It is far better to equip them with the requisite skills necessary to navigate the world. Yes, there are real dangers they will face, but rock music is not one of them. I seriously doubt that there are many teenagers whose lives are destroyed because they listened to songs that have sexual or substance abuse references. I am sure there are some who take the lyrics to heart and make bad decisions, but most teenagers, as sixty years of history shows, can listen to rock music without being adversely affected.