Jesus with a backbeat

All of my friends were in churches when I was growing up, and from the outside it looked kinda fun. They got dressed up,

piled into the car and disappeared for a couple of hours. Then they went to eat and occasionally got toys. Out of curiosity, I wanted to go, too, but my parents wanted nothing to do with organized religion and refused to let me go. I guess the Lord had other plans for me.

But when I came of a certain age (12), my mother relented and told me I could attend a few services for “educational purposes.” So, I chose Catholic (my family’s origins), Methodist (because my friend Mark belonged) and Baptist (because the Baptists had tried to recruit me earlier).

On the singular basis of presentation, the Baptists won my approval.

The Methodists were nice. Very nice. The music was soft and melodious, and the lyrics were sweet but mostly mumbled. I always associated Amy Grant with the Methodists.

The Catholics had an impressive church and choir. The production values with the stained glass, smoke and chanting in Latin were awesome. I later went to a folk Mass that was cool. Very cool. Not a lot of volume or feeling behind the words.

The Baptists recruited me to be a soldier for God, and their show had quality singing and shouting. As I was brought into the pitched battle with the devil for my soul, there was a band helping to get me revved up for the fight. Their soulful anthems were stirring, but they were strict. Very strict. I wasn’t ready for a sweaty reverend to verbally swat me for being sinful.

I assumed that all music was God’s music. Except for heavy metal. That stuff was so strident and evil sounding on purpose, that I assumed there could never be Christian metal. I was wrong. Now there’s Christian everything, as far as music, and it is a huge industry with its own tours and rock stars—one of them local (see “Praise the Lord and pass the guitar picks”). If you read Christian Kiefer’s story, you’ll see that at least one performer has found a soulful place where his rock and their religion can work together.