I became a teenager in the late 1980's. It seemed that my family, my church, my school, and most of the people I knew were merely expressing a facade exterior compared to a disturbing interior substance. Pop music and church music seemed to further this facade through a popular medium. It seemed that I had a deep hunger for something real, no matter how bad it was. There were probably a total of five kids at my school that were into heavy metal, and through a strange series of events I ended up coming home with a cassette tape of Ratt's Reach for the Sky. I was instantly hooked on the loud guitars, the angry lyrics, and the words that expressed something more genuine that anything I had been exposed to prior to that point in my life. So I used my high speed dubbing boom box with dual cassette to make a copy.
Especially at the beginning of the current pandemic, I was surprised that Anthrax's Among the Living wasn't somehow the theme song. A hard hitting song, based on Stephen King's novel The Stand, about a global pandemic and an attempted takeover by an evil power structure. Possibly in addition, Schism speaks to a level of the additional current parallel racial tension. I guess much of that music has remained in varying levels of obscurity. However, thanks to the internet you can find almost all of it now. No longer trading and dubbing tapes just to hear music you would otherwise never have access to.
For a time, I identified as a Headbanger. This was certainly a cause of valid concern for my family. I guess most of our attitude was that it might be bad but at least it was real, honest, and up front. We weren't going to be hypocrites.
There was definitely a deadly dark side to quite a bit of the music. The lyrics seemed to express the despair, darkness, and exposed hypocrisy without any hope of redemption. The only hope expressed was oftentimes in the explicit and clear language of escape through suicide. I could easily quote the lyrics to Ozzy Osbourne's suicide solution and remember writing out the lyrics to Fade to Black by Metallica on my notebook instead of taking notes. At some point I typed out the lyrics to Dyers Eve and kept it in my wallet as a suicide note.
My parent's pleas for me to give up the music seemed to lack validity. One argument stands out among the others. The comparison was made that my sister's posters of New Kids on the Block were so much better than mine with the heavy metal bands because the boys were clean cut. This seemed the very antithesis the headbangers were standing against.
There were two distinct events that really struck home, although both provided an inadequate solution as an alternative. The first was a Clayton King revival at a local church. He spoke of the dangers of satanism, an especially popular topic during that time. He explained how the satanists used heavy metal to proselytize. In there, the gospel was clearly presented and the hope of Christ put forward with the unmistakable power of the Holy Spirit. I had given my life to Christ several years before and been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I understood salvation, what I needed was deliverance and discipleship. The Christ that was being preached did not represent accurately what I had experienced at church and home.
With eyes full of tears I involuntarily walked forward during the invitation with a seeming countless sea of others who were moved by the message. I was then escorted to a back room where I was led through a scripted sinner's prayer, declared a new creation, and greeted as a new brother in Christ. This furthered my confusion. I thought I was already saved? I had been through this formally and publicly, as well as so many times silently as the preacher led the entire congregation to repeat this prayer with every head bowed and every eye closed. I believed the gospel, not the hypocrisy.
I remember walking out to the parking lot confused. What just happened and what do I do now? I will never forget the genuine and deep love I felt from my uncle, who was working in ministry, as he walked up to engage me. He suggested that I rededicate my life. I was willing to do this, but I didn't even fully know what that meant. This seemed the basic formula that was being taught in the Southern Baptist seminaries and churches following the quantifiable growth success of the revivalists from the past few decades. He would follow up with a loving visit to pray with me a few months later after I was institutionalized following my suicide attempt. What stood out then and is forever etched in my memory is his genuine love for me.
A few months later I was invited to another revival that had the same basic theme and message. The satanists are coming for the kids through heavy metal music. This one however, touched on some of the demonic side and actual deliverance from demonic strongholds. I actually stopped listening to my music at that point and began listening to the much more accepted country western music. This pleased my friends and family, but alas most of the lyrics were also hopeless and even offered suicide as the way out.
There is so much more to this story that I'm still not comfortable sharing on a public forum. Maybe one day. I still bear a scar on my left wrist that I have spent most of my life trying to hide. Self-conscious as wrist bands are placed on me as required to enter events. After being given a fresh confidence and new coping skills, I reentered life again with some new skills that basically just allowed me to fit in better. In the country life, it was socially acceptable to deal with your problems through excessive alcohol consumption. In order to be a good Christian, you just had to go to church and pay attention during the sermon.
I was blessed at some point to find a wife that didn't exactly understand me, but loved me with a real and genuine love. Shortly after we were married we ended up in a bible study with people our age. They were not hypocrites. It seemed the first time I experienced a Christian community with people who were genuine. They loved Christ and their lives matched. I remember them breaking off into prayer groups after a study and taking prayer requests. I expressed that I wanted to live a life sold our for Christ like them. I wanted to quit drinking excessively, and stop my addiction to Copenhagen tobacco – another culturally accepted addiction. They all laid hands on me and prayed for me. It was like a stronghold in my life was broken in that moment. Life was never the same after that.
It has been difficult to watch the recent atomic level meltdowns in the Southern Baptist Convention. The layers and layers of hypocrisy, abuse of power, sexual abuse scandals, and the cronyism used to cover them up are being revealed at increasingly exponential levels. All that stuff that has been kept undercover for so long is finally being revealed for the entire world to witness. The more amazing thing is the unrepentant attitude by many of the top leadership and perpetrators in the face of an overwhelming mountain of evidence.
One of the best things that has been revealed as Amy and I provide counseling to hurting people is the genuineness of faith that exists out of the spotlight. So many people that we sit with in counseling have a deep and real faith. So often they have simply been beaten down by spiritual leadership. Just have more faith, pray more, read your bible more, try harder, maybe you're not saved, rebaptize, rededicate, etc... Meanwhile they have a genuine walk with the Lord that so overshadows most of the leadership they come from it's not even comparable. They're just not hiding either their sin or their salvation. It just doesn't match up with what is being preached. Some layers often just need to be peeled away so they can see their Savior clearly and receive His love and healing.
Some of the formulas used for church growth and revenue production have a wake of destruction. One particular case stands out from a pastor friend that had most of his life falling apart around him. He had just completed a popular Christian self-help curriculum. He was at a loss because he had followed the formula and it didn't work. He asked if I thought he should try it again hoping it would work the second time.
It's been interesting as my kids are almost all grown now. They have been through various stages of music. As they introduce things to me, I now have gone back and tried to find redeeming elements in some of those heavy metal songs. Amazingly, I've found some. This is the common grace of God that His gospel permeates every corner so that men are without excuse. The sanctification of the Holy Spirit has helped my now more mature discernment to see some of the good while still rejecting the bad. I still resonate more with the fringes - kind of like NF describes in Outcast. I'm happy to be on the fringes walking among the living.
Ephesians 2:1-10 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.