Monday, March 20, 2006

Just As I Am?

What's wrong with Christian rock? As a teen, I found the music and lyrics of Petra and Stryper to be quite motivating. The music was an outlet for my emotions and caused me to think about spiritual themes at the same time. In fact, I dedicated my life to Christ after listening to a Christian rock album. So what's the big deal? Why do some people make such a big stink about this genre?

After the Lord gained control of my life during the Fall of 1989, I began to rethink some of the arguments I had used in support of CCM. I remember watching an interview of Stryper's drummer, Robert Sweet. When asked about his tight clothes and heavy metal music, he had an immediate response. The band's reason for dressing and playing as they did was for the purpose of reaching that niche group. If they could look and perform like their secular counterparts, they would have a better chance of reaching the lost. If Hudson Taylor shaved his head and wore a pony tail to reach the Chinese, why shouldn't that same principle apply to reaching head bangers?

During my teen years, that logic sounded pretty good: to win the lost, just look and act like the lost. The less they have to overcome, the easier it will be to win them to Christ. As time went on, my thinking changed quite a bit. I began to see that this type of logic did not address all of the issues. How far should I take that? Are tight leather outfits appropriate if you are trying to reach a niche group? When a secular group had three normal members and an effeminate one, Stryper marketed their album that way. Robert Sweet posed in lipstick, etc. That didn't seem right but I liked the music too much to give it up at the time.

As I began my studies for the ministry, I began to take a closer look at the music to which I was listening. Was Stryper the only band propogating this philosophy? While all CCM bands do not go to the extreme that they did, this same philosophy seems to be the guiding principle for many. If we can look and sound like secular entertainers, people will listen to us, giving us an opportunity to speak about Christ. I remember visiting a Christian book store in Columbus which had a chart to help you find the right sound. If you like this secular band, you will like this Christian band. Is this the philosophy that should guide our lives?

My conclusion is that this way of thinking is very dangerous. It promotes a message lacking repentance. In effect, their unspoken message was, "Don't change—Jesus accepts you just as you are." But is this true? Does God accept sinners just as they are? This question must be answered carefully. The Bible is clear that all men are sinners who do not seek God (Rom. 3:10-18). We do not have the ability to remove our own sinfulness. So, in a sense, we must come as we are. But what about repentance? When God draws a man to himself, he demands repentance from that sin (Luke 13:1-5; Acts 2:38) as well as faith in Christ (see Acts 20:21). To proclaim pardon through Christ without addressing sin and repentance is deceitful. God does not promise salvation to an unrepentant sinner. I conclude that attempting to reach the lost by joining in their lifestyle is both foolish and deceitful. It is foolish to think that worldliness will win unbelievers away from their lifestyle. It is also deceitful to preach a gospel devoid of repentance. That philosophy in itself ought to be enough of a warning against those who use it.

4-Music

12 comments:

Doug said...

I remember having that discussion with you in regards to the one "guy" in tight leather with the long blonde hair. I remember asking you if he was a he or a she because he looked a lot like a she! I was somewhat amazed that he turned out to be a he, as well as a little upset that a man who claimed to be a Christian would want to dress, and look like THAT! I was also amazed you like that...uh hum...garbage at the time. I am happy God took that desire away from you!

I also remember my cousins who were BIG Stryper fans. One of my cousins actually taped a spot on CBS' 60 Minutes w/ Mike Wallace where 60 Minutes did a 20 minute spot on Stryper. They also taped Pat Boone's interview of Stryper. On that show, Stryper played their big hit "Soldiers Under Command". Now, the US Army has a touring troop that plays that same song, but they dropped the words "Under GOD'S Command" from the song, and just sing "Under Command"! I saw that one Saturday on Gov't Channel 3 here in Columbus!

Brad Miller said...

My brother and cousin Andy! I didn’t know you liked Petra and Stryper when you were a youth. I did too! I must admit that I still have mixed feelings about the Christian rock dilemma.

Your conclusion was that it is foolish and deceitful to reach the lost by joining in their lifestyle. Clearly it is foolish to participate in any sinful lifestyles. However, what is not clear is that wearing tights and long hair and lipstick is deceitful (much less sinful). If Stryper and Petra have indeed sinned, then what is their sin? Paul said that he became all things to all men that he might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22)? Am I making an inappropriate application of this principle? What did Jesus mean when he said he came eating and drinking (Matthew 11:19)? Certainly they did not mean that they would become sinners to save sinners but they sure did push lifestyle issues of their day! My conclusion is that Stryper did some foolish things but they did not condone sinful lifestyles. I don’t listen anymore but I will permit my teens to.

Andy Rupert said...

Brad,

You bring up good questions. Does Paul's statement (1 Cor. 9:22) and our Lord's time with sinners make it okay to do what Stryper and Petra have done?

Here's another question. Is it ever right to disobey Scripture for a chance to evangelize? Stryper used immodest/sensual clothing and what appears to be transvestite photos to bring in their audience. If one of the teens in our church would use those techniques, I would quickly talk with them and their parents about the sinfulness of those actions. But as I said in the article, my love for the music was stronger than my desire to obey God.

Brad said...

Come on cousin! You said I asked a good question but you didn’t answer it. Do you think your question answers my question? Although it might be fun to get into your new question (e.g. when God seems to contradict himself by permitting killing, lying, divorce and extramarital sex) we both know righteousness is not brought through sin! What I am questioning is that Stryper’s choice of clothing is sinful because it elicits erotic, much less homosexual desires. Maybe Robert shouldn’t show his chest hair or his pants are too tight but again, the lustful person will lust no matter what one wears. Remember, in Iraq the women have to cover their faces and ankles because the Muslims consider it immodest/sensual to do otherwise. If a teen in my church walked in looking like that (after I finished laughing) I would slowly show them where the scriptures teach us to dress modestly because of the potential of being a stumbling block or offending another’s conscience but wearing something like that in church is not the same as wearing something like that in Stryper’s line of work. I think you are correct in warning your youth about sinful temptations, forbidding yourself and children from participating but incorrect in judging the Sweets of sin and for creating a new law for all Christians against their music and costumes.

Andy Rupert said...

Brad,

Let's talk through this.

In your first post, you said:

"Clearly it is foolish to participate in any sinful lifestyles. However, what is not clear is that wearing tights and long hair and lipstick is deceitful (much less sinful)."

Let me explain why I think the Christian rock scene sends a deceitful message. Paul tells us that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). That change begins in the heart and is eventually evidenced by the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) as opposed to the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-22). The point is that there should be a Spirit produced change in every believer’s life.

What I see as deceitful is the false message these performers are proclaiming by their appearance. I admit that some CCM performers have a clear message in their lyrics. But their appearance sends a "fleshly" message: "Stay the way you are, just add Jesus to your life. There is no need to be different than you once were."

The picture I posted in the article is tame compared to the one I remember on the album. If I remember correctly, he had pink lighting behind him and had his lipstick covered lips pursed for a kiss. If he wasn’t trying to look like a homosexual, I’m not sure what he was trying to convey.

We both would agree that homosexuality is a sin (Rom. 1:18ff). With that in mind, is it right for a professing Christian to make himself appear effeminate for the purpose of reaching the lost? I don't think so (see 1 Cor. 6:9-11 and Rom. 6:1-2). I have a hard time seeing our Lord or the apostle Paul dressing as a homosexual to reach that group of people.

My conclusion: While Robert Sweet may not be involved in that lifestyle, he seemed to be promoting it rather well with his appearance. I believe it is blasphemous for anyone to portray himself as a born again believer and yet return to his immoral lifestyle or make himself appear to still be involved in it.

Dan Pfeifle said...

CCM is just plain wrong! I can say that because I came out of the rock culture by God's amazing grace. One of the key characterstics that God intends for his people, in either testament, is their "peculiarity." They are to be clearly different from the world in every aspect of their "conversation" or manner of life. One of the conclusions reached in studying all the various regulations in the Old Testament is that God has the right to demand conformity to His will in even the minutest detail of life. We are to be "holy", or set apart, to glorify Him. Because He is holy.

God's people repeatedly fell into sin because they did not maintain their differentness, their peculiarity. Instead, they became just like their neighbors, the world. God sent judgement upon them for that every time. God tells us, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.(Is 55:8, 9). We are to be like Him, not like the world. We are commanded, "Love not the world." (1 John 2:15-17) We are called out ones. We are called out of the world to be His. Dressing, acting, singing and pandering to the world under the guise of evangelism is nothing short of treason to our Holy God. It is an affront to His holiness and to His Son who died to lift us out of the "miry pit" or the cesspool, we were in. We are not to mingle with them. We are to stand apart and call to them to come out of their sin.

garrett said...

I do not think one can make a judgement on the Christian music industry as it stands today by looking at a band that was popular in the 80's and early 90's. I personally do no agree with the persona Robert chose for himself, but I do not think one can judge all music by one individual. It seems very irrelevant to the world today. I do not know of any Christian performers who dress drag or promote the homosexual lifestyle in any way.

However, I think Pauls words in I Corinthians 9:22 are very relevant today. When one interprets scripture, I think he must interpret it in a way that will translate to any culture. We must remember the the United States of America is not God's favorite place on earth. The whole "Christian Rock" dilemma seems very culturally specific to me. It should be addressed, but I do not feel dogmatically as Dan addressed it. To say "Dressing, acting, singing and pandering to the world under the guise of evangelism is nothing short of treason to our Holy God." is a very strong statement that would
most likely be taken as extremist or even heretical by conservative evangelicalism today.

To be worldly is to act as those who do know know Christ, in a way that is contrary to His character. It seems that by Dan's view of worldliness, Christians will not be able to engage their culture in any relevant way. Unsaved people go to baseball games, so is going to the stadium worldliness and therefor sinful? Unsaved people love hacing barbecues in their backyards, so is that worldy? if one totally withdraws from his culture he loses his ability to connect with those in society. This makes evangelism well nigh impossible. I think Brad has the right idea on this issue. No, it is never right to do something that is against God's character to evangelize, but is dressing nicely or listening to music against His character? I do not personally know any Christians who are in the forefront of the rock music industry, but I think many of those who are there truely seek to be salt and light in a dark place, and I commend them for doing so. One can be set apart from sin and engage the lost at the same time, and I think that is exactly what God desires his people to do.

Andy Rupert said...

Brad, you finally get your wish.

1 Corinthians 9:22 is one verse in a chapter about self-denial. In verses 1-18, Paul was speaking about his willingness to deny his rights so that the gospel would not be hindered (12). He could have demanded that people pay his expenses for his missionary journeys, but instead he set aside his rights and worked as a tent-maker.

Then in verses 19-23, he speaks about the specifics of his own self-denial. He doesn't want any privilege of his to get in the way of those who need the gospel.

• He was not a slave, but he allowed himself to be treated as a servant (19).

• He was no longer bound to the Law, but was willing to place himself under it for the sake of zealous Jewish Christians (20; see Acts 21:17-26).

• He was not lawless, but was willing to act apart from the Law for those who were not under the Law (21). Notice here how quickly he explains that he is still under the law of Christ.

• He was a strong Christian, but was willing to set aside his rights for a weaker brother (22; see 1 Cor. 8).

When Paul comes to the second part of verse 22, he is still talking about self-denial. He was willing to give up his privileges if that would help someone to be saved. In other words: I will not hold onto my rights if that will keep someone from becoming a Christian. This is a bit different than saying that anything goes for the sake of evangelism.

If this verse has been used to support Stryper's outfits and music to reach a segment of the rock world, I think it is being taken out of context. Paul wasn't saying, "Look and act like the lost to reach them." He was saying, "Don't let your rights stand in the way of the gospel."

Andy Rupert said...

By the way, those rights Paul was talking about were God-given rights, not anything that would be considered ungodly.

Andy Rupert said...

Garrett,

I think that Stryper is an extreme example, but for me and Brad it was our experience growing up. The big question, though, is whether their philosophy is representative of what most CCM bands believe. That was the point I tried to make in the original article:

"As I began my studies for the ministry, I began to take a closer look at the music to which I was listening. Was Stryper the only band propogating this philosophy? While all CCM bands do not go to the extreme that they did, this same philosophy seems to be the guiding principle for many. If we can look and sound like secular entertainers, people will listen to us, giving us an opportunity to speak about Christ."

I believe that using Christian rock promotes that false philosophy. It seems to be a deceitful philosophy because it downplays repentance and the change the Spirit produces. Staying "just as I am" just isn't biblical.

Anonymous said...

very intersting reading. seems to me that there is a lot of judging of the outword looks of a person. I agree people should be black or white, choose left or right but this isnt a perfect world. If it was we all would be kingdom bound, but its not. At age 34 I attended my first Stryper concert and sat down afterwords and talked to Robert Sweet and Oz Fox, and I have to tell you they are belivers of Christ. I also had the oportunity to witness to a man while I was there. Would he have gone to a Billy Gram crusade instead? I dont know. I look at the Christian singers my daughters listen to and could rip them appart for being to much like American Idol. If a blind man went to a Stryper concern he wouldnt see, only here a message. I can name local pastors who dress nice but have had affairs, in a homosexual relationship, drugs, and so on. Does his closes make him better? If I shave my head am I a skin head? Growing up I had issues with judging people, still do at times, but I truly believe the main reason we are here on this earth is to make sure as many souls get to heaven, and I would rather God me mad at me for long hair than mad at me for not spreading His word. phill

Andy Rupert said...

Phill,

After reading your post, I can understand your perspective. I have recently visited several Stryper sites and actually left one feeling that Ox Fox really believes he is making a spiritual difference in people's lives. That is commendable. And if the only evidence we had is his word, who am I to judge him? (Rom. 14:4)

But after considering the matter, I think another passage ought to guide our present conversation.

"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” —John 7:24 NKJV

Our Lord made this comment when people were angry with him for healing a man on the Sabbath. To them it appeared that he was breaking the law. Jesus argued that healing was no more a violation of the Law than circumcising a baby on the Sabbath. He concludes his argument with verse 24. In essence he was saying, "Don't judge just because you think it is wrong, make sure it is wrong."

With that in mind, we have to consider if Stryper just appears to be wrong or if they actually are using unrighteous methods. As Christians, we must exercise "righteous judgment" to discern if anything we have in our lives is pleasing or displeasing to God. Is practicing homosexuality explicitly forbidden by the Scriptures? Is cross dressing unrighteous? Are tight outfits and long hair against the Bible? Is any method okay as long as my heart is right? Or (and this is the big question) is our God also concerned with how we do things?

Andy