When I was a kid back in the 1980s, I had a somewhat conflicted relationship with “secular” music. Two of the first albums/cassettes in my collection (c. 1981-2) were “secular”: The Who, Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy and Journey, Escape. And truth be known, they both blew away Petra, Never Say Die despite my mom’s attempt to sell me on Christian rock. That initiated a rather tumultuous period, the low point of which came a few years later when I smashed my Beach Boys cassette. Looking back, Ozzy Osbourne I could at least understand, but the Beach Boys? (That sorry episode is recounted in What’s So Confusing About Grace?)
At that time, I read a lot of anti-rock music literature (aka propaganda) written by folk like Dan and Steve Peters and Bob Larson. This literature piled up “evidence” to hammer home the point that secular rock music, and perhaps the very genre of rock itself, were tools of the devil.
The problem was only made worse by my youth pastor who barred me even from doing a Christian rap song at a talent show. His reason? Rap music is of the devil. But why? “It just is, Brother Rauser.”
I thought of all that the other day when I read this article in which Alice Cooper describes the time back in the 1980s when he decided he needed to get his life in order. So he went to see his pastor and said, “I think I’ve gotta quit being Alice Cooper now.” His pastor replied with a very different view: “Look where he put you. What if you’re Alice Cooper, but what if you’re now following Christ? … You’re a rock star, but you don’t live the rock star life. Your lifestyle is now your testimony.”
If I’d had that pastor, I could have spared myself the expense of having to buy another copy of Beach Boys, Endless Summer to make up for my misbegotten search for piety. More seriously, I would have recognized that the Christian witness is far more powerful when it is pursued from within a wider non-Christian culture rather than retreating behind the high walls of a sanctified ghetto.