You probably know by now that there are many things I’m passionate about – books, writing, video games, stories, mental health, photography, the list goes on and on. One of those things is music.
I love all kinds of music – everything from the poppy electronic beats of The Jellyrox to the rapping of Manafest to the heavy riffs of Wolves At The Gate. This is also evidenced by some of my previous posts, like my favorite music videos (Part 1 & Part 2) and my favorite lead vocalists (Part 1 & Part 2).
As a Christian, I tend to listen to music that has a Christian message, or is at the very least appropriate and not disrespectful. One of the genres I’ve learned to love over the past year or so is Christian metal which is a vague term, but I basically mean metal/metalcore music that has a Christian message (if you’d like a longer explanation of my thoughts on “Christian music,” you should read my Beginner’s Guide to Christian Rock). Even though I dislike using “Christian” as a genre, I’m going to use it in this post because it will (hopefully) clear up any confusion.
Christian metal bands are often the recipients of a lot of criticism because of the style of music they play. Forget the message. I’ve seen everything from “How do you know it’s honoring God if you can’t understand what they’re saying?” to “The music is too worldly.” Responses to these comments will wait for another day. Today, I’d like to explain to you why I think Christian metal is important, and why, even if you detest the musical style itself, you can at least respect these bands for what they do.
It all started when I went to see Memphis May Fire a few weeks ago…
For those who don’t know, Memphis May Fire (MMF) is a metal/hardcore band from Nashville. Though not necessarily a “Christian band,” I’ve found that MMF’s music has very strong Christian themes. Many of the members of the band, including lead vocalist Matty Mullins, profess to be Christians. (I can’t speak to the other artists on the tour, but that’s besides the point.)
What I noticed most was the people around me. Granted, I’m generalizing here, but based on the way that many of the people at the show were acting, it seemed like they had little, if any, respect for God. All around me, I see lost people who don’t have any hope.
When Memphis May Fire gets up on stage, they’re not quoting Bible verses – but they are playing songs like “No Ordinary Love,” about the unconditional love that God offers towards us, even though we’re all screwed up, sinning people (the music video for the song illustrates this idea very well). “Carry On” expresses a resolution to stick by your convictions, whether or not they’re “trendy” or “marketable.” “Vices” and “The Sinner” are both songs that cry out to God for rescue and relief in the midst of sin and temptation.
I think for a lot people in the audience, this is the only way they’ll ever hear about real hope. For many, they may not have ever heard of how God loved us so much in spite of all of our messiness and mistakes that He send His Son to die for us and save us. These are people that probably aren’t going to be reached by Chris Tomlin or Hillsong. Instead, bands like Memphis May Fire meet them where they’re at and bring the Gospel to them there.
In a way, it’s almost like being a missionary. If you’re going to go overseas as a missionary, you’ll need to learn the language of that area. Similarly, if you want to reach people who are heavy in the music scene, you’ll need to use their language – the music.
To use another example, I recently saw a video clip of For Today, another Christian metal band, performing at Warped Tour a few years ago. Warped Tour is the biggest summer festival tours in the United States, and it often features bands from all kinds of genres, usually learning more towards “alternative” music. Between songs, lead singer Mattie Montgomery speaks to the audience (speech abbreviated):
I will stand up here and tell you there is hope found in Jesus Christ. They’ve been telling me to shut up about it for years, but I just can’t, I’m living proof that there is life in the blood of that Man that was spilled on that cross! There is freedom in the blood of that Man that was spilled on that cross! Listen, if you’re looking for hope, look to the cross! If you’re looking for freedom, look to the cross! There’s no other place that you’ll find freedom but in the blood of the One True King, Jesus!
This crowd of people, many of whom may not know the Lord, are hearing the gospel preached to them by someone who speaks their language. For some, it may be the only exposure to the Good News they ever get.
That’s why I think “Christian metal” is important. Using music, these bands reach a group of people who might never have heard the gospel otherwise. They’re reaching people who wouldn’t be reached by Matthew West, For King & Country, or the Newsboys.
Perhaps their music is a little crazy, and I recognize that is certainly isn’t for everyone, but at the very least, you can appreciate the work that they’re doing.
What do you think? Are you a fan of Christian metal? Is there a genre you think gets a bad rap? Are there any other questions you have for me? Share your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to start a conversation with you!
Until next time!