How my faith is compatible with metal
If you are a Christian, you have no business listening to metal. You are not welcome. And you will always know and feel that.--anonymous comment
In a previous post, I addressed the topic of how my musical preferences don't conflict with my faith. Here, I address the less obvious topic of how my faith doesn't conflict with my musical preferences.
Where Do You Stand?
Assuming my poll is accurate, about a third of metalheads think that being against God is a necessary part of metal. I suspect due to both things being important to them, and finding a lot of support for their religious ideas in the metal community. But it's hardly necessary to the genre. In fact, early Black Sabbath lyrics were far from Satanic--they faced the devil, but did not embrace him. Doom metal pioneers Trouble had overtly Christian lyrics. And believe it or not, there are actually a few good Christian metal bands out there in just about every genre (including black metal).
There are a lot of good reasons that Christianity and metal can blend well.
The Bible: The Most Metal Book Ever Written
|Looks like an album cover to me.|
You Don't Own Metal
All music fans have the right to refuse to listen to certain bands based on lyrical content, but they also need to realize that music is universal and no one philosophy has the right to claim total control over a genre.--source
Fenriz seems to think he owns black metal, and that he gets to decide what does and doesn't belong to the genre. In his egomania, he is just as likely to declare a heavy metal/hard rock act like Ghost to be black metal as he is to deny the genre tag to a band with Christian lyrics. Dehumanization's Matthew Kelly had this to say:
The forerunners of most ‘extreme metal’ styles were not social butterflies and they didn't really give a shit either way what other people thought of what they were doing - they did it to satisfy an inner craving for music of a type they didn't hear coming from any other bands around them at the time. That being said I think the most apparent thing that's wrong with black metal in particular is the idea that there's some peer-based review board of people somewhere in Norway who meet on a weekly basis to decide what's black metal this year and what's not.Nobody owns it, but clearly black metal must be angry. That's not based on a study of lyrics as they've been written in the past, but on the emotional content of the music itself. So how can Christians, with the messages of forgiveness, fit into this? Easily. Christianity gives you plenty of evil things to rail against, and Christ himself raged against moneychangers in the temple. Which brings me to my next point.
Jesus Is Fucking MetalJesus himself actually exhibited a lot of metal traits. Christ embraced sinners and the worst of the worst, and he didn’t put up with the bullshit (and especially the posturing) from the religious establishment (like the Pharisees). He wholly rejected society’s values and lived his principles. He spoke his mind and didn’t tolerate hypocrisy. That's the very definition of a metal attitude. Then he went on to endure brutal torture and a slow, painful execution, when he could have gotten out of it by simply backing down. After he died, he went to hell and proclaimed his victory, then got up and walked out of the grave. Any way you look at it, that's badass.
|Comic from Penny Arcade, August 4, 2004|
(click for larger)
To follow Jesus is to go against the grain, just as metal is. I don't mean to suggest that simply professing Christianity is metal. That's not. To claim membership in that group is mainstream, and to be honest I myself am skeptical of people who wear it on their sleeves. But to actually choose to follow Christ, that's different. This is not a difference of degree, but of kind.
Living as a Christian and standing up for Christian beliefs will invite criticism. Christianity has just as much opposition to mainstream society as secular metal, albeit in different ways. Christianity is also concerned with being True, just like metal.
Common GroundThe similarity of personality between actual (rather than merely professing) Christians and metalheads is evident when you look at all the prominent Christian metal musicians. Dave Mustaine, Alice Cooper, and Tom Araya are just a few.
We Christian metalheads have a lot more in common with the non-Christians than you might think. None of us like self-righteous hypocrisy.
The self righteous, religious and egocentric folks that we have today are really no different than those who executed Jesus 2,000 years ago. I can totally [sympathize] with my non-Christian brethren in the Metal scene; televangelists, street preachers and the ilk drive me mad!Most people are content to pretend everything is OK, and they don't like to talk about religious issues. That's why you have so many people who don't have an opinion about religion, or who identify themselves as a member of a religion just because they were raised that way. In contrast, metalheads have all thought about religion. That's why we all have such strong opinions. Plus, we know the world is fucked up, and we face the issue.
People in the Metal scene know there is something deeply wrong with the world. And Metal often expresses our outrage. Instead of pretending everything is OK or anesthetizing ourselves with consumerism, self pity, or poison, Metalheads tend to confront things head on. This is unbelievably important because it is the hardest part of the Christian message for most people to grasp and Metalheads understand it from the get-go. Metalheads know something is really, really wrong.That's why you see all the good-versus-evil themes in all kinds of metal, going back to "Black Sabbath".
What is important to metal is that it deals with big, dramatic issues like good and evil--whether in a serious way or a fantastic way. Metal doesn't dictate that you take one side. When confronted about the demon defeating the priest on the cover of Holy Diver, Ronnie James Dio countered that it could be the priest defeating the demon. The important thing is the confrontation.
Evidence"OK," you may say, "if Christians can be so metal, then where are the good Christian metal bands?" That's a good question, because the names that tend to get cited as examples are not that great. For the first and last time, The Devil Wears Prada sucks, and they have a stupid name. But like I said, there are great Christian bands in just about every genre. And, contrary to popular belief, some of them are actually innovative. Here are just a few of the better ones:
A Hill to Die Upon
Living Sacrifice (self-titled debut)