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January 2, 2009 / beidson

Heavy Music: Why Metallica Is More Faithful To The Gospel Than Some Christian Music

Make no mistake, I understand that Metallica does not intend to honor Christ in their music.metallica However, there is a sense in which they are doing just that, perhaps even more so than much contemporary Christian music.

What is it that draws people to the message and music of Metallica, or any other artist for that matter?  Beyond the vibe and jingle, people listen to music because they are looking for something heavy, that is, something with weight and authority, something that can speak with absoluteness about life.  And when you listen to Metallica, you’ll find just such a message, skewed though it may be.  But anyone must admit that they are serious about what they are saying.  They are moving beyond the boundaries of ordinary life and interpreting everything in an ultimate sense, even if, ironically, they are speaking to the apparent meaningless of certain experiences.

People listen to Metallica because Metallica speaks with authority.  People listen to Britney Spears and 50 cent for the same reason: they are making truth claims about life and existence.  Now not all of Metallica’s music may do this, and especially not all of Britney Spears, but the point stands: people are looking for an authority to which they may appeal.

Unfortunately this cannot be said about the very music which appeals to the supreme authority.  Much of what is broadcast in the name of Christ is topical and short-sighted, not to mention recycled.  When the point of a song is how good we feel because we know God, without any reference to how this is even possible, people generally understand that the song is good for the taste buds but of no lasting benefit to the heart.  This is to say, when Christians sing about God and leave out the Scriptures, they have aband0ned their greatest appeal to authority, and authority is what makes music so persuasive.  To be even more specific, the gospel ought to be the point of Christian music.  Not that every song must be about the life, death, burial, ressurection and immenent return of Christ, but then again, what’s there to sing about if not these things?

Also, with such a gift like language, it is a shame that we do not use a broader vocubulary in singing about Christ.  There are times when repeating a chorus many times is useful, but it can also be a hindrance when our hearts are wanting to say so much more.  Pop artists are in a position to do this; Christian artists are not.  If Metallica can stir the hearts of young men, and if Brittny Spears can capture the minds of young women, can Christian artist not reach these men and women even more, since we appeal to Christ, the greatest and highest authority, whose message and work is far more superior?

I am thankful that in my own church we sing about the cross every Sunday.  It is good to sing about the very thing that we have all gathered together to celebrate, the very thing that even made our gathering possible.  We do not gather for a concert because a concert would not be heavy enough for us.  Metallica is weighty, yes, but our worship pastor brings a far heavier message, one that speaks to us with judgment and blessing, shame and redemption.  Christian music ought to preach the gospel because people are looking for an authority to appeal to.  Even Metallica understand this.

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