God loves heavy metal (so I know he must want me)

Thy Kingdom Come combines heavy metal with sermonizing in Texas.

Heavy metal and religion have always had a tight-knit (if sometimes fraught) relationship. Sure, many bands are secular, but the imagery — particularly the skulls, pentagrams, upside-down crosses — of early metal evoked a religious or anti-religious sentiment. Some genres are even more devoted to one religious idea or another. Black metal often features pagan or Satanic lyrics, while unblack metal takes a more pro-Christian stance. Folk metal is heavily influenced by pagan and mythological themes. There’s even Jewish metal and Muslim metal.

There’s also Christian metal, which makes some people think of Stryper or, more recently, P.O.D. As we’ve discussed before on Backward Messages, heavy metal music itself is akin to religion for many fans, so it makes sense to combine this intense, enveloping, thrilling music with lyrics that speak to the divine — whatever your experience of the divine may be.

In Corpus Christi, Texas, St. John’s Church, a Methodist ministry, hosts a heavy metal service. Behind the pulpit is Thy Kingdom Come, a metalcore band which sings — and screams — Jesus’ message. Since metal often appeals to misfits, putting metal into the church makes sense if you want to bring those misfits back into the fold:

“We go to a lot of Christian metal shows and we saw all these people who didn’t go to church because they were judged,” said [David] Pallotti. “That’s not what church is supposed to be.”

He said the service reaches out to the tattooed, the outcasts or those who feel they have no other place to go.

So far, it’s working, according to regular attendees:

“It’s life changing to be here,” she said. “There is something about the feeling you get. I guess that’s what they mean when they say the presence of God. It’s just so touching.”

Bringing Christian metal into the church raises some interesting questions. For example, there are people who say that all heavy metal is evil. There are others who study whether kids actually listen to the lyrics. Can heavy metal convey a Christian message if you don’t listen to the words? Is it the music or the lyrics that make heavy metal “Satanic”? Does this music belong in church?


2 responses to “God loves heavy metal (so I know he must want me)

  1. Good post.

    I listen to white metal, black metal, and a bunch of other sub-genres, but it doesn’t make me a Christian, Satanist, or Pagan any more than eating a salad makes me a vegetarian.

    In general, lyrics don’t bother me. If the lyrics in a song are really comprehensible and at the same time overly preachy or explicitly violent (basically when it stops being music and starts sounding like doctrine) I might skip the track.

    You’ll often find, too, that metal is a musician’s genre. The main reason I began listening to metal was because of the sheer musicianship involved in its creation. Next to classical and jazz it’s probably one of the most technical genres of music that exist. When I go to a show, you won’t find me going mad in the pit or head banging in the first row. I find a good vantage point and watch the musicians, and I hardly move with the exception of nodding to the beat and tapping my feet.

    In response to your question: does this music belong in church? Probably not. But I say that only, only because not everyone likes the sound of heavy metal. I bet if you took white metal lyrics and read them aloud as poetry, most church-goers would welcome them, but I can’t really see all the parents and seniors getting their groove on to heavy music. A metal church for metal lovers sounds like a fine idea to me.

    Sorry for the long-windedness.

    • On the contrary, I appreciate thoughtful comments like yours! I agree with you that not everyone likes metal — but does everyone like hymns? Or any other kind of music you normally hear in church? At least this provides young people with an alternative to the “traditional” church music that they might not appreciate at their age (or ever). 🙂

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