The Power Of Words And The Cult Of Personality

The Power Of Words And The Cult Of Personality January 12, 2021

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As a guitarist, I would explore as many influential artists as I could in order to refine my riff-making skills. A couple of heavy metal bands I used to frequently listen to were Slayer and Pantera — mainly because of their aggressive styles of guitar playing. But as I got older and eventually had children of my own, I began to realize the vulnerable curiosity they had towards my own words as well as the lyrics of music I would sometimes listen to. Though this wasn’t a realization I developed overnight.

Eventually what led me to stop listening to Slayer was when I realized that I had grown an intense resentment towards Christianity. As my worldview began to drift further away from Evangelicalism while leaning towards agnosticism, I listened to such songs like “Skeleton Christ” and “Jesus Saves,” which I felt were cathartic for me at the time. But in reality, they were actually exasperating my bitterness towards the religious people in my life through the words in their lyrics. Despite the fact that Slayer has shut down claims of being a band that glorifies hate and violence, it doesn’t dismiss the fact that their music has appealed to fans who happen to be unapologetically anti-Christian, white supremacist and neo-Nazis.

Pantera is also no stranger to controversy. As a band from the Southern States, much of their imagery in their albums and promotional artwork sports the Confederate flag, which is a symbol that many folks have interpreted as a symbol of hate. Phillip Anselmo, the lead singer of Pantera, was under heavy scrutiny in 2016 after jokingly giving the ‘heil’ salute to a fan in the crowd while uttering the words, “White power!” Safe to say, at the moment I learned Anselmo uttered those words I realized I didn’t want to support him nor his former band in any shape or form.

As I had addressed in my article, ‘Should Christians Listen To Heavy Metal,’ the power of music is something to be cherished with caution. Every band and artist uses their instrumental and lyrical composition as an expression of their feelings and experiences, which is a God-given talent that is meant to be shared with the world. But like all gifts, they can be abused for purposes of evil. In the case of Slayer and other metal bands that sing about themes of war and genocide, their use of such imagery is mostly utilized for the purpose of storytelling and occasionally for shock factor. But when artistic expression is ambiguous enough leave the listener to their own conclusions as for what their intended messages are, it can be a dangerous field to navigate when beauty is believed to be in the eye of the beholder. As one will know a tree by the fruit that it bears, sometimes the fruits of a band, artist, public figure, political party or movement are the personalities it breeds and the words they spew.

Shifting into the political realm, I realize that comparing the Republican or Democratic parties to bands like Slayer or Pantera is a false equivalency — and I will certainly say that throughout the last 5 years, Trump derangement syndrome has been just as prevalent as Pope Francis derangement syndrome among Catholics. However, Trump and Pope Francis are both different leaders on different fields, so comparing the two (even to the extent of certain people claiming one is more ‘Catholic’ than the other) is a false dilemma. However, in light of the recent protests at the White House, I think it’s important to consider what makes Donald Trump an especially controversial figure in light of the language he uses.

Like Slayer and Pantera, Trump has his fanbase and reluctant supporters. Many of my own friends who happen to be heavy metal fans have told me they hesitate to attend a concert featuring Slayer or Pantera (if they ever reunited) because of the obnoxious and overly aggressive fans. And while I recognize that my close friends who happen to be conservative have their reservations about liberals or democrats (as do I), I think we need to come to terms that the more we expose our ears and minds to the words of a toxic personality, the more that same toxicity manifests in our own.

The United States has been setting the political tone on an international level for the past few centuries. As a Canadian, I pay attention to American politics because whatever happens in the U.S. often affects Canada in some form, whether directly or indirectly. In this past year, there has been an increase in politically-charged incidents of violence in my own province of Alberta which can arguably be tied to the political climate happening south of the border. When a leader of a country uses language that incites hostility between groups of people, it damages trust and forces people to be on the offensive. With unfettered Twitter posts, Trump has single-handedly aroused racial tensions among American citizens, especially in the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests. Most prominent public figures hire out marketing professionals to handle their social media posts or consider the input of an advisor, with the intent of placing more focus on the task of leadership.

The same could be said about influential public figures from the opposite extreme. One recent example is when Dr. Leah Torres tweeted an accusation against pro-life advocate Lila Rose of voicing ‘violent rhetoric of domestic terrorism.’ While there is no denying that there have been incidents of terrorism on abortion clinics performed at the hands of activists, the vast majority of pro-life advocates I’ve been acquainted with would not support such acts. Such language as used by Dr. Torres is meant to desensitize the issue and incite ignorant hostility against pro-life advocates — all the while avoiding to explain why human dismemberment isn’t a violation of unborn bodily autonomy.

Make no mistake, I’m not suggesting we ought not to render ourselves gullible and be uncritical of Joe Biden’s leadership as he become inaugurated this month. In fact, I expect tensions will continue to rise as Leftists will continue to resort to the same politically correct rhetoric that will drive moderate conservatives to the alt-right. This is one of the reasons why I refuse to adhere to party loyalty. The honeymoon of a newly elected leader will certainly be cut short as soon as the fruits of the people in power become evident through the personalities they spawn.

As a side note, I realize that my blog’s theme since I started in early 2016 was based on how my painful experiences and theological struggles have led me to leave my Evangelical community to revert to Catholicism. But as I reflect on my previous writings, I realize that there have been occasions when I have communicated my disagreements with Protestants in a less than charitable manner. I think it takes a significant amount of self-awareness to express a disagreement without using language that would incite hatred towards your opponents. For this, I apologize to my Evangelical readers if they have ever felt as though my writing is driven by a desire to attack their faith. That is not the case at all, as I have written in a previous article. I believe every Christian apologist cares about truth enough to be willing to defend it. As a Catholic, I am dutifully bound to recognize that we are united by virtue of faith and baptism. And in this day in age, unity in the midst of chaos and uncertainty is as important as ever.

With this in mind, from here on end I hope to change my approach in how I address topics such as what differs Catholic and Protestant interpretation of Scripture as well as socio-political issues that affect our culture. For many of my friends and readers, I invite you to meditate on these verses from Scripture with me as we enter a new year,


“From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied;
    he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
    and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
— Proverbs 18:20-21 RSV

“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness. For we all make many mistakes, and if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. If we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Look at the ships also; though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!

And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and brackish? Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.” — James 3:1-12 RSV

And he called the people to him and said to them, ‘Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man…. But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.‘” — Matthew 15:10-11,18-19 RSV

Keep your heart with all vigilance;
    for from it flow the springs of life.”
— Proverbs 4:23 RSV

About Rene Albert
I'm Rene Albert. I am a husband to a beautiful wife and a father of three children. I'm also a licensed carpenter and construction manager as part of my full-time work. When I'm not busy meeting construction deadlines, changing diapers and chasing little hooligans around the house, I write essays about Catholicism, mere Christian theology and western politics and culture, as well as how they all affect each other. Due to working a full time job in construction, I usually only post two articles per week on average. My goal is to eventually become a full-time writer and possibly start up a podcast or Youtube channel. My writing is a labor of love, so if you enjoy my work and feel called to support me on Patreon, I would be very much appreciative! Pax vobiscum! You can read more about the author here.

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