I learned that abortion was wrong before I learned what abortion was. I later learned that abortion was murdering an unborn child. I learned both of these things from Christian rock songs.
A typical example was “Who Will” by DeGarmo & Key, from their 1989 album “The Pledge”, which I found for £1 in a Christian bookshop bargain bin in about 1992. I was seven at the time. I never actually liked “Who Will” very much, but I heard it a fair bit because my dad played the whole album in the car. He never talked to me about the lyrics or what the meant, but I took it that everything therein had his approval since it was Christian and he kept playing it.
Also, because the song is so plodding and dull, you haven’t got much to do except listen to the lyrics, so that’s what I did.
It’s in his image they’re created, each one a precious gift of life,
How can we steal away their future?
What gives us the power? What gives us the right?
Who will stand up for the children?
Who will fight the battle for them?
Who will speak up for the unborn child?
I suppose D&K were a bit like a Christian version of Huey Lewis and the News. The song I actually liked most on this album was “Aliens and Strangers“, because the riff reminded me a tiny bit of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”, which I loved but wasn’t allowed to buy. I don’t really hear the similarity now, but I suppose I took what I could get.
ANYWAY, back to Christian Right propaganda. It wasn’t only D&K. In Carman’s song “America Again” (which deserves an entry in this series in its own right), he claimed “Every day a new holocaust of 5,000 unborn die”. My favourite band, Petra, had an anti-abortion message in “Hey World“, but I was too young to decipher the lyrics. I’m not going to try to catalogue all the anti-abortion songs of my youth. There was just an unwritten list of topics Christian bands had to sing about, and this was one of them.
Oh, I will also mention Barren Cross’s profoundly tasteless “Killers of the Unborn” (trigger warning):
Lay her down, commence to drill
A primo murder, the legal kill
I am a child about to die
My mother does not hear my cry
Apart from their sheer crassness, the lyrics are full of misinformation: They make out that foetuses are fully conscious and that the foetus will feel a lot of pain during the procedure. They also make that, afterwards, the woman will definitely experience crushing guilt, for which the only solution is repenting and becoming a Christian. And the way the foetus is personified throughout, even as a literary device, is downright disturbing. “No, no, they’re gonna kill me”, the song ends, “I feel, I feel the pain. NO!!!!”When I was young I had an encyclopaedia called The Guinness Who’s Who of Heavy Metal. Only a handful of Christian bands had entries, and most of them were not kind. Barren Cross, however, got a rave review. It mentioned that they discussed difficult topics like alcoholism and abortion, praising them for “exploring rather than simply condemning these issues”. I fail to see any exploration in Barren Cross’s command to STOP THE KILLING!
I watched Louis Theroux’s documentary on Westboro Baptist Church this week. It was interesting; in many ways, WBC is far more extreme than anything I ever encountered. I know the Christians I grew up with would be appalled by Fred Phelps, while simultaneously failing to see all the ways they are just like WBC. The most memorable part of the documentary for me is when Louis asks Shirley’s children what the signs mean: Who’s a fag? Why is it wrong to be one? The kids don’t know. They just know it’s wrong. Just like I just knew abortion was murder and communism was evil. And before that, I’d known that Jesus’ virgin birth made him divine, even though I had no idea what a virgin was.
The Christian rock music I heard growing up was not about art; it was the youth propaganda arm of the Christian Right. It hit all the usual Moral Majority political talking points, while being carefully packaged as a Christianised version of the music we wished we could listen to but weren’t allowed. This was indoctrination. They weren’t explaining these ideas to me; they were just bombarding me with the message that if I wanted to be good, this is what I would believe. I was taken along because Christian rock stars were my heroes and because (most of the time) I liked the music. It was emotional manipulation, and they were training me to vote the right way on issues that matter to social conservatives.
At the same time, they were helping to further the isolation of Christian kids from The Unsaved. If the Christian kids don’t listen to the same music as The World, then they don’t have as much in common. It’s harder for them to socialise with non-Christians, making them feel greater solidarity with the other kids in church.
And now I really fucking resent it.