Christian Rock Thursdays: Avoid cults (except ours!)

Christian Rock Thursdays: Avoid cults (except ours!) June 2, 2016

When I was 12, my favourite Christian metal band was Tourniquet. I was not alone in this. Quite a lot of people liked Tourniquet, including many who don’t normally listen to Christian metal. They signed to Metal Blade records, a pretty credible secular independent label, and Megadeth’s Marty Friedman played guitar on one of their albums (although by that time I was listening to the devil’s music). When I listen to Tourniquet records now, it all sounds pretty average, but I can’t tell how much of that is because I’m not much of a metal fan anymore (it’s one of my big regrets that I didn’t get to hear Metallica when I would have found them mind-blowingly awesome instead of just good).

Tourniquet Psycho Surgery album cover. Shows a kind of cross-section of a human head face on, and some weird bionic hands.

ANYWAY, once I got into Tourniquet, I did that thing diehards do of buying their entire back catalogue. Initially, this went quite well, even though their original vocalist sounded unutterably horrible. But on their second album, Psycho Surgery, there was a song called “A Dog’s Breakfast” which ruined everything.

I’d always thought Tourniquet were a bit theologically suspect anyway, because their first video was for a song called “Ark of Suffering” which was about animal rights. As a good foot soldier in the army of God, I knew that animal rights were things that only New Agers and other godless hippies cared about. But (because I wanted to keep listening to Tourniquet), I persuaded myself that caring about the welfare of God’s creatures was probably OK, as long as you didn’t do anything ridiculous like becoming a vegetarian or believing in that other made-up hippie talking point, global warming.

“A Dog’s Breakfast” began promisingly enough, by slagging off Scientologists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the ‘New Age’ (source of much Christian hysteria in 1991), and Mormonism. Looking at it now, it’s always fun watching Christians be sceptical of every religious sect except their own. Of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they say:

Jehovah’s Witness make the claim
“The only prophet of today”
But every prophecy was fake
And so they upped the date

And of Book of Mormon author conduit Joseph Smith:

Joseph Smith a Mormon god
Murdered men, condemned of fraud
An angel gave him golden plates
Which no one ever saw

Yeah, cos what kind of gullible loser would believe in something they hadn’t seen? Huh?

The problems started in the last verse, which is about the Faith Movement. That’s another term for the Word of Faith, or prosperity gospel. Now they were attacking my religion, and while I could dish it out, I couldn’t take it back.

First, they had a go at Kenneth Copeland (K.C.), whose offices my mum actually worked in:

K.C. says that “Christ was lost
Sign of Satan on the cross
Bore the Devil’s nature
And was born again in Hell”

I don’t actually remember him saying that, but he might have done. One of the Faith Movement teachings that makes other Christians absolutely lose their shit is the question of whether Jesus spent the three days between his death and resurrection in heaven or hell. My bunch, the prosperity gospel, said that because Jesus took the punishment for humanity’s sin, he must have gone to hell. Other Christians said that it was TOTAL BLASPHEMY to say the Son of God went to hell, so we must be damnable heretics.

Seriously, this was the biggest objection conservative Protestants had to Kenneth Copeland. Obviously they couldn’t get too fired up about him exploiting the poor because people in glass houses and all that, but of all the drivel Copeland comes out with, it was this that bothered them the most. Theology: arguing about the colour of the flippers on the Loch Ness monster.

Next there was an excellent pun:

Benny hinders true conversion
“Christ is not within”

Benny Hinn-ders, geddit? Nice. I don’t remember Hinn preaching Christ was not within, and I suspect they might have taken this quote out of context to win the argument, in classic style. They ended with a dig at Kenneth Hagin, founder of the Word of Faith:

“I have faith in my own faith
Cos I’m a little god” [Hagin]

I think Hagin did actually preach this, but I couldn’t see the problem with it. All Christians believe we’re made in the image of God, and are children of God, right? So we’re little gods, like human children are little humans. I didn’t understand why Tourniquet didn’t like this, but I found it pretty upsetting that a Christian band was attacking my beliefs.

Obviously, I couldn’t listen to this song, but the question now was whether I could keep listening to Tourniquet at all. I mean, the whole point of listening to Christian rock was to avoid music by people with false beliefs and ungodly lyrics. I thought I might have to smash the CDs.

I persuaded myself that it would be OK to keep listening to them as long as I avoided that song. Luckily, I thought “A Dog’s Breakfast” sucked for musical reasons anyway, so that was fine. Looking back, I wonder if this was a pivotal moment. Two years later, I allowed myself to buy secular music for the first time, and the logic was similar: it’ll be OK as long as I skip the tracks with ungodly lyrics. I might not have made that leap if it hadn’t been for Tourniquet’s ham-fisted attempt at critiquing cults.

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