WITH rowdy, rebellious themes, rock music has undeniably attracted a cult following among the youth with its heavy guitar riffs, loud vocals, fast-paced tempos, and rebellious lyrics.

But Christian rock, in itself a “rebellion to the rebellion,” uses the same head-banging sounds to bring God’s life-turning messages of love, salvation and inspiration to the youth. It presents a rebellion against rock’s established themes of casual sex, drugs, anarchy, violence, and evil.

Jordan Escusa, host of NU 107.5 FM’s Christian rock radio show, Against the Flow, says that Christian rock is the same rock music genre only with a different message.

“In this kind of music you will not find anything that is negative or explicit,” Escusa told the Varsitarian. “These lyrics give hope. If the song is mad, it is because it is mad against sin and the devil.”

However, Escusa says that the music does not employ out-of-sync praises to God.

“The lyrics do not necessarily have to say ‘hallelujah’ or ‘praise the Lord, Amen.’ Christian rock is a combination of heart and art. The lyrics have to be good, and the music must be appealing,” Escusa said.

Christ, rock of faith

The fusion of Christian imagery and lyrics into rock music started in 1967 with the release of Electric Liturgy by the American band, Mind Garage. However, American singer-songwriter Larry Norman is more popularly considered as the pioneer of the genre after he released the album, Upon This Rock, in 1969.

“What’s exciting is that there is a lot of Christian rock songs going mainstream. The artists are so good that they can’t just be shut out,” Escusa said.

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With lead vocalist Dan Haseltine, guitarists Stephen Mason and Matthew Odmark, and keyboardist Charlie Lowell, Illinois’ multi-awarded rock band Jars of Clay has been praised for its rare mix of pop and rock plus a subtle delivery of inspirational messages.

The band draws its name from 2 Corinthians 4:7, that speaks of treasures stored in “jars of clay.” The band won three Grammy Awards as Best Pop or Contemporary Gospel Album for its Much Afraid in 1998, If I Left the Zoo in 2001, and The Eleventh Hour in 2003.

Aside from Jars of Clay, P.O.D., a Christian rap-metal group composed of lead vocalist Sonny Sandoval, guitarist Jason Truby, bassist Traa Daniels, and drummer Wuv Bernardo, has rocked the world with its combination of heavy, fast and loud beats in rap metal, with stimulating themes of optimism in life.

P.O.D. stands for “Payable On Death,” a phrase referring to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion leading to man’s salvation. The band went mainstream in 1999 and since then garnered multi-platinum album sales around the world. P.O.D.’s album Satellite debuted at number six in the 2001 Billboard Top 200 Album Chart and sold over three million copies in America alone.

The website www.phatmass.com, a Catholic organization that works to spread God’s word through music, also showcases different Catholic bands whose music ranges from rock to hip-hop and R&B. These bands have perfor-med in Catholic youth gatherings like the World Youth Day and various Christian rock fests in America.

With their music described as similar to Switchfoot, Smash Mouth and DC Talk, Cheer up Charlie, composed of lead vocalist Bradley DeRosia, bassist Jon Daws, drummer Jason Kopp, and guitarists Seth White and Greg Polson. Cheer up Charlie wows crowds with their in-your-face religious messages about God and the gospel. The band, whose singles have been playing on US radio, has been invited to different rock fests all around America.

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Canada-based Critical Mass is another Catholic band. Its name was a take-off from the Holy Eucharist and the theory in physics that enough radioactive material causes nuclear explosion. The band wants to trigger a spiritual explosion through their music.

Composed of vocalist Dave Wang, guitarist Luke Kupczyk, bassist Scott McKendrick, keyboardist Lawrence Lam, drummer Paul Kieffer, and percussionist Tracey Doyle, Critical Mass has been playing in religious and spiritual functions since the late ‘90s. It has released four albums since 1997, with Completely and Grasping for Hope in the Darkness winning the Best Album of the Year Award at the Canadian Gospel Music Association Awards in 2000 and 2005, respectively.

In the Philippines, Christian rock music has received regular Sunday airplay in Escusa’s Against the Flow, which started in 1997.

“Against the Flow tries to help local Christian acts,” Escusa said. “If there are demos or EPs from local bands, I try to play their music, if they are good enough.”

Meanwhile, local acts like Barbie Almalbis and Kitchie Nadal have brought Filipino Christian rock into the mainstream, with Almalbis’ hit, “Army of Angels,” and Nadal’s singles, “You’re Worthy,” “Deliverance” and “Fire.”

Fr. Ramon Salibay, O.P., director of the Center for Campus Ministry, said that Christian rock music has the potential of drawing the youth to the gospel. In fact, youth organizations like Youth for Christ play such music during religious meetings to attract the young.

“There are so many tools that could be used to get the youth engaged in their faith, and one of them is music. Music can enlighten the young and make them faithful,” he said.

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But Salibay cautions on the use of rock during Masses, as the music’s loud tunes may be too jarring for the liturgy. He said that bands performing in charismatic Masses are okay, but too much loud music can violate the serenity and sanctity of the Mass.

Escusa agrees that Christian rock can be enhanced to attract the youth to attend religious ceremonies.

“The reason why so many young people do not want to be serious with God is that they think that God is anti-fun or anti-youth culture,” he said. “So when they hear Christian rock, it opens up a door and draws a bridge toward God.” He said that when he hears Christian rock, he becomes more excited to share his faith with other people.

Salibay also believes that this same music could bridge the gap between Catholics and other Christian sects in inter-faith celebrations.

“The late Pope John Paul II really has that charism to use all the tools possible, including music, to unite people.”

Now, rock music can still be loud, fun and addictive while being inspiring, grateful and praiseful to God. The youth would have more reasons to sing in tune with the Shepherd’s voice.


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