Some bands may sell their souls to rock and roll, others make pacts with the Devil, but an entirely different sect of music is dedicated to worshipping a higher power. For some artists of faith, however, the “Christian rock” title can do more harm than good. Most secular fans tune out the moment they believe someone is preaching to them, so many bands who sing about their faith aren’t truly open about being Christians.
For every well-known Christian band that has played at Cornerstone, there are plenty of bands you didn't know are Christian. These aren’t just indie rockers who are playing both sides of the record store - these artists all have complicated and nuanced relationships with their faith.
Many would guess that Insane Clown Posse is as distant from the Christian music scene as a band could be. However, according to the face-painted duo, God is a significant influence in their lives and music. After 10 years and seven records, the duo released "The Wraith: Shangri-La," a collection of songs revealing that they were secretly proselytizing throughout their decade-long career.
When asked about this surprising switch in 2010, member Violent J explained:
You have to speak their language. You have to interest them, gain their trust, talk to them and show you're one of them. You're a person from the street and you speak of your experiences. Then at the end you can tell them: God has helped me.
Although the band waited for some time before revealing their personal faith to their fans, they shared in the same interview that their music has always had Christian subtext:
In "The Ringmaster," we say when you [pass] you have to face your own beast. Somebody who has lived a life of religion, they face a very small and weak beast... But somebody who's an evil b*stard will have to face a monster. The question is, how big is your ringmaster?389Does this surprise you?
Black Sabbath is often hailed as one of the darkest metal bands to ever strum a bar chord. They sing about the evil of humankind, and Satan even makes an appearance on their namesake song. According to bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler, however, the group has always been more interested in pointing out the hypocritical nature of the Christian establishment than praising the Devil. He explained in 2015:
People always like to find the "evil" in the music, so they'd quote the "pope on a rope" part out of context, as usual. People like to find negative in everything. We weren't interested in writing songs about the "nice" things in the world; everyone else was writing about that. We wanted to inject some reality into music. I think if we'd been called WHITE SUNDAY we'd have had a totally different reaction.348Does this surprise you?
While heavy metal band Megadeth is known for their music's extreme nature, guitarist Dave Mustaine found religion after undergoing arm surgery and putting Megadeth on hiatus. He said in 2009 that he grew up Lutheran and was in the Jehova's Witnesses, but not until his life fell apart did he truly start thinking about Christianity:
There was a moment of reckoning when my arm was [damaged], and I was up on this hill, and there was a cross at the top of it. It was just one of those thoughts - I was baptized a Lutheran, brought up as a Jehovah's Witness, got into witchcraft and Satanism and practicing black magic. My wife was in another thing, and I was thinking that was a cult, so I'd gone back to being a Jehovah's Witness, but I wasn't happy. Looking up at that cross, I said six simple words - "What have I got to lose?" And my whole life has changed. It's been hard, but I wouldn't change it for anything. I'd rather... go my whole life believing that there is a God and find out there isn't than live my whole life thinking there isn't a God and then find out, when I [pass], that there is.
Mustaine reunited Megadeth once his arm healed and immediately began guiding the band with his new religious principles, even if the band didn't consider themselves a Christian rock group. In 2005, Mustaine caused a stir when he objected to playing at a festival alongside bands like Dissection and Rotting Christ, citing their Satanic and anti-Christian imagery:
I don't wanna be hanging around guys that are gonna be dangerous for me spiritually, because I had just decided that I was gonna start following a spiritual path... I never said that I hated anybody; I just didn't wanna play with them... I told the promoter, I said, "Look, we can't play. We're not gonna play that festival." I never said, "Kick them off." That was the promoter's mistake... You know, a lot of stuff went around about another band [Rotting Christ] that had a name that was kind of offensive to me. But, you know, that's a personal thing. It has nothing to do with their band or their quality of music or them as a person.246Does this surprise you?
Alt-rock band Thrice has spent two decades thrashing for audiences around the world. Although they aren't technically a Christian band, vocalist Dustin Kensrue is an active Christian, and he even worked as a worship leader at the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA, from 2012 to 2014. He stepped down from his position, however, following revelations that the church's head pastor had posted derogatory statements about women, feminists, and the LGBT community under a pseudonym.
In 2015, Kensrue discussed his relationship with Christianity and how his bandmates tend to bristle when his lyrics are "too on the nose" about his faith:
The really difficult thing was always that I spend so much time on lyrics and getting everything right, that if I felt a need to change a part, I'd have to go back to this other part and change that, too. At the core of it, I've always just tried to be really honest with the way I write. The things I'm dealing with - whether it's doubt or faith, joy or sorrow - I think that's come through over the years and there's been a space created where a Christian and an atheist can both really dig on the same song.166Does this surprise you?