Saturday, April 5, 2014

Metal ministry

Power metal band Theocracy’s music is fast and hard, and the lyrics speak to the wounded soul better than many church hymns. The first two verses in “Laying the Demon to Rest” show founder Matt Smith’s maturity in the faith.

As I sit alone and tired, with time to spare
Temptation rears its ugly head
Born from a deceptive dream into a nightmare
It calls to me again
Testing me to see if I will break this time
Or at least how far I’ll bend
I can see its glowing eyes and hear its evil cries
“Come dance with me, my friend”

So, the things that I want to do
I find myself not doing
But the things that I don’t want to do
I fall into
Why do we struggle with the former things and
Live in our own power below our means?

Often between dinner and bedtime I’m drawn to watch TV or browse the Internet instead of doing the “things that I want to do,” like chores, writing, or working on discipleship. At the end of a long day, I’m tired and I just want to rest. My defenses are down. My mind is relaxed and open to suggestion. Ninety percent of the time it wanders to where it should not wander, to temptations of the flesh. Worry. Ambition. Lust. Envy.

If there was a ready-made tool to distract disciples from their work, it would be TV.

The song’s chorus is a cry to God for help in fending off the seductress.

As the battle rages on and on
I face the things that put my faith to the test
When fallen angels won’t leave me alone
Father, come and lay the demon to rest
When my sword has broken off in my hand
I see the dark futility of the flesh
When I’m about to fall, please help me stand
Father, come and lay the demon to rest

The best part may be the last verse, an implicit, eloquent rejection of Nietzschean self-overcoming, emphasizing Jesus’ agency as the essential tool in fighting the earthly powers.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, they say
But sometimes my will seems to get in the way
So You will have to fight for me today

God’s son Jesus came down to Earth with a target on His back. He was the perfect victim, receiving the worst of human nature while giving His life in return. A sacrificial lamb onto whom the sins of the people were transferred.

For evangelical bands like Theocracy, the “Christian” label is an impediment to ministry. It is especially hard on Christian metal bands, the metal genre being predominantly post-Christian. Once the “Christian” label is acquired, it makes the band a pariah. Most new fans from that point onwards are already Christians, people who need to be ministered to least. Even if the band achieves mainstream success, like Creed, they convert very few listeners.

If the evangelistic mission is priority one, mammon can’t be the measure of success. It’s got to be recovering lost souls. Subterfuge is therefore necessary to avoid immediate dismissal by metalheads. Evangelical bands have to minister to listeners without them knowing it.

Theocracy has it figured out. The draw for most metal songs is the beat. Appreciation of the lyrics and the story they tell comes later.

I will sing a new song to you, O God
on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you
to the One who gives victory to kings (Psalms 144:9-10)

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