by: Stacy Davies
God is not cool. At least not anymore. At least not when it comes to rock & roll. Christian rock, also known as "dork rock," is a laughable genre to those who don't embrace the Good Book. With the exception of some Christian-based bands who hide or deny their Christianity to make it onto the charts (see Jars of Clay, Creed, Evanescence, Sixpence None the Richer, P.O.D.), Christian rockers and poppers push the Word so feverishly that unless you're a die-hard believer and don't care much for imaginative lyrics, you'd sooner burn in Hell than hit PLAY.
But this Anti-Christ trend was not always so. Before most of the Lollapalooza kids were hatched, it was totally cool to sing about spirituality and God and Jesus and Krishna and any other holy thing. In 1963, the Belgium "singing nun" Jeanine Deckers, dubbed "Soeur Sourire" (Sister Smile), had a number one hit with "Dominique," a catchy little ditty about a Catholic saint. But God wasn't just for the folksy Belgiumy types--the Beatles' Paul McCartney gets decidedly spiritual in his anthem, "Let It Be" (1970). One year later, Brewer and Shipley clearly wanted to party with the Son in "One Toke Over the Line (Sweet Jesus)."
So what the hell was going on in the "immoral" '60s and '70s that induced so many hippies and rockers to pay tribute to a divine creator? Quite simply: no Jerry Falwell. It would be real easy to give Jerry all the credit for destroying the comfortable, moving and beautiful side of Christianity. So let's do that. When Falwell's Moral Majority gained momentum in the late '70s, he ramrodded religion down the throats of the unsuspecting nation. Everyone had been doing just fine on their own, not as pagans, but as open-minded Christians. And though most musicians and singers dabbled in fleshy pleasures and organic entertainments, they were good souls who made room for God. And they believed it so much that they shared it with us all. The Doobie Brothers (named after a wicked spliff) chanted that "Jesus is Just All Right;" Ocean told you to "Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man" who stilled the waters; a Jew for Jesus named Norman Greenbaum sang about the totally un-Mosesy "Spirit in the Sky;" and Beatle George Harrison, who was clearly drawn to Eastern religions, pulled one out for good, old Krishna in "My Sweet Lord."
After Falwell's henchmen and women--like Anita Bryant--got all pissy pants about everything, folks started turning off religion, at least in popular song. Now, chirpings of a spiritual nature are finely cloaked (Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way") or they're the stuff of ridicule: Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," Dead Kennedy's "Jesus was a Terrorist," XTC's "Dear God," and that mindless piece of poop, Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven is a Place on Earth." McCheesy. The one decent pop song to come out in the last twenty years that was upfront about God and quite positive was Joan Osborne's "One of Us." But as you well know, Jerry's kids got all wet on it, most of them never having heard it, and they wailed for it's banishment to Hades.
Now Christian rock/pop lovers are relegated to endure Dork Rock--Christian bands only played on Christian pop stations who most of us never have and never will hear of -- or pathetic performers with names like Donnie McClurkin, Ricky Dillard, Wesley Willis, and John P. Kee, who sing God awful crud like, "Fairest Lord Jesus," "Shine Jesus Shine," "Jesus in the Clouds," "Jesus Be a Fence," "Precious Jesus," and my favorite, "excuse me while I toss my lunch."
So, for all you Biblical lovers who hem and haw that Christian rock isn't given the respect it deserves, here's what you can do: tell your grandparents to stop shipping their social security to Falwell Ministries and the TBN. They'll go out of business, and then we can all worship the way we want to in peace. And in 20 years, if you don't knock on our doors on Saturday morning or try to hand off leaflets during our jogs on the beach and you just shut your face about how happy you are about your personal savior, real songwriters might actually start penning some tunes about fantastic things that can only occur in a beautiful, spiritual and personal realm. God willing.