Apostles of Rock

Apostles of Rock: The Splintered World of Contemporary Christian Music

Jay R. Howard
John M. Streck
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: 1
Pages: 312
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130jdmp
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  • Book Info
    Apostles of Rock
    Book Description:

    Apostles of Rockis the first objective, comprehensive examination of the contemporary Christian music phenomenon. Some see CCM performers as ministers or musical missionaries, while others define them as entertainers or artists. This popular musical movement clearly evokes a variety of responses concerning the relationship between Christ and culture. The resulting tensions have splintered the genre and given rise to misunderstanding, conflict, and an obsessive focus on self-examination. As Christian stars Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, DC Talk, and Sixpence None the Richer climb the mainstream charts, Jay Howard and John Streck talk about CCM as an important movement and show how this musical genre relates to a larger popular culture. They map the world of CCM by bringing together the perspectives of the people who perform, study, market, and listen to this music. By examining CCM lyrics, interviews, performances, web sites, and chat rooms, Howard and Streck uncover the religious and aesthetic tensions within the CCM community. Ultimately, the conflict centered around Christian music reflects the modern religious community's understanding of evangelicalism and the community's complex relationship with American popular culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4805-2
    Subjects: Music, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Prelude: Ichthus ’93
    (pp. 1-3)

    It is April in Kentucky; the air cool, the sun shining. Some fourteen thousand teenagers (drawn largely from Methodist youth groups in the region) have, along with their adult sponsors, packed themselves on the rural hillside like an occupying army. At the foot of the hill stands a covered wooden stage, currently the home of Hoi Polloi, a band that, despite the energetic melodies and distorted guitars, has yet to attract the attention of the crowd. There are perhaps two hundred people crowded against the security fence in front of the stage, but beyond this crush the audience seems unimpressed....

  6. Introduction: What, Pray Tell, is Contemporary Christian Music?
    (pp. 4-21)

    In his cultural manifestoThe Closing of the American Mind,Allan Bloom argues that “nothing is more singular about this generation than its addiction to music .... Today, a very large proportion of young people between the ages of ten and twenty live for music. It is their passion; nothing else excites them as it does; they cannot take seriously anything alien to music.”¹ Music, in this case, refers of course to rock and roll. Its appeal is explained by Evan Eisenberg, who argues that “rock music is at once eagerly social and deeply solipsistic-a condition of adolescence-and the rock...

  7. Interlude: Larry Norman
    (pp. 22-23)

    The Adam’s Apple in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is 662 miles from CBGB’s in New York City and 2,175 miles from the Whisky a Go-Go in Hollywood. In 1979, the miles can frequently seem like light-years. Tonight, however, such is not the case. For the patrons of The Adam's Apple, northern Indiana tonight holds as much interest and excitement as New York or Southern California, and The Adam’s Apple itself—the converted basement and sanctuary to the Calvary Temple Church which now makes up one of the most visible and viable of the coffeehouses that constitute the Jesus Rock “circuit”—easily...

  8. 1 Origins and Oppositions: The Founding of CCM
    (pp. 24-45)

    In his history of popular music and the emergence of rock and roll, Philip Ennis opens with a metaphor drawn from the schoolyard. Describing the game Rock-Paper-Scissors, Ennis argues that in the realm of popular music “the relations among art, commerce, and politics are something like that game; each has some strong power over one other, but, at the same time, is vulnerable to a third.”¹ But while power in the children’s game is absolute and unidirectional—paper covers rock, rock smashes scissors, scissors cut paper—power in the music world, as in real life, varies in both magnitude and...

  9. Interlude: Rebecca St. James
    (pp. 46-48)

    The church doors open, and the crowd of mostly white, mostly middleclass teens and twenty-somethings who have been waiting outside (many for more than an hour) stampedes into the sanctuary. Like wolves on the hunt, they search for open seats as far forward as possible. Once seated, their nervous energy seems only to worsen. Heads crane as individuals search for people they know, eye the merchandise tables, or take in the well-equipped stage. This is not a traditional worship service; and while flowers, candles, and a chalice might seem appropriate, tonight the stage holds speakers, lighting trusses, a drum kit,...

  10. 2 Separational CCM: “It’s a Ministry”
    (pp. 49-72)

    A lone electric guitar playing a staccato riff behind her, Leslie Phillips starts to sing: “No distinction, no emotion for right or wrong/They tell me any choice will do/No color contrast in their dull morality/The shades of good and bad are through.” The band joins in another verse, and Phillips moves to the chorus: “And I’m black and white in a grey world/Black and white in a grey world/Black and white in a grey world.”¹

    The title track from her 1985 album, Phillips’s “Black and White in a Grey World” offers a useful summary of the “Christ against culture” perspective...

  11. Interlude: DC Talk
    (pp. 73-74)

    Most of the time, the Bren Events Center serves as the basketball arena for the University of California, Irvine. Tonight it is the setting for the debut performance of DC Talk’s Jesus Freak Tour. At the end of the arena floor, a stage has been installed. Behind it hangs a white backdrop, a screen for the images and video that will be projected throughout the show. On stage, several risers covered in red fabric make up the whole of the relatively spartan arrangements.

    Fenced in and guarded by security, the floor between the stage and the seating has been designated...

  12. 3 lntegrational CCM: “It’s Entertainment”
    (pp. 75-107)

    She wears black pants, a white shirt, and a leopard-print tuxedo jacket, the sleeves rolled to the elbow. The four poses are dynamic and nearly sequential: left shoulder drawn back, arm bent and drawn in close to her body, while the right shoulder dips, arm swung out, fingers snapping; elbows in close to the body, arms forward, fingers splayed; arms held wide, fingers snapping; hands in her pockets, head thrown back, hair swinging through the air. She has been caught—at four brief instants—in a moment of wild abandon.¹ Framing the images, the text reads: “You may not know...

  13. Interlude: The 77’s
    (pp. 108-110)

    The club sits at the south end of Seattle’s Capitol Hill. It is early on a cold, clear evening, and people are lined up at the door. No one seems to know what to do.

    While the denim, leather, and flamboyant hairstyles worn by those in line suggest this to be just another group of Seattle bar hoppers, their behavior reveals them to be something else altogether. And indeed, it is not one of Seattle’s over-hyped grunge bands playing at Moe’s tonight but rather a little-known act from Sacramento with strong ties to the Christian music audience. So, with tickets...

  14. 4 Transformational CCM: “It’s Art”
    (pp. 111-145)

    Rudyard Kipling Rooted in the assumptions of a “Christ of culture” perspective, Integrational CCM (especially in the persons of Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and, most recently, Jars of Clay), generated mainstream exposure for Christian music. Although still heard on the religious radio stations, the songs—or at least some of them—now also played on mainstream radio, MTV and VH-1; records were now shelved in the record and department stores; performances could be given to sold-out stadiums rather than half-empty church auditoriums. At the same time, while Integrational CCM sold mainstream audiences on Christian music, Separational CCM offered evangelical...

  15. Interlude: Amy Grant
    (pp. 146-148)

    The breadth of Amy Grant’s appeal is evident as the nearly sell-out crowd mills about prior to the concert at the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis with its sixteen-thousand-plus capacity. Cutting across divisions of age and ethnicity, the faces in the crowd include preschool kids holding on to Mom’s or Dad’s hand and gray-haired seniors; middle-aged women in their gala formals and Gen X teenagers in baggy jeans and flannel shirts; families, couples, and singles gathered in groups of various sizes; African Americans and other minorities as well as caucasians. The only obvious unifying force connecting each audience member to...

  16. 5 The Materialist Critique: “It’s Business”
    (pp. 149-182)

    Karl Marx Separational CCM, Integrational CCM, Transformational CCM—it has so far been argued that these represent three distinct art worlds within the overarching generic category of contemporary Christian music. Drawing on differing assumptions concerning the necessary and proper relationship between an individual’s Christian faith and his or her role in secular society, the individuals who together produce and define CCM have aligned themselves in loose social networks distinguished by philosophy, theology, and aesthetics, as well as, in many cases, geography and corporate ties. So, according to those who produce what we have labeled Separational CCM, Christian music is a...

  17. Interlude: Sunday Services
    (pp. 183-184)

    It is Sunday morning at a Brethren in Christ church in Southern California. A small congregation quietly waits in the recently completed sanctuary for the morning service’s “special music” to begin. A male member of the congregation walks to the center of the pulpit. Blonde, in his mid-thirties, and clean-cut in his jeans, athletic shoes, and an Oxford shirt, there is little to distinguish him from the rest of the congregation. After a self-deprecating comment intended as much to soothe his nerves as to introduce his song, he nods to the teenager running sound in the back of the church,...

  18. Conclusion: Contemporary Christian Music and the Contemporary Christian Life
    (pp. 185-220)

    Rodney Dangerfield built a career on the tag line, “I don’t get no respect,” and the artists and executives of contemporary Christian music have seemingly founded an industry on it. Slings and arrows fly from every direction. The genre has been lampooned on MAD-TV and harpooned in a roundtable discussion on VH-l; magazine articles describe Christian music as “rock ‘n’ roll (kind of)” and “innocuous ditties in the name of the Lord”; scholars suggest the music to be “counterfeit culture” and “religious propaganda.”¹ But the harshest criticism has frequently come, not from those working outside the genre, but from those...

  19. Discography
    (pp. 221-228)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 229-264)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-289)
  22. Index
    (pp. 290-299)