Dear Christian, Don’t Be A ‘Christian’
*Below is an excerpt from my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. I thought this would be good due to my involvement with Stand Together Fest last weekend and I talk about my band Strongarm.
I was in a band called Strongarm. Psalm 89 in the Bible inspired the name. It talks about God delivering his people with his strong arm. Our name also had a double meaning as an indirect reference to Jesus. But mainly I picked it because it sounded tough.
Musically, we called ourselves hardcore. The style fell somewhere between metal and punk rock. Like punk, it was outspoken and raw. Like metal, it was heavy and a little more polished. Either way, if you heard Strongarm, you’d probably wonder what the heck we were saying and why we were so mad. The style was passionate, aggressive, and cleansing. I loved it. I still do.
I was the lead singer, but I can’t really sing. So I was the screamer. I also wrote the lyrics. In fact, I wrote 15 of the 19 songs that are out there. But who’s counting? And I ran most of our business affairs. By the time I quit, we’d recorded a full-length album, released a few singles on seven-inch vinyl records, shot a music video, and done several small tours. There’s still a bunch of our merchandise floating around online auctions, if you’re interested.
I learned a lot in the band. Overall, it was a great experience. Though I quit in 1996, I still get a few emails a month from avid fans. I’m always complimented and honored by their well wishes.
When our first album, Atonement, came out, we did something out of character. We did a tour of Christian venues. The opportunity came up, so we took it for the quick exposure to support the record. There were a lot of memories, like the last show of the tour when we stood around and shared how much we hated each other before going on stage. Did I mention we were all Christians?
We brought along a friend named Tom. He volunteered to be our roadie, helping us with extra muscle. This gave him an opportunity to travel the country for free. He didn’t believe what we believed, but he was an amazing guy. We really liked him, and he liked our band. We also hoped the experience might have a positive influence on him. It influenced him all right.
One show in particular stands out. It was in Memphis. We arrived and were greeted by the promoter, who told us he’d received a call from our previous stop. They called to advise him that we weren’t “Christian” enough. They recommended he cancel the show.
You see, our friend Tom had an underground magazine (called a zine). He hoped to promote it and make contacts on the tour. There was some slightly coarse language in it, but it wasn’t a huge deal to us. It really wasn’t any worse than what is on primetime television. We just asked him to hand it out on his own time and not from behind our merchandise table.
Anyway, a parent got hold of one of the zines and went ballistic. So, we were horrified when we arrived in Memphis to accusations that our band promoted filth and pornography. At the time, we felt the parent’s reaction was unwarranted. Tom felt terrible about jeopardizing our tour. We felt bad for him. But something even worse had happened.
This hit Tom hard. He just wasn’t the same after that. He learned something about Christians. He learned to hate them. It’s something I’ve always struggled with, because there always seems to be some type of fallout when they’re around. The deeper issue was that Tom, like many, decided to stay away from Jesus. I don’t know where Tom is today, but in the grand scheme of things, I wonder if it would have been better if he hadn’t toured with us.
Nothing has discouraged me more in my desire to follow Jesus and know God than my observations of those who call themselves “Christians.” They make it so easy to hate them. They can be crazy, annoying, judgmental, and hypocritical.
Even worse, I regret that each of those words also represents me personally, to some degree.