Many of you are familiar with a parody song I did 6 years ago (back when I was a part of the sacred name cult) called "Checkin' Into Betty Ford" which was a parody of the Guns N' Roses version of Knocking on Heaven's Door. Recently I recorded another parody, and it is in the mixing stages right now and will be released sometime at the end of May. It is a parody of another Guns N' Roses song called Chinese Democracy and it is about the verse Luke 10:18-19 where the Satan is likened to a snake and a scorpion and the Jewish metaphor Yeshua was using there.
Now I played the rough cut of the parody for a few friends, and I got some who loved it and said it was the coolest "Messianic" parody they had heard, they loved the lyrics and the energy of the song. And two others gave me a cold look and said, "why are you using satanic music when you should be glorifying G-d?" Seriously? I asked for scriptural citation of this position and rabbinic ruling on this matter of certain kinds of music being sanctioned by Hashem and others belonging totally to the Satan. And they failed to bring anything of the sort to my attention. They just said, "well it sounds evil, therefore it is evil." John 7:24 says, "Do not judge by an outward appearance, but rather judge with a judgement of righteousness". Showing the lyrics to these individuals they said, you cannot marry darkness with light. My next question, that I did not vocalize was, "Have you ever been to a Hasidic congregation? Their music is loud, and every one in the synagogue is singing along with loud yells and screams."
Now first of all, I wouldn't play loud guitars in the synagogue. There are no thundering drum solos. My experience in Christian bands I had played in when I was younger is that even though we said it was for G-d playing in churches and youth centers and these kinds of things, the fact is we were putting on a show for self glorification. The intention may've started out right but as soon as you hit the stage.....it is something different that is the reality, and this may give slight credence to my friends' argument. But at the same time, during that period of my life, I would see contemporary bands and the egos were still there, certain ones who did old time 1800s worship songs in that style. So it is not the music itself. Now lets look at the other end.
I used to hang out with the rock band Disciple, now one argument that was brought to my attention was timing structure and tones etc that are demonic and that rock music is demonic. But the Scripture says G-d cannot be against himself, and that everything comes from Hashem. Let's keep this in mind. Now, I remember 2 specific Disciple shows, I saw them in China Grove, NC at Godstock. And they had a show with Lucerin Blue, and the kids that were at this show had the full on black outfits, they had the dyed hair (this is when goth was real big) and they were coming to see a metal show. Then halfway through Disciple's set they played a praise and worship song called "Thousand Things" and you saw these same kids, crying and accepting the Messiah of Israel in their life at this moment. It was amazing. Another was at a place in Marion called The House, these kids were moshing to the music then when Disciple played "One More Time" Kevin (the lead singer) gave a sermon and the same outcome, 30 kids accepted the Son of G-d.
Now my question is, would these same kids have done that going to say an Ari Goldwag, Alan Goodis, Joshua Aaron, or a Yaakov Shwekey concert? One would be hard pressed to say yes to this. The times of King David, the Psalms make note of the loud clashing of cymbals and the roar of the sounds he would make in his music. By every account he would have been the heavy metal guy of his day. Many, who grew up in Christianity don't believe that, they think his style would have been more like Amazing Grace or Rock of Ages or any of those old time hymns. When the reality is most of those were songs that had were played in the bars and later religious lyrics added to them. Each person, has a divine spark from Hashem, each person has a style of music they connect to. That has the ability to influence them through the words of the songs when they listen to them. My old friend Joseph Israel may be able to affect the people who are drawn to a reggae culture, but for me....reggae was never my thing.
In the 90s I was in high school and my best friend, Aaron and I were rockers. We would go to so many concerts we couldn't count them all, we saw the Scorpions, Motley Crue, Van Halen, Extreme, Page and Plant. There were too many to count. And I played music back then and was in many bands even through college. Then I got asked to sing in one of the bands I played lead guitar in when I was trying to show our lead singer how to sing a song we wrote called Hero and how to do the scream at the beginning. This was a Christian band I was in called Echelon, and I remember playing the lead riffs and singing the whole song in practice to show our lead singer how to do it. Our drummer threw down his sticks afterwards and said, "Chris, you need to sing that one." So we wrote more songs and our singer then bowed out, because he felt that I was a better fit to sing these songs. Though, considering these guys were about 5-7 years younger than me they told me at times my voice was, "too 80s". I always got a chuckle out of that, because that was my influence, and they never had an issue with my lead guitar parts that were full of squeals and two hand tapping straight from the Eddie Van Halen playbook. Now, I could do some of the slower songs but our rhythm guitarist was much better with those than me and I would hand over the mic to him for those, and there was good flow in that way of letting the person who sang certain songs better take the reigns.
Now during this time Christian rock was big and rock in general was still around, Kutless and Jonah33 just made it on the scene, we were really influenced by GS Megaphone at that time. It was a different sound, it was like if Guns N Roses met Jonah33 which is kinda how the GNR song "Oh My God" sounded at the time. But I was able to flow between a Gary Cherone kind of style to an Axl Rose kind of style and do it well, because at the time I had an incredible range. We pressed maybe 200 CDs and made an untitled EP from the 4 songs we laid down in a church a friend of ours ran sound from. Those 200 CDs are still circulating from person to person today, and I wish someone would have uploaded them to the internet somewhere because I no longer have my copy. The reason however, I make note of this is because there were certain styles I couldn't sing. If you asked me to sing Michael W Smith, it would sound horrible.
Now today, I am not a musician but I like to lay down tracks every now and then in the studio as neat little surprises for people and when they are completed I post them on my website for free. And also, I realize the Christians are blessed with musicians that play the style of music I do to reach those individuals. In the Messianic faith however, we do not have any, though there is some great music out there, I think Joshua Aaaron is incredible as well as Sharon Wilbur. But, there isn't anyone writing songs that you can turn up loud in your car stereo and pump your fist for Hashem. I have spoken with many incredible musicians who are Messianics, one was in a very popular secular band, who had a heroin overdose, then because a Christian rock singer, and now is a Torah observant believer in Yeshua and he put out a 5 song EP with some incredible Messianic lyrics but it is not marketed to the Messianic community, it is marketed to the secular community, and he told me, "Christopher, I did this album with a member of Salvia for goodness sake, it is not going to be received by the Messianic community because of the people in my band, and because this kind of music is frowned upon in our faith, so I am doing a solo acoustic album for release on a Messianic label." That broke my heart. There are many out there with the same story. There is another guy who played for a popular band in the 80s and early 90s, who was their bass player who gave me a similar story and he is not even making music now and has resorted to playing for the band at his schul, and he has expressed to me, "My heart is not in it, this style of music doesn't connect to me." I understand that totally.
I think there is a schism in the Messianic faith and a paranoia that is not based on Scripture that has cause at least 4 people I know who are incredible musicians to never release anything under a Messianic label because of the backlash they would receive. I cannot stand rap but I would love to see Messianic rap artists, I can't stand country but I would love to see Messianic country artists as well as rock, metal, screamo, etc. I'm sorry, Paul Wilbur, though a nice man and incredible musician doesn't do it for me. And there are others out there who are the same way. We need to be excited about hearing Hashem's message, we should have an energy for Him, and the fact is the Messianic faith has gotten so paranoid of many things that they even refuse to to acknowledge that a style of music that certain individuals do not like, does not mean it is demonic. For does not the Scripture say, in Mark 9:40 "for whoever is not against us is for us"?
I am not asking that the songs I write and produce be accepted by the entire community or that you should even like it. But I am seeing a trend of amazing songs (that I have had the pleasure of hearing from other Messianics) be given the opportunity to show that even though it is not your thing, Hashem can do amazing things with these people though the individual spark He has put within them. Let them scream the name of Yeshua and pay testimony to him in the passion they have for him and stop trying to muzzle these artists. G-d used a Pharisee, a tax collector, a fisherman, a wanderer in the desert, a man who didn't speak well to lead the children of Israel to the holy land and many other "social misfits" and those who were not accepted by the believing body despite the most important commandment. Do we in turn bring that commandment to naught? Or do we think business as usual is the trend we should continue?
Theological Insights from Rabbi Eved Banah at Beit Geulah in Morganton, NC (www.BeitGeulah.com)