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They sold their souls for Rock & Roll?

My small group community has been watching Pastor Joe Schimmel’s “Rock and Roll Sorcerers” videos over the past month. Below is an email/letter to my group regarding my thoughts on it.

First off let me widen the scope to arts or media and spirituality because the theme is applicable in so many arenas. Let me also say that the ‘turn or burn’ approach aggravates me slightly, so I took some time to let my thoughts settle.

The views expressed here are probably a lot more balanced than what would’ve initially been. What actually helped was stumbling on to a picture of Schimmel’s family on their church website and being reminded that he is a child of God diligently working out his calling and for that I give glory to God.

Points of Agreement
We are to guard our hearts…

Rock and Roll Scorcers was an alarming warning of the dangers that can be found in our mainstream media. The memoirs and statements of many famous musicians were revealed as satanic or at the very least corrupting. Many followers of Jesus are undoubtedly exposing themselves to media in our culture that inadvertently impacts their relationship with God. I agree with Schimmel that there is a directly correlation between what we absorb and the lives that we produce.

Evil’s pretty bad…
The videos also depict just how actively intentional some of this media is in persuading and even manipulating its audience. Whether you believe it is the artist themselves, cultural icons, or the devil himself, it’s clear that there is some of it that is bent on evil, malice, and hate. Evil does not passively standby and uses people of influence to further its cause. We absolutely need to guard our hearts and minds against these influences that drag us below the lives that God calls us to.

Points of contention
While the content presented in these videos may provides a word of warning and attempts to distinguish what’s ‘evil’, I don’t believe that it offers the viewer a full sense of who God is and his call for how we should be relating to the world around us.

Exposure to evil…
Jesus came healing, loving, and serving and encouraged his followers to do the same. I don’t know of any references in the life of Jesus promoting studying the occult, or learning more about evil and its manifestations in order to advance the kingdom of God. I know of several people who had trouble sleeping as a result of the images portrayed in the videos. Much like when you’re learning to drive, your car goes where you focus your attention. Maybe if we heeded the call in Scripture to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’ this wouldn’t be as much of a problem.

A separation of God and world…
Much of the video seems to be rooted in a dualistic view of God versus the world. Anything beyond what’s found in scripture or, anything in range of the darkness mentioned in scripture is labeled as demonic. Any form of questioning, exploration, doubting, mystical, spiritual activity outside of formal god-language (not that some of it wasn’t blatantly satanic), is assumed to be evil or veering from God’s desires.

Is it possible that God is bigger than the fine print in Scripture? Could it be that Scripture is not suppose to only help us see God in it, but also through it? That we might see more and more of Him everywhere else we look, including the world? That God loves the world, and there is a relationship between Him and all that is in it?

What concerns me is when Christians make a lifestyle out of cataloging where God is not. The arts, where alternative perspectives, role playing, figures of speech, social commentary, creativity and honest expression thrive, can be a goldmine for demon hunters. God is the ultimate artist, mysteriously working with the canvas of our lives. Simply because we encounter things that do not understand or cleanly fit into our theological framework, does not necessarily mean that God is not in it.

Advancing the good rather than avoiding the evil…
If God indeed is the Creator God, then we as the church ought to be the central outpouring of creativity, not its primary detractors. The content in the video almost advocated a posture of fear and avoidance. We are not of the world, but we still must live in it. There is no avoiding culture and media. Moses had an Egyptian education, Abraham pleaded for a wicked city, Jesus used the money of the day, and Paul was well read on ‘secular’ poets.

Is it possible that the battle for impacting culture was lost long before rock and roll arrived? Could it be that each time the church decides to avoid the world and remain ‘pure’ in the interest of self-preservation it abdicates its call to being the hope of the world? What would happen if followers of Jesus followed Jesus, and spent more time advancing the good rather than avoiding what might be labeled as evil?

Learning points
What we’ve learned is that evil comes in many forms, and can be compelling and attractive and pervasive. However, neutral will never overcome evil. While it’s helpful to know where evil lurks, how we respond to it is of even greater importance. What we expose ourselves to does matter, but what Christians expose to the world matters even more.

The world needs to see Jesus, a God who does not fear evil, but presses through it, to fight for the hearts of men and women. God is sovereign over all and is in the business of redeeming all of creation. He makes life out of dirt, and can make good come out of evil, yes even ‘wicked’ music.

Without going into what I think is a lack of research, contextualization, and questionable delivery, I think there was definitely some interesting background information presented. If ‘exposing’ evil is Pastor Joe Schimmel’s passion that’s fantastic. It seems the videos are helpful for some, and I’m a sucker for changed lives.

My hope is that we don’t all get caught up pointing fingers and scrutinizing culture, or worse yet, sitting on our hands avoiding evil. I hope that we do get so captivated by the mission God has in this world, that we use everything we have, including our God-given creativity and imagination to making God known. I hope that we never abandon the arts, music, media front simply because it may not seem directly scriptural.

And regarding the new-age one-world thrust presented in the videos… that’s right there is a new-age coming, and it’s up to us whether we want to just be by the sidelines watching for shadows or joining God in Advancing His Kingdom.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Alan Liu August 9, 2005, 12:26 am

    Here’s to trusting that God is in control. And here’s to a balanced… rant. 🙂

    God bless you.

  • Element B August 18, 2005, 3:39 am
  • Rob August 20, 2005, 2:30 pm

    Good post. I find that as a youth worker one of the biggest roadblock to young people advancing the kingdom is adults that fear so much that they won’t allow young people to go on any type of missions or outreach. They somehow believe that in some miraculous way that their baby has not already been exposed to much of what the mainstream media has out there.

  • Anonymous August 25, 2005, 8:41 am

    Great post, I agree wholeheartedly that focusing on Jesus will put the rest of our lives into order. Instead of witchhunting (we’re supposed to pray for and show love to them, not burn them at the stake), we should be putting first things first and letting God take care of the rest.

    Kudos! Love it! – Rae

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