IFB Memories #2: “Amy Grant is more dangerous than Adolf Hitler!”

My wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior in 1983 and we began attending anAG independent fundamental Baptist church (IFB) in our town shortly afterwards. The church somewhat followed the Jerry Falwell/Liberty Baptist and John R. Rice/Sword of the Lord models of Baptist fundamentalism for those of you who can remember back that far. In other words, the church wasn’t as extreme as the Bob Jones III or Peter Ruckman fundamentalist camps but was nowhere near as liberal as the compromising “New Evangelical” churches that were also sprouting up. If none of those names mean anything to you then you definitely missed Christian fundamentalism in the 1980s.

We grew in the Lord to a degree at that IFB church but there were also many things that were preached from the pulpit that didn’t seem to me to be in accordance with God’s Word. The messages were often VERY heavy into legalism, politics, and supporting the culture battles to “reclaim America for Jesus.” After eight years of becoming increasingly agitated and uncomfortable, we decided we could no longer sit under the pastor’s preaching. I was so distraught about the church and Christianity in general that I walked away from the Lord for 23 years, just like the dumb prodigal son. But the Lord didn’t forsake me and I returned to Him two years ago.

When I returned to the Lord, I purposely wanted to avoid the fundamentalist church scene. We attended an SBC church for one year and we’ve been attending a non-denominational church for the last six months. But I’ve noticed a lot has changed in the church while I was away. It appears fundamentalism has been pretty much relegated to the fringes while the dreaded “New Evangelicalism” is in the driver’s seat. In fact, things seem to have become so loosey-goosey that what passes for evangelical Christianity these days often makes those old “New Evangelicals” look like Bob Jones-style fundamentalist Baptists.

Don’t get me wrong. Those IFB churches had some very good teaching, but they also got very tangled up in Pharisaism. Every once in a while I’d like to take a walk down memory lane with you and reminisce about some of our experiences at that IFB church in the 1980s. I recently shared a memory about a couple at the church who objected to pork meat shreds in their egg rolls. See here. Let’s continue this intermittent series by examining how our IFB church viewed rock music and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM).

When we first joined the IFB church, one of the frequent messages from the pulpit was that all rock and roll music was of the devil. The incessant, hypnotic drum beat of rock and roll was linked to the frenzied, religious rituals of pagan African jungle tribes (sorry, but that was how it was described) and opened up the listener to demonic influences. And those lyrics! Talk about demonic! Rock music promoted the use of drugs, promiscuous sex, and even atheism. Before I accepted Jesus, I had accumulated around 300 rock and roll LPs. Yes, 300! But I couldn’t argue with the pastor. I knew very well that some of the lyrics of the songs on some of the albums promoted drug use and promiscuity. At the very least, I knew the world view that was advocated on many of those records didn’t agree with the Bible. I dumped all of those albums in a large, commercial refuse container. All 300. Ach! That was hard! I loved my rock music.

In the early 80s, singer, Amy Grant, was becoming very popular with Christians in general and with a few of our church members in particular. Grant and other pioneering CCM artists were taking rock music and adding Christian-themed lyrics. Sure, the lyrics might have mentioned Jesus and God but the hypnotic beat was of the devil and opened up the listener to all kinds of dark forces. Well, our pastor caught wind that some of the membership was listening to Amy Grant and he didn’t go for that at all. The pastor saw the spread of rock music into the church as an insidious plot hatched in the very depths of hell. Amy Grant was evil incarnate or at least the pawn of Satan. The pastor proclaimed from the pulpit that Amy Grant was more evil and more dangerous than Adolf Hitler.

[Pause for effect.]

Yes, you read that correctly. The pastor actually proclaimed from the pulpit, with quite a bit of passion, that Amy Grant was more evil and more dangerous than Adolf Hitler! I had liked one popular Amy Grant song at the time, “El Shaddai,” which I heard on a compilation cassette tape that another church member had put together for me, but I hadn’t bought any of her “demonic” albums. But was Amy Grant really more evil than Hitler? That kind of heavy-handed fundamentalist rhetoric from the pulpit really gnawed at me. Why couldn’t Christian artists use contemporary music to proclaim a Gospel message? Were songs with drums really Satanic? It was obvious some of the opposition to CCM music was because of generational and cultural opposition to any kind of “rock” music.

Flash forward to 2016. Contemporary songs with drums and electric guitars are widely featured in the worship music of evangelical churches throughout America. Music with a rock beat is no longer viewed as innately evil by most Christians. Sure, there’s a lot of bad and even heretical CCM music out there but there were also some bad and doctrinally questionable hymns in the old hymn books. Most Christians these days would react with a hearty guffaw if they heard a pastor compare Amy Grant to Hitler. Young Christians probably aren’t even aware of the great drama that took place in churches over this music issue.

As in all things, Christians must be discerning. Yes, there’s a lot of secular music out there that is unabashedly anti-God and should be avoided by Christians. Probably the majority of it. But some of it is simply innocuous. Labeling ALL music that uses drums, electric guitars, and contemporary melodies as Satanic would be viewed by most Christians today as a ridiculous anachronism, and rightly so, although I know there are some IFB churches that still teach exactly that.

Sorry for the length of this post. I’ll begin my next IFB memory  – whenever that may be – without the wordy introduction.

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24 thoughts on “IFB Memories #2: “Amy Grant is more dangerous than Adolf Hitler!”

  1. I can’t say your 1980s pastor was wrong in his concern about where rock and roll was leading young people. It has always taken youngsters AWAY from God and the recent development of Rap music has proven your pastor’s warning to be VERY prophetic indeed. It’s too bad more ignorant baby boomers didn’t heed his warning.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. As one of those ignorant baby boomers I’m now battling with my 10 year old grandson about the vile nature, and negative, subversive influence, that seemingly innocuous “fun” music can have on an innocent child’s view of the world and the people who inhabit it. It’s an uphill battle. They even use Rap music during the concerts at his Catholic elementary school! It reduces the kid’s behavior to savages. Humping and grinding as they dance! I don’t know what’s wrong with the mothers and female teachers who can’t seem to connect the dots? And yet, they wonder why personal behavior continues to devolve. Duh!

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    1. Thanks, Hope. Yes, it was legalism ALL the time. Tons of guilt. Lots of preaching about the “pet” sins but nothing about other sins. Very heavy handed. Very little about the grace of our Lord.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I heard the same thing about rock music from the woman who led me to Christ as well as my sister. Not too many years after that my sister’s sons and my son started a Christian rock group together. And she was okay with it. Somewhere along the line she came to see it differently. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Caroline. The church we attended was actually a “moderate” IFB church. The big IFB megachurch on the north side of town was “Ruckmanite,” it followed the teachings of Peter Ruckman, KJV 1611-only, women in dresses, etc. Extremely hard core. A few of the guys who witnessed to me were from that church and I visited a couple of times after I accepted Christ but it was like fundy boot camp.

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  3. Hi Tom. As a professional musician, I can guarantee that the rhythm always dominates the words. As an ex-Catholic, I ask you to consider the “Ave Maria.” Indeed, a very beautiful and haunting piece of music (base melody written by Bach – Catholic song added 100 years later by Gounod) Everyone knows it. Yet – the words are compete adoration of Mary, and pleads with her for intercession. “Hear a maiden’s prayer,” is part of the refrain. It’s completely blasphemous, from start to finish. Ahhh – but it’s sooooo beautiful. Most Christians don’t even know, that the early Pilgrims forbid ANY musical instruments in the worship service – due to the power it had over congregants. The Moravians and Lutherans brought musical instruments into churches in this country.

    We are now in what is termed the Laodicean church age. The terrible things going on in this country (ie: gender neutrality, abortion …) would not be taking place if the church was not asleep. The beats and sensuality of CCM are every bit as spell binding as the “Ave Maria” is. Music is NOT neutral. You have no control over how its waves enter your mind and body. And as an aside – virtually all CCM is coming out of the Charismatic bunch. Amy Grant (charismatic) is not someone I would want my daughters to emulate in any way. Your former IFB pastor, if talking off the top of his uninformed head, was not entirely incorrect. Hitler was obvious in his evil motives. Amy Grant’s sensual music is the snake in the grass. It is considered “bridge music.” (bridge to the world)

    http://www.wayoflife.org/index_files/amy_grant_no_preachy_church_lady.html

    I don’t even perform at church any more. I get an absolutely horrible feeling when my church family rushes up to me afterwards with such gushing praise. Music (especially in the hands of a talented singer or musician) has the power to overcome any pastor’s preaching, and any thoughts anyone has about God. B.B. King said he didn’t know how it worked, but his music made women want to take their clothes off.

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Jim. I realize this is an important issue for many and I knew that my personal opinion was bound to rankle some. But we’re not going to agree on this issue. Music, like any art form, can be used for good or for bad. As you know, musical instruments accompanied the singing of the Psalms in Old Testament times. I’ve seen music used inappropriately at church. I’ve seen soloists pandering for praise as you’ve mentioned, even at my old IFB church, but I won’t paint all contemporary Christian music with a broad brush just because some of it is bad and doctrinally questionable. Many preachers are bad and doctrinally questionable but I don’t dismiss all preaching. Same with books. And movies. Better to teach our adults and children how to be discerning than to ban all forms of artistic expression except for a very small, heavily-controlled subset. But every fellowship (and even every individual Christian) is going to have their own opinion on this. I just think it’s better to use an art form for God’s glory than to ban it completely because of some bad examples. I know many Christians that admire the great Catholic cathedrals of Europe. They see them as wonderful expressions of man’s worship of God. I, on the other hand, view those cathedrals as “towers of Babel,” built on the backs of European peasants as ostentatious statements of the authority and the power of the presiding bishop and of the Catholic church. I understand most Christians would view my opinion as a bit radical and that’s OK. I don’t condemn all church buildings because of the cathedrals but I definitely think simple is best. I think drawing the line at contemporary music and other art forms actually hinders the spread of the Gospel. It’s the kind of thinking that encourages an “us versus them” bunker mentality rather than fellowships that are open and inviting. But thanks again for your comments.

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      1. Tom, this is sage, not Jim. Jim is my friend and fellow blogger – but he is not a musician.

        Actually Jim is having surgery soon, so he needs prayer.

        I understand totally what you are saying, especially the “bunker mentality” so prevalent in IFB churches. Yet, I am not expressing an opinion. The lapse of church discipline and the slide into the lukewarm Laodicean church age, can be quantified with the entrance of the over 300 new bibles via Hort and Westcott’s “new” Greek translation, (1881) and the merging of church music with the world’s music. Old hymns such as Holy, Holy, Holy, are not only majestic, but they are full of Scripture and doctrine. Something sorely missing in what comes out of CCM. You know as well as I do, that it’s not enough to love Jesus. Even the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses love Jesus.

        It is partly responsible for the huge amount of false conversions. The emotional quality of CCM, appeals to the shallow part of our personas. It’s all about “feelings.” Whereas true salvation has nothing to do with feelings. 1. I am dead in sins. 2. Christ died, was buried, and rose again – for me.

        Just one of the problems with Hillsong music, for example, is the heavy back beat, either percussively or synthesizer driven. The human heart will always strive to be in sync with the uneven back beat. It is actually dangerous to your health.

        If you know anything about apostate Rick Warren – in his book – “The Purpose Driven Church,” he outlines how important it is to “get rid of the old pillars,” and the old hymns. Any counsel from that man, must be regarded as suspect if not downright heresy.

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      2. Sorry, Sage, for my error of addressing you as Jim. Yes, I will remember Jim in prayer.

        Thanks for your additional comments but we’re not going to find any common ground on this topic. I understand your point of view very well. I’ve read quite a bit of material from like-minded authors. I just don’t agree as per my previous comments.

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  4. I like different genres of Christian music–hymns, contemporary, local cultures’, etc. But if it has dubious lyrics and the tune or rhythm doesn’t make me focus on praise and worship, then there must be something wrong with it!

    We have had tribal groups who were made to get rid of their musical instruments upon their conversion. Oh how they miss it! What a shame. They could have been used for God’s glory. Music is from the Lord, we should reclaim what the enemy has stolen. (I think it’s also time to recognise that there are many cultures in the world, and although hymns and rock/contemporary are what dominates the western world, they don’t have to be imposed on those in the south. The Lord is an artist, He also loves diversity!)

    “…There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord, Nor are there any works like Yours. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, And they shall glorify Your name. For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God.…” – Psalm 86:8-10 (NASB)

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    1. Yes, much of rock music pushes an anti-Christian worldview but so do many other aspects of our culture including phony (c)hristianity and religiosity. Christian movements that focus largely on separation often develop a bunker/circle-the-wagons mentality that serves no one but the adherents.

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      1. I am talking about the beats and rhythms has its origins from the demonic.

        When so many pop and rock musicians admit to being used by spirits to compose, write and perform their music it should be obvious where that is coming from.

        Slapping Christian lyrics over rock music is to me an obvious deception of the enemy. I can’t discern any reverence or anointing from a lot Christian rock music. Christians are to be holy and pecuilar yet a lot of churches are mimicing the world to try to stay hip.

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      2. Yes, I’m fully aware some Christian groups demonize music that utilizes drums, bass, and electronic guitar. Their are some Christian groups that will allow only a piano or organ into the sanctuary. For some reason those instruments are OK. Yet there are some fellowships that prohibit all instruments and sing acapella because instruments aren’t mentioned in the New Testament. One could spend a lifetime trying to plead a particular group’s case while condemning everyone else.

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  5. This brought back some not-so-pleasant memories for me. I’m glad I came across these “IFB” posts of yours. I had felt like I was the only one who didn’t “get it” with their teachings. I wanted to, but it just wasn’t in me. It’s odd how guilty that can make a person feel, and needlessly so. Anyway, thanks for sharing these with us so honestly and in such detail.

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    1. Thanks, NBG! I appreciate the kind words. I have some good memories of our stay at the IFB church but the arrogance and the guilt trips were overwhelming. God’s grace was hard to find. Praise the Lord for His patience, mercy, and forgiveness!!!

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      1. And if I am honest with myself, some of that excessive legalism probably kept me out of a lot of trouble! I’m just beginning recently to look back at what people call their “faith journey” and how God has helped me in different ways through different stages of my life. Will enjoy reading more of your posts!

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  6. Tom, your journey was very much like my own. Except my 80’s church experience was legalistic charismatic.

    I did that for a year or two, and abandoned all Christianity until 2012.
    Then God called me back.

    Yes, I remember well Amy Grant’s El Shaddai song back then. I liked it. And I liked the song by the Wynans “tomorrow.”

    I too loved my hard rock, and Bocephus country music.

    83′ was when I graduated high school.

    We’ve got a lot in common Tom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lee, I’m glad you returned to the Lord, also. I had let “churchianity” get between the Lord and myself. I’m grateful for His patience and mercy. I graduated HS in ’74. Yeah, I was a big CSNY fan and eventually branched back to the Byrds and all of its offshoots. Still am a Byrds fan. Went back after I left IFBism and bought some of those old albums on CD. I go for the mellow stuff now like some bluegrass, Alison Krauss, etc. The legalism in those old IFB churches was backbreaking. All rules, very little about grace.

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