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

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 9, 2016 and has been revised.

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My wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior in 1983 and we began attending an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church in our town shortly afterwards. The church somewhat followed the Jerry Falwell/Thomas Road Baptist Church 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 those in the Bob Jones III or Peter Ruckman fundamentalist camps, but it 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 in 2014.

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 fundamentalists.

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, pagan rituals of 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 the lyrics of the songs on some of the albums promoted drug use and promiscuity. At the very least, I knew the worldview that was advocated on many of those records didn’t agree with the Bible. I dumped all of those albums in a large, commercial dumpster. 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 said to be 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 angry passion as I vividly recall, 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 church-culture 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 aren’t 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. 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 ridiculously anachronistic attitude, and rightly so, although I know there are some IFB churches that still teach exactly that.

Note of tragic irony from 2021: The pastor referred to above pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse in Pittsford Town Court on June 2, 2021. See here.

23 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: IFB Memories #2: “Amy Grant is more dangerous than Adolf Hitler!” Huh?

  1. Hi Tim. 300 albums! That kind of reminds me of some Playboy magazines I had stashed away in our house just after I got married. Please don’t ask me how I rationalized their being in our home, because for the life of me, I can’t remember. However (comma – pause for effect), they also went the way of the trash bin after my wife and I had some “frank” discussions. I too recall some of the excesses of the fundamental churches of the time and my reaction to some of the music that our relatively young children later listened to. There is a fine line with a lot of things but each person has to individually come to consider the consequences of their own “exposure”, plus those to whom we are responsible for, and understand the root of what it can lead to and this still continues to this very day. I think you can warn others but I’m doubtful as to what imposing our rationale on others really accomplishes. Sometimes I think it causes more harm than good if the root issues aren’t understood and agreed with by all concerned. Extreme all inclusive reactions to music, dancing, TV etc have all at one time or another been targeted. It’s amazing what 76 years of life and roughly 50 years of being associated with Christian churches can show you. Being in the world but not being influenced by the world is a constant personal battle, where the dangers of extremism on the whole spectrum being looked at, is too often overlooked. My general rule of thumb now is, using an analogy, if I have a problem with food or I want to lose weight, it is prudent not to sit in front of an open fridge, but that is MY decision, that I have personally come to. These are all lessons that we individually need to recognize, value and heed and from what I have seen, imposing my “life lessons” on others, that aren’t aware of or concerned about, the issue I have looked at, can be equally counterproductive. Sometimes I am amazed that we get through this earthly life interacting with one another, as long as we do. And sometimes, the word “grace” takes on a totally expansive meaning. Blessings Tom!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bruce, thanks for weighing in with your experiences and observations. Yup, many/most of these decisions regarding the degree of engagement with the culture are personal and are not one-size-fits-all as dictated by the pastor. The constant harangues and brow-beating from the pulpit at this and other IFB churches took ALL of the joy out of being a Christian.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Tom. I think your abbreviated view of the “evangelical” church over the past several decades is spot on.

    I remember some debate over the contemporary Christian music of the ’70s and ’80s but I was all in after I was listening to a Christian radio station which played mostly old hymns and the song “King of Hearts” by Randy Stonehill miraculously got slipped in.

    I was already playing guitar and writing a few songs myself but I compare what I heard that day to the first time I read something by Charles Spurgeon. It was 1976 and I was about to graduate from High School. The next few years I had no problem driving the hour it took for me to get to Costa Mesa to hear various Christian artists at Calvary Chapel. Some of the groups were quite talented and the message was clear, these young people had been touched by God and they wanted others to know. In my own personal spiritual life, I still have experienced nothing like that time. All of the groups I remember from that time seemed genuine and the goal for many of them was to just get to their next gig so they could talk about Jesus. There were no large contract deals. It was a unique time. Some of the sermons that I heard from young, untrained preachers after the concerts are some of the best that I’ve ever heard. Every once in a while, Chuck Smith would give the message. He was no slouch either.

    Fast forward to the early ’80s and my wife and I were teaching at a Christian elementary school in San Francisco and leading the high school youth group. I still remember taking our group to see Amy Grant. It was nice to see the group get excited about someone singing about God but it was obvious to me that things were beginning to become more commercialized. I had to put something in my ears during that concert because of the volume. It was LOUD. I also remember Amy bouncing around the stage like a jumping bean. Nothing wrong with that but I had a completely different feeling than I did while listening to one of her records (which I still have btw). I may be mistaken but the focus in that concert seemed to be on Amy and the band which included her first husband. I was not used to that after all of the experiences I had at Calvary Chapel and at concerts I had been to in many churches where God seemed to be the focus.

    So, Amy Grant is more evil and more dangerous than Adolf Hitler? I know she has had her problems but that statement, particularly in 1985, would have raised huge red flags for me. Unfortunately, so many “pastors” like yours have fallen since that time and the rapid increase in the numbers of false teachers and false prophets is definitely keeping Christians on their toes these days. Unfortunately, I have had to leave a church (and my career at the time) because of errant pastor behavior as well.

    As far as CCM goes, I haven’t listened to it for a long time. Every couple of years or so I’ll take another listen to Randy Stonehill for nostalgia’s sake. Last I heard he was still out there performing and some of his work is available on something other than vinyl. I couldn’t tell you one artist who is popular today. I’m completely uneducated on the subject except that I have seen some of the stuff out of Bethel and Hillsong. The songs I’ve heard repeat the same sentence over and over and over until my head hurts. I’m sure there is good stuff out there but I have no interest. I’m more interested in older hymns and the history behind them but I will still start humming a song from Honeytree or Mustard Seed Faith every so often.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Chris, thanks for weighing in and sharing your experiences. I have a very indirect connection to the West Coast Jesus Movement. An excellent guitarist named Al Perkins got saved and witnessed to bandmates Chris Hillman and Richie Furay (alum of the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield respectively) who then professed to have accepted Christ (although Hillman later renounced his conversion). That made a big impact on me at the time. How could a couple of my music heroes become “born-agains”?

      I never really got into CCM music. I know for some people the music portion of the church service is very meaningful to them but I always wanted to cut to the chase and hear the sermon. The only CCM music I ever bought was an album from Sandi Patty in 1983, well most wouldn’t classify that as CCM.

      That particular pastor was a megalomaniac and we stayed far too long (8 years). But it was our first Gospel church and I had no basis of comparison other than similar IFB churches.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do remember hearing of the Richie Furay Band, Tom. I think it was the original Richie Furay Band as, after looking it up, I was not aware that he had other later bands. And I never knew he was a Calvary Chapel pastor.

        In 1980 I was probably familiar with most of the CCM groups out there. Even the British duo Malcolm and Alwyn come to mind. I have the record they recorded live at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa in 1981. Malcolm Wild has been the senior pastor at Calvary Chapel Merritt Island, Florida since 1984.

        I remember Sandi Patty well but I never saw her in concert. I saw Keith Green in concert at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park in 1977 or ’78. There were several years when CCM bands were featured at Theme parks in Southern California. I must have made at least 1/2 of those events. Barry McGuire was there on the same night I saw Keith Green along with several other bands.

        Those days are long gone but I still enjoy beautiful worship music like the stuff played at Parkside Church every Sunday (Alistair Begg’s Church). That church has a seemingly unending amount of musical talent.

        I’m saddened that new Christians, like you and your wife were back in the day, have a much better chance of walking into a church today only to encounter a pastor like the one you’ve described.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Chris, thanks for the additional memories. Richie’ Furay’s autobiography was one of the big helps in my return to the Lord seven years ago. Keith Green had a series of tracts for outreach to Roman Catholics called “The Catholic Chronicles.” I bought them at a Christian bookstore in the early 80s but resources like that won’t be found at Christian bookstores today.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I remember reading “The Catholic Chronicles.” I used to receive Keith’s “Last Days Newsletters” and I’m pretty sure it was printed in those.
        I’m so glad you found Richie Furay’s autobiography.
        Sad that “Christian” bookstores include so many things that are not Christian these days. It has been a long time since I’ve hung out in one of those.
        I wish you and your family a blessed day, Tom.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thing in socal is gong well! Had some admin stuff to do with church stuff with our missionary support. Hope to read something spiritual right now! Will read this post shortly!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve had people call me a fundamentalist because of John MacArthur, but it seems IFB is a totally different animal than the fundamentalism of MacArthur. That is pretty crazy to say Amy Grant is more dangerous than Hitler; that is too crazy…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Got saved in an Independent Baptist who was JKV only, no pants for women and hymns we singing. We went into overseas mission and through the training was exposed to so many who worship the Lord through what some in our home church called devil music. Won’t we all be surprised at the music in heaven and by what they wear…so much judgement here on earth. One of the big things I do look forward to in heaven. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! Yes, lots of legalism in the IFB. I remember all of the controversy over pants on women and proper haircuts for women and men, etc., etc.

      Like

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