I graduated from high school in 1980. At that time rap music didn't exist. Rock music of different types and styles had been around for awhile. I attended Christian school between 1974 and 1980, 7th to 12th grade. I graduated from Christian college in 1984, an M.A. in 1985 and M.Div. in 1987. I counseled at a Christian camp the summers of 1980, 81, and 82. All of those were plainly main-stream fundamentalist institutions. So I'm talking about a time between at least 1974 and 1987, thirteen years. This is the time period that I'm relating my experience.
During those thirteen years in every one of the fundamentalist institutions that I attended, you would be expelled from, shipped from, or kicked out from those places if you were caught listening to rock music. Rock music was forbidden. We would pray for those who had to work in places with rock music playing. If we went to a restaurant that was playing rock music, on almost every occasion we would ask the owner or manager to either turn it off or turn it down in the section of the restaurant we were sitting. It was understood that those who listened to rock music were either not saved or had some major sin problem as a saved person that would likely result in chastisement. I didn't know one person personally in those places that I knew first-hand listened to rock music. I was never even around it. I didn't know anyone who owned rock music records, tapes, or eight tracks (CDs and mp3s didn't exist then).
During those thirteen years, we would hear testimonies from people who had been saved, and they often included: "I used to listen to rock music, and then I got saved." Change took place that included getting rid of the bad music. Sometimes there were young people who acted rebellious. They did not talk about the Bible or spiritual things. They scoffed at authority. I would often hear later, after they had left the church or been expelled from the school that they had listened to rock music.
During those thirteen years, rock music was called ungodly music. It was also called the devil's music. Rock music was not only bad itself, but it was considered to be something that would also turn people toward bad things. Listening to rock music was a sin.
Between 1980 and 1987, I traveled around the country to many different churches. For three years, I went to 60-80 churches each of those summers. I remember being in one church in which the youth department had Christian rock posters all over the walls of the youth room. I looked at them like I would be staring at an alien visiting earth. I just wagged my head in disbelief. I assumed that the church had turned away from the Lord. It was normal to think this way.
During those thirteen years, no one would apologize for preaching against rock music. No one would say that it was a difficult subject. Everyone would say that it was an easy subject to understand and discern. No one who was godly would get along with someone who listened to or played rock music. Everyone at that time knew that we weren't listening to rock music because the music would kill plants. We knew that was a kind of trivial side story. We didn't apologize for not liking rock music at that time. If someone liked rock music, we wouldn't be friends. We would be getting as far as possible from anyone who said that he liked rock music, that promoted rock music, that went to rock music concerts. Rock music had been around for a long time and it was consistent everywhere in my Christian experience that rock music was wrong, was bad, and that the people who listened to it and played it were bad too. No one apologized for that. You wouldn't dare say that you liked rock music if you were to have any credibility as a Christian.
During those thirteen years, rock music wasn't viewed as a racial issue. I had never heard that rock music had anything to do with race. I had never heard that we were against it because it wasn't European enough. I had never heard that it was wrong because it wasn't J. S. Bach music.
During those thirteen years, the hatred of rock music, the separation from rock music, and the castigation of rock music was practiced by the rank and file of the institutions I was in, not just the leaders. The leaders were those who maintained the prohibition on rock music. The leaders were those who preached against it. The leaders were those who expelled those in the institutions who chose to go ahead and listen to it. Rock music was not tolerated by leadership.
Things have changed.
Were these institutions wrong then? Have we grown in our understanding of culture and aesthetics and art and meaning since then? If it was wrong then, a sin then, and prohibited then, then were we wrong then or are people wrong today? The difference is so stark that there really is no middle ground.
I know that the change must have occurred while I have been out in the world evangelizing and pastoring from 1987 to 2010. Our church has not changed, but while I have been out working for the Lord, something has been happening everywhere else. I didn't even know that it was happening until the internet came on the scene. It was then that I found out that the institutions had changed. It was now acceptable to affiliate with rock music. Rock music is now a non-essential issue. If someone wants to use it, it isn't a separating issue. It doesn't stop anyone from being friends. Some even consider the people that listen to it to be superior in their Christianity than those who don't. Rock music is not only not unChristian in many institutions, but it can be something good for those institutions.
I found out about evangelicalism after I got out of school. I went to Christian book stores and the music section and it was almost all rock music. I knew I was way different than evangelicals. The institutions I had been a part of and affiliated with were much different than evangelicals. They were a kind of Christianity that was false. You could see that easily by the music they listened to. They were worldly. They weren't separated from the world. I learned that there was the Christian rock music industry, which has now turned into all kinds of Christian music, including grunge style music that is called Christian by many.
That bridge between evangelicalism and fundamentalism has shrunk and perhaps even disappeared. The music isn't much of an issue any more, or it is at least becoming a non-issue. You can be fine with people who listen to rock music. You can listen to it yourself. That isn't going to be an issue any more. You'll even be more well-liked if you show your interest in rock music. That is the way that it is now. This has been a surprise to me.
What happened and what is the evidence that I see that says that it is becoming or already is a non-issue in fundamentalism?
I'll answer these questions in part two.