No Sympathy for the Devil: God, Pop Music, and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism

No Sympathy for the Devil: God, Pop Music, and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism

No Sympathy for the Devil: God, Pop Music, and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism

No Sympathy for the Devil: God, Pop Music, and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism

Synopsis

In this cultural history of evangelical Christianity and popular music, David Stowe demonstrates how mainstream rock of the 1960s and 1970s has influenced conservative evangelical Christianity through the development of Christian pop music. For an earlier generation, the idea of combining conservative Christianity with rock--and its connotations of nonreligious, if not antireligious, attitudes--may have seemed impossible. Today, however, Christian rock and pop comprises the music of worship for millions of Christians in the United States, with recordings outselling classical, jazz, and New Age music combined. Shining a light on many of the artists and businesspeople key to the development of Christian rock, Stowe shows how evangelicals adapted rock and pop in ways that have significantly affected their religion's identity and practices. The chart-topping, spiritually inflected music created a space in popular culture for talk of Jesus, God, and Christianity, thus lessening for baby boomers and their children the stigma associated with religion while helping to fill churches and create new modes of worship. Stowe argues that, in the four decades since the Rolling Stones first unleashed their hit song, "Sympathy for the Devil," the increasing acceptance of Christian pop music by evangelicals ultimately has reinforced a variety of conservative cultural, economic, theological, and political messages.

Excerpt

Sex, drugs, and … what else is there? The storied triumvirate of American youth culture since the Beatles. Three pillars that propped up much of the counterculture of the late sixties and that seem, despite the best efforts of moralists, politicians, and parents, to have fastened a kind of permanent grip on adolescents (and often postadolescents) coming of age in the leisurely fashion of recent decades.

Focused on one of the most powerful forms of American music, this book shows how that other famous trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—came to rub shoulders, hips, and thighs with rock ‘n’ roll. To some, the term “Christian rock” still rings oxymoronic, something like “Hindu abstract expressionism” or “Islamic comedy.” But for many millions of Christians in the United States, Christian rock—more commonly known as contemporary Christian music, or CCM—is the default music of worship, sounding forth on Sunday mornings and evenings in thousands of churches across North America. The genre is familiar to anyone who has idly spun a radio dial, landing on a station that plays songs with a vaguely familiar sound but unexpected words dropped in—“Lord” “Jesus,” “praise,” and the like. CCM is now one of the fastest-growing genres of music, its records outselling those of classical, jazz, and New Age combined.

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