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Christian rock is a form of rock music played by bands whose members are Christians and who often focus the lyrics on matters concerned with the concept of the Christian faith. The extent to which their lyrics are explicitly Christian varies between bands. Much Christian rock has ties to the contemporary Christian music (CCM) scene, while other bands are independent. The Christian rock genre is most popular in the United States, although some Christian bands have worldwide popularity. Related subgenres of Christian music include Christian alternative rock, Christian metal, contemporary Christian music, Christian punk, and Christian hardcore.


Christian response to rock music (1950s-1960s)[]

Rock and roll music was not viewed favorably by most Traditional and fundamentalist Christians when it attained popularity with young people beginning in the 1950s. Although early rock music was often influenced by country and both black and white forms of gospel music, it was primarily derived from African American styles such as blues. White, religious people in many regions of the United States did not want their children exposed to what was viewed as "race music", with unruly, impassioned vocals, loud guitar riffs and jarring, hypnotic rhythms. Often the music was overtly sexual in nature, as in the case of Elvis Presley, who became controversial and massively popular partly for his suggestive stage antics. Individual Christians may have listened to or even performed rock music in many cases, but it was seen as anathema to conservative church establishments, particularly in the American South.He Touched Me was a 1972 gospel music album by Elvis Presley which sold over 1 million copies in the US alone and earned Presley his second of three Grammy Awards. Not counting compilations, it was his third and final album devoted exclusively to gospel music. The song "He Touched Me" was written in 1963 by Bill Gaither, an American singer and songwriter of southern gospel and Contemporary Christian music.

In the 1960s, Rock music matured artistically, attained worldwide popularity and became associated with the radical counterculture, firmly alienating many Christians. In 1966, British act The Beatles, regarded as one of the most popular and influential rock bands of their era, ran into trouble with many of their American fans when John Lennon jokingly offered his opinion that Christianity was dying and that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus now".[1][2] The romantic, melodic rock songs of the band's early career had formerly been viewed as relatively inoffensive, but after the remark, churches nationwide organized Beatles records burnings and Lennon was forced to apologize.[3] Subsequently the Beatles experimented with a more complex, psychedelic style of music and anti-establishment lyrics, while the Rolling Stones sang a song openly from the point of view of Satan.

As the decade continued, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Paris student riots and other events served as catalysts for youth activism and political withdrawal or protest, which became associated with rock bands, whether or not they were openly political. Moreover, many saw the music as promoting a lifestyle of promiscuous "sex, drugs and rock and roll", also reflected in the behavior of many rock stars. However, there was growing recognition of the diverse musical and ideological potential of rock. Countless new bands sprang up in the mid-to-late 1960s, as rock displaced older, smoother pop styles to become the dominant form of pop music, a position it would enjoy almost continuously until the end of the 20th century, when hip-hop finally eclipsed it in sales.

Roots of "Christian rock" (late 1960s-1980s)[]


Larry Norman performing in 2007.

Possibly the very first documented appearance of a rock band playing in church is Mind Garage in 1967, whose Electric Liturgy was finally recorded for RCA in 1969 at the "Nashville Sound" studio which was under the management of Chet Atkins at the time.

The Liturgy was released in 1970. Larry Norman was a popular Christian rock musician who challenged a view held by some conservative Christians (predominantly fundamentalists) that rock music was anti-Christian. One of his songs, "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?", summarized his attitude and his quest to pioneer Christian rock music. A cover version of his Rapture-themed "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" appears in the Evangelical Christian feature film A Thief in the Night. And appeared on Cliff Richard's Christian album 'Small Corners' along with 'Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?".

Christian rock was often viewed as a marginal part of the nascent Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and contemporary gospel industry in the 1970s and '80s, though Christian folk rock artists like Bruce Cockburn and rock fusion artists like Phil Keaggy had some success and Christian-identifying hard rock acts such as Stryper gained some fame during the 1980s and even had some videos on MTV, one being "To Hell with the Devil", and even saw some airtime on mainstream radio stations with their hit song "Honestly". In reality, Christian rock started to become big business in the 1980s; Billboard magazine started publishing lists of top 10 best selling Christian albums and 'Hot Christian Songs', and radiostations and music magazines were established to focus on Christian rock. In 1985, Amy Grant's music began to reach a wider audience when her albums Unguarded and "The Collection" crossed over onto mainstream charts.[4][5]


File:Jars of Clay.jpg

Jars of Clay in concert, 2007.

The 1990s saw an explosion of Christian Rock, heavily inspired by the success of U2, as well as by the musical style of grunge bands such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana (which were not Christian bands).

Many of the popular 90s Christian bands were initially identified as "Christian Alternative rock", including DC Talk, Newsboys, Jars of Clay, Audio Adrenaline, Kutless, Relient K, and others. Outside anglophone countries, bands like Oficina G3 (Brazil) and The Kry (Quebec, Canada), have achieved moderate success. This decade also saw a notable boom in the Christian / R&B / Hip Hop / Rap, and the Christian / Punk / Pop, and Christian / Metal / Death Metal circles.

By the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the success of Christian-inspired acts like Skillet, Thousand Foot Krutch, Decyfer Down, Underoath saw a shift toward mainstream exposure in the Christian Rock scene.

Tooth & Nail Records saw their growing roster of artists and bands gain wider popularity and acclaim despite existing outside the walls of a traditional mainstream industry.Template:Fact Also many other modern punk bands have succeeded in the industry, like Stellar Kart, Relient K, Hawk Nelson,and Blessthefall.

Christian rock has primarily been a protestant phenomena. Some orthodox Christian rock groups, mostly from Russia and the Soviet Union, started performing in the late 1980's and 1990's. Alisa[6] and Black Coffee[7] are credited as most prominent examples. The Orthodox Christian lyrics of these bands often overlap with historical and patriotic songs about ancient Rus.


There are multiple definitions of what qualifies as a "Christian rock" band. Christian rock bands that explicitly state their beliefs and use religious imagery in their lyrics, like Servant, Third Day, and Petra, tend to be considered a part of the contemporary Christian music (CCM) industry and play for a predominantly Christian market.

Other bands perform music influenced by their faith or containing Christian imagery, but see their audience as the general public. They may avoid specific mention of God or Jesus, or they may write more personal, cryptic, or humorous lyrics concerning their faith rather than direct praise songs.

Such bands are sometimes rejected by the CCM rock scene and may specifically reject the CCM label, however many have been accepted as Christian bands. Other bands may experiment with more abrasive musical styles, which until recently met with resistance from the CCM scene.

However, beginning in the 1990s and 2000s there was much wider acceptance even by religious purists of Christian metal, Christian industrial and Christian punk. Many of these bands are on predominantly Christian record labels, such as Tooth and Nail Records and Facedown Records.

I'm an artist who's a Christian, because I don't write music to be evangelical. Now, if that happens, it happens.

Scott Stapp, lead vocalist for Creed[8]

Many rock artists including Switchfoot, SquareLash Blind Guardian, Collective Soul, and Blessid Union of Souls do not claim to be "Christian bands," but include members who openly profess to be Christians or at times may feature Christian thought, imagery, Scripture or other influences in their music.

Some of these bands, like Creed, played up the spiritual content of their music and were widely considered a "Christian band" by the popular media, despite their later disavowals of the label. Some bands reject the label because they do not wish to exclusively attract Christian fans, or because they have been identified with another particular music genre, such as heavy metal or indie rock, and feel more creative kinship with members of that scene.

Evangelistic goals[]

The aims for making Christian music vary among different artists and bands. Often, the music makes evangelist calls for Christian forms of praise and worship.

This is accompanied by street outreach, local festivities, church functions, and many alternative forms of internal or (soulful) expression. In this current millennium we have seen the likes of such Christian artist such as Third Day, Kutless, and Thousand Foot Krutch sing more explicit Christian songs incorporating lyrics that directly worship Jesus. Other bands, such as Underoath, BURDEN OF A DAY, Blessthefall, and Haste The Day incorporate symbolism and Christian messages in a less direct way to draw in non-Christian and Christian listeners to their music.

Other bands do not necessarily call themselves Christian bands (though all the members are Christians), but have spiritual lyrics and say that their Christian faith affects their music. (Civil Twilight, The Fray, Chevelle, and The Classic Crime, are good examples of this.) Bands such as Switchfoot have said they try to write music for both Christians and non-Christians alike. Evanescence, who were distributed within the Christian market on their debut album, have since announced their disassociation with the genre and removed their material from Christian musical retailers.


Festivals range from single day events to four day festivals that provide camping and other activities.

Significant festivals in the US are Creation Festival (the largest), Ichthus Festival (the longest running), and Cornerstone Festival (the most progressive). There is also a festival in Orlando, Florida called Rock the Universe, a 2-day festival at Universal that overlaps with the Night of Joy event at Walt Disney World. Ichthus, currently held in Kentucky, is a three-day festival that involves over 65 bands. In Buffalo, New York, the annual Kingdom Bound festival in Darien Lake attracts more than 2000 Christians annually. There is also HeavenFest hosted by WayFM a Christian music radio station, and there are multiple festivals a year in multiple locations.

There are also many in the UK, including Greenbelt Festival (the largest of UK Christian festivals), Soul Survivor, 'Ultimate Events' at Alton Towers, Frenzy in Edinburgh and Creation Fest, Woolacombe, Devon. The Creation Fest is not related to Creationfest, another Christian festival in the United States. The Flevo Festival of The Netherlands is considered to be one of the biggest Christian festivals in Europe. The Flevo Festival offers seminars, theater, stand-up comedy, sports and movies as well as Christian music from a wide variety of genres. Another big festival in the northern europe is Skjærgårdsfestivalen in Norway, which has growed into a big part of the christian festival life.

In the southern Hemisphere, the largest in Parachute Festival. Every year it headlines Christian rock bands. Many events are held in Australia called Encounterfest, Jam United, Black Stump and EXOday.

  1. Time. According to John. August 12, 1966.
  2. Cleave, Maureen. "The John Lennon I Knew". Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  3. Bielen, Kenneth (2000-05-11). "The Lyrics of Civility". Garland Publishing. Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  4. CNN (2003). "Interview With Amy Grant, Vince Gill". CNN. Retrieved August 29 2008. 
  5. RIAA (2008). "Top Selling Artists". RIAA. Retrieved August 29 2008. 
  6. Newsweek. A Russian Woodstock.
    Once an anti-establishment rebel, Kinchev's most recent work includes Orthodox Christian rock and Russian patriotic songs.
  7. Encyclopaedia Metallum. Black Coffee
  8. Moring, Mark (2004-08-09). "Stapp: I Am a Christian". Retrieved 2008-04-01.