Is the term "Christian Rock" (music) an oxymoron?

by Jack Marti

"It's got a back beat, you can't lose it, any old way you use it. It's gotta be rock [&] roll music, if you wanna dance with me." So sang Chuck Berry in 1957. John Lennon once said, "If you tried to give rock & roll another name it might be Chuck Berry." Okay, so if Chuck Berry is synonymous with rock & roll, and if the term "rock & roll," as coined by disc jockey, Alan Freed, is just another name for illicit sex, then what does the word “Christian” have to do with rock & roll?

I was born in the '50s. I became a teenager in 1969. Back then, the only kind of “Christian” music that had a back beat was perhaps black gospel or some of the gospel records that Elvis recorded, which, of course, he borrowed from black gospel artists. We're told that rock & roll was a blend of “black” rhythm and blues and “white” melodies and lyrics. I watched an interview with Little Richard where he talked about the original lyrics to “Tootie Fruity.” They were so vulgar and sexually explicit, that they wouldn't have been able to play it on the radio back then, had he not sanitized them first.

There are many who see a direct correlation between the rock music of the '50s and '60s and the outbreak of the so-called sexual revolution and the rebellion that manifested itself in the hippie movement and the accompanying epidemic of rampant illicit drug abuse.

So, my question is, has rock & roll, now become sanctified (set apart and made holy) because it has been embraced by the church? Or, has Satan truly stolen a march on us, so that now we, who call ourselves God's children, are really marching to the beat of a different drummer? Do religious sounding or even godly lyrics really make the genre holy? Or has the beat always been the most important element of rock & roll that sets it apart from anything that might otherwise be called sacred music if it conveyed a sacred theme in its lyrics?

I know the argument has been raised that Charles Wesley converted several “tavern tunes” into hymns, but is that a valid comparison? If you were in the throne room of God would you be more disposed to sing one of Charles Wesley's hymns or one of today's top 10 “Christian rock” or “gospel rap” offerings? I, for one, would rather choose one of Wesley's converted tavern tunes which has a discernible and memorable melody that supports the sacred lyrics he applied to them and does not come across as having a rebellious or arrogant attitude.

Joyful Noise Scripture Songs Ministry