In this third and final installment, we're going to look at the social aspect of the Christian metal scene. Who are these people who wear concert shirts, travel great distances to see their favorite bands, and buy merch, join fan groups, and greet each other like family even when meeting for the first time?
I wrote in the first installment of this 3-part series that a certain sensation comes over me when I'm at a Christian metal concert, one that reminds me how much I love this kind of music. Another feeling hit me at the recent Whitecross/Bloodgood concert in Versailles, Ohio. Surrounded by a sea of people in black t-shirts advertising their favorite bands, I realized something. These are my people.
I have no idea how many other people with degrees in Classics were at that concert. I have no idea how many are also authors, public speakers, and teachers. I am fairly confident that not that many others co-host a Christian music podcast, but none of that matters. Employed, unemployed, married, single, teenaged, or retired, we were all there for the love of this kind of music and, for the majority if not for all, for the love of Jesus. And it felt great!
We need that kind of fellowship. We need that kind of brotherhood and sisterhood. As I wrote in the second installment of this series, even those who have walked for years with Jesus need to be set on fire yet again, and one of the ways this happens is through fellowship with friends at these concerts.
And of course, there is the sheer fun! At this particular concert, Wildman and I ran into friends we have come to know from the Christian rock circuit and met in person people we had become friends with online. In this latter group were people we had prayed with and had many, deep conversations with, and to see them for the first time face-to-face was a little foretaste of what it may be like in heaven.
Humble and Gracious
You know how it is when you just feel comfortable in certain groups of people? I was able to arrive in Ohio on the night before the concert, which gave me the chance to spend time with Bloodgood during their soundcheck. The moment I walked through the door, Les Carlsen gave me a big hug, and this was immediately followed by hugs with Michael and Marilyn Bloodgood. When Michael Feighan arrived it was like seeing an old friend, and although I had never met Paul Jackson in person, the moment I saw him after his arrival the next morning, he gave me a huge hug just based on our interactions online.
What made this seem like a family reunion? Why did Joyce Carlsen, Les's wife, light up and talk with Wildman's son when he and his dad arrived? Why did it feel as if I were helping set the table for a family dinner when I helped Mark-David Bloodgood arrange the merch table for his dad's band?
The reason can be found in an offhand comment Marilyn Bloodgood made. She said that, even after all these years, she was amazed that people wanted to hear the band. This was not a slight against the musical abilities of any of the members, but simply because, in her words, "these are our husbands."
If you watch the multi-award-winning documentary Trenches of Rock, you will see that Joyce Carlsen and Marilyn Bloodgood toured with their husbands back in the day, even bringing their children along for the ride. It was a family venture for them. Yes, rock can be about excess and groupies and hedonism, but it doesn't have to be. For bands like Bloodgood and Whitecross, it is about using music to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, and so it is not surprising that spending time with them should have the feeling of family.
Cutting a Hole In the Roof
One day Jesus was teaching, and a group of men cut a hole in the roof of the building to lower their paralyzed friend to Him. This is what the body of Christ does. We help each other get to Jesus. Just two days after these pictures were taken, Michael Bloodgood suffered a hemorrhagic stroke that has kept him in the hospital more than 2,000 miles from his home. As soon as his family made this known, fans began sharing the information on social media, and we have continued to pray steadfastly ever since. His family created a GiveSendGo account where people can leave prayers and donate to help with the cost of his extended medical care far from home. Once again, fans added their prayers, contributed financially, and shared this campaign.
As you can see from Part 1 and Part 2 of this series and now in this final installment, Christian music, especially of the rock and metal varieties, is about much more than many can see from a quick glance. It is about killer music and evangelism. It is about a social scene that is more like family and it is about empowering the faithful. In all things it is about Jesus, and this makes it the greatest music on earth.