DC Talk Examined

By John & Kathy Beardsley

Article as it appears in The Christian Conscience June 1996

(Corrections made 5/30/98 to several quotes thought to be made by Kevin Smith now made to read generically by a DC Talk band member.)


Christian Rock or an excuse for Christians to Rock? --- the band DC Talk Examined

The fun started the day a promotional tape came to our church for the DC Talk "Jesus Freak Tour" which was about a month before their concert on the evening of May 16th at the Rapid City Civic Center. I sat down at home and watched their video and was quite surprised by what was introduced to me as Christian music. I was so surprised I wanted to learn more. Little did I know the roller coaster ride I was stepping onto! I requested tickets from CMA, the promoters of DC Talk telling them I sought to write about the group for The Christian Conscience Magazine. Their hospitality in providing two tickets is appreciated. In part of my explanation as to why I wanted to attend, I told the promoters, "I believe Christians should have nothing to hide." My pastor puts it another way, "The truth never fears examination."

Who is the Group DC Talk?

DC Talk was formed in 1989 by [Toby] McKeehan and [Michael] Tait in Washington, D.C. DC Talk was a reference to the area, but their record label suggested they counter "vulgar stuff" out there by saying "DC" stood for "decent Christian" talk." (2)

"The group won Artist of the Year and Song of the Year at the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Awards in April. It was the first time a rock group or rock song had been honored in either catagory." (1)

The Album "Jesus Freak" is DC Talk’s latest work and sold 85,000 copies in its first week. "There are a lot of kids who come to see us on the road. Some of them like the music for its sheer listening pleasure." says Kevin Smith of DC Talk (1) "But its nice when fans go deeper and hear what Smith, 28, McKeehan, 31, and Michael Tait, 30, have to say as artists," Smith says.

The music’s message is as strong as the driving rock beat of "Jesus Freak," and as heartfelt as the lyrical beauty of their song "What if I Stumble." (1) Some of DC Talk’s musical role models are the Beatles, David Bowie, The Police, U2. [Ed. Note: these are ALL secular bands]

II Corinthians 6:14 reminds us:

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?"

"I think Jesus would have liked our music." "I think he would have appreciated the message, the stand we’re taking."- Kevin Smith of DC Talk (1)

The Message and Stand of DC Talk — Our First Hand Account

"And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, [There is] a noise of war in the camp. And he said, [It is] not the voice of [them that] shout for mastery, neither [is it] the voice of [them that] cry for being overcome: [but] the noise of [them that] sing do I hear. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.." (Exodus 32:17 - 19)

The evening of May 16, 1996 my wife, Kathy, and I went to the Rapid City Civic Center to see for ourselves why DC Talk is so popular. We did not anticipate the decibel level at which the band played, but thankfully, the Lord provided earplugs through a friend working security. We knew the music would be loud, but not the earsplitting level we experienced that evening. We spotted eighteen speakers over head on each side –36 speakers in all.

The tickets we were provided placed us in row one to one side of the stage. From our seats we could see at least 18-20 support staff as well as 5 police officers for security. We both noticed a surprisingly large number of young children at the concert ranging in age from approximately 5 years to preteen. I guess most parents felt safe taking or letting their young children go to a "Christian" concert.

Just before the concert began an announcer cautioned that the dance floor area (otherwise known as the "mosh pit") on the opposite side of the stage from where we were, was restricted to those who were eighteen and above. A couple of representatives from one of our local Christian stations did a bit of a theatrical introduction. I could not help but notice the earrings one of these men was wearing along with his "two tone" hair; it was quite a sight to behold.

The time arrived for the concert to begin, lights dimmed and the first band Audio Adrenaline came on stage. Suddenly a large number from the audience left their seats and rushed forward to be near the stage. At about the same time the band played the first bass beat and this crowd began to jump up and down to the music.

An extremely loud and incessant heavy bass beat was the predominant trademark for both bands for the entire evening. The musicians of Audio Adrenaline stirred-up the crowd as they thrashed their heads around, and bounced around the stage to their hard rock music. Kathy and I decided after the first couple of songs to move away after one girl jumping wildly near us knocked down another Thankfully they were both okay.

There was virtually no self control near the stage. This crowd was "high" on the loud music. On the third song we carried out our decision to move up and further away which gave us a better view but unfortunately no relief of the pounding bass beat we would feel in our chests until the concert ended.

Just when we thought things could not get nuttier, Audio Adrenaline played the secular rock song Free Ride. The crowd cheered wildly and went bananas, obviously recognizing the secular artist who wrote the song. They jumped harder and a small group in the front started waving their bodies around to the music in what is called a "mosh." Then someone was lifted on top of the crowd and was moved around by the crowds hands in a "body surf." This maybe mellow compared to a "secular" rock concert --- but should Christians behave like this?

Towards the end, even one of the Audio Adrenaline band members jumped on top of the crowd for a "surf" creating an atmosphere for chaos. All the while the music was so loud if anyone could hear the words it wasn’t enough to get a message from, hence, the reaction was to the "rock" beat not the words. After some 45 minutes Audio Adrenaline finished their session.

During the intermission I looked around to see what kind of items were for sale. Did they have books sharing their testimony? Or anything which would identify them with Christ? I didn’t find any. Instead, all I could see on the tables were T-Shirts promoting the bands, pendants, key-rings and pictures of the band at what I thought were exorbitant prices. Anyone going to this concert paid $18.50 just to get in, so I guess it should not have been a surprise.

 

The Eye and the Freak

The intermission ended and the stage was completely rearranged. A very elaborate lighting array encompassed the band and stage. The lights dimmed, the heavy bass started and the crowd was jumping again. DC Talk also added a video screen behind them and as they played various pictures were shown with some songs. Other frames had abstract colors similar to what you might see in an old ‘60s movie portraying those weird acid rock groups!

In the video for the song Mind’s Eye some of the pictures went from abstract to bizarre. The video flashed pictures of a human eye then switching to the eye of an eagle or a hawk, it was hard to say, from soaring above scenery of the outdoors, through clouds and this sequence repeated a few times. Then it switched to that of flying into a lightning storm which really was weird, a spot on the cloud would light up and the bolt of lightning followed, all very fast and sometimes several at once. Then it switched back to the human eye flashing back and forth with that hawk or eagle eye. Just the name of the song I believe gave it more than a New Age theme, whether the band knows that or not!

Numerous strobe lights which were used during certain parts of DC Talk’s session along with a combination of the other effects. An interesting thing we noticed was that every time DC Talk played a secular song such as the Beatles’ Help and the Doobie Brothers’ Jesus is Just Alright With Me, the crowd got louder and more excited. DC Talk also used, Jimi Hendrix’s, Purple Haze [Editor note: a drug reference], and the sound of the mouthpiece instrument made famous by the Rock singer, Peter Frampton. Each time either band did anything secular the amount of body surfing increased as well as other behavior unbecoming of Christians. That should suggest that the majority of the crowd was there for the "rock" music and the Christian aspect had nothing to do with it.

Let’s not forget ---the members from both bands encouraged the behavior and took part in it! Two of the DC Talk band members jumped off stage into the crowd and the third band member jumped off sound equipment that sat on the stage which made his jump higher. Appearing to be about five feet above the raised hands of the crowd from where we were sitting.

One of the DC Talk Band members, when introducing their main song Jesus Freak, explained how he was trying to come up with some lyrics and that he opened his dictionary and "stumbled across a word in the ‘F’ section" – The crowd cheered loudly before he went on to say what the word was--- "freak.". then proceeded to give definitions of the word:

1. Strange, weird or queer.

2. Jokingly saying, "I don’t remember, uh, Bill Clinton."

3. Lastly, "An ardent enthusiast," inferring they are ardent enthusiasts for Jesus Christ, to which the crowd roared loudly once again.

 

A Strange Gospel Presentation

Through the DC Talk session which ran about one hour and forty minutes, the band members spoke of God in general terms only. I noticed how often the band leader, kept saying "God is coming again." Perhaps I’m not used to hearing it put that way, but I tell people, "Jesus is coming again!" I found his statements to be confusing and almost misleading at times.

The band leader did say, there’s a God who forgives us when we stumble, which led into one song I could half way understand. DC Talk also quoted from a Bible translation I am unfamiliar with. He said, "…anyone who dislikes his fellowman is not in the light…" meaning, he is not right with God. The Bible says in 1 John 2:9-11:

"He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes."

"Disliking someone" versus "hating" someone is one example of changing what the Bible says.

The stand for Christ at the end of the concert given by one of the band members started with "People will let you down," and "I’m not here to preach". While some of what was said was good, "people letting you down whereas Jesus Christ won’t," his message ended with the words "Any kind of pressure is wrong, I don’t want to put any pressure on anyone" and "Just ask someone walking around you"—in reference to finding out more about "this Jesus."

Though the band members spoke of their personal struggles and briefly mentioned that Jesus carried them through, they weren’t explicit in telling the crowd HOW they can know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. ---They left the responsibility to the unsuspecting people in the crowd, who the majority it would seem, cared more about beating everyone else out the door!

Case in point: Many folks had already left the auditorium when they realized the music was over and more were leaving as the band member started talking!

During a break in the middle of the concert, the band members took time to share with the audience. That should have been the perfect time to give a salvation message, knowing the crowd would stick around for the music following. Unfortunately, the opportunity was completely missed. It was truly heartbreaking to see so many left hanging when there was opportunity to plant seeds of salvation.

 

A Message of Compromise

Smith said, referring to Jesus, "I think He would appreciate the message, the stand we’re taking." My question is: What stand did he take? What message did he give the people other than you know how to compromise with the world; using their music, speaking in adoration of the people who wrote the secular music, making your role models those who are of the secular world? Some of these role models you chose are anti-Christian and are of the world and not of God.

A lesson to be learned!--- When you compromise with the world, you will end up doing things their way, not God’s. Labeling something "Christian" doesn’t make so. As a Christian, can you stand apart from the world when you blend in so well? How are they going to know?

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:1-2)

We believe DC Talk and their music are prime examples of compromising these verses in the Christian realm. When I put this together with other statements by Smith in an interview with our local paper,

"None of the three band members is a member of an organized Christian denomination." Smith, "We follow the person of Jesus Christ." Then Smith goes on to say, "We feel the Christian belief is a personal belief, that it’s not something that can be taught."

What about Bible verses like: II Timothy 3:16?

"All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:"

The interview points out that Smith was raised in a Christian family like the other band members and he says, "I grew up knowing theology, but I didn’t know a personal relationship with God until I found it by myself."

Compare Smith’s statement and his music to the following verses:

"And [that] he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we [him] no more. Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:15-17)

Does this kind of music reflect the new or the old? DC Talk was right, people let you down. Their "sermon," was the biggest let down and most irresponsible one I have ever heard.

 

Bodysurfing, Moshing and Headbanging for Jesus?

"Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen…" (Jeremiah 10:2 )

"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord…" (II Corinthians 6:17)

Yes! The "Bodysurfing, Moshing and Headbanging" we witnessed on the video was largely the reason we saw the need to research and write this article. No one we talked to has ever heard of this behavior in the name of Christianity. In fact, DC Talk says in their promotional video, "we want to get a good mosh pit going and some head-banging." As to the bodysurfing, well the band participates! Does this sort of behavior align to scripture? Consider the following scriptures:

"Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to [fulfil] the lusts [thereof]." (Romans 13:13-14)

Are Christian parents so na´ve that they do not see the "fleshly" appeal to their teenagers? What about the riotous atmosphere? They passed people across the top of a crowd with their hands, on their front and back, boy and girl alike!!!

How about the extremely loud volume? It was earsplitting in a literal sense, I listened through one song, and my ears were ringing. Are not our bodies considered a temple for the Holy Spirit? Why do Christians want to subject their eardrums to abuse? Why is it necessary to promote this kind of behavior, much less be a part of it? Do we agree with the worldly philosophy of "safe sex," and say, "Well they’re going to do it anyway?"

What about the children at this concert? Kathy and I both saw different reactions from the small children some were mimicking the adults, others were in a stupor sitting quietly as the music droned on and on. We even had one boy pass in front of us saying to a friend, "Now all I have to do is get my hearing back." – That was only halfway through the concert! We were saddened more by watching these young kids than anything else. What must be going through the heads of these children?! For both of us our sadness turns to anger against anyone who would corrupt our children like this! What did Jesus say about the little ones?

"And whosoever shall offend one of [these] little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea." (Mark 9:42)

Sadly, even the promoters for the band echo the same sentiment one of our local Christian radio stations did, these are the "thing to do" with kids at concerts. Has God changed, or have we? A local response to a letter to the editor of our newspaper concerning these activities that would occur, compared Christian Rock to David dancing in the Temple. So, are we now going to start charging $18.50 a seat to worship?

The verses in the Bible are numerous which speak against these activities, even though the promoters have argued, "it is well orchestrated and safety is a priority," this does not change the fact that the behavior is not Christian. I have spent over a week thinking of how to convey the danger and deception of the music and behavior. It comes down to what does the Bible say? What are the standards for Christian music set forth in the Bible? Do musical forms reflect beliefs? Where is the line? Where does the Christian set their standards? We must agree on Christian behavior, do you participate in these things?

I was saved out of the rock scene. Why would I want to enslave myself to this worldly lifestyle again? While speaking with Sarah Leslie, Editor of the Christian Conscience, she pointed out that

"The use of the term "freak", according to its original meaning, has now been turned completely around. Those who were hippie counter-culture "freaks" were radically saved. When we were called "Jesus Freaks" in the ‘70’s, it was a reference to our past life, but also implied being willing to live for Jesus in a holy, sober and righteous manner that ran completely contrary to the popular hippie culture --- in other words becoming a new type of "freak".

DC Talk has twisted the term completely around to mean Christians mimicking the popular culture --- willing to act wildly, moshing, head-banging, etc. (like "freaks") to spread the Gospel."

I have to ask why would we ever use such a word as "freak" to describe our fervor for Jesus Christ? Why do we need to "dress down" as these band members do? Do we need to do this to be accepted? Do we have to cross-dress to reach cross-dressers?

The Rock and Roll culture is a subculture, on the fringe of our society. Is this kind of music Christian? No, I do not believe it is. Are the band members Christians? Perhaps, it is hard to tell if you go by the music and the words, only God knows the heart. At best this was a Rock n’ Roll concert performed by some misled Christians. Parents beware!

"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." (James 4:4)

Footnotes:
(1) Article in Rapid City Journal May 10, 1996 "Musical Missionaries"
(2) Article in Rapid City Journal May 18, 1996 "DC Talk, Audio Adrenaline played spirited rock n’ roll


Don’t Compromise!
Poem by - Kathy Beardsley , Inspired by Our Lord Jesus
Date - February 8, 1992

With every passing hour of the day,
Kids are being tricked into thinking
That Christian rock and alike are O.K.
Because the lyrics keep them from sinking.
Rock music, heavy metal and rap;
Where are their roots of origin?
Christian rock, etc. is a trap;
Compromise with the world’s sin.
Remember, God’s word stands strong on it’s own.
"My words will not return unto me void."

Don’t use God’s word to justify and condone
Worldly music that’s meant to destroy.
Some say: "Christian words make the song,
Nothing else really matters!"

But when the music is so loud and strong,
For all they know it’s idle chatter.
"Be separate from the world" God tells us,
And show ourselves worthy unto Him.

Don’t compromise the principals He gave us
Just so the world will accept you in.

"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Colossians 3:15-16,Also refer to Ephesians 5:19)



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