Christian Music: Apocalypse, Eschatology, Authenticity

Evangelical Popular Musicianship and the Burdens of Sacred and Secular Authenticity

Ibrahim Abraham

Applying the insights of philosopher Charles Taylor and musicologist Allan Moore to research with Evangelical punk, hip hop, and heavy metal musicians, this paper analyses the competing and often contradictory criteria for authenticity imposed upon Evangelical musicians, by religious and secular audiences. As Taylor’s considerations of authenticity in religious and modern secular culture make clear, the role of the artist as communicator of established truths in traditional religious cultures fundamentally differs from the role of the artist as the creator of personal truths in secular modernity. Further, as Moore’s analysis of the discourses of authenticity in contemporary popular music argues, the demands of audiences for artists to faithfully represent the established truths of fan communities differs from the demand for artists to communicate subjective experiences unmediated by external economic or ideological constraints. Utilizing interviews and ethnographic data gathered from research with Evangelical musicians in Australia, Britain, South Africa, and the USA, this paper will illustrate the contradictory burdens placed upon Evangelical musicians, demonstrating the ways in which they either achieve, or fail to achieve, acknowledgment of the authenticity of their creative activities in sacred and secular contexts.

 

It’s the end of the world as we know it: How authenticity and eschatology cohere in contemporary congregational songs

Daniel Thornton

The Christian church has been fascinated by the end times since its inception.  Jesus addressed the subject on multiple occasions, the apostles reinforced it, and the biblical canon ends with a book of eschatological fanfare.  This apocalyptic emphasis has also been lyricised in Christian song from the earliest days of the church.  Contemporary congregational songs (CCS), alternatively known as ‘praise and worship’, originally emanating from pentecostal/charismatic centres, still carry the eschatological heritage of their movements, and Christianity more broadly.

This paper utilises data from Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) to explore the degree to which the most popular CCS engage with eschatological ideas.  It further examines how apocalyptic lyrics in CCS are musically framed to communicate an authentic contemporary Christianity.  The importance of this research is in its unique contribution to the intersection of popular music, apocalyptic themes, contemporary Christianity, and notions of authenticity.

 

Born Again Apocalypse: Secularity and Religion in the “Eve of Destruction”

Kathryn Kinney

A top ten US/UK hit in 1965 for Barry McGuire, the song “Eve of Destruction” warns of impending devastation while providing a catalog of violence and injustice in both global and US-domestic domains. This paper demonstrates how the song’s history reveals a reverberation in the 1960-70s US between a generally apocalyptic ethos and an evangelical eschatology. McGuire’s song rocketed to the top of the charts while simultaneously sparking public outcry, radio censors, and several musical retorts including Barry Sadler’s “The Ballad of the Green Berets.”   The secular apocalypticism reflected in “Eve of Destruction” relies on a foundation of witness to material decline or trauma.   When folk-rock flower child McGuire experienced a religious conversion in 1971, becoming an integral part of the early Jesus People movement that was radiating out of southern California, “Eve” was similarly born again with a new identity as a Jesus rock track on McGuire’s 1974 Lighten Up album. The song now drew its meaning from 1970s Christian eschatological music, which tended to emphasize messages of warning or waiting, both of which relied on a foundation of belief in prophecy and prophetic interpretation. The traffic between secularity and religion in the life of this song highlights a suture between materiality and belief, neither of which function without the other in either frame, secular or religious.