Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music?
Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music? If you believe the question sounds like a rallying cry from a Jesus Freak in the 1960's, you're only partially correct. The question originated with none other than Martin Luther during the Protestant reformation. The identity of the "Devil" in the quotation is somewhat debated, nevertheless, the question has relevance regardless of whom Luther was targeting. I became familiar with the quote through the songs of a Contemporary Christian Music Innovator who passed away this weekend - a brother named Larry Norman.
I first heard Norman's music through the unorthodox but solid ministries of two Army Airborne Chaplains - Chaplain Spears and Chaplain Crews. Neither one looked the part of a Christian Rocker. Chaplain Spears was nearing 50 and gray haired, but was tremendously fit with youthful energy and had a heart for soldiers and their families. He also had a tremendous partnership with his piano and tambourine playing wife - a fireball of energy and action - and three amazingly talented guitar playing sons who looked like cast members from the Original Jesus Christ Superstar. They brought a then-new style of music from the West Coast that nobody had heard in chapel before. While hanging out with his family and practicing for a youth concert, I heard the song for which this blog entry is titled and thought, "Now THAT'S a GREAT question!" When I shared the question with my mom, she agreed and must have laughed for half an hour. My mom was quite a singer in her own right, and used to replace the words from her favorite secular songs with Bible verses or Christianized lyrics. She was just a little ahead of her time and would tweak obviously positive songs like "Lean On Me" and overhaul not-so-wholesome one's like "Just My Imagination" or "Me and Mrs. Jones" - really! She did it and the songs rocked!
For our family, the Spears were a breath of fresh air. But as I mentioned earlier there was another key player in this ministry team. Chaplain Crews was the perfect compliment to Chaplain Spears. He was young, a rocking guitar player himself, who was also blessed with a ministry-involved and musically-gifted wife as well as a huge repertoire of West coast Praise music that really cranked up the 1100 Hour General Protestant Worship Service about 12 notches. Chaplain Spears had wonderful personality and kind of reminded us of Donny Osmond, except that he was a Charismatic Presbyterian with an Airborne Haircut and Jump Boots!
These two chaplains revolutionized the way I saw worship and by extension, the way I viewed the Lord Himself. In a very racially charged time, these men reached out across boundaries and mobilized a small military faith community of many backgrounds and origins into a united force of ministry and compassionate outreach. I learned from them that not only was "Jesus Alright!" as the Doobie brothers had proclaimed, but that He was calling people to know Him personally, and follow Him obediently. That obedience meant recognizing our own sinfulness and allowing Him to change us from within and lead us in a new and living way that put the needs of others above our own according to God's Plan. Because of the example of these men and their families, some critical spiritual issues came together for me and I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ and became a Born-Again christian in the summer of 1974. They were the leading edge of a new breed of chaplain - the types that would continue to shape my spiritual formation - people like Glen Bloomstrom, Tim Leever, Mike Belue and Scottie Lloyd- brothers who loved the Lord and took the call to make disciples to heart, transforming lives in new and creative ways wherever they were assigned.
All of this happened in my life because a long-haired Jesus Freak dared to ask the Question, "Why should the Devil have all the good music?" I doubt that Larry Norman realized that while his music was reaching west Coast hippies and transforming their lives, it was also reaching military families - even Black Folks originally from the deep South - and transforming theirs too. He always insisted that his worship songs be a part of the public domain to be distributed as widely as possible, not worrying about his own financial benefit. I guess I'm living proof that his strategy was the right one. It's also comforting to know that now he's reaping the full benefit of his heavenly investments and hearing first hand from the heavenly choruses that the Devil isn't even close to having any of the best music. Until next time...