The latest release from the Christian heavy-metal band Stryper has again placed the group in the eye of controversy. Responding to the band’s efforts to extend their platform to the secular world through vague lyrics and a more aggressive posture, the Benson Company announced it will no longer distribute Stryper’s albums.

Benson’s prepared statement reads in part: “The band has taken a different approach to lyrical content, one that does not contain overtly Christian lyrics. This indicates a new direction that does not conform to the mission of The Benson Company.”

It was not so long ago that the group seemed intent on presenting themselves as sort of “The Gideons of Heavy Metal.” Their logo included a reference to Isaiah 53:5, “By his stripes we are healed,” from which the band’s name was derived, and they made a habit of throwing Scripture portions into their concert audiences.

At the time, even though they were on a secular label (Enigma), few questioned their evangelistic zeal. Album releases with titles such as In God We Trust and To Hell with the Devil clearly positioned the band in the minds of both secular and Christian audiences. It was their intent, they claimed, to use their music to gain a platform for witness in the secular world. Their music sold in regular record stores, their videos had some measure of air-play success on MTV, and they garnered a fair amount of coverage in secular music magazines, the interviews clearly delineating their claim of Christian faith. Many in the church criticized their dress, their hair, their style of music, their method of evangelism; but there was little question of their agenda.

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