The Christian penetration of popular music has taken a surprising step: the sheep have found a small place in the wolves' den of sex, drugs, and ear-busting rock. Though evangelicals have enjoyed a substantial effect on pop music—more than on film, TV, or video games—they have done so only in certain genres. Believers who've won cultural acclaim have generally been pop balladeers (such as Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith) or gentler bands (such as Sixpence None the Richer and Jars of Clay). Christians generally gave up on hardcore as the province of hedonistic wastrels spewing lust and violence.

True, Christians claimed a few of their own metal bands: Resurrection Band in the '70s , the Spandex-bedecked novelty Stryper in the '80s, and numerous groups today such as Zao. But now, surprise, Christians who play hardcore, thrash, rap, and metal are shooting to the top of secular Billboard charts and landing major tour gigs and broad video and audio play.

Not your church choir

Take for instance, the rap-thrash foursome P.O.D. (Payable on Death). Their dreadlocks, tattoos, studs, and dyed hair signal they're not your typical church choir, but you'll recognize the words of "Follow Me": "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit his very self? / He must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

Those straightforward lyrics haven't kept P.O.D. from scoring a hit (the battle-cry "Southtown" and "Rock the Party"), a platinum record (The Fundamental Elements of Southtown), and tour spots with Korn, a group whose shady lyrics and stoned fans would make any Christian parent shudder. That makes P.O.D. the rebels, as lead singer Sonny Sandoval explained in Revolver magazine: "We play concerts full of ...

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