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The Kingdom of Rock Is at Hand

A tour of the confused but worshipful world of Christian rock.

Show me an evangelical between the ages of 15 and 50, and I'll show you an evangelical who can tell this story (or something much like it): I used to listen to secular music, then I discarded it all and listened only to Christian music. Then I realized I didn't like much Christian music, so I slowly started listening to secular music again. Now I listen to the David Crowder Band in the mornings and Radiohead on the drive home.

Such is the tortured state of popular Christian music: It's of the world, but not in it. It exists, as Andrew Beaujon attests in his engrossing Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock, in a "parallel universe," never fully intersecting with the trendsetting sonic landscapes of mainstream or alternative rock. Christian music may approximate the sounds of popular rock, and the labels may even be owned by the same parent companies, but to many people's ears, Christian rock is just one long cover. 

It doesn't take Beaujon long to note Christian rock's tortured existence. Not only does the audience choose it as an oft-reluctant alternative to mainstream music, but many Christian musicians are themselves forever sorting out their own relationship to the non-Christian artists they esteem, the non-Christian listeners they covet, and the non-Christian labels with whom they'd like to sign.

Beaujon opens with a scene at the Cornerstone Festival, Christian rock's biggest and baddest rock fest. (Beaujon's title comes from t-shirts sold at Cornerstone featuring the pierced hands of Jesus.) On stage is Pedro the Lion, fronted by David Bazan, who looks "more like the bobble-head doll of an antiglobalization activist than the bad boy of Christian rock." Pedro the Lion is a critical favorite, ...

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