John Cooper, lead singer of the band Skillet who for over two decades has been the face of Christian hard rock music, is no stranger to standing against false doctrines, but he recently chastised what he calls the “rot” in Christian music.
The article, written by Kevin McNeese, calls out a Christian music industry that has started pushing artists who use profanity, sexually suggestive lyrics, and sexually inappropriate videos and who promote LGBT agendas. McNeese notifies readers of “self-professed ‘Christian music agitator’” Derek Webb’s LGBT-affirming video “Boys Will Be Girls,” in which the singer teams up with “Christian” drag queen Flamy Grant.
Webb is a member of the Dove Award-winning band Caedmon’s Call and the video received praise from the lead singer of Dove Award-winning band Plumb, who advocates for Christians to go to LGBT Pride events. McNeese said that Christian artists who used profanity and other errors used to be on their own, but these days major record groups are pushing these musicians.
Capitol Christian Music Group is the largest publisher and producer of Christian music, handling major artists like Toby Mac, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong UNITED, Amy Grant, Jeremy Camp, and others. Last month Capitol Christian sent an email of new music from some musicians including Dante Bowe. Bowe has sparked criticism for his video and song “Wind Me Up,” which not only contains sexually explicit lyrics, features scantily clad women in sexual poses. His album also features sexually charged lyrics and cuss words. Another Capitol Christian band, JUDAH, released a song called “Beatitudes” in which he uses the “f” word, though it’s modified in the “family version” of the song.
“The defense for inclusion of this content is simple. If you don’t like it, you’re the problem,” McNeese wrote. “You’re a bigot. You’re old-fashioned. You’re a transphobe. You’re holier-than-thou. You’re judgemental. You’re out of touch. You’re what’s wrong with every single church in existence. And who wants to be any of those? What if we all said defiantly, ‘me. I don’t care what you label me. Fine.’ I’d bet the conversation would change pretty rapidly instead of shutting up in fear that you’ll be labeled something uncomfortable.”
Cooper is one of those who doesn’t care what “authentic” Christian music thinks of him. He excoriated the trend in his podcast on August 7. He said that one of the main things people like about Christian music is that it is an alternative to the “sex, drugs, rock and roll” of secular music. “A lot of people love Christian music because there was an understanding, there was a presupposition of when I listen to Christian music, I can give it to my kids, it’s gonna be safe for my kids to listen to, it’s gonna glorify God in some way,” Cooper stated.
The Skillet singer read comments from someone (who he did not name) involved in Christian music making a common argument that these artists are being authentic and not pretending they are Jesus and that by doing so they are reaching the lost. Cooper called this an inversion of the Christian’s call to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Jesus; a person who has been changed by Christ and is striving to live a holy life, not celebrating lust, anger, hate, and coarse language. “Those are the things you are supposed to put to death, not write songs about.”
Talking to ChurchLeaders.com, Cooper lamented, “What concerns me the most is that large portions of the church in America just don’t really mind that these artists are trying to make their way into the Christian market.”
“How do you expect Christian artists to hold the line on anything when you got…influential leaders like Jen Hatmaker, who praise the LGBTQ community; David French, who calls drag queen story hour a ‘blessing of liberty’; and multiple Christian influencers who instruct us to use ‘pronoun hospitality’ for trans-identified people.”
Cooper says that Christian leaders are trying to look like nice people to the world and do away with the offensive parts of the Gospel. “They look for Bible verses to justify the truncation that makes it to where we can have peace with the world,” Cooper stated.
“For the first time, I think, in American history, we’re to a place when you are not going to be allowed to be a true follower of Jesus and have the world think that you’re a great person…we now have two different definitions of morality and justice.”
Cooper says the industry has changed, citing how his band’s album “Awake” was disqualified in 2009 from the Dove Awards because the band was not “Christian” enough, but now people like Bowe, who is nominated for four Dove Awards, are praised.
Anticipating charges of hypocrisy for sharing the stage with bands that use foul language Cooper noted that those bands do not profess the name of Christ. “I love sharing the stage with people who do not profess Christ’s name, and I expect them to not live like it. But when I am with someone who professes Christ as Savior and Lord and who is leading people in worship to the one true God, who is Lord of all, I don’t expect someone to be confused that God only created two genders, which some Christian artists don’t seem to believe.”
The raspy rocker said he isn’t calling out these artists in hate, but love. He warned of the need to stop the pattern before it damages the Church. On his podcast, Cooper stated that at times we all need to repent and experience God’s grace; he confessed that he has repented multiple times for choosing to allow his music to be used on the soundtrack for “The Shack,” a movie based on the book of the same title that many Christians believe is heretical.
On his podcast, Cooper cites 1 Peter 1:13-14, NIV, which states,
“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.”
Those who claim that being a “real Christian” means reveling in sin, refusing to be sanctified, and living a defeated life that is no different from non-Christians are preaching the doctrines of demons and abuse the grace of God.
The Bible calls Christians to be set apart and to live as those saved by God’s grace. Jesus said in John 14:13, NASB1995, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
Those who claim to love Christ but make Him an unwilling partner to their sin blaspheme the Gospel (1 Corinthians 6:14-20).
The Christian music industry, and the Church, needs more people like Cooper and McNeese who will stand for the Gospel and not care if, and how, the world slanders them.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.