What about those kid's letters?

This essay is in response to an electronic tract from Dial-the-Truth ministries, the main web source of anti-Christian rock material. In this particular tract, they have 42 testimonies from young people in their teens and early 20's on how Christian rock had a negative influence in their lives, and how they have grown sprititually since they removed it from their life. Rather than reproduce the whole thing here, I will write a totally ficticious letter that incorporates the features of the 42. I encourage you to look up the original tract if you have the time. If not, I believe this accurately captures the spirit:

"I began listening to Christian rock through friends of mine at the Christian youth group in my church. At first, I listened to lighter contemporary Christian music, and progressed to hard Christian metal rock. I felt it might be bad, because my father and church leaders did not like it. But the beat was sensual and addictive. In time, I noticed that I couldn't concentrate on my Bible studies, it led me to listen to secular rock as well, and it led to rebellion and a moral failure in my life. It also divided our youth group and ruined it. The Lord convicted me of it, and I decided to submit to my father's authority and stop listening and threw away all my tapes and CD's. Since then I have been able to study the Bible again. But whenever I hear rock music now I am tempted to fall back into my old habits. I encourage all churches and youth groups not to listen to Christian rock music."

If you read the originals, you can see that I have included most of their testimonies into this fictitious letter. I think even Dial-the-Truth would agree it is an objective job.

For these 42 kids that wrote these testimonies - Christian rock / Christian Contemporary music is a sin, and they are to be commended for standing by their convictions! Their convictions are based on very valid circumstances in their lives, and are binding on them. Conversely, their convictions are not binding on anybody else. Those of us excercising the freedom that Paul talked about in Romans should not bother these young people or attempt to change their personal convictions about music.

When I first read these testimonies, I was touched at the sincerity of the testimonies. I even intended to leave my comments at the comment above and let that be it. However, as I really analyzed what the letters said, the Lord Himself revealed to me that something just was not right here. He asked me to draw on years of experience as a youth leader, and ask some fundamental questions about these testimonies. I began to have some very profound doubts about these testimonies, ones that I am very hesitant to express. However, I get ashamed if the Lord has to ask me to do something twice or more. He has, up until now, directed me to be very loving of my opponents - the rock critics. He asked me to write this series of apologetic essays to clear up confusion on the topic, and convicted me of my procrastination (the task languished for almost a year). I do not want the flaming I am going to get from traditionalists. Some of the most hateful things and most violent threats and profanity I have ever heard have been from the critics of Christian rock music. I had to sit in the radio station and simultaneously deal with one of these clowns who got sweet young Kara when they called in. I had to deal simultaneously not only with her reaction to the hate call she had answered, but also with the unpleasant person on the phone spouting profanity. So you can see I do not want this task. As the Lord's servant I will perform it, however. In this case, He is directing me to publically post my doubts about these testimonies - take that at face value and draw whatever conclusions you want to.

Dial-in-Truth - PLEASE provide documentation as to where these testimonies came from, and how they relate to other comments received on the topic! If you don't, you can only give rise to the doubts I am about to express, which are coming from a Christian brother, a sympathetic source - anybody else is going to flame you publically!

There are 42 testimonies, all expressing very similar sentiments. Statistically, there are young people out there that do feel exactly like these testimonies, so I am not saying categorically that they are phonies. However - I have some serious doubts about the source. From the length, they appear to be guestbook entries. Yet "Dial-the-Truth" has no guestbook on their web site. So whose guestbook is being quoted? From the tone of the testimonies, the visitors were obviously visiting a site that agreed with their particular point of view, which would skew the statistics very much in favor of those agreeing with an anti-Christian rock point of view. However, based on extensive looks at typical guest book entries - they generally fall into two groups: those that like the web site, and those that don't. Only one in ten people ever bother to sign a guestbook anyways, so most of those who like Christian rock would probably leave the site as soon as they see the content, and never sign the guestbook. But - a fair number of them would react negatively to the site and leave negative guestbook entry - disagreeing with the stand presented. This is confirmed by the number of people posting pages who say that Dial-the-Truth never replied to their emails. If you want to be fair and objective, you need to reproduce ALL guestbook entries, not just those that agree with your point of view. This site has a guestbook, and I assure you that all entries (except those with profanity or blasphemy) will be left in their original form.

One thing that the Lord really impressed on me - are these real kids or not? Nobody can do youth work if they are not willing to be real and true personal friends with them. Every young person I encounter - I look for ways to establish that friendship, but thankfully the Lord keeps me from succeeding with too many, or my life would be so diluted I couldn't effectively minister to any of them! Over the years, I have known a large number of young people. I know how they think, how they act, react, talk, socialize. I can tell you that in most cases, those testimonies sound contrived. I am sorry. Deeply - for having to say that. If Dial-the-Truth made up 42 letters to agree with their point of view, may Jesus have mercy on the sin. My suspicions are based on these categories:

Vocabulary and usage - kids don't talk like this!!! A few of the most blatant examples from the testimonies, and the way a kid would usually talk:

because of a weakness in my forefathersmy dad / grandad liked it
took less precedencehad less meaning
I could not conquer the giant of lustI gave into temptation
my personal devotions were almost nonexistentI didn't pray or read the Bible
I have become accountable to my fatherI decided to listen to dad
I was having sensual and lustful thoughtsI thought about sex
I became rebellious toward authorityI disobeyed
I purposed toI decided to
I told my dad and asked him to hold me accountableI asked dad to help me
God's holy house of worshipthe church
stunted my spiritual growthhurt my walk
I began with a high standard of music in my lifeI used to listen to good music
remarked about the difference in my countenancesaid I don't look happy any more
I had seared my conscienceI fooled myself
rhythms bring a sensual awakeningI get caught up in the beat
purpose in their heartdecide
for that deliverancesaving me
I would like to share a little testimony concerning my experiencethis is my testimony
detrimental toharmful to
remain under my father's authoritylisten to my dad
in my thought lifeinside
totally backslidden stateaway from God
considered acceptable by the standards of Godly peopleaccepted by church leaders
reminisce fondlyremember

If those kids are real, I apologize to them and Dial-the-Truth. Kids are not uniform in speech and language, and some of these quotes could definitely be real. However - kids do tend to imitate each other, and those habitually using big words or strange terms are ostracized, Christian or not. If maybe 5 or 10 testimonies sounded strange, I wouldn't have said anything. But I flagged 3/4's of them for unusual words or language! What is more, a trend developed. I found hardly any examples in the first 10 letters, but with each successive group of ten, they sounded less like kids and more like the Christian rock critics in their other essays! This points to a single author, at one sitting - doing a good job imitating a kid at first, but slipping into their own venacular as time went on and they got tired. Towards the end - I found 4 suspicious things in one testimony!!! Some things that were really suspicious are words like "purposed" - at least two times. I hear a lot of Christian leaders use the term, never teenagers. Once might happen, but TWICE? Also - the term "deliverance". An older writer might slip and use this term, possibly having been involved in one of the deliverance "ministries" of the past years. I was a victim of one of those cults myself --- being fed such garbage that "if you can see the white of your eyes above the iris you have a demon". If you can find a Derek Prince connection at Dial-the-Truth, I bet you find the real author! I also see the word sensual twice above, many more times in the testimonies. Also authoritative chruch leader terms like "personal devotions", spritual growth", "seared conscience", "backslidden state", etc. Good, powerful terms, but much more common coming from a pulpit than from a teenager.

The testimonies tend to emphasize aspects of a personal walk that, unfortunately, are not high priorities to young people. They definitely should be, but are not. (A wise youth leader does what he can to work around these limitations)

The testimonies point to behaviors or attitudes that are not exhibited by the normal young person (even if they should be, we would want them to be, or the Lord would want them to be.)

Like I said, I am sorry to have to raise suspicions about Dial-the-Truth's integrity. The overwhelming body of evidence here points to fraud, however. It could perhaps be explained if the letters were real, but edited by a single person who condensed them and tried to distill essential concepts. THAT IS NOT PROPER! I want to see what the young person actually had to say, I do not want your interpretation of it!!!! Any author deserves the respect of having their letter and / or testimony accurately quoted. I would like nothing better than to have all 42 writers tell me I am wrong, and if anybody that wrote one of these testimonies happens on this page, please contact me so I can correct any inaccuracies. Dial-the-Truth: I have put the burden on you to prove that these are real testimonies! I will immediately publish a full retraction here if you can put me in contact with even a small minority of those young people!!!

Since I wrote this essay, I have obtained almost irrefutable proof that my allegations are TRUE!!!! I encourage everybody to look at the guestbook for this site. There is an entry from "Ken" that is so full of hatred and bitterness that I seriously doubt his salvation. Although this is not conclusive proof, I always look at the spirit behind the statements. When I read the garbage he wrote - AS A GUEST TO THIS SITE - I wonder how he behaves as a guest in people's homes? If he has no more concept of what it means to be a guest than the way he behaved here, he must be ejected from just about every home he enters! He made no effort at all to make the message private, or preferably to just email me. His intention was to get in fast, flame away, and get out without leaving room for a dialog. Classic tactic of an enemy on the defensive! Become a sniper, firing pot shots at innocent people, then slip out after demoralizing them.

I got news for you, Ken! It didn't work! All you have to do is give me ONE EMAIL ADDRESS for one of those young people (who are probably adults now anyways) - and if I verify it is a real person, I will retract everything I said above. That's it - ONE INDEPENDENTLY VERIFIABLE source!!! Pardon me if I don't trust your word - your attitude doesn't fill me with confidence that you are even saved. VERIFICATION - NOW, or NO RETRACTION!

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