August 1999 – When shock-rocker Marilyn Manson was scheduled to play Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on April 28, the climate was ripe for a confrontation, since only a few days earlier the band’s music had been linked to the Columbine High School shootings.
According to Mark Forstrom, Youth Pastor at New Covenant Bible Church, a local movement had begun to oppose the concert with pickets and protests. Local law enforcement and media seemed to be poised for an ugly scene. “The outlook was grim,” Forstrom wrote in an “official praise report” after the concert.
Then something amazing happened. Through E-mail exchanges “…another local movement suddenly sprang to life – that the only way to truly change our moral climate [is] to soften hard hearts. (The hearts of Manson fans have been hardened by their perception that Christians are mean-spirited, hateful, and judgmental.) Thus, the idea was birthed to unravel that stereotype by encouraging Christians to show the pure love of Christ to these fans in tangible ways.”
As the concert day arrived, tension filled the community, Forstrom said. “Some [Manson] fans had actually expressed being fearful of going downtown because of what the “Christian freaks” might do to hurt or harass them.…”
But what happened surprised nearly everyone. “Scores of Christians from churches all over Linn County and as far away as Des Moines (two hours away) converged on the sidewalks outside the Five Seasons Center, to do two positive things: pray, and to show unmistakable love,” Forstrom reported.
People prayed in huddles on the sidewalk. Others conducted prayer walks around the arena. Churches around the city held special prayer meetings. Youth groups met for special times of prayer. People all over the U. S. were praying. As many as 20 pastors and Christian leaders went into the concert arena to pray.…”
Meanwhile outside the concert hall, Christians gave away over 100 pizzas, 1200 drinks, and candy to fans standing in line.
A local pastor told a newspaper reporter, “We want the kids here to know not all Christians are judgmental or hate-mongers. Our desire is…to reach out to them with the love of Christ and to let them know we care about them.”
Forstrom said that a local youth group even collected money to pay for parking fees of the Manson fans. “We’re Christian and we’d like to show you God’s love by paying for your parking tonight,” they would tell concertgoers.
The testimony was powerful, Forstrom said. “Many [Manson fans] showed a ‘this does not compute’ look as they scratched their heads in bewilderment,” he wrote. At least three people came to faith in Christ.
Inside the concert arena, Forstrom writes that God was at work as well. “After only an hour, Manson abruptly ended the concert early. During his Nazi/antichrist stage set, he suddenly flew into a rage: he threw his microphone to the ground, knocked the drum set off its platform, and stormed off the stage, never to return!… The crowd shouted, ‘Manson, Manson, Manson,’ but he never returned….
“…News reports say he went into an absolute rage when he saw a large smiley face on a stage prop that had been placed by one of his own crew members, presumably as a joke on the last concert of the tour.
Some fans then became so angry with him [for] cutting short the concert that a riot erupted.… In the end the police had to use riot control tactics to bring order and 23 of them were arrested over this incident….”
Forstrom said he received over 400 encouraging E-mails after the concert. Comments included:
“I have never been prouder to be in the body of Christ than I was this last week. Praise God!”
“Jesus affected people by His love, and so should we. I surely have been convicted about my attitude towards non-Christians.”
“…if we, as the church will clearly communicate the love of Christ wherever we are, we'll find that we're transforming lives, families, communities, and our nation."