February 2005 – Rock music seems more omnipresent than ever, being used to pitch everything from Big Macs to Cadillacs. So why not use it to make a pitch for the kingdom?
Christian rock has been around for decades, but what one Christian group does is unique: rewriting the lyrics of secular hits to reflect a Biblical message.
The group is called ApologetiX, based on the word apologetics, which refers to a defense of the Christian faith. For the last 12 years, ApologetiX has parodied secular rock ’n’ roll, rap, and country music by mimicking the sound of popular hits. And because the songs are parodies of the originals, the approach is perfectly legal.
John "J" Jackson, who writes most of the lyrics and sings lead vocals for the group, told AFA Journal in an interview, "I started out writing these parodies to teach myself Bible verses and the guitar." He said he never dreamed that God would use such songs in the manner that He has.
Jackson and the other regulars in ApologetiX – Karl Messner, lead guitar; Keith Haynie, bass guitar; and Bill Rieger, drums – are all born again Christians with one goal in mind. "What we try to do is to reach the lost and teach the rest," he said.
Music, of course, can be a great teacher. "Many of us learned our ABC’s from the words which were sung to the tune of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’ Using music to teach is an old technique," he said.
And using parody is also effective. Noting that parody has been around since the days of ancient Greece, Jackson said that even today many people in Western culture seemed particularly attracted to it. "I think things like Mad magazine, Saturday Night Live, Weird Al Yankovic – that have all been around for a lot of years – I think parody is attractive to people," he said. "So why not use the thing that’s already effective?"
ApologetiX has a current library of over 500 parodies, with about 200 out on the group’s nine CDs.
When listening to their albums, one finds the group’s musical talent is obvious, such as the guitar work in "Cheap Birds," a parody of the Lynyrd Skynyrd hit, "Free Bird." Most of the songs are a dead-on imitation of the original recordings.
But the lyrics are the most captivating thing about the ApologetiX approach. Most of the songs are extremely clever, like "Bethlehemian Rhapsody," a funny David-versus-Goliath take on "Bohemian Rhapsody," a rock classic by the group Queen.
The songs are also sometimes quite inspiring, such as the uplifting message in "You Ain’t Been Nothing Yet," a song about Moses, based on the Bachman-Turner Overdrive early 70s classic, "You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet."
The group does parodies of up-to-date songs as well as music from the more classic vein, and the dual approach has paid off. Jackson said, "One of the things we see is that there will be two or three generations at our concerts, and they’re all identifying with our music," because of the wide selection.
"Having done this for 12 years now, we’ve seen it’s effect on people. People get saved, they get encouraged to read their Bibles, encouraged to share the gospel with others. We’ve even seen suicides averted," he said.
“It’s one of those ‘God things’ that you back into, you think, by accident, and then you look back in retrospect and you see that He was guiding it all the time.”
For more information about ApologetiX: www.apologetix.com