Evangelist Bob Jones III has called tonight’s Universal Amphitheatre headliner a “satanic influence upon the lives of young people.” Jimmy Swaggart said his work has “no Jesus, no God, no nothing.” His hate mail threatens retribution from “the hand of God.”
Just who is the subject of all this righteous indignation? Ozzy Osbourne? Dee Snider? Alice Cooper?
Try Steve Taylor, the 30-year-old son of a Denver pastor who’s being called the “bad boy” and “clown prince” of Christian rock. He wears his titles and his raps like a badge of honor, even keeping copies of Swaggart’s and Jones’ comments about him folded up in his Bible.
“It’s not the kind of thing you want to be proud of,” said the tall, animated Taylor in the cozy Glendale apartment he shares with his wife Debbie. “But I’m glad (Jones and Swaggart) recognize this music is a threat to what they do, because I want to believe music has the power to change their thinking.”
If it seems odd for a Christian to want to be a threat to other Christians, it doesn’t stop there.
Take “I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good,” the lead song on his latest album, “I Predict 1990.” Though a professed pro-lifer, Taylor savagely mocks the more radical elements of that movement in this catchy number about an ice cream vendor who bombs abortion clinics to make sure he has a steady flow of young customers coming along in the future.
He saves some brutal barbs for the sugary paeans of religious broadcasting--the medium that has boosted his rising star the most: “Christian radio in general is the lowest form of music on Earth. It’s a tossup between that and country radio for the mantle.”
But Taylor’s satire is not reserved solely for fellow Christians. On the recent album he also goes after a number of what he sees as false secular gods, such as psychoanalysis (“The Jung and the Restless”) and the worship of dead rock stars (“Jim Morrison’s Grave”).
“I am in some ways an apologist for the Christian faith,” he said. “The whole history of Western civilization consists of people trying to twist Jesus around--whether it’s to support the divine right of kings or Oliver North defending his lying to Congress.”