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Date: 10 July, 2006

Body Piercing Saved My Life by Andrew Beaujon


'The journalist embedded himself in the scene for over a year and the results are fascinating.'

Andrew Beaujon is a non-Christian journalist who spent a year in the Christian music scene. Charlotte Haines Lyon is surprised by the outcome of his book.

It seems that the Christian music scene’s main virtue is that it is safe: little drink, no extra marital sex and no drugs. Not until the scandals break anyway. And if the music is decent then that’s a bonus.

Andrew Beaujon asks why there is a need for Christian music. He is not a Christian so you might think that he is a cynic and only has an interest in berating the genre.

However, his book is a pleasant surprise. The journalist embedded himself in the scene for over a year and the results are fascinating.

He catalogues the history of Christian music, providing a genealogy of the scene whether, musicians, promoters or company executives. Interspersed are interviews with those he calls “Christian Rock Lifers” and profiles of bands such as P.O.D.

One of the lifers is Steve Taylor who I haven’t heard play for 15 years. I was quite disconcerted when “I Want to be a Clone” started playing in my head. More uncomfortable were the memories that came flooding back of my ultra evangelical charismatic past.

The title of the book is based on a t-shirt seen at a Christian Rock festival. I read it cringing, remembering some of the awful proselytising apparel that I once wore. Nowadays, less is definitely more in my opinion.

Beaujon shows a world that is often evangelical but full of questioners and people on the edge. A world that, despite sometimes trying to control, is often home to all shapes and sizes and gives room for people to think about God. For every stricture placed on someone there is an act of compassion from another direction.

But faith is not all the story; good business acumen is essential. I was amazed to discover the success of Christian Rock in the States. When EMI subsumed music label Word, there were worries that the Christian ethos might be compromised. Yet due to the success of the company, EMI have largely left them to do their thing.

There is a genuine interest in the people Beaujon meets and a growing respect for what they do. Not even interviewing staff from Rock for Life on a raucous anti-abortion rally is too much for him.

The ability for Christians to Christianise genres with mediocrity is taken to task. However it is acknowledged that things are improving whilst bands that successfully go mainstream, receive nominally less criticism than of old.

Beaujon’s emotions make the book slightly more honest and interesting than a straight journalistic account. There are a few dark moments, not least when encountering suspicion and closed doors due to him not being a “legitimate” Christian journalist.

One of the few jibes made in the book made me laugh: “I’m not saved and I don’t think I ever will be, but if such a miracle were to take place, I can’t imagine anything worse than being forced to pay for my salvation by listening to worship music for the rest of my days.”

The book ends on a strangely positive note. I don’t think I am spoiling the plot by saying Beaujon remains a non-Christian but admits to becoming a fan, “not just of the music but of Christians, and of Jesus himself.”

Body Piercing Saved My Life by Andrew Beaujon
Da Capo Press
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