Spencer Chamberlain of UnderOath
Cory Brandan of Norma Jean
Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying
Ryan Clark of Demon Hunter
If you guys thought that playing klezmer music was the best way to reach kids with your message, would you do that instead of metal? In other words, is the primary purpose of your music to deliver an evangelical message?
Tim Lembesis- Looking at the history of all four of our bands answers that question. It works out great for us that heavy music and metal is a very fast-growing genre right now, but when we started playing heavy music, it was in no way popular. When we recorded our first album, we would be jumping up and down if we sold 10,000 records.
Spencer Chamberlain- You've got to do what's for you. If you're writing something that you hate playing, you're not doing anyone any good. Even yourself.
Cory Brandan- This is the music we grew up on. I wasn't always a Christian. I play music that I love. In that sense, we're no different than our peers. We just sing about what we believe in-I think most bands do that. Our message is important to us because it's our lives. We're not singing about this because we're like, We need to recruit some Christians. We are Christians, so that's what we sing about. The music is just what we love.
Tim Lambesis- When we were first getting started, I went to see Norma Jean. The turn-on for me was the fact that you could obviously tell they were passionate. I am a Christian, but I could've cared less if they were a Christian band. I was turned on by the absolute passion behind their music.
Ryan Clark- I think in our personal lives, God comes first in everything. But for me, if there was any other music that was statistically more effective in reaching kids, I don't think I would change at all. Metal is what we do. There's a realness to it that I think a lot of kids are drawn to. I think if you look at metal and the whole argument whether Christian metal should be allowed, or whether it's a legitimate... I mean, how many guys in the "evil" bands live evil lives and are actually evil and rude and mean to people and worship Satan? What, seven guys across the world? Some guys in Emperor? How many of their fans are worshipping Satan and burning cats? None?
Cory Brandan- We sing about the devil too. But that's because we believe the devil is real. It's part of the Bible.
Is the Bible a 100 percent divine thing handed down in perfect completeness, or is it a work of man that has really important lessons in it?
Cory Brandan- The Bible is essentially a history book written by men. If you read through, you'll see them writing about something they're going through that day and they'll put their opinions down. Yes, it is written by people, but I do believe it is 100 percent the word of God.
So everything in it is true?
Tim Lembesis- I believe the whole Bible to be the word of God, but I also believe that some-this is an area where Christians disagree with each other-that there is some that is either figurative or symbolic.
Ryan Clark- A lot of the Old Testiment is aimed at the world pre-Jesus, pre-Resurrection, so there are cultural differences in terms of a relationship with God. There are things in the Old Testiment that are fairly irrelevant. Not that thay aren't important, but to a society post-Jesus, post-Resurrection, there are Old Testament laws that served a purpose but are no longer needed after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What about the New Testament?
Ryan Clark- I think people who dig into it would be surprised how relevent it is. There's so much of the Bible that's like, Wow, I'm dealing with that today. I think you'd be surprised at how much people are able to draw out of it even today.
Cory Brandan- One of the things the Bible says is that there's nothing new under the sun. Yeah, we've got cell phones and cars, but our personal lives are still basically the same. Anybody should go read Proverbs. You'll read it and go, That makes sense to what I'm going through. Then there's really grat stories and analogies... It's just a good guide, whether you believe in God or not. There's so much good stuff to learn outta that book.
Ryan Clark- The Bible is ultimately our handbook for life. All of us here believe that.
So lets talk about the rules for a moment. Are drinking, smoking, and doing drugs really bad, or is premarital sex the real big no-no of a sin?
Spencer Chamberlain- A sin is a sin. There's none that are worse than another. In God's eyes, getting drunk and running around is the same thing as murdering someone or premarital sex.
Tim Lambesis- I think socially, some things are viewed as worse. Premarital sex is something that really affects future relationships in your life. So that's why, to me, it's viewed as a big sin. Things like drinking and smoking are ina gray are for a lot of people... One of the things the Bible is very clear about is not being controlled by anything other than the Holy Spirit. I think when somebody is totally wasted or tanked or watever, they're definitely beyond the point of control. Who knows what's in control at that point? I say the same thing about any addiction.
Ryan Clark- I think people view the lifestyles of hard-rock or heavy-metal musicians in a certian way. Even to the non-Christians, the smoking/drinking/partying thing is definitely a step down from having sex with girls on the road. I don't think it takes a Christian to actually view that as "seazy" or a little bit more wrong than just hanging out, partying, and having drinks.
Spencer Chamberlain- Yeah, even before I was a Christian, I didn't think it was right to just make out with a bunch of different random girls, let alone sleep with them. To me, that was just morally-to my body and myself- degrading and stupid.
Are you all pro-life?
Ryan Clark- I'm definitely pro-life. Pretty much 100 percent. Someone asked me, "What if your wife was raped? Would you have the baby?" That scenario is kinda silly because it's just an extreme case. There's a lot of studies that have gone on where doctors who've done a million abortions eventually see it on an ultrasound and then cmpletely stop because it's horrendous. It's very hard to look at an ultrasound of a baby in a late-term abortion and not say "That's insane" when you see the sound waves of the baby screaming.
Tim Lambesis- Is it easier because the child doesn't have a name yet?
Ryan Clark- People make decisions based on their lives and what they feel is a priority and what changes they are going to have to make. I wouldn't doubt for a second that it would be hard to raise a baby that was a product of rape, but there are plenty of people out there that are a product of a rape and if you ask them if they want to be alive or not, they'll certainly probably answer yes in most cases.
Tim Lambesis- This topic's sorta unique, because my wife works at a pregnancy clinic, and the demand for adoption is so high. There are people on waiting lists who want to adopt a kid that's less than 2 years old. I think the old cliche phrase of two wrongs don't make a right applies to this because even in a rape-type situation, two wrongs don't make a right. If my wife was raped and I couldn't handle raising the kid because of all the emotional anxiety attached to that, I would have no problem giving that kid up for adoption and knowing that it would be in a very, very loving family. I think the alternatives in the U.S. are so great that abortion doesn't seem to be a good option so much as it is maybe convenient.
Does each of you have a clear moment when you were changed, or saved?
Cory Brandan- Not just one. If I could break my life into three stages, it would be: Growing up and learning and being a human on Earth, then coming to know God and going through a phase where I'm like, I got this figured out, then later realizing that I never stopped that first learning stage. It's just life. There wasn't a efining moment, where rays came out of the sky.
Ryan Clark- For some of these guys, I know it's different, 'cause not everyone was raised in a Christian home. I personally was, so my story is not one of peaking highs and low lows. My father was a pastor, so I was raised in the church. I went to a church twice a week for my adolescent life. When you're in high school, the Christian thing is not cool, and you don't want to be associated with that, so there was definitely a phase where I didn't want to be a Christian and thought it was cheesy and didn't want to talk about it. But then there are moments when it becomes real to you, when you break away from what your parents believe and you actually start to take it seriously. Adulthood becomes more serious business and you think about death, responsibilities, priorities, and your relationships. There's a reality check to it all.
Spencer Chamberlain- It's still a continuing process. You're never ganna be all the way on top where you're a shining light and you can just kinda glide along till you're dead. It's a battle, always. I didn't grow up in a Christian family at all. I went to the darkest place possible, trying to figure it all out. I didn't learn from anybody else or from a church. It ws straight up me going, This doesn't work for me, this doesn't work-until I found what happiness was. And for me, that was finding Jesus.
Tim Lambesis- That moment came when I was coming home from school one day, sitting in the car in the driveway in front of our house. Just sitting there for an hour because there was so much on my mind. For me, looking at life and seeing how meaningless so much of what I pursued was. But that was the moment I really realized what was of worth. Having said that, I didn't fully grasp the whole idea of Christianity and faith until I read a book called The Case for Christ. It gave me an assurance that the accounts in the Gospels were something worthy of putting my faith in. And the resurrection of Jesus, if that was in fact something that was real, changes everything about the way we live our lives. It was really understanding the power of Christ's resurrection and looking into the history of it and realizing that ecerybody, whether they're Christian or not, has to make a decision about who Jesus was and whether or not he rose from the dead. Most people just want to aviod that question.
As someone who has definitely done his best to avoid that question, am I going to hell?
Tim Lambesis- My older brothers ask me all the time: "What about the guy who grew up in Uganda and never heard the Gospel? What about the isolated tribes in South Africa?" I think in those situations, people are responsible for what they know. There's enough evidence of God's creation just by being alive. But as far as where you're at and the choices you made, I could never see your heart. That's why God's judgment is so just, because he's givin us a choice whether to be with him or to not be with him. To answer your question with a question, Being that you know roughly whom Christians claim as God and knowing who that God is and what His charactor is like, do you want to spend the rest of eternity with that God? If you do, He's more than happy to say, "I'll politely step aside and allow you to go somewhere where I am not." To me, that's the whole concept of Hell. So whether or not somebody will or will not go to Hell kinda comes down to... You have to answer their question with that question.
Ryan Clark- I think at the same time, all of us would tell you that the way we believe salvation works is that it's an acceptance of Jesus Christ and that He died for our sins, and that's what the Bible says is the only way to the Father-i.e., it's the only way we can communicate with God and the only way you can go to Heaven. What's to say that if a 3-year-old dies, that they had that opportunity to make that decision? That whole paradox is completely out of our worldly minds. Hopefully, there's a plan for the person in the middle of the Ugandan village that never got reached.
Cory Brandan- Plus, Hell is kinda funny to me now. It's so blown out of proportion. The Bible doesn't really explain it either. So I'm not ganna sit here and try to explain Hell to people, 'cause I don't know what it is. I'm not God.
Tim Lambesis- One thing we can all agree on is that Hell is definitely a place of deep sorrow and deep regret. A negative place where people wish they weren't. But as far as Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast cover, I think those things are so fr away from what the reality of Hell is. Because if I was to start a band that was conceptually about what Heaven is like, what it'd be like hanging with the angels, there is no way I could accurately portray that. So people that are just so stuck on being satanic, and that being the whole imagery for everything they do with their band, there's no way they could be accurate in what they're doing. There's some bands that have that energy, and I love their music, but their whole approach is so cheesy, and what they say really means nothing.
Does the fact that George W. Bush is an Evangelical Christian create an uncomfortable set of associations for you?
Tim Lambesis- It drives me insane! My beliefs always being attached to President Bush really bothers me a lot. He's so supported by these extremely conservative churches. It's almost like if you disagree with any aspect of what George Bush does, it's unChristian of you.
Ryan Clark- The Bible talks all the time about not putting your faith and trust in men and people of this world. And that's something that people forget about a lot. We do get attached to everything bad that's ever happened to us under the name of Christianity, and not every Christian believes in every radical statement made by some crazy TV preacher or political leader. Everyone has their own viewpoints. People need to understand that we don't align ourselves with people. We align ourselves with Jesus and with the Bible and the teachings of the Bible.
When you're onstage-or meeting fans one-on-one, for that matter- how do you decide if it's an appropriate moment to discuss your beliefs?
Tim Lambesis- I think for starters, the message should only be given to somebody who wants to hear it.
Spencer Chamberlain- Most of our bands aren't saying something about God onstage in order to trick or convince anyone that it's cool. But if it opens up opportunities for conversations, if they're curious-or if they hate it, even, and they just want to come and tell you how much they think it's wrong-that's cool. I'll tell them what I've been through, what I believe, and what changed me. If that can help, cool. If not, whatever.
Cory Brandan- If you get onstage and you talk about that, it's very, very impersonal, and what we believe is very personal. I definitely want people to know what our beliefs are, and just like other bands, we sing about what we believe in and what we're very passionate about it. But it makes more sense to hang out after a show and talk with people and try to answer questions. Having a conversation makes more sense.
Spencer Chamberlain- To question is the first step.