This message was written and delivered by Sonya Brown.
I grew up in the 80s when there was a huge backlash with heavy metal. I heard sermons that listening to heavy metal was going to lead you to hell. I wondered, what’s up with hell?
Ironically, according to my own personal survey, Navajo people like heavy metal. Fun fact from my personal survey, the tribe next to Navajo land in Arizona, the Hopis like reggae. So being Navajo, I grew up listening to heavy metal and attending heavy metal concerts. Given everything I had been told, I was surprised that I didn’t see any rituals or altars to Satan. No one tried to convert me to a religion and asked if I thought about where I would go when I die (except the church). Nothing at OzzFest, nothing at Metallica, nothing at Black Sabbath Reunion Tour, nothing at Anthrax, nothing at the many other concerts I attended. I couldn’t deny that how metal bands spoke of hell didn’t go against what I was taught of hell in the church.
I didn’t understand why Christians were so upset about heavy metal music, especially since the band didn’t deny the Christian concept of hell and how crappy hell will be. The metal band, Candlemass’ lament the horror and evils of hell that await beyond hell’s gates in their song, “Demon’s Gate.” The song, “Heaven and Hell” by Black Sabbath is inspired by how people have to decide between good and evil and how these choices are something we have to think about and choose ourselves. Heavy metal brings to the forefront these nightmarish images of hell, there’s no denying that the visuals create a connection of disorder, conflict, mayhem, and opposition. If the Christian concept of this hell and that it is a choice every person has to make isn’t rebutted by the darkest of heavy metal musicians, why were Christians bothered by the songs that mirrored what they preached Sunday morning?
Hell has become common in our daily use of language. The weather feels like hell. It’s hell sitting in traffic. You’re going to catch hell if you don’t finish your chores. Hell in Christian circles is often frightful and connected to eternal punishment, “you’re going to burn in hell for your sins.” But the Bible does not have as much of an interest in hell. The Bible has more of an interest in the hope in this life and for us to stop being hell-bent thinking this world is not worth redeeming.
I used to be so fearful of death because I heard way too often that I would go to hell for my sins and the only way to save myself was to repent of my sins to guarantee my get out of hell card. I am thankful today that there’s more to only saving myself from hell – there is good news that doesn’t end at a life of fire.