The Gospel for Hair Bands

I'm not entirely sure, but the first time I heard Europe's "Wish I Could Believe" was while listening to the Internet radio station XERS earlier this year. Having an ear for songs that speak to spiritual topics, this portion of the chorus caught my attention:

Cause I, wish I could believe in God
So I can move ahead
I know I can't believe in God
Time to move ahead

Now, I can't say that the rest of the song "fits" the transcendent searching of that refrain, but I think we can all appreciate the longing contained in "I wish I could believe in God."

And we Christians naturally wonder what is preventing the lyricist from believing in our Lord…and what exactly makes him so confident he can't?

But instead of focusing on that, let's think about the fact this is not a Christian group—instead it is what could be referred to as a "hair band." Unless you happen to be a big Stryper fan, you are most likely to connect hair bands with hedonism, not religious yearnings. However, Europe isn't alone in the world of loud guitars in wishing for something more than their faithlessness offers. Although "Wish I Could Believe" was released in 2006, Europe's greatest success was in the mid-to-late eighties, which is also when the group that wrote these words had their heyday:

Well I see him on the TV
Preachin' 'bout the promised lands
He tells me believe in Jesus
Steals the money from my hands
Some say he was a good man
Lord I think he sinned

Followed a bit later by the chorus:

And give me something to believe in
If there's a Lord above
And give me something to believe in
Oh, Lord arise

That 1990 song by Poison (called "Something to Believe In") also sings about a Vietnam vet who has lost everything and yearns for forgiveness, a friend who "died a lonely man in some Palm Springs hotel room" on Christmas Eve, "homeless sleeping on a cold dark street…underneath the broken old neon sign [that] used to read, ‘Jesus Saves,'" and poor who "eat from hand to mouth [while] the rich drink from a golden cup."

And it just makes me wonder
Why so many lose, so few win

Does it make you wonder? If there is a God, why does He allow those who speak in His name to steal from their flock, so much pain and death to exist, and such disparity in the human condition?

But focusing again on this article's topic, does it surprise you that a hair band whose greatest hits include "Talk Dirty to Me," "Sexual Thing," "Lay Your Body Down," and "I Want Action" would unabashedly admit that the news of a friend's death caused "tears [to roll] down my face" (even though the composer "tried all night not to break down and cry")…ultimately connecting that incident with a desire for something to believe in?

Staying in 1990, another band had a similar desire with a tune from that year that begins with:

Every night I say a prayer
In the hopes that there's a Heaven
But everyday I'm more confused
As the saints turn into sinners

All the heroes and legends
I knew as a child have fallen to idols of clay
And I feel this empty place inside
So afraid that I've lost my faith

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Please show me the way

I would hesitate to call Styx a hair band (and their greatest popularity was a bit before Europe and Poison's), but again here is a non-Christian rock band that shows something intriguing about individuals we'd normally assume are on the other side of the spiritual battlefield: they wish they could believe, they want something to believe in, and they hunger for someone to show them the way.

And "Show Me the Way" ends with exactly the same words it began with:

Every night I say a prayer
In the hopes that there's a Heaven

Don't you just want to joyously tell them, "Your prayers are answered! There is a heaven!"

But, that probably wouldn't be enough. How exactly do you give them a God they can believe in? Something to believe? A Way worth showing?

When John the Baptist, rotting in a prison, was wobbling a bit in his faith and sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the One, our Lord sent them back with:

Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them (Matthew 11:4b-5, English Standard Version).

That is, get John to look at what I've done and he'll have something he can believe in. Another John…the Apostle…records this fact in a different way with Jesus' words, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3:14)…followed even more clearly nine chapters later with, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (John 12:32).

If there is any chance that former or present members of Europe, Poison, or Styx will find what they claim to want it'll be because someone lifted Jesus up…

Not because of a charismatic preacher. Not because of a religion. Not even because of the Bible. But because of Jesus.

And that's not just true of hair bands. If anyone is honestly searching for the truth then all you have to do is get them to follow the advice in Helen Lemmel's classic hymn:

O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There's light for a look at the Savior, and life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Lift Jesus up. He'll take it from there!

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Alan is an ordinary guy, living in a small, high plains Colorado town...and humbled to be a minister of God...

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