1. THE INCREASE IN TEENAGERS, PROSPERITY, AND LEISURE PREPARED THE WAY FOR ROCK & ROLL.
There was a “baby boom” in America following the end of World War II. In 1946, there were about 5.6 million teens in U.S. high schools. By 1956, the number had almost tripled to 13 million (The Fifties, p. 473).
There was an accompanying dramatic increase in personal wealth and leisure. “In a 1956 survey, Scholastic magazine’s Institute of Student Opinion calculated that there were thirteen million teenagers in America, with a total income of $7 billion a year, and an average income of $10.55 a week--a figure close to the average disposable income available to an average American family just fifteen years before” (James Miller, Flowers in the Dustbin, p. 144).
In many ways, mainstream rock & roll has been little more than a marketing ploy from its inception. From Alan Freed to Elvis Presley to Ricky Nelson to the Dick Clark Show to the Beatles to Black Sabbath to the Spice Girls to Eminem, gullible young people have been manipulated by greedy merchandisers.
2. ELECTRONIC MEDIA INVENTIONS PREPARED THE WAY FOR ROCK & ROLL.
45 RPM Records
“Another significant change which happened between 1954 and 1956 concerns the 45 rpm record. In the total sales of single records, 45s first surpassed 78s in these years, and this shift was directly related to the growing popularity of rock music. Forty-five rpm records had been introduced by RCA in 1949 … but the 45 medium was not accepted immediately. … In 1954, several of the major record companies announced that they would send 45s instead of 78s to disk jockeys. … the 45 constituted a speeding-up process. … The lightness, ease of handling, and physical resilience of the 45 sharply distinguished it from the cumbersome 78. … The lightness of 45s, coupled with their doughnut shape and the large spindle of 45 players, also produced faster, easier listening. The ‘search’ for the small hole in the center of the 78 was eliminated, and a listener could quickly skim through a large group of records, playing or rejecting them at a moment’s notice. The process of playing records therefore became more casual, and there was a more immediate relationship between listener and record than had been possible with the heavy and breakable 78s. … In the 1950s, 45s became the medium for youth and for their music” (Carl Belz, The Story of Rock, pp. 53-55).
One of the first songs released on a 45 record was Big Boy Crudup’s “That’s All Right Mama,” which Elvis Presley recorded in 1954 for his first hit. “Since teenagers associated the 45 with the growth of R&B music and later rock ‘n’ roll, it became the record they called their own” (What Was the First Rock ‘n’ Roll Record, p. 20).
The portable transistor radio was invented at the Bell Laboratory in New Jersey in 1947 and reached the general public in 1953. Radios also began appearing in automobiles in the 1950s and by 1963 there were radios in more than 50 million cars.
Alan Freed, Dewey “Daddy-O” Phillips, and many other rock disc jockeys used the radio to help create a new teenage culture with its own music, language, clothing styles, and moral code.
“In this new subculture of rock and roll THE IMPORTANT FIGURES OF AUTHORITY WERE NO LONGER MAYORS AND SELECTMEN OR PARENTS; THEY WERE DISC JOCKEYS, WHO REAFFIRMED THE RIGHT TO YOUTHFUL INDEPENDENCE AND GUIDED TEENAGERS TO THEIR NEW ROCK HEROES. The young formed their own community. For the first time in American life they were becoming a separate, defined part of the culture. As they had money, they were a market, and as they were a market they were listened to and catered to. Elvis was the first beneficiary. In effect, he was entering millions of American homes on the sly; if the parents had had their way, he would most assuredly have been barred” (The Fifties, p. 474).
“By the time Elvis Presley had checked into the Heartbreak Hotel, in the early fifties, radio had already become tremendously important as a conveyor of rock and roll’s message. SUDDENLY, 17 MILLION TEENAGERS WERE VIRTUALLY PUTTY IN THE HANDS OF THE COUNTRY’S 1,700 DEEJAYS. Albert Goldman, Presley’s biographer, noted: ‘As these kids got up in the morning, or came home from school, as they rode in cars or lay on the beach with their portables, as they did their homework in the evening or snuggled in their beds at night with the lights out and their minds open in the most suggestible condition, THE DJS ENJOYED AN INCOMPARABLE OPPORTUNITY TO MOLD THE IMAGINATION OF AN ENTIRE GENERATION’” (Dan and Steve Peters, Why Knock Rock? p. 34).
Though television was developed in the 1920s and televised images were offered to the public in the 1930s, it did not move into common circulation until after World War II. In 1948 there were only 500,000 television sets in America, but by 1956 there were 37 million sets served by 620 television stations.
This new visual electronic medium had a very powerful influence in the spread of rock and roll. Elvis Presley leaped to national prominence when he appeared on the Dorsey Brothers’ Stage Show, the Milton Berle Show, the Steven Allen Show, and the Ed Sullivan Show. The 1956 appearance on Ed Sullivan attracted 54 million viewers, which was a whopping 83% of the television audience.
Dick Clark’s American Bandstand was inaugurated in 1957 and was watched by millions of teens. “Every day nationwide, teenagers rushed home from school to watch their favorite singers, and learn new rock & roll dance steps. Before long, ‘Bandstand’ dancers became folk heroes in their own right. As viewers watched them day after day, they got to know the dancers’ names; they copied their clothing and hairstyles; they mimicked their ‘cool’ behavior; and they kept track of who was dancing with whom” (That Old Time Rock & Roll, p. 10).
Dick Clark broadened the base of rock music by cleaning up its image. He even had a dress code for the dancers, requiring the girls to wear skirts and dresses and the boys, coats and ties. This was a ploy to make rock more acceptable to parents.
The Beatles received a massive increase in publicity when they appeared on Val Parnell’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium in the fall of 1963. The fifteen million people who watched the program formed the largest audience in British television history at the time. The Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in December 1963 was seen by more than 73 million people, which was more than 60% of all television viewers. Within nine days of that show Americans had bought more than two million Beatles records and more than $2.5 million worth of Beatles merchandise.
Dave Clark, testifying of Ed Sullivan’s role in the promotion of rock & roll, said: “The power of the man and his show was unbelievable.” Not only did Sullivan promote Elvis Presley and the Beatles, but also Buddy Holly and the Crickets, the Rolling Stones, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Searchers, the Dave Clark Five, and many others.
The influence of television on the promotion of rock did not stop with the 1960s. MTV (music television) was launched in August 1981 by Warner and American Express. “During the 1980s, MTV packaged and delivered rock and roll to the TV generation” (A Time to Rock, p. 295). Initially broadcast to 2.5 million households, by 1983 MTV reached 17 million homes, and by 1991 the global audience was estimated to be 52 million. MTV expanded to Europe in 1987 and to Asia in 1991. Teens watch MTV an average of an hour a day. MTV reaches 43% of all teenagers weekly (Creem, Vol. 17, #8, p. 6). A companion network, VH-1, focusing on adult-oriented rock, was inaugurated in 1987.
U.S. News & World Report warned, “Day and night, America’s youth are enticed by electronic visions of a world so violent, sensual and narcotic that childhood itself appears to be under siege” (U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 28, 1985, p. 46).
If anything, movies have been even more influential than television in promoting rock music. “The key to unleashing the full social power of this new music was through films” (Bill Haley, p. 57).
The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando, appeared in 1954 and portrayed a pack of young motorcycle thugs taking over a town. In 1955 two powerful movies appeared to promote rock music and to alienate youth from their elders. Blackboard Jungle, which featured the music of Bill Haley and the Comets, depicted school as repressive and traditional responsibilities as boring. “The opening shot shows a group of kids in a schoolyard; the chain link fence surrounding the yard fills the foreground of the frame, symbolically placing these school kids in a jail. But at the same time ‘Rock Around the Clock’ is blaring off the soundtrack in a clarion call to break out of that jail and celebrate. . . . Early in the film Glenn Ford, who plays the dedicated teacher, tries to win over his class of juvenile delinquents by playing his collection of valuable jazz 78s in class. The kids respond by mocking him for listening to ‘square’ music and proceed to smash the precious records” (Bill Haley, p. 57).
Rebel without a Cause featured the sullen, self-centered, rebellious James Dean, who became a hero and role model to a generation of confused young people. “By late ’55 and early ’56, teenagers in the U.S. were rebelling and hoping to find a wild, no-holds-barred, good lookin’, cool, crazy-eyed leader they could follow and relate to. They found one at the movies in James Dean, and it would only take till the spring of ’56 for ‘em to find one for their music: Elvis Presley” (RockABilly: A Forty-Year Journey, p. 16).
James Dean was not only typecast as a rebel in movies, he was a rebel in real life. When asked by actor Dennis Hopper where his “magic” came from, Dean replied that it came from his anger: “Because I hate my mother and father” (The Fifties, p. 481). Elia Kazan, producer of East of Eden and Rebel without a Cause, said James Dean had “a grudge against all fathers. He was vengeful; he had a sense of aloneness and of being persecuted. And he was uncommonly suspicious” (Ibid., p. 483). Kazan later expressed some regret of his role in promoting youthful alienation through the James Dean movies. He admitted that the movies portrayed parents as “insensitive idiots, who didn’t understand or appreciate their kids,” while portraying all youngsters as “sensitive and full of ‘soul.’”
3. NEW EVANGELICALISM WEAKENED CHURCHES AND HELPED PREPARE THE WAY FOR ROCK & ROLL.
New Evangelicalism helped create a spiritual climate in North America that was receptive to rock music. When churches are strong, they reject the things of the world; but when they are weak and compromised, the separation from the world breaks down. A large majority of people in America in the 1950s claimed to be Christians, and without a wholesale weakening of the churches, rock music could not have gained such wide influence. The weakening came after World War II with the advent of a religious philosophy which its leaders branded “new evangelicalism.”
During the first half of the 20th century, evangelicalism in America was synonymous with fundamentalism. Many historians make this connection, including Mark Ellingsen (The Evangelical Movement) and George Marsden (Reforming Fundamentalism). Marsden says, “There was not a practical distinction between fundamentalist and evangelical: the words were interchangeable” (p. 48). When the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) was formed in 1942, for example, participants included fundamentalist leaders such as Bob Jones, Sr., John R. Rice, Charles Woodbridge, Harry Ironside, and David Otis Fuller.
By the mid-1950s, though, a clear break between separatist fundamentalists and non-separatist evangelicals occurred. This was occasioned largely by the ecumenical evangelism of Billy Graham. Most of the stronger men dropped out of the NAE. The terms evangelicalism and fundamentalism began “to refer to two different movements” (William Martin, A Prophet with Honor, p. 224).
The sons of evangelical-fundamentalist preachers determined to create a “New Evangelicalism.” They would not be fighters; they would be diplomats; they would have a positive rather than a militant emphasis; they would be infiltrators rather than separatists. They refused to be restricted by a separationist mentality.
The term “New Evangelicalism” defined a new type of evangelicalism to distinguish it from those who had heretofore born that label. Thus, in the very name “new evangelicalism” is the witness that evangelicalism of old, regardless of any weaknesses (and there were many), was biblically dogmatic and militant. The term “New Evangelicalism” was probably coined by the late Harold Ockenga (1905-1985), one of the most influential evangelical leaders of the 1940s. He was the pastor of Park Street Church (Congregational) in Boston, founder of the National Association of Evangelicals, co-founder and one-time president of Fuller Theological Seminary, first president of the World Evangelical Fellowship, president of Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and chairman of the board and one-time editor of Christianity Today. In the foreword to Dr. Harold Lindsell’s book The Battle for the Bible, Ockenga stated the philosophy of new evangelicalism as follows:
“Neo-evangelicalism was born in 1948 in connection with a convocation address which I gave in the Civic Auditorium in Pasadena. While reaffirming the theological view of fundamentalism, this address repudiated its ecclesiology and its social theory. The ringing call for a REPUDIATION OF SEPARATISM and the summons to social involvement received a hearty response from many Evangelicals. ... It differed from fundamentalism in its repudiation of separatism and its determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day. It had a new emphasis upon the application of the gospel to the sociological, political, and economic areas of life.”
Ockenga did not create the movement; he merely labeled and described the new mood of positivism and non-militancy that was quickly permeating his generation. Ockenga and the new generation of evangelicals, Billy Graham figuring most prominently, determined to abandon a militant Bible stance. Instead, they would pursue dialogue, intellectualism, and appeasement. They determined to stay within apostate denominations to attempt to change things from within rather than practice biblical separation. The New Evangelical would dialogue with those who teach error rather than proclaim the Word of God boldly and without compromise. The New Evangelical would meet the proud humanist and the haughty liberal on their own turf with human scholarship rather than follow the humble path of being counted a fool for Christ’s sake by standing simply upon the Bible. New Evangelical leaders also determined to start a “rethinking process” whereby the old paths were to be continually reassessed in light of new goals, methods, and ideology.
Dr. Charles Woodbridge, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in its early days, a founding member of the National Association of Evangelicals, and a friend of men such as Harold Ockenga and Carl Henry, rejected the New Evangelicalism and spent the rest of his life warning of its dangers. In his 1969 book, The New Evangelicalism, he traced the downward path of New Evangelical compromise:
“The New Evangelicalism is a theological and moral compromise of the deadliest sort. It is an insidious attack upon the Word of God. ... The New Evangelicalism advocates TOLERATION of error. It is following the downward path of ACCOMMODATION to error, COOPERATION with error, CONTAMINATION by error, and ultimate CAPITULATION to error!” (Woodbridge, The New Evangelicalism, pp. 9,15).
Each passing decade witnesses more plainly to the truth of Dr. Woodbridge’s observations. Toleration of error leads to accommodation, cooperation, contamination, and capitulation. This is precisely the path that evangelical Christianity in general has taken during the past 50 years, as New Evangelicalism has spread across the world.
The New Evangelical philosophy has been adopted by such well-known Christian leaders as Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Harold Lindsell, John R.W. Stott, Luis Palau, E.V. Hill, Leighton Ford, Charles Stanley, Bill Hybels, Warren Wiersbe, Chuck Colson, Donald McGavran, Tony Campolo, Arthur Glasser, D. James Kennedy, David Hocking, Charles Swindoll, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and a host of other men. New Evangelicalism has been popularized through pleasant personalities and broadcast through powerful print, radio, and television media. Christianity Today was founded in 1956 to voice the new philosophy. Through publishing houses such as InterVarsity Press, Zondervan, Tyndale House Publishers, Moody Press, and Thomas Nelson--to name a few--New Evangelical thought was broadcast internationally. New Evangelicalism became the working principle of large interdenominational organizations such as the National Association of Evangelicals, National Religious Broadcasters, Youth for Christ, Campus Crusade for Christ, Back to the Bible, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, World Vision, Operation Mobilization, the Evangelical Foreign Mission Association, World Evangelical Fellowship, the National Sunday School Association, etc. It was spread through educational institutions such as Fuller Theological Seminary, Wheaton College, Gordon-Conwell, BIOLA, and Moody Bible Institute.
Historian David Beale observes that the New Evangelical philosophy “captured many organizations, fellowships, associations, and denominations that originated as strictly fundamentalist groups” (Beale, In Pursuit of Purity, p. 263).
Because of the tremendous influence of these men and organizations, New Evangelical thought has swept the globe. Today it is no exaggeration to say that almost without exception those who call themselves evangelicals are New Evangelicals; the terms have become synonymous. Old-line evangelicals, with rare exceptions, have either aligned with the fundamentalist movement or have adopted New Evangelicalism.
Evangelicalism’s compromise is seen in its repudiation of biblical holiness. It has broken down the walls of ecclesiastical separation as well as the walls of separation from the world. The old fundamentalism was staunchly and boldly opposed to worldliness. The New Evangelical crowd has modified this. The result has been incredible to behold. R-rated movies are given positive reviews in evangelical publications. Evangelical music groups look and sound exactly like the world. Evangelical Bible College campuses have the look and feel of secular colleges. The students wear the same clothes (or lack of clothes) as the world; they drink the same liquor; they dance to the same music; they celebrate the same worldly events; they care about the same worldly concerns.
Richard Quebedeaux documented this more than 20 years ago in his book, The Worldly Evangelicals.
“The Gallup Poll is correct in asserting that born-again Christians ‘believe in a strict moral code.’ But that strictness has been considerably modified during the last few years … the monthly question and answer column (patterned after ‘Dear Abby’) in Campus Life, Youth for Christ’s magazine, gives the impression that more born-again high school age couples are having INTERCOURSE than is generally supposed. Among evangelical young people, MASTERBATION is now often seen as a gift from God. DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE are becoming more frequent and acceptable among evangelicals of all ages, even in some of their more conservative churches. This new tolerant attitude toward divorce has been greatly facilitated both by the publication of positive articles and books on the problem by evangelical authors and by the growth of ministry to singles in evangelical churches. … Some evangelical women are taking advantage of ABORTION on demand. Many younger evangelicals occasionally use PROFANITY in their speech and writing (though they are generally careful to avoid traditional profanity against the deity). Some of the recent evangelical sex-technique books assume that their readers peruse and view PORNOGRAPHY on occasion, and they do. Finally, in 1976 there emerged a fellowship and information organization for practicing evangelical LESBIANS AND GAY MEN and their sympathizers. There is probably just as high a percentage of gays in the evangelical movement as in the wider society. Some of them are now coming out of the closet, distributing well-articulated literature, and demanding to be recognized and affirmed by the evangelical community at large” (Quebedeaux, The Worldly Evangelicals, 1978, pp. 16,17).
James Hunter in the book Evangelicalism The Coming Generation (1987) documents “the evolution of behavioral standards for students” at evangelical colleges:
“What has happened at Wheaton College, Gordon College, and Westmont College is typical of most of the colleges in this subculture. From the time of their founding to the mid-1960s, the college rules unapologetically prohibited ‘profaning the Sabbath,’ ‘profane or obscene language or behavior,’ playing billiards, playing cards and gambling, using intoxicating liquors or tobacco, theater and movie attendance, and any form of dancing—both on- and off-campus” (Hunter, p. 169).
Hunter goes on to observe that these rules have largely been dropped. Further, the worldliness on evangelical college campuses has increased significantly in the twelve years since his book was published.
Describing this moral apostasy in The Great Evangelical Disaster, Francis Schaeffer said:
“How the mindset of accommodation grows and expands. The last sixty years have given birth to a moral disaster, and what have we done? Sadly we must say that the evangelical world has been part of the disaster. ... WITH TEARS WE MUST SAY THAT ... A LARGE SEGMENT OF THE EVANGELICAL WORLD HAS BECOME SEDUCED BY THE WORLD SPIRIT OF THIS PRESENT AGE” (Schaeffer, p. 141).
The apostasy of today’s Evangelicalism was affirmed by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals in the Cambridge Declaration. The declaration, signed by 80 theologians and church leaders, was released on April 20, 1996, at the end of a four-day conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The signers included James Montgomery Boice, J.A.O. Preus III, David Wells, Albert Mohler, and Michael Horton, and represented Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist, Congregational, and Independent denominations.
“Today the light of Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that THE WORD ‘EVANGELICAL’ HAS BECOME SO INCLUSIVE AS TO HAVE LOST ITS MEANING. … As Biblical authority has been abandoned in practice, as its truths have faded from Christian consciousness, and its doctrines have lost their saliency, THE CHURCH HAS BEEN INCREASINGLY EMPTIED OF ITS INTEGRITY, MORAL AUTHORITY AND DIRECTION. … As evangelical faith becomes secularized, its interests have been blurred with those of the culture. THE RESULT IS A LOSS OF ABSOLUTE VALUES, PERMISSIVE INDIVIDUALISM, AND A SUBSTITUTION OF WHOLENESS FOR HOLINESS, recovery for repentance, intuition for truth, feeling for belief, chance for providence, and immediate gratification for enduring hope” (The Cambridge Declaration, 1996).
The Southern Baptist Convention is an example of the influence of New Evangelicalism. This is the largest “Protestant” denomination in America and it has a reputation of being staunchly and traditionally Bible believing, but when one examines the SBC at the congregational level one typically finds extreme worldliness. The vast majority of SBC congregations do not preach separation from the world, and the teens in the churches commonly love the world’s music, fashions, etc. Like the world, they go almost-naked to the beaches, dance to rock & roll, wear immodest clothing, even get excited about occultic entertainment trends such as Harry Potter. I grew up in Southern Baptist churches, and it was in a Southern Baptist youth group that I first learned to love rock music. The pastor’s son and the deacons’ sons had all of the latest rock albums, and I listened to them when I visited their homes. Large numbers of those who attended the rock dances at my junior and senior high school were church kids.
That which is sadly true of the Southern Baptist Convention is true of most other denominations today. Even fundamentalist Bible churches and independent Baptist congregations are following suit. They do not preach or practice separation from the world.
The spread of the New Evangelical philosophy to a vast segment of Protestant and Baptist Christianity in the past 50 years has paved the way for the acceptance of rock & roll music even among professing Bible-believing Christians. New Evangelicalism has produced a worldly Christianity which cannot and will not resist the enticement of rock & roll.
4. MATERIALISM AND WORKING MOTHERS PREPARED THE WAY FOR ROCK & ROLL.
Another key factor in the rapid spread of rock music during the past 50 years is the breakdown of the home; and one of the chief causes of this is the insane pursuit of wealth and comfort with the accompanying phenomenon of working mothers.
During World War II, women entered the work force in great numbers because so many men were fighting overseas. When the war ended, the trend toward working moms did not stop. Instead of being content with the father’s paycheck while the mothers attended to the crucial business of keeping the home and caring for the children, mothers and fathers both entered the work force in the mad pursuit of material prosperity.
This left the children without close parental supervision and training, and the opportunity was ideal for rock stars to further alienate youth from their parents with their rebellious music.
It also has allowed rock musicians to more effectively push their agenda of sexual license and drug abuse. A 1989 study of 5,000 eighth-grade students in California found that “home alone” children were twice as likely to drink alcohol and take drugs as children under the supervision of their parents (Sylvia Ann Hewlett, “Tough Choices, Great Rewards,” Parade Magazine, July 17, 1994, p. 5).
We conclude with the following statement by Ron Williams, founder of the Hephzibah House in Winona Lake, Indiana:
Small wonder many children and young people forge such strong loyalties to peers even though they are an adverse influence on them. In the absence of a full-time mother, a child will naturally seek guidance, companionship and fulfillment from another source. Loyalties that should have been cemented with his parents and family are instead farmed out to evil-charactered peers readily provided by a satanically-dominated world. Mom, your children need you, not a surrogate hireling. You cannot be replaced by another. God has called you to be a ‘keeper at home,’ not to stunt your creativity or imprison you in an unfulfilling, demeaning role, but because you have been called to the high and noble office of a homemaker; a responsibility with unmeasurable rewards, heavy demands, great fulfillment, and inestimable blessing for you, your husband, and your children.”
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