Monday, January 2, 2017

C'MON! (Chapter Thirteen: The Final Cut)

C'MON!
My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation
(The 5th Anniversary Edition)
- Christopher Long -

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN
The Final Cut

Smackdown!
With the promotional phase of my first book completed in early 2011, I could focus fully on the drastically different message of this, my second book. But not everyone was exactly supportive of my newfound mission — including (once again) a few of my spiritual teammates.

Eager to share advance excerpts and to receive a professional critique, I reached out to "Joe," an acknowledged insider in the Christian publishing world. But instead of offering me much-needed support and encouragement, Joe conveyed his “disappointment” in the initial draft of C'MON! He further added (more or less) that I was a phony, and that I wasn’t qualified to talk to anyone about Jesus. He even suggested that if I really wanted to honor God, I should shut up. Joe ended his email response by suggesting that I get deeper into The Word and surround myself with leaders from my church.  And then, maybe — just maybe, at some point, I might have a Christ-centered story to tell.

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In the past, I would have gotten angry over this latest stinging smackdown dealt by yet another fellow Christian. But I didn’t get angry. In fact, I took Joe’s words as a personal challenge. I stepped up my Bible study efforts and also began doing volunteer work at ECCC. Furthermore, I enrolled at East Coast Christian University. That’s right, at 48, I went back to college — Bible college! Although Joe clearly had missed the point of this book, I have to admit that his advice was sound, and I ultimately appreciated his (near) soul-crushing input.

As an youth ministry volunteer,
I was blessed to connect with MANY
wonderful folks while attending ECCC.
The Dream Police
I was eager to also share my recent revelations with friends who were seemingly on the other side of the spiritual fence. (BTW, there's a BIG difference between "sharing" and "preaching.") Anyway, one longtime friend was having difficulty understanding why I was reading and re-reading the Bible. “What’s the point, if you’ve already read it once?” she asked, with a stupefied look on her face. But to me, the answer was simple. Once we disconnect ourselves from the inaccurate notion that the Bible is a condemning book of “Dos” and “Don’ts” and instead look at it perhaps as a marvelous work of art, the desire to remain focused on God’s Word starts to make more worldly sense.

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One of my all-time favorite records is Cheap Trick’s 1979 classic, Dream Police. With its overall hard rock sound and intricate arrangements, married to layers and layers of production garnish, Dream Police is a work of art that says something new to me with each listen. Even after all these years, the record always sounds fresh — and the same can be said for the Bible. As I’ve mentioned previously, Christianity is not about religion — it’s about a personal connection. If we watch our favorite movies, listen to our favorite music and read our favorite books time and time again because we connect with the message on a personal level, then why does it seem odd to have the same passion regarding the Bible? In short, it’s NOT odd!

Still fresh after all these years.
Truth Junkie
I no longer was the same guy I'd been just a year earlier, and I realized I needed to clean house — literally. For starers, I had no desire to be surrounded by memorabilia in my home that glorified rock stars who clearly preached a message to which I no longer subscribed. And soon, I was unloading all sorts of rare, autographed and limited edition rock-related collectibles — for the most part, via eBay. But many of these items I either gave away or sometimes just threw out with the trash. And I could now breathe easier just by not having that stuff in my house any longer. In the words of Tal & Acacia, it was “time to leave the junk behind.” But I certainly hadn’t gone “Falwell.” And I still wanted to maintain my unique, personal edge.

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I went to Trish’s to see Jesse one night in 2011. As I entered her house, I was taken aback to discover that one of the local kids was running an unlicensed tattoo operation and was performing covert services in Trish’s garage. And although I briefly tried to play “responsible parent,” I had to laugh out loud upon noticing a teenager from the neighborhood who was lying face-down on the garage floor with his pants down around his knees, having his butt tattooed! Yikes — some things just can’t be unseen!

I could have freaked out and raised a big stink about these shenanigans, but standing there with several tattoos of my own, I couldn’t play spoiler very effectively. I recognized quickly that the caliber of this teenage tattoo artist’s work was pretty darn good, so I took the “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach. I rolled up my sleeve and got in line. In contrast to my now infamous Bret Michaels tattoo, my fresh ink represented a different message. It simply read, “Truth Junkie.”

Truth Junkie
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The Show Must Go On
I continue to be involved in the entertainment industry. From creating music to being onstage to writing feature stories and reviews, show biz is pretty much what I do. Through my involvement with Ink19.com I’m attending, and ultimately writing about more live rock shows than ever — although now I’m recounting my experiences from a different perspective. Not so much from a “preachy” point of view, but as more of a consumer advocate.

I'd been sent to Miami recently to cover a multi-band heavy metal revival concert featuring live performances by old school kingpins, Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer. While this type of event certainly was once my thing, I now felt like the odd man out. There I was, surrounded by hostile hard core metal fans who were guzzling copious $10 beers, while non-stop F-bombs fired from the stage showered the audience of approximately 6,000. But instead of fighting my way to the front row, I now was content to just take in the experience from the comfort of a 20th row seat.

At one point during Megadeth’s set, I noticed a guy in front of me inching his way to the aisle. Donning a sleeveless black T-shirt promoting a local strip club, this fellow cheered with delight as he attempted to get a closer vantage point — lighter in one hand and a cup-o-suds in the other. But before he could get terribly far, the guy just passed out. In fact, he hit the ground so hard that even over the blasting music I could hear the resounding crack of his face meeting the concrete. Immediately, paramedics from the venue rushed to his aide. They removed him quickly from the pool of spilled beer mixed with sweat and puke, placed him on a stretcher and took him away. I doubt this is what he had in mind that morning when envisioning the awesome rock and roll party he was to enjoy that night. (Read my original full-length Ink 19 review HERE)

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Not long after this particular Miami concert, I traveled to Orlando to cover another multi-band cavalcade, headlined by the modern-day arena rock combo, Buckcherry. Given that the tour was sponsored by the makers of a popular adult elixir, fans at this event were bludgeoned with a very specific message — a message so obnoxious and so over-the-top, I had to share my apparently unique point of view with readers. (Read my original full-length Ink 19 review HERE)

As was the case with my similar experience in Miami, I not only witnessed one stretcher incident in Orlando — I saw people being carried out three times! What a sad commentary — watching people falling, one by one — victims of the false, good-time promise of rock and roll.

I received a Facebook message in 2011 from a “Friend” who had taken note of the tone regarding some of my recent articles. She inquired why I now suddenly “hated rock and roll.” I found her assessment to be quite hilarious. Be sure that I certainly don’t hate rock and roll. I’m merely suggesting that fans who shell out exorbitant amounts of hard-earned cash to support their favorite rock people deserve a bit more for their money than lowbrow banter, F-bomb showers and alcohol advertisements.

Suppose a prophet full of lies would say to you,
“I’ll preach to you the joys of wine and alcohol!”
That’s just the kind of prophet you would like!
Micah 2:11 (NLT)

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Sixx, Sixx, Sixx
In the summer of 2011 I made a 200-mile, round-trip journey to cover the highly-anticipated Tampa date of the triple-threat national hair band tour featuring Mötley Crüe, Poison and New York Dolls. Given the recent hoo-ha I had experienced regarding my first book, I doubted that I would ever see Poison perform live again. And to be honest, I reasoned that it might be best for me to sit this one out. However, on the night before the show, I received an email from Ink 19 editor, Jen Cray, offering me one last chance to change my mind. “Oh, what the heck,” I told her. “Let’s do it!” After all, my press credentials would be issued through the venue’s management office, so I could sneak into the arena in stealth-like fashion and cover the show without any band organizations being aware of my presence. (Read my original full-length Ink 19 review HERE)

Despite the diminished appeal of their “Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll” message, I couldn’t help still recognizing the amazing and powerful qualities of Mötley Crüe as a live rock band. Bassist Nikki Sixx and drummer Tommy Lee are quite simply two of the mightiest rock personalities of the last few decades. But as I watched the band’s onstage dancing girls gyrating on church pews, and I had endured what seemed like the 839th F-bomb (in just the first 20 minutes), I recalled my experience seeing Twisted Sister perform back in 1984. I remembered how impressed I was with frontman Dee Snider and how it occurred to me that with a bit of redirection, he effectively could have delivered a truly important message. The same goes for Mötley Crüe.

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I’m not condemning people or their art. In fact, my point is quite to the contrary. In spite of their misleading good-time party mantra, with their amps, ramps, riffs, sing-along choruses, non-stop pyro, killer outfits and sheer sonic power, Mötley Crüe is pretty cool. Heck, even I still “get” their appeal. But with a message as mighty as their music and image, these guys could take over the world in a way that could make their success in the ‘80s look small-time by comparison. Imagine if Mötley Crüe came out with some really powerful new music and presented an even bigger live spectacle. And instead of spitting, cussing and beating up photographers in the audience, what if Nikki Sixx walked up to the mic and professed Jesus Christ as the King of Kings? The result would be of epic proportion!

Scoff if you like, but this notion isn’t as crazy as you might initially think. Alice Cooper came out a few years ago and took a bold stand for Christ. I’m not talking about Stryper or Barren Cross, I’m talking about ALICE FREAKING COOPER! And it certainly doesn’t seem that his faith testimony has compromised his street credibility. He’s still rockin’ it, old school and hard core — just like always. Also, Brian “Head” Welch, guitarist for ‘90s metal poster boys, Korn, left that band a few years ago and his entire focus is now living for God. I read Welch’s first book, Save Me From Myself, and I’ve heard some of his recent music. I challenge anyone to call this guy out for going “soft” because he loves the Lord. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you become a wimp. At least you shouldn’t.

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Full-Circle

I’ve come full-circle. I began my musical journey as a naïve church boy in Springfield, Missouri. Over the last 40 years, I’ve met some incredible people, including many of my rock and roll heroes. I also performed onstage in front of huge crowds. I’ve heard my music played on the radio, I've appeared on the ol' "Boob Tube" and in several high profile magazines — which is all kinda cool, I guess. But I also had my fair share of experiences waking up in pools of my own fluids and praying to the “porcelain god.” Ultimately, I missed grasping the proverbial rock and roll brass ring. And in the process, I lost everything that’s truly important in life. Oddly, in the end, I wound up in the very same place I began — albeit now much older and a little bit wiser.

Rock and roll is a powerful force — a wonderful means of communication. At its best, rock music can touch lives, break down barriers, bring people together and offer incredible, positive messages. At its worst, it offers misguided messages promoting foolish lifestyle choices that can result in being carried out on a stretcher at a Megadeth concert. No, I don’t hate rock and roll. And I must confess that to this day I still enjoy side four of Live Bullet immensely. However, I have come to detest the egos, arrogance, greed, dishonesty, addictions, immorality and idol worship that typically is synonymous with not only rock and roll, but with ALL music genres and artists.

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As I mentioned at the beginning of my story, I'm not a preacher. I don’t profess now to be a wise or knowledgeable theologian, nor do I claim to have all of the answers. But at least I do know that I’m finally on the right path.

Be sure, I’m not trying to push anything on anybody, and I certainly don’t judge anyone. I’m just a guy sharing a personal story along with a few faith-based perspectives. And through sharing my story, I merely hope to offer folks an uplifting message. My buddy and first musical mentor, Glenn Creamer, once told me back in my high school days, “You don’t beat the sound through the drum. You pull the sound from the drum.” Wow! To this day I don’t believe I’ve ever heard such a profound spiritual metaphor offered from a 17-year-old — at least not from one holding a half-empty quart bottle of Schlitz!

As we each have a unique and personal relationship with our earthly fathers, we also each can enjoy a relationship with our heavenly Father that is unique and personal. My hope is to encourage those who feel a need in their lives to seek God earnestly for themselves.

The Lord is good to those who depend
on him, to those who search for him.
Lamentations 3:25 (NLT)

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Got Encouragement?
I further hope to encourage believers to continue walking boldly in their faith journey and not to be distracted by the smoke and mirrors of the world. It’s also important for Christians to align ourselves with like-minded people who are truly in tune with God’s Word.

Dear children, keep away from anything
that might take God’s place in your hearts.
1 John 5:21 (NLT)

Contrary to what current culture tells us, don’t place your faith in yourself, your friends, your family, or even other Christians. And if you’re putting your faith in the empty messages and false promises of rock stars, rap stars, pop stars, country stars or any other (little "g") god, you’re definitely barking up the wrong tree! Simply put your faith in Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world, that He gave
His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth
in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16

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I’m not making any radical assertions. In the words of the late pastor and author A.W. Tozer, “Nothing here is new except in the sense that it is a discovery which my own heart has made of spiritual realities most delightful and wonderful to me.”

I’d like to offer this final scripture. I believe that these words offered in the New Testament from my BFF, Apostle Paul, to his protégé, Timothy, drive my message home perfectly.

This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone  should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the  world to save sinners” – and I’m the worst  of all of them. But God had mercy on me so  that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime  example of his great patience with even the  worst sinners. Then others will realize that they too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. All honor and glory to God  forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:15-17 (NLT)

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Read C'MON! in it's entirety 

Copyright 2012 / 2016 Christopher Long

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