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Yesterday when I preached at church, I talked about faith journeys. We are all certainly on our own unique journeys…and we can all look back at certain moments on our journey and just shake our heads a bit.

I’ve had quite a few of those moments, but one of those happened the summer after I graduated high school. During July of 1998, a group of friends and I went off to Creation ’98, a giant Christian music festival at the Gorge at George. We went around headbanging at various concerts, heard speakers like Joshua Harris talk about how he “kissed dating goodbye” and were inspired to lead more holy and Christian lives.

And then I came home. Started unpacking. And that’s when I saw them.

They’d been in my room for awhile, and had caused me to sin…a lot. I knew I should get rid of them, but it was too hard to let go.

No, I’m not talking about dirty magazines. I’m talking about my…


I’m talking about the sin-infested lyrics from bands like Offspring, Metallica…and Pearl Jam! I didn’t need that in my life. My life was a life called to holiness, called to a pursuit of Jesus’s standards for what music I listened to.

So I did what any young, zealous Christian does in moments like this: I went to find the lighter fluid.

(Well, if I’m honest, first I took some to our local music store to try and sell them, and I did get a little bit of cash for some of them)

So I took the CDs, piled them in the driveway of my house growing up…poured lighter fluid over them…and lit them on fire.

Right? You’d do that too, right?

617W9ZTJGBLI was finally getting rid of those HORRIBLE bands like Stone Temple Pilots, and that sin-ridden album “Ten” by Pearl Jam (yes, that’s right, I burned one of the greatest alternative rock albums I had at that time).

After doing a little investigation, I was able to find a journal that I kept that summer, 15 years ago. I’ll only share a portion with you – because it really is incredibly embarrassing when I read too much from this journal:

I did something a few days ago, that I have thot about in the past, and I think that I’m really glad that I did it….I got rid of all my secular CDs that have bad messages…now, oldies and stuff like that is just fine, but all of my Metallica, Offspring, Nirvana, and Stone Temple Pilots went BYE BYE! Now, that was very difficult for me because I really loved that music, but I think that there is definitely enough Christian music out there (and I know even MORE awesome bands NOW!) that I don’t need anything other than that. That music definitely ISN’T glorifying God in any way, so why be any part of it? I know that God wouldn’t have listened to it, so why should I have subjected myself to it…I got $40 from Sight/Sound for about 8 of them, and I burned the rest…it was a nice little ceremony type thing…very cool, and I’m proud of myself for doing it…

My favorite part from the journal entry was this line: “I know that God wouldn’t have listened to it, so why should I have subjected myself to it?” Really? I really knew that God wouldn’t have subjected Godself to it? I knew what kind of music God listened to? Awesome. I must have been so smart and so wise.

So why do I share this story? Two reasons; first, I share this story to warn you. Don’t do this. Don’t set your secular CDs on fire with lighter fluid. There are probably some environmental reasons to not do this today, but it’s not a cost-effective spiritual practice. A few weeks after lighting those CDs on fire, I had to go out and repurchase some of them, because I simply missed the music. And when you start realizing how much amazing music you burned (literally), you’ll find it’s expensive to go and get replacements for all the CDs.

Secondly, I share this story simply because it’s part of my story, and that’s okay. I believe that to get to the theological place that I am today, to be able to get to the place where I can honestly say that I love Eminem and other albums of mine with “Explicit Lyrics” stickers on them, I had to go through this piece of my story.

I had to have that fundamentalist moment where I was so frightened that words in music listened to would pull me away from following God, in order to be where I am today. Now, that’s not the case for everyone. My wife grew up in a very theologically liberal environment, and she just looks at me like I’m from another world when I start talking about Carman’s free Love concerts (anyone remember those?), DC Talk’s music and growing up hearing my mom listen to John MacArthur Bible study tapes.

So sure, I’m a little embarrassed. Sure I look back at the 1998 version of myself and say, “Really? Like, for real? REALLY?!” But it’s all a part of my journey. All part of my faith story. And all a part of God creating who I would become today.


  1. Daish

    I did something similar , but with BOOKS. And I didn’t burn them just ya know shredded them and threw them in the dumpster. And yeah, I really miss a lot of them plus I was an avid reader and that was a lot of money I literally threw out.

    Serious question: Did the 1998 version of yourself feel any closer to God than you do now?

    In the early days of my faith I shielded myself from a lot of “mainstream” media in what was probably a legalistic attempt to get closer to God. I’m proabably still considered a new Christian by a lot of people and sometimes I still think that way.

  2. Oh, Carmen concerts. *raises hand slowly*


    I didn’t burn mine, but I remember feeling really guilty for liking secular music. (But, uhm, I still like some DC Talk. Don’t tell.)

  3. Bobbie Edwards

    I am a faithful reader of A Deeper Story, and one of the reasons is getting to read posts like this one. I am much too old to be fans of those groups you mentioned – mine are more like frank Sinatra and those of that era, yet still I have the same feelings that you shared. This helps me to accept my past, that I was and am less than perfect. Life IS a journey getting us to the place God wants us to be. I continue to ask Him, why did it take so long? But then I remember, it’s His timing on His terms. I am slowly learning to accept who I was in order to become who I am.
    Thank you for sharing your story and God bless you in His Kingdoms Work.

  4. Mary

    Your story made me feel better, and have hope. I have a daughter, who last year joined CRU on Campus. She went to their Fall Retreat, came home, broke up with her boyfriend of 3 years, gave away all her movie and music CD’s that even had a hint of sin, stopped watching almost all TV, and started listening to only Christian music. She is now working at a bible camp all summer, being paid minimal, having to raise the rest. The whole thing has made me so sick to my stomach, and also our relationship is strained. She now has become close to some amazing Christian parents, and all of it hurts me deeply. From reading your story, I now see that maybe it’s part of her journey. I will continue to love and support her, and hopefully someday some of this will be things of the past. Thanks for listening! Keep writing!!

  5. Oh, my. This made me laugh. I was there in the early nineties, trashing U2 (of all things!) because I had a big, big crush on Bono that felt a bit too much (saw them in Australia in 1989 and was hoarse for days).

    There’s a book releasing later this month called ECHOES OF EDEN. It’s about Christianity and the arts. As a children’s author who choses to write for all readers and markets, I’m looking forward to it. Kind of felt like a nice fit with your post today.

  6. I’m old enough to have been your youth pastor – I remember 1998 well. Pearl Jam, STP, + all of my 80’s music had to go by the wayside because, well, I became a youth pastor. I took my youth kids to any “festival” I could – not all bad – Third Day became a big thing with me.

    But really, looking back I laugh. Especially about the phone call I got from an angry father wondering why I had to introduce all of this “hard Christian rock” to his son when Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith were more appropriate. Sigh. Didn’t matter if you were 18 or 28, I think we all fell into the “secular music is bad” trap at one point.

  7. Kreine

    I know nothing of Carman concerts. In my branch of Fundamentalism, you were a liberal compromiser (at best) if you listened to “Christian rock.”

    But yeah, we had frequent burnings of ungodly media, usually on a yearly basis as part of some youth activity.

    We were so proud of our willingness to sacrifice those things to God, couching our words in false humility.

    What a waste. We completely missed the Gospel with that mindset. And as often as the leaders liked to proof-text us, I wonder why no one ever came across Psalm 51:16-17?

    For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
    The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

  8. Kate Hampton

    Raising my hand on the Carman concerts! You’ve just described my 1996 self (minus the CD burnings) because I am two years older than you.

    Thanks for sharing. Please know that tons of us have similar backgrounds, and yes, now realize that our fundamentalist moments were misplaced piety.

  9. I’m only laughing because I relate so much. I went to my fair share of Carman crusades… while hiding my Alanis Morisette, Pearl Jam, and TLC tapes.


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