In this cultural history of evangelical Christianity and popular music, David Stowe demonstrates how mainstream rock of the 1960s and 1970s has influenced conservative evangelical Christianity through the development of Christian pop music. For an earlier generation, the idea of combining conservative Christianity with rock--and its connotations of nonreligious, if not antireligious, attitudes--may have seemed impossible. Today, however, Christian rock and pop comprises the music of worship for millions of Christians in the United States, with recordings outselling classical, jazz, and New Age music combined.
Shining a light on many of the artists and businesspeople key to the development of Christian rock, Stowe shows how evangelicals adapted rock and pop in ways that have significantly affected their religion's identity and practices. The chart-topping, spiritually inflected music created a space in popular culture for talk of Jesus, God, and Christianity, thus lessening for baby boomers and their children the stigma associated with religion while helping to fill churches and create new modes of worship. Stowe argues that, in the four decades since the Rolling Stones first unleashed their hit song, "Sympathy for the Devil," the increasing acceptance of Christian pop music by evangelicals ultimately has reinforced a variety of conservative cultural, economic, theological, and political messages.