don’t recall exactly when I adopted the lingo where I found things to be “cool” in my youth, but I do vividly recall a rude awakening to the reality of those who I thought were cool.
Although raised in a Christian home, like so many others, the ways of the world – including the ubiquitous trio of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, drew me like a magnet in the madness of my teens. The cool crowd had a certain mystique, and all others were walking in dark ignorance – or so I thought. Of course, unregenerated young people think they know everything, and our music, our outer appearance, and our attitude towards life had convinced us we were part of something larger – an emerging consciousness which we sensed resided in cool people around the world.
In the episode in question, a pot dealer I had “scored” from for the first time (scored being “cool” parlance for the purchase of contraband) had joined my circle of friends to partake of the noxious weed, and all was right with the world. Until, that is, after the party, when I found my new doper friend had stolen the very stash he had sold me! I was stunned at the level of deceit, as I thought that cool people just didn’t do such things – but I was just beginning to see that what I perceived to be a spiritual ethic among those in the know, actually bore no resemblance whatsoever to the concept of righteousness.
In that period, the antiwar movement stood up to the Vietnam military profit machine, and I was likeminded with those who resisted. I was in television work in those days, so I’ll never forget how CBS pulled the number one show, The Smothers Brothers, off the air because of their vitriolic satire over the war – even when it cost the network a great deal of money. Simultaneously, although the deaths of celebrated rock musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison was disturbing to my counter-culture ethic, I just shrugged off such things. After all, they lived their lives in the cause of cool.
I recall seeing the huge hit film M.A.S.H. in a theatre, and in one scene, the lead character mocked another, whom he had inadvertently observed praying. The condescending spirit exhibited by the star as he joked he had never seen such things in anyone over the age of 10 disturbed me, as there was still a soft spot in my black heart for the LORD of glory. But the hit film was still cool, as it echoed the antiwar sentiment of the period.
Although I was grossly unaware of partisan politics, I thought young Bobby Kennedy was the height of cool when he flashed the peace sign for the cameras – and when some hidden faction lurking in the shadows put an end to his campaign with an uncool bullet, I still hoped that one day, we might see a cool (and young) leader.
As a musician, I loved the top ten hit from the Little River Band, entitled Cool Change – especially the part where the chorus continued to tell the world it’s “time for a cool change.” As a film buff, I couldn’t wait to see the breakthrough animation/live action film,Cool World, the movie which launched Brad Pitt’s cool career; but it turned out the cartoon characters struck me as nightmarish, as they were so amoral their only desire was to party and play. Thus, in the movie storyline, the inhabitants of the fictional cartoon universe called Cool World, found a way to sneak into our world, where they could have unrestrained fun.
Eventually, my growing disenchantment with being cool was intensified by spending a few months in jail on a dope charge, as I saw a more seasoned, and violent inmate shooting heroin which was smuggled in. The younger cellmates thought such exploits were very cool, but I had already started thinking about the unsavory downside of my choices, and how Jesus came to forgive us for trampling the way of the righteousness found in the LORD. As the Scripture says, He came “to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Daniel 9:24) – something I observed was in very short supply. Simultaneously, there was another inmate, with a Bible in hand, who boasted about taking hallucinogens, and how God wanted us to drop acid (LSD) to help us find him – but I knew in my Spirit that something was very wrong with the cool god being presented.
Deep inside me, the LORD began to gradually rescue me from the Cool World I inhabited, and I just knew I had to get back to the Gospel of my childhood.
As things slowly changed in my life, I began to go to church, and found many new friends with similar experiences. And then it happened. I saw Christians who I thought were likeminded, who still lied on a regular basis. I observed theft as well. It wasn’t the easiest thing to perceive, as it wasn’t low level theft like the duplicitous doper ripping off my stash, but it was the larger dishonesty found in “Christian” circles, particularly in the “Christian” media. I perceived a parallel between the euphoria of being stoned, which blinded me to the evil in the drug dealer’s theft, and the euphoria of the Gospel, which sought to blind me to the corruption of my Christian peers.
Having already moved in to Christian music professionally, I realized the Christian record labels and the Christian booking agencies behaved just like their secular counterparts – except they were “Christian.” Things like crooked record contracts, sophisticated legal maneuvers designed to cheat others, and various types of corporate manipulations kept surfacing. I saw adultery, and I saw drugs in Christian rock and roll – so the sex, drugs, and rock and roll I had hoped to escape was still there, but now there was a rather thin Christian veneer stretched around it.
In short, the desire to be cool had penetrated Christian circles as well, and I was caught in it.
Thinking it might be time for a “cool change” once again, but reasoning the LORD’s people were all under re-construction, I pressed on, and fervently studied the Scriptures. At first I thought it was just the Christian music field, as so many who had come from the music arena just couldn’t fully shake off the allure of the world and, after all, why couldn’t they be saved, and cool. As I began to write, I also found dishonesty and corruption in the Christian book world, and later in Christian radio and television broadcasting. Ultimately, I realized the problem was much deeper, for it wasn’t the media at all -- it was in the hearts of men and women, so I sought to study that in the Scriptures. I realized that my Christian friends (and their hireling shepherds) had come to precisely parallel the religious crowd in Christ’s day, and once they had “found Christ,” the truth was marginalized until it no longer mattered.
But Jesus was still there, and I came to see there was nothing cool about the cross, for it was brutal. Even His Christian friends (known as disciples) all abandoned Him, as He approached Calvary all alone, to pay for the sins of anyone who will receive His incredible salvation.
And finally, I remembered the parable of the good, the bad, and the cool ground which received the seed of God. The good ground, representing individuals, received the truth of Christ, and they have put aside their own desires, to follow the Father clothed in the righteous truth of Christ. The bad ground brazenly rejected the seed, and it bounced off to the wayside. However, many of those who live in Cool World received the seed with joy, but when it became uncool to follow the truth of Jesus Christ, they refused to go with Him, and stayed in what was essentially a “Christianized” version of their old ways.
“He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).
Finally, I learned the cares of Cool World, have been incorporated into the churches, as well as the social networks of our time --- and very, very few “believers” are willing to break with their relationships and their fellowships in order to individually pursue the truth of the cross. But that’s exactly what the Word of God is calling us to do, and when you turn to JESUS with all your heart, you’ll find those who claim to love the cross, but refuse to respond to the truth, are not cool at all.
-- James Lloyd
A James Lloyd authored book, which truthfullydescribes the seamier side of Christian music, is found in the book CRIMINALS IN CHRISTIAN MUSIC.