I’m not sure what to make of this, but Emusic.com’s auto-recommendation tool came up with “Pastor Brad” and his album “Breakout.” Admittedly, I probably deserve such a recommendation since I go scouring for Christian music on Emusic.com to see what bands are listed, but the name “Pastor Brad” just sounded like someone stopped trying when it came to band names. Of course there’s more to the story.
Pastor Brad runs GuitarJams.net, which provides guitar lessons and promotes his albums and promotes God. The albums apparently have Brad playing guitar but with guest vocalists–see a list here–like Ken Tamplin (Sammy Hagar’s cousin), Les Carlson of “Bloodgood” fame, and, well…I don’t recognize the rest (I’m sure their good folk). The album, when I previewed it, has an amateur demo quality to it because it probably had a low budget. That’s not a criticism, it’s just raw and needs a producer. I tend to like raw demos myself, since I collected several when I was a kid, but certainly this is not for the mainstream heavy metal fan.
But still why is he named Pastor Brad? And why is he mixing rock and pastoring? The first step to finding answers to this absurd mystery is to visit Guitarjams.net where he answers the question on the homepage: “Pastor Brad here, Yes, I am a Pastor. I get that question a lot. I serve First Churchhere in Altoona PA as Pastor of Connections, Teaching and Discipleship.” When he says pastor of such and such subject it usually means there are multiple pastors with one head pastor and the church is pretty damn big. On top of being a pastor he is a rock musician and teacher.
Now I’m going to tread carefully because I mean Pastor Brad no ill will with his talents and musicianship, but what if I was Christian and called myself Pastor Jeff The Cartoonist? Would you be able to take me seriously as a man of God and one of his ordained leaders? Combining your hobby with the profession of Pastoring seems kind of goofy. For some reason The Seventies Show comes to mind with the character of Pastor Dave (see the below video). It’s like someone is trying too hard to be cool and in the case of Pastor Dave, trying too hard to relate to young people with a culture they don’t understand.
So I don’t think I mean this post as a criticism, more of an observation. I think Pastor Brad would be happier as a fulltime musician–but that’s a hard gig and therefore he combines it with his dayjob. I’m just questioning whether or not that’s one of the problems with Americanized Christianity and why it is becoming increasingly ridiculous. When I had had enough of the mainstream/nondenominational church, one of the reasons was that it was becoming harder to take the pop culture–“make it up as you go along”– church seriously. I started searching for the historical church, one with a sense of the sacred and eye towards beauty. I love heavy metal, but it doesn’t compare to the religous feeling you get when listening to traditional church music or traditional church iconography and art. Maybe that’s just me, but I think hair metal inside of church or representing God makes it all kind of ordinary and you lose a sense of awe. Yes…this is coming from an atheist. The comparison is a movie soundtrack. Ever see a movie ruined by a heavy rock score when it is completely inappropriate. It’s like staring at the stars and having someone blast AC/DC in the background. The feeling of spirituality is a manipulation of our emotions and rock music is questionable for this purpose. Not that Pastor Brad is forcing his parishioners to listen to his 80’s style metal, but that is his representation on the site.
Here’s the sad part of the story and also in many ways good as it is a survival story of sorts and far be it from me to take away triumph even if it is based on mythology. Pastor Brad tells about how he got a brain tumor in his twenties and then it was removed. As a result, he lost 75% of his vision. He was mad at God and then turned things around by going to a Christian college. Eventually he ended up pastoring which gave meaning to his life. Pastor Brad’s conclusion is that either God gave him the tumor or he allowed for the tumor (it’s always hard to pin Christians down on this distinction) in order to shape him into “Pastor Brad.” That’s both sad and like I said, “good,” because if his only way out of a bad situation was to believe a mystical being gave him a tumor then maybe without that delusion he would have spiraled downward into depression. Christians hate it when you say God is a crutch, but these same stories are told again and again on why people survived tragic ordeals. Maybe this is one of the reasons why religion evolved and continues: because the truth is too unbearable. The truth being that tumors happen and there’s no rhyme or reason as to who is chosen to suffer them. However, how you survive can show incredible strength. If you want to attribute that strength to God, fine, but I think most people should give themselves more credit.
Now we have a cartoonist featured early on Freethunk who dealt with cancer himself and remained an atheist. It was a life changing event but God didn’t enter into the picture. His name is Buck Cash and you can read his selection of cartoons here. Buck didn’t waste his time on propping up a god, he went out and did public speaking events to other cancer patients to give them encouragement. That, to me, is the humanist way.