I suppose it was inevitable that at some point my god-fearing (and also Marilyn Manson-fearing) mother would try to find a substitute that could replace my quickly developing taste for “worldly rock-and-roll”. She made it her task to find me the “Christian” alternative to Metallica. At this point in my life my only exposure to Contemporary Christian Music was the mundane crap that was peddled on the local Christian radio station. There was also a group (which shall remain nameless) of college age, amateur, wanna-be-rockers that would come to our Lutheran church once a year and butcher what I would later found out were actually some fairly descent songs. Oh, and of course there were Bible camp song. I definitely enjoyed them around the campfire, but they were hardly satisfying my desires for rock and roll.
As I said earlier I was really involved in church (and at a Bible camp), and I was passionate about the idea of Faith (or at least I thought I was at the time…), but I loved rock and roll too, and as far as I knew there was no such thing in the Christian realm. My mother was on a mission however, and she was bound and determined to get those demons out of my headphones. Her first attempt was an utter failure… to say the very least.
One night while I was in my room brooding in adolescent confusion over big issues like losing the football game against Enderlin or wondering if I was ever going to work up the courage and fortitude to kiss my girlfriend, my mom rudely knocked on the door interrupting my important thoughts… “WHAT DO YOU WANT! GEEZ!” was my warm and welcoming response. “I picked up a cd for you today.” Said my mother in that condescending way that mean old mothers often address their ever-grateful, over-abundantly appreciative, and generally loving teenage sons. “LEAVE IT AT THE DOOR AND GET OUT OF HERE OR I SWEAR I’LL QUIT SCHOOL AND RUN AWAY FROM HOME! GEEZ!” I replied gently and with a great deal of patience, given her negative and selfish attitude.
Once I was fairly certain she had vacated the immediate premises, I went and picked up the cd. It had a post-it note stuck to it that said, “Instead of Ozzy?”. The artist was Chris Rice… the album cover showed a pleasant looking 30-something year old guy sitting happily on a park bench apparently pondering the deep and wondrous relationship he had with the god who had “blessed” him with those designer jeans and $80 haircut he was sporting. Good luck. But being the good son that was, I figured I’d humor my dear old mother. So I threw the thing in my cd player. 15 seconds into the first track all of my doubts were confirmed. Not wanting endanger my musical street cred by being caught with such a lame album, and fearing that I may be destroying my very ability to hear at all by allowing that soft and boring, easy-listening, singer-songwriter trash to grate mercilessly on my inner eardrums for one second longer than I had to, I quickly removed the cd from the player and promptly broke it in half for my safety and the safety of others. Better luck next time mom.
Or not. Her next attempt was an album which was the equivalent of a 40 year old, Christian version of the Backstreet Boys. 4 Him? Meet four different garbage cans. It had to be disheartening for her. But, being of Icelandic descent, giving up was not an option. With the determination of a mother bear trying to protect her cub from a hunter… she headed back to the Sonshine Shop, our local Christian book store, for one more go at it. (Yeah, I know… total exaggeration… but mom’s are seriously crazy and I’m sure that’s how she felt.)
I often wonder if my mother had any inkling as to how much of a defining event that trip to the mall would prove to be in her son’s life. The way I understand it, she walked in and finally asked for help finding something her teenage son might be interested in instead of relying on her “motherly intuition”. The clerk walked over to a shelf grabbed a cassette and said “Try this.” So she handed him the money and he handed her the tape. It was such a simple transaction, and I’m sure my mother had no real hopes of me embracing this album anymore than the others she had offered me. Ha.
Ladies and Gentlemen… Chris Rice.