Rock: It's Your Decision (1982) (part 4 of 4)
A few days later at the church, Brother Owen comes down to greet Jeff and his parents. Apparently, Jeff is about to give a speech, and accordingly, he’s put on a tie with the biggest knot I’ve ever seen in my life. Jeff says he hopes his speech “makes them think of things… like I have the past week.” Like, how not to tie a tie.
We learn that Jeff is about to share all his “research” with the youth meeting. Before they go inside, Dad thanks Brother Owen, and he’s got this ridiculously twangy accent that nobody else in the movie has. He says that after he came back from his business trip, they got together “as a family” and worked out all of their problems, and he totally sounds like he’s reading his lines off a cue card.
Mom adds that “After Jeff shared his research with us, well, Arthur and I committed some things to Christ, also!” Well, hot damn, I really need to hear this research. It must be golden! Brother Owen is very, very pleased with all of this.
Anyway, it’s time for Jeff’s speech. This speech is the most preposterous thing in the whole movie, and therefore worth the entire price of admission all by itself. While the rest of the movie featured the filmmakers at least attempting to portray Jeff’s dilemma realistically, this closing speech is such blatant Christian propaganda that it loses whatever thin shred of credibility it had left.
Jeff stands behind the pulpit and addresses people gathered in the pews. “I guess most of you know me. I’m Jeff.” Hi, Jeff. He explains how he’s been doing research on rock music. In the crowd, we see Marty and Melissa, rolling their eyes at each other as Jeff talks. Oh yeah, blow it off now, but just wait until they hear this research!
Jeff: I want you to think about these questions I’m gonna ask. How many of you plan to leave church tonight to go out and get drunk? Or, how many of you are gonna go out and shoot up with some heroin [sic], or smoke a joint? How many of you guys and girls are gonna leave the service tonight and…
He trails off, as in wink-wink, nudge-nudge, if you know what I mean. When Jeff asks this, we see Marty jokingly start to raise his hand [!!] before Melissa stops him. This is actually kind of amusing, but it’s played so subtly and happens so quickly that I doubt many people would catch it.
Jeff: If you’re shocked by these questions, or you think they’re a little funny, maybe you should take a close look at some of the music you’ve been listening to! Personally, I like rock music! That is, my flesh! [!!] The carnal part of me really likes rock!
He tells them, “Man, I can just turn up that ol’ stereo and the beat just drives away my bad mood!” Hilariously, he actually pantomimes this as he talks about it. He says, “Pretty soon I’m really gettin’ into it! Really movin’ with it! And all my problems are gone!” Unfortunately, he pantomimes this, too, even going so far as to snap his fingers and do a spin behind the pulpit. [!!] Naturally, he moves like someone who has never heard music in his life. Coming up next, a gay guy is going to describe what it’s like to have sex with a woman. Actually, I suspect Jeff will be giving that speech, too.
Jeff: But what about the spiritual part of me? Aren’t we supposed to pray… and give our burdens to Jesus Christ? Or are we supposed to turn up the volume on our stereos a little louder, and forget about it all?
I know sometimes when Mom and Dad, when they would try to talk to me, I would just tune them out by turning up my music! Haven’t you done the same thing? Pretty soon, I couldn’t hear anything at all, not even God!
I know some of you are thinking, “Hey, I listen to rock music, but I can control it!” [!!] I don’t think that’s right. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning, or when you come home in the afternoon from school? What do you do when you get in your car? What’s the last thing you heard before you came into the service this evening? Just walk into a record store that’s playing a really good, get-down beat, see what the music does to ya!
He then asks, “Have any of you ever seen a rock concert on TV, or maybe even been to one personally?” Does he mean the Rock Concert? “How does the audience react to the music? Well, do they just sit quietly in their seats and listen? Man, I sure wouldn’t! No, they were all en masse swaying and clapping and dancing and jumping to the beat.” Jeff awkwardly attempts to reenact this, then declares that the concertgoers “were actually being controlled! And so were you!”
We then get a quick shot of Marty, acting as if something really important is starting to dawn on him. But, he just gently shakes his head, still refusing to accept the brilliance of this speech.
Jeff asks, “Also, do you like to sing along with the radio? I did a survey out at the mall, and four out of five teenagers said that the lyrics weren’t important, as long as the music was pretty good!” Or maybe he was asking dentists about chewing Trident. Whatever.
Jeff says, “I don’t know about you guys, but whenever I hear a good, good beat, I just start singing right along, without even really caring or thinking about what I’m saying!” That’s fine, because actually he isn’t the only one not really caring or thinking about what he’s saying.
He says, “But aren’t we supposed to have the mind of Christ? One of the main themes of rock music, when I went through my own record collection, I was shocked! Isn’t sex a major theme?” Is sex automatically a bad thing? I mean, I know premarital sex and adultery is a no-no according to the Bible, but who’s to say a lot of these songs couldn’t be about the singer having sex with his or her spouse?
Jeff asks, “And the occult, too?” I hardly think that the occult is a “major” theme of rock music. And just because the occult is the “theme” of a handful of songs doesn’t mean it endorses or celebrates it. After all, there’s a little thing known as literary devices when it comes to writing lyrics. When Cole Porter wrote “Do do that voodoo that you do so well”, was he suggesting people take up voodoo?
Jeff asks, “And what about the lifestyles of the popular groups and artists? Some are admitted homosexuals! Others, others brag about how many people they’ve had sex with!” Well, now I’ve just heard it all. “And how many rock stars have been arrested for drug possession? Some have even died from drug overdoses!” We then see Marty, and the sheer genius of this speech is overwhelming him, and he can no longer stop himself from seeing the light.
Jeff says, “I used to think, so what? ‘Til I took a close look at what the Bible has to say about it!” He then quotes Galatians 5:19 through 5:21 for them, which lists the sins “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like”. Sounds like a plot description of Scary Movie. As he recites this verse, the camera of course zooms in on the smallest kids at the meeting. Subtle.
Jeff then asks, “Most of these things are a part of rock music, aren’t they? [!!!!]” Are they? Please show me the rock songs that endorse witchcraft, murder and sedition. Jeff says, “And we fill our minds up with these things that God hates! How can we ever expect to please God, or glorify Christ?” Then we get a shot of Melissa, also totally knocked out by Jeff’s immortal eloquence here.
Now comes the loopiest part of this speech, as Jeff goes through supposed “examples” of the evil, soul-destroying music he’s talking about. Unfortunately, he cites lyrics that actually turn out to be some of the weakest examples he could have possibly plucked from the total universe of rock music lyrics.
Jeff: Here’s a song. Here’s a song by the Eagles. Used to be one of my favorite songs. “One of These Nights”. [!!] Well, listen to the lyrics: “The full moon is calling / The fever is high / And the wicked wind whispers and moans / You got your demons / You got desires / Well, I got a few of my own”? And later on, the words go on: “I’ve been searching for the daughter of the Devil himself / I’ve been searching for an angel in white / I’ve been waiting for a woman who’s a little of both / And I can feel her but she’s nowhere in sight”?
Jeff asks, “Is that godly?” If you’re going to pick on an Eagles song, why wouldn’t you choose “Hotel California”, which a lot of people reasonably interpret as being about the descent into Hell? Does the line “They just can’t kill the Beast” ring any bells for ya, Jeff? Then we get a shot of Brother Owen proudly looking on, and you can forget about the Dave Letterman theory. No, he’s actually being played by Tom Hanks now.
Jeff: Listen to these titles. Listen to how many of them have something to do with Satanism or the occult! “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Dancing with Mr. D” by the Rolling Stones! “Devil’s Den” and “Dance with the Dragon” by Jefferson Starship! “Evil Ways”, and “Soul Sacrifice” by Santana!
First of all, “Evil Ways”? Couldn’t anybody working on this film take the two seconds to actually listen to this song and discover that the first line is “You’ve got to change your evil ways”?
Secondly, “Dance with the Dragon” has absolutely nothing to do with Satanism. If they had read the lyrics, they would have known it alludes to the fact that the song was written in the Chinese year of the Dragon.
There are too many fallacies in this statement to attack individually, so I’ll just put it this way: Just because a song mentions the Devil, or is supposedly told from the Devil’s point of view, it doesn’t mean the song is promoting Satanism or encouraging people to follow the Devil. The best example of this is the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”, which, despite its title, actually pins a great number of historical atrocities on the Devil.
Jeff: And listen to these by the rock group AC/DC! “Rock and Roll Damnation”, “Let There Be Rock”, “Highway to Hell”, and this is my favorite right here: “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be”!
I won’t deny that Satanism was a heavy theme of AC/DC records. But there’s no proof that any of the members of AC/DC were practicing Satanists, and in all likelihood, the Satanic references were only thrown in to create controversy and sell more records. Thanks to Christian crusaders like the ones who created this film, it worked. In spades. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out what’s supposed to be so ungodly about the song “Let There Be Rock”, other than it contains some wordplay on the book of Genesis.
Jeff asks, “What about those of you who are buying KISS albums?” Oh, boy, here we go. Jeff cries, “Twelve years old and younger! Three of their albums are entitled Hotter than Hell, Dressed to Kill, and Destroyer! And I’ve seen little kids wearing KISS T-shirts!” Well, who hasn’t? I’ve already covered metaphorical comparisons to Hell, but isn’t “dressed to kill” an established figure of speech in the English language? People say this all the time. Does that make them ungodly? And why does “destroyer” automatically have something to do with Satan? After all, isn’t there an entire class of Naval warships called “destroyers”? Are those Satanic, too?
Despite the fact that Jeff has been way, way off base with the songs he’s mentioned so far, at least he’s attacked the artists that people usually pick on when they talk about occult references in rock. Unfortunately, Jeff takes a left turn into Bizarro World with his next set of targets.
Jeff: Captain and Tennille [!!!] have even tried to change their image with songs like “You Need a Woman Tonight”! “You’ve Never Done It Like That”! Don’t forget Rod Stewart! “Do You Think I’m Sexy”! “Passion”!
Of course, Jeff screams out “Do You Think I’m Sexy” with all the inflection of a person who doesn’t understand English. He then hunkers down on the pulpit, and in a ridiculously sinister voice says, “‘Tonight’s the Night’!” In fact, this entire sentence needs to be heard to be believed. And hey, kudos for forgetting about the one obvious Captain and Tennille hit “Do It to Me One More Time”.
Jeff: And you might be sitting there thinking, “Hey man, I don’t listen to that stuff! I mean, I don’t buy KISS!” Well, that’s great. But I think you better look at your albums! If three or four, or even if only one song promotes sin, then that’s what the author is promoting! And if we buy those albums, every album we buy encourages that artist to keep putting out that kind of music! Even Barry Manilow [!!!!!] wrote in one of his hits, “Could it be magic / Come into my arms and let me know the wonder of all of you”! And he’s supposed to be mild!
Again, is there anything in this couplet that implies Barry wasn’t talking about the woman he’s joined to in holy heterosexual matrimony? And as far as the magic reference goes… Ah, screw it. Life is just too short to waste time attacking ideas with no basis in reality.
Jeff then says, “I go to school with most of you. The other kids at school know that I’m a Christian, but if they don’t see me acting any different than they act, then what are they gonna think?” I dunno, Jeff, but maybe they just might think you’re a normal, well- adjusted teenager?
Jeff: And if my music is no different than theirs, then they’re gonna say, Christianity’s no big deal! He’s no different than anybody else! I can take it… I can take it or leave it.
Each one of us is an advertisement for Jesus Christ. The friends we go to school with, and the ones in our neighborhood, will they accept the message that our lives are advertising? Christians should be different! Different in what we say, different in where we go, different in how we dress [!!!], different in what we do, different in what… in what we don’t do.
And shouldn’t our music be different, also? How can we think or concentrate on pure and good thoughts when the driving beat is pumping our minds full of sinful thoughts, and our bodies full of sinful movements? Jesus Christ said, “He that is not for me, is against me!” Everything that we do should be to glorify Jesus Christ!
And now comes easily the most ridiculous moment in this whole shitty movie. As if to accentuate this point, Jeff grabs a vinyl LP from behind the pulpit and smashes it [!] on one of the pews.
Jeff yells that “I want my life, and the things I do to be for my Christ! Not against my Christ! I’ve made my decision! What’s yours?” Naturally, an angelic choir starts up in the background, and Mom and Dad give each other warm smiles. We see Brother Tom Hanks beaming with pride as the choir gets louder. Cue thoughtful looks from Melissa and Marty. And that’s all she wrote. The credits are then superimposed over a still frame of Jeff attacking that poor, defenseless vinyl LP.
So, have we learned a lesson in all this? That’s right, don’t listen to Billy Joel, the Captain and Tennille, or Barry Manilow. And I think that’s a lesson that Christians and non-Christians can all take to heart.