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A glorious MAD-ness

April 22, 2002|BY KEVIN CLAPP

kevinc@herald-mail.com

The album begins quietly enough as track one cues itself and rumbles to life, silence punctured by crunching guitars.

"Get this party started" and tobyMac does just that with scratches, beats and an opening lyric sounding, for a moment, like vintage Beastie Boys.

"... Everybody everybody in the place to be/Open up your mind and let your soul be free/I can feel the Most High shining on me, so.../Let's get this party started..."

But this is not MCA, Mike D and King Adrock kickin' it on a b-side. The culprit, voice rising above scratches, beats and samples, is Toby McKeehan, a.k.a. tobyMac.

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His music is loud, some might say abrasive ... and among the new sounds of Christianity, which will overrun Hagerstown Community College's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center Friday night.

"Young people are looking for answers as well as relationships, and they're looking for a meaningful existence and despite the former generation's displeasure with this type of music, the answers are in this type of music," says Rick Heines, youth director at New Life Christian Ministries in Clear Spring.

"Whereas the Jesus review of the '70s had a more folk culture-type music that was kind of a gentle, thank you for saving me, this generation is so much more under attack than any generation, their music has evolved into a war cry that a lot of adults just wouldn't understand.

"These kids today, with their rap and attack metal, the music is like a war cry. They're being attacked and are attacking back."

Kids today indeed. But Youthquake, featuring tobyMac, trio Out of Eden and fellow rapper John Reuben, represents but one segment of a five-day, Make A Difference Week celebration of faith sponsored in part by Cedar Ridge Ministries in Williamsport and the Faith Awareness Network.

Sharing the message

It is the second time Cedar Ridge has imported evangelist Ron Hutchcraft, an author, radio personality and faculty member of the Billy Graham Schools of Evangelism, to share his message. Six years ago, 1,200 attended a seminar on parenting; between 350 and 400 took part in a breakfast session for businessmen and women; Youthquake drew more than 3,000.

"I know some people looking at what we're doing will say what's the difference? I can get this out of church, and in some settings that fits, if they're going to church for the right reasons," says David Swacina, administrator and chief executive officer of Cedar Ridge.

"Many times we'll treat church like any other institution out there and come in with fronts, walls and mixed messages and we don't leave with joy. We end up leaving frustrated. ... It becomes no different than any other club we could be a part of."

We live, says Hagerstown Bible Church senior pastor Dale Carver, in a post-Christian era. People have looked at Christianity and decided it is not helpful.

Heines agrees, pointing to a lack of understanding of religious terms.

"Take 'born again.' That phrase has lost any measure of importance because now if you get your car painted, it's born again. Or if you get a makeover, you're born again," he says. "So, when you say 'born again' to a teenager today it's like, so what?"

The challenge becomes building relationships with a foundation steeped in Christian thought. Where Make A Difference Week aims to help is in presenting Christian ideals in a practical manner applicable to everyday life.

Witness tobyMac's fusion of rap and metal. Carver isn't necessarily a fan, but looks past the music to isolate meaning from the words.

"If you have a positive message in the lyrics of the music, I think that is the key issue," he says. "Some people absolutely hate rap music. Rap music is just another style."

Problem is, traditions die hard sometimes. New thoughts and ideas aren't always easily digestible.

Carver cautions that people need to treat tradition as a preference, and preferences vary.

"We get all caught up in the style of worship and think it's as important as the truth of scripture and the two are very different," he says. "It's not that God doesn't have an answer, it's not that the Bible is not truth. They are true, it's just people aren't taking the truth of scripture and applying it to people's lives where they need it and I think that's what Ron Hutchcraft does."

All the bells and whistles

The argument could be made that when discussing faith, dressing up discourse in off-site seminars and concerts should be unnecessary.

The subject alone should be enough to engage men, women, children. But Heines of New Life ministries feels that is naive in a world where flash and substance interlock.

"We do need bells and whistles. We need wake-up calls. We need alarms. Because everyone has an agenda. Nike has bells and whistles. Coca Cola has bells and whistles," he says. "We need bells and whistles, we need to get their attention and typically the church has always put the youth ministry on the back burner but events like this put it on the top shelf, in the forefront."

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