Fans of Christian music, there’s a new book out called “Sects, Love and Rock & Roll” by Joel Heng Hartse. It’s one of the most honest and blunt books about one person’s experiences with Christian music that Christian Music Makers’ Mark Weber has ever read.
Hartse is first and foremost a fan of music, and when you read his book, you’ll know that he cared about Christian rock bands like PFR and MxPx in the 1990s, but the older he gets, the more he avoids Christian music made by Christians and marketed to Christians. In fact, he smartly notes that ever since people started to download music using computers, the Christian music industry basically disappeared to the point where now he’s not alone in listening to indie rock bands rather than overtly Christian singers and groups. After the year 2000 or so, everything changed.
When he’s not writing about popular music for publications like Christianity Today, The Portland Mercury, and Paste, he’s an “applied linguist” at the University of British Columbia. Having recently turned 30, something which he writes about in “Sects, Love and Rock & Roll,” Hartse is a white guy married to an Asian woman and the pair lived in China for a time, where he auditioned for a death metal band.
Turns out, that wasn’t where he was meant to be, and you’ll find Hartse is very candid in the way he talks about his life, much of it heavily influenced by Christian rock and ska bands, like Jars of Clay and Five Iron Frenzy. If you’re a fan of Andrew Beaujon’s “Body Piercing Saved My Life” book or Matthew Paul Turner’s “Hear No Evil,” a book about growing up a nerdy evangelical who loved music, then Hartse’s “memoir-ish, personal-essay kind of thing about Christianity,” “secular” indie rock, and growing up will make for a good read.
Christian Music Makers is one of the few websites still around despite Christian music being on the wane these days, and Hartse makes many on-point cultural observations about how and why and where contemporary Christian music started, came of age, and then tanked out during the past couple decades.
Each chapter of “Sects, Love and Rock & Roll” includes Hartse’s take on five albums that greatly influenced him, including ones by Sixpence None The Richer, U2, and Rich Mullins.
For those of you expecting a straight-forward, plain kind of book about Christian music, this is not for you—it’s an edgy sort of read, which will have some of you questioning if the author is even a Christian.
An example of his writing style goes like this:
“When somebody says ‘Let’s worship,’ what they mean is, ‘Now I will play the guitar and we will sing repetitive pop songs about God for about thirty minutes.’”
Some of you will love this book and others will hate it.