M.S. Enkoji of the Sacramento Bee has issued the following report:
How many church pastors begin their service by offering free earplugs? How many turn to a heavy-metal band to preach a sermon?
Pastor Ron Vanderwell of The Gathering was ready Sunday with earplugs and a message from METALLICA.
Yes, the Bay Area heavy-metal band and author of what Vanderwell posed as thought-provoking lyrics: "Broken is the promise, betrayal/ The healing hand held back by the deepened nail/ Follow the God that failed."
"These guys are not happy," he said of the group, whose latest album is 2003's "St. Anger".
Anger and the sense of betrayal conveyed in lyric after lyric are quandaries facing a lot of contemporary Christians, Vanderwell said.
"There's a lot of things in our world that just aren't right," he said.
METALLICA's lyrics provide the perfect conduit to the Bible, which offers solutions, said Vanderwell, who paralleled lyrics, such as the band's 1991 "God that Failed", with Bible verses to make his point.
And from 1988's "And Justice for All", the lyrics despair over the hopelessness of seeking justice.
Vanderwell points to Isaiah 59:4, which says, "No one calls for justice."
Is it possible, Vanderwell asked, that God is a METALLICA fan? And he is saying: " 'Yes, that is what I'm trying to say,' " Vanderwell said.
The group's past travails with the unexpected death of a band member in 1986, rehabilitation of another from alcohol addiction and members' own inner conflicts revealed in the 2004 documentary "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster", are all anger-generating fodder, said Vanderwell, adding that the Bible promises redemption.
Not the conventional stuff of Sunday morning preachers, but it's another new twist in the way Vanderwell chooses to convey his message.
For 3 1/2 years, Vanderwell has led The Gathering, a denomination of the Christian Reformed Church, which meets in the comfy confines of the Regal Cinema at Natomas Marketplace in Sacramento. A coffee bar, with bottled water and doughnuts, greets the 75 or so worshippers filing into the theater; jeans and T-shirts are OK.
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