Audio Adrenaline and White Jesus

thinking an American Studies thesis. part 1.

Thoughts I have while writing my undergrad thesis on implicit white supremacy in my favorite band growing up, Audio Adrenaline. 

It’s a plantation. It’s zombies and missions and album sales and a music industry. It is some kind of journey and dirty hands and a faith that gets down and goes worldwide and a god who loves and saves. It’s front row seats and t-shirts and autographs and photos of Will headbanging and crushes on drummers and guitarists, and it’s youth group and memories and belonging and a deep sense of being right and good and true. It is confidence that faith is all that is needed and faith that is right and faith that is better and faith that is white.

There is much that has been said and written about deconstructed faith. But what about the deconstruction of the things that faith wrought? How does one crack open the essence of a band? I want to lay hold of the gap that exists for a split second, the sonic gap that comes between a song leaving a speaker and entering an eardrum. What message is being sent, and how does it somersault in the air and possibly land differently in the ear?

Where does intent end and impact begin?

What does it mean that Big House can be interpreted to mean that heaven is a plantation? What does it say that the christian music industry can call that the song of the decade for the 90s and have it occur to no one white and empowered that there is an American historical meaning behind a building called the Big House? Why, if poor people in Haiti are so poor and yet happy (at least pre-earthquake), as is repeatedly said in the written record of Audio Adrenaline, do we imagine heaven as a mansion and not a shack?

Is it possible that capitalism has infected the christian music industry and the imaginations of songwriters?

Is it possible that patriarchy has infected an industry that seems to be run by white men?

Is it possible that white theology has shaped a music industry that is so certain that the Jesus they describe is the right one?

If it is at least possible, might it not also be true?

And what if it is? What does that mean for the people who listened to this music because it was all we were allowed to listen to? What does it mean for the artists who poured their souls and voices into something they believed in so earnestly?

There were good things that emerged, and even remain in my life because of spending my teenage years immersed in the christian rock/alternative music scene. And yet. And yet, and yet, and yet.

It was a white Jesus that I listened to, and a white Jesus I learned to follow, and while I don’t necessarily care about the theological differences, I do care about how theology shapes people. The music I listened to was designed to create me in a certain way, with the hope that I would believe and therefore vote a certain way, and so it was white Jesus that has led me to be complicit in so many American sins.

And yet. What if it’s the death of white Jesus himself that saves?