Andrew Beaujon is not a Christian. The most important thing about that comment is that it is what makes this book so terrific. If any Christian musician or writer had set out to do a year-long project researching a book about Christian rock, you would have ended up with something completely different. Beaujon’s neutral standpoint—just looking at the music for the music’s sake, from the point of view of a writer for the magazine Spin—has a great deal to teach us about Christian music, and even modern Christianity as a whole.
The title of Body Piercing Saved My Life is based on a T-shirt slogan (featuring Jesus) that Beaujon saw at the Cornerstone Festival, a Christian music event. Throughout the book, he discusses the history and progression of Christian music and the Christian rock movement, conducts in-depth interviews with influential people from the Christian rock market—Doug Van Pelt, Steve Taylor, David Bazan, Brandon Ebel, and many others. These are current and former musicians, magazine editors, and record producers, all who have a tremendous impact on the Christian music scene. Beaujon looks analytically at Christian music and poses many thought-provoking questions. Should Christian music be a genre? Is there a difference between Christians in a band and a Christian band? He also talks to the musicians themselves (those who were willing to talk to him) and asked the same questions. The answers he receives are varied and eye-opening.
The author experienced Gospel Music Association (GMA) week, the week in Nashville preceding the GMA Awards. It’s a week of publicity, performances, and a veritable who’s who of Christian music. What Beaujon found there truly amazed me. It was shocking how much was closed to him as a “secular” journalist. The complete unwillingness of people to talk with him about his project left me speechless. I can understand wanting to protect oneself from poor publicity, but this avoidance was almost as telling as an interview would have been.
Body Piercing Saved My Life should be required reading for pastors, Christian musicians, and anyone wanting to read an in-depth, basically unbiased book about Christian music—its good and bad points. Beaujon is never overtly harsh towards Christians and even sought to understand things he found confusing, such as the worship music phenomenon. His comments about Christians in general and the occasional legalistic practices should spur Christians to do some reflecting. The book offered a large amount of discussion material for my family and would make an excellent small group study book. I don’t know when I’ve read a more insightful and intriguing book.