WASHINGTON-Lisa Whiting, a student at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, Mich., was looking for a way to do God's work.
She ended up at a rock concert. As she spoke to the Rock for Life volunteers who were running a booth at the 1998 Creation Festival, a Mount Union, Pa., Christian rock ‘n’ roll show, a woman confronted the group about their stand on abortion. When Whiting told her about Christ's forgiveness, the woman broke down crying and her bitterness seemed to disappear. Whiting had found her ministry.
“Anyone who was born after 1974 is a survivor of abortion,” said Whiting, now leader of the Detroit chapter of Rock for Life. “I have a responsibility as a young person to inform the kids of what's going on.”
Rock for Life, a nationwide organization of rock musicians and their fans, is spreading the pro-life message in a new way. With 50 chapters across the United States and the summer-long American Rock Tour, bands and young people are challenging their generation to rethink their position on abortion.
“When the Beatles got started, rock ‘n’ roll was a sort of rebellion,” said Erik Whittington, co-founder of Rock for Life. “We want to use rock ‘n’ roll the same way, as a rebellion against the culture of death.”
Though most of Rock for Life's musicians play Christian rock, the organization is rapidly becoming more known in mainstream media.
Gary Cherone, lead singer of Van Halen, recently spoke on the steps of the nation's Capitol, reading from a letter that he wrote earlier this year to pro-choice rock star, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. The letter headlined in MTV's end-of-the hour news. Singer Natalie Merchant, formerly of 10,000 Maniacs, while not associated with Rock for Life, has also made her opposition to abortion known in interviews.
Eyebrow Rings and Tattoos
Wearing eyebrow rings and tattoos, many of the members of Rock for Life might meld into the crowd at concerts and festivals where they pass out pro-life literature, and talk to fellow rock ‘n’ roll fans about abortion.
But their T-shirts give them away. The shirts sport the mottoes: “Stop Killing My Generation, “ “Abortion is Mean” and “Abortion is Homicide.” According to Colleen Johncox, leader of Rock for Life's chapter in Rockville, Md., security guards at some concerts insist that the pro-lifers take the T-shirts off, despite the fact that many concert-goers are allowed to wear shirts with obscenities written on them.
Johncox and her chapter do sidewalk counseling, pray at abortion clinics, and pass out literature at school. “People are getting a new perspective on pro-lifers,” she said. “At my school they thought pro-lifers had to be over 40 and have 12 kids already.”
Playing for Diapers
Mike Griffin, leader of the Rock for Life chapter in Dayton, Ohio, and a bass player for the Christian band Intercession, was scheduled to give his first benefit concert Aug. 27. The money from the concert will go to support the pro-life effort. Admission is $5; concert-goers who bring baby food, diapers or other supplies for the local crisis-pregnancy center get in for $3.
Griffin, who graduated from high school this year, said that he sees rock ‘n’ roll as a good way for him to help get the message out.
“A lot of trends that teens follow in our country stem from the music industry,” he observed. “We're not trying to be cool; we're trying to be effective.” In school, Griffin met with a mixed reaction from his peers. “Some kids say they respect you, and sometimes you get mocked going down the hall.”
Rock for Life was founded in 1996 by Bryan Kemper along with Erik Whittington in Portland, Ore. The two worked out of a basement office until 1998, when they joined Why Life?, a pro-life youth group, and formed a youth division of the American Life League in Stafford, Va.
Whittington is a serious musician himself and recently finished the American Rock Tour, a summer-long trip to cities across the country. The tour included four Christian rock bands and enlisted local bands along the way. At each concert, Whittington's wife Tina spoke about abortion and the abortifacient nature of some contraceptives. Along the way a number of women spoke to them and changed their minds about using birth control pills.
Rock for Life often faces an uphill battle for its cause. But backers say individuals are learning the truth from these young people.
“I have a lot of hope for the movement,” said Lisa Whiting. “Our generation is the next generation to take back our society for God and for life.”
Joan DeLuca writes from Washington, D.C.