National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

With Music, a New Generation of Pro-lifers Sends a Message Loud and Clear

BY Jim Cosgrove

April 12-18, 1998 Issue | Posted 4/12/98 at 2:00 AM


You will not silence my message.

You will not mock my God.

You will stop killing my generation.

Such is the strong message of Rock For Life, a Portland, Ore.-based youth organization dedicated to eliminating abortion and supporting life, from conception to natural death.

"I'm the poster child of who they say should have been aborted,” grins big-hearted, tattooed Bryan Kemper, 30, who founded the group in 1994. “I had spinal meningitis; my mother was told I was dead at birth but they revived me and told her that I suffered severe brain damage. I was put in developmentally disabled classes and participated in the Special Olympics. I was abused and molested by my uncle and parents. I lived the ultimate childhood hell, became a drug dealer, and got heavy into crime.’

But Kemper “found Jesus” at age 20 and his life, literally, has never been the same. He says that Christians took him in and prayed for him while he was suffering withdrawals. He fell into a long, deep sleep and woke up, as he says, “loving Jesus.’ It took him about five years to incorporate Christian values entirely into his life. It was an ongoing, intense learning experience, but one that he doesn't regret in the least.

It was his love and musical talent that drew Kemper quickly into Christian music and association with Christian rock musicians. After his life stabilized, a tug at his heart began to grow—an inner desire to somehow serve God in the mission field.

He thought at first it would be through his music, but then he felt that God was asking him to quit music altogether in favor of pro-life work. That was asking a lot since music was such a strong part of Kemper's life. He says his discernment process wasn't easy, but, eventually, he surrendered and said “yes” to that heartfelt inspiration.

"As soon as I quit all the bands I was in, I got the vision for Rock for Life,” Kemper explains. “I truly believe that God wanted me to give something up in order for him to give it back to me in the way he wanted me to use it.’

Rock for Life has indeed reached the hearts of so-called Gen-X teens and college-aged young people across the nation. Last year, Rock For Life organized 15 concerts nationwide. Featuring mainly hard rock and punk music, the concerts are interwoven with speakers who encourage abstinence and pro-life messages. What's more, the message doesn't fall on deaf ears, instead it attracts a variety of youth, including many with spiked or colored hair, nose rings, and tattoos. Some concert-goers are vegetarians, some are passionate about animal rights, some are high schoolers, others are in their 20s or early 30s, but all are unwaveringly serious about ending abortion in this country.

It has been 25 years since the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down. The pro-life message is no longer carried merely by adults fighting the unjust murder of hundreds of thousands of preborn children. Now the crusade has taken root in the hearts of the younger generation, the generation that is beginning to recognize and call attention—loud, vocal attention—to the loss of one-third of their brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues.

"Our generation has been silent for too long,” says Kemper. “We need to become an Esther generation [referring to the Old Testament heroine], to act with her kind of courage and stand up against abortion, immorality, and pornography. One-third of us have been slaughtered and the [Christian faithful are] way too silent.’

Kemper compares what he calls watered-down youth groups and soft-sell Christian messages to the little church that bordered the rail tracks that were used to haul the Jews to prison. The congregation would sing loudly whenever they heard a train approaching, in order to drown out the cries of the Jews. He says that when young people face persecution and a true challenge, they are bold and do more than anyone would imagine. Rock For Life youth are even inspiring their parents to get more involved.

"We need to break the chain—the slippery slope we're on,” says Kemper. “It's not up to the government. It's up to us.’

The Rock for Life group is growing rapidly, with 15 chapters and 150 bands that they work with now. More than 3,500 kids receive their newsletter and they've just launched a Pro-Life Pledge, which involves getting more than 100,000 signed pledges to stand up for life. When the pledges are collected, the group plans to send them to the president of the United States.

In addition to organizing concerts for life across the nation, Rock For Life printed an immediately popular pro-life sticker that reads “abortion is mean” and has plenty of T-shirts and other appealing, youth-oriented pro-life stuff on hand. In addition, they run a live, prime-time cable TV show in Portland that generates lit-up phone lines daily. Kemper says the station keeps telling him it's the hottest show in Portland and they have ideas for expansion.

This isn't a fly-by-night operation. It's an apostolate— and as such, the organizers and associates are united in putting God and prayer first.

"We need to stand up for life,” says singer-musician Wendy Bailey. “Life comes straight from God. Every life that's created has a purpose and taking that life away is like someone else playing God. We need to take a stand because it's murder.’

Bailey “hangs out” with the Rock for Life friends, praying in front of a local abortion clinic on Saturday mornings, when she's in Portland. But whether she's there or not, she prays for the success of their work and she's a regular participant in their concerts.

"Abortion seems almost commonplace now,” laments the 30-year-old songwriter. “Lots of my friends are pro-choice, especially among the musician community.’

Bailey is quick to point out that Rock For Choice is well supported financially and even though most of the music isn't about abortion, many of today's popular bands contribute to the abortion-supporting group—bands such as Foo Fighters, Bush, Pearl Jam, and Sound Garden.

Rock For Life on the other hand, gives young people a genuine choice. They have even set up a detailed and graphically interesting Web site, ( that includes a list of bands to boycott (i.e., those that support abortion) and bands to support because they're pro-life.

Nearly two years ago, Rock For Life issued its own compilation of pro-life bands in a CD called No Apologies and the group is gearing up to release another one later this year. Bailey's song about adoption, Option, is on the first CD.

"The most frequent reason I hear to get an abortion is inconvenience,” Bailey explains. “OK, if it's a hassle for you, give birth to the child and let a couple who really wants a baby bring up this life. Give your child a chance.’

For more information on Rock For Life, check out the group's Web site or call 503-238-0457.

Karen Walker writes from Corona del Mar, California.