Black Sabbath. I know, right? What are they doing here in The Jukebox Hero Hymnal? After all, aren’t they supposed to be the granddaddy of all satanic rock and roll bands?
Well, you can’t always judge a band by their album covers, can you? While Black Sabbath’s questionable imagery sent more than a few parents into conniptions, the truth is a lot of the band’s work is surprisingly pro-Christian. And I mean pro-Christian in a way that makes a lot of today’s touchy-feely “Jesus is my buddy” type of Christians look positively wimpy in comparison.
Preeminent rock critic and virulent anti-Christian Lester Bangs recognized this immediately in his scathing article on the band for Creem Magazine in 1972. “You can laugh,” Bangs wrote, “but Black Sabbath are something of the John Milton of rock ’n’ roll… The Christianity running consistently through their songs is cruel and bloodthirsty in the way that only Christianity can be (which is to say, lopping off heads with feverish pleasure, clad all the while in the raiment of righteousness and moral rectitude).”
What the hyperbolic Bangs was objecting to was what many non-believers like him still do to this very day. Black Sabbath, especially in songs like “After Forever,” had the tenacity to suggest some people were actually going to go to hell for turning their backs on God.
Have you ever thought about your soul
Can it be saved?
Or perhaps you think that when you're dead
You just stay in your grave
Is God just a thought within your head
Or is He a part of you?
Is Christ just a name that you read in a book
When you were in school?
When you think about death
Do you lose your breath or do you keep your cool?
Would you like to see the pope
On the end of a rope, do you think he's a fool?
Well, I have seen the truth, yes, I've seen the light
And I've changed my ways
And I'll be prepared when you're lonely and scared
At the end of our days
Yes, right in the middle of a Black Sabbath song, the band even took up for the Pope. No wonder a secularist like Bangs recoiled at such lyrics. Just try and find a modern worship song with those kind of balls. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
“It’s a satanic world.” primary lyricist and bass player Geezer Butler is quoted as having told Rolling Stone in a 1971 interview. “The devil’s more in control now. People can’t come together, there’s no equality. It’s a sin to put yourself above other people, and yet that’s what people do.” And when people live so selfishly, well, the lyrics of “After Forever” tell us there’s a consequence. You know, I think my buddy Jesus had something to say about that as well, didn’t he?
“And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:40-46, NABRE)