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‘The Jesus Music’ Explains the History of Christian Music, Church Resistance, and Why DC Talk Split

Skillet’s frontman John Cooper joked that his Christian parents would have rather him to go jail for murder than listen to Christian rock music.

In the 1990’s, Gospel singer Kirk Franklin experienced a similar type of pushback to what Stryper received from Swaggart a decade earlier. Franklin recalled a time when he was at a conference where speaker harshly criticized his hit single Stomp, which had gotten more airtime at nightclubs than on Christian radio.

When remembering the criticism, Franklin said, “God told me if they don’t have scars on their hands from the nails or on their foreheads from the crown of thorns, then you don’t owe them an explanation.”

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During an interview with NPR’s Arun Ruth in 2015, Franklin said, “It’s very hard when you hear churches talk about you. Some people start to question your heart, and when some people start to question your motives, it could be very hard for you because you’re in your early 20’s, and you don’t really understand what all the fuss is about — because you’re doing just what’s real to you.”

Why DC Talk Broke Up

The film also sought to answer a 20-year-old question: Why did the members of DC Talk go their separate ways after becoming the most influential Christian bands of the 1990’s? The hip-hop Christian band is best known for their rock-rap style album Jesus Freak, which released in 1995.

The Jesus Freak album, which sought to reappropriate a slur often used to describe the people of the “Jesus Movement,” reached #16 on the Billboard 200, selling over 2 million units. This success is historically noteworthy, since the album was only ever featured on Christian radio.

Interviews with Toby McKeehan, Michael Tait, and Kevin Max are scattered throughout the film. The Grammy Award winning trio shared that they didn’t get along offstage as well as their onstage personas would seem to indicate.

The three detailed one instance where McKeehan and Max got into a physical altercation on the tour bus, resulting in Max’s absence from the stage during the show.

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Max described McKeehan’s temperament as “driven” and “controlling,” which caused friction. The band’s differences of opinion eventually led to the deterioration of their friendships. “We were three individuals on stage and not a unit,” Max shared.