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Family Room

A Chat With Pillar’s Rob Beckley

How has listening to music changed since you were in high school?
With sites like MySpace, you can click through 500 bands and never learn anything about them. You hear a clip, think "That’s cool" and that’s it. It’s a quick fix. Back in the day, people sat around for days looking at the album art and reading lyrics. Now they just download the flavor of the week.

Your band is a healthier alternative to hard, mainstream rock. Still, some parents aren’t completely sold on edgier styles of music.
My opinion is that there’s no such thing as a "Christian" style of music. When you think back to the psalms—even before Jesus’ time—there were very few instruments. And the instruments they had, Psalm 150 says to play them loud. Bang on the drums. Clang and clash the cymbals. … Man has created the notion that Christian music can be defined by a sound. We think of southern gospel and we think of Bill Gaither. We think of contemporary music and we think of Mercy Me or Michael W. Smith. But when you think of rock music, you start thinking, "Oh, you can’t have Christian rock."

Do you hear that much?
A little bit, but not quite as much as we used to. It’s really weird. It’s hard to try and convince somebody to let go of those ideas. I think, ultimately, instead of trying to change people’s minds, I just say, "You know what, if it’s not for you, it’s not for you." Hey, if you are a Michael W. Smith kind of guy, I am probably not going to convince you that our music is OK. The heart of the artist is what makes the music pure, not the sound.

When you guys are writing songs, how do you make sure the person buying a Pillar CD knows your heart? Is it through the lyrics?
I don’t feel the need to do that, honestly. My heart is between me and God. I don’t write to try and prove myself to anyone. … You learn how to project your faith and build relationships with people so that they can see your faith in action. Building relationships, and maturing, growing and loving people are the things that really draw a non-believer to you.

Do you have a significant following among unchurched kids who just love the music?
We get a lot of people who are pretty blatant about not being Christians. On message boards and after concerts, we’ve had people say, "Dude, I’m not really down with the whole God thing, but you guys are awesome." That creates a platform for us to talk to them in ways the average Christian couldn’t.

Could you share an example?
This kid was talking to us after a show, having us sign stuff. I can’t remember exactly what his shirt said, but it was a Playboy bunny or something like that. I said, "How old are you, man?" And he was like, "I’m 14." So I asked him why he was wearing that shirt, and it gave me a chance to speak into his life. When you see these things, it breaks your heart. I think back to when I was 14 and struggling with all that stuff. Nowadays, to be cool you gotta have a girlfriend and be sleeping with her by 8th grade. Kids have a lot of pressure—same struggles but at a younger age. And now they can get to it in the click of a mouse instead of having to work real hard to follow up on the temptation.

We often hear from teens who gravitate toward music about pain. Why do you think that is?
When they hear songs about pain, it makes them feel like there are other people going through this too. There’s a comfort there, but at the same time it can be an excuse not to look for a way out. Kids just sit there and dwell in their pity. It’s like, "I’m just going to be miserable. This is my outlet." The problem is they’ve put their identity in something other than Christ. So many things can make people hurt, and kids find pleasure in that pain. I tell them, "If you’re cutting yourself or something, you need to be transparent. Open your heart to what Jesus wants to do in your life, and let Him wrap His arms around you. Get your relationship with God where it needs to be." If they’re doing things to separate themselves from God, every time they do it they just drive the wedge in further.

Is there one struggle you hear about often?
Kids feel like they need to live up to somebody else’s expectations of them instead of trying to live up to God’s. They feel like they can’t be real with people. That makes it hard to have a vulnerable side and show brokenness. Like I said, we all need to be able to be ourselves and be transparent. Then we can experience growth and healing. Playing all these image games in this MySpace world only makes it harder to do that. They need to get the black tar of lies and deception out of their lungs so they can breathe in the refreshing air of Christ.

Published August 2007