Below is an email report I wrote back in 1999 that speaks of the power of loving our enemies. This report travelled around the world. I received replies from most US states and dozens of countries around the world.
I ‘m posting this now because a current “love” project is underway by members of our youth group (which I will write about soon) but I first wanted to remind us of this significant incident. Mark
Warning: it’s lengthy, but worth reading when you have the time.
Dear Fellow Followers of Christ,
This is the official praise report regarding the Marilyn Manson concert on April 28th, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa–the final concert of his current tour. Something so amazing happened here, that I’m compelled to share it with you.
The recent Littleton tragedy [8 days earlier] has rightfully caused grief, fear, and anxiety in all of our hearts. We mourn the losses and share the anger. But we must be careful not to let anger consume us or control us. The fact that Manson’s music was associated with the killers made the climate here ripe for a potentially anger-driven reaction. And in fact, a local protest movement had begun to picket, protest, and petition in opposition to the concert. The police, the media, and the community began to prepare for angry protests and ugly brawling between Christians and Marilyn Manson supporters. The outlook was grim. But unbeknownst to most of us, a small band of faithful believers had been fervently praying for four weeks that God would be glorified through the Manson concert. God was about to answer their prayers.
Suddenly, something totally unexpected happened. Emerging thru the vehicle of e-mail, another movement suddenly sprang to life–that the only way to truly change our moral climate is to soften hard hearts. (The heart of Manson and his fans have been hardened by their perception that Christians are mean-spirited, hateful, and judgmental.) Thus, the idea was birthed to unravel that stereotype by encouraging Christians to show the pure LOVE of Christ to these fans in tangible ways. This new approach apparently struck a chord with many, because the e-mails got forwarded to hundreds of people, all over the city and across the country. Scores of people from nearby and as far away as Washington and Texas began e-mailing back, affirming this loving approach and pledging their prayer support. Creative ideas began formulating in churches and youth groups across the city. And everyone wondered what was about to happen.
Concert day finally arrived, and tension filled the community. Some fans had actually expressed being fearful of going downtown because of what the Christian freaks might do to hurt or harass them. The media geared up for an ugly battle between Manson fans and the Christian opposition. Instead, here’s what they saw–as reported by the Cedar Rapids Gazette the next day: “While the Five Seasons Center hired extra security outside in anticipation of demonstrators, NO ONE held signs opposing the concert.” Do you see how unbelievable this is, in light of Littleton’s shooting, just a week before! Compare that to the media’s account of the previous night’s concert, where “hundreds of demonstrators rallied outside a Manson concert…protesting possible links between his dark music and the Colorado school killings.” (AP News)
What they observed here was an amazing testament to the power of and love of Christ! Scores of Christians from churches all over Linn County and as far away as Des Moines (2 hours away) converged on the sidewalks outside the Five Seasons Center, to do two POSITIVE things: pray, and to show unmistakable love. It was a sight to behold. As for PRAYER, here’s what was reported to me:
~ Over 40 people met at the Father’s House, a downtown church for intercessory prayer and worship – people from over a dozen churches were represented.
~ Groups conducted “prayer walks” around the Five Seasons Center.
~ People prayed in huddles on the sidewalk.
~ Churches around the city held special prayer meetings.
~ Youth groups met for special times of prayer.
~ People all over the US were praying. I heard personally from people in Washington, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Michigan, and across Iowa.
~ One young man, and former Manson fan, felt so convicted about Cedar Rapids’ need for spiritual protection, that he flew from California just to be present to pray.
~ As many as 20 pastors and Christian leaders actually went into the concert arena to pray specifically during the concert for God’s protection from destructive messages and for the salvation of those trapped by the darkness. They mostly prayed in pairs around the stadium–and at one point many of them came together in a visible display of united, concerted prayer.
As for showing LOVE to the fans, here’s what was reported to me:
~ One church purchased 100 pizzas, which were freely given away to the fans in line and bystanders.
~ A high school freshman, Jackie, called businesses for donations and got 10 more pizzas from Pizza Hut.
~ Over 50 cases (that’s 1,200 cans) of pop were purchased or donated and distributed.
~ Cookies were given out.
~ A case of candy bars was distributed.
~ Someone made homemade turkey and cheese sandwiches and gave away.
~ Boxed fruit drinks were purchased and handed out.
~ The food was given out with no strings attached in the name of Christ. The media, the fans, the Five Seasons staff, the police and even Manson’s crew took notice. One pastor, Glenn Kazan, was interviewed by the Gazette and said, “We want the kids here to know not all Christians are judgmental or hate-mongers. Our desire is…to reach out to them with the love of Christ and to let them know we care about them.”
~ One pastor asked Manson fans who passed by how he could pray for them–about 20 shared specific things and were prayed for on the spot.
~ One girl engaged fans in positive conversation. “Hey I like that eyeshadow–where did you get it?” Or–to a guy–“Where did you get that lovely dress?” As she loved them unconditionally, their demeanor changed and you could see their hearts softening.
~ After the concert, about $200 in cash (collected mostly by the NCBC youth group) was given out to pay for parking in the parking ramp. The Christians involved said, “We’re Christians and we’d like to show you God’s love by paying for your parking tonight.” With one exception, every carload gratefully accepted it. What a final impression of the night! The immediate results of this love in action were phenomenal:
~ People continually asked, “Why are you doing this?” and then listened to the answer.
~ Faces of fans looked surprised as they approached the area, expecting conflict, but finding love instead.
~ Motorists passing by did “double takes”, seeing tables heaped with food, instead of a picket line.
~ Many showed a “this does not compute” look as they scratched their heads in bewilderment.
~ The police had nothing but pleasant encounters with the Christians.
~ Two live radio reporters (one inside the stadium and one outside) discussed–on the air–how preferable it was to be outside with the generous Christians.
~ The parents who were dropping off their kids at the concert saw love immediately being shown their children.
~ The testimony was powerful of those unashamedly praying in public FOR the fans, not against them.
~ Many people engaged fans in positive, non-judgmental conversations.
~ A fan’s mother who had expressed being afraid of being hurt or harassed by the “Christian freaks”, left acknowledging that Christians can be friendly and kind.
~ At least 3 people prayed to trust Christ thru the loving care of the Christians.
~ At least one other fan that we know of chose not to go to the concert, ending up in church the following Sunday.
~ In school the next day, many reported being impressed with the kind treatment by the Christians.
~ After getting the pizza, one kid commented, “Wow, Marilyn Manson never gave me anything!” ~ A Marilyn Manson web-site, reporting on our Christian response admitted, “so maybe those Christians aren’t half bad!” http://www.marilyn-manson.net/news-april-1999.htm) [link has since been disabled] And this was just the tip of the iceberg.
~ One first-hand account must be shared: “Across the sidewalk from us was a brother that brought his little girls, ages probably four and three. Down the sidewalk came a really large fellow, dressed in black; his face painted white, cheek with 666, “I (heart) Satan” on his torn-t-shirt and other assorted accessories. As he came down the sidewalk, his gaze fell upon this little girl on her knees in the wagon, extending a can of pop as high as she could for this fellow to reach it. She looked at him with a complete lack of judgementalism. She just wanted to give him love through a can of pop. He stopped. He looked at her smiling father. He looked at her sister. He took the can and said, “thank you very much.” His face changed as this little girl’s acceptance affected him. He walked on toward the concert in a slower, reflective manner. Praise the Lord that He would use children to teach us how to evangelize.”
Not only did this movement of love impact fans, it also had a significant impact on the individual Christians who were involved. At the end of this letter, I will reprint some encouraging excerpts from the over 100 e-mails I received. As for the concert itself, we saw God work a miracle there as well. After only an hour, Manson abruptly ended the concert early. During his nazi/antichrist” stage set, he suddenly flew into a rage: he threw his microphone to the ground, knocked the drum set off its platform, and stormed off the stage, never to return! A Christian policeman reported that he then stormed back to his dressing room and proceeded to destroy it. Everyone in the audience looked around, puzzled by what they had just witnessed. The crowd shouted, “Manson, Manson, Manson,” but he never returned. And he never ripped up a Bible, which he reportedly does at his concerts.
What was the cause of his temper tantrum? News reports say he went into an absolute rage when he saw a large “smiley face” on a stage prop that had been placed by one of his own crew members, presumably as a joke on the last concert of the tour.
Some fans then became so angry with him cutting short the concert that a riot erupted. They formed a mob outside and tried to reach Manson, shouting obscenities. In the end the police had to use riot control tactics to bring order and 23 of them were arrested over this incident. As for other fans, those that I heard about felt the concert was a disappointment. God can use the “simple” things of the world (a smiley face) to humble the “wise”. It’s fitting that Manson was brought to a boil not by the expected militant Christian protesters, but by an innocent smiley face–symbolizing love, friendship, and acts of kindness. God does have a sense of humor. As one person e-mailed, Only God could end a Marilyn Manson concert with a smile!
So to summarize the totality of Marilyn Manson’s visit to Cedar Rapids, we might say this: many fans came to the concert convinced that Christians were irritating and that Marilyn Manson was impressive and many left the concert feeling that Marilyn Manson was irritating and that Christians were impressive! Think of how much closer to the kingdom thousands of kids might be as a result of this unforeseen outreach event. We love Marilyn Manson and pray that he will find true peace for his troubled soul, which only comes thru knowing Jesus Christ. Like so many of his fans, he is searching frantically for fulfillment–but unfortunately in all the wrong places. We trust that the “free gifts” of love that we gave thru words and actions may have brought Marilyn and his fans at least a step closer to finding the one “Free Gift” that Jesus has to offer.
Marilyn Manson’s visit here brought the body of Christ together in unprecedented ways and gave us visible proof of the power of love and prayer. May other communities learn from our experience. If you have any questions or comments, or if you have additional information to report about the concert, feel free to contact me. I served as kind of a communication link as these ideas were formulating across the city.
Grateful to Christ,
Mark Forstrom, local youth pastor
report initially sent on May 12, 1999
Here are those encouraging quotes I received in the 100+ e-mails that were sent to me:
“Perhaps God brought Marilyn Manson to our community to concentrate a bunch of dissolutioned kids in one place so we could reach them powerfully with the love of Christ.”
“I have never been prouder to be in the body of Christ than I was this last week…. I teach psychology at [a local] college and the students who went to the concert reported they were disgusted by Marilyn Manson – Praise God!”
“It’s exciting to see what prayer, fasting, and agape’ love can do. We should all try it more often.”
“There are so many people praying for this city. I have prayed that this concert will be a
turning point. The beginning of true revival throughout the city. There are going to be so many prodigals at that concert. I pray that God will open their eyes. That their return and the interest of others will be the start of great movements of God’s Spirit to change this city. Really I believe that the outcome of this will be no small thing.”
” I see things from a totally different view now, and agree wholeheartedly that showing love, not anger and hatred, is the absolute best, and only, thing we, as Christians, should do.”
“Jesus affected people by His love, and so should we. I surely have been convicted about my attitude towards non Christians.”
“…to ACT to the positive and not to the negative….why did that never enter my mind? It is exactly what Jesus would do….He would get alone and pray and then he would love …in word and deed. He would render good for evil, yes. He would bless those who persecuted him, yes. He would openly love them right into the truth.”
” If we all leave our natural tendencies and let the Spirit conform us to the ways of the Beattitudes, which is the likeness of Christ, we would need take no other action. The world would be crowding to get into our churches.”
“What a way to show the world (and concertgoers) the love of Jesus. Not by judging, but by setting a Christian example. WWJD. Jesus ate with the sinners. He showed them love to show them that there is another way. There is a God who will love unconditionally and forgives us our transgressions. Given that love, lives are changed. I know. Mine was changed about 14 months ago.”
“I went around the 5 Seasons Center (with my van windows partially down) several…times playing “Awesome God” several more times!!! He truly is an AWESOME GOD!!!”
“One of the biggest things I saw happening was the hearts of people changing from judgment to love and to actually see with the eyes of Jesus into hearts of those He so desperately wants to reach. On a personal note I want to be more proactive than reactive when something like this comes along. The prayers of love that bathed the event, the concert goers and the performers was awesome. There was a spirit of brokenness and repentance for our opinionated ways in the past.”
“NO doubt about it – prayer works and I wonder why we don’t do more of it. The standard of accountability has been raised for those of us who profess to follow the Lord and we need to press on to the mark.”
“Unity and love in the brotherhood of Christ can destroy the work of the enemy and glorify Christ through His power!”
“The very day after the concert, I heard nothing but good things about the ‘Christians who were being nice and witnessing God’s love.’ ”
“Marilyn Manson is energized by Christians who act out in rage. If every community would
pray FOR him and treat his fans with unmistakable, irresistible love, there would remain nothing for them to stand in opposition to. But more importantly, if we, as the church will clearly communicate the love of Christ wherever we are, we’ll find that we’re transforming lives, families, communities, and our nation.”