Punk Band, Cephas, talk to Christian Mums

Cephas are a Christian Punk Band. If you went to Greenbelt last year then you may have heard them. They play in both Christian and secular venues around the UK and are based in Staines. As well as through gigs, they keep in contact with their fans through a thriving message board on their website. Individually they are John, Ray, Andy and Adam. All four are committed Christians who want to tell people about Jesus, through their music. They look scary and sound mean on stage, but in person they are pleasant, articulate and have rather disconcerting Home Counties accents.

<img xsrc="http://www.christianmums.com/images/articles/cephas4.jpg" border="0" alt="Cephas in action" width="250" height="187" align="right" />To quote from their website:
"Over the past few years Cephas have happily offended rather a lot of people. We could be racist, homophobic, tell kids to go home and cut themselves... and people would be OK with that. It wouldn't be as controversial as a bunch of Christians challenging people with their own beliefs. Which is ironically what punk is supposed to be about..."

In this interview Cephas talked to Christian Mums about music, teenagers, the church and their mothers.

To find out more about the band, to read their testimonies or to listen to their music, go to www.cephas.info

 

What is punk? And more specifically what is "Christian Punk"?

 

John

It's an attitude rather than a look, the idea that if you believe something strongly enough you'll do something about it. All the mohicans are great and it's part of the culture that we're with, but punk is more about having something to say.

 

Ray
As a good friend of ours says "there's more to punk than showing your pants"

 

 

John
Punk is about being outside the conformed way of doing things. Not only do you believe strongly in something, but you're going to do it, regardless of socially accepted codes and religious conventions. As a Christian band, we have a gospel that needs to be told regardless of what genre of music people listen to or what clothes they wear - it's completely of God.

 

 

Andy
Punk comes from the 70's idea of anarchy. We agree something is badly wrong with the world, but as Christians we believe that Jesus came. There is a solution that anarchy doesn't really have. That's what Christian punk is.

 

 

 

What would you say to parents who are concerned about the music their kids are listening to?

 

John
There's a reason for everything. If they listen to Marilyn Manson or something similar, it's definitely tailored towards people who are in a particular emotional state. Kids don't listen to it normally because it's music about the devil or swearing or whatever, but there is a reason for it and it's probably unrelated to the actual music. When kids we know are into that sort of music it seems to come from some kind of bottled-up hurt from elsewhere. If it is a really subversive music style, you've got to look at what they get out of it - why the bleakness appeals to them.

 

 

Ray
The main thing I would say is "Don't take it away from them", you'll just create far more of a gap between you, and them and they will just go and listen to it elsewhere. You can't keep them away from it. They've got to explore it for themselves and come to their own decision about it. It must be really tough for parents though.

 

 

Andy
It depends on their age though - you wouldn't want say an 8 year old listening to it. There's an argument for parents or youth workers to make themselves aware of what kids are listening to. Ask yourself how you can push kids to think about what these lyrics have got to say, rather than just absorbing them unquestioningly. Is the world really the way this group is portraying it?

 

 

 

Would you say that Christian teenagers should mainly listen to Christian bands, instead?

 

Ray
Not at all. We've almost gone the opposite way, really.

 

 

John
A lot of the Christian music doesn't actually meet the needs of young people Not that we're saying don't listen to it, it's like the question about them leaving the church and going away, - they're in a secular society, with their friends at school who aren't Christian, they're going to want to go off and find other things. They're not going to look at a bad Christian alternative and say, yeah, I'll settle for that. They'll go off and find their own place. I mean we all listen to mostly secular music. I can't think of many Christian bands that I would listen to. We listen to Delirious, but I think I see Delirious in a different light, as a worship band primarily.

 

 

Ray
They need to go out and experience alternatives to make their mind up on the Christian lifestyle. Even when they do become Christian it doesn't mean they have to cut off all their connections with the world. For us music serves two needs. We enjoy it, but also it keeps us connected to what's going on and what kids are listening to and what issues are floating around. But it's really funny cos hardly any bands have got any statements anymore, they just sing about nothing much

 

 

Adam
I dunno though, you do see it on the message boards on our website. Kids will come on every day with a different screen name, and it's often a line from a song that sums up how fed up they are. You do get an insight into what the songs mean to them. They'll be calling themselves "I hate myself and I want to die," or something. If you chat to them and say "Hi, are you all right," you often find out why and you see a correlation between the music and the emotions that they find it hard to express more directly.

 

 

John
For myself, I remember as a kid asking a youth leader whether it was wrong to listen to music with swearing and stuff in, and the youth leader said, "You'll grow out of it". At the time, I was thinking, "Yeah, whatever. I can't see that happening", but there are some bands that I just find childish and pointless now. I have kind of grown out of it.

 


Read on, for Cephas on church for teenagers, and their mums...

 

Lead Singer, John

 

Can you sum up your attitude to music?

 

John
I guess for me, some good music is like poetry or a play or something, even the really bleak stuff. Shakespeare wrote really morbid stuff, yet you wouldn't stop your kids from reading it. I even I find I can actually worship to some of it, cos you're seeing that, yeah, the world is pretty messed up, and it makes you say, "Thank you, Lord, that I'm not in that situation anymore."

 

 

 

You have contact with a lot of young people. Why is it that so many kids from Christian homes leave the church as they become teenagers?

 

Adam
There's a real problem with Christian parents who obviously want their kids to grow up in the church and have a really strong faith. It's something that they are powerless to effect. Obviously they can bring up their kids to go along to certain things, but with regards to actually making that step for themselves, from our experience that almost becomes harder the more it's thrown at you. At 15 you may know all about the bible and been going to church all your life, but because it has been hand fed to you, you've never actually had that real life challenging situation. For people like Ray and myself, who didn't grow up in Christian homes, we came to a point on our own where we looked at our lives and made that whole commitment for ourselves.

 

 

Ray
There was a young man I met at greenbelt last year who I've kept in contact with. He was brought up in a Christian family. He's so used to having Christianity thrown at him all the time, it got to the point that regardless of what his parents were saying to him, he automatically just switched off. It was just "that again". It was only the other day that I had my first spiritual conversation with him on the Internet. Up until then it was just small talk. I knew it was going to come, but if I'd gone straight in there then he would have run a mile. With teenagers these days, they've got to make their own choices. The more you push them in a certain direction the more they rebel and go the opposite way,

 

 

 

What would you say to parents who are worried about their teenagers?

 

Ray
Don't go on at them. Relax, pray, and trust God, you know.

 

 

Andy
. The parents in my church who have been successful have been the ones who have really let their kids experiment and live for themselves

 

 

Adam
Let them make there own choices. Even if it means that they are going to go off and spread their wings.

 

 

John
For myself - I was taken to church right up till I was about 14. It wasn't a case of "Do you want to go to church?" but, "You're coming to church, like it or not" When I was allowed to decide for myself, I stopped going though I kept going along to the youth groups because I'd got friends there. When I got to 16 I was grown up, I kind of wanted to live a little. I didn't want to be in a church youth group on a Sunday night, when my mates were out, going down the pub. It was only by going off and doing that and acknowledging that life isn't actually all that great outside, that I started to ask, "What is it all about?" and wanted to make that decision for myself. That's how young people come back I think. My parents have always shown strong examples of faith, and through that I could see that there was something here.

 

 

Andy
That's an important point - the lifestyle you see in your parents. If Christianity is pushed on kids, almost like a punishment, then they will just seeing is as restricting force on their lives. Whereas if they see how it makes a difference to how their mum and dad live their lives, even seeing answers to prayer, then that's what they are going to turn to. I've known people who's parents have given them a really strict Christian upbringing, which just terrified them.

 

 

 

If you were setting up a church from scratch that would appeal to teenagers, what would it be like?

 

Ray
If you had a punk church, it would be a nightmare, no-one would come except punks, you'd get no variation, no age difference.

 

 

John
It's not healthy like that. There are old people in my own church who come up and ask "How's the band going?" Obviously they're not into the music, but we're brothers and sisters in Christ and they have wisdom to share. I wouldn't want to do the whole "teenage church" thing.

 

 

Andy
I don't think any of us had that attitude when we were teenagers though. When you're that age you think these older guys have got no idea, they're past it.

 

 

Ray
The problem is the actual Church service, that's the difficult point. "How are we going to meet the needs of everybody?" I think for young people, the key to keeping them in the church is the stuff that goes on outside the service, the support that they get.

 

 

 

What role can church youth work play?

 

John
I used to really respect the youth workers in my church. They really gave a damn about what we were doing. They just wanted to be involved and would ask how things were going. More than anything they would just listen and they were happy to go "yeah, - I understand that". I think that's really important.

 

 

Ray
I had a youth worker who had an "open phone" philosophy. Any time of the day we could call him. He wasn't even employed by the church, he just did it because he felt God wanted him to. I remember, I got in to a state once at college, and I just had nowhere to go, I couldn't go to my parents because they would probably have had a fit. I couldn't go to my friends because I needed some advice. Who do you turn to? That's the problem isn't it. This chap came out of work. He was a top banker, in a really big company. He dropped his work, came to pick me up from college, took me for a burger, and talked me through the problem.

 

 

John
If young people feel important and wanted then it works a whole lot better.

 

 

Andy
It depends on how you do it though. Teenagers often feel patronised by "You can run a youth service",

 

 

John
Most times that happens there's a sense of , "Oh look, the kids are putting on a performance," rather than, "There's real spiritual input here" The kids are leading prayers, and worship or whatever for real.

 

 

Ray
They've actually got something to give, haven't they.

 

 

What do your mums think of you being a Christian Punk band?
Ray

My mum isn't a Christian but her partner is into punk so they find it quite surreal. They're really supportive about the music side of things, but not when we keep going on about God. My dad is a Christian, but he just doesn't get it, the ministry side of things

Adam

My mum and dad aren't Christians either. They're very supportive of me as a person, but they don't really fully understand the band. They're quite excited at the prospect of us being successful and so they see the preaching as being a really bad move.

John

My mum is really encouraging of the whole thing, she is a Christian, and I thing she's quite proud in a motherly sort of way.

Ray

She comes along to gigs with her earplugs in, doesn't she?

John

She hasn't been along to a gig for years actually, which I think she's a bit gutted about. I think she was a bit shocked when I said I was giving up my job and coming to live back at home to do the band full time, but her attitude was "If you feel that's from God then just go for it,".

Andy

My mum is so supportive. She always helps us out financially if we're in need, and she really respects the fact that we're going out and taking the gospel to people. She really, really hates the music though, she can't stand it!

Interview by Claire Cullingworth