The American heavy metal band Metallica, the movie Crash and even the paintings of Dutch post-Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh have one thing in common, according to Calgary pastor John Van Sloten.
The 49-year-old pop-culture pastor of the Christian Reformed congregation at New Hope Church in Calgary argues that God is sending messages through all of them.
Van Sloten is no stranger to the public stage and first gained notice several years ago when he was using Lord of the Rings as part of his sermons.
Since then he has branched out touching on such movies as Passion of the Christ, Gran Torino and Spider-Man, as well as bands like Coldplay and Green Day.
"Some kid asked me at church to preach Metallica. I sort of said, "yeah, sure," and told him I'd pray about it, which is how we slough people off, and then the next day someone from our church called me with Metallica tickets," chuckled Van Sloten as he sipped coffee at a Calgary coffee shop.
"So my wife and I went to Metallica and had an experience there, in a very deep communal sense that these people are all sharing a lament and a feeling of injustice about how screwed up the world is," he explained.
"That got my heart into it so I went back and read all the lyrics and as I was reading their lyrics I would have a biblical truth or a scriptural passage come at the same time."
In the song Creeping Death, one of the lyrics reads "die by my hand. I creep across the land killing first born man."
"Metallica wrote that song based on the 10 plagues and the Exodus," said Van Sloten. "Basically you are quoting the same episode. I saw these connections between biblical truth and Metallica as heavy metal truth. When you put them side by side it, convinced me that Metallica had to be preached."
Word that Van Sloten was preaching about Metallica in his sermon quickly made its way to the band, who sent a camera crew to the church to film it.
"It was huge that Metallica would be intrigued and actually want to film the service so that they could see a church preach about them. Not just in the way they thought people would preach about them but seeing them as Old Testament prophets in terms of some of the things they get angry about," he shrugged. He never did hear back from Metallica band members.
"No, but the joke in the office is if (band founder) Lars Ulrich phones, I'm always available."
The Metallica incident was the inspiration for Van Sloten to write The Day Metallica Came to Church: Searching for the Everywhere God in Everything (Square Inch, August 2010). It is not a heavy metal book but has several chapters touching on the paintings of van Gogh, the music of Metallica and some unusual movies such as Crash and even the bleak No Country for Old Men.
"I draw a parallel between that movie and an Old Testament psalm -- Psalm 73 -- and they both kind of follow the same narrative. The idea of the world being so messed up and it not being worth it for good people to do good anymore because they can't change it? That was huge for Sheriff Bell in the movie and that's exactly the same sentiment the psalm had," he said.
-- The Canadian Press