A review of Brian “Head” Welch’s Bestselling Autobiography.
Claims of celebrity conversions to Christianity are quite common, but so often it seems that the conversions are followed by no lifestyle changes, the most common external proof of a true heart change. So often we hear of the conversions and then see no convincing reason that the person has truly come to know the Lord. Brian “Head” Welch is one of the few celebrities I can think of who claimed Christ and immediately followed this profession with profound changes to his life. Welch was a founding member of the “nu metal” band Korn which has sold over 30 million albums and garnered 6 Grammy nominations (with 2 wins). Despite the fame, fortune and glory that were his, after becoming a Christian, Welch almost immediately left the band and the rock and roll lifestyle. We knew a book was going to follow his conversion and sure enough Save Me From Myself is his story told “to encourage you to seek after a deep and intimate relationship with God.”
Save Me From Myself is published by HarperOne, a mainstream publisher, and for good reason–I don’t think most Christian publishers would go near this book! It is a frank and dark look into Welch’s past. He describes in vivid detail the lifestyle he chose to leave behind. He writes about his hopeless addictions to alcohol, methamphetamines and other narcotics. He writes about what it was like be part of the tour bus mayhem in the Ozzfest and The Family Value tours. He discusses the utter depravity that is the lifestyle of this heavy metal rockers. While he stops short of discussing specific sexual encounters, the rest of the lifestyle is laid bare in this book. Though we all know the kind of lives these rockers lead, it is still shocking and sickening to hear the first-hand accounts.
After leaving the band, Welch shared a much-publicized testimony in the church he attended at the time and immediately departed on a tour of the holy land. He was followed by the media, even while being baptized in the Jordan River. While he is now largely outside of the public eye, the world continues to watch and observe, seeing if his claims will be borne out by time. This book offers a fascinating glimpse into his life before, during and after his conversion.
While I do not wish to cast doubt on the sincerity and validity of Welch’s profession of faith and while I do not wish to create a list of all the things he says that I feel are unbiblical, the book did raise several concerns which are significant enough that they impact whether or not I would be comfortable recommending this book to others. I’m sure many people will consider this as a book to hand to a young person and it is worth considering whether it is appropriate to encourage young believers or to evangelize young unbelievers. I’d like to point out a few of the concerns I have with it.
First, and by way of showing how his understanding of theology is still in its infancy, Welch’s discussion of his baptism leads me to believe that he has a lot of trouble understanding what the Bible says about baptism and what it accomplished in his life. His understanding, at least as I could discern it from the book, is more akin to baptismal regeneration than to a biblical view. While we would expect his faith to still be immature since he has been a believer for only a couple of years, some of his statements about baptism and other areas of theology do give cause for concern. He also dedicates an entire chapter to the gift of tongues, speaking of how he was taught to pray in his own prayer language, something he does for up to three hours each day. Summarizing his perspective he writes the following strange view:
Here is my opinion on speaking in tongues: If you want to have the most faith you can have on this earth, learn to pray in tongues. If you find it too weird and you prefer to live a good, quiet Christian life, don’t pray in tongues. It’s just that simple. It all comes down to personal choice, just like everything else in life. God will love you the same whether you pray in tongues or not.
Second, Welch advocates the possibility that a Christian can remove himself from the rest of the visible church. He writes about how his celebrity status made him feel like the mascot at his church and that the Lord led him out of that church and, in fact, out of churches in general, at least for a while. “It was time for me to go into seclusion so I could learn what God wanted me to learn.” There is no indication that he has begun to attend church since then. While I understand that it must be difficult for him to attend a church without becoming the center of too much attention, leaving church altogether is never the sign of a healthy faith. God expects us to learn what He wants us to learn through the church, not independent of it.
Third, as the book reaches its conclusion, I could see that Welch has been led into a mystical kind of faith that depends on dreams, visions and all kinds of forms of revelation outside of Scripture. This is unfortunate, for these forms are clearly leading him away from the Bible as the means God speaks to us authoritatively. At a time when too many who claim Christ are turning away from the Bible, this mystical view has the potential to draw people even further from the One they claim to love.
Fourth, speaking of established religion he enters into a strange, rambling, almost embarrassing rant:
This song [“It’s Time To See Religion Die,” the title track for his forthcoming album] is for all the people that have been hurt by religion. All of the man-made religion crap in this world has to die. Whether it’s Christian man-made religion crap or some other man-made religion crap, it all has to die. It must grieve God’s heart when he sees Christians fighting about whose doctrine is right; he doesn’t see denominations, he sees on big glorious bride. When Christians argue about doctrinal issues, all he sees is carnal people acting like children. All that prideful, controlling religious crap is what drives young people away from churches, and it has to go.
Such a statement is inane, not merely for the gratuitous and near-meaningless use of the word “crap” but for its naivite. This view may represent what some Christians believe, but it is in no way helpful or useful in contributing to a solution to Christian in-fighting. It inadvertently paints Christians and all of Christianity in a negative light.
Finally, readers should be warned that the book contains quite a lot of profanity (many uses of hell, damn, the f-bomb, etc), some of it in quotations from his past, and some of it simply interspersed in the narrative. Welch indicates that God is helping him clean up his language and acknowledges that such language does not bring glory to Him, so it seems strange that he would commit such profanity to the pages of the book. His use of such words is a tacit denial that profanity really is a serious issue.
Again, my purpose here is not to point out all the things that are wrong with this book. Rather, it is to suggest that this may not be the best book to hand to that rebellious rocker nephew in your life this Christmas. Though Welch’s testimony is powerful, he is clearly a young and immature Christian and one who has escaped a particularly depraved lifestyle. God seems to have done a great work in his life, but there is much work to do (as there is in all of us). At this point I don’t think I could recommend Welch as any kind of leader or mentor in the church simply because his enthusiasm seems to far outstrip his knowledge and sanctification. It is for good reason that the Bible sets Christian maturity as a prerequisite to leadership.
All of this is not to say the book is without value. Already I’ve read several reviews of the book and have seen that it has caused readers to look a little deeper at their rock and roll idols to see what kind of lives they are leading. This book will certainly give people reason to pause and consider their heroes. I’m sure it will also give hope to those who are struggling with addiction and allow them to see that they can overcome it by pleading for help from the Lord. And I know it will be widely read by Brian’s fan base, most of whom have probably never heard any story of the saving power of Jesus Christ. And God is certainly capable of working even through imperfect means such as this book.
Individual readers will have to decide if they can deal with reading the story of Welch’s life before his conversion. It is not easy to read about the drugs, alcohol, abuse and sexuality that pervaded his life and the lives of his band mates. Yet this was his life and he chose not to hide it. I was never left with the impression that he was providing details simply to be shocking or because he still reveled in them. He simply related his life as he lived it for so many years.
I rejoice that God was pleased to extend His amazing grace to Brian Welch. I trust that God is continuing to work in His life. It is my hope and prayer, that God will lead godly mentors to him, men that can encourage and support him, and yet challenge him where he needs to be challenged. I hope these men can help him see that he needs to break his dependence on extra-biblical forms of revelation and turn instead to the Word. I hope they can lead him to greater Christian maturity and a more accurate, more biblical understanding of the faith. And despite imperfection I trust that God can and will use Welch’s testimony for His glory.