Copyright © 1997 AFLM
July/August, 1997 Volume XII Number 7 - FEATURES
Rock for Life emerges: Youth and vitality inject the pro-life movement
by Paul deParrie
A wall of sound issues from the stage. Guitars and drums send forth an inescapable message.
In front, young people -- tattooed, ear-ringed, nose-ringed, and hair colored with eye-stabbing hues -- gyrate and dance in the mosh pit.
Suddenly, the guitar sounds become discordant, unclear, like the sound of a crashing airplane. The vocalist hugs the microphone and intones the surprising refrain, "Abortion is murder! Abortion is murder!"
The time is February; the year, 1994; the place Alisio Viejo, California; the organizers, Rock for Life. Many hundreds of fans jammed the concert. No cursing, swearing, or drug and sex promoting messages blasted from the stage. Instead, the crowd was exhorted to seek God, to refrain from sex outside of marriage, and to refuse to sacrifice their unborn on the altar of convenience.
Bryan Kemper, founder and director of Rock for Life (RFL), is a heavy but energetic man in his late 20s whose appearance changes with the seasons. Once he sported a 15-inch Mohawk haircut with numerous rings and chains on his face; later mutton-chop sideburns and shaved head; now, a simple goatee. But there's no telling about tomorrow with respect to his appearance. His mission, however, is not changing. He wants to see abortion ended -- and he believes that young people are the key to success.
"It's time for the generation that is most affected by abortion to stand up and say, 'Enough!'" Kemper says.
In 1993, Kemper, a former youth pastor and member of a now-defunct Christian alternative rock band, was utterly frustrated with the pro-abortion position of the secular music industry. Leading musicians and bands, under the banner of Rock for Choice, blatantly raised funds and consciousness for the money-gorged abortion industry. Albums were produced and concerts held. Young people, who had formerly been unconcerned with any political agenda, were being propagandized and recruited into the ranks of the pro-abortion army.
The intent of the pro-abort musicians was overt. Exene Cervenka from the band X, said of Rock for Choice, "They come to hear the music, but they see people like Eddie Vedder and L7, people they really respect and love, speaking out in this issue, it becomes part of the experience, and they accept it with the music."
As a result of this attitude, which Kemper describes as "insulting," he developed a boycott list for Christian, pro-life youth to use to boycott pro-abortion musicians and bands.
But what began as a tit-for-tat concert series and music promotion for the pro-life cause quickly expanded in scope to more aggressive activities. In 1994, Kemper and his Rock for Life (RFL) band joined the secular music tour, Lollapalooza, with a booth for pro-life literature. While the tour's organizers and musicians were secular and predominantly pro-abort, their charter proclaimed untrammeled freedom of speech for those who followed the tour with issue-oriented booths. Kemper was quick to exploit this loophole -- and often with surprisingly positive reception from the alternative music crowds in attendance.
"Once, one of the bands told the crowds that we had no right to our opinion and directed them to attack our table," Kemper recalls, "but the kids just got mad at the band for it and some openly pro-abortion kids donated to us as a result."
RFL distributed many thousands of pieces of literature and spoke to hundreds of world-weary fans about both abortion and their need for Christ as Savior.
"We always include the message of salvation in what we do," Kemper insists. "These are times when the kids are particularly open to hear about Jesus."
A few in the pro-life world took notice of these small beginnings.
But Kemper's activities have not gone entirely unnoticed by the pro-abortion crowd. He has parlayed his thorn-in-the-side position into three interviews with MTV, the premiere rock video cable television channel. Pro-abortion writers in magazine and Internet articles have tarred him as a neo-Nazi -- albeit, one with Star of David tattoos on his arms.
In its beginnings, RFL was relatively small. During this time, Kemper apprenticed as a pro-life leader under Operation Rescue/California's (ORC) Jeff White. He later left RFL in the hands of a co-director, Erik Whittington of Portland, Oregon while he worked with the leadership of Collegians Activated to Liberate Life (CALL) for nearly a year. There he organized events which gained the national spotlight during President Clinton's second inaugural and the 1997 March for Life.
Now, ready to strike up the RFL colors as a national movement, Kemper has joined his co-director in Portland.
But RFL is about more than music. Kemper and Wittington, keep the group's volunteers busy with several activities a week. RFL appears outside at least one Portland-area high school a week in conjunction with Operation Rescue's National "Back to School" project (Life Advocate, May/June 1997). These events were begun about a month before Kemper's move to the Rose City. For their trouble, students at one school assaulted RFL activists and threw oranges at them. At other schools, students are considerably more calm. But even when there is turmoil, the majorty of the "confrontations" are earnest discussions with students who have real questions and who are looking for real answers.
RFL is also organizing a presence outside the area's busiest abortuary, Lovejoy Surgicenter in hopes of having someone there every minute the place is open. Currently, RFL volunteers have covered two days at the clinic.
Plans are in the offing to confront Portland's infamous porn and nude-dancing establishments. Portland is so notorious for their porn industry that bus tours originating in Seattle, Washington, where there are restrtictions on such businesses, regularly bring patrons to the city to take advantage of the legal perversion.
In all, Portland, Oregon is a hostile environment to the RFL message. Oregon has the lowest percentage of church attendance in the nation as well as the highest percentage of atheists. A "progressive" area, the city sports a politically powerful homosexual movement (Portland has the second highest per capita homosexual population) and a solid pro-abortion government nomenclatura. A recent attempt to tighten controls on child pornography through the initiative process failed after the porn industry dumped millions into a flag-wrapped campaign against the petition.
RFL has also become highly visible in confronting the Church -- at events such as Promise Keepers, March for Jesus, and National Day of Prayer -- on the use of chemical abortion.
"I can no longer stand by quietly while my Christian brothers and sisters are killing their own children through chemical and IUD abortions," Kemper says. "Most Christians probably don't realize that these forms of birth control are killing their children."
Kemper opposes all birth control but has chosen to focus on abortifacient methods.
Lest anyone think that RFL's influence will
be local only, the continued involvement in the Christian concert circuit will
continue. Local chapters of RFL already exist in Yakima, Washington, , Illinois/Wisconsin,
and Alabama, with possible new chapters being considered in St. Louis and other
locations. A website, www.rockforlife.org,
and an e-mail newsletter are up and running to keep members informed. Sales of
their pro-life CD disk, No Apologies, which is available for a donation of $10,
help spread their message. Other items, such as stickers and T-shirts, are also
RFL, aside from conducting ten of its own pro-life benefit concerts in such far-flung locations as Arizona, California Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C., has also continued its involvement in another series of concerts, TOM Fest and TIM Fest, which was the source of the No Apologies live music album.
Kemper intends to keep local activists busy. There are three or four events a week where RFL is present and a phone tree and e-mail list keeps activists informed.
Besides ORC and CALL, Kemper works with other large, pro-life organizations as well. In the past, he has joined the activities of Flip Benham of Operation Rescue/National (ORN) and is currently establishing close ties to American Life League (ALL).
"We exist to give youth a voice in the pro-life movement and to have them be a voice for the unborn," says Kemper. "Our motto is 'Who will cry for the children? Who will be their voice?'"
Rock for Life
PO Box 82714
Portland, OR 97282