Professor publishes book about Christianity and heavy metal

Dr. Jason Lief , associate professor of religion at Northwestern College, has recently published a book, “Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.” It is available on and in Northwestern’s DeWitt Library as well as on the publisher’s website,

A fan of heavy metal music since his teen years, Lief writes in the book about the symbolic connections between Christianity and music by bands like Metallica and System of a Down. Referencing the scholarship of Western theologians, philosophers and sociologists, he explores whether the connections are an expression of opposition to religion or something different: an impure sacred expression (but sacred, nonetheless) in a secular cultural context.

Lief describes his first experience with heavy metal music as mesmerizing and says the book is the “culmination of a lifetime of wrestling … Growing up in a religious environment, I felt the tension between what members of my Christian religious tradition said about heavy metal and what I felt when I listened to it—pure joy.” As a religious scholar focused on youth ministry, Lief devotes much of his research and scholarship to exploring and resolving the tensions between religion and pop culture.

Lief is also co-author with Andrew Root of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Learning to Love Young People by Letting Them Go.” He is a 1996 graduate of Northwestern College and earned a master’s degree at Wheaton College and a doctorate at Luther Seminary. Lief teaches youth ministry courses at Northwestern and recently led a study abroad trip to Italy where students visited the Vatican and heard from Pope Francis.