Music — Ryan Shaughnessy, The Musical Believer

Ryan Shaughnessy wants to fill the minds of youth with the message of Jesus, but instead of donning a robe and preaching from a pulpit he dons headphones and presses the play button.

The 26-year-old graduate of Oral Roberts University hosts The Revolution, a Christian rock music show airing on 90.7 FM Friday nights from 7 to 10 p.m. The show aims to be a positive alternative for listeners age 15 to 25 by playing music that inspires, encourages and challenges, yet still rocks.

Are you trying to start a revolution?

The Revolution is a rock alternative Christian music show. It started July 11, 2003, on 90.7, which is a small station. The frequency is Manchester but the studio is actually in Milford. 

What was your motivation?

When I was a teenager, I wanted to start a Christian music show that played Christian bands, and there was nothing in the Manchester area. So when I went off to college, this dream was more than a dream—it was a passion I guess—and became a reality. I interned at a station in Oklahoma, a big station owned by Clear Channel. It was a Christian station. We were right next to the big dogs—the Rock 101s out there. And so, just coming back, getting that experience, I presented it to 90.7, which, pretty much, is a Christian station for the family, but they had nothing for teens. So I shared my vision for this show being a message, not me being on it preaching but allowing the show to be the message.

Have you always been religious?

Yes. I can say I’m a believer. People are religious but they have no proof. I know more people that aren’t Christian that act more like a Christian than actual Christians do. But yeah, I have faith in Christ.

Are you of a certain denomination?

I’m non-denominational. It’s Protestant, but it’s non-denominational.

Part of the attraction to rock and roll has always been this element of danger—you know, sex, drugs and rock and roll—it’s something their parents disagree with, so naturally kids love it. How does Christian music convey this positive music and still be cool?

I have always been of the mindset that music is cool. I’ve never had the mindset of rock music being bad. I think what it really comes down to is the heart behind the music. I love rock music. I think something we’re seeing after 9/11 is that people are tired of the same old talk; they want to hear something—they’re searching for something. The music that we play on The Revolution, if you heard it and you didn’t listen to the lyrics, you wouldn’t think anything different. If you put on Rock 101, and then listen to our show, you’re going to hear bands—like a Switchfoot or a POD—which are now getting airplay on those stations, because they are talented. It used to be that if you were a Christian band, you weren’t getting airplay ’cause the quality wasn’t that good. When people hear our show, they’re going to love the beat, because that’s what it’s all about—the show that rocks to a different beat.

Do you only play Christian rock, or do you also play music by bands who happen to be Christian and don’t advertise the fact?

We’re trying to gear towards everyone. But part of my mission is to be an alternative by playing bands that have faith in Christ. But they don’t have to be labeled—like, there are Christian bands that are labeled and there are bands that are Christian—like POD. I just think in society today—I mean, everyone’s talking about the sex, drugs and rock and roll but there’s so much more. People are searching for love, they’re searching for joy, they’re searching for peace, and I think sometimes when people hear Christian music, they think it’s too serious. But that’s not what it’s always about—it’s about having fun, but still being smart.

Do you like Creed?

I’m one of the DJs and I’m the Music Program Director, so I decide what’s going to be played every week. I contemplated at the beginning playing bands like Creed, because Creed is very spiritual, you know, the head singer grew up in a Christian home, his Dad was a pastor—I do a lot of research on the bands to find out what they’re all about—but I made a decision that I’m going to draw a line. Even though a band might talk about God in their songs, if their lifestyle doesn’t match up—if they’re going to strip joints, to bars—I’m not against it; if you want to drink and you’re over 21, fine. But if you’re getting drunk, and the way you’re presenting yourself doesn’t match up to your Christian belief, then I’m not going to play that.

A co-worker recently told me he asked a group of teenagers what they do around here for fun, and they said “Get high.” Do you think there are enough activities for kids in Manchester?

No, I don’t. I help out with what’s called Reckless Youth Ministry, and a friend of mind is the youth leader. His name’s Dave Ayers. They’re pioneering: they average 100, 150 teenagers all over the greater Manchester area. What’s amazing is every Saturday night, these teens come and they have pool tables, and they have big-screen TV and they’ll have music. So they’ll hang out and then they’ll come and they’ll have a service. It’s totally outside the box. It’s not your typical church service. Manchester still has their dance clubs but—[if ] the teens go there, they’re just gonna get in trouble. I don’t think there’s enough [activities] yet that are drug-free, sex-free, where kids can come and have a good time and stay out of trouble. I don’t think it’s here yet.

Do you ever question your faith when you see bands like Slipknot or, worse yet, Limp Bizkit?

Absolutely. You can’t knock the quality of the music—I mean, they’re talented—but when you see teenagers wearing these T-shirts, and they worship it—I mean kids worship people. They worship bands; they idolize them. I look at Slipknot—and I’m not here to bash them—but I question them like, do they understand the impact that they’re really having on these teens...I’m not here to bash them, but I don’t agree with the way they use their music. Because I don’t think they’re bringing anything positive. If you look at these teens—are they happy? They’re not happy; they’re miserable.

Is your faith ever questioned in light of world events—the poverty, the wars, the diseases, the reality TV, the dying?

I mean, part of Christianity is you’re going to go through some tough times. My faith is tested on a daily basis. There are people out there that are jerks. They just hate you. And it’s not always because of your Christianity or your faith. Do I claim to know everything about my faith? No, but I do know that I have a security in Christ, and I can always fall back on the Bible. May Dad’s my inspiration. He used to be in the party scene, and he had an encounter with Christ, basically, and his life totally changed. And I see the fruit—that’s what it really comes down to—I see my Dad live everyday life, and seeing him act out his faith in the way he treats people, and the way he loves people, that’s what Christ is all about.   

Michael Jackson. Is he going to burn or what?

Is he gonna burn [laughs]? Oh boy, you’re talking about hell?

Yes.

I just pray for him. I pray that he’ll really know who Christ is. I don’t know; that’s between God and Michael.

—Story by Bernard Vaughan

 
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