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Rap music, social networking give young adults new ways to express their faith

Members of the Christian rap band "Lil Prophet" perform Friday on the Sonshine indoor stage. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- From rap music to social networking, young people at Sonshine are finding new, fresh ways to express their Christian faith.

Friday, a number of hip hop, heavy metal and rap bands performed on the festival's indoor stages. These bands had Sonshiners headbanging, praying with their fists in the air and "making some noise for Jesus."

Tyler Wivstad, 18, from Annandale, rocked out to several of the bands on the Holy Hip Hop Stage yesterday afternoon. He said he loves any type of music he can dance to and that "has a groove to it."

"I don't mind other contemporary Christian music, but a lot of it you can't dance to," Wivstad said. "This way I can dance, and the music still praises God."

Tyler Naylor, from Bemidji, likes bands that he describes as "hardcore Christian" -- bands like Venia, August Burns Red and Omari. For him, the loud guitar solos and heavy bass allow him to connect with God more than he does inside the walls of a church.

"This music speaks to me in a way that no other music has ever spoken to me," Naylor said. "I get to glorify God by dancing."

Kelly Miller, 19, from Clearwater, said that heavy metal and rap can give Christian music an unfair reputation. But it's the message behind the music that counts -- not how it's delivered, she said.

"Christian music is all about the message," Miller said. "If it's Christian music with a Christian message, then it doesn't matter what style it comes in."

And when teens aren't busy listening to their favorite bands at the festival, they're finding unique ways outside of music to express their Christian faith.

One such way is through social networking. Next to Sonshine's Main Stage, a booth encourages people to sign up for, a social networking site with Christian roots. The website aims to be an "alternate for Facebook," said co-owner Mike Morrone, of Minneapolis.

"We want to bring God's light into cyberspace," Morrone said. "We're cyber missionaries who aren't Christian-ese looking."

On ShoutLife, people create a social profile - similar to Facebook or MySpace -- and can blog, create groups, chat with other users and even connect with some of the top Christian bands in the market, like the Devil Wears Prada, the O.C. Supertones and Skillet.

Abraham Romo, from the band Lightswitch, said his band uses ShoutLife as a way of connecting with their fans.

"If you're a band, you're on ShoutLife," Romo said. "We like to do live video chats with our fans. It's like meeting them face-to-face."

For Samm Baldus, 15, the best part of ShoutLife is getting to chat with her favorite bands, like Hawk Nelson. She said she likes to ask band members personal questions, such as what their favorite foods are or how they get ideas for their songs.

Samm's mom also has a ShoutLife profile, and she feels comfortable knowing that Samm is networking on the site.

"I like the fact that (ShoutLife) is clean and safe for kids," said Adrienne Baldus, from Andover.

Morrone said ShoutLife offers teenagers a safe place to voice themselves on the Internet.

"The world gives them a tremendous amount of trash," he said. "We're a resource to connect the body of Christ together."

Whether it's through heavy metal music or a new form of social networking, teens at Sonshine are constantly finding new ways to declare their Christian faith and connect with other young people who share their same system of beliefs.

"It really helps you to know you're not the only Christian in the world," Samm Baldus said.

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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