Stryper's Michael Sweet Warns against Judgmentalism in the Church: 'Don’t Turn People away from God'

  • Michael Foust Crosswalk Headlines Contributor
  • Updated May 22, 2024
Stryper's Michael Sweet Warns against Judgmentalism in the Church: 'Don’t Turn People away from God'

The frontman for the legendary rock band Stryper says Christians almost alienated him and his bandmates from the church some three decades ago and that the church still hasn't overcome its judgmental tendencies. Lead singer Michael Sweet and his brother Robert became Christians by watching TV preacher Jimmy Swaggart and then, years later, gained worldwide fame for their metal songs, their Bible-infused lyrics, their big hair and their yellow and black attire. They tossed Bibles to their fans. They attracted teens with edgy lyrics (To Hell with the Devil). They received a Grammy nomination. 

They also received pushback from Swaggart and other Christian leaders who said Christian rock was “of the devil.” That rejection led the band members to question their faith and their beliefs.

Today, Stryper is still rocking and it’s still preaching the gospel. (The band recently released its first-ever acoustic album, the 11-track To Hell with the Amps, which has stripped-down versions of its hits as well as a version of Amazing Grace. A tour is set for May 30th. This year, Stryper was featured in the new film Unsung Hero.

Stryper also urges Christians to incorporate more grace into their daily lives. Sweet says the church could learn several lessons from Styper’s history.

“People use the Scriptures about judging and how we're called to judge people,” Sweet told Crosswalk Headlines. “And I think they misinterpret that and twist it into their own scripture. And we've got to be really cautious of that. What that means is we're supposed to hold each other accountable, but you're not supposed to go out with a hateful heart and in a godless spirit and judge people because all that does is turn people away from God.”

He added, “You have to be very careful about … turning other people away from God. I feel that the church does that far too often.”

Sweet says he sees this judgmental spirit often on social media, such as when he complimented the voice of Judas Priest singer Rob Halford, who is gay. Sweet’s post was followed by comments from fans criticizing Halford.

“He's gonna burn in hell -- you know, all the comments on my page,” Sweet said, summarizing the posts. “You know, Rob's probably reading all these comments, right? It kind of blows my mind.”

The comments are a product of society’s self-centered mindset, he said.

“We live in a ‘me’ world. It's all about self-gratification. Everyone's giving their opinion. … We all fall prey to that. But it doesn't make it right. And we need to all be very careful of that.”

Sweet acknowledges that Stryper has never fit in a box. Their music was too hard for Christian radio and too Christian for mainstream stations. The upcoming acoustic tour, he said, will provide fans an intimate experience. 

“We have unbelievers come to the show, we have believers come to the show. ... Our goal was always to go into the mainstream world and perform. You know -- go into the bars, go into the clubs, arenas with bands like White Lion. We were never a church band. That just wasn't our calling.”

Although Stryper is known for its metal sound, all of its songs are first performed on an acoustic guitar, he added. 

“The thing about Stryper that's different from other metal bands or hard rock bands is we've got the two guitars, and we've also got three voices, three vocals, so we could do the harmony things, and we can pull that off acoustically,” he said. “Some of the other bands can't really pull it off because maybe they're having other people sing on the album. And then live, there's only one singer or two singers, but not three. So, it makes it easier for Stryper to go out and pull it off. … [On the tour,] I'm going to be telling some stories about the songs and the process and the history of the band. It's going to be really cool. And you're going to learn some new things that you didn't know.”

Meanwhile, Stryper will release another album later this year and celebrate its 40th anniversary. Sweet has been able to maintain his voice, as singers from other bands from the era have not. Asked for his secret, Sweet said while laughing, “Some people say they signed a deal with the devil. I signed a deal with God.”

“My voice isn't the same as it used to be. … I can't hit all the notes I used to be able to hit. [But] I'm very thankful that I can still sing and go out and pull off what I need to pull off, mostly. And I just give credit to God for that. God still wants me to be here and wants me to do this. And He sustains me and keeps me going.”

Photo credit: ©Flatiron Recordings

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.