Brian “Head” Welch made headlines in 2005 when he walked away from the successful band Korn. He made even more headlines because of the reason for leaving the band: he found religion, became a Christian, and let Jesus Christ into his life. Quite the turnaround for a hard-living drug addicted rock star. His brief autobiography attempts to explain his life’s journey to religion and offer it as proof that anyone can be saved. And therein lies the problem.
Washed by Blood is split into two parts. The first part, “Life Without God”, provides a whirlwind summary of Head’s life before becoming a Christian. He goes over his childhood, his relationship with his wife Rebekah, the birth of his daughter Jennea, the formation of Korn, and his life in the successful band. The second part, “God Finds Me”, is pretty much an endless stream of how he lives for God and leaves everything in his life up to God.
There are likely two audiences interested in this book. The first are Korn fans interested in the origins of the band and an inside look at its workings. This was the portion I was most interested in reading. “Life Without God” provides some details on the development of Korn, including most saliently the origins of each member’s nickname (or lack thereof). The reader gets to experience all the highs and lows of the early incarnations as they searched for a sound and a singer. But most of the focus is on Head’s frustration, anger, depression, and addictions, along with his toxic relationship with Rebekah. All of that is provided as fuel for his conversion to Christianity.
“I fell deeply and passionately in love with God, and I made up my mind that he was in control of every part of me from that moment on.”
Which leads to the second part of the book, which services the other audience for this book: devout Christians. “God Finds Me” details Head’s rapid acceptance of Christ despite several relapses. I was actually interested in this part but I wound up being underwhelmed. Head talks a lot about giving up his life to God. He completely throws himself into the Christian life. He points out all the signs God sent him to guide him to salvation, including many past friends who also converted. As a skeptic I have to wonder how much of that is selection bias. Several times I’ve been taken by a specific car. I then start noticing that exact car everywhere I go. Is that God telling me I should get that car? Or is it simply me noticing cars that were there all along? But that’s a huge part of faith, particularly faith in an entity such as God. The faithful naturally wind up viewing everything through the prism of their faith, even retroactively. But giving up control of your life to God feels like a cheap way to live life, and even offers a way for people to not take full responsibility for their life since any pitfalls get chalked up as tests from God.
Head attempts to not be hypocritical but does strongly urge people to his specific practices. His friends that originally guided him to Christianity don’t push him to church, and in fact even tell him God doesn’t live in church. Still Head winds up going to church as much as possible, although he does become overwhelmed by the larger congregations. Once he discovers talking in tongues he believes it whole-heartedly. And while he initially states talking in tongues is not for everyone, he continuously reiterates how much better it is than normal praying. The tongues practice also brings up the stark differences between the Christian denominations when his original pastor won’t keep studying the Bible with Head once he learns Head is also studying with another church. This lack of acceptance of exploring multiple viewpoints is one aspect of organized religion that irks me. It’s a shame that someone as fervent as Head was shunned for looking at things in different ways.
Each chapter includes discussion questions at the end. Many of them feel hokey, like something you would hear characters discussing in a Hallmark movie or I guess a children’s Sunday school. They often ask the reader to find Bible passages, either simply as an exercise or to back up claims. Relying so heavily on the Bible is another facet of Christianity I have some issues with, so those questions tended to raise my hackles. Most of the queries are clearly targeted at youth Christians. Pretty much all of them assume the reader is a Christian who has already been saved. That is an odd tack to take considering the epilogue specifically beseeches the reader to say a prayer to let Christ into his or her life. The book’s religious focus gets confused between “preaching to the choir” and attempting to convert new believers.
Head has another book entitled With My Eyes Wide Open: Miracles and Mistakes on My Way Back to KoRn . I’m not quite interested enough to read it but I am curious how Head goes from such a devout lifestyle to return to life with the band.
Washed by Blood is a quick read that won’t quite satisfy Korn fans. Christians will likely appreciate the journey to salvation, but I wonder how many will even bother to read the book based on the image of Korn.