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Meat Loaf at GalaxyCon in Raleigh in 2019.
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Meat Loaf’s surprising connections to Churches of Christ

Before his fame, the rock singer and actor grew up in a Dallas church and attended a Christian university.

Before Meat Loaf’s debut album sold 44 million copies and became one of the best-selling albums of all time, he was an active member of the Walnut Hill Church of Christ in Dallas and later attended Lubbock Christian University, which is associated with Churches of Christ.

Marvin Lee Aday, known to most of the world as Meat Loaf, died Jan. 20 at age 74. Known for his arena rock anthems, including 1993’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That),” he also appeared in more than 50 movies and TV shows. But many people are unaware of his faith and spiritual upbringing.

Meat Loaf’s connections to Churches of Christ began before he was born. His grandfather, David Lee Hukel, was a minister who preached in multiple towns in Texas. Later, his mother, Wilma, would make sure he was raised in a Christian environment.

J. Terry Johnson

J. Terry Johnson

In 1964, J. Terry Johnson, future president of Oklahoma Christian University, became the first youth minister at the Walnut Hill church. He remembered Marvin, known to everyone at the time as M.L., attending Bible class and worship every Sunday. He played on the football team at Thomas Jefferson High School with several others from the youth group. Terry later assisted minister Hardeman Nichols in officiating the funeral for M.L.’s mother.

After attending then-Lubbock Christian College in the fall of 1965, Meat Loaf’s connections to Churches of Christ are not as clear. His mother passed away in 1967. He began acting and released his debut album in 1977.

David Heflin, minister for the Woodward Church of Christ in Oklahoma, recalled an encounter with Meat Loaf in 1994. The rock star came to Valley View, Texas, a small town near the Oklahoma border, to film the video for the song “Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are.” One scene for the video was filmed at a house that belonged to an elder of the Valley View Church of Christ. Heflin believes this was a coincidence, and there was no relationship between Aday and the elder.

The origins of Meat Loaf’s name is something of a mystery. He provided conflicting stories over the years. Members of the Walnut Hill church knew him as M.L., not as Marvin or Meat Loaf. In 1978, he told People magazine that he adopted the name Meat Loaf to “save his devout Church of Christ kin from embarrassment.”

Related: Saints and singers

In 2012, Meat Loaf was interviewed by Pop Matters. The magazine reported that he “does not belong to any faith-based institution” but that he “studied the Bible, which continues to influence his work.” He said in the interview, “I’ll be honest with you. I pray every night, and if I skip a night, I apologize for skipping it. … I thank (God) for my blessings because I’ve been very blessed.”

Religious themes are sprinkled throughout Meat Loaf’s work. However, a few songs and images from his career may make some Christians uncomfortable.

In a social media post just after Meat Loaf’s death, Anglican priest Malcolm Guite recounted his time working with “hardcore bikers” who were die-hard Meat Loaf fans. Guite once was asked if it would be OK to play Meat Loaf’s signature “Bat Out of Hell” at a funeral.

He paused and replied, “Yes, definitely. The bat is flying in the right direction.”

SCOTT ELLIOTT is minister for the La Grange Church of Christ in Texas.

Filed under: Christian celebrities Christian musicians Culture Features Lubbock Christian U Meat Loaf People Top Stories Walnut Hill Church of Christ

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