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To the nonbeliever, Christian music festivals can conjure up lasers piercing clouds of weed-free smoke, Jumbrotrons flashing relentlessly positive refrains and seas of blissful arm-waving. How to get beyond the stereotypes if you're in New York, far from even the touring Christian festivals of early 2015?
As part of our "Do You Believe" issue, we wanted an insider's look at these massive gatherings. We also wanted to talk to some Christian rock artists who, in one way or another, had dipped their toes in the secular pop world. We called up four people: Colton Dixon, a 23-year-old Tennessee native who sang both sacred and profane songs during his fan-adored stint on American Idol; David Crowder, who injects a quiet sense of humor into his churning "Appalachians and Ibiza" sound and whose big beard, specs and trucker hat suggest Brooklyn as much as his native Waco, Texas; John Cooper, singer of the Memphis-based Skillet, which exists on a level of crossover success shared only by Switchfoot, P.O.D. and a few others; and Josh Caterer, a solo artist and worship director based outside of Chicago, whose band Smoking Popes was an early-nineties institution (see: "Need You Around" from the Clueless soundtrack) and whose subsequent band, Duvall, marked Caterer's rebirth as a Christian.