Other criticisms reflected a cultural bias against the bulk of Creed's audience: red-state, white-male, and blue-collar. A cursory canvassing of the crowds at two Virginia-area shows turned up a payroll clerk, a Domino's manager, a couple of unemployed high-school grads, an Evangelical kindergarten teacher, and one hard-rocking odd duck from the Department of Homeland Security. All of them loved what they categorized as classic rock—Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Nickelback, 3 Doors Down—and all, whether openly Christian or not, felt that Stapp's lyrics are what elevate Creed above their less liturgical contemporaries. ("Scott's lyrics are from the heart" and "They're about something besides sex and drugs" were oft-cited sentiments.) The band's signature hits, like "Higher," "With Arms Wide Open," and "My Sacrifice," commercialized the soft-loud-soft grunge formula minted by Nirvana and Pearl Jam, draining it of teen angst and replacing it with devotionals to a higher power—be it Jesus, family, or the transformative mojo of rock itself. "Our music is relevant to the everyday dude," Tremonti says. "It's not too artsy-fartsy. And our fans relate to Scott's lyrics."

The seeds of Stapp's calling were planted at a tender age, when, as a boy growing up in Orlando, he was forced by his rigidly religious stepfather to transcribe long passages from the Bible as punishment. Church attendance—Wednesday, Friday, and twice on Sunday—was mandatory. Rock music, with the exception of Mom's beloved Elvis, was forbidden. Naturally, teenage rebellion followed—arriving first in the form of a smuggled Def Leppard album, which inevitably gatewayed into booze, sex, drugs, expulsion from a Tennessee Christian college, and, most calamitous of all, near-Talmudic study of Doors biographies. "That's why I moved to Tallahassee when I was 19, believe it or not," Stapp says. "Because Jim Morrison was a Florida boy."

It's the day after the Bristow show, and Stapp is in his backstage dressing room at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Virginia Beach. Outside, the band's crew is barking into walkie-talkies and grousing about the rain and gusting wind. One roadie complains to no one in particular: "This storm's been following us for most of the tour." Inside, Stapp is at the tempest's eye and appears to be trying to balance his chakras: The lights have been dimmed, and clusters of flickering candles cast a warm medieval glow onto the beige walls. Stapp pads softly around the room in flip-flops and sweatpants without a shirt. Two Bibles lie open on the glass-and-wrought-iron coffee table (one a New King James Version, the other a Living Bible, essentially the Good Book in modern vernacular). Playing softly from a nearby laptop are mixes from the upcoming Creed album that await his approval. His wife, Jaclyn, a striking brunette who was Mrs. Florida America 2008, pops in to remind Scott that his son, Jagger, 11, has to leave the tour tomorrow to begin school. Stapp nods, gives Jaclyn a kiss, and then reaches into the mini-fridge for a jug of the infant-care formula Pedialyte: "The label says for diarrhea or vomiting, but I'm drinking it for dehydration." As he swigs from the bottle, he reveals a grapefruit-size tattoo splayed across his left arm. The art is sort of chilling: two menacing steel-blue spikes fashioned into the sign of the cross, with NOVEMBER 18 2006 emblazoned atop them in bright-orange ink.