A Small Spark vs. a Great Forest

I am a revolutionary. You wouldn’t know it just by looking at me. I wear nondescript clothes and I live in a nondescript house in a nondescript town deep in the backwoods of rural Maine. On a day-to-day basis, I take care of my kids, clean my house, spend time with my wife, and play video games. Also, I like to listen to music. Revolutionary music. Oh yeah.

So, what is it about my musical taste that makes it so “revolutionary”? First of all, there really is no genre of music that I don’t, at least to some extent, enjoy. Pop punk, punk rock, metalcore, death metal, black metal, just plain ol’ metal, post punk, post hardcore, post metal, post rock, rock ‘n roll, hard rock, alternative rock, indie rock, emo, hardcore, grindcore, hip hop, country, alt-country, jazz, classical, folk, you name it, I’ve probably heard of it, listened to it, and liked it. But the styles of music I like most of all are those that fall in the broad categories of punk and metal.

Most of the artists who perform these styles of music are not singing/screaming about lollipops and rainbows. For the most part, this music is performed by angry people who see how messed up and rotten this world is and want to do something about it, or at least let others know how they feel about it. These are artists who are not satisfied by the status quo, politically, spiritually, or musically. The best purveyors of this sort of music (actually, of any music really) throw the rule book out the window, and are unconstrained by any preconceived notions of what their art should be.

Isn’t this what revolutions are all about? The idea that our lives shouldn’t be dictated by slavish adherence to the traditions around us, but rather that our hearts and minds should be free to roam in any direction we choose? I suppose it depends on how one defines “revolutionary”, but in any case, there’s something about this idea that is terribly appealing to me. Perhaps I should give an example to illustrate this.

I mentioned previously that I filled in for my wife while she was on maternity leave. She is an 8th grade teacher. I also believe I mentioned that I hated it. Part of the reason is that I have a tendency to be rather anti-authority. As a substitute teacher, I was the person who was in a position of authority, which was a very difficult position for me to be in. When a kid acted up, I had to punish them in some way, but deep down inside I was like “Yeah! Fight the power, man!” This anti-authoritarian perspective of mine may not be very compatible with being a teacher, but it jives well with the rebellious attitude of punk and metal.

Now, someone might bring up the question, “How do you reconcile your ‘revolutionary’ tendencies with the fact that you are a Christian? After all, Christianity is a pretty conservative religion.” My response is that I feel that the conservative nature of Christianity tends to be over exaggerated. When Jesus walked this earth, he wasn’t shy about getting in the face of the authorities of the day. I believe he at one point referred to the religious leaders as a “brood of snakes”. (Actually that might have been John the Baptist. I can’t remember off the top of my head, and I’m too lazy to look it up. Either way, it’s hard not to call that sentiment “revolutionary”.)

Of course, it’s been 2000 years now since Jesus walked the earth, and there’s now something like a billion or more people who claim to be Christians in the world. Maybe that sheer size in both temporal and spatial terms has turned what was once a radical viewpoint into something a little more staid and traditional. I would say that it’s probably true that Christianity as an organized religion is probably more conservative now than it was in the first century. But the core tenets of Christianity are just as radical as they ever have been. As Jesus said in Luke 10:21, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (ESV) The things of God are not the things of the world. Christians are the ultimate revolutionaries. We are out to take everything that the world believes is “normal” and turn it on its head. Faith in Jesus Christ breaks the slavery of sin in our lives and frees us to be the people that we were born to be.

So really, punk and metal actually goes quite well with Christianity, which probably has something to do with why there seems to be such an explosion of new Christian punk and metal bands in recent years. Not that Christian punk and metal is anything new. I spent my high school years listening to bands like MxPx, Value Pac, Ghoti Hook, Crux, Unashamed, Overcome, Strongarm, Living Sacrifice, Zao, and more that I’ve probably forgotten now. (Like Blaster the Rocket Boy! Sorry, just had to give a shout out to that band when their name popped into my head as I was revising this post.) But it does seem like Christian punk and metal bands are getting more attention lately. For example, every year the (thoroughly secular) magazine Alternative Press asks its readers to vote on the “Band of the Year”. Said band gets on the cover of AP and gets a big ol’ write up as well. Last year’s “Band of the Year” was The Devil Wears Prada, a crushing yet melodic death metal band who also are devoted to Jesus Christ. Their singer, Mike Hranica, even has the words “God’s Will” tattooed on his knuckles. How’s that for devotion?

In any case, I guess my point with all this is that I feel compelled to explain my love for punk and metal music because so few of the people I know share this love. My wife loves music too, but her taste in music is pretty narrow. And that’s fine for her. But my mind and my musical tastes are too restless and wide-ranging to focus on just one style. In an ideal world, I would be able to listen to every song ever written. But instead I will have to settle for just listening to as many songs as I possibly can. And that’s probably good enough.

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