Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What the Church Can Learn from the Hardcore Scene



A couple months ago, Jeff and I attended a show that our son’s band was performing in. Now that may not sound so odd, but the story has just begun. You see, our son plays in a hardcore band. Hardcore (formerly called hardcore punk) is a subculture of music that originated in the late 1970's and has evolved into a faster, harder and more aggressive style of music.  We’re talking screaming, moshing, look-like-you’re-killing-your-best-friend music. It’s sometimes so loud that I fear my ears will literally explode (Sorry to my audiology friends out there). It’s sometimes so vulgar that I feel my heart will explode (true story!) It’s sometimes so chaotic that I fear my introverted Self may implode. And yet, I love my son and so I went happily to this show. Our son lives out of state, and we miss him! So when he told us he’d be playing at a show in Louisville, we definitely wanted to be there to hug his neck!

When I say that Jeff and I were a little out of place, I’m not exaggerating. We walked into a pizza parlor that serves as a music venue for hardcore bands. It’s underground, dark, a little smelly, and the concrete block walls serve as the perfect echoing mechanism for all the screaming that happened. When we first walked in, the guy selling concert tickets assumed we were just there to grab a pizza (I hear it’s delicious; I haven’t tried it myself). We assured him we were there for the show, and when we explained that our son was playing, he let us in without paying.



We walked into this crowded space filled with people from all walks of life. There were kids who couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13. There were college professors and middle aged moshers. There were folks with hair colored a dozen different colors, and those with no hair at all. There were those covered head to toe in tattoos, and a few girls with not much clothing on. There were gay couples, straight couples, transgendered people, wealthy folks, people who had almost nothing, people who had obviously just recently smoked a LOT of weed from the smell of things. And in the midst of this crowd, my son caught sight of us and ran to us, threw his arms around me and picked me up in a bear hug. He wasn’t at all embarrassed that his middle-aged (and slightly un-cool) parents were there. He proudly introduced us to his friends, all of whom were so kind and talkative and engaging.
We listened to 3 or 4 bands before Bryan's band played. I was told to "get up on the seat of the booth" while bands were playing to avoid being in the mosh pit. Believe me when I say I wanted no part of being in that pit! I watched as people threw punches in the air, kicked like bucking broncos, screaming in each other's faces with spit flying,  and swung their arms like helicopter rotors. It was complete chaos from the outside looking in. And yet, there was an order to it. Unbeknownst to me before that night, there are rules to the mosh pit. And if you don't follow those rules, you will be sent out of said pit. But that's another story for another time.
I stood in that little room, head thumping from the bass pounding, and it dawned on me that I was in a really cool place. And I was somewhere that maybe surprisingly, the Church could learn a few things from. Here's my takeaway from that night and from conversations with my son and others in the hardcore scene about what I believe the Church could learn from Hardcore.
 
1. How to be genuinely open to ALL. 
When I say that I stood amidst folks of all walks of life, I was serious. It's not often that I stand in a room with people that don't look, dress, act, believe, and express themselves much like me. It's our human nature to surround ourselves with people we connect with, who think like us and have our same set of values. Yet that night, I was surrounded with a true smorgasbord of people. Some of them are Christians- sold-out followers of Jesus. Some of them are atheist. Some are in between somewhere. Some were gay. Some were straight. Some were bi-sexual. Some believed that drugs are ok and acceptable. Some have pledged "straight edge", a commitment to not use drugs or alcohol at all. Some were vegan; some loved meat. Some showed tattoos depicting stories of their lives, and some had smooth skin with no marks at all. And EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM (Myself included) WERE TRULY WELCOME AND WANTED.
I sat in my church Sunday morning and looked around me. I saw one person with brightly colored hair, a few who showed tattoos, but for the most part we all looked and acted pretty much the same. And I wonder if that's how the Church is supposed to look. Somehow I don't think so. And what's more, I wonder if my gay or transgendered friends feel like they'd truly be welcome in our churches, or if they'd be stared at and judged before we even got to hear their stories. I'm not saying we back down from our convictions about biblical truth. That's not what this is about. I'm just saying, "are we truly open to ALL people from ALL walks of life?" The hardcore scene is sincere about this. I know because I was welcomed openly there. I've seen firsthand that the hardcore community doesn't just talk about acceptance; they practice it. They mean it when they say they are for everyone and want you there. 
2.  The people in the hardcore community take care of one another. 
The bible tells us in Galatians that we are to "bear one another's burdens", yet I look around my town, and I see people in need. I look around our world, and I see people literally dying from unclean water, poverty, acts of racism, and war, and I have to ask myself, "What am I doing about it, and what is the Church doing about it"?. With the hardcore community, when there is a need, it is met immediately. My son tells me of a person in their community who had a house fire. They raised enough money in a short time to replace everything lost. When my son had his wallet stolen while on tour, his money was replaced and tripled in just a few short hours once people heard. I've watched this community rally around someone whose child has cancer and was in need of money for medical treatment. I've watched them do a show to raise money for the homeless in communities. I've watched them give generously from their wallets for those in need, despite the fact that many of them live paycheck to paycheck themselves. They don't even seem to give a thought to the fact that they may need the money they are giving; they simply see a need and know they can meet it. So they do. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I know that there are some followers of Christ who are getting this right. I know there are churches who are meeting the needs of those in their communities well. Please don't hear me saying that no one in the Christian community is doing this. I'm just wondering if maybe we could be better at this. I'm thinking out loud here that maybe we could have more of a mindset that says "yes" to helping immediately. I see that in the hardcore community, and it's impressive. 



3. PASSION
The people in the hardcore community are passionate people. You hear it in their voices, in the language they use (albeit foul), in the songs they write and scream sing. You see it in their faces. You read it on their t-shirts. They aren't shy about what they believe. They don't hold back even when they know those around them may disagree. They can hear other opinions, respect those opinions and never for a moment slack off in their own convictions. The Church could take a lesson here. We have the One Truth that is worth a passion like this, and sometimes I fear that we are hiding instead. When faced with the decision to speak up for the things of Christ or remain silent, too often we are remaining silent. You'll never spend any amount of time with someone connected to the hardcore community without knowing with absolute certainty what drives him or her. How well is the Church doing at that in our communities? 

The hardcore community gets a bad reputation often. I confess I've been guilty myself of judging them based solely on their screaming music and vulgar language. I don't condone the language, but after getting to know the people, I understand it. And that is possible. It's possible to get to know someone closely and to genuinely love them without condoning their choices in life. When we take the time to get to know someone, to HEAR THEIR STORY, it starts to make sense sometimes as to why they act the way they do. When we really get to know people, we are better able to love them. True love is in the knowing. True love says "I see your life, and I am still here, even if I don't believe the same way". True love says "I think you're worth my time and attention even if we aren't the same". I've seen that among the hardcore folks that I know and love. I see it in some of Christ's followers too, but I wonder if maybe, just maybe, we could all love a little harder?

So, mosh on all of my hardcore friends. I'm watching and celebrating you. And Church, let's Mosh on too! 

30 comments:

Adrienne said...

Good truths there, friend! Thanks for sharing.

Bird's Words said...

Thanks Adrienne!

Cindy Chissus said...

I'm a mother of a hardcore musician, a christian and the same "out of place" momma, just like you. But every time I go to one of his shows, there are at least 12 kids there that call me "momma" and hug me and guard me from any roaming high kicks coming out of the mosh pit. I, just like you, originally felt so out of place it was making me feel like I should go sit in the car, but the way they accepted me in and showed they were happy to have me there warmed my heart. Most of the time I actually like the music and can understand why they are drawn to it. It's beat is powerful and draws in a certain feel of strength. The lyrics can sometimes be harsh, but most of the time they are about struggles they have faced and the outcome. I'm all about expressing yourself.

I will be recommending this article over and over....thank you for taking the time to write it!!!

Bird's Words said...

Cindy, thanks so much for this! I totally agree with you. Jeff and I have experienced kids calling us mom and dad too! They really are a great group of people! We've had bands in our home for dinner while they're out touring, and my parents have even hosted bands. They loved getting to know them! The world is full of beautiful people if we just take the time to see them. Blessings on you!

Michael Eskandari said...

Btw...Awesome Sepultura T-SHIRT. \m/

Bird's Words said...

I'll tell him you like it:)

David Wildey said...

I WAS one of said musicians. I played in a hardcore band for YEARS (a Christian hardcore band in fact) and for quite some time it was the only church I had. They are TRULY christlike (which, if I'm not mistaken, is what the word christian means). I loved being an active part of that scene and STILL am (when able) active in the consumer portion of it, but I don't think I will ever be able to walk away from it......that, it seems to me, is what we (as christians) have always wanted.....and they (hardcore) have it.

Bird's Words said...

David, thanks for these words. So true what you said. They have a real hold on what community is supposed to look like! Appreciate you reaching out!

Mark said...

As a 47 year old father of 4 who grew up in the hardcore scenes in NY and DC, I would like to thank you for writing this article. I've been preaching "the scene" for close to 35 years now and can tell you it has made me the man I am today. I now bring my daughter to shows with me and her level of social consciousness has grown immensely. She is straight edge, I never was, she is vegan, I never was. She is now raising money for underprivileged kids in DC. I was raised Catholic but do not attend church anymore because of the judgement I received from the congregation but more specifically the administration of the church which continues to this day... as I discovered when me with my bald head and tattoos went to register my younger daughter for CCD. (story for another time, and there are many). You nailed it though, but I think a lot more folks other than just the church, can learn from hardcore. Rarely a week will go by here in DC when there is not a show to benefit a cause or a friend. Recently a longtime hardcore scene member passed away suddenly and people came from around the world to attend a benefit for him in Asbury Park, NJ. It was beautiful. These kids often put themselves last and was that not the main teaching of Jesus? So when people ask, "What Would Jesus DO?" He would mosh....well maybe he wouldn't mosh, it's hard past a certain age, but he'd definitely be in the pit healing bruises because those folks, whether they know it or not, are the closest I've ever seen to his Word in action.

Jonathan Mobley said...

Looks like a Miracle Drug show at Spinelli's. My kids go all the time and were likely there. I played in hardcore bands, touring and recording, in the 90s and agree with what you say. They are a lovely bunch much of the time. The Church can certainly learn from them. Imago Dei is on display in the punk scene... I pray they'll become God's children.

Bird's Words said...

Mark, this is awesome. I've seen that kind of coming together among my son's friends in the hardcore scene in the Louisville and Indianapolis areas. It's beautiful! And I kinda think Jesus would be the most incredible mosher ever! And could do it without injury! Haha! Blessings on you, my friend! Thanks for reaching out!

Bird's Words said...

Jonathan, yes I do believe Miracle Drug was playing that night! Small world! I know I've heard my son talk about them a lot. It's a beautiful thing to see such community! Thanks for reaching out and sharing your story with me!

Sam Joey said...

Amen. That's so powerful and encouraging for Metalhead like myself. I believe clutch has to wake up and work heartfully for the kingdom of God. Great article and experience. I'll share this to my fellow Christian Metalheads. Thank you and God bless you.

Bentoons said...

Ok great article, but we need to know - what is your son's band named?

Bird's Words said...

Sam, thanks for the kind words! We definitely need to be working for the Kingdom!

Bird's Words said...

Bentoons, his band is Jig. He's lead vocalist for them and also fills in on drums for other bands occasionally. :)

SumiSweets said...

I love this! I serve with a Christian nonprofit, RYFO (RYE-foe), and our mission is to eliminate the cultural divide between the Church and the musician community. We do this on a few levels and one of them is through our host home network. We provide a free night stay including hot meals and showers for touring artists and bands. Additionally they are safe people that provide a safe space because they know that the life on stage can be vastly different than the life offstage and sometimes need a welcoming hug and a warm smile. . .all because they believe that they are a reflection of God's wide open arms to all who want to receive His love, acceptance and forgiveness. Here's our Facebook page to learn more https://www.facebook.com/ryfonetwork/

SumiSweets said...

Okay I just did a quick search and Jig is actually registered with us! Ha! Well let me know if you have any questions or if you'd like to know more about the host home network. Blessings to you!

Bird's Words said...

This is fantastic!!! Our son had told us of folks offering a free stay and showers/meals, so from this thankful mom, know you are loved for serving so beautifully!

Bird's Words said...

Can't even tell you how much I love this!!!

Stacy Segawa Knapp said...

Hi there! I just realized this morning that I posted under my old profile! This is "SumiSweets" Anyway I wanted you to know that we not only pray for the artists, we also pray for their families. Your son is so blessed to have supportive parents like you who attend the live shows of music that is not their first choice. Blessings to you all!

Bird's Words said...

It was so good to talk to you Stacy!

Stacy Segawa Knapp said...

And to you likewise! #servingthevoices #radicalhospitality #ryfo #soulcare

brown rodriguez said...

Awesome. The church could learn a lot from subculture in general. I've seen bands stop playing to keep someone from getting injured in the pit. They pack in and it's on. On Sunday's at churches everywhere in the US there are empty seats all over the auditiriums not because there aren't enough people (well sometimes) but church people who know each other don't even sit next to each other! Two and three seats inbetween other fellow believers. I've been to hardcore shows. Indie hip hop shows, and tattoo shops were there is the same safe and welcomed experience. Unbelievable to some but I've seen Christian bands get more respect in obvious anti Christian shows where st Christian festivals fellow believers judge the H311 out of them. It's wierd. At 40 I recently starting riding a skateboard. Similar experience. Young or old, new sister or seasoned acceptance and peace. Many are open to good. Good comes from God. People are made in Gids image so sometimes in the right venue it's easier to tap into it. How they were created. Christians have created places or tim's elves where they are not safe from each other so their insecurities are pushed into the outsider. The command was given to the believer to love the believer and that would draw people in. Christianity is a subculture. The western church tries not to be. We preach an eastern thought process through a western selfish lens. If we will not love our own we will not be successful loving those that need to be loved. Great post.

brown rodriguez said...

Sorry So many typos. Lol.

Bird's Words said...

Good thoughts! Thanks for sharing!

Ian Harris said...

I really enjoyed reading this.Thanks for sharing your experience!

Bird's Words said...

Ian, thanks for your kind words!! Appreciate it!

Helen Sinclair said...

Hey, I live in the UK, and grew up in an Anglican Christan family, and I've always found that "outsider" groups and subcultures are far more accepting than the mainstream. From a fairly young age I struggled to fit in, so have always gravitated towards subculture.

For a good few years I defined myself as Pagan, but even this didn't quite feel 'right' to me (I always thought prayer felt very much like talking to oneself), and I've ultimately come to the conclusion that it doesn't really *matter* whether you believe in a god (or many) or not; the important thing is how you live, and how you treat others. Subculture seems to foster a much more empathetic approach I think, because a lot of us know what it feels like to be rejected, or oppressed in some way, and so we welcome other outcasts and rejects with open arms. Unfortunately it's not always something I've experienced in the church, although I have been blessed with a family who are able to love me and my wife, in spite of their own beliefs about our relationship.

The alternative music scene, the LGBTQ* community, and other subcultures have been absolutely instrumental in helping me find my own identity, and become capable of loving and accepting myself as I am. And every day, I try to do the same for others.

Thank you for sharing your experience and how it affected you. 😊 xx

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