Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Why Christians Should Listen to Punk Rock
Posted by Adam Parker
First of all, not all music that is classical in form is Christian in content. Think of the Mephisto Waltzes by Franz Liszt. But even excluding disturbing exceptions like this, its form is all wrong, as well. Whereas classical music embodies order, law, structure, and beauty, punk rock embodies--not the world as it should be--but the world as it is. Also, punk music has a social awareness that would put Beethoven and his ministry to the deaf to shame.
Punk music has its feet firmly on earth and deals with the nitty gritty of a world in chaos, scrambling for some moment of sanity. Think of The Clash in their song "Straight to Hell." This song addresses in rather painful fashion the mistreatment of immigrants, as well as the love children of American G.I.s who procreated with the unfortunate female population of Vietnam during the war. Gritty, painful, dirty. Punk lives in the here and now--the already, rather than the not yet. Or consider a song by The Dropkick Murphys called "The State of Massachusetts," which faces head-on the effect that drug-abuse has on families.
These singers sound more like the Psalmist or Habakkuk and less like the sort of feel-good Christianity that gets day-in and day-out dumped out of the musical sugar jar we call K-LOVE. The world is plunged into sin, and Jesus Christ has brought hope. Yes, punk music reflects a genuine attempt to push back against authority, but Paul speaks in Colossians of the fact that Christ "disarmed the rulers and authorities." Jesus was the original punk (minus the wallet-chain). Things aren't right in the world as we know it, but Jesus Christ will one day come to consummate what he began in his incarnation. There's some already in there with the not-yet, but the structured, ordered, law-abiding nature of classical music misses out on the already and exchanges it for cherubs floating on clouds clutching harps.
One thing that we see a lot of in our world today--especially when it comes to interchange between Christians and the cultural enjoyments they partake of, is an impulse towards baptizing our own particular preferences. Nancy Pearcey did it in How Now Shall We Live?, we just did it in the first part of our post above (for purposes of illustration), and bloggers and Facebookers the world over do it all the time. It's that human religious tendency to take something that we like, and to say, "You know? This makes sense to me when I look at it a certain way," and then jump to the conclusion that the music or the art or the movie or the political party that we enjoy may just have some warrant in Scripture.
This doesn't mean that we ought to despair ("Oh no! The Bible doesn't tell me which political party to join! What will I do!?"). Instead, it means we ought to be modest about our own views and preferences if Scripture doesn't speak to the matter. We use common sense, we use reason and thoughtfulness (all aspects of the imago dei) to arrive at correct conclusions. I do not need the Bible to tell me that the stock market crash of 1929 happened because of X, Y, or Z in order to arrive at a correct conclusion (obviously it was because the U.S. left the gold standard and started printing money, but that is beside the point and has nothing to do with Scriptural teaching).
But there is a way out of this conundrum, and it's something that many Christians are uncomfortable with. The Bible doesn't speak about everything that ever happened in the history of mankind. The Bible does not tell us who is funnier: Hugh Laurie or Stephen Fry. The Bible does not tell us if a certain kind of musical beat is sinful. The Bible does not tell us whether or not to shave our head or do the comb-over. The Bible doesn't tell us if we should have oatmeal for breakfast or eggs. There are just issues in life that the Bible doesn't directly teach on, and when it doesn't, that becomes an area where we ought to be extremely careful about making dogmatic declarations. Many a Christian are guilty of taking their pet peeves or their pet preferences, or even opinions they've arrived at via a very rational and thoughtful mental process and making it an issue of dogma.
The hard thing that we're calling for is a good bit of modesty about many of our views, recognizing that we do not need a "thus saith the LORD" in order to justify every decision or choice that we make in life. In other words, stop baptizing your preferences.
But seriously, God may not say so, but you should really start listening to punk music anyway.