It was a seemingly inconsequential car ride. A few days ago I hopped into our car to drive to the Dunkin’ Donuts down the road from our house to get a cup of Joe. This is a normal occurrence for me providing a break from sermonizing or whatever church responsibilities are driving my day such as emails, meetings, visits or teaching. During this rather brief car ride I usually listen to NPR or I listen to music. On this car ride I opted to listen to the music of a thrash/hardcore band that I recently gotten into by the name of Power Trip. Listening to the brutal sounds and screams of their album Nightmare Logic it dawned on me in a way that it never had before why I have continued to listen to such heavy brutal music since I was 15 years old. It validates and gives voice to feelings and thoughts that are seemingly denied or overlooked by pop culture as well as the more traditional institutions of church, government and school. Here, one can speak of things and express those things in ways that may be deemed inappropriate and impolite by the powers that be.
I can recall being told that I would eventually grow out of such music as I got older but that hasn’t really happened. While I may have moved on from certain bands and albums I am still a lover of heavy music with a message. I recognize that I can go to music and seemingly be validated in the noise and the words. Validated in ways that I may not feel otherwise in my day to day interactions and responsibilities. This realization is particularly poignant to me because I am a pastor in a conservative church body and over the last 15 years my desire for music with a message has only deepened. I am recognizing in ways that I hadn’t before why I listen to the bands that I listen to.
I go to the sounds and yells of Sick Of It All because they articulate and express so well the frustrations of life in post-industrial America while the church and media seem oblivious to such things. Instead they stand on the side of the suburbs and hyper-gentrification theologically validating the way things are and extolling the virtues of neo-liberal capitalism.
I go to Rise Against for an anti-war message because I rarely, if ever, hear such a thing in the news or in the church of which I am part of. Instead I receive emails encouraging me to become a military chaplain and am expected to automatically believe in the virtues of American militarism.
I go to Madball to process anger that I can’t express publically because that would be not be in accordance with the niceties that so many have come to identify the faith with. Instead we all go along to get along, feigning smiles and patting backs, soaked in the stain of triangulation and passive aggression.
I go to the Cro-Mags because they express so beautifully the existential angst that I have so often felt since the hormones of early adolescence began to rage through my body. Instead, I’m told we’ve got all the answers, at least the ones we need. Modernity’s fundamentalisms are quick to remind us of this much.
While the church I know seems so concerned with life after death I find myself more and more concerned with life right now. A life of repentance and struggle, of hearing and doing, of struggling through the narrow door not to be explained away by easy explanations of what Jesus has done for me.
Save that for someone else.