The Theology of Hardcore

I was reading this article from the Washington Post the other day. It is about the rise of Metal music in Islamic countries. The author holds that Metal is forging new relationships that combat religious extremism. That Metal and Extremism draw the same crowds, young, angry, poor, men.

I am a product of our own Metal rebellion. In high school I loved punk and crawling across the stage with my diploma I transitioned into Hardcore and Death Metal. I loved bands like Bad Religion, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, and Bad Samaritans as I cut my teeth on politics, life, and some form of religious dogma.

I grew weary and tired of the Offspring, golden boy introduced scene and got mad. I got real mad and my taste of music switched gears. I got into the Straight edge scene. Like most of us I was Straight Edge for 20 minutes. In those 20 minutes I managed to get a “Drug Free” tattoo and hide in the shame filled shadows. I left Judge, Strife, 7 Seconds, Chain of Strength, Earth Crisis, Integrity, 1134, One Life Crew, Shelter, Snapcase, Slapshot, Damnation AD, and Hatebreed behind and started to focus on the death metal stuff.

I was searching for my place in life. Leaving my teens behind and taking up real estate in the 20 something’s sucks. I wanted to fight everything. I was impressionable and eager to belong. In the Washington Post article the author in speaking about the popularity of Metal in Islamic nations says, “This is partly because the subjects these and other extreme metal bands deal with – death without meaning, the futility of violence, the corruption of power – correspond well to the issues confronting hundreds of millions of young Muslims today, the majority of whom live under authoritarian governments in societies torn by inequality, underdevelopment and various types of violent conflict.” These were my reasons for holding on to the Metal/Hardcore sub-culture. It spoke to me.

I dreamed in my 20 something life that I would go to a show and grab a mic when called on to. I would then release the aggression, frustration, and passion that was bottled up inside me. It did not help that I was working a job that offered no hope of a future. I saw a world full of inequality, underdevelopment, and exploitative ventures by the powers that be. I wanted to rebel against the man. But I had no clear idea as to how the man was. So I fought everyone.

What role then has Metal played in my formation as the nation-state of Ryan? I think the music and encompassing scene allowed me to be angry. It gave me hope when I was unable to witness it in the “world.”

I imagine that metal is doing the same in the Islamic world. If you watch Heavy metal in Baghdad you witness a passion that is very much like those kids in the garage down the street. But a big difference is the fellas in ACRASSICAUDA Metal is not what they play. It has become the rally cry for what they live and why they live. Metal to them is a path to freedom, it is there nirvana.

In a similar way metal/hardcore liberated me from the confines of the life I had lived. It dared me to be more than an office worker. It awakened my faith. I gave me a taste of the divine and I hungered for it. It dared me to be the Ryan God was calling me to be. In the years following I could not imagine my call not including metal/hardcore. I still love those old albums. I have been listening to some newer releases and wonder, “What is the Theology of Hardcore?” Hmm…perhaps this is another book to write. Then I could be to Christianity what Offspring is to punk, a sell out.  I would sell out to Jesus any day.

What role has Metal or Hardcore played in your spiritual formation?  Your faith journey?  Your life?

One thought on “The Theology of Hardcore

  1. Quote from the preview of Heavy Metal in Baghdad:

    “If I didn’t play drums as hard as I can, I am going to kill someone.”

    Thanks for this link and this post. I definitely want to see this movie. As far as your last question, I can’t say. Music of my 20s (early 80s) was pretty tame compared to what you mentioned. Pink Floyd (esp. the Wall), Aerosmith, AC/DC–I know kind of like Josie and the Pussycats compared to death metal.

    I would say there was anger and frustration and my music spoke to me. It, too, was liberating. I certainly think you are on to something with a theology of hardcore.

    Perhaps understanding what is behind metal in Baghdad might help us understand each other and the oppression with which we live.

    Hardcore defies bullshit, just like Jesus.

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