Punk / Hardcore

Tessa Rhyne - Prodigal Project

What Are They Rebelling Against?

A society gone wrong.
Things are not the way they should be.
Mainstream Society.
It just seems like a bunch of people who look and
think and act the same.
The majority.
The accepted norm.
Those with different thoughts and tastes with the
boldness to follow their hearts are forced to be on
the outside of this mainstream.
But the current of this stream is strong, and those
who resist it find themselves stuck, unable to move
or only able to advance very slowly - and are the
worse for wear because of it.
Many are casualties of this fight and end up washed up onto the bank, gasping until death finally takes them.
Those who continue to fight gather together, creating a small undercurrent of their own. Their own society, within which are culture, commerce and community.
Damaged from the fight,
the mainstream has become their Enemy.
But there are many in the mainstream with similar
thoughts and tastes as the undercurrent.
They lack the will to fight or they have a different
strategy/survival plan.
What are they rebelling against?
Things are not the way they should be.

Hello there! My name is Tessa Rhyne and I am a follower of Jesus. I consider myself a punk rocker, but my identity is first and foremost child of God. I wrote this to give you a little bit of insight into the punk culture as I see it.

Punk rock means a lot of things to a lot of people. Some connotations are severely bad, others are quite good. Ask someone what it means to be punk, what is the definition of punk, and every person will give you a different answer. Different styles tend to have different emphases. Sometimes its anger, rage, and disgust spewed out in a chaotic mess of crust punk.

Oi! is skinhead punk with rousing sing-along choruses of drinking, fighting, and brotherhood. The Dropkick Murphys sing, "Hail! Hail! The gang's all here!" and The Forgotten sing, "fists up, back against the wall."

Pop punk (the most mainstream of punk) sings a lot about girls and acting stupid. Think of the movie Jackass.

The big spiked mohawk, studded jacket look is more characteristic of street punk.

Some punk is very political and used to inform, incite and call to action on issues ranging from anarchy to social justice.

There are actually several different themes that run through punk culture as a whole. I will discuss four key points.

Punk is Anti-Authority

In general, punk rockers do not trust authority. This can range from mistrust of individuals (like parents, authority figures and cops) to structures and institutions such as government, religion, and schools.

When parents make bad decisions their children's evolving perception of the world is adjusted accordingly. Abuse, neglect, instability of a parent, even just common divorce (JUST!?!), enormously affect the growing child's perception of authority.

Recently, I hung out with some punks outside of a large concert (Circle Jerks and GBH). There was a woman (very drunk and riled up) with an 11-year-old daughter. The mom was loud, trying to start fights with a few people (including the venue staff). The daughter was crying, pulling on her mom's arm, begging her to be quiet and stop trying to fight. The girl was doing the best she could to take charge of the situation, to keep both of them out of trouble. It was painful to watch. The mom eventually passed out in a police car and the girl got a ride back home with the people they rode to the show with.

When children are forced to be the parents, when responsibility is out of order, then comes the understanding that those in authority will fail you; you must make your own way.

This mistrust of authority is applied to the frameworks of authority as well. Many punks view power structures as oppressive. If the people in authority cannot be trusted, then the structure that gives them that authority and keeps them in power cannot be trusted either. Thus anarchy is a common punk ideal.

With this in mind, it is easy to see why so many punks are antagonistic toward the Christian/Catholic Church. It is perceived as an empty institution designed to subdue and control the masses. Rather than writing them off as rebellious and offensive, try showing them that God is trustworthy by being trustworthy to them. They are expecting rejection. They are expecting you to fail them. Sometimes all you can do is lift them up in prayer and ask God to touch them.

They are expecting God to fail them. One guy said his biggest fear was that God wouldn't come through in the end because he didn't come through in the beginning. Your trust in the Lord must be secure. Live your life with authenticity, listening and receiving from God. God is faithful to you. Show that in your life and in interaction with others. Prophetic gifts will come in handy here - God is real! Trust comes when someone knows you are for real. With consistency and stability be a sensitive man/woman of God. Battle for them in prayer! If you are not communicating authentic love, the point is not getting across.

Punk is Reactionary

Punk rockers are very aware that we live in a broken world. Many songs describe the lives of the people around them - abuse, rejection, drugs, sexual perversion, drunkenness, death. These songs in essence say, "LOOK AT THIS! THIS IS REAL LIFE!!! THIS WORLD IS REALLY F**KED UP!"

Q. So why do so many songs seem to be reveling in that lifestyle rather than revealing its negative effects?
A. I think it's along the lines of "If you can't beat it, join it. Make the most of what you've got." Sin is fun for a season. It numbs the pain of brokenness, but it also perpetuates the cycle of pain.

Punk exists as an affront to those who would live their lives in idealistic oblivion and denial of the pain around them. This point is illustrated very well in a movie called "Suburbia." (It was directed by Penelope Spheeris in the 80's and features Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I recommend watching her other movies as well, "Decline of Western Civilization, Parts I, II, III.")

The movie shows kids who have no family, or feel that they can't go back to their family for whatever reason, come together in a squat house, forming their own sort of family.

This element of creating a family substitute is common in social groups. Skinhead crews, gangs, and groups of street kids act as families. Hippies have "fam-fam." In order to find out your sexual preference, a person in the homosexual community might ask, "Are you family?"

I asked a friend of mine who has been part of the straight-edge hardcore scene for a few years what hardcore means to him. His answer: unity and family. For him, a person essentially without a family, this group gave him something to belong to. A place to give as well as to receive.

I was at a big hardcore show with him a while back. Tough guy hardcore. A hardcore show is not just a concert where the audience watches the band; everyone is a participant and makes the show an exciting time. The band provides the music, the crowd provides the energy. There are the people dancing crazy, flailing, acrobatic hardcore dance moves in the pit. There are the people in a circle forming the edge of the pit, front row to the action, serving as a protective barrier to the rest of the crowd. There's the rest of the crowd, pressing in, ebbing and flowing as one body.

The lead singer of one band rallied the crowd, "Just because we're up here on stage and you're down there doesn't mean we're better or more important than you! There are no rock stars here! We're all here to have fun." Later, the lead singer of another band jumped down, stopping in the middle of a song to fight because he thought someone in the crowd was picking a fight with one of his friends. So it's a dysfunctional family, but that's the reason you're reading this, right?

There is a deep root of rejection, alienation and self-hatred in punk culture. This is true of the majority of underground cultures, not just punk. Actually, I would say that this is true of people in general. Each group embodies this in a different way but punks and other underground cultures tend to be more outwardly extreme about it. The obnoxious behavior and severe appearance of many punks presents a challenge to you.

Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, they say, "You will reject me anyway, so let me just make myself that much harder to accept, since I don't care what you think anyway!" This behavior can include violence, self-mutilation, acting out in purposefully repulsive and offensive manners, being smelly, and having extreme piercings and facial tattoos.

My warning to you is to not mistake some encounters with valid self-expression that may seem offensive to you as an example of the above. Spiked hair, multiple facial piercings, and a body covered in tattoos may seem like a cry for help or an image of self-hatred but it can just as viably be an outward symbol of joy, creativity, freedom and secure identity in Christ. God is the judge. Ask the Lord for discernment. Your job is to receive the person with love, not reject them because of their appearance or behavior.

They may have more to offer you than you realize. We all get adopted into the family of Christ and there are no red-headed stepchildren. In a healthy family, everyone is wanted and loved and cared for. Everyone contributes something special. Take the time to get to know someone. Commit yourself to them. Let them be your friend. Let's be good family to each other.

Punk is Social Commentary and a Call to Action

Punk points out to the world, "HEY! SOMETHING IS WRONG HERE! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?!" There are some strains of punk that take on more fatalistic tones, blasting society but passing the time with lazier, self-destructive ways of life. More motivated individuals take the challenge to change the world. Some are involved in Food not Bombs, an activist organization that hands out free vegetarian food to people on the street in city parks and at political rallies.

Lots of punks are involved with organizations, which fight in the name of compassion to free the rights of poor, oppressed and imprisoned people globally. They are taking things into their own hands. D.I.Y. (do it yourself) freedom is valued over the captivity of 9 to 5 jobs. Kids are publishing zines (small homemade magazines), distributing music, printing T-shirts and hosting events, making their voice heard.

Punk is tired of playing nice games of "cover up the lies and put on a public face." It exists to expose reality - "This is what is really happening! This is the RAW TRUTH of what I see, what I experience, what I feel! I am a real person and I HAVE VALUE!!"

Isn't this what Jesus did? He is the Truth that exposes the lies. He is all about releasing captives and freeing the oppressed (Luke 4:18). Jesus is the very one who brings about Justice. Jesus sees the worth of each person so much clearer than any of us. He's the one who demonstrated what it means to lay down your life for another person's worth - true compassion. Some punks are following after the pattern of Jesus without even knowing who he is!

I think the response here is a call to community. This doesn't mean you have to live in a commune type setting, but it does mean sharing your life with others, letting your life be invaded and affected by others unlike yourself. It's a challenge with the capacity to form in you humility, compassion, and grace.

Community narrows the gap between helper and recipient, because it recognizes the fragile humanity in each of us. Bearing another person's weakness can seem noble until you must let them carry yours.

If the body of Christ would look more like the interdependent organism described in I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, we would have a lot more to offer those who seek to fight for the good of others. Jean Vanier, Henri Nouwen, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer have all written excellent books on community. I urge you to explore their works for a greater understanding of community.

Punk is Passionate

To me, punk rock music conveys passion and energy, a high level of emotion and urgency: Intensity. For many people, life is intense; this music is the outlet. You can scream about your anger, rage and hatred. You can shout at your enemies. You can spout venom and poison the people around you. Those are all displays of passion, of expressing what is inside. But there are other things to be passionate about. The sufferings of Jesus are referred to as his Passion. Webster defines passionate as having or showing strong feelings. Jesus was pretty passionate when he was flipping tables over in the Temple. One loves a spouse passionately. Some people have a passion for gardening. Passion can be directed in many different ways.

I have sat through too many church services where the words of the songs convey a passion completely undetectable in the tone of the singers. So many people are frozen, insecure, and unable to express what is truly going on inside of them. There is the nice mother of three who is unable to admit that deep down she is angry at God, or the middle-aged man who wants to leap and dance with joy and praise to God but is unable to break the mold of propriety he's been shackled with. He tearfully told me, "I'm third generation Baptist, and they breed it out of us."

Lord! Free your people!! If a scream can accomplish the purposes of God (Joshua 6:5) and shouts of joy (Ezra 3:11-13, Psalm 35:27, 66:1) bring God glory, then let it happen! Dance with all your might (2 Samuel 6:14)! God created us to be passionate people, not robots! As the inside of a person is transformed from darkness to light, their passion is refocused to the things of God. It is redeemed. Let freedom ring!

Let's look at 1 Corinthians 9:16-27. This speaks to me about how we should live and minister. I like the NLT, "For preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn't do it! (NASB 'woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.') If I were doing this of my own free will, then I would deserve payment. But God has chosen me and given me this sacred trust, and I have no choice (vs. 16 -17)."

I think this means that if you are truly living out the essence of Christ in your life, you can't help but share it with people. It is your passion. "To the Jews I became as a Jew... to those under the Law, as under the Law... To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some (vs. 20-22). I don't think that this means you are to pretend to be something you are not, or to be fake. People can spot a poser a mile away.

I think this means that being fully who you are (redeemed, beloved child of God with unique personality, giftings and calling, as well as preferences and cultural background) you will relate to people in the context of who they are (cultural and spiritual background, claimed identity, etc.). Take that and apply it to punk rockers or whatever subset of culture you run into. They may be from the same town as you but their worldview - language, value system, tastes, icons of success and failure, and social structure - is completely different from yours.

I am constantly realizing that the assumptions I make about people are wrong and that they cannot fit in my box. There are too many variables. I do a lot more listening than I used to. One of the greatest ways to honor a person is to listen to them. Wait on God for what to say and when to speak. But when He says, "go", then Go!

Ministry Life

Life as ministry. Jesus is in us.
Who are we to keep him bottled up?
What are you doing with your life? Who are you?
What is going on? Who do you associate with?
What do you like? What are your values?
What do you care about?
What is your identity? What do you want?
Why do you want it? What is it good for?
What do you care about?
Make what is inside come outside.
Be who you truly are.
Your redeemed self.
Your self created in God's image.
The holy you.
Jesus is your friend.
Companionship. Love. Identity.
Walk in it. Walk it out. Wear it out. Be
outlandish. As long as that's what you are.
This is healing: encountering reality,
embodied in another person.
The aroma of Christ. A fragrant offering.
An encounter with the real.
Ultimate reality. Nothing is more real than God.
Jesus. Holy Spirit.
An encounter with the real.
Not creation, originator. Uncreated originator.
Source of being.
It's all about being.
Be being filled. Fully be. Inhabit reality.
Be. Exemplify being.
Fully be, and in so being,
be an example of what it is to be.
Be fully... healed... in relationship... be fully...
moved... fully taken up, absorbed.
Be fully loved... cared for... chosen. Be fully
intimate... secure... captured... freed.
Set apart by freedom. Set apart by the ability to
live from a secure center.
Set apart by the presence of God.
NOT fear. Not insecurity. Not hatred. Not

Punk is a lot of things. These are just some of my observations and opinions.
Punks already know there is a problem.
We know the solution.
Main obstacle: authority/trust issues.
Plan: They are so hard and far from God that many can't feel His love. They have to experience His love through you. Jesus hugs them with your arms. Be real. Love and listen to them without judgment and listen to God for when to say something. Stand by them in presence and in prayer. Be their advocate in prayer and let God do His thing.

God loves the outcasts and a redeemed outcast is a beautiful thing.


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