Sunday, September 24, 2006

The original book proposal

This is the meat of the original proposal and outline for the book, Never Mind the Bibles: A Theology of Punk, which has turned into this experiment in book-blogging, or blog-booking.

I submitted this proposal in 2004 to the half-dozen or so Christian book publishers who responded to my initial letter or email pitches. The other 18 or so said "thanks, but no thanks" to the email and letter pitches. The rest waited until they read this proposal and early sample chapters before declining the proposal.

Let this be a lesson to all you aspiring writers on how not to write a book proposal.

* * * * *


Never Mind the Bibles: A Theology of Punk is author Andrew Careaga’s analysis of a musical art form too often overlooked by the Christian publishing industry. The book will be approximately 60,000 words, plus bibliography, discography and index.

The author, Andrew Careaga, is the author of three books on spiritual aspects of the Internet, including two published by Kregel (eMinistry: Connecting with the Net Generation [2001] and Hooked on the Net: How to Say ‘Goodnight’ When the Party Never Ends [2002].)

For more information about the author, turn to page 12.

Title: Never Mind the Bibles

Subtitle: A Theology of Punk

Alternative titles:
The Gospel According to Punk (this might make a good subtitle, too)
The Gospel According to Punk Rock
The Theology of Punk
Punk Theology
Punk’s Prophets, Priests and Provocateurs
Jesus Among the Punks

The Hook:

Beneath punk rock’s scabrous exterior – from its garage-band beginnings in the ‘60s and ‘70s to the tongue-pierced fashion statement it has become – lies an amazing story of spiritual longing and redemption, a story that has been ignored until now. Never Mind the Bibles: The Gospel According to Punk Rock is the only book to examine punk rock’s spiritual roots and to find common links between that movement and the Christian faith.


“It’s better to burn out than fade away.”

So sang Neil Young in “Hey Hey, My My,” his commentary of the 1970s punk movement – a movement many believe died in 1978, when the Sex Pistols dissolved less than a year after the release of their first album, and just weeks into their one and only U.S. tour.

Yet nearly three decades since first the rebellious music form burst out of the underground and onto the pop music scene, the spirit of punk is alive and well. In Never Mind the Bibles: A Theology of Punk, author Andrew Careaga looks beneath the surface of the punk rock movement to uncover a spiritual longing hidden within punk’s lyrics and lifestyle – and a prophetic, often apocalyptic voice that resounds today. Never Mind the Bibles analyzes a musical art form that, sadly, has been overlooked by the Christian publishing industry. It is a message whose time, the author believes, has come.

From the early, diverse sounds of the punk movement – the furious, sloppy bar chords of the Ramones to the menacing howls of the Sex Pistols, the political commentary of the Clash, and the pop sensibilities of Blondie and Elvis Costello – to the countercultural messages of today’s punk purists (Rancid, NOFX) and the sugar-coated tunes of punk posers like Pink and Good Charlotte, there runs a thread of Christianity’s redemptive message.

Hidden beneath punk’s rough outer crust lies a message of social justice, egalitarianism and revolution, a message today’s church – and today’s punks – needs to hear and abide.

Within a solid biblical framework, Never Mind the Bibles examines the Christian principles underlying much of punk music and culture. While not ignoring the excesses and negative messages of the punk movement, Never Mind the Bibles explores punk’s spirit of egalitarianism, community, anti-consumerism and personal revolution in light of Jesus’ call to radical discipleship, and calls the church to heed punk’s call to these ideals.

The Christian book market has books aplenty about pop music and spirituality, but nothing like Never Mind the Bibles exists. This is the first book of its kind – the first book tailored for the Christian market to examine the controversial movement of punk and its influence on our culture.

The book will appeal to the growing segment of readers interested in the “emerging” church culture – postmodern readers who seek a new paradigm in Christian thought and theology. This book examines many of the issues emerging church culture is currently dealing with – issues such as intentional community, forms of worship and leadership – but within the context of a cultural movement that has gone largely unexamined by Christian observers. A secondary and overlapping audience for this book is the Christian reader interested in contemporary/Christian rock music. Interest in topics like those addressed by Never Mind the Bibles is expected to grow in 2006 and 2007 as the 30th anniversary of punk rock rolls around. (The Ramones’ first album, release in 1976, is widely considered to be the first punk rock album, but 1977 was the true “year of the punk,” when the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads and other popular punk artists released their debut records.)

Never Mind the Bibles anticipates this interest and will be ahead of the curve for the Christian book market – and for the secular market as well. Written in a conversational, accessible and intelligent style, Never Mind the Bibles will appeal to the devoted Christian reader as well as to the spiritual seeker and the secular music lover.

Because this book deals with a controversial topic – punk music, like much of rock and roll, has always had an uneasy coexistence within the Christian subculture – Never Mind the Bibles will not appeal to everyone. Yet the author’s solid arguments, presented logically and through a sound scriptural framework and in a conversational, persuasive style, will be compelling enough to appeal to the intelligent Christian reader. If you’re looking for The Prayer of Johnny Rotten or The Purpose-Driven Punk, however, you won’t find it here. Sorry.

Why a book about punk rock? The son of a musical mother (she played cello and piano), Andrew Careaga grew up in a musical household. His earliest exposure to popular music came in the form of his mother’s favorite genre: Rodgers and Hammerstein show tunes. But the influence of his four older siblings soon took over, and soon he started listening to his siblings’ music – the “British invasion” groups like the Rolling Stones, Beatles and Dave Clark Five and, later in life (thanks to an older brother/guitarist infatuated with Jimi Hendrix), such “guitar gods” as Hendrix and Eric Clapton and hard rock groups like Led Zeppelin. Coming of age in the 1970s, learning the rudiments of rhythm guitar by ear, he wrote album reviews for his high school newspaper in Moberly, Missouri, where he first discovered the power of punk rock.

Andrew Careaga’s passion for the music he grew up with continues, but with a spiritual twist.

Since becoming a Christian in the mid-1980s, he has struggled with the culture clash between the form of evangelical Christianity prevalent in his Bible Belt surroundings and the rebellious, up-yours nature of so much rock-and-roll music. Early after his conversion to Christianity, he even went so far as to get rid of his record collection – a move he would later come to regret.

In the years since that fateful decision, Mr. Careaga has sought to reclaim his rock and roll heritage, while reconciling his passion for this brand of music with his firm Christian faith. Through his struggles to reconcile these two, seemingly opposed forces, he has discovered much spiritual truth in the music of his youth, and writes with a passion and enthusiasm for Christ and for the music of punk.

While this book project may seem a radical departure from Mr. Careaga’s previous writings, it is in fact a logical extension. Just as the Internet is a part of pop culture – and in eMinistry, he explains that Christians must “strive to understand the medium itself and its place and influence in our culture” (p. 23) – so music is as powerful a cultural force. And Mr. Careaga believes that the church also must strive to understand the influence and power of punk in today’s culture – and, beyond that, embrace the spiritual underpinnings of punk that resonate with today’s postmodern seekers and searchers.

He’s the best person to write this book because he has a passion for the subject. Plus, he’s always wanted to write about punk music. His long-harbored fantasy was to write for Rolling Stone magazine.


The timing for Never Mind the Bibles could not be more perfect. During the years 2006 and 2007, pop music aficionados the world over will celebrate the 30th anniversary of punk rock music. (1976 was the year the Ramones released their debut album, widely acknowledged as the first true punk rock record, but 1977 was the year punk rock came of age, with groups like the Sex Pistols, the Clash and Talking Heads all releasing their first albums that year.) Punk rock is sure to be the subject of countless magazine covers and TV specials, and VH1 and MTV will no doubt do their own countless and repetitious send-ups on the subject.

The hype surrounding punk’s coming anniversary has already begun: the original bad boys of punk rock, the Sex Pistols – sans Sid Vicious – toured the U.S. and Canada in 2003, and Rhino Records released a 100-song, four-CD box set of punk classics, “No Thanks! The ‘70s Punk Revolution,” in late October 2003. The box set is selling well on

For the a growing number of Christian readers, who grew up in the era of punk music, a book like Never Mind the Bibles will fill a void in the current offerings. This book should gain the attention of twenty- and thirtysomething readers in the “emerging” church – those who are interested in postmodernity, grassroots church movements, etc. – as well as those interested in pop music. Never Mind the Bibles should be easy to cross-market to music lovers who frequent Christian music racks as well as to intelligent Christian readers.


In addition to the traditional marketing methods, several unique promotional opportunities will be afforded by the publication of Mr. Careaga’s book.

Contacts: Mr. Careaga has made several contacts with fellow authors through his previous writings. Several of these contacts are heavily involved in the emerging church movement and would be open to endorsing this book. The most promising contacts include:

[Names deleted.]

One challenge will be to establish contacts more connected to the Christian music scene – as well as the non-Christian music scene – who could lend their street cred to this project. But Mr. Careaga plans to develop those contacts as he makes progress on this manuscript and sends sample chapters out to several contacts. ...

As a habitual “blogger” (i.e., one who writes and rants frequently on a weblog) and commentator on the Christian Internet scene, I have an extensive network of fellow bloggers who could help to promote this book through their own networks. The most prolific and influential of these bloggers include ... [more names deleted].

Mr. Careaga also writes for a couple of online magazines and web communities that no doubt would publish sample chapters or excerpts from the book.

[More irrelevant promotional schemes deleted to save the reader time. If you're a book publisher and wish to know more, email me at andrew DOT careaga AT gmail DOT com and we'll talk.]


Table of Contents:

Never Mind the Bibles will include a forward by some famous person (preferably some punk musician or Christian musician, or Christian punk musician – someone with street cred), an introduction, nine meaty chapters, and a conclusion.


This will be written by some famous, reputable person – preferably a well-known Christian punk musician or a Christian author of a book about pop music .

Introduction: Jesus and the Punks (Attached with proposal)

The popular image of punk rock as a sneering, menacing Johnny Rotten caricature shouting epithets and spitting on the audience is a one-dimensional, misinformed vision of a movement that is at its core prophetic. The Introduction draws parallels between punk and the prophetic voice of the Christian faith.

Chapter 1: Riding with the New Church (Attached with proposal)

This chapter describes the author’s introduction to punk rock, and punk’s introduction to the popular world. From the author’s perspective of a teen growing up in Missouri in the 1970s – a kid with no “punk scene,” just a guitar, a crappy stereo, a radio and some friends who turned him on to this new music – this is an outsider’s perspective.

The chapter describes how punk gave the author, a geeky misfit, a sense of self-worth. This chapter provides a definition of “punk” and provides some historical foundation for the subsequent chapters. This chapter will include a brief timeline of punk history.

Chapter 2: Ecclesiastes in a Ripped Shirt (Attached with proposal)

“All is vanity,” proclaims Ecclesiastes. Similarly, snotty, snarling Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols proclaimed, “No future.” This chapter examines the Sex Pistols’ arrival on the pop scene – and the group’s dismal message of hopelessness – and parallels the message of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. Building from this foundation, the chapter examines other punk prophets of doom in light of the messages of the Old Testament prophets, and builds a framework for the following chapters, which focus more on the person of Jesus and the New Testament message of redemption.

Chapter 3: The Beat on the Bratitudes

This chapter is more serious than its title – a play on words of both a famous Ramones song (“Beat on the Brat”) and the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – lets on. The themes of the Beatitudes, Jesus’ foundational teachings to his earliest followers, resonate with themes of alienation found in such punk legends as the Clash (“I’m Not Down,” “Hateful” and other songs), the Sex Pistols, Devo (“Mongoloid”), Talking Heads (“Psycho Killer”), Black Flag (“Wasted”) and Richard Hell and the Voidoids (“Blank Generation”), as well as more current punk troubadours (such as Beck, in his song “Loser”).

Chapter 4: Out of the Whirlwind

Punk music’s themes of alienation and suffering resonate with the story of Job. But one musician, Patti Smith, was a walking, talking Book of Job – both in song and in performance. This chapter examines her experience of challenging God – and God’s answer to her “out of the whirlwind.”

Chapter 5: Turning Tables in the Temple

One of the most compelling images of Jesus – as it pertains to punk’s rebellious, anti-consumerist spirit – is that of Him chasing the moneychangers from the temple. This chapter examines punk’s critique of consumerism through the music of the Clash (“Koka Kola”) and Elvis Costello (“Radio Radio”), among others.

Chapter 6: Peace, Love and Understanding

Despite its raucous reputation, punk music and the punk movement embraces many of the ideals of pacifism. This chapter examines the punk movement for social justice in light of the music, such as Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding,” made popular by Elvis Costello, and compares these ideals to Christ’s teachings on these and similar topics.

Chapter 7: Your Own Personal Jesus

This chapter, the title of which is taken from a Depeche Mode tune, pertains to the experiential nature of punk “community,” from the ideals embodied in the music to the egalitarian nature of the punk “scene” itself, which parallels the ideas espoused by Martin Luther (“every man a priest”). This chapter will examine the punk scene’s removal of boundaries between audience and performer, the punk “DIY” (do it yourself) ethic, body surfing and moshing, and other experiential phenomena associated with the punk movement.

Chapter 8: Apocalypse ... When?

Much of punk’s music embodies an apocalyptic vision – from the Clash’s “Armagidion Time” to the Talking Heads’ tunes “Heaven” and “Naive Melody” to post-punk pop band REM’s “The End of the World as We Know It.” This chapter investigates the apocalyptic vision of punk rock and its connection with Christian apocalyptic literature.

Chapter 9: Clampdown

Despite their differences, every punk and every Christian ends up dealing with the struggle of living the ideals of their theology or ideology while not “selling out” to the established order. How does one follow Jesus while pursuing a life within the expectations of middle class American culture? How does one remain true to “punk” ideologies while working for the establishment? Examining punk’s treatment of these cultural conflicts – through songs like the Clash’s “Clampdown” and “Death or Glory,” themes from the movie SLC Punk, and various other sources – this chapter attempts to reconcile the issues that crop up when, as the Clash put it, “every cheap hood makes a bargain with the world.”

Conclusion: Turn Your Back to the World

This final chapter concludes by examining punk’s lessons to Christian culture, and how to incorporate these lessons into ecclesiastical life. The lessons to be examined include:

  • Community matters
  • Individuality must exist within community – acceptance matters
  • We are all kings and priests in the kingdom of God
  • Questioning God matters
  • Social just matters

This chapter concludes with a challenge to the church to embrace the “punks” of the world and for a call to the inclusiveness of Joe Strummer and the clash, to tear down the walls.

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Blogger julie said...

Are they usually that long?

I could help you rewrite it, if you ever want to try again.

I would have started out with the personal stuff about you, for one thing, kinda hooked the reader into where you're coming from - a reader who, most likely doesn't have the first clue about punk other than the stereotypes you're trying to debunk/use to support your ideas.

Also, the title. "Nevermind the Bibles." I can see how the might have had misgivings about that. It's cute, but to someone who has never heard of Nevermind the Bollocks, and wouldn't get the joke, they'd probably pass it right over on the shelf - maybe even complain.

Stupider things have happened (insert eye roll).

I think Nevermind the Bibles would be a great subtitle for one more prone to catch the eye of the average Christian book buyer, ya know?

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brother, you have absolutely got your work cut out for you.
Speaking as one who was NOT a part of the punk scene I can understand why the various publishers reacted the way they did. This is a tough sell and the main reason is that the folks who were not involved with the punk scene did NOT take it seriously. Not then, not now. Sure, the car companies are using punk songs to sell cars. Its not because of anything other than 40 year old punksters are now the ones buying Jags and Beamers. Its nothing more than good marketing and cheap songs (now in the public domain).
I did enjoy the story of the concert where the fence between the "good" punkers and the "bad" punkers was torn down....but I doubt that there was anything spiritual about it. I don't think he was having an Abe Lincoln momment. Rather I believe he was having a momment of rage, induced by dope or psychosis??? Who knows?? Maybe it just seemed like a good idea at the time.
Anyway, its gonna be a tough sell. I hope you can pull it off.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous shawna said...

I think I'll skip church tomorrow and catch up here instead. Finally, another good, long blog to read.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Whisky Prajer said...

I'd throw my "vote" in with Julie's suggestion, re: emphasize the personal. My own inclination is to listen to people's stories about why this (or any) music is important to them, how it shapes the way they think about things, what sort of freight they bring to the listening after 30-plus years, etc. And, like Anonymous (I think?) I tend to be skeptical of larger societal claims made on behalf of a genre of music (or television phenomenon, etc.).

Speaking of the personal, I rather wondered if there hadn't been a "music purge" somewhere in your background....

6:10 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Thanks for all the helpful comments.

Julie - This proposal is a boilerplate that I customized for various proposals. I realize, too, that the title Never Mind the Bibles probably wouldn't catch the eye of the average evangelical Christian bookstore browser. My alternative title was Purpose Driven Punk. You think that one would work? :) Thanks for your helpful comments here and elsewhere on this site.

Anonymous - You didn't really think I'd write something that would have mass appeal, now, didja?

Shawna - I'd be interested in your comments. I hope you were missed at church.

Whisky (and Anonymous) - I can understand and appreciate your skepticism (oh ye of little faith). But I'm the kind of guy who is always trying to extract some spiritual relevance from just about everything I run across in popular culture. It's a sickness, I suppose.

Thanks for reading, one and all.

7:11 AM  
Anonymous djchuang said...

Andrew, this is great! Glad you're generous with sharing your book manuscript and inviting our feedback. I'm not all that well-versed in the punk scene, but glad you are! :) What you might also consider doing is self-publishing this book into a printed matter via a print-on-demand service like, which I've done and am very happy with the way it works. I'm about to publish a 2nd book I'm editing on Asian American theologies as we speak.

7:50 AM  
Blogger Kevin D. Hendricks said...

I second DJ's suggestion. Go for self-publishing, man! How much more punk rawk can you get? is a great way to go.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Andrew, I look forward to reading whatever you allow. Thank you for writing this.

I'd agree that equating punk with Christ is a tough sell, but I am interested in reading your thoughts.


2:23 PM  
Blogger psychodougie said...

yeah, loving it.
plan to read it at leisure soon, but until then my first impressions are really enthusiastic.
any way we can link in apologetically with pop-culture, past or present (punk being, well, both), is a good thing.
linking in the saviour-archetype as you did is something i always find thought provoking.

the feel of it does remind me a little of velvet elvis (rob bell i think), so i'm cautious of what you're going to be saying, as regards doctrine, a God of words etc.
on the whole though, as i said, quite enjoyed what i've read so far. hope to get back to you!

5:16 AM  
Blogger DEATH TO FALSE BLOGS said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:05 AM  
Blogger DEATH TO FALSE BLOGS said...

i think this wanna be a joke-minded punk bible but its not i think i need to read it more quietly...

7:38 AM  
Blogger John Thomas said...

It's just nice to know that someone else actually sees the similarities and connections between Christianity and punk. Especially here in a traditionally "Christian" part of the U.S. (middle Georgia).

You might also surf over to
He's an old school Clash fan, too. Good guy.

Be blessed.

- John

10:03 PM  

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