Sunday, September 24, 2006

Preface


Music is prophecy. Its styles and economic organization are ahead of the rest of society because it explores, much faster than material reality can, the entire range of possibilities in a given code. It makes audible the new world that will gradually become visible; it is not only the image of things, but the transcending of the everyday, the herald of the future. For this reasons, musicians, even when officially recognized, are dangerous, disturbing and subversive. – Jacques Attali

What prophets do, the good ones, is purge our imaginations of the culture’s assumptions on what counts in life and how life is lived. Over and over again, God the Holy Spirit has used prophets, biblical and contemporary, to separate people from the lies and illusions to which they’ve become accustomed and put them back on the path of simple faith and obedience and worship in defiance of all that the world admires and rewards. Prophets train us in discerning the difference between the ways of the world and the ways of the Gospel, keeping us present to the Presence of God. – Eugene H. Peterson

Do you believe in rock and roll?
Can music save your mortal soul? – Don McLean

So, what’s a good Christian guy like me doing writing a book about punk rock? And a book about the spirituality of punk rock, no less.

What could a fairly ordinary, middle-aged, churchgoing guy from the Midwest have to say about a musical genre best known for bad haircuts, bad manners, vulgarity and all-around mayhem? And what on earth could the noisy beast of punk rock offer the spiritually minded reader?

If you scratch beneath punk’s scabrous surface, you’ll find it has a lot to say about the condition of our souls and our society. It had a lot to say when it burst on the scene in the mid-1970s, and its message remains relevant today.

If you consider “spirituality” to be about the human spirit and our relationship to God and to others, then you’ll find that much of punk rock is deeply spiritual music, and that the punk culture that has grown up around the music is a deeply spiritual culture. I wrote this book because I wanted to explore this spirituality in light of my own Christian faith and share what I discovered about both with a wider audience. And because I’m better at writing than at playing guitar and screaming into a microphone, I chose to write a book.

Obviously, punk spirituality doesn’t look much like what many people call “traditional” Christian values. Come to think of it, what many people think of as “traditional” Christian values don’t look much like what Jesus taught, anyway. Be that as it may, it could be that we should take a look at our values, measure them against the teachings of Jesus, and see just how close our values fit with those of the Savior/Messiah we claim to follow.

Another reason I decided to write this book is because I believe it’s important for spiritually minded people to understand the forces that influence our culture. The punk rock movement – its subculture as much as the music it produced – has not only been a dominant force in pop culture over the past three decades, it also has more in common with the doctrines of Christianity than we might believe. Beneath punk’s rough exterior – underneath the demented shrieks, loud and sloppy power chords, and pierced body parts, spiked hair and raucous behavior on and off the stage – there lies a message and aesthetic – indeed, a theology – that offers a refreshing perspective on the Christian faith.

Finally, I believe that the times call for us to take a fresh look at our world around us. Our culture is absorbed with consumerism and a corporate ethos that numbs our souls. The United States – and the rest of the world – has become anesthetized to the pain and suffering of brothers and sisters around the world. The church is in dire need of reformation, and the punks, like the prophets of old, can help us to, in Eugene Peterson’s words, “separate ... from the lies and illusions to which they’ve become accustomed and put them back on the path of simple faith and obedience and worship in defiance of all that the world admires and rewards.”

As Neil Young once sang, “There’s more to the picture than meets the eye.”

Never Mind the Bibles explores the spiritual side of punk rock’s thirty-year journey, from its origins in dingy clubs in the bad part of the city to its ascendancy as a driving force in much of today’s music, fashion and popular culture. And if that doesn’t do it for you, well, you can always write your own book.

Andrew Careaga - September 2006

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4 Comments:

Blogger APN said...

I am quite looking forward to where this is going. I'm honored that you'd include me on your blogroll. If you need any editing assistance, let me know.

Peace.

APN

7:05 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Well, that was a lot to read! Where to start...first, I will be interested to see what direction this takes. Your devotion to the altar of Strummer is a little heavy-handed, and the synopsis of punk reads like a sugar-coated VH1 special.

However, you are not trying to give a history of punk, and you have specific points to make, so picking one or two anecdotes to focus on works for this.

"Punk is not dead. Punk will only die when corporations can exploit and mass-produce it. – Jello Biafra"

When's that quote from? I wonder if he held a funeral, yet.

"“Because it depends on tolerance and shuns denial, Punk is open to all humans,”"

As long as you don't join the military, wear khaki pants, drive shiny new SUVs, read US News instead of Adbusters...

"“the punk cosmos is nearly free of the rivalries that plague rock, pop and rap.”"

Not true, either. Skins v. bones v. sharps v. XXX v. ...

"We might cast stones at punk for giving us bad haircuts, body piercing, neo-Nazi skinhead extremists, slam dancing, songs that glorify sniffing glue and teenage lobotomies, and bands like A Flock of Seagulls, to name just a few of the ills."

Megachurches, and WASP,suburban McChristianity isn't equally deserving for destroying the original intent/message?

I'm glad this is finally available to read. I was going to ask the other week what had happened to it!

1:10 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Julie:

Your devotion to the altar of Strummer is a little heavy-handed, and the synopsis of punk reads like a sugar-coated VH1 special.

Strummer is a god, you know. And just wait until you read my punk synopsis in chapter 1. You'll think I had a backstage pass to "Behind the Music."

Re: the Jello Biafra quote. It's an old one, but I suspect it was tinged with some Jello irony in the first place.

Your other points are well taken. Especially this one:

Megachurches, and WASP,suburban McChristianity isn't equally deserving for destroying the original intent/message?

Must certainly. More to come on that topic in upcoming chapters.

Thanks to you and APN both for offering some editing assistance. I appreciate it.

7:16 AM  
Anonymous Patrick said...

Andrew,
Thank you for posting your book online. I was once a part of a punk 'scene' in Chicago and tossed away some very good years of my life wallowing in its nihilism. I am now,however, a Christ follower and quite changed, yet continuosly surprised to find the similarities in what Jesus taught and what I believe was at the heart of punk. You are really on to something here. Looking forward to reading it.

6:42 PM  

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