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Summer is upon us! And, in the Christian music world, that means one thing: summer music festivals. I actually don’t like using the name Christian to describe much of what occurs at these festivals, but festival organizers and bands market themselves under the name Christian, so it leaves little else to describe them. Maybe pseudo-Christian would be a better term.
It was just last year that I got myself into hot water with some folks with a post about the Cornerstone Festival and their inclusion of bands such as Grave Robber. It generated the most discussion we’ve ever had on the blog. It also produced some good follow up blogs by Michael Durham.
This year’s crop of festivals are no better than before. The one that caught my attention this time is the Ichthus Festival that occurred this past weekend in Kentucky. They had a Grave Robbers Tent that featured bands such as Dark Valentine and Leper. Here is what organizers have to say about the Grave Robbers Tent:
Ichthus values all different parts of the Body of Christ...especially those parts that are overlooked and underserved by the mainstream. That's why we've created a space for youth subcultures that tend to stay out of the mainstream: Goth, punk, hardcore, emo, and others.
The Body of Christ is first and foremost a peculiar people. Christians are above their culture if one’s culture is opposed to God. So we are Christians first. But even the last half of that verse speaks to this very issue. It says that God has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. The very cultures of goth, punk, hardcore, and emo are built upon a celebration of darkness. If a person is part of these cultures then they are in direct opposition to the very nature of God.
We are not talking about the differences between cultures such as Chinese, African, or American. We are talking about a culture that one chooses to be a part of. Many act as if those in these cultures are there because of fate, as if they had been born into an South American tribe or Asian village. To be goth, punk, etc. in the United States is a choice. And those very cultures are built around darkness, death, anarchy, and separatism. They are not God honoring.
The argument, of course, is that you have to be like them in order to reach them. That we have already addressed. I believe this argument is somewhat of a smokescreen. I believe their goal is to soothe their consciences with a form of Christianity while remaining in the very cultures that are anti-Christ.
Hope for the Rejected, an organization that appears to have ties to Youth for Christ, states that their aim is to reach people in these cultures. They do so by helping the pseudo-Christian music festivals have goth music tents and even goth raves. Their purpose statement starts off with this sentence: Hope for the Rejected focuses on reaching underground subcultures world wide with the gospel of Christ. That sounds great, right? I would whole-heartedly stand behind that effort.
But their goal is not to rescue them from cultures that promote darkness, but to leave them there under the name “Christian”. On their about us page, they say this:
We believe that Christianity exists outside and above culture. Therefore, being a Christian doesn’t necessarily determine how you dress or what music you listen to. All of us belong to different subcultures (based on tastes in music, social morays, etc.), but as Christians we are all united by belief in Jesus Christ.
This statement is flat out wrong. Being a Christian does, in many ways, determine how you dress and what music you listen to. 1 Timothy, 1 Corinthians, & 1 Peter all contains instructions in reference to dress. The goal of Paul and Peter was not to restrict liberties but to bring humility and avoid distraction in the church. Paul, in Ephesians, says, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” This is just one example that would govern what music we listen to.
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. Do you think that Jesus would celebrate darkness and death by dressing the way these subcultures do? Absolutely not. Would he preach the gospel to them? Absolutely yes! But he would not join them in their worldly pursuits.
Lastly, I want to expose how those in these chosen cultures reconcile their lifestyle to Christianity. It is all through death. Goths, whether they call themselves Christian or not, glory in death. Christianity is based upon the death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through his sacrifice, we have a payment for sin. He is our propitiation. But that is not where the story ends. Jesus died and was raised three days later. He defeated death and grave. It no longer holds power of us.
Death is very powerful in Christianity. And it is used as an analogy. Romans 6 says "How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
These groups, who already love what is associated with death, latch on to the theme of death in the Bible and therefore justify their lifestyles. Yet even if we are identified with the death of Christ in that we have died to sin, we walk in newness of life. We no longer glory in death. It is not fitting for a saint of God.
Parents, do you know what your children are getting into, even at a pseudo-Christian festival? Please, do not be deceived. Just because someone names Christ and says some things that are in line with Christianity they are not necessarily Christian. I cannot say with certitude that those trying to merge goth and other lifestyles together with Christianity are not children of God. But I can say celebrating death in the way they do is not of Christ.