I posted last week the following: “Biblical norms are the new punk rock. Get married young, have a pile of kids, work hard, confess sins, forgive quickly, read good stories, laugh a lot, be faithful to your spouse & teach your kids to do the same. This is counter cultural & a beautiful, winning, living culture.”
I think the point was sufficiently clear, and it met with a fairly robust applause, and so in the interest of encouraging the enthusiastic reaction, and encouraging said counter-culture, let me say a few additional things.
And let me begin by answering one comment that simply wondered if I had actually ever listened to any punk rock music. And the answer is yes. I’m somewhat familiar with the general spread of what is considered punk: from the Sex Pistols, Ramones, and the Clash to Operation Ivy and Rancid, to Green Day, the Offspring, and Blink-182, and of course the Christian punk scene in bands like MxPx or Ghoti Hook. I think that’s a fair and representative sample of the landscape of safety pins and ripped jeans and ironic suits and ties and iconoclastic screeds.
But if I’m reading the comment correctly, I believe the sense of it was something along the lines of: Excuse me kind sir, but punk rock was/is often fairly rebellious, anti-Christian, and immoral – how could Christianity be anything remotely similar to the antics of Joey Ramone or Billy Joe Armstrong? Another comment also wondered if this was an offhand tip of the hat to a certain rock band church movement in Seattle full of tattoos and Calvinism. Without saying anything directly about that scene pro or con, I’m happy to make it clear that I’m not interested in Joey Ramone pastors or Billy Joe Armstrong Calvinist dudes. And I’ll circle back around to this point shortly.
Punk as Iconoclasm
But where I absolutely did intend to point out overlap is in the simple fact that Christianity is iconoclastic – that is, Christianity smashes idols. Christianity stands athwart the pagan cultural norms. The holiness and perfection of God always stand athwart the world, the flesh, and the devil in every culture and every human heart, but the more overtly pagan a culture is/gets the more obviously counter-cultural Christianity is/becomes. This iconoclasm runs from Moses’ showdown with the gods of Egypt to Gideon’s midnight vandalism to Paul’s Mars Hill collision with the altar to the unknown god all the way down to the Reformation bonfires burning papist trinkets and baubles. And now we have an obese Federal Government that makes Jabba the Hut look like some kind of African Olympic marathon runner. The State thinks it is a god, teeming with filing cabinets full of officious paperwork which is encouraged by the breathless chase of the media prostitutes – let’s call them altar boys – and therefore, anyone who actually desires to obey Jesus Christ finds himself increasingly at odds with said Tubby Tom (and yes, for the record, I am fat shaming the federal government). And with every passing day El Federal Lardo insists that the general populace bow and scrape at the shrines to its greasy corpulence. Take the fact that all ye Democratic presidential hopefuls were given an entire day on CNN to speak in hushed and solemn tones about how soon the world will end in a fracking fireball if one of them doesn’t stop people from eating cheese burgers and using plastic straws.
Who are the cranky puritans now? And to be clear: the actual Puritans were joyful, lively Christians. But the slanderous adjective “puritanical” justly applies to the current cadre of leftist puff-faced Nannies. Just listen to them fussing about which pronouns you may use, lecturing you on your carbon footprint, badgering you about your white privilege, nagging you with their censorious pursed lips about the patriarchal residue in a phrase like “hey guys,” and demanding that you kiss the altar of every woman’s right to chop her babies in little pieces at every turn. And what you need to see is that this is every bit as religious and superstitious and idolatrous as the worst abuses of the pre-Exodus Egypt or pre-Reformation Europe.
This makes the fainting fits of the illiterati at the thought of “theocracy” a complete loony farce. We already have a theocracy, man – a nation ruled by false gods and their schizophrenic and delirious cleanliness codes. “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations– ‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ which all concern things which perish with the using– according to the commandments and doctrines of men?” (Col. 2:20-22)
Witness leftist insanity that bans cigarette smoking and defies federal laws by legalizing marijuana, on the same ballot. Witness mandatory health warnings on alcoholic drinks for pregnant women and the indignant looks a pregnant woman might get while sipping a glass of wine, all while insisting on the right to late-term decapitations, maybe even after the baby is born. And you’re a vile, leprous heretic if you think a little baby should come between a woman and her right to be a career-whore. Witness sex-education teaching children that sex is anything you want it to be, orgasms on demand, hump everything on the hillside, and the simultaneous mass hysteria under the hashtag #metoo and the seething scorn for Mike Pence following the Billy Graham rule. Witness the group think catechism of Darwinism shoved down the throats of children for 13 years, insisting that there is no meaning, only the strong survive, and progress is a matter of random mutation, and you better be good, get good grades, get into a good college, and make a bunch of money because yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
This touch-not, taste-not, ban all-the-things, lefty pantheism desperately needs a calm, cool, and joyfully Protestant punk revolt. This separate-your-trash-and-recycle-on-Fridays or else the racist fires in South America will destroy the world, you carbon-emitting patriarchal cis-gendered bigot B.S. needs a belly laugh and a wet raspberry.
Not Punk Enough
Let me put it this way. The problem with punk is not the rebellion. The problem with punk is the lack of rebellion. Or maybe better: the problem is that punk has not yet been rebellious enough. How about instead of tattoos and body piercings, you do something really rebellious and counter-cultural and get a wedding ring? And if you want to give the egalitarian establishment a serious asthma attack, have the woman promise to “obey” her husband and have your first kid a year later. And do it all before you turn 24 if you can manage it. How about instead of safety pins, you load up on diapers at Costco for the pile of kids you’re raising? How about refusing to send your children to Caesar’s public schools, start a Classical Christian school and plant or join a faithful Bible teaching church and worship the Lord every Sunday in the beauty of holiness, with joy and reverence? How about instead of overpriced, pre-ripped jeans you bought from the Shih Tzu Boutique, you just work hard six days a week until your jeans actually wear out? How about instead of ironic suits and ties and pink hair, you learn to tell good jokes and laugh hard, and read all the old stories around a table full of good food and fine wine, and sing Psalms at the top of your lungs (and learn parts), and pursue actual justice and excellence in your home, in your business, in your church, in your neighborhood. And sure, crank up some tunes on a Friday night and dance like a fool with your wife and kids in the living room.
Turns out keeping your vows to your spouse until you die, raising your children in the Lord, confessing your sins and forgiving quickly, and laughing at all the goodness and glory is a far deeper rebellion than anything the Ramones could have imagined. And the real glory is that it’s actually real, it’s honest, it’s true, and it’s a goodness that goes all the way down by the grace of God and the work of His Spirit.
We serve the God of the Universe, the God who invented sex and cell phones and laughter and mountains and water skiing and music and beer. We serve the God who invented all the best things. Sin is the enemy of it all. Sin is the prude. Sin is the fusser. Sin is the gangrene. Sin is what makes us grow old and grumpy. But grace makes us alive. Grace makes us laugh. Grace lets us start over again (and again) (and again!). As Doug Wilson likes to say, God takes where we are not where we should have been.
And this is because Jesus is forever young. He lives forever and can never grow old. He is also eternally wise and not a mere juvenile. But He is the youthful Spirit of joy and freedom and adventure and new life forever. The Pharisees always come running with their rules and regulations and huffiness and snark, and Jesus always comes not giving a damn. He loves the law of the Lord and those words are a life-giving feast. To know Jesus is to love obedience, and it turns out that obedience to God in a fallen world is the most punk rock you can be.