Thinking back upon my younger years as a Christian, I remember operating quite heavily upon an “us and them” mentality. My job was to surround myself with things that resembled “us” and try my best to make “them” be more like “us”. And of course my efforts were helped along immensely by things like the Christian music industry, which provided me with a wonderful comparison chart that told me which Christian bands I should listen to based on which secular bands I enjoyed. In my youthful zeal, I was under the impression that individuals like Kurt Cobain were the epitome of evil and Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson were very close to the devil in human form. I grew up in a Christian society that had managed to completely shut itself off from the voices of the outside world by labeling as dangerous anything that was different. I thought I was in the world and not of it, but I was not even in the world, I was completely disengaged. Something always felt wrong to me, but I was doing everything right. I was listening to all Christian music, I didn’t watch rated R movies, I hung out with the Christian kids at school, I went to “see you at the pole”; I was a true Christian. Or so I thought.
Over the last few years, I’ve really come to appreciate Kurt Cobain. I think he had an amazing ability to see and condemn hypocrisy in many social institutions, the church included. The problem was that we weren’t listening because he said bad words and had scary music videos. Not to mention that Nirvana is a term from another religion and Audio Adrenaline was the proper Christian alternative. I’ve also heard Marilyn Manson interviewed a couple times and I’ve learned a lot from his views on society. I think he’s actually a pretty brilliant guy that we could learn something from but we’re not listening because he paints his face real scary and sometimes looks like a woman. I have to confess, I still don’t know a whole lot about Ozzy Osbourne except that he once bit the head off a bat but he probably just did that to freak people out. And it worked.
What I’ve discovered is that people who are different from me aren’t really that scary. They’re just people. Maybe some of them worship the devil, but they’re still people. And I think the Bible’s pretty clear that we’re not supposed to be afraid anyways. I also think that creating the safe little Christian bubble that we have is really dangerous. When we shut off the voices of the outside world, we run a serious risk of missing the truth that comes from diverse perspectives. I’m not saying there is no diversity inside the bubble, because there certainly is, but I think Marilyn Manson and Kurt Cobain can spot a lot of things that someone inside the bubble would probably miss. When people hate us, I think we should ask why. Yes, I know that Jesus promised the disciples that the world would hate them because it hated Him first so I’m sure we can look forward to much of the same. However, I also know that the disciples were arrested, beaten, and threatened primarily on the authority of religious leaders. And I believe that some of the hatred the church feels today is due to unacknowledged mistakes that have been made in the name of the gospel, not the gospel itself. The gospel is controversial, yes, but I believe the gospel is about more than inviting people to look like us. I believe the gospel is about living in a way that transforms society from the bottom up. An “Irresistible Revolution” as Shane Claiborne calls it that empowers the disenfranchised and listens to people who are different than us. I have a feeling that if Jesus were in human form today, he’d be friends with Marilyn Manson. I think Jesus would take him out for coffee, love him, and listen to what he has to say. I’m not afraid anymore, and I’m ready to listen. Maybe if we listen past the fear and the anger, we’ll discover some truth that we need to hear.