By Tommy Lutz
This is the story of a has-been Christian punk rocker. I was the teenage punk with ideals of how Jesus could relate to today’s punks. That because punks prided themselves on being different that they were all accepting and inclusive. I was the kid who came to a harsh realization that the secular punks I related to were laughing at me while I played my heart out on stage because I had a Christian sticker on my guitar. I was extremely let down by the fact that the world wasn’t as I expected. That is until I found a new punk faction to latch onto: straightedge.
What a match made in heaven–a punk group with the same ideals as me. No sex, no drugs, no alcohol, no smoking, straightedge seemed like it was built on the same morals that my parents raised me on. It was the solution to the dilemma I found myself in. Finally it didn’t seem so weird to be abstinent and sober. We weren’t outsiders within the outsiders anymore.
I wasn’t the only one in my group of friends to think that way. Many of them started drawing Xs on their hands. The trend spread like wildfire, especially among the local Christian kids who wanted to be punk because it was cool (I was one of them). We all proceeded to proclaim ourselves as being straightedge. All of the local punk bands started tuning their guitars to drop D and playing hardcore. Some of the smarter ones went straight to metal, but that’s another story. Just like punk became trendy and we all started dressing a certain, yet not-so-certain way, hardcore and straightedge became a trend in my scene.
As a genuine weirdo I always tried to avoid trends, but I still wanted to identify with this “new” straightedge movement. I started putting Xs on my hands and in front of and at the end of random words. I tried to stay true to myself and avoid the hardcore clothing trends while still fitting in with my friends. I wanted so badly for this movement to be a genuine change to the scene. It was a dream for my morals to finally become accepted and “cool.”
Once again my world got a little bit smaller at an out-of-town concert. The straightedge movement was strong in my home town, but in other city scenes there was more knowledge and wisdom. A good friend of mine in one of these more mature scenes noticed the Xs on my hands and asked me what it meant to me. I explained my allegiance to the straightedge ideals, and he asked me again what that really meant to me. I told him it meant that I would continue to avoid sex, drugs, alcohol, and violence, and that’s where he stopped me. That’s where my world got smaller, and I realized again that I was misguided.
My friend explained to me that the real hardcore straightedge groups weren’t peaceful in their beliefs the way I had romanticized. He told me that many sXe groups would beat up people who did drugs and drank, even people who smoked cigarettes. I was shaken again, and my position in the music scene changed once again. I saw that the inclusiveness I wanted didn’t even exist in the faction that I thought aligned with my religious beliefs. I had no desire to force my straightedge views on people through violence any more than I wanted to force my religious beliefs on anyone by hitting them with my Bible.
Where did that leave me now? The punk scene wasn’t what I expected, and it challenged my ability to exist in both worlds. The straightedge scene was a far cry from what it really symbolized, and what it symbolized didn’t line up with my non-violent beliefs. Which led me to challenge myself with a question: can a Christian really keep in line with the punk ideals, and did I really want to?
Continued in Right, Wrong, or Punk Part 3!