The past several weeks have seen a flurry of well-publicized homophobic behavior coming from the Christian hardcore scene. For those keeping score at home, this has included backlash against These Hearts frontman Ryan Saunders for his litany of anti-gay (as well as racist and deeply misogynistic) tweets, For Today guitarist condemning homosexuality and subsequently leaving his band, and as we reported recently, an employee of a Christian youth center / venue in Nashville being fired for wearing a pro-gay marriage T-shirt to work.
Hardcore and Christianity have managed to co-exist for at least the past two decades or more, not entirely without tension or incident, but largely without so much public conflict. However, as attitudes among younger demographics in the United States are growing increasingly more accepting of gays and lesbians, it also becomes all the more shocking to see and hear such flagrant bigotry within the hardcore scene. Witnessing behavior you’d associate more with your grandparents than people your own age, attending the same shows you might go to, is distressing to say the least.
It would be short sighted and narrow minded to accuse the Christian underground rock community of being bigoted across the board, or to suggest that such anti-gay sentiment is widespread within that community. Those kinds of accusations are unquantifiable, and it would be hypocritical to exclude an entire segment of the population from the punk / hardcore / whatever scene on the basis of religion alone. With that said, the influx of such virulent social conservatism into what is supposed to be a welcoming environment for kids illustrates a need to a draw at least one clear line in the sand:
You can either be a participant in punk rock (and we’ll define that term here as broadly as possible), or you can be a bigot. You can’t be both.
Punk, hardcore, and metal have always been safe havens for kids who can’t find a sense of belonging anywhere else. For anyone to say or do anything that makes another group of people feel like they don’t have a place in those scenes, whether its because of their sexual orientation or anything else, is extremely disappointing. It is the complete antithesis of what music of any kind should ever be about. Chances are if you’re reading this, it’s likely because you’re into noisy underground rock music in one form or another, and odds are it’s been a positive force in your life.
But imagine how your life would have been different if you felt like that music was off-limits to you.
It’s a depressing thought, but that’s exactly the kind of message that gets sent and the kind of atmosphere that is created for homosexual youth when musicians write homophobic tweets, go on rambling and incoherent rants about the “evils” of a gay-friendly state church that’s going to take over the nation, and venues fire employees for showing their support for gay marriage. These are all things I’d expect from the FOX News crowd, not anyone with anything remotely to do with punk rock.
It should be fair to say then that if you’re going to say and do things that push vulnerable groups of people away from the music that has provided so many of us with so much – a sense of belonging, a forum for self-expression, and a community to call our own, for all of us – then you can get the hell out.
For anyone who wants to call this hypocritical, let’s review at least one key fact. People who hold a conservative Christian viewpoint that homosexuality is a sin have a right to express their views in whatever forum they see fit, just as this website has a right to call these people out on their bigotry. However, what they are doing is actively oppressing a social group with less power, whereas a gay or lesbian just existing is doing nothing at all to harm the likes of Mike Reynolds of For Today, the management of RocketTown in Nashville, Tennessee, Pat Robertson of the 700 Club, or anyone else who wants to claim that homosexuality is bizarrely tearing the fabric of America apart.
Because seriously, what the hell is that?
If there’s anything heartening to take away from the sorts of events that spurred the writing of this article, it’s that the punk and hardcore scenes have reacted swiftly to condemn homophobia. There are some things that shouldn’t be tolerated, and the injustice of excluding and alienating individuals on the grounds of sexual orientation is one of them. If you still think otherwise, there’s one question you may want to consider asking yourself:
What would Jesus do?