Written: 26 June, 1999

I mentioned before that lately I've been getting interested in Christian rock. (Which isn't completely new to me, since I had done the same back in high school.) I've always been interested in religions, although my family was not a church-going family. When I was a kid, I used to say that I was a Presbytarian, although I don't know really where I got that. The only time I've ever been in a church was once when I was 14 [see journal entry for 1/7/1985], when I asked to go along with a girl I knew in art class to a church thing, which I think was youth-oriented. That was probably the first time that I noticed that often I was attracted to people who seemed to share my attitudes, only to subsequently learn that they were Christian. I'm the kind of person who doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't swear, etc., without being a Christian to think that way. I've said that I believed in goodness, more than God; that I was a follower of what I see as "goodness." Admittedly, that philosophy is based on having grown up with fictional superheroes like Superman and Captain America as role models, which I can see being dismissed as flimsy pop-culture subsitutes for real heroism, real goodness, real icons.

Nonetheless, I have a hard time with the idea of accepting Chrisitianity, for me personally. Back around 1988, during a kinda depressing but exciting year, I wrote a lot of songs for my enjoyment, and a few of them were religious. One of them was called "Amen," and I tried to sum up how I felt about God in that song. "If there's a God that loves us," I wrote, "then I know I love him/If there's a heaven above, then I want to go in..." It was predicated on "if" God was like this or like that, then I would respond accordingly. The God I believe in, if I do believe that such a God exists, is a loving God. He wouldn't let good people burn in eternity for Hell, simply because they are not Christians, because I wouldn't want my worst enemy to burn for eternity in Hell. Which is what the God of the Bible does, or so I hear. That's why I don't believe in that God of the Bible, because I don't think he is a just God.

XTC's anti-God song "Dear God" has the lines (paraphrasing) "The wars you bring/the babes you drown/those lost at sea & never found/ it's the same the whole world 'round/The hurt I see helps to compound/that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost/is just somebody's unholy hoax/and if you're out there, you'd perceive/that my heart's hear upon its sleeve/and there's one thing I don't believe in, it's you." I always have read that to mean, "Here I am, an honest good person with his heart on his sleeve, but I'm still to be damned in your eyes because I don't agree with you for making us suffer. Around the same time as I first heard that song, a Christian friend (another one) told me, with annoying sincerity, "Rob, I don't want you to go to Hell" because I didn't accept Christ. For some reason, that really made me mad. It makes me mad that something so obviously unjust (good people going to Hell for not believing) is supported and endorsed by such Christians. "That's just the way it is," I can imagine them saying, "It's God's rules, we just play them." Well, I can't believe in that kind of God, sorry. I'd rather join the martyrs in Hell who have stood up for questioning and skepticism than the brainwashed zombies in Heaven who have no problem with it.

As I said before, I believe in the supernatural. It's easy. You turn out the lights, and suddenly you can believe in ghosts. I can believe in a God. I know, because I've prayed to him, especially when I've been suffering. There's nothing like making me a believer as when I come down with the 24-hour flu, lying in bed at 2am unable to sleep, hoping that I won't have to get up to vomit for the rest of the night. So, I can say that I do believe in a loving God, but not necessarily the Bible's God.

I think sometime in the early-to-mid 1990s, my view of Christianity was that I didn't agree with its rules and so on. I'm pro-choice, so I assumed that I would be encouraged by other Christians to change my stance. Same with gay rights, animal rights, etc. Christianity stood for the Christian Coalition. When I was at the registrar's office at college, wearing a Jesus and Mary Chain T-shirt, the person behind the desk asked if they were a Christian rock band, and I think that I must have scoffed under my breath contempuously as I said they were not. I used to repeat that anecdote with delight to others -- what a laugh, as if the cool Jesus and Mary Chain were some lame Christian rock group!

But then I stumbed upon G-Rock and Real Videoes on TBN, and was blown away by the Christian rock I was seeing on there. This was great stuff. The only bad part was between songs when glassy-eyed Christians would look into the screen and repeat a bunch of phrases they heard in church about how wonderful Jesus is, and how you ought to accept Him in your heart, blah blah blah. Turn the channel. Those people don't give me any reason to join their religion, unless I had the wish to come across as brainwashed as them. That's one of my problems with churches. I'd see what looked to be cool churches every now & then, like if they had some cool saying like "Love is Real" on the sign outside instead of some corny pun. Several years ago, I used to walk a lot around the streets of my town, looking for something...(I even wrote some dittys at the time with titles like "What Are You Looking For?" and "Where Are You?"), feeling lonely. And I remember passing a chuch once and thinking that maybe if I went inside, that maybe my agonizing loneliness would end, that I could suddenly be friends with lots of cool people, and I could feel like I finally belonged somewhere. But then I knew that if I did go inside that church, I'd have to believe what they would believe -- to basically be brainwashed into believing as they do, before being really accepted. And I CAN'T do that, because I will always have questions and skepticism about everything, that's just how I am. I'm not going to hide it or suppress it. Leo Buscaglia used to say that when you got to Heaven, the man at the gate wasn't going to ask you, "why didn't you become a great doctor?" or "why didn't you become a great whatever" but will say "Why didn't you become You?" To be brainwashed by a religion, by other people's dogmas, is not my idea of becoming me -- it's trying to be someone else. I'd rather be me.

Anyway, as I was listening more and more to this current Christian rock (especially the excellent Miss Angie "100 Million Eyeballs" tape, which I've been playing constantly), I started to think that maybe Christianity wasn't such a strict annoying religion as I had thought it was. As I'd said before, the stuff on G-Rock and Real Videos seemed pretty laid-back and cool, nobody saying "don't do this" or "don't do that" or "if you don't think this way, you aren't a true Christian." This more liberalized Christianity seemed more attractive to me. But does it really exist?

I did a yahoo search yesterday on "Christian rock" and amazingly it seemed like many of the links were for Christian webpages that were bashing Christian rock. Check out this page where there is a list of do's and don'ts regarding Christian rock, such as "Excessive volume is Wrong." The writer warns that tatoos (which I don't like either, since I hate the idea of anyone doing something that's permanent!) are pagan, and that marking your body is forbidden by the Bible. (I found this interesting because it looked like Miss Angie had done some tatoo-like drawings on her fingers, during a Real Videoes appearance. And there was another Christian rock singer I saw -- couldn't find the tape off-hand, the video was on TBN last week or so -- who had a nose piercing, a tongue piercing, and maybe one other pericing -- though that might have been just a mole.) I'd once seen Ashley Cleveland performing the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" on Real Videoes, and it was terrific, but goes against what the writer of the webpage says ("a Christian artist recording a secular song with NO CHANGES"). That webpage also has a disturbing message about how Christians and non-Christians ought not to be together:

"There is a scripture that youth pastors often use to discourage Christian young people from dating non-Christians:

"14. Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15. What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?"

I don't know about you, but I find that idea very creepy, that if you are a Christian that you should not associate with non-Christians. It goes against everything I thought about Christians trying to win non-believers over to their faith. But, on the other hand, I guess it is consistent with the Christian belief that only Christians will get into Heaven, and that they will be separated for eternity from the non-believers who reside in Hell. I'd hate to see what happens to your average Christian when they won't have people to condemn anymore (or perhaps they will just turn on each other, as they frequently do anyway).

The writer of that page also has a page about Kurt Cobain, where he writes:

"One thing that is apparent is that, barring some last conscious moment change of heart, he chose to reject Jesus Christ, which is always a tradegy of the highest order. God never sends people to hell, they choose to go there of their own free will. I am very much afraid that this was Kurt's decision - one which God reluctantly honored. He would have much rather have welcomed Kurt with open arms, but he would never force someone to be in heaven against their own free will - a free will that God gave them as a gift of love. Perhaps Kurt would never have been happy in an environment of eternal worship of Jesus Christ. It is regrettable that the only alternative for him is so horrible."

So, he is saying that Kurt Cobain is now in Hell. I suppose John Lennon is now in Hell, because (as one of these webpages says) "For those who don't remember, the Beatles were atheists, Communists, Christ haters and God mockers. If DC Talk think they're serving God through this kind of music, THEY'RE the ones who need help!" So Lennon, the man who wrote "Give Peace a Chance" and "All You Need is Love," is in Hell, along with how many other good people who preached about peace but who hadn't bowed down before the rod of Jesus, lest he smite them? I'd rather share eternity with those anti-Christian folks frankly.

I really wonder if I'd be able to listen to my Miss Angie tape in Heaven? From the way some of the Christian webpages are condemning Christian rock, I doubt it. And this is just a reminder to me that the Christianity I knew about before is still around -- the pushers of conformity, comformity, conformity. Even the more liberal Christians seem to embrace that conformity. I have no place there -- don't want a place there, and reject their way of thinking. So, that's why I'm not a Christian.

I would love to be proved wrong. I would love for someone to drive holes through all my arguments and show me why the Bible's God is not unjust in his actions, why he is worth loving. I know that other people have the answers that satisfy them, and I have no intention of trying to shake anyone's faith in anything. In fact, I think it's great that people have found something they can believe in so strongly. I don't think it's for me, though, personally.

(Whew, was this heavy or what!!)