A Punk Rock Eschatology

Growing up in the 90’s means participating in any variety of teenage subcultures.  Certainly, the most contentious is punk.  Anyone who has ever listened to The Sex Pistols, The Ramones or The Clash has participated in the endless dialectic of authentic punk and poser.  What is authentically punk: TRUE PUNK™?  Fundamentally, these discussions are absurd.  Cultural movements among all people, though especially teenagers are dynamic and ever-changing styles.  There is only one guiding logic of punk rock.  Maybe this guiding logic relies on too much on a historical example for its legitimacy, but I think it works.  In 1977, Sid Vicious chanted the bridge to God Save the Queen: “NO FUTURE.”  Boldly, I argue that “No Future” is the logic of punk as well as an eschatological statement.

In recent days while browsing through posts on Reddit, I came across a really troubling post.  If you’re familiar with Reddit you know all too well of the troubling content regularly posted.  Though, the post that piqued my interest was not explicitly because of misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc (however, these things were all present).  The post was a simple picture of a young Muslim girl dressed in typical “punk” fashion.  Punk is such a contentious term in regards to fashion, culture and music, this contention was played out rather typically in this post.  One user says,

Punk is about rebellion and the rejection of the accepted social standards. That taqwacore stuff, “islamic” punk etc. seems like an oxymoron. Punk is punk. The concepts of “christian” punk, “islamic” punk make no sense to me.

This user misunderstands the logic of punk.  Punk rock is not about rebellion, it’s an eschatological prediction on the future made based on a certain critique of neoliberal capitalism.  Yes, punk rock is rebellious, but this rebellion is secondary to its eschatology.  This is why punk rock works so well within Abrahamic religious traditions.  Being a Christian youth often means needing to find spaces for self-expression outside of normative Christian culture.  Okay, so I’m clearly speaking from a position of Christianity, but my diagnosis of self-expression can be extended to other religious traditions, like Islam.

Why then does punk work with Christianity? Simply, it is because Christianity and punk rock share a similar eschatology (generally, I feel unable to talk about eschatology in Islam.  However, it shares a similar form with Christianity).  There is an orientation toward the meaning and politics of the end times.  Christianity and Islam share a certain apocalypticism that echoes punk rocks “No Future.”  The early church understood this the best.  The budding biblical scholar often asks why were the gospels authored so long after the death of Christ?  This is due to Christianity being apocalyptic and expecting Christ’s imminent return.

The early Christian church lived in a tension with apocalyptic themes.  They lived precarious lives: Christ could return any day.  The contemporary context is certainly different, but there is a certain apocalyptic tension that exists in the present with punk rock.  There is a questionable future: life lived under the flows of neoliberal capitalism make tomorrow uncertain.

It may be the case that the early church lived as a precarious and apocalyptic assemblage, but can a similar assessment of the contemporary church be made?  It is true that some strains of fundamentalist Christianity hold that the stars are right and Christians could be raptured at any moment.  In this interpretation of eschatological events, there is very seriously no future.  Though, the precariousness of capitalism also puts all Christians in an apocalyptic position: a position of no future.

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6 thoughts on “A Punk Rock Eschatology

  1. I think you’d do better to ‘let Reddit go.’ I find that the front page is good for a few quick laughs but a few people on the site relish in the arguing. Form over content, I suppose. It’s happened a few times recently where I, though this happens to everyone it seems, posts something innocuous. ‘How silly is the OP!’ ‘How awesome!’ ‘This does not make sense to me.’ I do not comment too terribly often, but it seems when I do the comments explode. My reply, which is often only one sentence or two, spawns legions of arguments. Zero of them have to do with me. I rarely need, much less want, to reply to any of the replies. The argument ‘trees’ descend into Reddit Hell both literally and figuratively. ‘Continue to Read’ marks the descent through the Circles of the Inferno and all I can say, when I reach the bottom, is how cold I feel.

    I don’t know what it is about the community but everyone seems to be counting crow. ‘Ah-hah! I proved him/her wrong because…Blah.’ I sincerely believes it makes me and will make you a worse person.

    I wish I could provide some meatier discussion Re: Islam or Re: Punk but I know little of the former, none of the latter. Sorry.

  2. Pingback: British punk rock report | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. I think this is a problem that effects more than punk. It certainly happens in the metal community. I mean I like punk and identify with the ethos, but metal is where I truly belong.

    I wear my black clothing, corpse paint, relish my piercings and tattoos and talk about how this band is kvlt and how that band is a poser. The thing is, is that I am a Christian and I like my metal. But I constantly hear about how I am not allowed to like metal because I am “society” simply because I proclaim faith in Christ. To me, there is nothing more kvlt than being a Christian, anarchist, or communist in this world. Let’s face it apathy is as Society as it gets and I can’t stand that. Yes individuality is important but a nihilistic apathy is precisely the problem.

    • I think I’d have to disagree that metal is doing the same thing. I’m not an expert on metal, but I am well-versed in punk. Since there are so many sub-genres of both, the line can between the two genres can be a bit blurred musically. But, I think punk fans would typically draw the line along what they perceive to be the “punk aesthetic.” This involves a mindset that is necessarily different than a metal mindset. Punks perceive metal to be a “show” that is intentionally artistic and disconnected from raw emotion – we see these metal bands with their “try hard” names and images as being the antithesis of honest expression. As the OP notes, “[Punk is] an eschatological prediction on the future made based on a certain critique of neoliberal capitalism.” Punk takes a very practical stance that isn’t just dark for the sake of being dark. This is especially in opposition to a specifically “kvlt” type. When the lines are blurred musically, like with a band like Nausea (who aren’t very talented anyway haha), punks embrace them, because they are definitely not metal in their mindset. Simply being dark is not a punk rock eschatology.

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