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.