Burning Churches, Burning Bridges: The Cognitive Dissonance of Being a Catholic Metalhead
All art is political. Religion and music are no exception. Many metalheads claim to be anti religion one minute, and then devil-worshiping Satanists the next. Others enjoy the music while still practicing their faith, whether it’s Judaism, Islam, or Christianity. To assume that all metal music is Satanic or Atheistic, is as asinine as assuming that all jazz fans are Scientologists, or all rappers are Mormons.
The so called Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne, is Christian. So are Ronnie James Dio, Alice Cooper, Blackie Lawless, Dave Mustaine, Tom Araya, and Jeff Hanneman. Entire bands can be religious, as with Underoath, Demon Hunter, and The Eden Betrayal. However, just because someone is religious, doesn’t mean they are righteous. As I Lay Dying was a Christian metal band, and they were entangled in controversy when their lead singer hired a hit man to kill his wife. The hit man was actually an undercover officer in a sting operation, so even though nobody was killed, the band will likely never fully recover from the media circus.
There will always be hypocrisy in religion, but there is always controversy in the music industry as well. Many people have died in the name of God. But many metal bands, who renounced God, killed themselves and each other. The church is tainted by a dark history of pedophilia, but many rock bands have also been charged with sexual assault. Whenever a violent crime is committed, the media often focuses on their religion, and what kind of entertainment they consumed. It’s convenient to have a scapegoat to blame, whether it’s video games, modern music, cults, or religion itself.
It’s hard coming to terms with my own identity, knowing that the whole world is poisoned by hypocrisy and self righteousness, even in my own soul. How can I be Catholic when I’m openly bisexual? How can I reconcile nature worship and paganism with my Abrahamic schema of the world? How do I question the reality of heaven and hell, or God and Satan, when the Bible insists upon their existence? I don’t know… But my seemingly contradictory beliefs just feel right to me. Even though I’m not a perfect Christian woman, I was baptized, I had my confirmation, I partook of the Holy Communion, and I practice other rituals, such as reciting the Rosary, or celebrating religious holidays. According to the Catholic Church, I am a member of their organization, and they are literally the authorities on the matter, so I take my Catholicism at face value.
I Loved You At Your Darkest
There are so few beautiful things in this wicked world. Of course I am saddened when any one of them is lost to time. I mourned with others when their sacred sites were desecrated. I celebrated with them when their holy grounds were restored. I’ve invested hours, days, years worth of free labor to promote their music, art, and writing. I have donated to their cause when they couldn’t afford their own bills. I let them crash on my couch long past their welcome. They ate my food, drank my booze, smoked my herb, and spent my money. All because I was raised to give until it hurts… but I didn’t know they would hurt me this badly.
I don’t give a damn if someone is Christian, Hindu, Pagan, or Athiest. If you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. Sad thing is, most people are not being very nice right now. If they call themselves my friends, they should be more amiable. If our relationship is strictly business, then they should act more professional. I don’t appreciate being insulted by the same people who expect me to do favors for them.
The loss of any historical, religious, or cultural icon is a tragedy. It’s selfish to say “oh well, it wasn’t part of MY religion/country/culture, and I wasn’t personally affected by it, so that means everything is not only fine, but also hilarious.” I am devastated by the burnt Cathedral in France, as well as the Baptist churches in America, as well as the Mosque in Jerusalem. Now another church was attacked in Sri Lanka, killing and hurting hundreds of people. Even if a secular building was destroyed, it’s still a tragedy. When I read in the news that a child had died in an apartment fire, I didn’t say “hmm, better look up what race/religion/nationality he was, so I know if I should be sad or not.” Of course I was sad. Not because I’m Catholic, but because I’m a decent human being.
God = Dog
While my American friends make tacky jokes that are as predictable as they are tasteless, my best friend, a Muslim, has been more supportive than anyone else. We have different religions, nationalities, and lifestyles, but we still respect each other’s beliefs. And I try to treat all my friends with that kind of respect. All I ask is that you return the favor. I am interested in all kinds of lifestyles and belief systems, not just my own.
My best friend Ali took me to France when I hit rock bottom. At the time, in his own words, I was an “emotional cripple.” It was hardly a fun filled vacation. I was in a dark place in my life, so I ran to the comfort of my best friend. America was cruel to him, so he won’t visit me here. I had to go to him instead, and he happened to be in Paris.
There’s a reason I travel. It’s not necessarily for fun. It’s to spend quality time with people who care about me, as well as get away from those who don’t. People aren’t always supportive or sympathetic when they should be. I can understand why some people reject religion in general, or Christianity in particular. Corrupt officials have hurt people. Holy wars and crusades hurt entire nations. But something that hurts can also heal. Kind of like how everyone needs friendship, even though friends can do and say hurtful things.
American Athiests think that they are brave for rejecting religion in this country. But the USA has a strict separation of church and state, and citizens have the right to practice any religion, or lack thereof. It’s literally in the constitution. They don’t understand true oppression. Athiests in the Middle East can be imprisoned or executed for apostasy. LGBT people who live in Saudi Arabia can be disowned or even killed by their own family. Ali knows what it’s like to live under a true religious state. But he’s still a proud Muslim. And he consoled me when Catholic churches were under attack, as I sympathized with him when Islamic Mosques were targeted.
I was already been feeling depressed and taken for granted, even before my faith was being mocked by strangers and colleagues alike. But my bestie cheered me up by roasting the try hard edgelords. We exchanged irreverent riffs on metal elitist culture for hours on end. We laugh with each other, not at each other. It’s ok to joke about serious issues. Humor is a valid coping mechanism. However, there is a difference between gallows humor, and just being offensive to get attention. If you really need shock value to get a rise out of people, then congratulations, you have the same Modus Operandi that I had when I was a preteen girl in middle school. Weird flex, but ok.
Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica
People complain that there are better charities to donate to, than restoring a centuries old international symbol of faith. Fair enough. But how much did YOU donate to starving kids or cancer research? Or do you just use them as bargaining chips to prove a moot point? And no matter what side of the debate you stand on, we have all been voicing our opinions on social media. How much did your phone and computer cost? Do you know how many mouths you could have fed with those hundreds of dollars? How much did you pay for your tattoos and piercings? How much have you spent on musical instruments and concert tickets? As far as I’m concerned, people and organizations can spend their own money however they see fit. After all, I have spent hundreds of dollars on my friends. And this is how they thanked me.
Besides, there isn’t exactly a realistic alternative to renovating a huge, historical infrastructure that was only partially damaged. What do you suggest, that we take a wrecking ball to completely decimate the largely intact and culturally significant remains? Or would you rather keep a half burned, abandoned building where a majestic monument once stood? No, of couse it’s more prudent and practical to repair and renovate an international icon. Yes, it will be expensive, obviously. But it would be expensive AND stupid to hire a wrecking crew to bulldoze something that could simply be salvaged. Besides, it’s not like the million dollar donations are coming out of your own pocket. Talk all the smack you want, but these churches, cathedrals, and mosques are already being rebuilt, with or without your support.
Maybe they’re right. Maybe it is stupid to turn the other cheek, to forgive people, to try to see the best in everyone. Maybe tolerance and compassion are overrated. I try to take the high road, and all I get in return in frustration and resentment.
Sometimes I wish I could be a jaded, cynical jerk like everyone else seems to be. But (un)fortunately, I’m better than that. The only thing I’m cynical about, is cynicism itself. Like, I’m sooo over it, lol. By the way, for a bunch of self-proclaimed nihilists, they seem awfully proud of their life accomplishments, no matter how trivial. Make up your minds! If human existence is so futile, then why are you bragging about your new novel/album/art gallery? Isn’t your hard work as meaningless as everything else in the cold, stupid universe that isn’t mysterious or majestic at all? In that case, why do you need me to write about your own exercises in futility? And why are you on a strict deadline if time is meaningless and nothing matters anyway?
The more people antagonize me, the harder it is for me to say nice things about them and their art. If they act offensive, I’ll act defensive. If I’m such a gullible religious fanatic or a brainwashed idiot, then they can find someone better to write positive reviews about their local band who has no online presence, all for free and on last minute notice. It’s hurtful when they insult me, my family, and my heritage, and the next minute they ask for a glowing review of their band because nobody else wants to write for them. (Gee, I wonder why.) Eventually, I will probably just forgive everyone anyway, whether or not they deserve it. Until then, I just want to heal in solitude and silence.
This article was partially inspired by:
Blacklisted, an article about Christian goths, published in Morbid Outlook E-Zine.
10 Things Christians and Athiests Can (And Must) Agree On, a humorous take on religion and society, published by Cracked.
L’Oreal, a French cosmetics company who donated to restore the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, is mentioned in my article of 10 Awesome Beauty Brands That I Use Every Day.