Written by Jack Danya Kemplin, adapted from an essay originally written by Josiah Schmidt for Goths For Jesus on December 28th 2003
“Even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.”Psalm 139:12
I find it ironic and even somewhat humorous that while many Christians eagerly throw around the popular cliche, “What Would Jesus Do?” they are also the ones who so readily condemn their Gothic brothers and sisters. Why are Goths such common targets? The answer is the same reason the Nazi party was able to convince so many Germans to commit such atrocities. If you feed people lies consistently for long enough, they will start to believe them, no matter how ridiculous they know it is. If one keeps telling oneself that the colour black is evil, that introverts, poets, intellectuals, etc. are “strange,” and that Christians have to be smiley fluffy bunnies all the time, then that’s what you’ll end up believing. But the ironic and humorous part of this situation is that Christ, the supposed Head of the Christians who so easily cast judgement, possesses many of the same qualities that Goths are condemned for displaying.
Let me clarify something before we proceed any further into this discussion: the point of this article is not to declare that Jesus is a Goth, or that the Gothic mindset is the only right mindset just because Jesus presented a few Gothic qualities. The point of this article is to demonstrate that there is nothing sinful about the way a Christian Goth thinks or acts, since Jesus Christ Himself showed Gothic qualities once in a while.
I apologise in advance if this article offends anyone. I do not intend to belittle or exclude any other believer. I simply wish to put an end to the discrimination that goes on against other saints who think differently than the majority of Christians.
Let’s turn our attention to Christ, the author of our faith, “What kind of Gothic qualities did He display,” you ask?
Just as Goths are today rejected by society, Jesus was a social outcast as well. Not many people accepted or loved Christ, no matter how “popular” He seems from the stories told in Sunday School. The Bible says of Christ, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53:2-3). Many say that Goths are ugly, that there is nothing desirable in their appearance. Often when people see Goths walking down the street or I the grocery store, they will turn their faces away from Goths, or cover their children’s eyes and quicken their pace to not be near them, despising them and holding them in low esteem.
People often incorrectly think of Goths as misfits and dangerous. Christ was one of the lowest on the social ladder, He was born in a barn to an unwed peasant woman, Imagine the shaming He and Mary must have endured because people thought that Jesus was an “illegitimate” child. He was raised in the city of Nazareth, which was right next to the Roman settlement of Capernaum, causing Nazareth to be over-ran with worship of other gods, thieves, and debauchery; Nazareth was known for its rough crudeness–its drunkards, prostitutes, and sinners. In John 1:46 , Nathanael expressed this sentiment when he exclaims, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” This shows that some people thought that Jesus too must have been a lowlife misfit, dangerous or debauched in some way, because he appeared to be born out of wedlock to a teen mother and from a town known for being filled with sin–this was the incorrect image of Jesus in the minds of many; just as many today think similarly of Goths.
There is a friction between Goths and the accepted norms of today; likewise there existed friction between the accepted norms of the day and our Lord. Many would say that the reason Goths are outcasts from society is because they are “strange” and “shocking” in their thoughts and behaviour. However, again this is something Goths share with Jesus Himself, for Jesus was a social outcast most importantly because of the way He thought and reasoned, which established society thought of as shocking, strange, and even sinful. Christ said things to people which did not fit into the box they had created for themselves. The things He preached were considered radical and directly challenged the authorities and the stereotypes that people had set up. His Beatitudes, His calls to self-sacrifice, loving enemies, and not practising your righteousness in front of others (Matthew 6:1-6), were so counter to what people thought, that they were offended and didn’t know what to do with Him.
- Christ challenged the religious authorities who would constantly accuse and condemn Him and his companions of being sinners; Jesus would then vehemently rebuked them, telling them that Him and His companions were not sinning, but that it was in fact the religious authorities who were sinning, and adding rules about how one should act which were not commanded by God (Matthew 23; 9:34; 12; 15:1-20; 16:11-12; 21:23-46; 22:1-15; Luke 4:14-29; 11:37-54; 14:1-15; 20:45-47; Mark 7:1-23; 12:35-40; John 6:66-67; 8:1-20; 15:9-25).
- He taught things which upset the wealthy (Luke 16:13-15; Matthew 6:24; 19:23; Mark 12:41-44),
- and those who judge others (Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:37-42; John 8:1-8; Luke 6:31-36; James 4:11-12; Romans 2:1-3; 12:16-18; 14:1-13).
Christ was ostracised by about every facet of established society that existed. So you see, the Goth is more similar to Christ than it appears at first glance.
Goths are constantly challenging stereotypes (false expectations that society places on an entire group of people of how those people will think/act), so Jesus challenged the stereotypes that plagued the people of His lifetime. There are false notions that all Goths are druggies, promiscuous, addicted to RPG’s, or suicidal, when that is really not the case. Likewise, by Christ’s very nature, He is a challenge to stereotypes. First of all, the fact that He was a Nazarene, as stated before, was mind-boggling. Nazarenes were known to be tough, crude, thieving trouble-makers. Yet, this man was so harmless that He would not break even a bruised reed or snuff out a smouldering wick (Isaiah 42:3). The Pharisees had a strong sense of supremacy over other peoples, believing themselves better than others, who they thought of as unclean or lesser persons, because they did not follow all of their rules. Jesus, outraged them when He declared that it was a Gentile who had the greatest faith in all of Israel (Matthew 8:5-13), and he praised a Canaanite woman’s faith (Matthew 15:22,28) while lamenting over the people’s lack thereof. Jesus even used a Samaritan, one of the nations greatest rivals, as the hero in one of His parables (Luke 10:30-37). While even Christ’s disciples wanted to shoo children away, Christ asked them to let the little children come to Him. In fact, He declared that the children are the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:2-3,10), as opposed to the common stereotype that children were obnoxious or unimportant. Another one of the big stereotypes haunting the society of ancient Israel was the notion that the more wealth you had, the better your standing with God was. The Pharisees and religious leaders were some of the wealthiest figures in that culture, and they were the most ‘religious’ as well. So when Christ declared to the contrary, that money and possessions actually inhibit a good standing with God (Matthew 19:24), many were at a loss. It was a complete paradigm shift. So you see, just as Goths are known for constantly out-stepping stereotypes, so was Christ, and He was hated just as much then as Goths are today.
Another quality that can be associated with Goths is that they are not afraid to look at how things really are, no matter how painful or disturbing that reality might be. They would rather be hurt by the truth than be entertained by a lie. Jesus tore down peoples’ facades and saw their hearts, their most inner motives. He was in no way naive as to what people thought of Him. Passages like Luke 2:35, Matthew 9:4, Mark 2:8, Luke 5:22, and Matthew 23:27 attest to this. And Jesus wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is. He didn’t sugar coat His message or water it down. He saw reality for what it was and told the truth, even when the truth wasn’t pretty. In Matthew 23:27, He saw right through the Pharisees’ religious charade, exposing their true motives. He aptly called them white washed tombs–they look nice on the outside, but inside are only full of death and decay. In John 6:60-61, even the disciples began to grumble against Christ’s preaching. “On hearing [Christ’s teaching], many of His disciples said, ‘This is hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ Aware that His disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you? …The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.'” Jesus was not just a cosy little bearded man who gave hugs and talked about “love” all the time. Much of his teaching was harsh, but at least it was in touch with the real world.
Goths are known for their love of music, artwork, and classic literature and poetry. Christ too read and understand the classic literature of His day (The Scriptures) better than anyone else. He was able to appreciate the message and the poetry of the Word of God. One might say, “Yeah, but Goths often read books by Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley, books that are violent, dark and morbid; the Bible isn’t violent, dark, and morbid!” Well, let’s see if that is a true statement about scripture:
- Cain murders Abel, his spilt blood calling out from the ground (Genesis 4:8-14)
- The majority of humanity is drowned (Genesis 7:21-23).
- Cities are destroyed with fire and brimstone, and everyone in them dies (Genesis 19).
- Dinah’s brothers kill an entire community of people to avenge the rape of their sister (Genesis 34).
- The Egyptians murder babies (Exodus 1).
- The waters turn to blood, people get boils and infested with insects, and the Angel of Death kills all of the first-born Egyptians (Exodus 7:14-12:36).
- The other nations burn their children alive as sacrifices to Molech (Leviticus 18:21).
- The Israelites slaughter entire nations of people, including the men, women, children and nursing babies (Deuteronomy 20:16-18; 1 Samuel 15:3).
- Jael hammers a stake through the head of a man, killing him (Judges 4:17-22).
- Jephthah possibly offers his daughter as a burnt sacrifice to God (Judges 11).
And then in the New Testament:
- Herod murders babies (Matthew 2:16-18).
- Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead after he has already began rotting (John 11:1-44).
- Jesus is scourged and crucified (The Gospels).
- Judas hangs himself and his guts burst open falling to the ground (Matthew 27:2-14; Mark 15:2-5; Luke 23:1-5).
- Stephen is stoned to death (Acts 7:57-60).
- A dragon wants to devour a newborn baby, and killer wasps attack as part of the sea turns to blood, becomes poisoners and kills many people, and the Angel of Death rides a deathly-pale horse (Revelations).
So, one cannot argue that the Bible doesn’t have those elements in it; Jesus was reading and living out some pretty violent, dark, and morbid things.
Likewise, just as Goths are known for their use of “dark”, “disturbing”, and “morbid” lyrics, poetry, and verse to illustrate their stories and get their points across; Jesus Christ, His eloquent parables the epitome of perfect speaking, literature, and poetry, immaculately artistically craft with such serious and meaningful messages in a way that only true wisdom could discern their meanings; in this Jesus was also, for lack of a better phrase, “not afraid of the dark.” He did not shrink from death, darkness, or the unknown, and He even chose quite disturbing illustrations to get across His points. In Matthew 18:8-9, Christ commanded that if your eye causes you to sin, you are to gouge it out, and if your hand causes you to sin, you are to chop it off. The images portrayed in His parables were very morbid at times: He compared a hypocrite who condemns his brother for a small sin while having even more sin himself with one who has a plank of wood run through his eye socket (Luke 6:41); in Luke 16:19-31 He tells of a rich man suffering torments in death, begging for a dead man named Lazarus to visit his family and warn them so they will not suffer as he does. At the last supper, Jesus told His disciples that the bread He broke was His broken body, and the wine He drank was His blood given up for them (Matthew 14:22-24). It was not uncommon for Jesus’ sermons to talk about gruesome details (Matthew 22:13; 24:9,28, Mark 9:48, etc.). Just because a thought is “disturbing” or “morbid” does not mean it is evil. Christ’s mindset shared a lot in common with the Goth’s. We should not be so quick to condemn the Gothic culture as being contrary to Christ and scriptural teaching, when in fact, it is very much in line with the truth.
Jesus did not chicken out when the time came for Him to descend from His heavenly paradise to the hellish earthly realms. He gave up His comfort, faced persecution, torture, and death on a cross.
Though the term “tolerance” is misused a lot in today’s Western culture as accepting everyone else’s viewpoints as being true without question, the phrase can still be used to refer to the tolerance of natural differences in other people. Christ tolerated and accepted the untouchables of the earth. Jesus Christ accepted the sinner woman who came to see Him while having dinner at a Pharisee’s house, while the Pharisee considered himself too high and mighty to be near to the repentant woman (Luke 7:38-39,50). He interacted with the Samaritan woman (John 4:9). This was one of the biggest taboos that He could have crossed. Jesus hung around with people whom society considered unacceptable. He went personally to the sick, the demon-possessed, the prostitutes, sinners, and tax-collectors (Matthew 8:1-4, 14-17, 28-34, 9:1-7, 10-13; Luke 15:1).
Finally, Goths are like Jesus in that Christ based His opinions of people on who they were, not on how they looked or appeared. While many churches would call the police on a dirty, scraggly homeless person or a Goth if they were to walk into the sanctuary during the service; Christ looked at people for who they truly were. He saw that many of those who were dressed in the finest clothes and who were the cleanest on the outside, were actually the most corrupt on the inside; and He saw that many of those who were considered the lowest scum of the earth, were actually some of the most righteous people on the inside. The story of the rich man and the beggar in Luke 16:19-23 is a perfect example of this. Jesus could see that the luxurious man dressed in fine linen was actually one of the worst people, as opposed to the dirty beggar whose sores were licked by dogs. To Jesus, the humbled sinner who turned from sin was a better person than the righteous man who looked down on everyone else (Luke 18:9-14). Christ accepted and loved the prostitute who repented and yet was rejected by everyone else (Luke 7:38-39,50), and the repentant thief on the cross (Luke 23:40-43). In like manner, Goths are known for their accepting personalities. Goth are the modern social equivalents of Christ, who “eat with sinners.” We do not shun those that society shuns. We do not accept rumours or hearsay. We base our opinions of people on what we know about them personally. Christ was very Gothic in this respect.
Jesus was a radical, whether one like to accept it or not. His teachings were quite extreme. He taught that in the Kingdom of God, the least will be the greatest and the greatest will be the least (Luke 9:48; Matthew 19:30). Jesus went into the Temple, and seeing people selling things, he flipped their tables and chased them out with a whip (Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-16), and He publicly rebuked the pillars of society (Matthew 23). The Bible even says that His zeal “consumed” Him (Psalm 69:9). If that is not radical, I do not know what is. Yes, we are to submit to the established authority and follow their laws (insofar as they do not go against God’s laws), but that does not mean the popular ideologies put forth by them should be blindly accepted without question. Jesus did just this, when he rebuked the religious authorities by examining their beliefs in light of the Scriptures. Now one may say, “Yeah, but he’s Jesus, it’s his place to do that, not yours!” Yet the Bible encourages us to challenge our leaders and see if what they say is in line with what God says. The Bereans were called “noble” for questioning Paul’s doctrines and seeing if what he said was actually true (Acts 17:11). Now if you are not a Goth, and you are saying, “Okay, fine then, then why don’t you Goths do that, use scripture to prove to me that you are actually following Jesus.” Why do you think I have been including scripture verses in this along with all of my points? Jesus warned His followers to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod (Matthew 16:6; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1), we cannot let the doctrines of men, and stiff-necked stubbornness, and hypocrisy be scales blocking our eyes and blinding us to the true meaning of the Word of God; we must be open to seeing His Word.
So the point of this article is to show that perhaps, before we begin condemning others, we should examine what we really have against that person and ask ourselves, “What does the Bible say about this?” Instead of being so quick to judge others, let us be a little more open-minded and see if their lifestyle (as it actually is, not stereotypes created by gossiped about it) holds up to the scrutiny of God’s Word. If, after a thorough and sincerely open examination of Gothicism, you still find Christian Goths as “heretical,” “backslidden,” or not worthy of fellowship, then that will be your own opinion, and God will be our Judge. However, I hope that after reading the scripture verses I have outlined in this article, you will believe otherwise.
There is nothing wrong with the mindset or attitude of a Christian Goth, and Christ Himself has given support to this by His own lifestyle. Therefore, we, as Christians, should definitely be more respectful and accepting of those who claim to be Christian Goths, since, as Christ stated, the family of God is our true family (Matthew 12:46-50).
Once again, I am sorry if I have offended anyone. I only ask that you take this into consideration in the future.
Love in the blood of Christ,