A Defense of Christian Goth
"But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance. . . The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'" I Samuel 16:7
Gothicism is often looked down upon by society because so many people falsely associate it with Satanism, anarchy, neopaganism, rebellion, etc. While there are Goths that are Satanists, anarchists, and neopagans, these make up only a minute piece of Gothicism. Many sources indicate that the majority of Goths in the world are Christian. Crosses and crucifixes are popular aparrel among Goths. So is Gothicism evil?
First of all, what is Gothicism?
Many say that people who wear black, celebrate darkness and death, or often act depressed are Goths. However, these things are not necessarily true. Gothicism has its roots in the Germanic tribe, known as "Visigoths," which caused the downfall of the Roman Empire. Many of these Visigoths were quick to embrace Christianity and so Gothicism has never been without a large portion of God-fearing believers. "Gothic" is also referred to in the Medieval architecture that was incorporated into building churches and cathedrals. The term was derogatory and was used as an insult to the style of building (which later became recognized as very eloquent and artistic). And also, in the 19th century, "Goth" is a label that has been placed on the dark, gloomy, and somewhat eerie writings of authors and poets such as Edgar Allen Poe and Mary Shelley. The Gothic subculture we know today was popularized in the 1980's as a sharp contrast to the bright and wild disco movement. The term "Gothic", as we use it now, was coined by the manager of an early Goth band called "Siouxsie Sioux" to describe the dark and morose sound of their music.
This brings up another objection: Gothicism only emphasizes death and darkness and suffering. How can one be a Christian Goth? Wouldn't being a Christian Goth be ignoring other factors such as light, life, and rebirth?
In Luke 22:42, Jesus, in anguish over the thought of His imminent crucifixion, spoke to the Father. He hoped that there was possibly some other way to carry out the mission He had been sent for (namely to save the world from sin). Yet, He decided to accept and deal with the fact that suffering and death were necessary, telling the Father, "Not my will, but yours be done."
In Philippians 1:21, the apostle Paul stated, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." He counted it an honor to live for God, but he also counted it a blessing to die as a Christian, since he knows that we, as believers in Christ, have treasure in heaven, and not on earth.
In Acts, chapter five, the apostles were flogged severely with whips for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. Verse 41 then records that "the apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" (emphasis added).
In Matthew, chapter five, Christ calls "blessed" those who are "poor in spirit," those who "mourn," those who are "meek," those who are "persecuted", etc. Many of these things are ascribed to Goths. But what does the Bible say? As believing Goths, we are blessed!
Are the allegations against Gothicism that Goths only focus on death and suffering and darkness true? It is true that Goths often reflect upon these topics, especially in their poetry (which Goths are known for) and that Goths often wear dark clothing (such as black, navy blue, etc). However, Gothic thought and philosophy--like Goths themselves--are frequently misunderstood and misrepresented. Gothicism is merely accepting and dealing with the harsh facts of life, yet in a way that is almost poetic. As a young lady I know of (who is also a sister in Christ) once put it, ever so eloquently, "Goth is seeing the beauty in the midst of the dark and dying world." Many teens and young adults simply use the Gothic subculture as an excuse for self-indulgence, rebellion, and sin, however, this is not what the heart of Gothicism is. It is simply an appreciation of the goodness and beauty that is within even death and suffering.
Jesus Christ and the Apostles were some of the first to recognize this.
Jesus and the apostles saw suffering and death in this world as a blessing, for since we are Christians, we know that in the next world, we will have treasure and eternal life.
And so, when we wear black (commonly a symbol of death), it represents, for us, death to self and death to sin. In Galatians 2:20, Paul wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me," and he echoed in Galatians 5:24, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." In Romans 6:2-4, Paul again emphasizes this: "We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
When we, as Christians, wear black, doesn't that ruin our testimony? People associate dark clothing with Satanism, don't they? If we're associated with Satanists, then our witness is tarnished. We are not to dress like the world does, right? If Christians are to dress in a certain way to be different from everyone else in the world, then it should be noted that the Church of Satan only has several thousand followers worldwide (a few thousand in America and only 3-400 in Canada). Most unbelievers dress "normal," exactly like most Christians do. If we wanted to separate ourselves from the unbelieving world by clothing, Gothic dress would ironically be the best way to do it!
However, we as Christians are to honor God in everything we say, do, and, yes, wear. I Timothy 2:9 tells us to dress modestly. We believers should not wear anything that dishonors God or is sexually suggestive. I, like my other Gothic brothers and sisters in Christ, tend to wear clothing that glorifies Christ and God and spreads the gospel message. It is also a surprising fact, that one of the earliest paintings of Jesus (a 6th century painting in St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai) features Jesus wearing all black. Click here to view the picture.
Also, what do people normally wear at funerals? The color black, of course. In Luke 22:19, Jesus tells His disciples to break bread "in remembrance of Me." In Luke 5:34-35, Jesus asked, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them." And so now that the bridegroom has been taken from us, we not only eat and drink, but live in remembrance of Christ. We wear black in remembrance of Christ, as those at a funeral wear black in remembrance of their departed loved one.
Are Christian Goths less righteous than "normal" Christians because of the colors they like to wear? Luke 12:22 tells us not to worry about clothes. And as the Bible quote at the top of this page says, "But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance. . . The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart'" (I Samuel 16:7). We are to be Christlike. Christ did not look at the outward appearance of men, but at their hearts. So we, likewise, should not judge people based on their outer appearances, but by their hearts, and by their actions and words.
A very good friend of mine recently sent an email to a well-known, respectable Christian author in Great Britain (who will remain nameless) concerning Christian Gothicism. The body of his reply was as follows:
"The Bible makes it clear over and over that believers are to be separate from the world, love not the world, not be friendly with the world, have no fellowship with the world etc. etc.
Yet I get constant emails. . . basically saying 'How far can a person go and still be a Christian?' Salvation would deliver someone from 'Gothism'. Calling yourself a Christian Goth is like going into a newsagent and asking for Christian Playboy.
It's time to call a spade a spade."
This particular Christian author, though reputable for his way of presenting the gospel, wrongly assumes
that because some Goths are not Christian, all of Gothicism should be condemned. However, Abraham, in Genesis 18:25, says about God, "Far be it from you to do such a thing-to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" According to this author's reasoning, just because some magazines are Playboy, all magazines should be condemned; and just because some Goths are Satanic, then all Goths should be condemned. As you can see, this is faulty thinking.
This author also wrongly assumes that being a Christian Goth is mixing in Christianity with "the world." Now, he is right in saying that we are to "not love the world or anything in the world" (I John 2:15). However, while we are "not of the world" (John 17:14), we have been "sent. . . into the world" (v.18) by Jesus and are in the world. What God meant by not loving the world or the things in it, is that we are not to love the material things and the sinful things in the world. We are, however, called to love even the unbelievers. And while we are not to have fellowship with the world in that we are not to mirror the sinful practices of others, we are to accept unbelievers and show love for them, just as Jesus did when He continued to eat and talk with tax collectors and sinners even when condemned by the religious leaders of His day for doing so.
If we are to isolate ourselves from the unbelievers themselves along with the unbelievers' practices, then we are no better than the Pharisees of Jesus' day. Jesus replied to those Pharisees (Matt 9:12-13) "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." And to us, Jesus has said, "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:29).
If we judge people based on how they look and dress and not by their heart, then we are no better than the Pharisees of Jesus' day.
Another issue that Christian Gothicism is accused of is the idea that within Christian Gothicism, there is no hope of redemption. Now, this idea probably comes about because the majority of Goths seem "depressed" and "hopeless." The truth is, many of them are. However, depression and hopelessness are certainly not limited solely to the Gothic community. Those emotions are widespread and are a part of every man and woman's life. As Christian Goths, we are certainly not lacking the joy of Christ (Phil 1:26) or the hope of Christ (I Cor 15:19), however, we are--in the spirit of King Solomon--down-to-earth and solemn, who said, "Laughter. . . is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?" (Ecc 2:2)
For the same way we live "in remembrance of Christ" by wearing black like at a funeral, we put aside foolishness and silliness and remain serious in our commemoration of Christ. But there is nothing that suggests that we have no hope. We know and trust that we have been redeemed and will be with the Lord in heaven when we die. We have "full assurance of hope" (Heb 6:11). Hope does not mean one must be peppy and giddy. In fact, those who act happy and carefree all the time are the most likely to be the most unhappy inside and dissappointed with themselves. However, by releasing and coping with the natural emotions within us, Goths can be the most healthy emotionally.
Examine Job, for instance. Though he was going through so much hardship that he said, "Have I not wept for those in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor? Yet when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness. The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me. I go about blackened, but not by the sun; I stand up in the assembly and cry for help. I have become a brother of jackals, a companion of owls" (Job 30:25-29), Job was also able to say, "yet will I hope in Him" (Job 13:15).
What about the gloomy and dismal music many Goths tend to fill their heads with? How can that be contributing to any fruit of the spirit? Once again, we appeal to righteous Job, who said, "My harp is tuned to mourning, and my flute to the sound of wailing" (Job 30:31). This is not because we are without hope or joy, but rather because it helps us understand and deal with our feelings (not to mention, Gothic music has such a cool sounding harmony to it!).
Therefore, in conclusion, I see no further valid objection to the legitimacy of Christian Gothicism. I hope that the reader will see, as was my intent, that Goths can come to know Christ and retain their Gothic style, that Christians can become Goths, and even that one can be raised as both a Goth and a Christian. Gothicism normally has no more of an effect on one's spiritual life as being a part of any other subculture would. We are saved "by grace. . . through faith. . . it is the gift of God. . . not by works" (Eph 2:8-9). No one can please God enough by the color of their clothing, the color of their skin or makeup, etc. to make God let them into heaven. It is simply God's grace on those who have faith in Him and in His Son, Sar Shalom Y'shua (Jesus, the Prince of Peace).
Now, all I ask is that we treat one another with decency and respect regardless of how people dress or look. We are one in the Body of Christ and are commanded to "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3). This includes "not letting any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Eph 4:29). So I ask you, please, do not be too quick to judge Goths who claim to know Christ, and try your best, by the grace of God, to "bear with one another in love" (Eph 4:2). Thank you, and God bless.
Love in the blood of Christ,