ChristCore: Screaming For Jesus?

Those who know me may be surprised that I am writing about hardcore music. They may be even more surprised to learn that I am writing about Christian hardcore music. They’re probably surprised to learn that there is such a thing as Christian hardcore music. I’m writing about it per se. Rather, I am reviewing the documentary ChristCore, which shows the director – Atheist punk musician Justin Ludwig (of such bands as Klein96) – follow two bands on the road – newcomers Messengers, and genre superstars Sleeping Giant – on their way to various festival, including Scream The Prayer.

The film shows an interesting phenomenon. As Ludwig states, punk music began as a rejection of authority in a predominantly heteronormative, Judeo-Christian Society. It was an outlet for outcasts; those who didn’t fit in and felt ostracized by “mainstream” society. It still to this day. Yet, the Christian hardcore is very similar. It allows hardcore followers of Jesus, who express their faith and beliefs in non-traditional ways, to come together. Not surprisingly, the majority of the fans are young millennial and Generation Y Christians, and many older parents don’t like or don’t understand the music (sound like what they said about The Sex Pistols). And yet, christian Hardcore is inherently different then secular hardcore. While Messengers are young kids just having fun, Sleeping Giant have a ministerial aspect about them. Not only do two of the members run a small church in their off-time, but lead singer Tommy Green is like a preacher on stage, and, before and after shows, takes part in the bizarre art (to this secular reviewer anyway) of faith healing. That’s where he speaks to diseases and pain and tells Jesus to get rid of them. Its all a little much for me.

What Ludwig noticed however was that these two bands are fairly politically progressive for their community. Both are okay with gay marriage for example. It should be noted that this wasn’t the case for all bands featured in the film – For Today’s lead singer Mattie Montgomery falls more along traditional line has more fire & brimstone in is on-stage preaching – including tales of sin and hell – compared to Green who is much more pleasant. Another ‘myth’ that was busted was that these bands only listen to Christian music. Not only does Tommy Green listen to and enjoy secular punk music (he stated that he found punk before he found Jesus), the genre itself is slowly building itself a secular fanbase.

Although Ludwig was raised Catholic, he is now an ardent atheist, whose non-belief was only enforced by being on the road. In his mind, if you’re an atheist and you’re stuck with intense Christianity for two or three months, you really get a sense of how much you don’t believe. I can attest to that. When I was 18, I took part in a 9-month youth program, Katimavik. One of my work placements was at a church in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. Living Faith Chapel is a member of the Apostolic Church of Pentecost. The pastors were nice, but had views so far from mine own. I was at a time in my life where I was “flirting” with religion and Jesus, but being at chapel for three months and attending service and “prayer breakfasts” turned me away. I have been a devoted non-believer ever since.

While I’m still not a fan music, I do appreciate Ludwig’s (who once penned a song entitled “Fuck Christian Hardcore…. This Is Hell) immersion into its world and the character he elegantly weaved. It is a good documentary for Christians and non-believers (though some scenes may be tough for the latter) as well as punk and general music lovers.


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