I used to consider myself a rebel. I was into punk rock in the late eighties and had adopted an attitude of question authority combined with destroy everything. I liked to skateboard, get high, smoke cigarettes, drink, cuss, listen to loud music, wear studded leather, spike my multi-colored hair, spit, complain, vandalize and generally revel in my own darkness. My mom and her current husband hadn’t abandoned me in some broken-down car under a bridge. I wasn’t an orphan, or a one-night stand. I didn’t need to work to survive or meet my needs. I was enrolled at a pretty normal high school around some fairly middle to upper middle class kids. I never lacked for food, shoes, medicine or clothing. I didn’t have an obvious environmental stimulus to produce the sort of teenage angst I have witnessed in others which made like choices. In short: I chose to be a rebel.
In all the years of doing my own thing, I’m not sure anyone ever truly asked me why I chose to do it.
I was watching a movie at the end of September, and I couldn’t help but weep. It was based on a true story about a nineteen year old punk rocker named Brian Deneke who was killed in a hit and run by a local jock. The movie did a great job of showing the ugly side of both the jocks and the punks. In the end, the only difference between the two groups is what they chose to wear. Their hearts were equally in the wrong places. I watched the movie and had to keep muting it due to the excessive language, which I used to speak, but just doesn’t need to be flowing in my house. During one of the trial sequences, the lawyer representing the jock is talking to the jury and saying things like: [character name] Lived an honest life, went to church every Sunday, played football, he also was involved in many other extracurricular activities, National Honor Society, student council, fellowship of Christian athletes… His family have always been proactive in the community… is this what they deserve? In his closing remarks he focuses on the message of a punk band t-shirt which says “Destroy Everything”. That by embracing this shirt, Brian Deneke and his friends somehow deserved what happened to them and him. The lawyer is portrayed as saying “Destroy Everything… Is this the message we want to send our children for generations to come?” He then goes on to say that if the killer had to live it all over, he would do it again… implying that what his client did was more community service than drunk driving, felony hit and run and first degree murder.
I wept for about an hour after watching this film. After the emotions died down a little I began to pray and ask God why I was having such a response to this. He showed me my choices. He showed me my disdain for football players in high school. It wasn’t about sports, I just never got into football, basketball or baseball. I had a problem with football players because of what they represented. To me, the message was very clear: If a person conformed to the football mold including those remarks from the lawyer in the movie: church, honor society, Christian athletes, student council, etc then a person could get away with doing whatever the heck they wanted to do (sex, drinking, drugs, and socially acceptable rock ‘n’ roll). What was the difference? Clothing? Music? Context? That jock was no Christian. Not even a little bit. The fruit speaks plainly. Punk rockers doing whatever they want whenever they want are living out the Alister Crowley credo: do as thou wilt. The jocks did all the same things – only they had police officers tell them to pour it out and go home. In the end, both fell to the same lie: do as thou wilt.
When I made a decision to rebel against society it had to do with hypocrisy that I could see, but not define. My choice led me to another conformity – a conformity with rebels and rebelliousness. I was just as much of a hypocrite. Being punk rock compromised my values, and my values proved I was just a poser anyway because to be a punk I should not have had any values. Interesting topic for another day but not the point. The point is that both sides belonged to the world. I know now, that I don’t belong to the world. You could make a case that I never did. I live in it, but I am not of it. The reason I never wanted to conform is because I was made to be transformed by the renewing of my mind, not to be conformed to these insane patterns. My life is more than:
- if I graduated high school and college
- if I made the honor roll
- if I did or did not go to church
- if I did or did not get married
- if I did or did not run for political office
- if I did or did not become someone the world views as important
God came in flesh and walked on earth and didn’t leave behind anything except some clothing which was divided as predicted. He didn’t buy his own tomb. His followers went on to change the world and didn’t leave much either. The conformity to society is enmity with God. Even if this nation were founded on judeo christian principals, the people I met in high school were far from it. The course the education system helped set for my life was far from it. The disciplinary system was far from it. My counselors were far from it. My teachers, many of whom would have picketed against more things than I would have, were far from it. My society is not judeo christian. Not wanting to conform is not the fight against judeo christian principals – it is the realization that practically everywhere I turned I didn’t see judeo christian principals being lived out and demonstrated. The sad truth is that both the conformist and non-conformist have bought into the world system. Neither is free, and instead of getting into the solution, both keep pointing at each other. If anyone is actually judeo christian, and walks in truth humbly before God, they can not support this current world system. Perhaps I am a strawberry loving guy in a world which demands I choose chocolate or vanilla. We see it in politics. We see it on every level. I experienced it in high school.
Having received a little clarity about why I chose to rebel, I prayed some more about the source of my choices and God showed me some more scenes from my past. He took me back to 1978/1979 and allowed me to relive a couple events. I was on my bicycle and I was riding to the local TG&Y five and dime store. I was coming from a back parking lot through a 1 store long alley to the front of a strip mall when a bigger kid jumped out and stopped me. He put his legs to either side of my front wheel and threatened me with a box knife. Then he slashed my tires and ran off. I was crying, but not because he threatened me, but because my bike was broken. I hadn’t been afraid for my life – just upset at my loss. We moved shortly after that. I’m not sure if it played a role in the decision my parents made. Prior to that event I had a best friend. Her name was Angela and she lived just across the street and a house or two over. God allowed me to experience my mind back then. The vivid daydreaming I used to do. Angela and I would play for hours at a time like the ground was lava, and we would have to avoid it by jumping from thing to thing. I remember imagining the lava – I could see it in detail. We would blow soap bubbles and I could imagine an entire civilization fleeing their planets destruction in a giant space ship. We put things in the gutter and I saw boats cruising down a river or a fleet of battleships going towards a confrontation in the South Pacific. I was a constant, vivid daydreamer… and then we moved.
Part of what made my relationship with Angela so unique was she was my age, and lived in my neighborhood. I attended private school in another city and never lived in the neighborhood my friends did. In the house prior, I had no neighborhood friends that I remember. After moving away from Angela, I never saw her again. Her family moved too. I entered public school for the first time in 1979. It was a real culture shock, and my grades began to suffer immediately. I didn’t get along well with others. I was grieving the loss of my best friend. I was in a strange city. I didn’t have other friends. I tried to make friends with kids down the block, but lied about something totally stupid and spent the rest of my time rejected by them. The kids at school seemed to have everything figured out, and nothing I did seemed to be right. Add to that the continual arguments over who knows what around my house culminating in an eventual divorce and guess what? We moved again in 1980. In summer of 1981 my mom got married again in a pagan hand-fasting ritual at Balboa Park in San Diego. I was introduced to alcohol, witchcraft and rock music all overnight. It was all down hill after that.
My daydreams turned from childhood fantasy to darkness and I became progressively more rebellious, selfish and self-centered.
Thankfully I didn’t stay there. I found hope in absolute defeat in 1989 when a God I didn’t believe in spared my life and brought me back from a point of no return. I still didn’t accept the love he offered, I still chose to do things my way, but I also became open-minded to the possibility I was wrong and needed to find something else. No one forced God on me, in fact, I fought against every attempt made. I eventually went to a bible study in 1992 because a girl invited me, but I didn’t give in yet. later in 1993 I had an experience which changed my life forever. I became a Christian, and eventually was guilty of being the very person I couldn’t stand all along – a hypocrite, a carnal christian, a christian in name still living under the auspices of ‘do as thou wilt’. For those of you who remain undecided, I just need to tell you this: there are two paths to go on: Do as God wills, OR, Do as thou wilt. Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is not gonna have the outcome it could have if it were for the right reasons. I used to consider myself a good person – but what was my standard? Was I honest, no. Was I legal, no. Did I help others, yes but only by accident or if it benefitted me. SO even though I claimed the name above all names, I still did what I wanted to serve myself. Saying a prayer is not a guarantee. Having an experience doesn’t mean you know him. When you met a close friend, were you instantly aware of everything about them, or did that take time? Doesn’t more about your close friends get revealed over time? Why is a relationship with God any different? He is more than a prayer once 20 years ago.
God has shown me how to be the right kind of rebel. He has taken me out of a crazy self-absorbed life and set my feet upon the rock of his salvation Jesus Christ. By reading the bible my mind has been and is being transformed and I am no longer being conformed to the patterns of this world. I am no longer Democrat or Republican, football player or punk, chocolate or vanilla. Two different choices in bondage are still not freedom of choice. God has set me free from the consequences of my past and given me hope and a future which I get to live out in the present. I pray that He would restore my vivid creative mind so I can serve Him with all the gifts and talents he gave me.