Spiritual Punk Rock

Watch any documentary about the punk music explosion in the late seventies and sooner or later I guarantee someone will say, ‘Well, when I saw the Sex Pistols I thought, if they can do it I can have a go.’

One of the key aspects of the mad, raucous jamboree that was punk was this – anyone could join in. And plenty of people did. It was music of the people by the people for the people. Not everyone loved it of course and it soon imploded, but that wasn’t the point. For the first time in music history it wasn’t just the talented few – it was about anyone.

I’ve often thought of prayer as the same kind of thing. A sort of spiritual anarchy. Anyone can have a go, you don’t have to be good at it, and you can be raw, gritty, blunt and honest.

There are moments in the gospel blogs – John 11 vv 41 and Matthew 11 vv 25 – when Jesus explodes with his own wall-of-sound prayers. In public. It’s not exactly ‘Anarchy in Israel’ – but it may have sounded like it. You see – most other people didn’t pray like Jesus prayed. He said it like it was, he didn’t put a religious spin on it, or use a holy kind of voice and archaic language. He spoke the language of the street, and he chatted to God as if he was right there next to him.

In other places he tells God about his hopes, fears, faith and dreams. ‘My God – why have you let me down!’ he screams from the darkness of the cross. He doesn’t hold back. Lets it all out. Spiritual punk rock. And he wasn’t the first. Read the book of psalms and you’ll find a back catalogue of angry, gentle, repentant, desperate, hopeful songs. You can let it all out with God. One of the things I love about Bruce Almighty is that his relationship with God begins when he lets out all his venom and frustration about the mess of his life.

It’s likely that everyone prays really. Secretly. Deep guttural,  heartfelt prayers, whatever their faith, and if I’m honest my prayers in private are far more ragged and untidy than my prayers in public. In public I do my best to make my prayers sound like The Hallelujah Chorus, in private I sound like Sid Vicious.

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  1. Tim Childs says:

    Brilliant post Dave, spot-on as usual. Yes, I’m definitely a spiritual punk, I always feel that God wants to deal with the real me, the warts ‘n’ all me, than some super-spiritual type who’s got it all together. Because I don’t come from a Christian background or community of any kind, I have always just had to find my feet with the faith on my own, with God as my guide. I can identify with much of the desperation and desperate hope and even spiritual howls of many of the Psalms because I’ve been there myself at times in my own life.

    Curiously enough, you find that fans of Jimi Hendrix, that wildly talented amazingly consummate guitarist, often also like the immediacy of Punk Rock as well; I’ve known the odd person like that and I’m like that myself.

    You wrote: ‘You can let it all out with God.’ If we can’t just be real with God, then who can we be real with?

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