Besides sounding like the name of a pretentious clothing designer, the Christian Goth is a bit of dichotomy. Much like half elves in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the Christian Goth is the product of two different worlds, yet seemingly unwelcome in either. Prejudice restricts these communities from welcoming a half breed into the fold. As such, half elves seek acceptance in what communities will have them, usually a thieves’ guild. Similarly, Christian Goths seek acceptance from fellow Christians and fellow goths, yet are most likely to find it in one another.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I do not consider myself a Christian. I was born into the Church of Latter Day Saints and was baptized under the banner of that church, yet I never felt the spirit of that religion. In college I embraced existential atheism* as I studied Western Philosophy. It was not until I studied Eastern Philosophy that I found a philosophy I could get behind. Even so, I do respect religion and faith, provided that religion is more personal and spiritual than impersonal and organized. I admire the faith of Christian Goths even though I may not agree with many of their beliefs.
The faith of the Christian Goth, more likely than not, has a personal and spiritual quality. Søren Kierkegaard claimed that one cannot regard oneself a true Christian if one has not faced one’s own faith with a critical eye. Doubting faith is much like inspecting the foundation of a building. Instead of ignoring the flaws, one should consider and reflect upon them. If one elects to keep faithful, that faith is all the more sound.
A Christian Goth, by his or her very existence, is bound to question his or her own faith. On the surface, gothic sensibilities oppose traditional Christian attitudes. Good Christians should not dwell upon death, decadence, and desolation. They should not wear skulls on their clothing, paint their faces and fingernails, or listen to morbid strains of music. To the unenlightened eye much of gothic culture must seem like devil worship, which is partly why goths have been labeled as such by the media. So how is a Christian Goth to view his own dark interests? Are these interests sinful? Can one even be a Christian and have this perspective?
A less progressive church would likely say no, he can’t. These thoughts distract a young man from pursuing the righteous path. Concern over black lace and pointy boots is time wasted that would be devoted better to Christ. Several churches have made their case against the gothic lifestyle. Such churches cite the Columbine shootings, teen suicide, and homosexuality as the ultimate end of living as a goth. Other Christians are advised to avoid the gothic culture while still loving those who are goths. It must be said that many other churches welcome goths into the community, admitting that nothing of the gothic nature is necessarily evil. As long as an individual welcomes Jesus into his heart he may listen to whatever music and wear whatever clothes he likes - with modesty of course.
On the other hand, certain members of the gothic community are wary of organized religion. As some churches point a condemning finger at the goth, so, too, the goth points an accusative finger at the church. The cliché is that religions are hypocritical. For all their shouting about sin, beneath the collars and the robes they are just as sinful if not more so. The secular goths disapprove of Christians’ stubborn inability to accept evolution and the scientific method. Pagan goths hold grudges against a church that long oppressed and abused them. On the whole, however, goths can be quite welcoming of people of all faiths. In so far as subcultures are concerned, gothdom features members from a wide range of world religions. This includes Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians. It depends greatly on the individuals involved. While on the surface goths seem overall to reject Christianity, this is more a generality directed at organized religion and not just every person of faith.
Ironically, what we perceive as trappings of gothic culture have their roots in Christianity. In architecture Christianity has provided us the graveyard, the cathedral, and the gargoyle. Christian ritual provides candles, incense, and organ music. Christian art and mythology is replete with gothic tropes, the battle of good and evil for instance. The power of love, too, marries the Christian and the dark romantic view of the world. The Christian Goth has not just the admiration of crosses and black clothing, but a sense of meaning partnered with them. Moreover, Christian Goths identify with Christ as an outcast who suffered under the yoke of an evil and unjust society. Despite the suffering, they try to find in their heart the strength to love and forgive.
So in retrospect there seems little reason for the Christian or the gothic community to shun the Christian Goth. The purpose of religion is to offer a sense of membership, order and meaning. A Christian Goth should take comfort in admitting to being a Christian, of belonging to the whole of Christianity. The faith of the Christian Goth should not only provide an understanding of his place in this world, it should provide the way to use that understanding to live in this world. While the gothic culture can provide some sense of belonging, it cannot quite match the sense of order and meaning. Much of gothic culture comes from within, an internalization of dark sensibilities. What meaning the Christian finds comes from the gospels.
The Christian Goth can find much in the gothic music scene to support their lifestyle. Several gothic and industrial bands are Christian. Others may not be Christian, yet sing about Christian themes.
Dissecting the name of Floridian darkwave band, The Cruxshadows, you may find that one interpretation is shadows of the cross, crux being an archaic term for the Christian symbol. The music of The Cruxshadows promotes faith and fighting for what one believes. The clearest example is Citadel, a song that in no uncertain terms describes a battle between the faithful and the enemy, though in the guise of retelling the siege of Troy. “In Hector's memory, God willing / We shall save this victory / Without surrender or defeat.” The song, Winterborn, reinforces this theme. “You've asked me for my sacrifice / And I am Winter born / Without denying, a faith is come / That I have never known / I hear the angels call my name / And I am Winter born.” The Cruxshadows give you pause to reflect on your life in songs like Birthday and Spectators. Each stresses the importance of doing something positive and meaningful. Meanwhile songs like Flame, Fallen Angel, and Purgatory confirm the band’s Christian leanings. However, The Cruxshadows also include allusions to classical and Egyptian mythology, blurring the line between pagan and Christian faiths and thus appealing to both.
Circle of Dust fall under the peculiar genre of Christiandustrial rock, a combination of electronic metal and gospel. One of the core messages of Circle of Dust is battle with the devil for your soul, in songs like Onenemy and Descend. Another message is self deception, that is turning one’s mind and heart away from God. Self Inflict, Rational Lies, and Nothing Sacred are examples. Despite the heavy handed message, Circle of Dust suffered criticism by Christians for not being more exact in promoting Christ. With or without the Christian overtones it has to be said that Circle of Dust create a striking sound. Clear vocals, sharp guitars, smart sampling combine to form a cohesive arrangement comparable, if not more satisfactory, than industrial metal acts Ministry and Godflesh. Although Circle of Dust are no more, multi-instrumentalist, Klayton, performs in Celldweller. Celldweller is an electronic project that often remixes the material of fellow artists. One Celldweller track featured on the video game, Crackdown. Klayton has also worked with illusionist, Criss Angel, in the project, Angeldust.
If you like a slower pace, Confession of Faith offer up some gothic doom metal, a strange genre indeed for spreading messages of faith. Just the same, the eerie, otherworldly soundscapes are not altogether incompatible. Confession are not a one note band, if you pardon the pun. While they do have songs named Lot, I am God’s Chosen, and Like Judas they have other songs such as Dominatrix and Upshit.
People debate whether or not Evanescence are a Christian band. The story goes that they started under a Christian label. One wonders how many other options a band may have had in Arkansas. Anyhow, as their music featured on Christian radio shows and their albums were sold in Christian shops, the dark alternative band soon found their ratings climbing in the Christian rock charts. When made aware of this, Ben Moody reportedly said, “What the fuck are we doing there?” Soon after their music was pulled from the same shops and radio stations. Their demo album, Origin, is just as controversial as the band. Some claim no such album was ever produced by the band and those who have purchased it have either a fake or a bootleg.
Many goths, particularly those in the UK, regard Evanescence in a poor light. They suspect Evanescence (Heaven’s Essence?) perform their music as a lightly veiled gospel study. With tracks like Immortal and Bring Me to Life it would seem they have a point. However, anyone can find a hidden message if they look hard enough. By discarding Christian meanings one may find more universal themes to the lyrics. Besides, most songs that are condemned for being overtly Christian are really Amy Lee’s response to the death of her sister. That Evanescence have since produced songs such as Snow White Queen, Lithium, and Call Me When You’re Sober suggests that not every song is a veiled Sunday school lesson.
Amy Lee and her bandmates have admitted to being Christian, but stress that their music is more personal than religious. That many goths, particularly in the United States, regard Evanescence as pagan rock only complicates things further. The most rational conclusion is that you get out of their music only that which you read into it.
Besides these bands, your Christian Goth will likely listen to The Sisters of Mercy and their offshoot, The Mission. While neither band has made a point of being Christian, the band names certainly allude to religion and faith. Quite a number of gothic bands drop Christian themes into their lyrics. Both Actifed and Spiritual Bats have a song titled Crucifixion. Meanwhile, for those who can laugh at themselves, March Violets has a tune called Religious as Hell. Even bands with no attachment to Christianity will drop the occasional line. Wumpscut has a song called Golgotha, for instance.
In conclusion it seems that, provided with the right church and the right friends, a Christian Goth is more welcome than their half elven comparison. Moreover, gothic art, fashion, and music provides much that is not contrary to faith, but rather confirms that faith. Furthermore, the internet is replete with websites and communities devoted to the Christian Goth scene, providing the Christian Goth with the means to not only be accepted by his peers but to ultimately accept and love himself.