SxE & Spirituality


Spirituality can still be found in even the most ungodly subcultures.

Straight Edge Tattoo

Straight Edge Tattoo

In the 1908’s a movement began in Punk Rock called Straight Edge.  Straight Edge punk rockers chose to cast away the preferred vices of their subculture by abstaining from promiscuous sex,  alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.  Punk rockers converting to the clean life? Sounds like a Christian dream come true.

A rhetorical criticism of the Straight Edge movement as a whole reveals it to have strong similarities to Christianity.  It has a mission, Christ figuresradicals, and a devout following.  It has the same spirit of revolution that Jesus brought about in biblical times.

However Christian-like Straight Edge may seem, it is not a Christian movement.  Straight Edgers don’t go clean to serve God.  Yet it is still undeniable that Straight Edge and Christianity share a cultural kinship.  Both preach a message summed up by the beginning of Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” that determines the culture of its followers.

Francis Stewart did a study titled Beyond Krishnacore: Straight Edge Punk and Implicit Religion to investigate the spirituality of Straight Edge.  Straight Edge is  “a spiritual identity located firmly within a secular subculture,” says Stewart.  Maintaining the spirit of punk rock, Straight Edgers still have the nihilistic aversion to the status quo and make “a sharp distinction between institutional religion and personal faith.”  So the greatest difference between Christianity and Straight Edge is that the two have very different definitions of words that seem so interchangeable between both: faith, belief, and spirituality.

“I have faith but I ain’t religious,” says a Straight Edger named Hannah interviewed in Stewart’s study.  Despite what Hannah says, it’s hard not to think of Straight Edge as a religion.  The punk rock show is a worship service where “a sense of the divine is accessible,” and the battle Straight Edge wages against drugs, sex, and alcohol fits with the Christian battle between good and evil.  Though what Hannah places her faith in is not a higher, holy force, she stays clean for reasons bigger than her.  Another interviewee, Ann, elaborates on this Straight Edge faith: “I’m not opposed to the idea of a higher power or whatever but… I guess I kinda now think of it all as a church of punk, you know. Like we make statements of belief, statements of intent, try to make a difference not a profit, and be a part of something bigger, you know?”

Culturally, “the blurring of the boundary between the religious and the secular that exists for many people within a variety of spheres of life” is apparent in Straight Edge.  While there are people who embody this blurring of lines themselves by being Christian and Straight Edge,  It would be wrong to embrace Straight Edge as part of Christianity.  Here we have an example where culture and spirituality entwine, but do not truly connect.  Straight Edge is something “of this world” aiming for something higher but not quite reaching as high as Christianity.  Straight Edgers who are nailed to the X, nevertheless should be included in the universal love of Christ.


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