Of Goths and Religion

Snarklings, why do so many people (including ones who should know better) think that Goth has some sort of religious affiliation? Is it because so many Goths like wearing large, ornate cross pendants or intricately-beaded rosaries? Wait no; that, while possibly a small part of it, can’t be the main impetus for so many people assuming that Goth comes with a particular religious requirement. Because if that was the case, the accessorizing with crosses and rosaries would cause people to assume that all Goths are particularly flamboyant Catholics or Christians, and this poor Snarkling wouldn’t have written in with the following letter:


I have long been a reader of your wonderful site, and feel that it’s come time for me to send in an issue of my own…

In short, my parents are concerned that I’m “going goth,” which presents a curious problem. While a great part of my tastes may fall under the heading, I use the term “goth” as more of a description of the individual items that I tend to gravitate towards, the rest of my personality being considerably eclectic.

I am a girl in my late teens with very little peer pressure to conform to any such subculture, or the like. (yes, really) I simply admire the “gothic” aspects of fashion…and have an equal admiration for Tim Burton films…

At times, it’s especially hard, because you see, I’m a Christian, and it’s only natural for Christian girls to want to wear bland (in my opinion, and sarcasm). I just can’t see why I shouldn’t “be myself” like it seems everyone around me is allowed to.

How can I help my parents understand that while I may appear in black lace and Jack Skellington themes now and then, I’m not trying to fit in, stick out, rebell, or become a witch?

Thank you for your time,
Blackbird

The Lady of the Manners is very sad to hear that your parents are questioning your faith because you want to express yourself and explore the Goth subculture. As you well know, their fears are groundless. Goth isn’t a religious movement. There is no council of black-clad elders that you must swear devotion to before you can adorn yourself with black lace or watch Tim Burton movies. If there is, they’ve been very remiss in sending the Lady of the Manners the monthly newsletter.

(By the way, Snarklings, in case it wasn’t perfectly clear, that comment about the council of black-clad elders was a joke. The Lady of the Manners doesn’t normally feel she must point out the humorous asides in her writing, but discussions of religion can have strange effects on people.)

Firstly, have you explored the Christan Goth site? The Lady of the Manners has heard good things about them, and thinks that finding other Goths that share your faith will not only be helpful to you in dealing with your parents concerns, but will also help you feel less alone.

Sadly, the Lady of the Manners’ knowledge of resources for Christian Goths pretty much began and ended with the Christian Goth site. But! The Lady of the Manners knows people who know all sorts of things, and thanks to them was able to assemble a larger list of Useful Links for you:

Bands:
The Violet Burning
Saviour Machine
Leper

Organizations:
The Asylum
The Underground Railroad

And from one of the Lady of the Manners’ friends, some explanations!

”I don’t know how much of this is going to be useful to you, or how deeply you want to delve into it, but there is definitely a thriving Christian goth scene. My primary involvement in the scene is peripheral, originating at a large Christian music festival I’ve attended just about every year since 1997, called Cornerstone. It’s put on by a communal living group based in Chicago called Jesus People USA who were originally a bunch of hippies back in the day. Today they’re a thriving group of punks and goths and rockers and earth mothers and whatnot. Anyway, their open-hearted approach to Christianity and to people is probably the only reason I’m still a Christian today.

Gothic bands have always been a part of that festival, and eventually there was a specific group of fans and folks that hung out together there. Starting in 1998, they became the Asylum, linked above, where goth kids could come to hang out and get to know each other, but also where “mundanes” could interact with them without fear of reprisal.

Later, the festival itself began to recognize that people were falling through the cracks and that outreach programs were needed for all sorts of subcultures, getting people fed and taken care of, protected, acknowledged. That’s where the Underground Railroad came from, a group of diverse ministries who were trying to connect with all different types of subculture kids.”

As to reassuring your parents that your wardrobe of gloom and fondness for an animated singing skeleton aren’t incompatible with your faith; well, the Lady of the Manners knows it’s an obvious suggestion, but you have tried sitting down and talking with them, haven’t you? Explain that while you feel that there is more to your interests and personality that the Goth label encompasses, there is nothing wrong with being a Goth. Explain to them why certain aspects of the Goth world are interesting and attractive to you, and that you see no problem with reconciling your assorted interests and your faith.

Your parents will probably not listen to you at first, which is why you need to combine your words to them with actions. Keep attending church with them, and show them that your interest in gothy things and a darkly-hued wardrobe doesn’t mean that your personality has changed or that you’ve become a terrible person or that you’ve lost your faith.

Of course, Snarklings, there are all sorts of religious dilemmas that Goths and their fellow travelers in dark subcultures are confronted with. While the Lady of the Manners was tracking down information for the previous letter, a request for help of a slightly different sort came winging into the Gothic Charm School mailbox:

Lady of the Manners,

I’ve recently discovered your website, and I must say, it is simply delightful.

My question for you is one that has been bothering me for a while now, and it is this: how do I respond to my friends when they ask me about my religion? I attended a Christian school for six years, and many of my friends are extremely faithful Christians. However, when I left said school, I began exploring other religions. I’ve been a Satanist for two years now, and my friends don’t understand why I’ve thrown away Christianity.

How can I tactfully explain to them that I respect their religious choices while still making it clear that I don’t intend to revert back to Christianity?

Oh … goodness, what a potentially uncomfortable situation. Well, there is always the somewhat obvious but straightforward approach of gently telling your friends that you have made your spiritual choice after much research, exploration, and (ahem) soul-searching, and that you would appreciate it if they could show the same respect to your choices that you do to theirs.

As the Lady of the Manners said, that’s a rather obvious approach. But, she really does believe that it’s the best approach, too. Your friends should be able to understand that just because you are following a different spiritual path than they are, that doesn’t mean you are no longer their friend or a bad person.

Do your friends understand what you mean when you say that you are a Satanist? Because the Lady of the Manners assumes that you don’t mean that you are someone who dabbles around with black candles, scribbles odd symbols on walls, and believes they can summon demons, do you? As the Lady of the Manners understands it, honest to goodness er, darkness, Satanism is a name for several different religious paths, and none of them bear any resemblance to what the mainstream media depicts them as. You might want to sit down with your friends and have a serious, in-depth discussion of your religious beliefs, and what led to the choices you made.

However, the Lady of the Manners feels she must warn you: there is a chance this discussion could go … poorly. No matter how clearly and carefully you explain your choices to your friends, there is still a very good chance that they may not listen to you, and might even argue with you in the hopes of converting you back to Christianity. And while the Lady of the Manners is sure that your friends would be making such arguments out of affection for you and wanting you to do what they see as the best thing, she must point out that true friends will (eventually) accept you for who you are, and who you wish to be. Mind you, that acceptance may come at the price of agreeing to not discuss religion, but (as the Lady of the Manners is sure you’re aware) sometimes the people we’re fond of hold very different opinions than our own.

What if they can’t accept your choice of religion? Then you have to subject yourself to more, er, soul-searching and decide if you value their friendship enough to put up with their disapproval and confusion about part of your life. The Lady of the Manners, sadly, doesn’t really have any advice that might make that decision easier, but sympathizes that making such a decision, while difficult and painful, is sometimes necessary.

Gracious, Snarklings, taking about religion can be difficult and uncomfortable, can’t it? The Lady of the Manners hopes that this particular edition of Gothic Charm School was helpful, if not perhaps a fun-filled tea party. The Lady of the Manners is now going to read through some more mail from Snarklings, and then spend a pleasant hour or two window-shopping on Etsy for more tiny hats. And as always, Snarklings, you know what comes next: the traditional exhortation to write to the Gothic Charm School!

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