In an attempt to talk more openly about my Christian faith, I’ve decided to bluntly share my upbringing in a series I’m calling “Tales of a Secular Christian”, wherein I share how my public school education melded with my church upbringing. (Thanks Mom and Dad, for being too poor to put me into Christian school!) I hope to share a bit about how various secular elements have given me the progressive Christian perspective that I have today.
So I recently saw this killer Marilyn Manson beach towel on Killstar and I was like, HOLY SHIT I NEED THAT. But then I thought a little harder. You know, about how I literally never go swimming. About how I never remember to bring a towel on the very rare occasions that I do go swimming. And then about how I didn’t need to spend approx $35 CDN + shipping on a beach towel that would only be appropriate for the small fraction of occasions where I’d go swimming somewhere that wasn’t a pool of one of my Baby Boomer church family members.
And sadly, I played sensible adult and rationalized that I am 32 and I already have too many towels and I really don’t need a Marilyn Manson beach towel.
Maybe you do, though? The towels are half off and are limited edition. Go nuts. Make me envious, because I’ve been a closeted Marilyn Manson fan for years.
Alternative Music 101
I was 12 when Mechanical Animals came out. At the time there was much hoopla over the album’s cover, where Manson’s all androgynous with tits and undefined male genitalia. It was the 90’s and prime-time for major uproar over edgy pop culture. It was also around the time when my sister and I spent a bulk of our free moments watching the Much Music Video Countdown every weekend and I waited to see “The Dope Show”.
I dunno. When you’re a 12 year-old girl and your sexuality’s just developing and you know that “alternative music” is bad, that kind of video can do things. (Just an aside: 32 year-old RJH just wants to say that alternative music was the best part of the late 90’s.) Like, sure I loved Britney Spears, but Marilyn Manson’s music made me feel things. Think things. My brain was firing synapses all over the place. I liked that I was seeing things that freaked me out, and that I was questioning it. I embraced the artsy darkness of it all.
My church tended to avoid talking bluntly about specific pop culture elements but then Columbine happened and all the issues of Focus on the Family stacked in the church foyer had articles about how movies and music and everything pop culture were destroying America’s youth.
I still remember the walls of the “youth room” at my church once plastered with posters of alternative bands for Christian teens. Do you like Linkin Park and Korn? Then you’ll love P.O.D.
Then Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) came out in 2000. and I feel like that was the peak of Marilyn Manson-related shock and awe. He embraced the Columbine publicity. He embraced the insanity of the American political landscape in the early George W. Bush days.
I was peak “Christian kid” around that time, so obviously I was turned off by the album’s sacrilegious cover and I avoided his music. But, there was that remix of “The Fight Song” in the Resident Evil soundtrack (which I listened on repeat play at the time). I could admit to myself that liked it. But when the “I’m not a slave to a God doesn’t exist” line rang through my headphones, I’d be faced with this horrible moral dilemma.
Like, should I be listening to this? Am I going to lose my faith because of this?
I’ve witnessed a majority of the Millennials I grew up with sever themselves from the church. It wasn’t because of Marilyn Manson. It wasn’t because of alternative music. It wasn’t because of violent video games or the media. Most of them simply feared judgement from the older members of the congregation.
Bad Music / Great Messages
Is Manson’s music sacrilegious? Yes.
Does he reference Christianity solely for shock value? Hell yes.
Was The Golden Age of Grotesque a bad album full of shock value simply for shock value? I think so. Not sure about you, but I can’t take a song titled “Ka-Boom Ka-Boom” seriously. I just can’t. I have limits.
So, Marilyn Manson’s music might be “bad”, but it doesn’t mean Christians should be persecuting it.
First off, I think Christians should be able to shrug off offensive Christian references. A lot of what American Christianity has come to represent has justifiably offended just about everyone. The criticism is warranted. The backlash against Christianity is understandable. Jesus turned the other cheek. So should we.
Secondly, It’s your choice, really, but I particularly enjoy his mockery of Christianity’s insane stronghold on the US psyche. For instance, in “The Love Song”, the chorus asks:
"Do you love your guns?" (Yeah!)
"Government?" (Fuck Yeah!)
The song “Tattooed in Reverse” from Manson’s latest album, Heaven Upside Down, contains this shocking opening line:
So fuck your Bible and your Babel.
Turn this Psalm into my dirty bomb.
So dance, motherfucker, dance,
Racing through red lights.
I don’t know what that song is specifically about, but I see this verse as a middle-finger reference to the religious right’s damning of everything that Marilyn Manson says and does. Remember that scene that shocked us all in Bowling for Columbine?
We were all shocked to think that he had very observant things to say. We couldn’t argue how in-touch he was with media and commercialism. Well, he still makes music, and if you’re down with it, even as a Christian, it might be worth listening to. Because let’s be frank here: Marilyn Mason isn’t even that shocking anymore.
What Shocks Me Now
Police shoot innocent people in the streets now.
Drug companies literally murder poor people now.
In the US, there are more empty homes than are are homeless people now.
Republican lawmakers will jail women for longer than their rapists now.
The planet, God’s creation, which he instructed us to care for, is literally burning up and it’s primarily Christian lawmakers who refuse to do anything about it. They plug their ears and ignore it.
Christians have made a real mockery of what is right and just, and that’s not the kind of Christian I want to be. Manson’s right to criticize it. The kids to left my church over the years are right to criticize it.
So maybe I should buy that towel. And maybe I should take it to the next church pool party. It might make for a great conversation piece.
UPDATE – FEBRUARY 2nd, 2021
In response to Evan Rachel Wood’s testimony about her abusive relationship with Marilyn Manson, I have written a new post about Manson’s music and how I’m wrestling with listening to it now.