Stop Worrying About Labels

“I listen to everything except for country and rap.”  That’s the typical response I get to my frequently asked, “What kind of music do you listen to?”  And every time I get that response, I roll my eyes and feel sorry for you because you are denying yourself access to some really excellent music by writing off entire genres.

I’ve always had punk and metal as the fallback genres, but I’ve dabbled in practically every genre from time to time.  High school was filled with hip hop and rap with an undercurrent of awful, misogynist rock music, but I also dabbled in Go-Go, Paul Oakenfold, Breakbeat and Ska.  Later, I explored Emo, Big Band Jazz, Swing and Roots music.  I have Jam Band records, a shelf-worth of Blues.  I saw Prodigy live…and liked it.  In the semi-privacy of my accounts receivable office in Fredericksburg, I explored Country Music and Film Scores.  J. Bibb turned me onto The Bad Plus and my friend Ryan injected Battles into my brain.  Recently, I’ve been listening to “underproduced” indie rock and church music, and in the last couple weeks or so, I’ve been getting into a lot of old rap (including some well produced stuff from Christian artistsgasp) and Electro Pop.  I’m trying to understand Gospel music, and I’m sure that when I do, I’ll find some stuff I really like.  Do you want a Revolution? Woop Woop.

What are you afraid of?  Are you worried I’ll think less of you if you tell me you’re into Garth Brooks?  Are you worried I’ll think less of you if you tell me you listen to NickelbackWell, if you listen to Nickelback, I will actually think less of  you…  But what about rap?  You think you’re above it because of the way its portrayed by some of its fans?  Well, guess what, a bunch of punk rock fans are idiots, too.  At least give it a chance, man.  I bet that if you are intentional about listening to the stuff people around you suggest, you’ll start to find things in your no-go genres that give you that funny feeling inside that makes you want to buy a record.  Stop worrying about labels and start worrying about reactions.

Reputation, which is gained by peoples’ reaction to you and your behavior, is super important.  It is what provides us credibility and trustworthiness (if you have a reputation in that vein, which you should pursue).  But labels and reputation are independent, we just forget.  Some of you are getting antsy because you hold dearly to the way you label yourself: intelligent, artist, evil-genius, punk rock, father, husband, Christian (Christ-follower, or whatever “hip” version of that you’ve settled on).

Well, here’s the thing as far as I see it…those labels are useless if you don’t have the accompanying reputationIntelligent you may be, but do you have the reputation for sharing your intelligence or lording it over people.  Artist you may call yourself, but what are you producing?  How many lasers do you have mounted on sharks, Mr. Evil GeniusPunk rock is by definition counter-culture, and I may be about to break your heart, but Hot Topic or any product sold within is not counter-culture.  Counter-culture is in your head and thoughts, first and foremost.  Culture says to shut-up and do as you’re told; conform, assimilate, obey.  Even if you choose to agree with the decisions around you, if you are not making that choice on your own with careful consideration, you are NOT punk rock, no matter what shows you’ve been to or what clothes you wear or how many tattoos you have.

What about fathers?  You may have this titles by virtue of life events, but do you deserve it?  Are you loving your children and spending time with them or is work/church/TV/sports getting in the way?  Who is raising your children?  Are you a father or a sperm donor?

And husbands, what label does your reputation give you?  Are you loving your wife as Christ loved the church, meaning that her needs and her joy come before your own?  Are you selfless in your relationship, content with seeing her joyful and washed clean or are you pissed that she doesn’t love you enough; doesn’t do sexual things often enough or in the way you fantasize about; doesn’t tell you how awesome you are enough; tells you to help out too much?  What about your thought life?  Is it with her or does it involve some lady from work/TV/the Internet/church/Starbucks?  Do you lie to yourself saying that it is okay to look so long as you don’t touch?  Give me a break.  Relationship are beyond physical, and if you are no longer a boy, but a man, then you should know that.  Relationships are principally of the heart, and then physical.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28, NIV)

And Christians.  What a messed up label that has become!  Hence why some hipsters call themselves Christ Followers, followers of The Way, et cetera, as if that would somehow seperate them from the term, “Christian.”  Rather than separate yourself from the term, why not redeem it?  Even unchurched people have heard the song, “And they’ll know we’re Christians by our love.”  So ask yourself: do they?

So, stop answering my music question with the stereotypes of the labels you’ve chosen.  Develop a reputation and be able to answer with what  you really do like or don’t like and what you really do believe or don’t believe and be able to back it up with your reputation.

I listen to a little bit of everything, but I particularly love punk, metal and some indie.  I’m currently going through a bit of a hip-hop phase, and if I weren’t so clumsy, I’d dance more.  Plus, I am confident in myself as being punk rock, a father, a husband and a Christian, though I have room for improvement in all those areas.

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3 thoughts on “Stop Worrying About Labels

  1. I recently have dabbled in Dubstep/Brostep via Skrillex and his Scary Monsters album. It’s quite enjoyable when you need a little extra energy to get through your work.

    I’ve also heard Matthew 5:27-28 quoted a lot recently. I think in general it’s misunderstood to Jesus’ original intention (due to translation), which is more like “Jesus is only talking about lusting after another’s wife…According to the laws of the time it was not adultery for a married man to sleep with an unmarried woman. Adultery was interpreted as a form of theft, and the harm came from stealing another man’s wife.”

    I think the ESV or Weymouth New Testament has a better translation than the NIV, focusing on “lustful intent” and “cherishing lustful thought” to be more accurate in pushing the message.

    Your “thought life” then, in my opinion, would be deemed healthy or moral if you process any primal/sexual thoughts and acknowledge human instinct, and move on. What separates a boy from a man (especially a married man), then, is that mature/refined thought processing.

    In general, it’s a good message, but, I don’t think married (Chri†ian) men should go around feeling guilty if they experience a sexual thought in passing; after all, it’s human instinct. Key word here is “in passing”, though, as the only woman a married man should obsess about is his wife.

    I only critique that part of your post because I’ve heard it used a lot lately, and I’d hate to see people going around thinking they’re huge sinning adulterers, when they’re really not.

    As an aside, one of the best movie speeches ever:

    Back to music, I tend to focus on just a few genres recently like Indie Rock and 90s Alt Rock, but there are moods when I need to put on Reggae, Trance, Opera and even Gregorian Chanting or go back to Classic Rock. I agree that shunning a genre is to deny one’s self.

    1. Th key is that we all are sinners and by Jesus definition we are probably all guilty of adultery. However you are right in saying it is good to acknowledge that and turn away back toward your wife and God. Also it is good that there is grace and a God willing to die for us to take away our sins.

      Sent from my iPhone.

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