It’s World Goth Day – but since they are obsessed with death, always wearing black, and fond of occult imagery, what on earth is the Church supposed to do with Goths?
Who are the Goths?
The Goth subculture has been around since the early 1980s, when it emerged from the post Punk - New Romantic scene. Usually clad in black, often heavily made up and sometimes dressed in 'Gothic' Victorian style clothes, people usually become Goths during their teens. Of course, as with many subcultures they will sometimes grow out of being a Goth, but not always.
Some people stay ‘Gothic’ for the rest of their lives, in some cases marrying a fellow Goth and raising a Goth family. There is a strong aesthetic associated with the subculture: music, art, poetry, and of course fashion, but even within Goth, there are a variety of approaches. Some Goths draw heavily on the romantic imagery of the Victorian poets and writers. Short stories like Frankenstein, and more particularly Dracula have been extremely influential on the development of Goth as a subculture.
Other Goths have been more influenced by the punk style, wearing a lot of piercings, and preferring a heavy metal type of music to the more melodic and ethereal sounds that others like.
Why should we care?
Goths are people so we should be interested, but beyond that the subculture is often attractive to gentle, sensitive, thoughtful types of people. Because of their nature, and their exotic appearance, Goths are often marginalised and quite frequently physically attacked.
This can even lead to murder, as in the case of the horrific death of Sophie Lancaster, who was kicked to death when she tried to stop youths from beating up her boyfriend. The couple were set upon because they were dressed in Goth outfits.
A tee-shirt designed to publicise a Goth Eucharist in Cambridge became a hit because of the Biblical quotation it carried – on the front it said: ‘If the world hates you….’ And on the back: ‘…..remember, it hated me first.’ The quote was taken from Jesus’ farewell words in St. John’s Gospel, but resonated within the Goth subculture, among young people who felt themseves marginalised and hated because of the way they looked.
A Goth Eucharist?
That’s right. There was a successful Goth Eucharist in Cambridge for a number of years, sety up by ‘Goth Priest’ Marcus Ramshaw, in 2011 the Goth Eucharist became ‘On the Edge’ a bi-weekly service which continued the Goth Eucharist’s tradition of using secular music by Goth musicians and other artists and tackling ‘dark’ subject matter.
There have also been Goth Eucharists at Greenbelt, and Coventry Cathedral have pioneered a successful Goth Fresh Expression of church, which has managed to reach out to a local community of Goths and other disenfranchised young people. There are even 'Christian Goth' bands - like The Violet Burning, and Saviour Machine.
So Goths are interested in God?
Some certainly are – and there is a lot of religious symbolism in Gothic subculture. You certainly don’t need to look too hard to find ways in which Goths are linked to Christianity. A few hours listening to the music of Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave, reading the poetry of Byron, or reflecting on the themes of hope and despair; darkness and light; or suffering and redemption can all provide insights into the spirituality of Goth.
If you’re interested in pursuing it, On the Edge have a well curated list of music and readings they have used over the years, as well as recordings of the talks by the likes of Malcolm Guite and others
May 22nd, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross