This last week I went to an Opeth concert with one of my students. Please don't judge me. As I long to continue to be a part of the real worlds of my students and think I should be willing to stretch myself and leave the safe confines of the church and local football game to really enter their world. For one of my students, music is the thing he is most passionate about, and over the years we have build a great friendship and I could not love him more. But as we have been meeting regularly for the last 5 years, I realized that I simply have pressured him to be a part of my world, so this summer I asked if he would let me be a part of his.
He said yes, and we bought tickets to see Opeth at the Warfield in San Fransisco. But this isn'y my point, only to try and help you see how someone who would blend in nicely at a Steven Curtis Chapman concert ended up in the belly of the beast!
Besides a great time with one of my favorite students, I did have one simple take a way and that is simply this: there is a freaker in every crowd.
The Freaker Percentage is Small, but Overwhelming:
On one hand, a Sweedish heavy metal concert is the farthest thing from a suburban white christian church service. But as I stood in awe of the music an my surroundings for 3 1/2 hours, I became aware that the percentages were pretty close to my church.
1) 90% of the people there and at my church all dress the same. Our church doesn't have a uniform, but there is still an expected mode of dress and 90% play ball at our church. The same was true at this concert. The apparel was what you would expect with black shirts, hoodies, dark concert shirts, and plenty of tattoos. But even with my token christian tattoo, it was obvious I was an outsider. We all pride ourselves in being unique, but when you step back and observe your context, it is interesting to see how we all have some sort of acceptable attire for your home context. This is the easiest way to figure out who is in and who is out.
2) 40% were true believers. A large number of people at this concert and at our church are the true believers. They know all the words to every son, they dance appropriately with passion. At my church it looks like a hand or two raised in worship. At the concert it involved non stop head banging, fists in the sky, and shouting profanities back at the band when they tried to talk. (Thankfully that doesn't happen too much at our church) It is this group of people that set the tone for the rest of us. Whether at church or this concert, it is those who are all in who create the ethos of the event and community. To tell you the truth, at our church, these 40% are amazing!
3) 1% are the freakers! What do I mean by this? These are the ones that every stereotype was created for. As I was heading out for the concert, I assumed that I was going to be overwhelmed by the the heavy metal peeps who will mosh to the point of death, pantomime animal sacrifice, and headbang to the point of brain damage. Sadly, for me, this was not the case. I so wanted to be a part of the circus, but it was only a tiny handful of people who were the freakers. Don't get me wrong, I found them and totally enjoyed watching them. But if I was honest, this was not the mainstream, these were the tiny percentage.
We Shouldn't Define Any Group by the 1%:
If you walk into our church on any sunday you will find the 1% living into every awful stereotype you can find in Christendom. But this 1% are simply that, 1%. They are not who we are or where we are going as a church. The are part of our church family, and I couldn't love them more, but they are not the best spokesmen :)
With all the protesting, picketing, and activism going on, it was a helpful reminder that the colorful stereotypes found in each group, from headbangers to suburban christians, are mostly in the 1% range. It is a from of sin when we live into these stereotypes because we make real people and entire groups of people into caricatures. Caricatures are the nicest way we christians judge people as we dehumanize them and cram complex people and organizations in tiny little boxes.
We can all identify with the angst of being lumped in with the 1%, so may we be slow to lump others in to the small percentages of freakers in every crowd.
I just hope I am not in that 1%. If so, please help me!