Friday, October 13, 2006

My Interview With the Semi-Goths

A few days ago my wife and I made a trip to a mall near us. That is hardly newsworthy, but I had not been to a mall for several months, and I was surprised to see so many teenagers wearing black clothing (including black gloves). Having been a youth minister in the 80s, I quickly realized that I had fallen behind in my understanding of youth culture. My interest was piqued, and I decided yesterday to go back to the mall with a tape recorder to do an interview with any teenagers I found dressed in Gothic clothing. I quickly found five in the food court, and they graciously accepted my request for an interview. I will share some interesting excerpts with you. One of them, a high school senior, was the main spokesman for the group. He said that he was not a full-fledged Goth, and he seemed to like the term I coined (Semi-Goth), so I will refer to him as SG1. I was pleased with SG1’s answer to my questions about Christianity, and I believe he is a Christian. Another person in the group (SG2) also made some comments, and from his comments I assume that he is not a Christian. The other three teenagers were largely silent onlookers, so I will not refer to them except to one comment from SG3. Some excerpts follow:

BT: What does Goth culture mean to you?

SG1: It’s a style of clothes and music to me. . . . I’m not Goth. It’s very rarely that you’ll actually see a Gothic person, like especially around in a mall. They typically keep to themselves.

BT: Some people dress kind of Gothic, but they’re not really Gothic?

SG1: The stereotype that is placed on Goths, like the chains and things like that—typically it’s a generalization of other things that are actually far from Goth.

BT: There have been a lot of stereotypes like Columbine violence and that kind of stuff.

SG1: I wouldn’t necessarily link the Columbine stuff to Gothic behavior, though there are a lot of similarities.

BT: Would you say that most Goths who are really Goths are non-violent people?

SG1: That just depends on the person’s individual nature. . . .

BT: Can you make a generalization about how Goths deal with depression, pain, and anger? Do they do it differently than other people? If any of the rest of you have insights, you can share those too.

SG1: Again I would have to say that it depends on the person. . . . The sound of music gives us an impression.

BT: Are there certain groups that are preferred?

SG1: Again it depends on the tastes. . . . Personally, I’m into just about everything. I’ll listen to anything from Cradle of Filth to Red Hot Chili Peppers. . . .

BT: Would you say that among real Gothic people there’s a fascination with death, or is that just a stereotype?

SG2: That’s just a stereotype. . . .

BT: I’ve seen a little bit of the movie “The Crow.” Is that a favorite movie among Gothic people?

SG1: That’s one of my favorites. I guess that would be fair to say.

BT: Do a lot of Gothic people or semi-Gothic people like to do chat rooms that are related to Goth like “,” something like that?

SG1: Everyone sort of grips their individual culture. I guess the preps hang out with their friends, and everyone’s got their clique to deal with.

BT: Like “”—a lot of different kinds of people use that.

SG1: That’s a very general web site. I think that “myspace” is not a bad thing. I think that too much of really anything can be bad. It’s like too much medicine can do the body harm.

BT: You get obsessed.

SG1: Exactly. That’s where the real problem lies—obsession.

BT: My impression so far is that in terms of religion with Gothic people and people that are kind of semi-Gothic there’s no real preference. I mean some Goths are Christian; some are other things. Is that your impression?

SG2: Some just don’t care. It’s just something that they don’t have to worry about because no religion is doing anything for them because they have no proof of anything, so they just follow their life and have fun with it while they’ve got it.

SG1: That’s something that I would actually disagree with. . . . I guess a lot of them would be traditionalists. Some people have a traditionalist mindset, and some of the Gothic style . . . would be more back into past times. You see people wearing frock coats—things like that. . . . Like a Renaissance coat, that style—that’s what I mean when I say traditionalist. . . .

BT: You said earlier there’s no real obsession with death or anything like that. I guess most Goth people are younger. Do they have traditional outlooks on the afterlife, like, if I were to ask, have you come to the point in your life where you know for certain that if you died you’d go to heaven, what do you think most Goth people would say to that? Would they have the same concept of heaven, a traditional concept, or would it be kind of a different afterlife concept?

SG2: It’s according to how the person grew up. . . .

SG1: I think it’s necessary for everyone to draw their own beliefs. . . . Personally, I believe that there is a heaven and a hell, and I’m certain that I will go to heaven. I’m a non-denominational Christian myself. . . . There is a stereotype that I’ve heard—that a lot of Gothics are Satanists.

BT: That’s a stereotype because of the black color and stuff like that.

SG1: Satanism isn’t actually a worship of Satan. It’s basically be a good person and carnal pleasures. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what Satanism is.

BT: So, like if you grew up in a traditional setting, and you said a lot of Goths do that and they believe they’re going to heaven. What do they base that belief that they’re going to heaven on? Is it because they’re good people, or because they’ve gone to church, or what do they base that on?

SG2: It’s according to the person.

BT: So, if they grew up as Buddhists, to enter Nirvana they’d say it was basically by good works. If they’re a Christian, they’d say it’s not by works. You can’t earn it or deserve it. It’s a free gift because Jesus died on the cross for them and rose from the dead and paid for their sins and they receive that through faith, through surrendering their lives to Him. Are most Goths kind of one or another, Buddhist or Christian or something else or nothing at all?

SG1: It comes in perspective. It’s like any other stereotype you can see.

BT: Have all five of you kind of made up your minds about your own religion or are you kind of still making up your mind about what you believe?

SG1: I’d say in the past few years I’ve sort of hopped around different religions and denominations and the Christian church and things, mostly to look at things and decide for myself what I believe, and I think that I’ve decided. There’s not much more to develop.

BT: In the Christian direction?

SG1: That’s definitely to me the most logical thing—the Christian faith.

BT: Not all people who go to church agree on the way of salvation, so if you died, and you were standing before God, and He said, why should I let you into heaven, what would you say?

SG1: I would say that I’m not actually worthy of being let into heaven. What I actually believe is that no one is actually worthy of being let into heaven, and you’re actually let in by the mercy of God.

BT: Okay. How do you receive that mercy, some people instead of others?

SG1: I think it’s through faith. That’s what I believe.

BT: Do the rest of you agree with that, or do you have a different way of looking at it?

SG3: It just depends on the people living in your life.

BT: Okay. When you say faith, do you mean like just intellectual assent—just saying, yes, I agree with that, or do you mean like there’s a surrender and a trust?

SG1: It’s hard to explain. I don’t want to sound like a Bible thumper, but I’ve tried to witness to people, and now that I look at it, I don’t really go around and try to share the Word of God as much anymore because I believe that it’s something that you should find out for yourself.

BT: Usually it has to work through relationships, doesn’t it? I mean it’s hard for a stranger, if you’re a stranger to somebody else, it’s hard to kind of broach that subject. It’s kind of touchy. Do the rest of you feel pretty sure? Do you agree with him? Do you feel that you’d like to receive Christ and you just don’t know how? How do the rest of you feel?

SG2: I believe in all religions. None of them have been proven wrong. None of them have been proven right. . . .

BT: Okay. Do you feel like you’d like to receive Christianity rather than one of the others, or do you just kind of want them all at once?

SG2: I don’t know. I’ve gone through agnostic. I’ve studied the Bible for Satanism. I don’t like for people to think it’s a worship of Satan. Like he said earlier, that’s not what it is. I’ve tried the Pagan Wiccan thing and the Christian thing. For all we know it could be real; for all we know it couldn’t.

BT: Are you looking for proof?

SG2: Well, there is no real proof that we can really say, we’ve got the Bible and it says the word, and that’s what it is; it’s faith. You have to believe in it. And some things are just more of a self-believing thing. . . . I’ve dipped and dabbed into all kinds of religions. I’ve gone this way, that way. I’ve done things I shouldn’t. That’s one thing a higher power did—He gave us a choice of right and wrong.

BT: Right. Free will.

SG2: There’s one thing I don’t like about people who say they’re Christians. They believe in Jesus and God, but they sit there and they say Satan’s not real when in the Bible it says that he is real, and they deny his reality.

BT: How can they say they believe in the Bible if they don’t agree with that? That’s pretty basic. I agree.

SG1: One of the things I’ve asked myself in the past is what would it be like if Lucifer actually won the battle.

BT: But if the Bible’s correct, he won’t win.

SG1: Correct.

BT: If somebody showed you some historical evidence that showed that non-Christian historians talked about Jesus dying on the cross and that His disciples saw that and that they were willing to die for what they believed was true, would that help you believe in the Christian way of thinking?

SG2: Well, what I’ve heard is that Jesus is a real man and He really did die on the cross, and whether He was the Son of God or not, He had a strange type of power. I agree with the fact that He was a real man—the same as that scientists have proven that the world was at one point completely flooded. They’ve had that proven too. . . .

BT: I enjoyed talking to yall, and you’ve helped me get some information.