When people hear the word “Goth”, they think of pale figures clad in black, drinking blood, worshipping Satan and fantasizing about death. “Goth is a cultural phenomenon rather than a religious one, though many beliefs are found among Goths, ranging from agnostic to Wiccan to Christian beliefs (Montenegro)” Many also see Goth as being a violent subculture, but “Goths lean toward the artistic and peaceful, not the violent or vengeful; Goths reject culture, but are not in active rebellion against it (Montenegro)”. “Gothic in its general essence is expression of a dark aesthetic through various medium including Art, Music, Literature, Architecture, Lifestyle, Attitude and Outlook (http://www.christiangoth.com/gothview.html)”.
There is a strong sense of romanticism in goth. The Awakening captured a sense of the essence of goth in their song title “Dark Romantics”. A Dictionary of Philosophy states that “[a] reaction against the rationalism and empiricism of the period of the Enlightenment, romanticism is best characterized by its idealist celebration of the self, by its respect for the transcendental, and by its conviction of the power of the imagination and of the supreme value of art.” The goth notions and principles have been in existence for a long time before it became a subculture. Some of the poems of Christina Rossetti, Charlotte Brontë can be seen as gothic in tone. Dame Edith Sitwell wore only black and wrote some amazing poems (of which “Metamorphosis” is one of my favourite poems of all time). Certain Psalms and books like Job or Ecclesiastes can even fit into a goth genre (and as any biblical scholar will know, these books aren’t all doom and gloom, but rather reflective on the reality that does not correspond to the easy answers of Proverbs). Literature like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are not only iconic classics, but also fall into the category of gothic novels. Montenegro sees an “identification with Victorian gothic novels and sentiments found in the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, John Keats, Lord Byron, and others who lamented the pains of lost love and the inner wounds inflicted by a cruel society”. Goth can be seen as arising from 1970’s punk. The term goth was only in general use in 1983.
It is difficult to give one definition of goth, since goths are by no means a monolithic group. In the shortest definition it is a subculture that evolved from a musical scene to encompass art, literature, fashion and a shared dark aesthetic. Under the broader genre of goth and music goths listen to there are various different subgenres: electro (e.g. Diorama, Assemblage 23), industrial (Unter Art, Grendel, In Strict Confidence), even Victorian-industrial (Emilie Autumn), and others. Goth music isn’t all just depressive, but spans a whole spectrum of emotions and themes. There are some beautiful love songs (e.g. Advance by Diorama). There are songs about the status quo and evils in society (e.g. Monument by ANKST, Chrome by VNV Nation). For those who think goths are all suicidal and pro-suicide and tragedy, there are the tracks by Assemblage 23 (Disappoint) and Suicide Commando (Cause of Death) that actually speak out against it. The perceived paradox of Christian and goth also come together on the musical front with bands like The Awakening, Saviour Machine and E Nomine (a German band which falls more under the industrial category). Some of my personal favourite goth bands are Diorama, ANKST (from Durban), Diary of Dreams, Gothminister, L’ Âme Immortelle, Merry Thoughts and Emilie Autumn.
Just like in goth music, the dress aesthetic of goth is varied. The styles range from period clothing (Victorian being the most popular); romantic goth with lace, velvet and flowing silhouettes; fetish goth with pvc, spikes, leather and fishnet; cyber goth with fluffy boot covers, futuristic elements, neon accents and tutus; and many styles in between all with individual details.
Goth’s aren’t all devil-worshipping goat-slayers. Goth doesn’t have anything to do with religion. I know christian goths, pagan goths, atheist goths, agnostic goths, spiritual goths and even a couple who are Messianic Jews. Personally I have never met anyone in the goth and metal culture that is a Satanist (whether it be LaVeyan or otherwise). Most goths I know love animals and many are actively involved in finding homes for strays and a few are vegetarians because they don’t want to eat animals.
At goth clubs the mood isn’t just dark and gloomy. People chat, dance and enjoy themselves. I’d even say that the music and friends aside, I’d choose a goth club over any mainstream place (e.g. Presley’s, Drop Zone), because the people are nicer, the girls generally have more clothes on, the guys generally don’t undress you with their eyes, the dancing is more expressively beautiful and less I-need-sex-movements, there are hardly any fights and you don’t get offered drugs by every second person. In fact, on the rare occasion that there are fights at goth and metal clubs, it is because of some mainstream person who can’t behave himself with the ladies or who wants to start a fight.
I don’t find my involvement in the goth and metal community to be in contradiction to my Christian faith or my ministry. I don’t go to clubs to get wasted, use drugs, have sex with random people (or anyone else) or something that can be frowned upon. I mention these things not to judge or condemn others, but only as examples of behaviour that would be objectionable for someone in ministry. I go to enjoy the music, spend time with friends and have a drink or two. There is nothing morally wrong with liking the colour black, wearing corsets, liking boots with buckles, dying your hair black, piercings, and being individualistically expressive. It is important to make the distinction between the darkness spoken of in the Bible and aesthetic darkness. “One MUST NOT equate dark artistic aesthetic with evil. When the Bible talks about darkness, it is NOT the same as dark artistic aesthetic (http://www.christiangoth.com/gothview.html)”.
For more information, see:
Montenegro, M 2006. The world according to Goth. Christian Research Journal 29/1. http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Goth1.html