We don’t talk about church much at Punk Out. It’s not intentional; it’s just not something that is a big part of many of our lives, as far as I can tell. Some of my earliest memories are of church and Sunday school. I grew up in a UCC church (United Church of Christ, one of the many sects of Christianity, which is like punk in its infinite and seemingly made-up subgenres.) The church where I was baptized, where my parents, older brother, and several other relatives have been married, where several relatives have been buried, has existed longer than the country where it is located. The Sunday school I attended was steps away from the house where I grew up.
I was taught various Bible stories and how to memorize all of the different Books. We memorized the disciples too. The church housed my Boy Scout events, and the land for our lodge. In eighth grade, I took Confirmation classes on Sundays before church. We had to learn a lot, and I’m grateful that some of it included attending services at a Synagogue, a Mosque, and a Black Baptist church in Allentown, PA. It was around this time that I took an interest and pride in my religion.
Around this time, I also connected with vaguely Christian pop-punk bands like MxPx and Relient K – my Confirmation robes were adorned with lyrics from both. My first and second high school bands played in my church basement at shows we used to organize. I played my first acoustic sets there.
The church played a big part in my life as went through high school, and learned that my national church organization was welcoming of LGBT+ members, converts from other religions, the mentally challenged – just about anyone. Even as my faith and beliefs changed, I wasn’t made to feel unwelcomed or unheard. I’ve felt support from members of my church long after any sort of personal presence.
My mom is active in the church community – she always has been, since I was young. My grandmother, great aunts, and cousins were all active in our Sunday school and church. I knew that the UCC organization has recognized same-sex marriages, but several months ago, my church voted in favor of recognizing and practicing same-sex marriages in the church. My mom told me that several families I grew up with, who she volunteered alongside for years, have decided to leave the church over this decision – after generations of baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and burials. The church houses a memorial for my childhood friend’s grandfather who died in WWII, but his family has decided to move on.
For the record, I don’t subscribe to any organized religion, or observe the existence of any omnipotent figure. I don’t really believe in any physical afterlife. I respect everyone’s religious beliefs and practices (though not when they manifest in hate, as they often do.)
I feel my experience with the church is greatly responsible for my development as a person. Many of my moral and ideological beliefs are built on my early religious education, and that’s something I thank and respect my church for. I respect my church even more for its support of marriage equality, and religious equality as well. I’ve witnessed my church be a support of those in need in their community, and now some hope for a future of caring and accepting young people. My beliefs aside, something about it will always be my church, and I’ll always be grateful for growing up in such a welcoming place.
As I sing my punk hymns in church basements, I’m grateful that my mom, my brother, and my niece, are singing theirs in their church – and that deep down we all believe in the same thing.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner and Blog are exclusively of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization.
Many consider organized religion an enemy of the LGBT+ community. We do not see it this way. Yes, some religious are openly hostile and act in evil ways towards the LGBT+ community. But some religious institutions are fighting for LGBT+ equality and provide a safe space for many queer people. Brendan Schaller shares his experience with the United Church of Christ and what the UCC means to him.
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