Punk rock was always an attitude of questioning and challenging. Joey Ramone flatly called punk “an attitude.” It was about challenging the status quo and raising issue with the way things were done. The genre developed out of the garage band sounds of the 1970s and was a direct response to the “excess” of mainstream rock at the time.
There was a DIY ethic to punk rock, and it portrayed that through its musical sound by stripping down the instrumentation and focusing on simplicity. It was also lyrically and musically focused on resistance, aggression, and anti-establishmentarianism. It’s hard edge reflected the opposition to mainstream markets. With the emergence of punk music came a whole subculture that created controversy and consternation in the general public, especially in the UK. By the 1990s punk had been co-opted by the mainstream, however, and pop-punk emerged as a dominant force in popular music.
Christian punk emerged in the 1980s out of the Jesus People Movement, which had become something of an incubator for alternative faith expressions. Many of these early bands got their start in Southern California at Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel. Many of these undercover bands would go on to become popular Christian music scene: The Altar Boys, Crucified, Scattered Few, and One Bad Pig.
Christian punk took the antiestablishment and resistance themes of the broader punk culture and applied them to their faith. Jesus, as many saw it, was the most punk individual there ever was! Likewise, to be bold for your faith in an industry that shunned hardcore Christianity was equally punk. They often applied these same attitudes in their critique of the church, which put many bands at odds with CCM – another punk rock move at the time. All in all, it reminds very counter-cultural to proclaim your faith with the boldness and tenacity that these bands did. While later Christian punk rock has not neared that same level of boldness, there were some great exceptions and still some great songs.
Here are my top ten favorite Christian punk rock songs:
1. “Good Intentions” by Slick Shoes
Punk rock praise for the nail-scarred hands of Jesus which catch us when we fall.
2. “Doing Better” by Shorthanded
Who knew punk rockers could draw the distinction between legalism and faithfulness so well!
3. “I Am Not Talkin’ About Religion” by The Altar Boys
Christianity isn’t about religion but about relationship!
4. “Carry Me” by Hangnail
A prayer for God’s help in getting through the storms of life.
5. “Invitation to Understanding” by MxPx
A cultural rebuke for our lack of patience and discipline to truly get understanding.
6. “The One I’m Waiting For” by Relient K
Punk rock love songs are a dime a dozen, but this is my favorite.
7. “Feel the Burn” by Dogwood
One of the most underrated Christian punk bands ever!
8. “Doing Time” by MxPx
This song basically described how I felt about high school.
9. “You Found Me” by The Altar Boys
The Shepherd goes searching for the one lost sheep and finds him every time!
10. “Ode to Dispossession” by Sidewalk Slam
Punk rock ballad for broken hearts and moving on.