As religion has retreated from its position and role of being the glue that holds society together, something must take its place. Utilising a focused and detailed study of Straight Edge punk (a subset of punk in which adherents abstain from drugs, alcohol and casual sex) Punk Rock is My Religion argues that traditional modes of religious behaviours and affiliations are being rejected in favour of key ideals located within a variety of spaces and experiences, including popular culture. Engaging with questions of identity construction through concepts such as authenticity, community, symbolism and music, this book furthers the debate on what we mean by the concepts of ‘religion’ and ‘secular’. Provocatively exploring the notion of salvation, redemption, forgiveness and faith through a Straight Edge lens, it suggests that while the study of religion as an abstraction is doomed to a simplistic repetition of dominant paradigms, being willing to examine religion as a lived experience reveals the utility of a broader and more nuanced approach.
Table of Contents
1 "Earth Crisis" - introduction
2 "Minor Threat" – an overview of punk and Straight Edge
3 "Youth of Today" – the relationship between religion, punk and Straight Edge
4 "Chain of Strength" – the role of music
5 "Count Me Out" – space, place and community
6 "Stick to your guns" – anarchy, religion and authenticity
7 "Prayer for Cleansing" – salvation, forgiveness and redemption
8 "The Faith" - conclusion
Francis Stewart grew up in Northern Ireland and discovered punk in her early teens (early 90s) through the late, great John Peel, the not late but equally great Terri Hooley and the radio stations that came up Belfast loch. Despite finding punk the perfect soundtrack to the environment she left in the late 90s to attend university in England, where she completed an undergraduate degree in religious Studies and English Literature. This was followed by 7 years as a high school teacher of religious studies, before returning in 2006 to complete her education. A master’s in Theology at the University of Glasgow was followed by a doctoral thesis at the University of Stirling, where she combined her multiple interests and passions of punk rock, religion, anarchy and D.I.Y communities. Since graduation she has worked part time in the religion department at Stirling.
"To get at the sensibilities, communities, and practices of Straight Edge, Stewart employs a combination of rich fieldwork and a wide range of theoretical sources. Her basic disciplinary identification is with sociology of religion, though Stewart deftly incorporates sources ranging from Dick Hebdige on subculture to David Chidester on popular culture and religion, from Charles Taylor on secularism to Christopher Partridge on “implicit religion.” The book that results is ultimately a fine addition to the literature probing the limits of the category “religion” while also giving a vivid reading of local, organic, subcultural scenes."
Jason C. Bivins, Professor of Religious Studies at North Carolina State University.