Somehow I ended up with a subscription to Rolling Stone. I’m not entirely sure how this happened. I know I don’t pay for it. But since it arrives at my house every other week, I usually flip through and at least skim through some of their features.
The newest issue has a piece on BattleCry (there’s also a multimedia component here), a Christian youth movement that holds giant rallies complete with a heavy multimedia component and Christian rock of the eardrum-rattling, tattoo-and-spiked-hair punk and metal variety. The group, comprised largely of kids whose aesthetic might best be described as “suburban punk rock,” preaches a militant anti-secularism (against MTV in particular and Hollywood in general), but basically just puts a modern, youthful twist on fairly traditional Christian values—chastity, resistance to drugs and alcohol, personal sacrifice, and foreign missions work.
Sounds innocuous, right? Not at Rolling Stone. The article is more or less a case study in the sort of sneering, condescending portrayals of Christians that inspire groups like BattleCry in the first place. The group’s branding is described as looking as if it were pulled “from Stalin’s archives.” Kids are “seduced into the cause” and adults are “scared” into supporting it. The article is filled with rather unsubtle jabs at the group’s conservative political outlook, and every opportunity is taken to portray the kids as simpletons. Essentially, the piece is designed to make the group look like a kooky cult for kids who’ve been brainwashed into thinking that rock and roll can co-exist with religion. No wonder these kids are suspicious of “secular media”; look how it portrays them.
Now, whatever problems some conservatives might have with Christian rock and youth rallies and worship as a multimedia/rock-concert experience (and admittedly, a lot of it is pretty silly), the whole movement seems harmless at worst and, in many ways, potentially beneficial. These kids are channeling the restless energy of adolescence into a movement that preaches decency, self-restraint, humility, and willingness to help and serve others. Like a lot of teenagers, they’re rebelling, but their rebellion is against what they see as the selfish, hedonistic nihilism that dominates the mainstream culture industry. And, not surprisingly, their rebellion is fueled by the passion, and sometimes the naiveté, of youth.
In other words, they’re doing just what the counterculture crowd who birthed Rolling Stone did, except with a cleaner, gentler, more conservative ethos. It was okay, apparently, when it was all about sex, drugs, and liberal politics, but now that Rolling Stone is firmly, comfortably entrenched in the establishment, it’s going to do whatever it can to ridicule and undermine any threat, no matter how minimal, to its nostalgic boomer liberalism–and, perhaps more importantly, the influence and revenue it gets from selling it.