I’m sure by writing some of this, I will offend people. But sometimes we have an experience, where to keep silent would be offensive to who we are. I don’t mean to over-dramatize what I’m wanting to talk about…but mainly to highlight this is not just being “thrown out” without forethought. I pray this can and will be heard with a right ear.
There is a place nearby that is well-known. I hear regularly from parents and teenagers alike who ask me my opinion. Up to this point, my opinion has been based only on exploring their web-content, and hearsay from others. Fortunately, I was urged recently to check it out, in support of a close friend who was going to be there.
I hesitate to actually put the name of the place on this post, as someone who loves it may accidentally come across my thoughts and start some sort of “smear-campaign” against me. I’m not looking for a fight, a debate, or even a big discussion. I’m just putting my experience into words.
Up to this point, this place has been innocently presented (to me, at least) as a place where those “outcast” by society can experience the grace and love of Christ, in an environment that’s safe, where music can be enjoyed, and a good time can be had by all. What I experienced fell short of that description. Very short. In fact, the only person to mention God at all was effectively cussed off-stage, and made fun of by most of the crowd.
Teenagers (mostly younger girls looking for approval, and older males willing to give it) of many different backgrounds were there, along with adults who I at first assumed were chaperones; but later realized were more of “enablers”…offering to light cigarettes for the minors who were in need.
Can this place be used by God? Yes. I believe there were people there who honestly wanted to hear the music, and not get shot. I was one of them. But we were in the minority. Mostly, it seemed…here was a place where I could do anything without my parents finding out. Smells of tobacco, alcohol, and yes, even marijuana…were mixed in with the expected smells of teenage sweat and too much perfume. One teen who was there recognized me…and said this was the last place he expected to see me. I think that says a lot right there.
To the bands that play there…I can understand. Today, you pretty much need to play wherever a stage is offered. To those who attend to hear their friends’ play…totally with you. That’s why I was there too. To the parents who’s children tell you they want to go….GO WITH THEM…at least the first time. It can be a great opportunity for you to discuss life choices after you go home, or the following day.
Am I against venues that allow bands to play, and teenagers to attend? Not at all. But I think this place does the community a large disservice when it presents itself as a safe and positive hang-out where “Christian” bands play…and leaves it at that. This environment is no more safe than letting your teenage daughter or son hang out at the local bar on open mic night. There is so much more I would say, but I feel I’ve said enough to get a message across. To the teens/parents who already support this venue…sorry if I’ve offended. I do believe there must be some good going on here…but I think it’s very important to be honest to the community about the very real problems that are present.