Skip to main content

Emo Christianity

By October 30, 20095 Comments

Emo girl Yesterday I was hanging out with two of my girl friends chatting about life, and we got to talking about how we handle hard times in our lives. We were discussing whether it’s healthy to “indulge” our emotions–just give into what we’re feeling and throw logic to the wind. I think most women have been faced with this temptation.

Well one of my friends was explaining that whenever she gets into a place like that, her husband has trouble relating to her because she gets really “emo” and he doesn’t always know how to respond.

That stopped me. Emo?

I asked her to elaborate. “What do you mean you get emo?” She explained that she just feels really dark and likes to listen to dark music and mull over her feelings and write stories that have kind of twisted endings that reflect the way she’s feeling. Then she looked back at us and asked, “Do you think that’s ok?”

Heck yes I think it’s ok, and let me tell you why. Actually, let me begin with a caveat to this discussion. It’s NOT healthy for us as women to be mastered or controlled by our emotions. Emotion can cloud our vision of truth, and truth is our life saver when we’re drowning in fear, insecurity, doubt and guilt. We need truth, so any idea that we can just be emotional for the sake of it is dangerous. I am not saying that here.

Having said that, here’s why I like my friend’s “emo” confession. Christians have this thing about not experiencing our pain. Or at least not being honest about it. When you ask someone who’s going through a hard time how they’re doing, you’ll rarely get an honest answer like, “You know, it just really sucks right now,” or “I don’t really feel close to God.” Usually you’ll hear something more like, “It’s hard, but I’m trying to lean on God.”

Now leaning on God isn’t bad, but sometimes I wonder if this language is a smoke screen for escape. We’re escaping the voice of God and what He’s trying to say through the pain. We’re “leaning on God” to get us out of the lesson He’s trying to teach us. It’s kind of like people who act, and THEN ask God to bless their actions without having consulted Him in the first place. We just assume God wants us out of the darkness, so that’s what we ask for. But maybe He doesn’t. Maybe He wants us to stay there for awhile.

Sometimes God wants us to contemplate the darkness. I think that’s why he shoves it in Paul’s face in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul complains that he pleaded with God numerous times to remove the thorn in his flesh, but God continually refused. God wanted Paul to face the pain, to face his weakness, understand his fragility. Only then, when his pride and sense of personal strength was removed from his line of vision could he get an unobstructed view of God’s grace.

That’s why Paul then boasts in his weakness. His weakness became the means by which he finally saw God’s glorious strength. Until then, Paul’s “self-esteem” (literally, esteeming of himself) had eclipsed his vision of God. Until then, he didn’t fully understand from what he’d been delivered.

That’s why I encouraged my friend to ponder her darkness. Ponder the things that weigh her down and ask what God is trying to teach her through it. Get emo. Granted, our experience of these emotions should be directed toward God–not feeling for feeling’s sake. And certainly not sadism. But when you’re feeling low or depressed or dark, don’t be ashamed. You are not less of a Christian for struggling with the darkness. The authenticity of your faith is not measured by how cheerful you feel (Remember that the next time someone tells you that Christians should be “known by” how joyful we are. Where does Scripture say that? While joy is a fruit of the Spirit, last I checked we’re to be known by our love, not our can-do attitudes). On the contrary, your pain, or even blah-ness, can be a means for better understanding yourself, and God.

Until we do the hard work of contemplating our weakness, our understanding of it and God’s subsequent grace will be little more than head knowledge. In spite of our intentions, it will be superficial. This superficiality is rampant amidst evangelicalism. It’s not that Christians are intentionally fake. Their intentions are actually quite pure, but they’re just out of touch with their humanity. I personally have trouble relating to people who are chipper all the time because I don’t feel that way myself, and the world feels the same. In fact, I suspect that the world has a better understanding of the darkness of humanity than many Christians. Many individuals in the secular realm aren’t afraid to confront it. That’s why the darkness of the soul has inspired countless songs, paintings and poems.

But that kind of secular reflection can only lead to despair. There is no hope apart from Christ. Which is why we need to enter into that conversation. The world knows how dark humanity can be, so Christian pretensions that “everything is fine with me and Jesus” does not resound with them. We need to admit the depth of the darkness. Only then will we be in a position to point people to the light.

So as weird as it sounds, we need to get emo. We need to study the darkness and understand the brokenness of humanity better than anyone else. We need to confront our depravity and our pain head on. The better we understand it, the more magnificent God’s grace will appear. And perhaps people will then believe us when we claim to have been in darkness, but have seen the light.


  • Rebekah Kim says:

    Hi, my name is Rebekah Kim. I currently reside in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was reading your entries through Revelife on and it has been helpful in answering some of the questions I had regarding singlehood, marriage, sex, & other topics. Thank you for your wonderful posts! I will be keeping up with your posts from now on. God bless you!

  • Sara says:

    I spent last year doing mission work in South Africa with a team of young adults. Toward the end of our time there, one of my teammates died in a car accident. It was terribly hard, and my first time experiencing real loss. There was really nothing we could do, and nothing that could make us feel better. We just had to sit, be sad, and cry.

    When you feel that way, you can’t try to crawl out of the darkness on your own. And the old standbys like “God is in control” or “Lean on God” or “Everything happens for a reason” don’t make it better. I just needed someone to tell me that God was crying with me, that it was okay not to be okay. Yes, God was and is in control. But sometimes I just need to cry and grieve and get angry and I need to know that God is crying and grieving with me.

  • Kate says:

    Your entry reminded me of a poem I read in college (below) I still remember the first few lines because I read it when I was in a dark time. It was a time that Jesus walked with me through the deep recesses of my soul–in order to bring light and healing but I had to walk through immense pain…but with Him. Had I not gone there, I would not know Him like I do now and I would not be who I am today. It’s worth it to face the pain–with Him. His goal is always to love us through our grief and bring us slowly but surely to a place of wholeness, so we can love others in a dark time.

    In a Dark Time, Theodore Rothke

    In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
    I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
    I hear my echo in the echoing wood–
    A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
    I live between the heron and the wren,
    Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

    What’s madness but nobility of soul
    At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
    I know the purity of pure despair,
    My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
    That place among the rocks–is it a cave,
    Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

    A steady storm of correspondences!
    A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
    And in broad day the midnight come again!
    A man goes far to find out what he is–
    Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
    All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

    Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
    My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
    Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
    A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
    The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
    And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

  • Please Hear Me Out says:

    I don’t want this to be seen as a negative thing here.
    But please, please DO understand that the majority of “emos” are not depressed. And this labell is harsh on the “emos.” Many people misunderstand that all emos cut, listen to dark music, are always depressed and cry all the time.
    We don’t.
    HAving people taunting us is hard enough for us. And now Christians are also misunderstanding the true term of emo?
    Many Emos are outcasts. Like how Jesus was an Outcast (I would like to believe)crucified. Yes. I am also indeed, a Christian.
    So what IS the true definition of emo?

    Emo is just a labell. It’s a type of person who has a strong grip on music emotionally. We write lyrics and poems about how we feel. We’re not just recognized by the hairstyles, make up and clothes.

    But please don’t think that Emo is another religion. A devil worshipping person who listens to Satanic music. We can listen to Metal, Pop. Whatever we want to. But we’re just different, I guess- trying to see from your perspective.

    Please, after reading this, give this “topic” a thought. And pray for the misunderstood.

  • Sharon says:

    “Please Hear Me Out,”

    Thanks so much for your input, but I would encourage you re-read the post a second time, this time reading my voice as a sympathetic one. This was not intended to be a dump on people who label themselves as “emo,” but instead an encouragement to LEARN from those who do. As Christians, there is a temptation to disconnect from our emotions in order to feel what we THINK is the Christian response. In response to this harmful suppression of our emotions, emo culture reminds us of the importance of reflecting on our emotional selves. Nowhere in this post did I equate “emo” with negative practices such as cutting or depression or Satan worship, so please don’t here me as having done so. Emo culture is one that is not afraid of confronting those dark emotions that Christians are hesitant to grapple with, and I consider that a strength.

    Again, this post was intended to embrace the emo voice, not judge it. I think when you re-read this post with that perspective in mind, that intention will be more clear.

Leave a Reply