Death to the World
John Valadez *
I was born into brokenness. I have never known the type of family you read about in books or see in movies. My parents were both very young and separated before I took my first breath of air. They were both metal-heads that had no idea what a baby was all about. Drug use, partying, and cranking up the volume on their stereos was life before me. In fact, my first concert was Iron Maiden while still in the womb and most pictures of my parents before I was born show them clad in Judas Priest and Floyd shirts. Fortunately for me, my parents are indeed very loving and they learned how to sacrifice and take responsibility for the life they brought into the world. From early on, I was used to Black Sabbath screeching from my father’s cassette player while we flew down the street in his VW. However, it was not until I was older did Ozzy’s words begin to resonate in me as I grappled with the reality of God.“…Escape from brainwashed minds and pollution. Leave the earth to all its sin and hate, find another world where freedom waits…” -Black Sabbath, Into the Void
I cannot say when, or where, or how, but beginning in my teenage years I yearned. Can I say I knew what my yearning was for? I am sure some psychologist would assert some assumption as to why, but all I know is that it was genuine. I cannot answer what it was for; I can only pinpoint what it was against. I hated the world. It lacked seriousness and purpose. I began to be incurably annoyed with mundane life and the proposed American dream. As high school years came, influence of new music came. My “crowd” during lunch was behind an unused cafeteria with the punks. It was here that I felt I found a home, a purpose, a rebellion. Through these people I heard Johnny Rotten, Poly Styrene, Beki Bondage, and others that would influence my ways of thinking for years to come.
I flew high the banner of “No Future” and the world began to be an even more mundane and dismal place. I related to this rebellion, but I didn’t know where it was going. As I attended punk shows, I began to notice the same vanity and mundaneness that we were supposedly rebelling against, except this time it was just masked in Mohawks and studded jackets. Through my high school crowd, I met a guy who was a Christian. He dressed cool, had cool hair, and talked cool, but he was a Christian. He gave me some names of bands and I looked them up, got heavily involved in the Southern California Christian Punk scene and my rebellion became an edgy punkified version of Christianity.
“No compromise! Deny Christ? We’d rather die!” I yelled in the circle pit of an overcrowded Corona venue. I found purpose and an answer to my questions about the unsatisfactory world I saw before me. Show after show got me connected and pulled me into something I felt was radical, real, and worth a true revolution. It became my world and my life. “Jesus Christ Hardcore” was our slogan and we were on a mission for change. Change in the world, change in the churches, and an attempt to change our lives. Then, the scene fell. Band after band moved away, broke up, or left Christ all together. My questions returned, my life had a hole again, and this rebellion, as before, proved to be a shallow one. As Christian punks across SoCal scattered, some found a home, gathering in a small tattoo shop in Orange and I was one of them. We met on Monday nights when the shop shut down and talked until the early morning about Scripture, the end of the world, society, and change. Lofty talks about Christian communities and revolution filled our heads. We sought to re-find the Church of Acts or rebuild it. This is how Orthodoxy was discovered.
As the tattoo guns were put down and the neon “Open” light was shut off, we gathered for what we didn’t know was our last gathering. Some of the group, including our head, had converted and were accepted as Catechumens into Eastern Orthodoxy. As it was announced to us, we were in shock. Because the term was even so foreign to us, many panicked, judged, and the sheep were again scattered. The bible study and parlor gathering would cease and I left that night with a very heavy heart. Back then, Orthodoxy online was not very palatable for seekers, but I did everything I could to wrap my head around what was going on. I had just become the tattoo apprentice to our bible study leader, Turbo, who announced his conversion and needed to know what my friends were into. While doing my research for months, Turbo and I realized that the Christian punk bands that we highly supported had run into Orthodox monks and received Death to the World ‘zines. We found out where the ‘zines were printed and the Abbot of the Monastery sent us a box full of issues. It was in that box was that I first read the line, “The Last True Rebellion.” It was simple, I found truth. That was my yearning, truth as a person, Jesus Christ, and the Church built on the blood of unwavering martyrs, Holy Orthodoxy.
In 2006 I was baptized, named John, and dying to this world and myself is my rebellion… the last true rebellion.