June 27, 2011

Bob Mould on church going

I was recently sent this excerpt from Bob Mould's newly released autobiography, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody. For those unfamiliar with Mould's significance, he's considered one of America's post-punk greats--the abrasive, absolutely relentless frontman of Hüsker Dü: a band that brought hardcore punk music into a head-on collision with arena-sized ambition and pop melody. Although I'm not very familiar with Mould's solo work, Zen Arcade (1984) and New Day Rising (1985) are among my favourite albums to blast when my mood is particularly volatile. In his memoir, Mould shares about his battles with substance abuse, coming to terms with his homosexuality, his ambivalent Catholicism, and his ongoing music career. Here's Mould on a recent church going experience:
It was a late-afternoon Mass on Saturday, and St. Matthew’s is one of the biggest Catholic churches in DC. . . . I walked in, went up the stairs, dipped my hand into the water, and motioned the sign of the cross. We went in, found Steve’s usual pew, knelt in the aisle before entering, and I again crossed myself. We lowered the altar bench, and for the first time in thirty years, I knelt in front of God. I hadn’t been to church since confirmation.

Down the aisle comes Father Caulfield, thirty-something, handsome, tall, inspirational—the kind of person who believes so hard that, when he looked up to the top of the cathedral, I feared he would shoot right through the roof. He’s that close to God, speaking in measured words, and we people begin singing again.

The routine comes back to me, the whole drill; it didn’t change one bit. It’s not like they start with the sermon and then put a Sun Ra song in the middle—everything stays exactly the same. The set list doesn’t change. I’m up, I’m down, I’m kneeling, I’m standing, I’m singing, I’m praying. The service lasted an hour.

Mass was a levelling and humbling experience that gave me a different perspective on life. There was music, there was readings, there was community. There was the moment in the service when you greet your neighbour, someone you’ve probably never seen before in your life and may never see again outside of the church. Everyone is united around one thing—the religious experience. It brings many different kinds of people together into one room, which is the opposite of living in the gay ghetto.

I realized I was going to be a ‘cafeteria Catholic,’ picking and choosing the parts that worked for me. Instead of rebelling against or wholesale dismissing the Church, I tried to find the goodness in what the Church had to offer. And I tried to find a point of compassion in the experience that I could build from. (348-350)
Bob Mould, with Michael Azerrad. See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody. New York: Little, Brown, 2011.

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