I took my kids to a rock festival this weekend. Carolina Rebellion 2017. The Cult played Friday evening, Tesla and Def Leppard (a band I’ve wanted to see since I missed out on them in college) were there on Saturday. And Skillet, my kids’ favorite band, on Sunday. I like Skillet. I approve of their positive message in a world where teens are bombarded by negative ones. Plus, they rock.
We talked to the kids ahead of time about what the festival might be like. There’d probably be drugs and drinking and strong language. The people there might look different from what we see in our small town. I’m not sure how much of that the kids heard in the excitement of seeing Skillet, but I’m happy to say I have confidence and trust in my kids. I figured we’d all be okay.
So this weekend, we packed up the car and left. We got there just in time to hear The Cult play. We ate some bad festival food, got home late, slept late, and then went back for more. Saturday was an epic night for me. I’ve loved both Tesla and Def Leppard since I was in high school and college. Both of them performed. I think when I’m on my death bed I’ll smile at the memory of dancing with my daughter under the stars while Def Leppard played some of my favorite songs.
So far, so great, right? True, we were out of place. None of us have tattoos and my daughter and I have four piercings between us. A couple of times I smelled some funky smoke. We saw some drunk people. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the F-word screamed over a microphone so often. And my youngest, nine, was definitely in the minority at this festival full of college kids, metalheads, bikers and death rockers. So much so that quite a few tattooed, pierced and leather-clad people had to pause to give her a high five and compliment her on her dancing.
Sunday was the day we’d been waiting for. Skillet played Sunday afternoon and signed albums and CDs after. My kids wore the Skillet shirts I’d bought them for Christmas. They were excited as we approached the festival grounds. We all were. And that’s when I saw him.
Dressed in khaki pants and a knit golf shirt, he might have stepped right off a golf course. He had a microphone and sign and he was preaching at the sinners walking past on their way to the festival, telling them to go to church instead of to a rock concert. I took my daughter’s hand as we crossed the road. Some instinct made me want to protect her from this guy. He watched us walk past, still preaching. It was only when I was about ten feet past him that he did it.
“And there goes a bad mommy right there, folks. Taking her innocent child into this den of iniquity…” (That may not be an exact quote. My blood pressure shot up so much after the “bad mommy” part that I couldn’t hear well over the rush of blood in my ears.)
My head swiveled around in shocked outrage. How dare he? How dare he play on the guilt that all mothers have? The guilt that we’re not good enough for these amazing creatures we’ve been blessed with? The guilt that we don’t do enough, aren’t smart enough, should make better school lunches, throw better birthday parties…do this…don’t do that…
“God bless you!” I yelled as loud as I could manage, putting all my frustration and anger and guilt into those three words. God bless you, you (BLEEP) because I’m not going to.
And we went on to a fantastic concert full of great music. And later, when we met the four extraordinarily polite and friendly members of Skillet and they all high-fived the kids and shook their hands, I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. One of the women in the band had purple hair, another pink. Lead singer John Cooper wore a lot of leather and had tattoos. He smiled when my daughter handed him a picture she’d drawn. His voice was kind.
And that’s when it hit me.
Of all the people I’d encountered that weekend, that hate-spewing, vitriolic man outside telling me I was going to hell was the only one I’d felt a real need to protect my children from. My instinct had been to pull her away from a—Christian?—and hurry her into a rock concert. What does this mean for the future of Christianity?
Over the course of the whole weekend, I saw no real sinning. No fighting or violence. Just people enjoying life and music. Just people there for the same reason I was. Peace, love and rock-and-roll, man.
As for the “Christian”, well, I hope he made it home safely.