Though the heyday of Gothdom seems to have subsided, Goth culture lives on. Some believe it has become mainly a fashion trend with no substance, but many still identify themselves as Goth, Goth websites proliferate, and books have come out in recent years delineating the Goth way of life. These books examine Gothic history, music, dress, movies, literature, Goth icons, and more. According to one expert, Goths are found in the United States, Canada, most of Europe, the Far East, and South America (Kilpatrick, 3); a special hot spot for Goths in the past was New Orleans. New Orleans, formerly the home of Anne Rice, author of Interview With A Vampire and other books, is also the setting for many of her novels and for the movie, "Interview With a Vampire."
Aside from Rice's novels, Goths are drawn to the horror works of Poe and H. P. Lovecraft; to dark movies such as "The Crow," "Edward Scissorhands," "Beetlejuice" and "The Matrix;" to vampire movies such as "The Hunger," and others; and to various role-playing games. These books, movies, and games feature characters who are misfits, outcasts, vampires or otherwise outside mainstream society. Rice can perhaps be credited with crafting the contemporary vampire figure into the ultimate anti-hero, a figure of power who inspires terror yet who also suffers a doomed status, and is beset by inner turmoil, conflicting desires, and the eventual pain of being forever shunned by society. The price for immortality is high.
Despite the popular perception that Goth is simply a matter of style, there remains a sense that it goes deeper than appearance, even among teens. An 18-year-old Manson fan told me that even though she dresses in Goth style and most people would consider her Goth, she herself does not think she qualifies. She said, "Goth, like most cultures can go pretty deep, past music and appearance, I have not gone past that myself. So depending on how you want to define Goth . . . I would still say I'm not" (Kathy, email message to author, June 12, 2005). A Manson fan, wanting to be Goth but disliking labels, says, "I wanted to consider myself goth, because i thought Manson was goth. But now i think the word 'gothic' is more of a label on people than a religion, or belief (Anonymous emailer in message to author, June 21, 2005)." On the one hand, we have a careful use of the term "Goth," while on the other hand, there is the equally strong dislike of the Goth label.
Though there is ongoing disagreement and debate among Goths of different generations as to what authentic Gothdom is, this may be what keeps the Goth culture thriving. Rather than being unable to adapt, the fact that a younger generation is making its own claims on Goth shows that it continues to appeal rather than being unable to adapt. It is not seen, at least by younger Goths, as just something for 25 years ago, but remains relevant to how they want to express themselves today.
Meanwhile, movies considered Goth, like the two-part "Underworld" series, continue to come out, (though the storyline is about Vampires versus Werewolves). Goth writer Voltaire believes that Goth culture will have a moment in the sun and then slip back into the underground from whence it came (Voltaire, 93).
Attempts to define or pigeonhole Goth go against the Goth grain. The Goth subculture is resistant to examination. An example of this resistance to the spotlight is Goth clubs; as soon as they become well identified or popular, the real Goths flee for lesser-known hangouts. Goth is anti-trend. To a certain extent, when Goth is dissected, it is no longer Goth, and Goths would have it no other way. As the author of The Goth Bible says, "Goth is one of the premier artistic movements of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and true artists are, by nature, unique and unpredictable (Kilpatrick, 3).
The first thing Christians should do in responding to Goths is to set aside stereotypes, especially any misconceptions that Goths are Satanists or are violent. Goths are usually gentle people.
Secondly, you should not be unsettled by how the Goth person appears. The more extreme Goth styles may be off-putting to some, but it is important to see the Goth as a person first. Showing distaste for their appearance only confirms to Goths their suspicions that Christians dislike or fear them. Goths are usually gentle people whose dark clothing belies a friendly spirit. Like anyone else, Goths want to be treated respectfully.
The third thing to be careful to do is to see each Goth as an individual. As pointed out earlier, Goths may look alike in the way they dress, but it is crucial to bear in mind that each one is a unique person created in the image of God. Approaching a Goth as an individual is much more respectful and productive than viewing him or her as just part of a subculture.
It would also be an error to think the Goth person is someone who feels rejected by society. Many Goths do not feel rejected at all; rather, they merely feel they do not fit into the mainstream mold, or they find it shallow.
It is best to talk to Goths in the context of relationships. Goths typically enjoy discussing books, music, movies, or their own creative pursuits. A useful question to ask is why the person became Goth. Ask what they think Goth is, or what they like about Goth. Each of these questions opens many doors to understanding their views and what it is that they seem to have found in being Goth.
Goths are usually interesting to talk to, and hearing their perspectives on society and life can be both stimulating and challenging The Goth culture can be commended for its acknowledgement of the "dark" side of life - the unpleasant and ugly realities that society often ignores or denies -- and of death. These two issues can be good starting points for dialogue and discussion. A true Goth, for example, will have reflected on the significance of death. From a biblical perspective, death is our enemy - an enemy that Jesus Christ has utterly defeated through his own death and resurrection. Perhaps a Goth might be able to especially appreciate what Christ has done regarding death.
Goths also are often willing to discuss spiritual topics. Listen respectfully and share your own experiences and beliefs as part of the conversation. Keep in mind that many Goths have Christian backgrounds, though these might be only nominally Christian or possibly legalistic forms of Christianity. If their background is Christian, discover what turned them away from Christianity. Find out what their understanding of Christianity is. Be sensitive to bad experiences they may have had with Christianity or misunderstandings of the Christian faith.
Goths will listen to reasons for your faith if you show them respect and demonstrate sincere interest in them. It is a mistake to focus on clothing or worry about their looks if you invite them to your church. They should be welcomed to church regardless of their appearance.
Due to the fact that there are a variety of spiritual views among Goths, it is good to ask questions about their beliefs and see where that leads. Whether the Goth holds agnostic, Wiccan, or other beliefs, remember that we as Christians are representatives of Christ and that others should see Christ in us.
If Jesus were doing ministry today, would he be reaching out to Goths and engaging in dialogue with them? I believe He most definitely would be.
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To see the original article, "The World According to Goth" in the Christian
Research Journal, go to