Monday, February 9, 2009


I met J.R. (more popularly know as Ryan AKA Lil Ryan) years ago when I first was beginning to get into hardcore punk. We were from neighboring towns and when we first met, he was a left wing atheist if I ever met one. Flash forward a couple years, and he had become a born again Christian. I was always a bit baffled by his transition, because ironically, it was the complete opposite of my own. With the two of us coming from such cosmic opposites, it made sense that we learned quite a bit from each other that we never realized. Though we still disagree on a number of topics, I have always respected Ryan for his kindness and his conviction to what he felt was right. This is an interview I conducted with him a few weeks ago.....

CYH: Please start off with your name, religious/spiritual affiliation, and bands you have or are playing in at the moment.

My name is J.R. Bermuda, I'm a follower of Jesus, (a Christian, whatever that means now a days.) And I play in Sleeping Giant and xDeathstarx.

CYH:What are the main goals that Sleeping Giant and xDeathstarx have as bands?

To convey the real heart of God to kids, and to restore those who are broken and hurting through a real encounter with Jesus.

CYH: Since there are a lot of stereotypes about Christians and Christianity, people's motives are often misunderstood. What is the real heart of God is to you and what effects do you think it will have on people who listen to your bands?

J.R.: The real heart of God is simple. Christians try to dump bullcrap theology all over it, and try to complicate it, but if you study the bible, and have a relationship with God, its so plain to see. God is in the business of making people whole. God desires to make sick people well, he desire to bring happiness and wholeness to people who are desperate and hurt. God desires to love, and be loved. He is accepting, especially to those who don't know/believe/care about him. There is a biblical principal that states that when people worship God, his spirit comes down and does work among us. When you encounter the heart of God, you feel loved, and broken places in your life can get healed. If you meet Jesus, you will never be the same. He can wreck everything and ruin your life.

CYH: You've brought up something I'm very fascinated in with Christianity. You mentioned that an encounter with Jesus can "ruin your life". Is this implying something about how people live their lives without Him? If so, please elaborate.

To some measure yes. Personally, I was one who thought I had my life, my system of ideas, my political stance, my personality all figured out. I thought that I didn't need Jesus. Once I met Jesus, everything changed. I learned that my ideas contradicted themselves, that I had jack crap figured out, and if I was honest with myself, I was a broken pissed off kid who's heart was a total mess. Once I got to know who God was, and fell in love with him, it changed me.

CYH:When I first met you, I can't think of someone who was more atheistic than you. Which of Jesus' teachings pushed you towards Christianity the most? Was there a specific event that this transition occurred?

J.R.:I went to a bible study that these hardcore kids had, and I agreed to go, if anything, to strengthen my argument against Christianity, but what I heard when I got there was something completely different than the money hungry, bigoted Christian stereotypes I was so against. I was taught about a God who wants to heal nations, who didn't pick political sides, who actually engaged his people in relationship, and who loved me even though I was a mess. Some people have this big fancy moment of conversion, but for me, it was more like God gently spoke to me and called me out of my place of self loathing and hate, until I learned to trust him. He said "do you think I'm good enough to love you?" I told him no. But I wanted to believe it. So that started this whole spiritual journey with me.

CYH: What was your family and friend's reactions to this conversion?

They were all pretty shocked. I mean, I was a kid who used to claim that I could talk a christian out of their faith. All the kids a grew up with and were close to at the time couldn't freaking believe it.

CYH:What has been the reaction to your bands when you play shows that are not primarily Christian?

Mostly, kids are really cool. I understand that we talk about our faith a lot on stage, and I do mean a lot, so if kids yell at us to shut the hell up, its fine with me. We played with winds of plague last weekend, and they are a pretty adamant God free band. Some kids were yelling the classic "f*ck you", and a few "God Free Youth"s, but its not a big deal. I even thing we cheered a few of those kids, because we support them too. Even though we don't agree with them, we back them as someone who is important to his friends, family, and important with God. Some christian kids couldn't understand why we would play with them, but those dudes are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. We love them. News flash! Christians can love non Christians!

CYH: Since hardcore has always been affiliated with anti-religious viewpoints, do you feel your bands have a legitimate place in this community?

Yeah, I think so. Hardcore has been about sharing ideas and beliefs, expressing yourself, and standing up for what you base your life on just as much as being affiliated with anti religious views. That's what we are doing.

CYH: What do you say to people within the hardcore community that bring up a lot of the problems with contemporary (as well historical) Christianity, such as the sexist (1 Timothy 2:11-15) and homophobic (1 Corinth 6:9) aspects of the faith?

J.R.: To those people I say that the bible is not an unenlightened book and we are in an enlightened time. The bibles purpose is not means to alienate people. But the bible needs to be understood in its context. The BEST context that I can be understood in is in a relationship with Jesus. But if you are just reading, you have to take the 1st century Hebraic mindset into consideration. The first verse in 1 timothy is talking about how in roman culture, most women were not educated. most men were. And in church at that time, men and women sat in opposite sides of the room. Whenever a point was made, women would discuss it amongst themselves, or ask the closest man. It was written to keep an orderly church service, not oppress woman. Its all about context. The second verse in 1 Corinthians did NOT single out homosexuals, it put homosexuality in a big group along with drunks, prostitutes, and crooked businessmen. And in context, the author was talking more specifically about people who were opposed to the law, not about men who were in relationship with other men. Its all about context. The church takes the bible out of context more than non Christians, which is why the church is in the state it is in now.

CYH: Though the verse in 1 Corinthians does not single out homosexuals by themselves, their existence seems to be viewed as immoral, since as it states after naming off these groups, they will "not inherit the kingdom of God". Since Paul (Corinthians author) was the head of the church, this would make the assumption that this is the ideology of the first Christian churches. Which would understandably make people assume that Christian's views of homosexuals would be unfavorable, yes? And as you stated, a lot of this was historically determined. But do you feel these are views that should be practiced today? Specifically in a "progressive" community such as punk rock?

The bible outlines that homosexuality is a sin, yes. I'm not gonna water it down, and I don't really care that much if someone agrees with it or not. Homosexuality is a sin, but so is stealing, getting drunk, gettin down with your girlfriend, etc. Luckily, God focus was never on sin. And it was his plan to die for us even when we were sinners. Sin was never the point, and I don't believe that God is mostly concerned with how good we are being. He is mostly concerned if we are okay. and obviously, some verses aren't applicable in today's society. Today, women are educated, and they have a extremely important place in ministry today. Yes. Women can be pastors. Haha. I might piss some Christians off with that one. *wink!*

CYH: One more question on the topic, if you don't mind. If God's main concern is based off if we're okay, why would homosexuality, which can arguably be considered as a natural occurrence in nature, as well as such things as abortion, be viewed with such distaste in the Christian hardcore community, as well as the Christian community, in general?

Viewing sin with distaste is one thing, but viewing people, I.E. homosexuals, with distaste or even disgust is not gods heart. The bible also clearly outlines that we are to love people who don't believe in Jesus. When people treat homosexuals like dirt just because they are "sinners" or whatever is wrong. Its not even biblical, and its a product of living in the mindset that you are better than someone else because you are a christian, which is also clearly outlined as a sin. Not only is it sin, it sucks. So if you do it, knock it off, clown shoes! *insert crappy christian catch phrase here*

CYH: Is there anything you think the christian hardcore community can do to become more integrated with the more secular hardcore community?

hang out, be accepting, don't be so critical. Listen to each other. And how about book some shows together!

CYH: Any last words?

Yeah, God loves everybody... except for Loomis.

(This is Loomis.)



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