Living in the Last Days with ’80s Hardcore Punk

Remembering Bad Brains Unique Sound and Message.

Jason Thompson / 5.26.21

Admittedly, I know very little about Coptic Christianity, but the classic track “Coptic Times,” which begins the vinyl version of the Bad Brains‘ timeless work Rock For Light, represents the kind of apocalyptic, prophetic tinge that distinguished them from contemporaries like Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, and others. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Bad Brains occupied a unique space in hardcore punk rock. They managed to fuse reggae, Rastafarianism, and James Brown-style stage antics in a high speed blend of loud, fast, aggressive music that lacked the negativity and apathetic resignation that otherwise characterized the scene.

Most notably, they unapologetically referenced Scripture in a way not to disdain religion, but to express sincere conviction, an unheard-of innovation in a subculture that remains suspicious of anything remotely authoritarian and mainstream à la American Christianity. With incredible insight, front man HR exclaims, 

Got a right to live my life
With no burdens over me
So I choose to read the Holy Bible
And take what Jah has given me
It seems that all through life, one fact prevails
That the righteous all live on
These are Coptic times
Leaving this place won’t be no big disgrace
Let lose of those lies and hold onto your faith
Cause in a matter of time there won’t be no space
Let lose of those lies and hold onto your faith
Revelation been foretold, now the next step is up to you
I choose to do the right and live in truth

Are we living in Coptic times? Perhaps, but the apostle John informs us we’ve been living in “the last days” for two thousand years (cf. 1 Jn 2:18). The age of law is fading and grace is breaking in and breaking forth. If we view Revelation as a means of interpreting Scripture in light of current events (or vice versa), we will miss the point. More importantly, we end up losing Christ, who is the fulfillment of all prophecy and in whom the entire redemptive storyline culminates.

Revelation isn’t about timelines, the Mark of the Beast, or the fear of being left behind. It’s about Christ, the Son of God, who went to prepare a place for us and promised to return and receive us to Himself. 

HR’s sincerity is commendable and his assessment is apt: Revelation has been foretold, but the good news is that the next step isn’t up to us. The work of salvation has been decisively accomplished in the cross of Jesus Christ, by whom, “we have confidence in the day of judgment because as He is, so are we in this world.” I can’t think of any better news to hold onto in these Coptic times.

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