I grew up identifying with skateboard culture. Remember, I’m old, so this was in the 1980′s. It wasn’t like it is today when you can turn on network television and see the Mountain Dew tour of professional skateboarding as part of mainstream America and everyone knows who Tony Hawk is. It wasn’t mainstream. And that’s one of the things that attracted me.
I’ll be honest and I’ll be the first to tell you that I was never very good at skating. But I loved it nonetheless and I’ve been wondering recently why that was. Why did I love to do something I didn’t excel at? One of my favorite skaters growing up was Lance Mountain because he was good, but he just didn’t seem as competitive as some of the other guys. He seemed to truly love skating for skating’s sake. I watched the Bones Brigade videos (especially Animal Chin) incessantly and they became woven into my psyche (for good and bad!).
Last night I finally had the chance to watch Stacy Peralta‘s documentary: Bones Brigade: An Autobiography. Even if you’re not interested in skateboarding, it’s a great story of finding meaning and belonging in a world that doesn’t seem to want you. That was one of the themes throughout each of the skaters’ recollections: they just didn’t feel like they fit in until they found skateboarding. They weren’t sure about life’s meaning until they found skateboarding. I deeply resonated with that sentiment growing up. I could play sports but I just had no interest in organized sports. In fact, I really didn’t like them. I could do well in school when I tried but it just wasn’t important to me. It wasn’t until I found skateboarding that I really felt like I had found an outlet that not only provided personal growth and expression but community.
Now, many (many) years later, as a Christian, I have a deeper understanding of what I was looking for and I have found more than I ever could have hoped for in Jesus. But I’m left wondering, especially as a pastor; does the way we practice “modern-day North American ‘Christianity’” fulfill those deepest desires that we all try to fill in various ways? We all want to be accepted for who we are and the freedom to express our individuality in community that accepts us. Skateboarding has offered that for countless young people.
But I struggle with the way that so much of our practice of Christianity tends to isolate us from those “who aren’t like us.” We withdraw from culture and build our “Christian” baseball fields, football fields, bowling alleys and tennis courts, believing that we can offer a “safe” alternative to people. Yet, in practice, we’ve asked people to “become like us,” to cross a cultural boundary before they can be part of our community. We use belief to exclude people from community. Yet, Jesus flipped this on its head; he used community to draw people to belief. Christians are the worst about asking people to fit into preconceived notions and become monochrome when we should be the most beautiful of tapestries, made up of all kinds of people who preserve their differences in love instead of water them down in conformity. How is it that skateboarders can practice community and acceptance better than those who have been accepted forever by God?
Bones Brigade: An Autobiography reminded me of a time in life when I truly felt free to be myself and felt completely accepted at the same time by others who were truly being themselves. Now, many years later, I’ve come to realize just how rare that is. May our “version” of Christianity be a better treasure than a skateboard.
Watch a trailer for Bones Brigade: An Autobiography: