At a time when the press both within Russia and beyond is raking through the events surrounding a group of punk rock girls who gained a previously elusive notoriety by blaspheming on the solea of the Russia’s preeminent Christ the Savior Cathedral as if it were a stage, it seems appropriate to mention a group of punks in the U.S. who have found the answer to their angst in Orthodox Christianity. The punk movement in Russia was most certainly imported. How ironic it is that these American punks have found their “last true rebellion” in Orthodoxy, a religion brought to the U.S. from Russia.
This article was taken from the website of the “Death to the World” ‘zine.
In the wilderness of Northern California, Monks John and Damascene searched in hopes of finding a way to reach out to the Punk scene, which John had escaped. Seeing that the scene was full of kids that were sick of themselves and crippled by nihilism and despair, the Monks set out to give them the same hope that they found in Ancient Christianity. To do this, they decided to submit an article about Father Seraphim Rose in the popular magazine, Maximum Rock and Roll. When Father Damascene read over the magazine, he knew that they would never publish something like it. Struggling to show truth to the darkened subcultures, they tried again, but this time only placing an ad for Saint Hermans Brotherhood. They got a response from the editor, saying “What the @#*% is a Brotherhood?” and the Monks were told “We only run ads for music and ‘zines.” A light bulb went on and thus, Death to the World was born. The first issue was printed in the December of ’94 featuring a Monk holding a skull on cover. The hand-drawn bold letters across the top read “DEATH TO THE WORLD, The Last True Rebellion” and the back cover held the caption: “they hated me without a cause.” “These kids are sick of themselves,” says Fr. Damascene, “and they feel out of place in this world. We try to open up to them the beauty of God’s creation, and invite them to put to death ‘the passions,’ which is what we mean by ‘the world.’ God takes despair and turns it around to something positive. Selfish passions can then be redirected into love for God, as Mary Magdalene did. We talk about the idea of suffering because that is what the kids feel most strongly. We show that there can be meaning in suffering.”
The first issue, decorated with ancient icons and lives of martyrs inside, was advertised in Maximum Rock and Roll and brought letters from all around the world. People from Japan, Lithuania, and Ireland wanted to get their hands on this new radical magazine. The mailing list grew and grew and the ‘zine was distributed at punks shows and underground hangouts. It was photocopied and passed around by hundreds who wanted to read about the radical lives of the lovers of truth and the mystery of monasticism. It was estimated that at one time, there were 50,000 in circulation. Father Paisius, who is a Monk at the monastery, said, “This subculture is raucous and deeply disturbed because of their own pain. They see life as worthless. We want to show them an ideal that is worth their life. These are marginalized youth who are wounded, and Death to the World is meant to touch with a healing hand that wound.” Writing and putting together issues 1-12, the Monks lived in the forests of Northern California in the midst of deer, bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes, translating and publishing wisdom from the holy fathers and mothers of ages past. The Monks and friends of the monastery also went to rock concerts and festivals, distributing Death to the World ‘zines and t-shirts, together with icons and other books that the monastery published. The Monks did not put out any issues after issue 12, but they continued to share and hand out back orders of Death to the World.
Eight years later, in the gloomy cities of Southern California a group of kids, coming out of the remnants of a dying Protestant Punk scene were looking for some answers. Desiring something otherworldly, and seeing the efforts of Protestant bands crash in flames before them, they looked away from the churches they grew up in and were curious about the ascetic ways of their ancient Christian Fathers. In hope of finding answers, they looked to the Monks of Saint Herman Brotherhood. The monastery’s Abbot, Father Gerasim, sent them copies of each issue of the ‘zine that had inspired so many over the years, together with seven of the last copies of the book Youth of the Apocalypse. Reading through the pages of these ‘zines one by one, they found what they were looking for, a radical Christianity, one very different from what they grew up in. “Something had always kept me looking for the ‘hardcore’, no compromising Christianity, because I knew down inside that, if Jesus Christ is God, then Christianity had to be the most radical belief in the world.” All of a sudden a small Parish in the midst of Orange County was populated with punk-rockers adorned with tattoos and piercings. The Parish of Saint Barnabas quickly became known as a “repentant rock ‘n’ roll hospital.” John Valadez, a new writer, looking back explained, “We kept seeing more people come. People that we never thought would show up stood in line with us to receive Holy Baptism. We were greatly inspired by Death to the World. It was what we were missing, something far from the emptiness of the world, and it spoke to us on our level, in a way we could understand.” Making numerous pilgrimages to the wilderness of Northern California to live with the Monks for days at a time, the group would take back boxes of old ‘zines to pass out at punk shows and to give out to friends. On one of these pilgrimages Father Damascene, one of the original writers, said, “Maybe Saint Barnabas should start it up again.” On the drive back into Southern California, passing the billboards and skyscrapers, the need for a new Death to the World became more graphic in our minds. The punk scene, if anything, has gotten worse and the search for truth in these woeful times seems almost impossible. The group, in hopes of bringing back the truth to the youth of the apocalypse, compiled issue 13 and sent it back into the forest of Platina to be edited.
With the blessing of Father Damascene and Abbot Gerasim, the new generation of Death to the World was born, and the first issue after 9 years was printed and sent out to people across the United States and Europe. To this day, we continue to write a ‘zine to inspire Truth-seeking and soul-searching amidst the modern age of nihilism and despair, promoting the ancient principles of the last true rebellion—being dead to this world and alive to the other world.