The Church of the Outcasts

Since 2005, when Fall Out Boy’s second studio album, From Under the Cork Tree, came out, I’ve held a theory that bassist Pete Wentz, and possibly frontman Patrick Stump, has some sort of relationship with Catholicism. There’s never been any explicit mentions of Catholicism in their music to lead me to believe this nor did I ever listen to or read any interviews that would have told me so. I just got a sense of a shared, underlying worldview from their music.

Throughout the years and their albums, their songs are sprinkled with references to Christian faith and, possibly, Catholicism. There are passing references to the Bible, sin, altar boys, holy water, saints, St. Peter, and others. They also have a song titles “The Patron Saint of Liars and Fakes”. The song “20 Dollar Nose Bleed”, on their fourth album Folie à Deux, opens with the line, “Have you ever wanted to disappear and join a monastery?” Not many faith traditions have monasteries, as far as I know, besides Catholicism and Buddhism and Catholic kids are the only ones I’ve ever heard talk about running away to one. Another song on that album, “w.a.m.s.”, boasts the recurring line, “My head’s in heaven, my soles are in hell. Let’s meet in the purgatory of my hips and get well.” Purgatory is a decidedly Catholic doctrine. Little hints here and there, but nothing very explicit or definitive, especially when you’re just listening to some good pop punk music.

I kept writing these things off, gleaning personal fulfillment but not looking into it any further. At the time, I thought this was the best way to go about encountering the culture around us: find the good and keep it, but don’t worry too much about the rest. I was also growing spiritually and my view of evangelizing the world was changing from needing to insert Jesus into everything to finding Him already there instead. Both of these modes of seeing and encountering my faith and the world have found their way into my professional life. I’ve written plenty of articles like “secular songs to bring you closer to God” and “if Bible verses were Taylor Swift lyrics”. More profoundly, I’ve begun to see the God I love reflected in people who don’t share my faith in Him at all. Instead of finding myself fighting a culture war, I’m at home amidst a bunch of outcasts, beautiful creations, and misunderstandings.

This sort of gets to the heart of most Fall Out Boy songs, doesn’t it? Beneath the snarky one-liners, sex, drugs, and rough images, there’s a longing to fit in somewhere and finding that place with the outsiders. This is the deep heart of Catholicism, too. Our God, our Savior becoming one of us, living among the outcasts and the throwaways; not someone big, important, and accepted. When we are called to be Christ-like, it means embracing our place as the outsider and loving our fellow outsiders. It also means that, really, we’re all outsiders. We’re not God, we do not have the power. He became like us to remind us of this and to show us the real way to live and to love each other.

Recently, I became very curious about my long-held theory, to the point that I could no longer ignore it. So I engaged in one of my favorite activities: an internet deep dive. I googled “Pete Wentz Catholic” and found that he was, in fact, raised Roman Catholic! I also found an interview in which Patrick Stump says he comes from a big Catholic family. Was I elated to find that I share this background with two of my favorite punk rock icons? You can bet your black eyeliner and skinny jeans on it. All these years, I had been right.

I can’t help but think of Psalm 42:8 which says, “Deep calls to deep.” Even though neither Wentz nor Stump are practicing Catholics, that foundation still remains and, in its own way, calls out to my similar foundation. Whoever the patron saint of punk rock is (hopefully, me, someday) please say a prayer for Pete, Patrick, and me.

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