I’ve had a theory for a very long time that Pete Wentz, bassist of Fall Out Boy, has some sort of relationship with Catholicism. I’ve also suspected the same for Fall Out Boy frontman, Patrick Stump. After a night of internet deep diving (one of my favorite activities) I discovered I was right. Though neither one practice the Catholic faith, Pete was raised Catholic and Patrick says that he’s 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.
When I say I’ve held this theory for a long time, I mean since 2005 when From Under the Cork Tree (their second studio album) was released. There are a few one-off lines on the album that maybe hint towards this (a Bible is mentioned in one song, and then, of course, the famous mausoleum and “loaded God complex” in the song “Sugar We’re Going Down”). Other than these few lyrical hints, there wasn’t much pointing towards any sort of Catholicism on this album. I had an overall feeling, though, that I shared an underlying worldview with these guys. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I thought I was just being a silly fangirl and, since I was a theology and catechetics major at Franciscan University of Steubenville, thought that I was just reading into things like I was being taught.
This is the way it went for many years with each of their album releases (“Hum Hallelujah” off of Infinity on High and “Church” on M A N I A). and I kept writing it off. I’d glean personal fulfillment but not look into it any further. At the time, I thought this was the best way to go about encountering the culture around you: find the good and keep it, don’t worry too much about the rest. All this time, though, I was growing spiritually and my view of evangelizing the world was changing from needing to insert Jesus into everything and, rather, 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 on “secular songs to bring you closer to God” and “if Taylor Swift lyrics were Bible verses” and the like. I’ve caught myself looking out the window in winter, decrying the snow, but still saying in my heart, “It’s still a beautiful creation of my God and I thank Him for it anyway.” And 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 in a cultural war, I’m at home amidst a bunch of outcasts, beautiful creations, and misunderstandings.
That sort of gets to the heart of most Fall Out Boy songs, doesn’t it? Beneath the veneers and snarky one-liners and sex, drugs, and rough images, there’s a longing to fit in somewhere and finding it in 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 recognizing that, really, we’re all outsiders. We’re not God, we do not have the power, and He became like us to remind us of this and to show us the real way to live and love each other.
I’m definitely not saying that all Fall Out Boy songs, or even any of them, are great catechesis on the Gospel. That would be an incredible stretch that would make me guilty of what I feared when I first had this theory. What I am saying is that Catholicism as a worldview is like being the outcast and being at home among the outcasts. And I see that, or at least a similar, worldview in Fall Out Boy lyrics. So where is your boy Jesus tonight? I know He is a gentleman. And He already knows what I know, that you were the last good thing about this part of town.