Songs as Sanctuary: John Robinson on Project 86


I’m not a cheery feel-good person. In fact I’m quite misanthropic and struggle with fitting into positive-smiley-handshaking-company. I have frequently found myself a reject of mainstream Christian circles.


86’ed. Thrown out, gotten rid of, banned. In food service, it refers mostly to an item no longer being on the menu, but can also mean to deny someone service. In church, I’ve been that guy.


It’s no coincidence that shortly after becoming a Christian in 1995, I discovered a band out of Orange County, California, called Project 86. Frontman Andrew Schwab said, in an interview regarding the use of 86 in their name, “The generation before us used that phrase to describe when they would reject or remove something…Project 86 is like the whole idea of being rejected, or separate, or not going along with the current.”



I was born-again into a mainstream Christianity that branded itself on being counter-cultural, when in fact it wasn’t at all – acting very much like the world in their pursuits of material wealth and influence, while singing hypnotic verse-chorus-verse lullabies in church. I couldn’t relate to this music. It sang of something I was a stranger to – peace, joy, and happiness in finding Christ. Maybe I was missing something but my relationship with God brought me much closer to my darkness than many around me were willing to talk about.


Instead I drowned myself in Project 86’s melodic and heavy post-hardcore sound. Schwab sang of emotional struggles – emptiness and conformity – combined with social commentary on such topics as pornography, child abuse, and money-grabbing pastors .


“Big business ain’t easy, I’m sure you’d agree, especially when the product is eternity – To stay one step ahead we must achieve, and turn this holy temple into a factory.”


I stopped reaching out for acceptance and answers in the churches: “I don’t need anybody, I don’t need anyone, I don’t need your guidance home.” Churches “speak of ‘movements’ to move more units, and invent brand names for your “believers.”


I became much more introspective, feeling there was no cure for our humanity, only death: “Now so many wonder why it is, so much has gone awry in all of this and ‘being’ makes you sigh that you exist, but you can’t escape this … the pain is there reminding us to turn and leave to come back home.”


But where was home? I couldn’t tell. I become more depressed and sad for the fate of us all. I became more withdrawn and lived inside myself. I felt like I had nothing, was nothing.


“Beckoning search in self for his answer – reckoning, purge, the great fall, the cancer – settlement comes in wages, now he is shattered, broke, and all alone.”


The Jesus that they spoke of had become a myth to me. Someone who would have been great to hang out with back in the day, to see the miracles, to hear the parables. But now it seemed just a shadow of something that once was, seemingly little hope left in this great chaos we have inflicted upon ourselves. I can only pray that somewhere along the way I can impact others, to share my meager words with them as Project 86 has done for me, to perhaps lead just one person a little closer to the Light – to the Eternal Love that awaits.


“Every single moment. Every memory, was just a small reminder that You were always with me. Every disappointment. Every agony. Every peak and valley. Melts into your hands.”


John Robinson is a U.S. Army veteran. He’s an administrator of the Sick Pilgrim Community, a special education teacher, and a heavy metal and tattoo enthusiast.


Read more by John Robinson for Sick Pilgrim.


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