Should I Stay or Should I Go? In the 80’s?

In the 1980’s, rock music was evolving into new sub genres such as heavy metal and punk rock. One of the famous bands of this time was The Clash, a British punk rock band who wrote the song “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” The song opens with the line, “Darlin’ you got to let me know, should I stay or should I go? If you say that you are mine, I’ll be here ‘til the end of time”. From the get go, we see the image of a man who is confused about whether or not his girlfriend even wants him. Lines such as “It’s always tease tease tease, You’re happy when I’m on my knees” show that the way she treats him is often unpredictable, and that she delights in his confusion.

What messages does it send?

This song speaks to all sorts of people who are struggling in their relationships. The message, in its most basic terms, can be phrased as “if you don’t want me, tell me so I can leave”. A message like this would have been received well by the youth of the time period, and even today. Messages about relationships were effective in the 1980’s, and even though the styles have changed, the message remains the same.

What is the perspective on youth culture?

The perspective on youth culture behind this song is that it should be a free culture. This can be broadly interpreted, but specifically it is referring to relationships. For example, a line in the song says “If you don’t want me, set me free, exactly whom I’m supposed to be”. The song is saying that people should be free, and that they are meant to be that way. In regards to youth, the perspective is that they are too young to be bound in a complicated relationship. The view is that it is better for them to be free and do as they please while they are still young.

Ministry Reflection

So with all this being said, how can we as ministers respond to a song with such a message?

We must first acknowledge that most students in our ministries will be involved in relationships, and some will find themselves in similar situations.

The song portrays the message that “If I go there will be trouble, An’ if I stay it will be double”, encouraging youth to get out and avoid extra grief. Though this may be appropriate for some relationships, it can foster a culture of always taking the path of least resistance in various facets of life.

As youth ministers, we need to teach students how to properly work out difficulties in relationships, whether they are dating or just as friends. In Matthew 13:34, Jesus teaches his disciples to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”.

In their interactions with people, we must teach students to treat everyone with the love of Christ. Loving people in this way may be challenging, and it may require us to stay through “double” trouble, but in the end extending the love of Christ to those we are in conflict with will prove rewarding and worth the trouble.

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