Music & Culture
Why the Twenty One Pilots Are Culture Warriors
Written by Dave Herrmann | August 7, 2015
“Please use discretion when you’re messing with the message, man,
These lyrics aren’t for everyone, only few understand.”
Tyler Joseph belts out these heartfelt lyrics as Josh Dun beats the drum kit. The crowd of 16,000 steadily raise their hands, close their eyes and sing along, completely moved.
No, this isn’t a worship service at a church. It’s Lollapalooza, one of the largest music festivals in the world, nestled in the heart of Chicago. As Tyler and Josh are paving their way through a set in front of the mostly 20-something crowd, you can feel a sense of deeper meaning. Most attendees have no clue how deep these lyrics truly go, and that’s what makes this band so special.
It’s been said that to label something as “Christian,” it needs to be neutered, it needs to come across as “safe” for the whole family. Now, I’m not writing to ridicule that. But Christian music isn’t engaging this culture; it’s a niche industry that Christians listen to and non-Christians tend to avoid. The Gospel has developed a negative rap with our peers. So, how do you share the Gospel through music with a culture that wants nothing to do with it?
Well, you become a ninja warrior sneaking artfully behind enemy lines and simply surprising them, just as Jesus did. And if you are in the present day and you’re a band, you become Twenty One Pilots.
Tyler puts his entire life on display in his lyrics. His fears, doubts, depression, anxiety and confusion are something every one of us can relate to. Tyler opens up that life isn’t perfect, but there is hope in the one above, which he refers to simply as “You.” He’s telling this culture that we’re all damaged, but there is one who can help fix it. The unique part about Twenty One Pilots’ lyrics is that they’re not preachy. They never once come out and say, “Follow Christ or else….” Instead, they subtly encourage the listener to dig deeper.
And people are digging deeper. A recently popular post on Reddit had fans of the band discussing the Christian undertones. Take a look at these two comments:
This one from a self-proclaimed atheist:
“Tyler is one of the few people who can use his Christian ideals without being preachy and I can respect that, because what he has to say is so so so much more.”
Or this one:
“As a Christian my faith is very important to me. That being said, it hasn’t always been easy. I’ve struggled with depression/suicide for many years now, so I can understand where Tyler is coming from in a lot of his songs. How he’s constantly calling out for God to help him through his struggles… I just resonate with that. His lyrics just hit me like a train.”
An atheist and a Christian agreeing on the same thing? What?! You see, Tyler and Josh are not preaching a holier-than-thou message. No, they’re going to this culture’s level, approaching each person at THEIR level. That’s how we are to evangelize. Want to see a profound impact in this culture toward loving and following God? Follow the example Tyler and Josh are setting. Engage this culture where they are, not where you are.
The guys in Twenty One Pilots are on a different level. They’re playing with the biggest bands in the world, touring abroad and back. They’re showing that Christians aren’t perfect, but instead that we have a message that has a profound impact on this imperfect world. They’re taking the culture by storm and helping millions hopefully find a deeper meaning in their own lives.
Back to Lollapalooza….
There is something incredibly chilling (in a good way) about hearing 16,000 people in the middle of a metro city screaming at the top of their lungs to the bridge of the song “Screen”:
We’re broken people, oh.
We’re broken people, oh.”
Tyler and Josh are engaging culture worldwide. They are living lives as messengers of Christ in the platform they’ve been given, and all we can do is stand up and applaud them for engaging culture in the right way.
Know a form of entertainment that should be praised for engaging culture? We’d love to hear it! Comment below and we’ll consider examining it in our ongoing feature of impacting this culture for Christ!