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Music & Culture

Why the Twenty One Pilots Are Culture Warriors


“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
We’re broken
We’re broken
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!

Image: Unknown


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  1. ringronies

    Posted by ringronies on January 15, 2016 at 20:28

    God has used Twenty One Piløts in so many ways for me. Their songs are like nothing I’ve ever heard before, they’re so different from other secular and Christian songs and they resonate so deeply with me and my situation. Nearly every time I find a song by them I haven’t heard before, I have to stop and thank God for speaking to me through them. They’re my absolute favorite band, and I wish I could tell Tyler and Josh how much God has used them, and how much they themselves mean to me.

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by MoonbeamMe on October 6, 2016 at 17:04

      I feel the same way! They have changed my life. Their lyrics touch all people because among the everyday lyrics about life, they are also spreading the love and hope and wisdom of living for something bigger than yourself. Some people may not realize it (although I’m amazed that you don’t understand “Can you save my heavy, dirty soul” or “the Ghost of you is close to me” or “my friends are heathens, wait for them to ask you who you know”) but even non-Christians are drawn to what they’re hearing and that’s the first step. They are being encouraged to think. They’re being told that “faith is to be awake.” My hope and prayer is that they will realize the subjects about which Tyler is singing – about insecurity, morality, anxiety and purpose – are subjects discussed at churches and youth groups around the world all the time. Just come on in and share your story and live life with other broken people who sing to the sky.

  2. Atheist

    Posted by Atheist on October 31, 2015 at 19:30

    Lmao sorry but tøp are not Christian artists. Their music is amazing and I love them and they are secular alternative artists with good morals (but not Christian ones) and amazing songwriting talent.

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by Kingruby on October 5, 2016 at 02:58

      How are they not Christian? They have entire songs from their self titled album about being Christians and every album since then they have clear references to the bible, along with both going to church and even writing Christian songs for their church which are on the church’s youtube channel.

  3. Project Inspired

    Posted by lydiaskylar on August 25, 2015 at 13:43

    gaaahhh I just love this band a lot a lot a lot

  4. Project Inspired

    Posted by lydiaskylar on August 25, 2015 at 13:40

    Owl City, Switchfoot, they’re great bands. But I feel like twenty one pilots has made such a wave in the alternative community. In a way that no band ever has before. It’s so hard for me to express my love for what God is doing through Tyler and Josh. However, it scares me how big they’re getting because I’m afraid that people will ruin the reputation of the band. People are already writing gross fanfiction about the members and it kills me. Some bands thrive off of sexual exploitation of their members, and it’s part of their image. But twenty one pilots don’t act in a way that justifies people hypersexualizing them, as I see happening more and more often as the band gains more momentum. Up until recently, the clique has been a special thing. Twenty one pilots felt like our secret, and all the fans felt like family. I’m glad their music is getting out there and touching hearts, but I’m also afraid of these changes.

  5. Pinkypie2017

    Posted by Pinkypie2017 on August 19, 2015 at 10:30

    Oh.my.god thank you so much for repping my favorite band I’ve always thought they were amazing from the moment I heard them I knew they were Christians even though there was nothing in their lyrics that obviously stated it one the best songs is fairly local. I write alot of stuff that goes in the same vein as them because I think you can write real songs that don’t include Jesus every second and still be a Christian. It’s always bothered me how Christian music has come to sound exactly the same, like you can write a worship in five minutes there’s even a blimey cow video called HOW To WRITE A WORSHIP SONG IN 5 MINUTES. It’s hilarious but also sad that Christian culture is so mundane that we have gotten to the point where we just repeat the same things. Jeremy camp sounds like Phil Wickham who sounds like casting crowns. We are lacking creativity if we ever want to truly reach people which I think is why most of society is ignoring us because we live in a world where people would rather listen to fairly location than Mighty to save. It’s all in you say it don’t get me wrong I love worship songs to but it’s not all you have to make. My sound is personally alot more mystical than them but I plan on working with them in the near future.

  6. iamnotluckyiamblessed

    Posted by iamnotluckyiamblessed on August 16, 2015 at 08:47

    Oh my gosh i love these guys so much…literally leapt of my seat when i saw this article 😀

  7. Saundale

    Posted by Saundale on August 14, 2015 at 18:08

    Another band like this is Family Force 5, who not only performed at Winter Jam, but Warped Tour as well, which is like the polar opposite of Winter Jam.

  8. Project Inspired

    Posted by Runs4Him on August 13, 2015 at 18:45

    You could also substitute the band name “Switchfoot” (and I like their sound a lot more). They’re also a super great band.

  9. thespiritualwarrior7

    Posted by thespiritualwarrior7 on August 12, 2015 at 06:10


  10. Project Inspired

    Posted by mydog227 on August 11, 2015 at 07:56

    I kind of freaked when I saw the title… lol. Anyway, Twenty One Pilots is an amazing band and extremely talented band. I feel blessed knowing that God has used their music to help me out in tough situations Hope they continue making music that relates to those who sometimes need a bigger voice ^.^

  11. Brooklyn_NY

    Posted by Brooklyn_NY on August 10, 2015 at 11:01

    Twenty One Pilots is an awesome band. I’m liking them more and more.

  12. Lee Mattson

    Posted by Lee Mattson on August 9, 2015 at 14:58

    Owl City is great, too! I love it when Christians make inspirational songs that can be found on mainstream radio stations. Sometimes you don’t have to mention God’s name to lead the way. And I love, love songs that speak to my relationship with Christ even if they are more secular songs. Magic! has a Christian background. Their songs aren’t flawless, but they do offer a more positive and thoughtful outlook on life than say, those of Miley Cyrus (not judging here! just stating the obvious)

  13. Project Inspired

    Posted by MissMajorHot on August 9, 2015 at 14:42

    I love Twenty One Pilots and I got goosebumps seeing a non-Christian music-centered artist on here besides Taylor Swift. Bands reach out better by not making themselves stay in the full Christian music category. Surprisingly my agnostic friend introduced me to them and I’ve loved them ever-since. I also love Paramore because they are the same way. Thanks for this article.

  14. nicki9q

    Posted by nicki9q on August 9, 2015 at 12:24

    Twenty One Pilots is one of my favorite bands and have continually helped me through struggles. I’m glad to see they are getting the attention they deserve.

  15. LoveOnFire

    Posted by LoveOnFire on August 8, 2015 at 14:54

    21P be my jam!! Nice to know they be a Christian band.

  16. Smylinggirl

    Posted by Smylinggirl on August 7, 2015 at 16:42

    How about Owl City too?