Christian band Twenty One Pilots confounds secular critics, shows Gen-Y & Z a way to faith

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By Michael Ashcraft & Mark Ellis

Twenty One Pilots concert
Twenty One Pilots concert

Top Ten Christian band Twenty One Pilots declared its musical manifesto three years ago in the song “Car Radio,” “I will try with every rhyme to come across like I am dying to let you know you need to try to think.”

Twenty One Pilots’ hit “Stressed Out” is currently played on secular radio stations across the country and in Europe, and the duo is selling out concerts at every venue. Even though they are open about their faith, the band continues to sneak like a hacker through the world’s default gospel-rejection mechanism.

While the dialectic voice confuses secular reporters, the message of salvation carries through to their listeners.

“When I first listened to their music I was like, I’m not alone. I thought I was the only one,” wrote Mattie on a fan site in August 2015. “Twenty one pilots really did save my life in more ways than one.”

Twenty One Pilots is a genre-melding duo composed of vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun, both 27-year-olds from Ohio. They attended Five 14 Church (as in Matthew 5:14 — “You are the light of the world”) in New Albany, just outside Columbus. Josh now lives in Los Angeles.

The band was formed when Tyler ditched basketball in the eleventh grade to become a musician. He tore through learning piano to bass and ukulele.

“I had identity issues. I didn’t like being the guy who played sports,” he says in a YouTube interview. “So I set up a microphone and a little studio. My mom’s trying to do the dishes and she hears her son screaming his head off down in the basement trying to record vocals, and she’s gotta be thinking, ‘What the heck is going on with him?’ So they were really confused.”

Tyler’s crazy dream is today paying big dividends, not just in terms of downloads and crowds, but also in terms of souls. Their angst-riddled lyrics are resonating with Gen-Y’ers and Gen-Z’ers, showing them a way to hope and faith.

While “Stressed Out” is an innocuous ditty about young adults yearning for the carefree days of childhood, other songs on their two albums – Vessel and Blurryface – pack plenty of gospel punch.

The duo signed with a secular label (Fueled by Ramen) and gets played mostly on non-Christian radio. But make no mistake. Though subtle at times, they are unequivocally Christian.

twenty one pilots concertIn the “Holding on to You” video, Tyler escapes the clutches of zombies. “I’m taking over my body, back into control. It seems a lot like flesh is all I got. Not any more, flesh out the door. I must’ve forgot, you can’t trust me… You should take my life. You should take my soul.”

Sinners who consider suicide when lonely at night are encouraged to “fight it. Take the pain, ignite it. Tie a noose around your mind loose enough to breathe fine. Tie it to a tree, and tell it, ‘You belong to me. This noose is just a leash. You must obey me.’”

The language is just the type of poetry this generation relates to, but it’s also unadulterated Bible message. The song hails from Jer. 17:9: “The heart is deceitful about all things and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?”

Tyler is giving a modern voice to Pauline doctrine. The song echoes the Roman longing for freedom from fleshly desires, and Tyler breathes new life into Paul’s paradox that death to sin is life in Christ and freedom from sin is obedience to Christ.

In “Heavydirtysoul,” Tyler says, “Death inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit. Can you save my heavy dirty soul?”

Tyler Joseph on the video "Car Radio."
Tyler Joseph on the video “Car Radio.” Critics grasp at straws: What are his fears? Why is he over thinking? Does his body language indicate he was abused? But the song states overtly that he is singing and modeling a persona that teens can relate to in order to show them a way out.

And in “Car Radio,” the singer exposes how sinners deaden internal pain with meaningless lyrics put to a catchy tune.

“There are things we can do, but from the things that work there are only two. And from the two that we choose to do, peace will win and fear will lose,” Tyler sings. “There’s faith and there’s sleep. We need to pick one please because faith is to be awake, and to be awake is for us to think, and for us to think is to be alive. And I will try with every rhyme to come across like I am dying to let you know you need to try to think.”

Not every Christian is going to appreciate the poetry. After all, it’s not exactly praise and worship.

“Josh and Tyler’s music has really had a positive influence on the way I view myself and my depression,” Carlynn wrote on a fan site in 2013. “I’ve never heard songs about mental illness before that are obviously trying to make a change in the listener’s life, and listening to their songs make me feel empowered, not more sad. Their music also made me realize I’m not alone.”

Twenty One Pilots takes its name from the Arthur Miller play All My Sons, in which a self-made industrialist sells the Air Force defective parts that cause the death of 21 aviators during World War 2. He is confronted later in life by his decision to cut corners, oblivious to endangering others, in his quest for profits. The name speaks volumes about doing the right thing, even if it’s not easy or convenient.

The Blurryface album
The Blurryface album

“I could relate to the fact that making the right decision in life sometimes takes more work,” Tyler told Rolling Stone magazine. “It takes more time, and it can feel like you’re going backward.”

Interviews with secular media can be misleading when it comes to Twenty One Pilots. Tyler tells reporters that his songs are born from true insecurities, and they take him at face value.

The dark makeup on his hands and neck on his current concert tour, Tyler says, represents the oppressive insecurities he feels. More likely, it represents sin as part of the Blurryface persona he’s adopted as his Romans 7 alter ego.

“We’re always questioning things,” Josh told Rolling Stone. “But I guess it’s safe to say that we’re both Christians.”

Tyler turned down a basketball scholarship to pursue music. When two other original members quit, Tyler took on Josh, who was working at the drum department at the local Guitar Center.

Of the two, Josh came from a stricter Christian household – and he rebelled more as a teenager. “My parents almost sent me to a military school,” he told Rolling Stone. “They didn’t know what to do with me, and I was always in detention. I never got into drugs or alcohol, but I would yell at my parents and just treat them terribly. Everything was an argument. Looking back, they were trying their best.”

tyler joseph and wife
Tyler and his wife.

A turnaround in his relationship with his parents came when he moved out and he shared some time with his dad. “I said to my dad, ‘Are you disappointed that I’m working a minimum-wage job and I didn’t go to college?’ I’ll never forget his response. He said, ‘It’s not about how much money you make or what your job is, but it’s more about your character. For that, I’m proud of you.’ It gave me motivation.”

Twenty One Pilots built their fan base by hawking tickets at a Chick-fil-A in the Polaris mall food court in Columbus, Ohio. Their songs – a catchy mix of rap, reggae, pop and ukelele – confounded radio station formats and originally didn’t get much airtime.

But the band grew on the popularity of its high-energy concerts, which sold out venues. Tyler became known for his antics of climbing the scaffolding and throwing himself into the audience. Soon, the duo needed an 18-seater van with a bed in the back to tour on the road.

This year, Blurryface reached #3 in album sales nationwide, and the group nearly sold out two concerts at Madison Square Garden.

Critics are scratching their heads about the band mates. Some have wanted to see a similitude with Eminem’s 21-pilots-1024x576struggle with demons. But Eminem’s “Demon Inside” is darker and finds no hope. It’s entirely possible that Twenty One Pilots didn’t base their work on Eminem at all and instead draw their inspiration straight from the Book of Romans.

When a YouTube interviewer probed if Tyler was being overly self-critical when he called himself “messed up,” the young star dipped deep into Romans’ reasoning.

“I know I’m messed up. I think to myself I should be able to control myself,” Tyler responded. “I look at a lamp and I decide that I’m going to stand up and not hit that lamp. Why can’t I make decisions like that about everything in life. I’m not going to get angry at my brother. I want to be the best brother. Why can’t I do what I want to do? That’s messed up. Something is broken in the way we live. It’s proof that something is not right.”

The heavy reliance on the Bible was apparently lost on the interviewer. That’s okay because the message is connecting with the youth.

Michael Ashcraft teaches writing for the Lighthouse Christian School in Santa Monica.

 

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112 COMMENTS

      • They arent a “christian band” but they are christian and their lyrics spill out their faith beautifully, which completely confident or not, they spill out their faith

    • No Joke, just because they have their beliefs doesn’t mean that the band is Christian. This same logic would make Guster a Christian band and The Killers a Mormon band. These things are separate. Critics are not confounded by their music, it’s good pop music. There’s nothing confounding about that.

      • They are not a “Christian Band” in that they are not on a “Christian Record Label” making “Christian Contemporary Music” with just Christians as their target audience. BUT the members are Christians and nearly all of the songs have something to do with their faith. Tyler Joseph actually writes and sings about his faith all the time – it’s not just a few songs that address issues of faith. So I think it’s a little confusing to call them a “Christian Band” because they are not that in the most recognized sense. But they are a “Christian band” in the same way that a a Christian doctor or teacher (or ANY worker) serves many (not just Christians) with Christian love and faith at the heart of what they do.

      • Lyrics are driven by who you are and what you feel. Just look a little closer, please. He’s constantaly reflecting his personal relationship with God. And that’s why we all relate to him so well. He questions it and quarrels with his faith. He’s not some perfect self righteous religious. He truly abides by what Christ has given.

    • Do you know why they are named 21 pilots? Go check it out. These guys have good hearts & a very good character. It’s just amazing how these guys are being used by God. Btw,also look up the word “heathens” another song if theirs. Heathens definition will explain a lot to you about this band.

    • The only mentions of them being a “Christian Band” are from those trying to benefit from portraying them in that way. They were raised Christian, but for every religious thought, there is at least one expressing their doubts in it all. To be fair, I think you could say they are hopeful in what they were told to believe while struggling to convince themselves.

      As for the way in which they conduct themselves, Christianity doesn’t have a monopoly on “treating others how you would like to be treated.” Maybe they do the phrasing, but not the notion. In fact, many people reject the notion of religion, especially the organized variety, and while not requiring the spiritual “carrot or stick” nature of the everlasting bribe of life vs. the eternal punishment of damnation, they still manage to live their lives in manner more closely to what Jesus must have had in mind than the average person rolling out of the pews on a Sunday morning following a service.

      Being a kind to others because you want them to feel that you care about them seems like a far more righteous path than portraying, or even being, a good person with the assumption of some post-mortal reward. By all means, if you need the idea of a bribe or punishment to be kind to others, then please, continue.

      • Though you really think if there wasn’t the ‘notion of religion’, the majority demeanor would still be identical to the ones contemporary? Don’t you think that the fear of God and the conviction of afterlife affects the daily lives of a person? It’s for the teachings of God, that we care and live, otherwise the current age would be pretty much indistinguishable than the conceptual ‘stoneage’.

  1. Tøp is very much not a Christian band. Although there is some biblical meaning in their songs, their music isn’t about the bible. You have twisted many of the messages in their music. There are no twenty one pilots fans who love their music because of it’s “biblical messages.” That’s just wishful thinking

      • ME TOO! My son and I shared an interest in the band, but I’m not one who actively researches todays POP music. I had heard a few songs, knew who they were, and that was it. My son and I had a conversation about the band because he really likes them…. One night I came home from work and he was like “Dad, listen to this new TOP song which was Fairly Local. When I first listened, my heart was broken because I thought I was going to have to make my son quit listening to them. I then went to research the lyrics to that song. Since then, I have listened to all of their music over and over and over. I AM blurryface, I AM the one looking for God in the trees. So many of these songs resonate with me, and reflect my personal walk of faith. I am 40, and have never had any music move me the way this music does. I thank God for this band

        • Hi, Vick! I agree with practically everything you stated! One thing I wanted to point out though, is that being Blurryface isn’t necessarily the best thing to state. Even Tyler states in Goner that “[He] has two faces. Blurry’s the one [he’s] not”. He asks God to “take him out”. Yes, “Blurryface” is a representation of flesh, but it isn’t something that we should be proud of. It is something we are working on weakening and decreasing in our walk with God. I mean no offense. Just felt led to reply with this. Thank you for your time and have a blessed day!

        • I’m 46 and I absolutely love this band, they are unlike anything I’ve ever heard before, and I love the references to God, and how every song is different. Their first 2009 album is the best one and Tyler Joseph’s No Phun Intended is fabulous too. I’m so pleased I’m not the only older person who likes them. Mind you I may have got my mom into them as well!!

          • IM 45, LOVE THEM , such a wonderful talented band , saw them last night here in Melbourne Australia , one of the best concerts Iv ever been too 💜💜🕉🕉🎼🎼🎸🎸🐱🐱🥁🥁🎤🎤🎸🎸🎹🎹🌸🌸thanks Tyler , josh xxx fee

    • See, I got into Twenty One Pilots during a time of depression and became very reliant on their album Vessel to get me through the days.
      I use to hate Blurryface, because it felt like such a let down compared to Vessel. Vessel had so much meaning to me before I found God, but Blurryface? I couldn’t find much meaning.
      Then, I was saved. And now, I love Blurryface and I appreciate Vessel 10 times more. If someone truly understands Christianity, they’ll be able to realize how many songs are completely about Tyler’s relationship with God.

      But either way, Tyler wants people to take the lyrics and adapt them to their own lives and what they need them to mean. So it’s fine to see Tøp in a different light than others, but just remember everyone has a reason for loving them and those reasons can change/vary.

      P.S. I’m not meaning to argue, just wanted to say I’ve loved Twenty One Pilots from two different views, but both ways they’ve helped me grow as a person. (:

      • What a strong, meaningful comment Alex! As I was reading your comment I felt and thought exactly as that! I’m also a christian and before I found out about TOP I was pretty strong with my faith…okay let me just tell you my story so this makes more sense XD. Okay so I had nothing to do with TOP around about 4 months ago now, and I didn’t even know they were existent..until a few of my friends started talking about ”Stressed Out”. We had the song played several times during lessons at school which may sound odd but you know, we all rolled with it XD, and I was sorta liking the music, mainly the song in general. So I started to find more and more songs that TOP had done. I really liked all these songs, very powerful and energetic. Then one day I saw a video when looking up about them on Youtube, I was pretty interested so I went to look at it, and it was an interview with five14church which ”church” interested me very much. From then on I started to look up/do research about this. I kept questioning myself is Tyler and Josh a christian!? Eventually I found this and some other sites and I remember just listening to a few Christ songs featuring Tyler and Josh. This inspired me a lot and lets be honest, I think these songs have really boosted my faith up A LOT. I really believe that God has spoken to me through twenty one pilots and I just thank TOP for making this music, it’s so good to know that 2 boys that I really like who write really weird songs actually talk about Christ through them. Everyone may you be Blessed and touched by the holy spirit and TOP! :))) I’m 11 and I wrote this XD I’m so descriptive oh gosh…

        • Hey! Idk why but we should be friends ? cuz i’m 11 and i love tøp and i am also christian. I live in finland in this very VERY small town and me and my family are like only christians in town and i think i’m the only human who likes tøp like in this intire country! I loved them when i first heared them and later i started searching their old music. Then i found save (or save me i don’t remember) and i was like waait is tyler joseph christian. Now i like them even more !!! I know i’m kinda weird sometimes… (btw sorry for my bad english) XD

          God bless. |-/

    • What really got me into them was the relationship between their lyrics and God. I know there’s lot of people in the Cliche that are not religious and have different meanings for the songs, and each one is valid. As valid as the meaning I give them when I feel they talk about/to God. For me, almost every song is about God, a thing that has really amazed and helped me with my faith.

    • tøp came into my life because I struggled with anxiety and a friend introduced me. And as soon as I got into the music I noticed a deeper meaning. through middle school I struggled with my faith and hearing the lyrics of songs like “blasphemy” and “be concerned” helped me not feel alone because they are about what I was struggling with. I am in love with the band and I can only thank them for helping me get through the battle I had with my faith.

    • I loved the band before I started catching the lyrics that are about God, and when I heard them it made me even happier. They have an amazing message, even if a lot of people don’t see it that way.

    • Tøp is not expressly Christian but they do have very religious undertones “addict with a pen” “implicit demand for proof”
      “Be concerned” “the judge” “ruby” etc…

    • Sorry, but you are incorrect to make that statement. For the people who care about the spread of God’s message, the fact that their songs have some biblical meaning in them is a contributing factor to why we like them. You may not understand that, because you may not be a part of our generation in that we believe that a lot of people need the biblical encouragement in some of their songs such as “Guns for Hands”. Twenty One Pilots can be labeled a Christian band not because of genre but because of the beliefs that the members have just like a doctors office can be labeled a Christian practice because its staff have the common belief system of Christianity. Have a good day, “bean”.

    • I LOVE them for their fight for morality. (their lyrics & their name) Watch interviews, there are no lewd comments & I havent heard them curse either. Being on purpose for what they write & put out there is amazing. It takes truckloads of courage to stand for whats right in a world gone so wrong. I pray for these guys too. I see these boys as modern psalmists. Asking why; & when anyone seeks truth/morality, its Jesus. The fact they dont shove it down peoples throat is exactly what Jesus did speaking in parables, then He’d go on. Jesus knows His power, He wont force a relationship with anyone, we have free will. Many of their songs, actually most, are flat out drawn from the Bible-“Beautiful”, “The Judge”, “Fake you out”, Ode to sleep – A Christian can see the struggle we ALL face. These two are writing parables that are sharper than a two edged sword. They may not have alter calls at their concerts, but those who seek (or wonder if the guys are Christian) could get saved looking for the truth. I do know this, they are a big influence to Christians. Therefore, those of us who are Christians should pray for these guys & their families on a consistent basis. The enemy loves nothing more than destroying anything that is related to Jesus.

    • How is that a wishful thinking? Most of the people I know became fans for the “biblical meanings” for your information..I don’t know about you and I will not make assumptions but personally I am an orthodox christian and their songs are the best thing I can listen to ..I agree not every song is about god but the majority is..and you must be intentionally blind to say that they’re writing merely about mental illnesses,depression etc. Meanings behind their songs are far deeper than just being depressed or having certain insecurities..don’t get me wrong though..I’m not saying that depression is not a big deal ..my main point is that it’s beyond ridiculous how people deny that songs as blatantly biblical as taxi cab for example or ode to sleep are solely about love or depression..if you are an atheist and you like their music and want to become a fan you don’t need to feel angry for they put such meanings into their songs..I’ve seen a lot of people on the internet (mainly when I was doing a research about the song meanings) who are unable to handle the fact that TOP are religious and they persuade themselves that air catcher for instance is about unsuccessful love ..don’t you think that is more of a wishful thinking than just being happy with as pleasurable truth as tyler and josh writing songs inspired by bible?..
      P.S As you may have noticed english is not my first language so I apologise if my response was unclear 🙂

    • When I first listened to Drown, it really felt like Tyler was asking for repentance amongst the lyrics. They have very metaphorical lyrics and I love their music because of it.

    • Not to be rude, but the hidden gospel message is half the reason i fell in love with the band. They sing about god in a very helpful way to people who are confused and all that

  2. I like the fact someone is talking about their faith and the way they are ‘different’ from many other secular chart topping groups. Although I think saying that they purposefully put in Bible references in their songs and interviews is a bit assuming. I think Tyler and Josh have faith but I also think that a lot of their music is just purely inspired by the struggle of being human. We all face insecurity, doubt and the Blurryface character in our own way. And yes the bible talks about these things but so does everyone. I think they, especially Tyler talk from the heart; Ones filled with a love of Christ. I think that’s where their message comes from. Not straight from the bible.

    • I agree except the part where you say that the Bible talks about these things but “so does everyone.” I don’t feel like everyone does. Songs on the radio don’t. My friends at school or work don’t. But my friends at church do, and when I look in the Bible, it does. And when I talk to God, I do – a lot. I think young people are starving for this stuff, because they don’t have a place like we Christians do, they don’t have a higher power on which to lean. I’m not surprised they’re so touched by Bible-inspired lyrics. It’s God’s word – of course people recognize their creator’s words when they hear it, even if they don’t realize it.

      • I thank God for them and for using thier God given talents to reach others i wish all in their shoes would use thier talents for God i love them and thank them daily 21 Pilots thank You for reaching others and bringing them to Christ you are the leaders we need may God guide you blesa you and protect you always

  3. I memorize songs by listening to the song on repeat over and over and over again, and paying close attention to the timing, and the lyrics. That has also helped me find the meanings of the songs. Most of Vessel was about depression, and feeling alienated from society because of it, and the implications of that. Some examples are Migraine and Ode to Sleep (I actually do think there is some Christian messages there, “On the eve of a day that is bigger than us but we open our eyes ’cause we’re told that we must and the trees wave their arms and the clouds they all plead, desperately yelling there’s something we need”). But Blurryface didn’t carry the same message, and that’s what a lot of TØP fans don’t get. You can’t put a value judgement on it. You’re comparing apples to oranges. The two albums have different meanings. Anyway, Blurryface is more about judgement of the music he makes (how ironic), an example being Lane Boy, and “letters” to his fanbase. Some examples of this are: Heathens, Fairly Local, and Message Man. My point in all this rambling and digression is that TØP only has a small handful of lyrics that reference their theological view, and, alternatively, that people shouldn’t criticize Blurryface based on the fact that it wasn’t as good as Vessel.

    • Omg I can’t believe that I was stupid enough to leave out the fact that Blurryface was also about, well, Blurryface, an example being Blurryface. Can’t believe I left that out. Sorry.

    • I think that most of their songs have little bits that hint at it. Even in Blurryface. (some of the things in the article were a bit far fetched, but the idea is there) Heavydirtysoul is pointed at God, because who else would you ask to save your soul. I think that in Ride when he says “help me” (or really any other time that asks for help or assistance) it’s also directed at God. I think that God is “The Judge”. Doubt has religion written all over it. He asks for help to decipher wrong and right in Polarize. Hometown literally quotes the bible. I think Goner is directed at God too.

      As a struggling Christian this band has helped me hold onto my faith like nothing else. So maybe i’m grasping at straws here, but I think the majority of their songs have something that I can use.

    • Yeah, I’m with Mer. I think Blurryface is actually more heavily based on the idea of a higher power. It starts right out with “Can you save my heavy, dirty soul from me?” And it’s filled with lyrics about staying in the “sun/son” and defeating doubt and mentions bishops and being set free. And then it ends with “the Ghost of you is close to me.” I mean… it’s kind of obvious if you have even a cursory knowledge of theology.

      That said, I think the thread running through Vessel (defeating depression/suicide) and the one running through Blurryface (dealing with insecurities), while both familiar to Christians, they have value for ALL people. You don’t have to be Christian to enjoy and grow in this stuff.

  4. Any Christian who listens to this powerful music made by TOP will hopefully listen half as intently as he attention given to every word and melody hat OBVIOUSLY points to God and the struggle between living and LIVING. I could go on for hours about he revelation I’ve found through the music made by this amazing band. God bless TOP. I feel connected through their music with a God who somehow makes it to the back burner in my life, when He is really all that matters. I’m feel energized by their songs because I can relate on a level that is seldom matched by anything else in society. They really get, and I am extremely thankful to have discovered this band. Call me crazy but something very profound happened to me when I saw them live in St. Augustine Florida a couple weeks ago. And it’s caused a slight obsession with the lyrics in their songs. Their is way more to this band beyond your first impression, take some time, open your heart and listen to what they have to say: it’s a message fully of beauty and it tells a reality that is so often lost in the vapid world in which we live. God bless TOP.

  5. How could you forget the Romans-esque song “Fairly Local”?! That song SCREAMS Paul’s writings to the Romans. “I’m evil to the core. What I shouldn’t do I will. They say I’m emotional. What I wanna save I’ll kill.”

  6. One of the best examples of Christian themes in TØP songs, in my opinion, is Doubt. It has themes from 1 Peter 5:7, Romans 8:38-39, and Jeremiah 15:15-21 as well as Luke 23:42 and Romans 3:10.
    As a Christian, who discovered TØP in a secular environment I didn’t even know that Tyler and Josh profess to be Christians for a long time. One of my first times listening through their albums, I thought, “huh, their lyrics kinda have a Christian vibe to them. There’s something different about these guys.” Then, Doubt came on. And this song struck a chord with me (…pun half intended). It didn’t make sense at first, it almost sounded like a plea to a friend not to forget about them in times of trouble, or maybe a love song, saying “Don’t break up with me, I’m hopless without you,” but somehow that didn’t quite fit. And then the next group of lyrics played:
    “repeating simple phrases/someone holy insisted./Want the mark he’s made on my skin/to mean something to me again./Hope you haven’t left without me, (2x)/please./Don’t forget about me (2x)/even when I doubt you./I’m no good without you” And I realized, no, this isn’t just some average pop song. This is singing directly about God.
    Listen and make your own interpretation, but to me, this song is about the life of a struggling believer, trying to get right with God.
    These guys are powerful and they’re making a huge difference in many believers’ and unbelievers’ lives, whether you agree that the lyrics are biblical or not.

    • yep! Same. For me it was Holding Onto You, but totally the same discovery trail… Just listening to the radio, heard a different sound/message than the normal thing… It seemed sincere if nothing else, heard a few more songs, started to love the band, then BLAM! These guys are believers??? Dug deeper, no question the messages are there, and they are CONNECTING with kids who need it. Amazing.

      They make me, as a singer in a band myself that has struggled with the “Christian Rock” term — not because of it’s association with God, but because of the hard cutoff it gets from non-believers — want to strive harder, to be more authentic, to be more like Christ!

  7. What attracted me to them was as a Christian I don’t listen to just Christian music but when I heard TOP music I was hooked. Completely. I listen daily and feel more with every verse. I’m a believer in Christ as my savior, I’m a 48 y/o and Rock out to them every day. Gifted young men! Love you guys! Your hearts are inspiring our minds. And what a book to find inspiration in: Romans. Awesome stuff.

  8. I have dipped into several “God based” religions since I was a kid…now 40 with 7 kids of my own. I greatly enjoy the 21 Pilots! I saw my son, age 20, going through some very deep hurts. I saw him falling deeper and deeper into sadness. I then saw him stumble onto 21 Pilots. Now, he has his smile back. It was not church that he attended that gave him his smile back, it was a 21 Pilots concert. In fact, a church may have just offered him more disappointments than he already had. All I know is that their lyrics are clean, encouraging and offering hope in a very obscure way. The results are nothing but positive and I just learned today of their christian background. Had I known, or had my son known that Christianity was their foundation, I am not sure if ether one of us would have tuned in. BUT, I have nothing but pure respect and gratitude for this amazing band that is soaring to unimaginable heights and bring us along on their journey! Thanks 21 Pilots! From a grateful mom and as well a mom that had the BEST TIME, in the history of ever, at your concert in Berkley CA!!

  9. I am not a “Christian” but I am very very spiritual (and respect all religions, we all share one God). Anyway, I’ve found that as I’ve grown spiritually, TØP music has become more and more meaningful to me because regardless if you’re looking at it from an Biblical/Christian POV or simply one that explores the dichotomy of good and evil/ light and dark, it’s clear that the message is there – light will always win. I am so happy that artists like Josh and Tyler get radio air time, because we as a society NEED to hear their positive messages.

  10. I just pray that they don’t lose their Way. For what does it profit a man if he wins the world but loses his soul. Their earlier music,there’s no doubt it’s for God’s glory,their music now is darker, Satan is always luring in disguise. If you are not letting The Holy Spirit guide, your doing it in your own strength and it’s not enough for you (Tyler) let alone for others.
    God bless you in Jesus name by the power of the Holy Spirit.?

    • The tone may not be as happy as Vessel was but the message about God and contending for the faith is getting louder than ever. I would worry or assume they are sleeping because of a change in style. I actually read an article that Tyler was feeling a lot of pressure to produce a more main stream sound for Blurry Face (probably label thing). Rest assured, the lyrics are what’s most important and some of the clearest messages are on the newest album.

  11. “Even though they are open about their faith, the band continues to sneak like a hacker through the world’s default gospel-rejection mechanism.”

    Freaking beautiful. WELL SAID! That’s my favorite thing about this band. I don’t know how they do it, staying so true to their faith, while keeping the experience of their shows and music so open-armed. It’s glorious to behold.

  12. I do agree with the idea of this article, but not all of it. I don’t think that everything is about God. A lot of it is, but I don’t think that they’re trying to be undercover missionaries. Tyler just writes what he wants to write. A lot of it is about mental illness. Blurryface for instance, DOES NOT represent sin. That’s not what the character is. Blurryface is Tyler’s way of giving the anxious part of him a seat at the table. I don’t think that their mission with this band was only to spread the gospel. I think they wanted to help people that were going through things. They wanted to say things they couldn’t normally say. Express themselves. Tyler was asked about how his faith effects his music and he said something along the lines of “when something is that big of a part of your life, it’s going to show up in everything you do.” He writes about what he thinks about, so if he’s thinking about God, that’s what he’ll write.

  13. I heard them first on the radio and thought ” Hey, good music, no profanity, no sex or drugs, great !” I kept listening and realized they had released other songs I liked over the past few years. I bought Blurryface. I listened and I was hearing the language of recovery. I bought Vessel. Then I realized that I was hearing the language of faith. A lot of these songs are a conversation with God. I can’t get the earlier albums, but they are even more explicitly religious. And wonderful. I am thirty years old and this music has been instrumental for me developing a relationship with God. If someone had asked me to listen to a Christian band, I would have politely declined. That is what amazes me about them. They baby-step you into this message of faith. And at heart, that is the message. I can make connections through their music to what I feel and what I am learning about God. Sometimes it can help me grasp a bigger concept when I’m struggling. For people who did not grow up in church, to walk into a service can feel alienating, everyone there is speaking a foreign tongue, you have no idea what’s going on. This music presented these ideas to me in a way that I could understand, and then led me deeper into it. They’ve given words to things I could not express. They are spreading this message of faith in a way that non believers can hear. People ARE starving for it. There is a lyric in ‘Clear’ – I wish that I had two faces/ to prove which theory works/ yelling on the streetcorner/ or cleverly masking Your words “. Its not scripture set to music, but yeah it looks to me like these boys are spreading the word. All you have to do is listen.

  14. The song “Save” by Tyler Joseph is very much a Christian song. He asks Jesus to save him in that song. I think it’s wonderful that they have Christian messages in their music but are keeping it a little more subtle as to not scary people away.

  15. I’ve liked twenty øne piløts since 2013. I was a Christian then but I didn’t have my own faith I depended on my parents faith. I listened to all kinds of secular music. Then in 2015 I stopped depending on my parents faith and I had my own. I only listen to Christian music now including twenty øne piløts. Now I understand their lyrics. But, twenty øne piløts is supposed to have a different message for everyone. If you’re a Christian you should be able to pick up on the lyrics. To me in some songs they describe a struggle in having faith. But again, this band has different meanings to everyone. I love this band because of their message and what it means to me. Thank you Tyler and Josh |-/

  16. I want to believe that their message is about good–about God and Christianity, but I look at the lyrics, the pictures, the logos and I don’t see God at all. It feels evil. Yes the world is an evil place, but I hate that my daughter wants skulls all over her room to identify with this Christian group? It doesn’t feel right. Are they really Christians trying to promote Christian values or is that the mask they are wearing and promoting something else? If I look at the symbolic pictures and read the lyrics, I sure don’t think of God. The unnamed person could be Satan trying to pull people into his way of thinking, that it’s hopeless. I get that message from a lot of their songs.

    My daughter is very depressed. She is surrounding herself with Twenty One Pilots stuff, saying their songs are written to help you get out of depression, but she can’t tell me one thing she has learned from the songs to help her do that, and she sure hasn’t gotten better listening to it! It just keeps getting worse! If they are good, I should feel good looking at the “representation” of their music. It just gives me the creeps.

    • I can understand where you’re coming from… but when one of my closest friends attempted suicide, and I had a 4 hour phone conversation with him on a late Saturday night. I asked him what inside him told him to stop himself, and he told me that the lyrics of the song “Guns For Hands” taught him not to believe his inner thoughts of suicide, self-harm, and depression. My point is, Twenty One Pilots is trying to appeal to my generation in order to pull them in, and once they pull people in, their goal is to try to spread a message of spiritual and internal hope. I know you’re an adult and I’m still a teenager, which pretty much makes what I’m saying to you inferior… But I just want you to know that they really helped my friend and in that sense they helped me too. I hope your daughter is doing well, you will both be in my prayers.

    • Take a listen for yourself. Stylistically the bands sound is not conventional christian music, much of their merchandise and marketing is darker at the moment because of their most recent record, Blurryface the name of the character the lead singer defines as his insecurities/struggles/anxieties/sinful self which inherently is correlated with death/skeletons, much of that is simple marketing but it is done very purposefully. Today’s generation can identify with confronting your demons, there’s something comforting about recognizing what’s wrong with you and wanting to fix it whether that’s from a spiritual/faith place or a more secular in need of hope and overcoming depression/mental illness.
      TOP’s MUSIC is an HONEST representation of the christian walk, but still always acknowledges the need of a savior and hope in eternity with Christ. If you are a christian you will hear it, I assure you that their music is in reverence to God, they rephrase scripture, they approach theological concepts. Please just take a listen. Their music, the band, the image is presented in a way to be more widely received by others who may not know God personally or that call themselves a Christian. Think about it, Jesus did not just witness to already declared believers, he shared with everyone and its up to the recipient to decide where they stand.
      I’m sorry your daughter struggles with depression but if she sees hope in TOP, I say good, and you can take the opportunity to relate to her through them. Whether she fully understands their message, you could use what TOP has created to minister to her.
      I speak from a place of caring, passion, and love. I’m in my mid-20s and have been a Christian most of my life, but TOP’s music has brought me to tears and truly have made me feel not alone in my mindset, its beautiful what they have done and I think God is very pleased. I could go on and on, but I digress, wanted to just shine some light on this.

      There are plenty of bands out there that appear ‘good’ and are the exact opposite in reality.

    • As a mom I can understand your concern. And it sounds like you’re already being a great mom because 1) you know your kid is struggling with depression, 2) you know what she is listening to, and 3) you want to strengthen her relationship with God.

      I believe these are real men who are real Christians that God has ordained to use in a new, non-traditional way to reach people. Scripture tells us to look at the fruit. This page of responses holds a lot of proof of good fruit that should belay your concerns that these are nefarious satanist trying to lead us all astray. If that were true then none of these testimonials would be crediting God for using this band to touch and heal real people.

      And it is easy to forget that We assign meanings to symbols. They have no importance until we give them meaning.

      Skulls and bones are the foundation of the bodies that God created. But the symbols were used for other things for many years. Can we not reclaim the symbol of the bones that He knit together?

      The rainbow was God’s sign of promise to Noah first. It has now been commandeered to represent something entirely different. Should all of us reject rainbows now? Or can I continue to compulsively line up everything I own in my house that I share with my husband and children into “rainbow order” like I have done since I was a child, and smile when I see one in the sky remembering God’s beauty? Should I ban rainbows now?

      We think white is a pure bride and means light and life. We wrap our babies in it as we dedicate their long lives to God. But in many other cultures white is the funeral color. It is the color of death. Not black. (And what’s up with how much our ultraconservative Quaker friends like black!)

      Some Christians want to wear an empty cross to remind them that Christ is no longer on the cross, He is resurrected. Others want to wear a crucifix to remind them of the pain and suffering and burden of our sin that He carried on the cross. Others don’t want to use a cross symbol at all because they feel like it’s the same as a modern day electric chair or noose and they would rather wear symbols of empty graves or doves or mustard seeds or fish.

      Whatever is dark is beautiful when God shines His light through it. The blackest black is a starless sky, but God made that too. Everything was God’s creation first.

      Symbols are only what is assigned to them. If your daughter is finding any comfort and is crediting God for it, rejoice! If your daughter is listening to music written by men who have struggled with their lives and Christian walk and have been gifted to relate that through song and verse, rejoice! If your daughter has the fortitude to take symbols that have been used to signify death, evil, darkness, and sin and make those same things represent hope, fellowship, comfort, and eventual victory over the battles she is fighting!? Rejoice! She can recognize that which was taken from the grave has been reclaimed for the Light of Life.

      Dig deeper into her thoughts and understanding of what she is using to help herself. Tell her she can keep it if she can put into words why it helps her with her depression. Make sure her choices are conscious and purposeful. Depression often comes when we feel powerless and helpless. Perhaps she isn’t getting better because even the smallest things, a song, a band, a symbol that spoke to her and began to bring her comfort and healing has been criticized and deemed less than worthy. If she can’t even have the freedom to experience God in a way that is specific to her then how do you expect her to “get better.” Songs from TøP aren’t enough to help her in everyway that she need helps. But if it is the beginning and she says it helps, why question that? Only she can know what it’s like in her mind.

      Apologize for anyway that you haven’t been supportive of TøP. Because like it or not, she feels that criticizing TøP is criticizing her in a very personal way. Ask her what she really wants from you as a parent to help her. Tell her to think about it and then come to you when she’s ready. No one likes to be forced into serious conversations on someone else’s time table. And then hear her. I often find that I have to stop, take a beat, push my own thoughts and worries to the backburner, and then listen so that I can truly hear what my 16 year old daughter, who also loves this band, is saying and what she isn’t saying. (She’s more likely to talk when we are alone in the car. Most kids are like that.)

      If you continue to be concerned about the depression and you don’t see improvement, please seek outside help for her. Many studies are showing that depression is as much of a medical misfunction of the brain as any other medical disease.

      I hope you and your daughter find some common ground while she heals and that she recovers soon. Blessings to you both.

      • #momsforTOP

        This seriously moved me to tears because you have so beautifully articulately described this band’s movement and mission statement with great introspect in a way that speaks to me personally.

        I’m 25, a believer and follower of Jesus and this band has helped me sort out my thoughts, comfort & convict me, but I face questions from people who don’t choose to look deeper as to why I would ever listen to our support their music, but I view Tyler’s words like the words of Paul, he echoes prophets from the Old Testament and does it in a artistic and inclusive way. It’s all the passion with less abrasion. Like you said, no one can deny the fruit of someone’s testimony.

        Thank you for sharing!

  17. They aren’t a Christian band and I don’t care if they have religious messages in their music I’m an atheist so it doesn’t mean anything to to me anyway. They have great music that helps people and that’s all the matters

    • So even though they ARE Christian and do have Christian messages in their songs, just because you’re an atheist and won’t accept that they do have Christian messages in their songs, automatically means they aren’t? Ok, whatever floats your boat

    • That is why Twenty One Pilots is great. I’m a Christian and if you are an atheist I’m chill with that. Their music is interpreted by every single listener differently. For me I find it to have religious meanings. Others my find that they relate to it in certain other ways. Its the fact that it can represent/mean different things to different people while still conveying a similar message that makes their songs great.

  18. When I first started listening to their music I didn’t know they were christians, the first song I heard by them was Holding on to You and liked it straight away but I didn’t relate they lyrics to anything religious back at the time. I’m a 15 years old girl and I’m christian, but I recognize sometimes I drift away from God. I’m constantly struggling to keep my faith strong and honestly, discovering some tøp songs have religious undertones and that they are christians, make me happy in a way I can’t explain. In I’ve always had a different vibe off them, like, their music was alike to bmth or mcr but the message was other. Idk. But one thing is sure: now that I know they are christians their songs have a whole new side to discover, and I know I will love it all the same
    stay alive frens! |-/

  19. They are not a Christian band. Like U2 they are a band of Christians. My 9 year and I are connecting through this music. I’m a music minister and this music resonates as well as the contemporary Christian music I lead on Sunday’s.

  20. Hey, just to put it out there, some people who love this band say they hate Christians (I am a Christian). BUT LOOK AT YOUR SMOL BEANS!!! THEY ARE BOTH CHRISTIAN!!!!!!

    okay sorry just wanted to have a small rant. okay.

  21. Okay. So yes I know I’m late but I have deep thoughts at 3:48 in the morning and my brain was scrambled with question. Anyway that’s not the point. The point is one side is arguing that they’re band is Christian and the other side is arguing that it is not. But primarily there is no point in arguing at the matter because we can’t decide what genre they want they’re music in Christian or not. Although they are Christian maybe they are just writing music about they’re emotional damage and mental. For I am a Christian but do not write about my faith more about what I am feeling. The times I do write about my faith. My faith is the center of my emotions at the time. But in my option I think that they have made music for religious and non religious people it’s just the choice you chose to view it as.

    • Yeah.. and your point is? xD Josh and Tyler believe in God so if you are trying to diss Christians then you are basically dissing tøp…

  22. Tyler and Joshua are Christians and their lyrics are most definitely Christian! But, they are not promoting their music as Christian. It is a message of HOPE!!!Only few will understand? What is Tyler dying to let you know? He knows who can save your Heavy Dirty Soul. His name is Jesus. He loves you and has a plan and purpose for your life! All you have to do is start by saying “Hello!” He wants to have a relationship with you, and help you!! This is Good News!!!! We are all broken people who need a Savior! We are all Twenty One Pilots, We are all going to die!Those who choose to follow Jesus are promised ETERNAL LIFE with him in Heaven. More Good News!!! I know where I’m going and I’m pretty sure Tyler and Josh do too! I Hope you will be there too! l H0PE

  23. Thank you guys. I have been going through a lot of stuff and you changed my life the way that I look at me. I’ve been able to overcome so much since I started listening to this music all the time.

  24. Tyler says “my black paint represents my insecurity,” and you say, “No, it’s actually religious.” He says, “Blurryface is a personification of my anxieties and depression,” and you say, “No, it’s actually representative of sin.” He talks about the struggles of living with mental illness and feeling “out of control” of his own actions, and you say “just like the Bible!”

    Interviewers aren’t missing anything by taking Tyler at his word; you’re adding new meaning that Tyler straight-up told you wasn’t there. Yes, ToP are Christians, and they often use Christian imagery, and occasionally there’s even a song directly about faith (usually about questioning it); but that doesn’t mean there’s Jesus in everything they say and do. Don’t tell other people what they mean if they’re telling you themselves first.

    • I think it’s because Tyler wants everyone to be able to relate to those representations and not be exclusive that it pertains to his faith because not everyone shares that same point of view but everyone has struggles and he wants to let people make their minds up for themselves, what the music/lyrics/symbolism mean. So that he doesn’t necessarily push only one view point on their fans, it’s up for interpretation. We all know he speaks in metaphor and through hidden message, his biggest one wanting us to THINK, he’s never going to give a straight answer because then his fans won’t have to keep searching. TOP’s music is less about themselves but what they’re saying, why they’re saying it, and who they’re saying it to.

      • I wholeheartedly agree with you. I find it strange that so many people feel the need to go on the offensive when they’re labeled as a Christian band. They’re not forcing it down anyone’s throats. That’s the key thing here and as to why they’re so successful in mainstream/secular radio. The lyrics, their performances, their multiple meanings of their symbols, their perseverance through the industry- everything is an expression of Tyler and Josh’s struggles in life with faith. They present it in a way where they don’t want you to take it on face value- they want you to draw your own interpretations from it. They want you to connect with it as it resonates with them. They want you to think about the message. They want it to be YOUR message. They want you to THINK. Tyler’s music helped him search for his faith and battle his demons and that’s exactly what they want from you too- the listener. They want you to create something. To come together. To realize that life is worth living- whether you want to take it on a secular or a spiritual level- it’s both. Tyler struggles through mental illness AND his Christian walk. That’s what makes the message so great and powerful and able to be resonate with so many people- young and old. Do not detract from the message by dismissing the side of his faith. That makes you Blurryface. “Please use discretion when you’re messing with the message, man. These lyrics aren’t for everyone. Only few understand.”

  25. I had to do an art project this year that was based on a song, so I chose “Taxi Cab” from TØP’s self titled album. I cannot even explain how pure the gospel message is in that song, it’s one of my favorites. He uses the best imagery to describe being taken away in a coffin but still being alive and unable to escape by himself, until he is broken free by three men in a taxi cab (the trinity)… and so much more, I can’t really analyze the whole song here in this comment but it’s really amazing when you look at it. I am a Christian and the one thing I love is kinda realizing and finding different and more interpretations of the songs that could or are Christian references. It’s amazing. The thing that’s great tho it’s really just how much their music is helping so many people. They’re truly doing amazing things.

  26. They aren’t purposefully delivering a Christian message. Their music is about their individual struggle, and they have said that it is all very personal to them and that their albums are “like a journal”. However, they want their fans to interpret their music the way they need it, so if you need it to be Christian or if that’s what you relate to, that’s okay.

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