U2 have consistently put their Christian faith and Biblical themes at the center of their music over the past three decades, but have never sold themselves as a Christian band. This has worked out pretty well for them given that they are one of the most popular rock acts of all time. Most U2 songs have Christian themes, but here’s some examples from their catalog.
“40” from War has lyrics lifted from Psalm 40:
I waited patiently on the Lord / He inclined and heard my cry / He lifted me up out of the pits / And out of the miry clay.
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is a straight-up gospel song:
I believe when the Kingdom comes / Then all the colors will bleed into one / But yes, I’m still running / You broke the bonds / You loosened the chains / You carried the cross / Of my shame / You know I believed it / But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
Most of the songs on Pop are about a crisis of faith, and “Wake Up, Dead Man” directly addresses Jesus Christ:
Jesus / I’m waiting here, boss / I know you’re looking out for us / But maybe your hands aren’t free / Your father, He made the world in seven / He’s in charge of heaven / Will you put a word in for me? / Wake up, wake up dead man.
2. Mumford & Sons
Band leader Marcus Mumford’s parents are leaders in the evangelical Vineyard Church in England, and he’s a member of that church to this day. Most of his songs reflect his spirituality, some more directly than others. Mumford told The Guardian in 2010 that his lyrics are “a deliberately spiritual thing but deliberately not a religious thing. I think faith is something beautiful, and something real, and something universal.”
“Sigh No More”
Serve God, love me and mend / This is not the end / Lived unbruised, we are friends / And I’m sorry / I’m sorry.
“Below My Feet”
And I was still but I was under your spell / When I was told by Jesus all was well / So all must be well.
“Whispers in the Dark”
Whispers in the dark / Steal a kiss and you’ll break your heart / Pick up your clothes and curl your toes / Learn your lesson, lead me home / Spare my sins for the ark / I was too slow to depart / I’m a cad but I’m not a fraud / I’d set out to serve the Lord.
Belle & Sebastian’s primary songwriter Stuart Murdoch has been very open about his faith and regular involvement in activities at his local parish in Scotland, and has written Biblical themes into many of his band’s songs. Despite this, their audience tends to be pretty secular and they’re rarely mentioned as a Christian band. But here’s a few verses from B&S songs that are overtly religious.
“If You Find Yourself Caught In Love”
If you find yourself caught in love / You should say a prayer to the man above / If you don’t listen to the voices then my friend / You’ll soon run out of choices / What a pity it would be / You talk of freedom, don’t you see / The only freedom that you’ll ever really know / Is written in books from long ago / Give up your will to Him that loves you / Things will change, I’m not saying overnight / But something has to give.
“The Ghost of Rockschool”
I’ve seen God in the sun / I’ve seen God in the street / God before bed and the promise of sleep / God in my dreams / And the free ride of grace / I’ve seen God shining / Out from her reflection.
“The State I Am In”
I gave myself to sin / I gave myself to Providence / And I’ve been there and back again / The state that I am in / Oh love of mine, would you condescend to help me / I am stupid and blind / Desperation is the Devil’s work, it is the folly of a boy’s empty mind.
The Avett Brothers have emerged as a hugely popular cult band in the indie-folk world, and have been accepted as basically a secular act even though a lot of their lyrics are very clearly about their Christian faith.
“Me and God”
Now I don’t doubt that The Good Book is true / What’s right for me may not be right for you / To church on Sunday I’ll stand beside / All the hurtin’ people with the fear in their eyes / And I thank the Lord for the country land / Just like Paul I thank him for my hands / And I don’t know if my soul is safe / Sometimes I use curse words when I pray / My God and I don’t need a middle man.
“Through My Prayers”
Down in my mind where I don’t care to go / The pain of a lesson is letting me know / If you have love in your heart let it show while you can / Yes, now I understand / But now my only chance / To talk to you is through my prayers / I only wanted to tell you I care.
Black Sabbath were frequently accused of promoting the occult and Satanism, which is pretty ironic given that many of their songs were clearly quite Christian, and Ozzy Osbourne was singing about fearing the devil and a vengeful God.
Big black shape with eyes of fire / Telling people their desire / Satan’s sitting there, he’s smiling / Watches those flames get higher and higher / Oh no, no, please God help me!
Now in darkness world stops turning / Ashes where the bodies burning / No more war pigs have the power / Hand of God has struck the hour / Day of judgment, God is calling / On their knees the war pig’s crawling / Begging mercy for their sins /
Satan laughing spreads his wings / Oh Lord, yeah!
Have you ever thought about your soul – can it be saved? / Or perhaps you think that when you’re dead you just stay in your grave / Is God just a thought within your head or is He a part of you? / Is Christ just a name that you read in a book when you were at school? / When you think about death do you lose your breath or do you keep your cool? / Would you like to see the Pope on the end of a rope – do you think he’s a fool? / Well, I have seen the truth / Yes, I have seen the light and I’ve changed my ways / And I’ll be prepared when you’re lonely and scared at the end of your days / Could it be you’re afraid of what your friends might say / If they knew you believe in God above / They should realize before they criticize / That God is the only way to love.
6. Lenny Kravitz
Lenny Kravitz is a devout Christian, and he’s been writing about spiritual themes all throughout his career. It’s not just in his lyrics – he’s gone through years of celibacy as part of his faith, and has a large cross tattooed on his back.
“Are You Gonna Go My Way?” is sung from the perspective of Jesus Christ:
I was born long ago / I am the chosen, I’m the one / I have come to save the day / And I won’t leave until I’m done / So that’s why you’ve got to try / You got to breathe and have some fun / Though I’m not paid I play this game / And I won’t stop until I’m done / But what I really want to know is / Are you gonna go my way?
The Son of God is in your face / Offering us eternal grace / If you want it you’ve got to believe / ‘Cause being free is just a state of mind / We’ll one day leave this all behind / Just put your faith in God / And one day you’ll see it / If you want it you got it.
“Beyond the 7th Sky”
I’m talkin’ ‘bout the moon and stars and sky / I’m talkin’ ‘bout you and God and I / Let’s take it to the place where life was formed / And to the place where Jesus Christ was born.
The three Followill brothers in Kings of Leon are the sons of a United Pentecostal Church preacher, and though their music is generally secular, their upbringing informs a lot of their lyrics, with many songs about redemption, or fire and brimstone.
I went and I sold my soul to Jesus / And nobody knows just what he means to us / I went and I got me some of that holy ghost fire / Ain’t nothing in this world that can take me higher.
The reds and the whites and abused / The crucified U.S.A. / As their hypocrisy unfolds / Oh Hell is truly on its way / As the rat, and the fly / They’re searching for an alibi / As we await the wrath / They never went to Sunday Mass.
Evanescence co-founder and original primary songwriter Ben Moody came out of the Christian rock world, so it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that many of the band’s lyrical themes are either outright religious, or echo Christian themes. The band’s records were mostly found in Christian record shops before they became a huge mainstream success.
I’m dying / Praying / Bleeding / Screaming / Am I too lost to be saved? / Am I too lost? / My God! / My tourniquet / Return to me salvation.”
“Bring Me To Life”
How can you see into my eyes, like open doors / Leading you down into my core / Where I’ve become so numb / Without a soul / My spirit’s sleeping somewhere cold / Until you find it there and lead it back home / Wake me up, wake me up inside / Save me.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have a badass name that is indebted to ’60s counterculture and their music is strongly influenced by bands like The Velvet Underground and The Jesus and Mary Chain, so it’s easy to miss that almost all of their lyrics are in some way about Jesus and God. Bassist and singer Robert Levon Been actually grew up in Christian rock, as his father was the frontman of the Christian New Wave band The Call.
Jesus seems to steal my soul / He’ll never let me go / Jesus gonna make me pay / Never should’ve run away / I wanna go home.
So Jesus left you lonely / Feel’s like nothin’s really holy / No one, no one hears your calling / Falling, everything is falling.
“Grind My Bones”
Jesus, let me tell you son / I’m running to your heaven / Can’t you hear me coming? / And the bright light’s been fading off / The preacher tell me, “Son, I got to pay to talk” / Sweet Lord, come carry me / They fail to impress / And I can’t believe /
And I ain’t never seen no other Lord / He grind my bones to save my soul / No, I ain’t never seen no other Lord.
10. Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens is best known for making sad, ornate indie music beloved by NPR listeners and Pitchfork readers, but he’s always been open about his Christianity, and is a regular churchgoer in Brooklyn. Even when he’s making elaborate concept albums about the cultural mythologies of states like Michigan and Illinois, his lyrics are heavily influenced by his faith.
I saw a sign in the sky / Seven horns, seven horns, seven horns / I heard a voice in my mind: / I am Lord, I am Lord, I am Lord / He will take you / If you run, He will chase you / ‘Cause he is the Lord.
“Ah Holy Jesus”
For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation / Thine mortal sorrow and thy life’s oblation / Thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion /
For my salvation.
What he said to them / The voice of God: the most beloved son / Consider what he says to you, consider what’s to come / The prophecy was put to death / Was put to death, and so will the Son / And keep your word, disguise the vision till the time has come.
11. The Civil Wars
Joy Williams got her start as a Christian pop singer, but has distanced herself from overtly religious music as half of the country-folk duo The Civil Wars. But even when she’s singing essentially secular songs about love and romance, she peppers her lyrics with references to faith and Christian iconography.
If it means I’ll be waiting twenty years / And twenty more / I’ll be praying for redemption / And your note underneath my door.
“C’est la Mort”
Let’s walk on the road that has no end / Steal away where only angels tread / Heaven or hell or somewhere in between / Cross your heart and take me with you.
Ain’t going back to Barton Hollow / Devil gonna follow me e’er I go / Won’t do me no good washing in the river / Can’t no preacher man save my soul.