Ode to Twenty One Pilots

The Twenty One Pilots obsession continues.

Someone recently sent me an interview with Twenty One Pilots lead singer, Tyler Joseph. He is so young. But what a remarkable depth. A poet’s mind, disarming authenticity who shares the anxieties of this age, making him a powerful voice for this age.

The interviewer asked him a fascinating question: what is the mission of Twenty One Pilots? From whence their lyrics, their musical style?

Tyler struggled to answer. He spoke of the numbers game that dominates the music industry — profits, number of fans. He admitted these tempt to distract him. But what really drives him, he said, is the idea that their music makes people think about life’s deepest and most universal questions. “If our music can lift up just one person, making their life better and more joyful, then that is the mission of Twenty One Pilots. I don’t just want to entertain people, I want them to think with me, to think about universally true things. I’m a seeker. I ask questions and hope they lead to joy.”

Unquestionably, there is a Christian worldview that inhabits the sounds and lyrics. But Tyler is exceedingly careful not to speak with overtly religious language. He ‘gets’ the challenge of trying to reach a broad audience in a radically pluralistic world. His approach to faith ‘latently’ informing art is, to me, brilliant.

You might say they offer their music to  the world on “the altar to an unknown God” that St. Paul once identified in the Areopagus of Athens (Acts 17:23). There, faith can very naturally, quietly converse with the great questions and anxieties of our day.

When I went to their concert with my daughters, I could hear in their singing an impassioned and searching faith in a hidden God who was simultaneously far and near.

I wrote a poem after hearing the interview, my summary of their artistic mission. For what it’s worth.

Prophets of Zeitgeist

Canting angst, oracle of Zeitgeist
haunted by a Father’s Love
whirling ’round the cross of Christ
twining faith to life, deftly spliced.

Rapping deep into darkest reality
facing the face of fear, and longing
to be found, and by Truth set free
as restless, all-gnarled humanity.

Nay by preaching: evoking
Nay imposing: provoking
Thinking within, seeker
the hopeless in hope soaking.

Your words cut, make us bleed
yet all deftly only heal, feed
the souls seeking primal creed
who are your fragile reed.

The call, the mission, clear
to dare us hope into fear
unveiling God, hidden near
Heart Whisperer, “I am here
wiping dry your every tear.”

9 comments on “Ode to Twenty One Pilots

  1. Jennifer says:

    Have you heard Tyler rap the Gospel? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FHYI3kdK_g&t=03m22s
    Don’t give up on contacting them! Seriously! Oh, and I met a woman at one of my students’ Baptist church event the other day and it turns out this woman’s 14-year old daughter read one of your commentaries on 21p that YOU wrote and it inspired her and her friend to spend the rest of the day doing a Bible study on the song. I will keep trying to contact them for you if you don’t. NO QUITTING ON THIS!!

  2. trudymm says:

    As it stands, luv, luv, your creation
    It’s fa sho a marvelous sensation
    Thoughts captured in so cool a translation

    My initial reaction was to punt,
    But in regards to the poetic impulse, it’s hard to stunt
    To pass would have produced a moan and a grunt

    Whether it’s my own
    Or be it to another as an addition or tag on
    The rhyme is in every fiber of every single bone

    As graces are given for such
    The Holy Spirit provides just the right touch
    Resulting in an end product coming across kosher and clutch

    So decided to play
    In a whimsical one line way
    Although spiritual seriousness is more of my forte

    Voice of angst, prophets of zeitgeist
    in authenticity, integrity unsacrificed
    inscribing, singing a silent Christ
    by twining faith in life, deftly spliced.

    ✌️tmm=Determined that the superfluous be excised

    Rappers of deepest dark reality
    facing who we are, we long to be
    discovered by Truth who sets free
    we, a restless, twisted humanity.

    tmm=A spiel that’s precise, spouted out, coming across quite innocently

    Not thru preaching, but evoking
    not thru imposing, but provoking
    us to think thoughtfully; soaking
    greying despair in colorful cloaking

    ✌️tmm=Acting like agents involved in cultural brokering

    by words that cut, yes make us bleed
    though then only to heal and feed
    souls yearning for an immortal creed
    that won’t break the most fragile reed.

    ✌️tmm=Having great expectations,even if it’s from one planted seed

    Your call and mission seem clear:
    daring us hope in a world of fear;
    outing a hidden God, so silently near
    who whispers, “I am with you, here
    wiping, drying, shedding every tear.”

    ✌️tmm=Your powerful words do reach our conscience and most certainly emphatically sear

    There will B times when we’ll get ourselves in a big mess
    Da remedy is 2 repent, waste no time in going 2 confess
    Jesus will not spurn a contrite and humble heart
    Where we leave off, now cleansed we get a fresh start
    / \ http://gigapostolate.weebly.com/ tmm/PTL

  3. Sarah Ashour says:

    I’ve loved reading all of your twenty one pilots commentaries. Your reflections give me confirmation that I wasn’t just imposing theological interpretations on their songs; T0P’s lyrics are truly deeply spiritual!

    This post in particular reminded me of how “Hometown” spoke to me lately. The lyrics “where we’re from, we’re no one – our hometown’s in the dark” reminds me of Luke 4:24, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” Twenty One Pilots are the prophets of the modern culture, telling the world to “put away the gods your fathers served” and to find the fire to reanimate the culture of death and a spiritless civilization. Their hometown is the whole world, in the dark of sin, which speaks a whole different message than the one of hope that Twenty One Pilots seeks to bring.

    I was also reminded by this song of Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37. I wonder how much of a coincidence it is that Tyler and Josh often perform in skeleton hoodies?

    • Sarah: Fabulous! Thanks for your fascinating read of Hometown and the Ezekiel skeleton image. From that video Jennifer included in the comments today it seems the skeleton image is directly connected in Tyler imagination to Christ’s dying and rising, bringing humanity, dead in sin, alive.
      I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts here and love your self-description as a “Theology-minded book hoarder with a nerdy side. Lover of Christ and His Church.” 🙂 Peace!

  4. nunu says:

    i love 21 pilotes

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