Acton Institute Powerblog

Rock N Roll ‘Jesus’

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Last night the American Music Awards were televised on ABC. Among the big winners were alumni of the hit TV show, “American Idol,” whose stars won 3 AMAs.

Kid Rock, the Rock N Roll “Jesus.”

But there was another kind of “idol” on display at the AMAs, as Detroit’s own Kid Rock was a presenter and did a spoof of his fight with rocker Tommy Lee in a comedy bit with host Jimmy Kimmel. Kid Rock released a new album last month, “Rock N Roll Jesus,” which received 4 out of 5 stars from Rolling Stone.

My dad, who is a arts and entertainment editor at a daily newspaper, played the title track for me a few weeks ago and asked what I thought. I said, “It’s pretty offensive.” Here’s a sample of the lyrics:

It’s a Rock revival
Don’t need a suit
Ya don’t need a bible
Get up and dance
I’m gonna set you free yeah
It’s all sex, drugs, rock n roll
A soul sensation that you can’t control
And you can see I practice what I preach
I’m your rock n roll Jesus
Yes I am

In his RS review, Anthony Decurtis says that Kid Rock latches “onto the verities of sex, drugs and rock & roll as a path to redemption — both his and the country’s.” The holy trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are replaced by Kid Rock’s worldly triumvirate of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. It’s ironic that Kid Rock points to the licentiousness of American culture as the means for its “redemption.” If there’s anything that threatens America’s stature internationally, right at the top has to be the perception of rampant immorality communicated by American popular culture.

There’s a great deal of religious language and imagery used in the song (if you absolutely must hear it, there’s a live performance video here).

In a sermon on Revelation 17 this Sunday, my preacher described blasphemy as the appropriation of language fit only for God by a creature. The revelator saw “a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names.” That’s exactly what Kid Rock’s “Rock N Roll Jesus” is: blasphemous.

After my dad agreed that the song was such, I expressed wonderment at how far culture has come. In 2007 Kid Rock can claim to be the “Rock N Roll Jesus” offering the worldly allurements of “sex, drugs, and rock & roll,” can debut at #1. Contrast this with the public outcry in 1966 when the infamous comment from John Lennon about the Beatles being “more popular than Jesus” was made.

But perhaps a better analogue in Revelation 17 to Kid Rock’s album as representative of popular culture isn’t the beast, it’s the drunk prostitute Babylon: “the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth,” who is faced with destruction by the beast and its minions. They will turn on the prostitute with derision, and “will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”

No doubt many undiscerning and eager-to-be-relevant emergent Christians will grasp at Kid Rock’s record as a cultural “impact point.” Too often Christians are satisfied with any religious reference, even one that is blatantly blasphemous, to justify our consumption of popular culture. Certainly the linkage of Kid Rock to Scott Stapp could be improperly construed as further evidence of Rock’s righteousness (Stapp is the former frontman for the band Creed, who says, “I am a Christian.” The link above is to a story about the release of a sex tape involving both Kid Rock and Scott Stapp in 2006).

Kid Rock is right about one thing at least: “The time has come to settle and the devil’s gonna make u choose.”

Or as Jesus Christ (the real one) said: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”

More: “Christian Parents Are Not Comfortable With Media But Buy Them for Their Kids Anyway,” The Barna Update.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Hunter Baker

    Jordan, when I was in college Depeche Mode had a big comeback hit with “Personal Jesus” in which the singer presents himself as the Christ who will redeem the lonely listener. I thought of it as a catchy blasphemy, but I may have been wrong. This bit by Kid Rock is a more obvious contender for blasphemous lyrics.

  • Hunter,

    And Johnny Cash “baptized” that Depeche Mode song with his 2002 cover. My grandpa and one of my uncles think that [url=]”The Lord of the Dance,”[/url] a Celtic folk song, is also blasphemous. But those two cases aren’t nearly so clear as Kid Rock, I don’t think.

  • kidrock fan

    Are you for real? It’s MUSIC. It sounds great. It is NOT blasphemous. Do you people burn books, too?

    Yes, I go to church and raise my kids in a lovely middleclass community, and we have traditional values….JUST THE WAY BOB RITCHIE (AKA KID ROCK) was raised!

    Get off your high horse, stop pointing your finger, and do what the bible says – be kind to your neighbor, love your neigbhor as you love yourself, and love God with all your heart and soul.

    Stop wasting time judging others.

  • Hey kidrock fan, since you are raising your kids “just the way” Kid Rock was raised, maybe they will end up as drunken, self-absorbed, pretentious, overpaid, womanizing, poison-pushing philanderers just like him. And won’t you be proud then!

  • kidrock fan

    Well, that didn’t take long. A ridiculous reply to someone who thinks differently than you.

    People like you give Christianity, and religion in general, a bad name. How many “christians” are womanizing, self-absorbed, pretentious, and worse – use the Lord’s name to cover for them? Let’s start with the Catholic church, and then move on to television evangelists. We could go on and on,

    My point was simply that there are so many more important thing than analyzing Kid Rock’s lyrics. And, if you’re gonna waste time analyzing them, why not analyze all of them, like “When you love someone?”

    It’s futile to try and reason with people like you who are so limited and unaccepting. I don’t condone Kid Rock’s lifestyle, but his music is great, and it’s not blasphemous. It’s fun! It’s got a great beat. It makes people happy. It gets in their veins and moves them, like the blues – let’s analyze lyrics of BB King, James Brown, Muddy Waters. I am pretty confident that God enjoys rock and roll, and the blues. Maybe He even likes Britney’s sound. Aren’t we all created in His image? Or, do we all have to live by your interpretation of Him to be worthy, redeemed, or whatever else you think?

    Honestly. Waste of time. But, so glad you replied because it was exactly what I was expecting.

    Until all humans can be kind, treat each other with respect, and not force their religion and beliefs on others, we’re doomed to the type of society we have today. As for how Kid Rock was raised, he was raised Catholic, not allowed to swear, and had to go to church weekly. But, the concept of “free will” is also a factor in one’s life, as are their daily experiences. There is more than one definition of a good Christian, or better yet, (gasp)simply a good PERSON.

  • [i][b]blasphemy[/b] |ˈblasfəmē|
    noun ( pl. -mies) – the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk.[/i]

    Hmm. Yeah, I think those lyrics would qualify. And it almost feels silly to have to say this, but just because something sounds/looks/tastes/feels good doesn’t automatically make that thing good for you, your kids, or society in general.

    I don’t doubt that God can be glorified through rock and roll or the blues or any other particular type of music. And I don’t think Jordan is trying to be legalistic here – he’s not condemning the style of music. But it is a perfectly legitimate point to say that this sort of thing is too easily shrugged off by parents as “harmless fun.” You yourself admit that music is powerful, that people respond to it – “It’s got a great beat. It makes people happy. It gets in their veins and moves them…” The question you have to ask yourself is this: where is that music moving you (or your kids) to?

    [i]Until all humans can be kind, treat each other with respect, and not force their religion and beliefs on others, we’re doomed to the type of society we have today.[/i]

    What type of society is that? The hedonistic, commercialistic, nihilistic culture that ends up glorifying pimps (such as, you know, the [url=]pimp of the nation[/url]), objectifying women, marginalizing and mocking anything sacred, and leaving broken marriages, fatherless children and shattered lives in its wake? You think that sort of stuff happens because Christians are too aggressive in promoting their beliefs?

    You can pretend that God is looking down on you, smiling and feeling some nice warm fuzzies while you’re rocking out to [url=]Cadillac Pussy[/url], but I’m thinking that you’re fooling yourself. After all, [url=]God cannot be mocked[/url]. Christians certainly aren’t called to seal themselves off from the world, but they aren’t called to be so open minded that their brains fall out either.

  • Since I’m so good at “judging” (an assertion which is itself a judgment, ironically enough), I’ll leave it to all of you to “discern” (as opposed to “judge”) what kind of Christian you (and perhaps Kid Rock) are: [url=]”5 Kinds of Christians.”[/url]

  • kidrock fan

    Thank goodness I am not as close minded, self-righteous, and arrogant as you folks!

    It’s just scary that you can become outraged about music, and take things so literally, and worst of all, think that only YOUR way is the right way. God made all of us, and there is no way for you to prove your of how to honor Him or what is offensive is correct.

    What I find truly scary is that your close minded thinking is what leads people to commit horrific acts. KKK, Hilter, and al Queda come to mind.

    But, if it makes you feel better, keep bashing pop culture, bash people like me who try to live the word of the bible by caring for our neighbors and the planet, and let yourselves continue feeling you’re better than the rest of the world.

  • Awesome. I was sort of expecting you to respond, because you’re in that whole “hyper-defensive fanboy” mode and all. But to compare me not only to Hitler, but the KKK [i]and[/i] Al Queda, all for just suggesting that Christians might want to exercise some discernment in the types of music they listen to? Superb! That type of concentrated stupidity would kill a normal man.

    Hint: you need to learn about [url=]Godwin’s Law[/url].

  • kidrock fan

    Ah yes, but the point was that my comment wasn’t about YOU, but rather this particular type of thinking. It was a relevant comment, it wasn’t intended to be the ultimate insult. Interesting that you took it that way, isn’t it? I don’t care about winning, or having the last word. This, to me, isn’t about Kid Rock or his music, and I’m not in defensive fan mode. I have my own opinin of Kid Rock and loathe his behavior, but love the sound of his music. The reason I commented originally was because this is simply music but it could be literature or anything else that doesn’t deliver the message exactly how you’d like it to be delivered. And, since you find it offensive, you must deem that it is so for all the land.

    There just seems to be an inordinate amount of time wasted on things such as this when time could be spent in a much more productive manner for the better of everyone….that was the crux of my original comment.

  • mr.context

    The thing the poster is missing here is this song is not talking about jesus and salvation in general hes talking somewhat metaphorically about music. He is not christ himself or offering salvation in the spiritual sense he is talking about music, rock and roll!!!! when it comes to rok in roll it is in need of a re-vamp… not like hes saying hes the one bleeding on a cross for christianity.. lets quote the bible!!! that makes sense!!! ROCK AND ROLL JESUS! not JESUS alone… this is the kind of thing that gives religious people a bad rep, ignorance, which appearently you practice along with your religion pretty regularly.. listen to the song! its not a hym its a rock and roll tune! grow up, pull your nose out of the bible and take a gander at civilization, human interaction, and how language and referencing works
    your article is a joke, your fathers a joke and you make me embarassed to be a person of faith

  • I never said my father agrees with me. He obviously liked the song enough to play it for me.

  • Dan

    kidrock fan, I don’t mean to prolong a discussion which you might be worn out on, so you’re welcome to ignore this if you wish. But I think in your eagerness to defend a song which you enjoy for its artistic quality, you have completely overlooked the point of Jordan’s original post. He said absolutely nothing about the song’s musical effectiveness or artistic merit or how much he did or didn’t like how it sounded; he merely pointed out that he found the lyrics, the statements presented in the song, blasphemous. If you disagree with that assessment, simply say so. I’m as lousy as the next sinner, but I know that condemning other people as “close minded, self-righteous, and arrogant” rarely changes anyone’s mind. It’s the whole more-flies-with-honey thing.

    And if I may offer my two cents on the song, I do think it’s reasonable to interpret the lyrics as blasphemous, or at least morally bankrupt. That the speaker is likening his world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to that of a religious “Revival” and himself to Jesus definitely seems to downplay the value of religion. It’s almost as if he’s saying that the world no longer needs its true Jesus because the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Jesus” has replaced him. Now, this could well be a little bit satirical in nature (though I suspect not), which would definitely shift my feelings about it more. But I think it’s mostly about the experience of being lost in a moment of worldly sensation – loud music, burning lust, altered experiences – and seeing no place for God in the picture.

    The main thing, I think, is to stay focused on God and to honor him in our thoughts and actions. I guess the point of the post was that not every brilliantly-produced popular song happens to lend itself to that objective, and that as Christians we must be shrewd enough to make those sorts of calls for ourselves.

  • kidrock fan

    Hey Dan – I appreciate your reply – and I was not trying to insult Jordan. I don’t think I missed his point, that he found the lyrics to be blasphemous. I am just pretty baffled that someone would analyze the lyrics. I dont think KidRock is at all downplaying the value of religion. To me, it’s that music is powerful, like religion.

    I guess that I find it just unsettling that people analyze lyrics and content – what’s to judge? If you don’t like something, leave it alone. It isn’t harmful, it’s not disrespectful to God. It is not dishonoring. I can’t imagine that God would be upset by this. It’s like those who lose their way in their faith – for whatever reason, many people become lost, feel alone, question God’s very existance. That isn’t disrespectful. God is strong enough to withstand any questioning, and certainly doesn’t need some people wasting time analyzing the works of others. This is about how language is used, how humans interact….it’s not about dishonoring God. I just don’t get it.

    But, I do appreciate your thoughtful post.

  • My last word: If you’re serious about figuring out why we should take this sort of thing a bit more seriously as Christians than our culture tends to, a good place to start would be with this book: [url=]The Holiness of God[/url], by RC Sproul. I picked this up from the library last week and couldn’t help but think of the exchange on this post while I was reading it.

    kidrockfan and mr. context, if you’re truly having a hard time understanding the position that I’m taking on this issue, this book is a really good place to start.

  • walter

    “KKK, Hilter, and al Queda come to mind.”
    Hilter? Mr Hilter, from the classic Monty Python sketch?? And Al “Who Is It”, the Latin American comedian? Yes they come to my mind too, when i’m in a funny mood.
    “But, if it makes you feel better, keep bashing pop culture, bash people like me who try to live the word of the bible by caring for our neighbors and the planet, and let yourselves continue feeling you’re better than the rest of the world.”
    Hilarious. Typically when i hear someone spouting off about how much they care for their neighbors and (oh, lord) the Planet, it translates to me into deafening self-righteousness, ie “a feeling that you’re better than the rest of the world”, or at least “more human”!
    ” And, since you find it offensive, you must deem that it is so for all the land.”
    You must realize that this kind of talk means absolutely nothing. Maybe have a trusted older person read your posts before sending?

  • kidrock fan

    This is so funny….I came across this post from a long time ago. “hilter” was obviously a typo…..and the self-rightousness you say that tree-huggers and the like really ooze of is quite true! I agree and find them offensive…and yet that’s what the ‘Chritians’ on this board do, too. The kicker, however, was you assumed I am a teenage boy and I should have someone “older” review my posts. I’m in tears….it would be so funny if you actually knew my age, education, faith history, etc….Let’s just say my oldest child IS a 17 year old boy!

  • marc

    Since you’re such a wise and thoughtful adult, surely you’ve done the adult thing and tried to [url=]understand my point of view[/url] on the issue. Because I just know that a contemplative and thoughtful individual such as yourself wouldn’t simply stumble across an old post that they trolled on six months ago and taunt the people they argued against for no good reason.

    Heck, that’s something a teenager would do.

  • Dan

    My dear Wormwood…er…ah…I mean kidrock fan,

    You should seriously read “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis.

    Too many people think that Satan as “antichrist” simply means that Satan is different than Christ. That is true; Satan is different than Christ. But “antichrist” means something much more sinister. It means that Satan will do anything he can, use any means at his disposal (including pop stars), and stop at nothing to make sure that your thoughts are on anything or anybody other than Christ.

    If Kidrock suggests even for a moment that he can cure what’s wrong with society then he *is* blaspheming and Christians would be right to point that out.

  • Lisa

    As a Christian if your life, (in all aspects), does not glorify God, it is sin, plain and simple. Fortunately, we are all to be judged by God. But are you an example that brings honor and glory to God?

  • ron

    Oh no…not “forced to go to church”…the poor thing! I think there are worse things that could happen! What a joke.