When I heard that Prince had passed, my first thought was a hope that he had finally found true peace. My second was to wonder what a good friend and colleague of mine, Bob DeMoss, had to say about the subject. Bob was instrumental in starting the Plugged In ministry here at Focus on the Family 25 years ago now, and he was then and still is a student of popular culture. The rest of this post are his thoughts.
Prince is gone.
Love him or loathe him, The Purple One has left his mark on the world.
Within hours of his unexpected death, breathless tributes celebrating the life, musical genius and “boundary-shattering artistry” of Prince fell like purple rain onto all corners of the Internet. MTV changed its logo to purple and replaced its regular programming with back-to-back Prince videos. His hometown radio station—along with broadcasters in several states—suspended regularly scheduled music to play his music exclusively.
Meanwhile, as thousands of fans filled the streets of Minnesota’s Twin Cities to mourn his passing, President Obama’s Facebook page described the man who became known as The Artist as “one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time … and an electrifying performer.”
Adoring attention is to be expected when someone of Prince’s musical stature dies. After all, he sold more than 100 million records worldwide. But what came as a surprise was this headline from The Washington Post: “Raunchy Prince was actually a conservative Christian who reportedly opposed gay marriage.”
Setting aside his alleged opposition to same-sex marriage (he maintains his comments were taken “out of context”), some would argue that the notion of Prince being some sort of a “conservative Christian” is a giant stretch. Granted, back in 1985 during his first televised interview, Prince, who has since identified himself as a Jehovah’s Witness, told MTV that he prays every night, adding, “I just want people to know that I’m very sincere in my beliefs.” And in 2009 a reporter for The Los Angeles Times described seeing a large Bible on his nightstand.
Here’s the disconnect.
For the majority of his career, Prince created lyrically salacious music exploring a wide spectrum of carnal pleasures, sexual experimentation, bisexuality, and gender-bending images and themes—all clearly inconsistent with the teachings of conservative Christianity. While Prince has penned a number of insightful songs along the way, there’s been no shortage of decedent lyrics emanating from his Paisley Park palace.
You can see why people have their doubts about that whole conservative Christian angle, and I can’t imagine the Apostle Paul agreeing with the Washington Post on this one either. He spoke about the subject in Galatians 5:16-21, writing, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality … orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
This is not to say that Prince didn’t personally know the Prince of Peace, even though one of his last public statements was, “Wait a few days before you waste any prayers.” I’d argue prayer is never wasted. And my prayer is that even if he didn’t know Jesus before he took his final breaths in that elevator, that Prince used them to call on the name of God. Perhaps the words to “The Cross,” a song Prince penned back in 1987, came to his mind:
We all have our problems
Some big, some are small
Soon all of our problems
Will be taken by the cross
Black day, stormy night
No love, no hope in sight
Don’t cry for he is coming
Don’t die without knowing the cross
About a week before Prince died he played a show at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Several days later, country musician Jimmy Wayne played on the same stage. Upon hearing the news of Prince’s death, Wayne reflected, “We don’t know how the show will end so we all must be spiritually prepared when the curtain closes. Whether you’re a superstar or wishing upon a star, we all share the same stage—life.” Indeed, when our final curtain call comes, to quote Prince, “Don’t die without knowing the cross.”