Lil Nas X’s latest music video ‘J Christ’ has been widely denounced as offensive and blasphemous by Christians. But George Luke believes the rapper is trapped between two worlds, and part of him is still drawn to the faith of his youth


Scores of saintly-looking people dressed in white - three of whom look like bad doppelgängers of Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama and Kanye West - climb a stairway to heaven, where they watch Jesus and Satan face each other off in a basketball game (Spoiler: Jesus wins, with a slam dunk that would make Michael Jordan green with envy).

Meanwhile, back on earth, a Noah figure gathers animals into an ark as news channels report on flash floods happening across the globe. Those floods eventually cover the earth - and as the survivors sail off in the ark, a Bible verse appears on screen: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; Behold, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Somewhere in between those two happenings, the rapper Lil Nas X hangs on a cross, a crown of thorns on his head, declaring that he’s about to make the biggest comeback since Jesus.

Predictably, the video for Lil Nas X’s new single ‘J Christ’ has stirred up lots of vitriol from Christians. (And note that some readers may find the below video offensive, for many reasons, including bad language)

If you’re interested in reading a different perspective from the one espoused by the Christians who are busy denouncing him online, then read on…because I want to ask, Is Lil Nas X doing anything new?

Tupac Shakur hung on a cross back in 1996, on the cover of his posthumous album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. In 1999 (the year Lil Nas X was born), another rapper who happens to be called Nas was crucified in the video for his song ‘Hate Me Now’. Kanye West appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in 2006 with a crown of thorns on his head. And let’s not forget all the Jesus imagery in Kendrick Lemar’s headlining set at Glastonbury 2022.

Lil Nas X is not the first rapper to portray himself as Jesus and probably won’t be the last. He’s also not the first artist to pit Jesus against the devil in a sports arena either; those of us who were listening to Christian music in the 80s and 90s can remember Carman’s epic song that had them slugging it out in a boxing ring.

Raised in the church

But who is Lil Nas X? The person, not the caricature it feels we’re being groomed to hate. Well, his real name is Montero Lamar Hill and he’s the son of a Gospel singer called RL Stafford. He grew up going to church in the Atlanta neighbourhood where he spent his formative years.

Lil Nas X spent his youth trying in vain to “pray the gay away”, as the expression goes. As he grew older, he’s embraced his sexuality – a decision which means that he finds himself constantly at odds with the faith he grew up in, and yet still, despite all the outrageous displays, feels some allegiance to.

You could say he’s trapped between two worlds. He told TIME magazine that he’s trying to reach people who have felt like sinners and outsiders at church, specifically LGBT youth. At the same time, he’s also just posted a video on Twitter where he apologises for offending Christians in the past, specifically a TikTok video of him wolfing down communion wafers and wine. In that video he also explains his intentions were never to “mock” Christianity in the ‘J Christ’ video. You can view his explanation in full here (contains bad language).

The thing that stood out for me while watching the ‘J Christ’ video was the quote that appears as a backdrop during the dance routines: “Lord help me, for I am at war.” That quote sums up Lil Nas X’s career quite succinctly; it seems that even when a song of his has nothing in it that could be deemed offensive, it elicits some drama somehow. Take his best known song ‘Old Town Road’, the multi-million selling duet with Billy Ray Cyrus. That song ignited a debate about racism and gatekeepers in the music industry after the folks who compile America’s music charts decided it “wasn’t country enough” and pulled it from the Country charts.

I don’t think Lil Nas X is ‘Satanic’. However, I am uncomfortable with his stunts which have clearly antagonised so many Christians.

After spending time on Twitter in order to research how the Church has responded to him, I am deeply troubled by the behaviour of supposedly ‘sound’ Christians. The casual homophobia and occasional antisemitism I’ve witnessed from my Christian brothers and sisters bothers me. If your response to Lil Nas X is to label him the spawn of Satan, you’re probably not telling him anything he hasn’t heard a million times already as a young black church boy from the Deep South who happens to be gay. The most radical thing a Christian could do is give him a hug rather than expend more energy cursing him.