On Thursday, music legend Prince Rogers Nelson was found dead at his Paisley Park compound in Minnesota. Nevertheless, by all accounts, he was a man of faith. Christians would debate whether or not he is in heaven, however, considering Prince belonged to an obscure sect that denies the Jesus of the Bible.
Christians believe that all men and women have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It doesn’t matter if you’re a “good person,” we’re all condemned for our actions in the sight of a perfect God. But there is a way we can be cleansed, forgiven, and even granted everlasting glory with the Creator of the universe, and that is through trusting in His Son. Though Prince did not believe Jesus was God, it is arguable he may have trusted in the savior nonetheless. Of course, if the Jesus in whom Prince trusted was not the real Jesus, his faith was meaningless: hence the conundrum.
Nelson’s faith emerges throughout a large amount of his work, including many of his lyrics. The Washington Post presented three:
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called Life,” he intoned, pastor-like, in “Let’s Go Crazy.”
“If God one day struck me blind, your beauty I’ll still see” – “Adore”
“We all have our problems, some are big, some are small. Soon all of our problems, y’all, will be taken by the cross.” – “The Cross”
Prince even appeared on many playlists created for U.S. visits by Pope Benedict in 2008 and Pope Francis last year. The artist even wrote a song about the pontificate: “The Pope.” Amidst some very raunchy lyrics, it declares, “You can be the president, I’d rather be the pope. You can be the side effect, I’d rather be the dope.”
But Prince wasn’t a Roman Catholic — he was a bit more interesting than that. Raised a Seventh Day Adventist, Nelson later became a Jehovah’s Witness. As The Guardian reported in 2004, “A newspaper in his hometown reported how a married couple had answered their door to find Prince proffering a copy of the Watchtower. Though they were orthodox Jews, and it was Yom Kippur, they were also Prince fans. They welcomed him into the house.”
The Washington Post and Independent Journal Review reported that Prince was a Christian. That is a very debatable position — in fact it’s almost entirely false. Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the Jesus of the Bible, and thus can be considered different than orthodox Christians.
Next Page: Prince opposed gay marriage, but did he believe in Jesus?
Rogers Nelson reportedly turned to Jesus in 2001. “I don’t see it really as a conversion,” he told Travis Smiley in 2009. “More, you know, it’s a realization. It’s like Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix.” In that same interview, he explained why he didn’t vote for Obama in 2008. He did that for religious reasons, albeit rather quirky ones (Jehovah’s Witnesses prioritize prophecy over politics).
In a 2008 New Yorker profile, Prince came out against same-sex marriage. He attacked both Republicans and Democrats, saying “neither of them is getting it right.” Why were Democrats so wrong? They followed the notion that “you can do whatever you want.” Prince paraphrased the destruction of mankind in Noah’s flood: “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was like, ‘Enough.'”
Prince’s raunchy lyrics may make him seem like the opposite of a “Jesus Freak,” and Jehovah’s Witnesses have a very odd take on Christianity, but if he did end up placing his faith in Jesus Christ, his chances are rather good. Even if Jehovah’s Witnesses deny that Jesus Christ is God, it is possible Prince put his faith in Jesus’ saving grace. Then again, if it wasn’t the real Jesus he trusted, does that mean he’s still condemned in his sins?
“Soon all of our problems, y’all, will be taken by the cross” sounds rather orthodox to me, although it is rather vague. If Rogers Nelson trusted in the saving death and resurrection of the real Jesus, his sins are forgiven him. Would that other musicians do likewise.
Note: This article has been updated from its original version. It stated that Prince was a Christian — a highly debatable position. Even that version noted him as a Jehovah’s Witness and stated that members of that faith are debatably not Christian.