“Don’t cry, he is coming, don’t die without knowing the cross”
Is that a quote from a Christian rock song? Nope, it’s a line in the song “The Cross” from Prince’s multi-platinum album Sign o’ the Times. Then there’s this line from “If I Was Your Girlfriend”: “Would you let me kiss you there/ You know, down there, where it counts?/ I’ll do it so good/ I swear I’ll drink every ounce.”
American Christians often seem very uncomfortable about sex, in many cases to the point of holding repressive ideas and supporting legal discrimination against sexual minorities. For his part, Prince wrote some of the most openly sexual hit songs in the history of pop music. As in the case of Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes, many fans have assumed that Prince was using this imagery in a “transgressive” or ironic way, not actually espousing Christian belief. But in both cases, the clear public statements of the writers belies this — Prince definitely considered himself a believer. He is quoted by V Magazine as saying, “We are sensual beings, the way God created us.”
I’d like to suggest that neither secular fans nor the church can truly claim Prince as a kindred spirit unless there is a place for open and assertive sexuality and the belief in a higher power in their worldview (to be clear, I am promoting neither here, simply observing what I see in Prince’s work and public life). I think something much more powerful is going on here than “transgression” or some form of manipulation of religious imagery. I believe Prince was not only one of the greatest composers of all time, whose prolific output will be under the musicological microscope in centuries to come (his output was so large that it will take many decades to truly understand it). Prince was also something sorely lacking in our culture, something that could transform everything if more were like him. Prince was a sex-positive Christian.
I’m very curious what others think about this. As someone who has lived inside and outside the church, I have found that sex is a key line of division. Our culture and civil society suffer, and the church remains mired in the past, because of the notion that religion and sex are antithetical. Maybe Prince was a harbinger of things to come in this regard. Ahead of the pack in his musical output, certainly, and maybe also ahead of the rest of us in his vision of a pluralistic, open, and openly sexual society.
Photo Credit: Singer Prince performs live in concert. (Photo by Lionel Flusin/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)