Twenty One Pilots – “Heathens”


Lyrics

All my friends are heathens, take it slow
Wait for them to ask you who you know
Please don’t make any sudden moves
You don’t know the half of the abuse
All my friends are heathens, take it slow
Wait for them to ask you who you know
Please don’t make any sudden moves
You don’t know the half of the abuse

Welcome to the room of people
Who have rooms of people that they loved one day
Docked away
Just because we check the guns at the door
Doesn’t mean our brains will change from hand grenades
You’re lovin’ on the psychopath sitting next to you
You’re lovin’ on the murderer sitting next to you
You’ll think, “How’d I get here, sitting next to you?”
But after all I’ve said, please don’t forget

All my friends are heathens, take it slow
Wait for them to ask you who you know
Please don’t make any sudden moves
You don’t know the half of the abuse

We don’t deal with outsiders very well
They say newcomers have a certain smell
Yeah, I have trust issues, not to mention
They say they can smell your intentions
You’re lovin’ on the freak show sitting next to you
You’ll have some weird people sitting next to you
You’ll think, “How’d I get here, sitting next to you?”
But after all I’ve said, please don’t forget
(Watch it, watch it)

All my friends are heathens, take it slow
Wait for them to ask you who you know
Please don’t make any sudden moves
You don’t know the half of the abuse

All my friends are heathens, take it slow
(Watch it)
Wait for them to ask you who you know
(Watch it)
All my friends are heathens, take it slow
(Watch it)
Wait for them to ask you who you know
(Watch it)

Why’d you come, you knew you should have stayed
(It’s blasphemy)
I tried to warn you just to stay away
And now they’re outside ready to bust
It looks like you might be one of us

Thoughts

When I first heard this song I immediately fell in love with it. In a way it reminded me a lot of my experiences over the last few years as my family and I moved all over the southeast of the United States. With each move I met a ton of new people from all walks of life. Some of them were Christians, but most weren’t and as I built relationships with them they would share their stories with me. Those stories were often filled with stories of hurt and mistrust because of harsh treatment at the hands of (I would assume) well-intentioned Christians, and it was only after months of steadily building relationships that we were close enough to speak into each other’s lives in a real way. So it was thinking of these experiences in light of the lyrics to this song that prompted me to share some thoughts about it.

“All my friends are heathens, take it slow
Wait for them to ask you who you know
Please don’t make any sudden moves
You don’t know the half of the abuse”

This was the part of the song that really stood out to me as wisdom. James 1:19 tells us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger” and continues in verse 26, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” So many of the stories of pain and anger directed at Christianity from non-Christians and apostate believers are the result of being rejected by people who came at them with judgement and condemnation instead of compassion and grace.

The truth is, often times, behind the vitriolic tweets and comments from people who seem to hate or distrust Christianity and the Bible are abusive experiences. These may not be physical or sexual abuses (though as we have seen in the past, that is a real possibility), but a lot of the abuse is spiritual and psychological.

“Just because we check the guns at the door
Doesn’t mean our brains will change from hand grenades”

This line made me think of the trap that we can often fall into as Christians living in an increasingly anti-Christian culture. Like anyone, it’s natural to feel defensive when it seems like people and culture are targeting you, your beliefs, and your ideas but as Christians it is our job to be patient and gracious in these situations. None of us are perfect and we have to contend with our flesh’s desire to respond in inappropriate ways to confrontation and criticism. However, even withholding a harsh word or physical response lacks gravitas when we allow hateful and wicked thoughts to persist in our minds. We need Jesus to renew our minds and transform our hearts.

“We don’t deal with outsiders very well
They say newcomers have a certain smell
Yeah, I have trust issues, not to mention
They say they can smell your intentions”

I think you can probably see where I’m going with this part. Have you ever been to a church that is weary of new visitors, especially ones with tattoos and/or piercings or who don’t dress the way everyone else deems appropriate? What about one that expects women and children to follow cultural standards and traditions that are not biblical? If not, that’s great! However I have been to several, and a lot of people have had the same experience; but that experience is not limited to going to a church.

From 2007-2009 I was a student at the University of South Florida in Tampa and several days a week, out in front of the Social Sciences building, we would be treated to a “preacher” and a number of his congregants. They would come with signs that read things like, “Turn or Burn” and “Gays and Muslims are Going to Hell”. Needless to say, these people caused quite a stir. The leaders of the group would take turns preaching through their megaphone about God’s wrath and judgement with a self-righteous arrogance that one could say rivaled satan himself. Being in the social science department I would often go out to listen in between classes and try to engage with the students who were upset by the message.

Likewise in 2015 I remember driving into downtown Asheville, in the Mountains of North Carolina, and seeing dozens of conservative church-goers in a park downtown where the pagans (yes, literal pagans) would hang out, get high, and have their drum circles. It would have been great to see these older believers reaching out to the younger generation of non-believers to build relationships and try to facilitate some level of understanding between the two groups (and to be fair many other church groups around the community did just that), however this group was picketing and protesting. Much like the situation in Tampa, people were angry and rejected the message of the gospel because of inept/irresponsible messengers. That night at work my friends, both very much non-believers, brought it up and told me that it was a regular occurrence. Yet in the midst of the anger, God provided the opportunity for me to answer their questions honestly because of the trust and relationship we had. They still disagreed with my beliefs but they were tolerant of them because they knew my heart behind it, and because we had a solid relationship.

I write all of this because I know that my Christian brothers and sisters have good hearts and strive to love and serve God, however I cannot deny the fact that the stereotype of mean-spirited Christians exists for a reason. As believers we are supposed to live like Jesus who was not sent into the world to condemn it, but to save it through Him (John 3:17). Lord, help each of us to strive to fulfill that purpose and to show Jesus to the world around us.

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