Music is a strong tradition in the Christian church, and you don’t have to be a devout Christian to enjoy music inspired by Jesus. Many of music’s greatest minds and voices got their start in a church choir, and many of hip-hop and rock’s greatest acts have found inspiration in religious verse. Electronic dance music has also made space on the dance floor for holy themes. Here are 10 contemporary, cross-genre songs about Jesus Christ himself.
Kanye West – “Jesus Walks”
You can’t talk about contemporary hip-hop without talking about Kanye West, and you can’t talk about Kanye West without eventually talking about Jesus. West has laid bear his heartfelt belief in Christ time and time again, song after song, even as he struggles with his sins and temptations. “Jesus Walks” was the first time Mr. West openly admitted his religiosity, and it was also a big hit.
Black Sabbath – “After Forever”
You may think Black Sabbath is all about demons and witches, but Ozzy Osbourne and his band of heavy metal beaters have always been kind of religious at heart. This song was recorded as a response to conservative listeners who branded Black Sabbath a satanic act. “Could it be you’re afraid of what your friends might say / If they knew you believe in God above? / They should realize before they criticize / That God is the only way to love.”
Depeche Mode – “Personal Jesus”
Much like Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks, Depeche Mode‘s “Personal Jesus” immediately springs to mind for a list like this. Sure, it’s not exactly about the Jesus of the Bible. It’s more about being that friend or loved one who is always there for someone when they need a friend most, but that kind of selflessness and friendship is exactly what Jesus preached about. We could all be a little more like someone’s “Personal Jesus.”
George Harrison – “My Sweet Lord”
The Beatles were never ones to shy away from controversial topics, from psychedelic drugs to religions of all nations. George Harrison was an especially-devout member of the Fab Four, and he continued that stream of consciousness in his solo work as well. This song, recently made popular again by the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 soundtrack, explores Jesus and God through the eyes of even a few beliefs.
Carrie Underwood – “Jesus Take The Wheel”
It’s no great shock for a country singer to sing about their faith. Carrie Underwood tells a hard story about prayer when we need it most. Whether you’re in the throes of danger or find yourself hard on your luck, Underwood’s Jesus is the man every Christian wants to see in their corner. Just try not to make it the only time you pray, if prayer is for you.
Norman Greenbaum – “Spirit in the Sky”
Norman Greenbaum is a surprising edition to this list. Not because his song isn’t iconic, but because Greenbaum is very Jewish. Of course, so was Jesus, so maybe it’s not that wild of a stretch. It all goes to show that it’s true what we said before; you don’t have to be a devout Christian to enjoy Christian-themed music – or even make it.
Donna Summers – “I Believe In Jesus”
The dance floor of Studio 54 may have been a den of deviousness and debauchery, but that doesn’t mean Donna Summer hasn’t saved some souls. Here, she shows us the power of gospel and that forgiveness is for everyone who believes. Just try not to get goosebumps as she belts this one, and yes, it’s also fun to dance to.
Portugal. The Man – “Modern Jesus”
Speaking of funky tunes, here’s another song about Jesus from Portugal. The Man. The modern world can be hard and cold, and many of today’s youth have turned to their own power for salvation. This is a song for those who aren’t sure what to believe in anymore.
Matthew Parker – “Bigger Picture” (Just a Gent Remix)
This thoughtful reinterpretation of Matthew Parker‘s “Bigger Picture” is almost a response to “Modern Jesus.” Just A Gent takes this faithful song and beefs it up with some future electronic elements that can get anyone grooving, believer or non.
Avicii – “Sunset Jesus”
Finally, we end with Avicii‘s hopeful anthem “Sunset Jesus,” a song that reminds us to pick ourselves up when we’re feeling down. This song encourages listeners to look out for Jesus’ spirit in the eyes of strangers and, of course, in the beauty of the world around us.