Montero Hill, known by his rap name Lil Nas X, won two Grammy Awards in 2020 for his immensely popular song “Old Town Road.” It went viral with the help of TikTok and Lil Nas’ expert navigation of internet culture and Twitter memes.
Lil Nas X has since been lauded by the culture as breaking into the hip hop and country music scene as a Black queer man. Time named him one of the top 25 most influential people on the internet in 2019.
On March 26, 2021, Lil Nas X exploded into popular view again with a controversial music video for his song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and an accompanying line of “Satanic Shoes.” I’ve not linked to the music video because, in addition to containing satanic imagery, it portrays graphic sexual acts celebrating his queerness.
At the time of writing, the video had amassed more than one hundred million views, and that number is sure to keep rising.
666 Satanic sneakers
As for the sneakers, he partnered with Brooklyn art collective “MSCHF” to create 666 customized Nike Air Max 97s. They purportedly contain a drop of human blood, given by some of the employees at MSCHF. They were priced at $1,018, a reference to Luke 10:18. They sold out in under a minute.
Nike sued MSCHF, claiming that the “unauthorized ‘Satan Shoes’ are likely to cause confusion and dilution and create an erroneous association between MSCHF’s products and Nike.” Nike’s refusal to endorse the shoes shows that the culture may not be fully ready to accept such blatant satanic themes.
Nike has since settled the lawsuit, and MSCHF said they would refund any shoes purchased and returned to them. However, the shoe sales may not have mattered to them. The shoe release was meant to artistically comment on the “perniciousness of intolerance,” not to make money.
Lil Nas X is a massive cultural influencer and became an influential voice for the LGBTQ community after coming out as gay two years ago. He wrote on Twitter: “I spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the [stuff] y’all preached would happen to me because i was gay. so i hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves.”
The plight of the alienated
In light of this controversy, we could rightly point to issues regarding the theology of hell, what the Bible says about Satan, or that the Bible condemns sexual immorality. And these are important topics. Given that the Christian community often justifiably brings these issues up in response to controversies like this one, and often with unjustified vitriol, perhaps a more pressing topic relates to the power of Jesus’ blood.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time the church has burdened someone so that their sexual attractions made them feel angry, ashamed, and ostracized.
Gregory Coles writes about his experiences coming out as a gay (attracted to the same sex) Christian who has been called to singleness, believing that homosexual acts and gay marriage are against God’s plan. With vulnerability, he relates his struggle as a child and teen through his adult years. He pours out feelings of self-loathing and the strenuous plight of desperately trying to “be straight.”
He writes about his conversation with a Christian woman who didn’t know he was gay and who denounced the “gay agenda” with revulsion and disgust. The only message some LGBTQ people might hear from Christians like this was their revulsion to them. He writes, “When she talked about Christ, I pictured a man too busy turning over tables to stoop and befriend the marginalized.”
It is natural to feel repulsed by blatant sin and the dark worldliness in Lil Nas X’s music video, words, and actions. It is easy to pin all of that on him. In fact, he gladly pins those things on himself.
God will judge his sin. But God will also judge heterosexual sins. He will judge complacency. He will judge malice. He will judge pride. God holds all sin to account.
So how can anyone have hope?
The writer of Hebrews says that God will bring to account all sins at judgment day, but those who eagerly await Jesus will receive salvation (Hebrews 9:27–28). Why?
The notion of Jesus’ “cleansing blood” is significant because he really suffered a tortuous, bloody death on our behalf. The author of Hebrews writes that Christ “offered himself without blemish to God, [purifying] our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. . . . Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:14, 22).
Jesus’ blood reminds us that God’s grace is immensely costly, not something to take advantage of, but something to bring us to full repentance. We should not, as Bonhoeffer says in The Cost of Discipleship, take it as “cheap grace.”
That being said, this gift of grace and forgiveness extends to everyone who accepts it.
Loving the lost
This blood Jesus shed demonstrates his love for us. Because Jesus loved us first and gave himself for us, we can love the lost, and we can love even our enemies (Ephesians 2:4–5). “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Instead of shaming Lil Nas X, practice loving the man Montero Hill. He is a broken human who bears God’s image. He is an amiable, sharp-witted, savvy person with an eccentric sense of style. He’s a man who struggles with shame and self-loathing. He is self-admittedly addicted to his phone (Who isn’t?). His parents divorced when he was six years old. He lived in relative poverty for most of his life. And he is perhaps a man who struggled to be open about his feelings and attractions because he thought they would send him to hell.
It’s clear that Lil Nas X does not claim to follow Jesus, which means that the world has him in its grip and he is lost in darkness (Ephesians 4:18–19). Jesus demonstrated immense love and kindness to those who were rejected and marginalized in his time, including a prostitute, the sick and lame, the poor, Jewish zealots, and others. He loved the lost.
Perhaps Lil Nas X felt accepted after telling the world he was gay and continued to stay in darkness as a result. Even as he acts as a broken human being, influencing the culture in ways that make sex cheap, I encourage you to pray for him. I prayed for him in the midst of writing this article, and the Lord provided a deep sense of compassion and love for him.
Gregory Cole relates the numerous stories of loving Christians in his life who supported him and continue to fellowship with him. His pastor had a strong friendship with him and loved him well, and continued to do so when Coles admitted to being gay.
Jackie Hill Perry relates her story and wrestling with homosexuality in Gay Girl, Good God. She describes the kind of love that her cousin showed her when she was lost as a “holistic” love, that saw her as the image bearer “Jackie Hill Perry” and not the “gay girl.” The Lord called her to “holistic” repentance, and, as a result, her story reflects the transforming love of Christ.
Time will tell if Lil Nas X is changed by Christ’s love as well. But if he is, it will likely be because he encountered people like Greg’s pastor and Jackie’s cousin who helped him experience the power of Jesus’ blood and understand the offer of grace and compassion it represents.
I pray that I can be that kind of friend to the lost.
And I pray that you can be too.
Mark Legg is a freelance writer and content intern at Denison Forum. He graduated from Dallas Baptist University with a degree in philosophy and biblical studies. He eventually wants to pursue his PhD and become a professor in philosophy.