Lil Nas X has perfected the art of trolling Christians to market his music
He's Jesus. He's attending Liberty. He's chugging communion wine. And his new single is out tomorrow.
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At midnight tonight, Rapper Lil Nas X will release his first new single since 2022. It’s called “J CHRIST,” and he said earlier in the week that it was dedicated to “THE MAN WHO HAD THE GREATEST COMEBACK OF ALL TIME!”
The image accompanying that caption wasn’t subtle at all:
A subsequent post show Nas as an angel… with two machine guns. (Which, let’s admit, resembles modern-day evangelicals far more than Jesus ever could.)
But all of that paled in comparison to the announcement that the rapper, whose real name is Montero Hill, had been accepted to Liberty University, where he would get a degree in “Christian Leadership and Biblical Studies.”
It’s clearly a joke. Jerry Falwell isn’t the president of Liberty; he died in 2007. His scandal-prone and lawsuit-happy son is no longer president either; he resigned in 2020, I assume, to spend more time watching pool boys. The current president is Dondi Costin, whose name you don’t know because no one outside of Liberty University needs to know the president of Liberty University.
He didn’t limit himself to images, either. On TikTok, he posted a video of himself downing a whole plate of communion wine and wafers.
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All of this is trolling as its finest, and Lil Nas X has made a habit of riding Christian outrage to the top of the charts.
In 2021, to promote his self-titled album Montero, he partnered with the Brooklyn-based design company MSCHF to release “Satan Shoes,” a limited run of 666 modified pairs of Nikes featuring a “drop of human blood,” pentagrams, and a reference to a Bible verse (Luke 10:18) that says “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
It predictably riled up conservative Christians… and Lil Nas X was ready with a response every time.
The video for the single he was promoting, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” involved him sliding down a stripper pole to Hell before giving Satan a lap dance.
Just more fuel for the faith-based fire.
It worked, though. The song debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 while the full album peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200.
Getting Christians outraged over nothing, it turned out, was good for business.
They are a natural “enemy” for an openly queer artist who defies convention. The fact that he makes catchy music means their outrage never reaches beyond their evangelical bubbles. They just get madder and madder while he pokes them harder and harder.
As one X/Twitter user joked at the time, “Love seeing Christians be like ‘I can’t believe LGBTQ teens are worshipping Satan instead of our nice god who hates them.’”
Not only did Lil Nas X get a whole lot of free publicity back then, he got to use his platform to go after one of the most pernicious forces in our society: conservative Christians who are primarily motivated by how much harm they can inflict upon marginalized communities.
Now that he’s promoting a new album, why not take the same approach?
After all, unlike Taylor Swift, he’s not interested in a universal message. He’s playing to his audience, and that audience knows the difference between spirited mockery and inherent cruelty when they see it. (The side claiming to worship Jesus isn’t the good one in this battle.) Even the website promoting the single takes a jab at apocalyptic thinking: BeginningIsNear.com.
For what it’s worth, Lil Nas X doesn’t see any of this as trolling (even though he’s very clearly trolling). He sees this as art, using iconography that most people recognize, then reinterpreting it with his own vision. It’s the same reason all those paintings of Jesus make him look like a white guy when he obviously wasn’t.
Regarding the image of him on a crucifix, Nas claimed that was a sincere homage, not some anti-Christian taunt:
It’s not like he’s the first or only musician to do any of this. Madonna famously did it. Ye (formerly Kanye West) literally wore a crown of thorns on a Rolling Stone cover and there’s no doubt about his religious label these days—hell, he even shares the conspiratorial beliefs of many conservative Christian voters.
Ultimately, no one is hurting the Christian faith more than the bigots who use Jesus as an excuse to hate others and suppress their rights. That fact that some Christians—presumably a lot of the same people who got upset over Sabrina Carpenter’s harmless video—are getting more worked up over these Lil Nas X posts than they ever would over pastors who routinely use faith as a weapon tells you just how misplaced their priorities are.