"Could it be you're afraid of what your friends might say, if they knew you believe in God above? They should realise before they criticise, that God is the only way to love."
No, these aren't the poetic words of some sort of youth sermon. They're lyrics from a Black Sabbath song called 'After Forever', penned – somewhat surprisingly – by legendary hell-raiser Ozzy Osbourne. They're just one example of the kinds of faith-affirming words which proliferate modern music; it's just another case of a famous musician who has found themselves on a Christian spiritual journey.
From Little Richard to Bob Dylan, Bob Marley to Ringo Starr, so many mainstream music stars have historically embraced the Christian faith. When they do, their public admission (or sometimes one made through their lyrics) is a source of great encouragement to other believers, who see them as a champion of their faith in the midst of popular culture. Today, that trend is still going strong – arguably a disproportionate number of mainstream artists have a personal faith in Jesus. Here are just a few of the many examples:
Bono (and friends)
It's an obvious place to start, but the U2 frontman – like band-mates The Edge and Larry Mullen Jnr – has long professed a Christian faith in public. U2 have never sold themselves as a Christian band, but their lyrics have been exploring those themes from the start; the song '40' on early album War included lyrics directly lifted from Psalm 40, and more recent albums have each included several songs which leave no doubt about lyricist Bono's affiliation. His new role, as a self-appointed peace and justice campaigner, is driven by his faith in Christ.
(Read just some of the amazing things Bono has said about Jesus here).
The OneRepublic frontman was raised in a pentecostal Christian home, and was even offered a Christian recording contract early in his career. However, thanks to negative experiences of the Christian music industry, he decided to go mainstream; he told the Houston Chronicle in 2008 "I saw some stuff in Nashville that turned my stomach. Some of the most pretentious, insecure people I ever met were Christian recording artists." Tedder remains a professing Christian however, and has enjoyed a string of successes with one of the world's biggest pop/rock bands.
As one half of country-folk duo The Civil Wars, Williams has achieved mainstream acclaim, most notably with the album Barton Hollow. However, as a Christian solo artist, she recorded several gospel albums, and was nominated for 11 Dove Awards between 2001 and 2005. She is very open about her faith, and happily quotes from scripture in interviews. She told an interviewer in 2009: "I don't find identity in what I do. I find my identity in who I am in Christ."
The son of noted church leaders John and Ele Mumford, Marcus and his band Mumford and Sons have worked hard to shrug off suspicions they might be a covert 'Christian band', deploying the occasional swear word in their lyrics as if to prove the point. Don't be fooled however, Mumford Jr is still on a Christian journey, as evidenced by many of the lyrics in his Grammy-award-winning songs. Marcus he says he drew inspiration from his father's sermons, although he's not afraid to explore challenging questions of suffering and doubt through them.
A figure of fun to some, still an idol to many, child-star-turned-troubled-teen Bieber is still very much rooted in his oft-expressed Christian faith. He has been pastored and mentored by noted megachurch minister Judah Smith, and more recently by HIllsong's Carl Lentz, with whom he famously embarked on a Christian 'retreat'.
Like on-off boyfriend Justin Bieber, Disney-branded pop-star Selena is also a Christian who has affiliated herself with the Hillsong church movement. After a 2014 performance at the American Music Awards, Gomez was seen to mouth 'thank you Jesus' before walking off stage. Shortly afterwards, she posted the same words on social networking site Instagram alongside a photo from the event. Another photo, shared after a service at her church with the words 'Last min hang out with my Hillsong fam' gathered half a million 'likes' on the same platform.
Indie Folk star Stevens has been recording songs which express and explore his Christian faith for years; his album Seven Swans has even been labelled a straight worship album. His critically-acclaimed new album Carrie & Lowell does the same, but delves into some of the tough questions of faith prompted by his own grief. A regular attender at his church in Brooklyn, Stevens insists 'there's no such thing as Christian music', and believes the mainstream is the natural place for him to express himself musically.
The enduring rock star and recent Hunger Games actor has long been public about his Christian beliefs, despite an approach to sex and relationships which has fluctuated between celibacy and promiscuity. He has a large cross tattooed across his shoulders, and frequently refers to God in his lyrics. The words to his biggest hit, 'Are you gonna go my way', are allegedly written from the perspective of Jesus himself. "I was born, long ago, I am the chosen, I'm the one... I have come to save the day, and I won't stop until I'm done..."
The Belle & Sebastian frontman suffers from chronic fatigue and rarely gives interviews, but this year he confirmed to The Independent that he has been a practising Christian since he discovered music. He says music is a "beautiful way" to share his faith... "a way for me to really get it out there, without getting into a pulpit. Which I would quite happily do! But I feel you need more energy to get into a pulpit than I have." His lyrics also demonstrate his beliefs, the song 'If you find yourself caught in love' contains one of the most explicit altar calls in modern music.'