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Heathens
A Quick Music Discussion Guide for Parents
11/17/2016

Dynamic ImageMain Point of Discussion:
Jesus wants us to be wise in how we tell others about Him.

Vital Info Before You Get Started:
The following info should help you contextualize this very popular song so you can have a great discussion about it with your kids.

Twenty One Pilots just made another headline this week as their third song this year rose to number one on the Billboard hot rock songs chart. Most of the buzz around this achievement comes from the fact that they replaced themselves on the chart and pushed their song "Ride" into second place. If you include their other number one song this year, "Stressed Out," they have occupied spot one (as of this week) for 33 weeks this year marking a new record in the category. They are clearly one of the most popular rock acts in the US right now.

"Heathens," their latest hit comes from the soundtrack to the movie Suicide Squad and marks the first time that Twenty One Pilots has been hired to write a song for someone else. Lead singer Tyler Joseph makes the quick disclaimer that, "even though the themes in the movie inspired the beginning of it, as the lyrics came together, and as the song came together, I realized, like, this was our song."

While the song has numerous references to themes in the film, it also can be interpreted on several different levels. Like many other Twenty One Pilots songs, the internet has been abuzz with theories as to the multiple meanings of the song. The lyrics have obvious spiritual implications and Tyler has stated in many interviews that he is in fact a Christian. But in typical fashion, the band remains very cryptic about the meaning of their lyrics, allowing their fans to do their own interpretive work.

IMPORTANT NOTE TO PARENTS: We at The Source for Parents believe that certain elements in our youth culture can serve as good discussion jump starters with students. At the same time, we would never hope to introduce students to a negative influence that they haven’t already encountered. This balance is a delicate one. In our experience most students, churched and unchurched, keep pretty current with music and music videos. Thanks to YouTube, MTV.com, and iTunes, the most popular music videos and songs are free to access only a click away.

Since this song is so popular, your kids have heard it. When you sit down to discuss this song, make sure to have a copy of the lyrics available (below) and access to the music video (which we provided in the link below, as well).

Above all, don’t appear as if you have a “canned” discussion in your head and rattle off questions like a teacher giving a pop quiz—your kids get enough of that in school. This is a guide, primarily—not a verbatim script. Just familiarize yourself with the content here and start a conversation in the most natural, unforced way you know how.

The Music Video:
The video can be found for free at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UprcpdwuwCg



Introducing the Music Video:
This is one of the more popular songs/videos out right now, and it brings up several critical important themes that are worth discussing.

Song Lyrics:

"Heathens"

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'll never know the psychopath sitting next to you
You'll never know 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
You have trust issues, not to mention
They say they can smell your intentions

You'll never know the freakshow sitting next to you
You'll have some weird people sitting next to you
You'll think, "How did 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)
Please, all my friends are heathens. Take it slow
(watch it)
Wait for them to ask you who you know

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

Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):
    Q: When it comes to this song, what’s “Heathens” about?
    A: Heathens has numerous references to themes in the film, Suicide Squad, but it also can be interpreted in multiple different ways. Like many other Twenty One Pilots songs, the Internet has been abuzz with theories as to the multiple meanings of the song. The lyrics have obvious spiritual implications and Tyler, the lead singer, has stated in many interviews that he is in fact a Christian. But in typical fashion, the band remains very cryptic about the meaning of their lyrics, allowing their fans to do their own interpretive work. Some probable interpretations may be that of a Christian’s worldview vs. a non-believer’s; evangelism and how Christians should relate to people who don’t have their same faith; or hurt and abuse.

    Q: Do you hear any advice given in the song about how a Christian should relate to people who don’t share their same beliefs?
    A: Some possible answers: “Wait for them to ask you who you know” meaning let your life first show the faith and hope you have in Christ more than your words. “Take is slow” meaning don’t be pushy and have that as your first agenda before getting to know someone or being sensitive to listen to them. Also, “you don’t know the half of the abuse” could be an indication that we should be compassionate to the pain others feel or could also mean that other Christians have been pushy or insensitive in past relationships.

    Q: Why is the video/song so popular?
    A: The movie, this song was written as the theme song for, is very popular and the sound/rhythm of this song is unique and catchy.

Where to Take It from Here:
Wherever it feels natural. If these questions lead to a longer discussion on the topic, wonderful! (There’s a guide just after this paragraph that helps you do just that.) If your kids are barely uttering grunts, don’t get discouraged—the next time it feels right, try out another song. Keep engaging them.

For Deeper Discussion:
If your kids seem into diving in deeper, the following discussion guide can help take you there.

Want help getting your teenager engaged in conversation? CLICK HERE for a helpful article from our "Parenting Help" page providing you with 3 Essentials to Talking with Today's Teens.

Transitional Statement:
(Say something like this…) According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word "heathen" means "a person who does not belong to a widely held religion (especially one who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim) as regarded by those who do." It is generally a derogatory term that can also mean unenlightened, or someone who lacks culture or moral principles. So when the chorus begins with "all my friends are heathens," they are clearly talking about how outsiders are often perceived or treated poorly. But when the words come from someone who claims to be a Christian, it is hard not to see the spiritual implications. Consequently, one pretty obvious interpretation of the song is about how Christians should relate to those who don't know Jesus.

More Discussion Questions:
  1. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: Have you ever had to spend a significant amount of time with someone who sees the world very differently than you do? How do you talk to them? Do you avoid talking about your religious beliefs, or do you jump right in?

  2. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Have you (or someone you know) ever scared your friends with over-aggressive evangelism? What do you think that the song means by "take it slow"?

  3. ASK SOMEONE: What do you think the song means by "Wait for them to ask you who you know"? Could they be referring to Jesus?

  4. ASK SOMEONE: When he says " Please don't make any sudden moves, you don't know the half of the abuse" who do you think is abused? Who do you think might have caused the abuse? Could he be implying that some Christians might be to blame? Would you treat someone differently if you knew that they were abused?

  5. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: In your experience, does the pain and abuse that people experience in the world affect whether they believe in God? How?

  6. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: While the line about never knowing the "psychopath" or "murderer" sitting next to you may be about the movie, could it be also true to a certain degree in your life? Could there be people around you who have done terrible things? How do you treat them?

  7. ASK SOMEONE: When the song says "they can smell your intentions" what do you think he means? How do your friends react to people who have an agenda or ulterior motives in a relationship? Can confrontational evangelism be an ulterior motive that gets in the way of building sincere relationships?

  8. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Have you ever seen a church or a youth group that doesn't treat outsiders very well? Why do you think that is? How did Jesus treat outsiders? (See John 4:1-26)

  9. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: The last line in the song is "it looks like you might be one of us." What does that mean? Is it possible that you may be as broken as many of those around you?

  10. Read the following passage in the Bible:

      Matthew 5:16 (NIV)
      14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

  11. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Jesus is using the analogy of light to emphasize our role in shining for Him so others can see what a relationship with God looks like. When He says "let your light shine before others," what is he talking about? How can we let our light shine in the world?

  12. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: How do people put their light under a bowl? What do you think Jesus thinks about isolating ourselves from people who don't believe in Him?

  13. ASK SOMEONE: Is letting people "see your good deeds" a form of evangelism? Does evangelism always involve talking?

  14. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What do you think Jesus means by good deeds? (See Matthew 22:36-40)

  15. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: Do you think loving your neighbor is a way that we glorify God and shine a light to the world? Why?

Wrap Up:
It is very common for communities to grow around people with similar beliefs and values. Let's face it - it's way more comfortable than hanging out with people who see life from a different view. As Christians, even we often find it easier to surround ourselves with people who see the world in the same way we do. Many times that means that we never have relationships with people who aren't Christians. And then, when we do talk to them, we just preach at them instead of actually loving them and spending time getting to know them and building a real friendship. But in reality, Christians are called to something much more difficult and rewarding. When Jesus came into the world, He changed things up. He asked us to be lights shining for Him.

To many people outside of the Christian faith, we are seen as people who always have an agenda. They are very aware that we will only treat them better when they start to think the way that we do.

Jesus didn't do things that way. He loved all sorts of broken people and was constantly criticized by the religious snobs of the day for hanging out with them. But Jesus would usually turn the criticism around on the religious people and point out that they were often even worse than the ones that they despised so much (because they should have known better).

When we isolate ourselves from people who don't know Jesus, we are in turn, hiding our light under a basket. Jesus wants us to shine our light as if we are a city on a hill. This means that we actually need to connect with our neighbors, even if they may view the world much differently than we do.

Evangelism is about relationships. As people see us living out lives of hope, love and honesty, they may desire to be in relationship with Jesus because of our example (and our words). We should aspire to shine as brightly as we can by deepening our own relationships with Jesus. Perhaps Twenty One Pilots are on to something wise with their advice to "take it slow" and "wait for them to ask you who you know."

Close in Prayer

Written by Thom McKee

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