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Raunchy Prince was actually a conservative Christian who reportedly opposed gay marriage

Remembering Prince, a life in pictures

FILE - 21 APRIL 2016: Musician Prince has reportedly Died at 57 on April 21, 2016. LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 28: ***EXCLUSIVE*** Musician Prince performs his first of three shows onstage during "One Night... Three Venues" hosted by Prince and held at NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE on March 28, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Kristian Dowling/Getty Images for

With the death Thursday of Prince Rogers Nelson, you may see a strange mix on your Facebook feed of sex and religion.

That’s because perhaps one of the raunchiest, steamiest pop culture figures in the past quarter-century was a conservative Christian. Religious and spiritual themes ran through a huge amount of his work, including this tiny sampling of lyrics:

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called Life,” he intoned, pastor-like, in “Let’s Go Crazy.”

“If God one day struck me blind, your beauty I’ll still see” – “Adore”

“We all have our problems, some are big, some are small. Soon all of our problems, y’all, will be taken by the cross.” – “The Cross”

Prince helped me overcome a religious upbringing that shunned secular music

Prince even appeared on a lot of playlists created for the U.S. visits of Pope Benedict (2008) and Pope Francis (2015) — yes, playlists for pope trips exist! That’s because of his classic “The Pope,” which included this line: “You can be the president, I’d rather be the pope. You can be the side effect, I’d rather be the dope.” (Then a few unpublishable words.)

Yet his faith was complex. Prince was raised a Seventh-day Adventist and later became a Jehovah’s Witness — two faith communities who have in different ways been rejected at times as Christian and seen by mainstream Protestantism as cults. However his beliefs and spirituality were his own, rooted in what his biographer Toure called “my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ” as well as a deep fascination with the afterlife and Judeo-Christian scripture, which he was constantly quoting.

The day I hung out at Prince’s house

Prince, the legendary artist, died at his suburban Minneapolis home at age 57. (Video: McKenna Ewen/The Washington Post)

The story of his conversion to Jehovah’s Witness became public in a rather remarkable way. The Guardian wrote in 2004: “A newspaper in his hometown reported how a married couple had answered their door to find Prince proffering a copy of the Watchtower. Though they were orthodox Jews, and it was Yom Kippur, they were also Prince fans. They welcomed him into the house.”

My colleague Justin Moyer wrote about Prince last year, when His Purpleness announced he’d play in Baltimore, to honor Freddie Gray.

Here’s Moyer on Prince’s faith and how the singer apparently intended his intense, bawdy expressions of sexuality to be linked to the worship of God. This excerpt begins with Prince talking in 2009 with Tavis Smiley, and explaining why he — Prince — didn’t vote for Obama, the first black president:

“The reason why is that I’m one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Prince said. “And we’ve never voted. That’s not to say I don’t think … President Obama is a very smart individual and he seems like he means well. Prophecy is what we all have to go by now.”
Indeed, though Prince is famous for writhing around naked in purple bathrooms and writing songs with titles like “Sexy M.F.,” religion — okay, “prophecy” — has guided much of his music. For every filthy song like “Darling Nikki,” it seems, there is a track like “The Cross.” The Purple One’s religiosity became even more apparent after he turned to Jesus in 2001.
“I don’t see it really as a conversion,” he said. “More, you know, it’s a realization. It’s like Morpheus and Neo in ‘The Matrix’.”
Then there was the time Prince came out against gay marriage. In a New Yorker profile in 2008, he slighted Republicans and Democrats — “neither of them is getting it right,” he said — but singled out same-sex marriage as part of the Democrats’ notion that “‘You can do whatever you want.”
“God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out,” he told the magazine. “He was, like, ‘Enough’.”

Perez Hilton later quoted “a Prince source” as denying the New Yorker depiction of the interview.

If the idea seems bonkers that the man who shrieked with unbridled sexual energy in the intro of “When Doves Cry” is actually a prude, well, maybe it’s not.
“Prince intended sexuality to be linked to the worship of God, and he filled his music with classic Christian messages,” the author Touré wrote in 2013 in “I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon,” “meaning Prince was sexual but, ultimately, very conservative.”

The story behind why Prince changed his name to a symbol

I asked readers Thursday to send their favorite religious Prince lyrics, and here are some of the many. I’ll keep updating this post with more if you email me. Here goes:

From “God”

“In the beginning, there was God
He made the earth and the heavens
He gave us light 2 rule the day
And another light 2 rule the night
The Lord, thy God
He made, He made the seas
He made the fruit upon the tree

When He saw
When He saw that it was good
He made a man
He made a man
Only He could, only He could

God made U
God made me 2
He made us all
He made us all equally.

From “Controversy”:

“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever
Love him, love him baby

From “The Holy River”:

“Let’s go down to the holy river
If we drown then we’ll be delivered
You can still see the picture upon the wall
One eye staring at nothing at all

…Every breath you take will make you stronger
Keepin’ you happy

And proud to call His name
(Go’n’ and say it)

From “Thunder”:

“Like rain falling on a window pane

Tears came to my eyes when I asked her name

Made me holler when it finally came

Said ‘Only the children born of me will remain’

‘Twas like thunder all thru the night

And a promise to see Jesus in the morning light”

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