Christian parody videos of popular music have become their own genre on YouTube, and as Faith on View has discussed before, they can vary from cheesy, to borderline offensive, to the outright bizarre.
Because the monster that is the Internet is always hungry for more content, more of these videos have popped up; in other cases, the algorithmshave resurrected older videos. Like their predecessors, they’re a mixed bag. Here’s a look at a few, found on the front page of a YouTube search for “Christian Parody”:
This one appears to have some sense of quality control in its production, but – as commentator Felix C. Stein notes – it is lacking a key ingredient in what makes a good parody: a direct reference to the original. Sure, the singers are dressed in what can be described as their Sunday best revival preacher clothes, but the opening lines, scrubbed of Billy Ray Cyrus’s throatiness, are delivered instead in a clear tenor: “Yeah, there ain’t nothing that can stop our Lord, he’s gonna rule forevermore.”
The rap lines are delivered by a second singer in a baritone, “I’ve got a God who’s got my back when the devil is attacking/ God’s always in action, he’s always there in Heaven.”
The singer goes on to describe how he’s prepared for the attack, but then, Stein says, the bridge is a repeated line,”The devil is always attacking, he’s always attacking.”
The second verse goes on to discuss how the singers can lean on Jesus, but then goes right back into the bridge. “As far as songwriting goes, the problem is the emphasis keeps coming back to the devil,” Stein says.
The last verse discusses the singers’ understanding of salvation, and while one can have theological quibbles with it, it brings the message away from the devil and focuses it on Jesus, Stein continued. As a songwriting exercise, however, it could have undergone a second draft, especially at points where the rhyme scheme that is employed throughout the rest of the video is dropped for the lines “Jesus ain’t a phony, 2000 years ago he paid my debt on Calvary.”
The video demonstrates that the singers know it’s not a serious endeavor, at one point riding stick horses outside a church before doing what can best be described as a Bible-opening dab.
“This parody stands out from many because the music sounds very close to the original song and the singers actually can sing, but I feel like a big opportunity for a callback to the original song was missed when the songwriters didn’t use a line like, ‘I’m going to take all my cares to the Lord.”
If you’ve never considered what Vanilla Ice’s career-defining hit Ice Ice Baby would sound like if it was a Christian parody, here’s your chance.
The video opens with two performers in American Flag tights and white T-shirts standing on what appears to be a church stage with a band kit and – for what it’s worth – a menorah in the background. They take a minute to work the crowd and ask for several beats before settling on Mr. Ice’s sample.
At the drop, they begin, “OK stop, open your Bible and listen, Pastor Frank is about to start preaching; the Holy Spirit grabs ahold of me tightly, pouring blessings over me daily and nightly.”
“The singers actually flow with the music better than many parody singers in live venues, and it’s evident that they spent time thinking of alternate lyrics that actually fit with the music,” Stein says. “One of the funnier lines is, ‘We’re not Catholics but grab your rosaries.’”
The weakest point of the parody is, not unexpectedly, the chorus, during which the titular phrase is simply replaced with, “Jesus Christ Baby.”
“I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch this parody, but if you don’t mind watching church talent show performances, and this one definitely has a lot of references to their local church, you might get a chuckle,” Stein said.
“Considering that the Hope Youth Channel’s parody of Meghan Trainor’s All About that Bass was released in 2015, a year after the original, I’m going to guess it was relevant to its intended audience,” Stein says. “Musically speaking, it hits close enough to the original that nothing sounds wrong to the ear, as is so often true with parodies, and the folks who put the video together, while obviously knowing it wasn’t high art, put the effort in.”
As for the lyrics, he says, they don’t miss the callback to the original: “Because you know I’m all about that grace; ‘Bout that grace; can’t earn it.”
The first verse and bridge expand on that theme:
“Yeah, it’s pretty clear, God sure does love you
Now we can worship, worship
Like we supposed to do
‘Cause I got that free gift that I can embrace
Not from my good works but all from my faith, yeah
I read that Bible y’all it says that Grace is free
Ya know this gift is real
Its love and mercy
God sure does love you, love you so praise him y’all
Cause He died and rose again so
You can worship him non-stop
Yeah, the Bible it told me don’t worry about your life
It says, “Christians we like to walk by faith and not by sight”
God knows that we are not perfect and He shows grace to us all
So I think that deserves praise so join us and sing this song”
The song has a couple of places where the parody writers tried to add an extra syllable, and the second verse strays somewhat from the explicit theme of faith and works to make a sort of general altar call, Stein says, “but between staying on the right side of the quality control line and not betraying any particular denominational commitments, this parody avoids the cringe elements of so many Christian parodies and is actually listenable.”
“This one took me by surprise, because where many Christian versions of songs beat around the bush, talking about being lost or needing direction, this one opens with big confessions,” Stein says. “The first lines are, “I used to drink myself into a mess; scared to give it up under the stress; so I’d drink privately, deny sobriety.”
The song goes on to talk about how the singer bottomed out. Then, the bridge points to Jesus: “When I fell down, he helped me up” and then again affirms “If you fall down, he’ll help you up.”
The chorus hits all the musical beats for Perry’s original, but instead of singing an ode to having the eye of a tiger, the listener is encouraged:
“Give your life to the Father
Holy Spirit Fire
‘Cause God is the champion
And you’re gonna hear him roar.”
The second verse continues to tell the singer’s story, saying that now she gives all the glory to Jesus, “‘Cause without his grace I would have died.”
This song isn’t a perfect parody, but is obviously a sincere work and speaks from the heart of the singer, Stein said.
“It was done without the mental smirking of so many Christian parody writers, and it feels like she had the words in her heart and the music just happened to fit,” he said.
Sometimes, a hit song comes along that stirs up such controversy that Christians feel they have to address it. In 2020, that was Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s WAP. Their NSFW anthem to female anatomy and sexual desire may have been ripe for parody, “But it definitely wasn’t ‘Worship and Prayer,’” Stein said.
Part of the problem is that often when white people try to imitate Black art for parody, they lean hard into the idea that “these actions, behaviors and even body motions are not what white people do, so it’s funny when a white person does it.”
The other part, Stein says, is that, “If this parody is trying to offset the controversy of ‘WAP’, it misses the chance for humor in acting like it mistakes milquetoast daily actions as being equally as boundary pushing as the original song, and instead just mistakes those actions as radical in and of themselves.”
Two lyric samples testify:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, you messing with some worship and prayer
Bring a guitar and an amp for this worship and prayer
Get your favorite journal out for this worship and prayer
God’ll be calling me, deep down inside of me (yeah)
Mission trip for a weekend in the Philippines (yeah)
telling testimoniesn the church is real prouda me (huh)
prolly make em cry ‘fore they call for offering (pow, pow, pow)
“This ‘parody’ is silly, not because it’s funny, not because the singer’s rapping skills are limited, but because I can’t tell if it’s an example of Poe’s Law,” Stein said. “I’m not sure if this is a parody of WAP or someone making a parody of Christian parodies.