Rocks Crying Out: ‘Amen’ and Bad Religion
Now there’s a lot of bad b—-s in the building, Amen!
A couple real n—-s in the building, Amen!
I’m finna kill n—-s in the building, Amen!
I tell the waiter, “Fifty Bottles,” and she tell me, “Say When”
and I say CHURCH (Preach!)
Sounds like a sermon to me. (Truth is, I’ve heard some pretty outrageous sermons before that come pretty close to this). And it raises an interesting question for the Church: How much of pop culture is okay to use in discussing God? That’s a mighty debate.
Truth is: the words above me are lyrics not a sermon, and they come from Meek Mill, who is nobody’s pastor. In fact, other pastors have begun to cry “Blasphemy!” that the young rapper would dare use religious language to degrade women (and men, depending on how “n—-s” rubs you) and sell music. Another strong debate.
I know one thing: it takes a lot of GUTS, if nothing else, to say, “Pull up in the Phantom, watch them
b—-s catch the Holy Ghost.” It takes chutzpah to own “Amen” like that.
So while I’d like to be angry with Meek Mill, the truth is: I CAN’T. He’s absolutely right to respond as he has: only God can judge him. This isn’t about a bunch of ignorant lyrics either: hip-hop has plenty of those, and Meek (please don’t miss the irony there) represents an entire generation of folks who simply DON’T CARE about Church. For once, I want to make what the rapper said about what the pastor didn’t say.
If you drop a $100 bill on the ground and walk away, what’s going to happen? Well, someone is going to pick it up, and more than likely they aren’t going to chase you to return it; they will simply use it for their own purpose. So either you take care of it, or someone else is going to use it. The same is true with religious language.
In pressing to be younger and more relevant, the Christian Church has co-opted all sorts of language, practice, and values from popular culture. Pastors have become politicians and we have a storehouse of language to discuss abortion, President Obama, same-sex marriage and health care – all day. This is a good thing I think, because Church has for too long pushed dogma without knowing anything about real life. It has cost them a generation, and in the push to patch mistakes, a far more ominous threat now looms: the Church knows how to talk about LIFE, but we’ve forgotten how to talk about GOD. I say “We” because I am a pastor, and too many of my colleagues know more about liberal (or conservative) politics than they do their own Bible. In other words: we have left powerful, sacred language and ideas sitting on the floor. Can’t be mad when somebody picks up something you love: You sat it on the ground.
Jesus promised us what would happen when we stopped being that group of people who declared the Lord’s goodness, when we became that group of folks who were more concerned about Who God Hates than What God Is…he said simply, “the stones would cry out.” (Luke 19). When I see rappers making sense of ideas like “God” and “Amen” and “Religion,” all I think about are stones crying out.
I’m not mad Meek Mill is “teaching” us what Amen means; I’m mad that so many pastors have STOPPED teaching the real significance of Amen. I’m not angry that Rick Ross is coming out with an album called, ‘God Forgives: I Don’t.’ I’m concerned that churches are not teaching forgiveness. Hip-Hop can use these words because they have lost their power in our communities. That’s not on Meek Mill: that’s on Bad Religion. The CHURCH allowed those words to become sterile by not keeping them sacred on Sunday.
Instead of “Blasphemy!” we should be calling for Repentance among our church leaders. Instead of crying about it, the Church needs to reflect on the opportunities missed and what we have given up to return to relevance. Everybody wants to be COOL, but can you still be YOU?!?