OPEN LETTER: Christian Emcees are Disobedient Cowards?
To be clear, it does not bother me that you do not like, listen to, or understand hip-hop. That is a simple difference in our respective preferences. The problem arose when you turned your preference into a doctrine—and when you used your culturally built palette as a gavel to judge whether another group’s culturally built palette is acceptable or not. This is textbook ethnocentricity. This is uncalled for since we’re not talking about missionaries embedded in a pagan culture trying to save children from being eaten by their parents. We are talking about style, tempo, timbre, syncopation, and dissonance. We are talking about the difference of two subcultures that exist within our American culture. Most importantly, we are talking about one part of the body of Christ attacking another part of the body of Christ.
Uh-oh, Uh-oh, It’s Panel Time!
“Any thoughts on reformed rap artists? Their musical styles would be considered offensive to some but the doctrine contained within the songs is sound.” >>watch panel here<<
In your opening statement, you claim to be “very against reformed rap”. If this was all that you had said, there wouldn’t be much to talk about. I have no problem with you not liking or listening to hip-hop, and even being against it. The problem came when you began using your opinion as God’s opinion. God himself does not explicitly say he is opposed to hip-hop, nor is there anything that can be found in scripture to support that He is. If there was, I am confident that you or any of the other panelists would have brought it up. You cannot import personal opinions into scripture and then turn them into a biblical mandate.
I agree with you that “words aren’t enough” and that “God cares about how we deliver the message”. Amen and amen! I would add that God doesn’t just care about how we deliver the message; God cares about everything!
Back to delivery—God is creative. His usage of several authors over several years via several methods to communicate with us is breathtaking. What I am having trouble with is—once again—the jump from your statement to hip-hop being the ‘wrong’ delivery. Give me something to study and think about. Besides your own preference and opinion, what is the criterion for an acceptable delivery and an unacceptable delivery method? Do you have an example of a style of music that is acceptable to deliver words musically?
You stated that the two purposes of songs are to 1) instruct and admonish and 2) praise and worship God—I don’t necessarily disagree—but can you point me to some passages I could study to support your claim? Does this disqualify classical and other instrumental forms of music?
You went on to state that the emphasis needs to be on the words. If this is true, then hip-hop may actually be one of the best vessels. But again, using this reasoning, it sounds as if classical would be disqualified.
Perhaps the most problematic statement you made was that “the focus is no longer on the words” with hip-hop. The opposite is true. This would be similar to saying that hip-hop is rooted in suburban lifestyle. No, of course, you can find hip-hop that is about the suburban lifestyle, and you can find emcees that do not focus on words, but those exceptions do not rewrite history.
When you said “music should be about helping us to remember concepts” are you suggesting this or are you making a truth claim? The use of the word ‘should’ followed by the statement that “Rap is not a good tool as a memory aid,” makes it unclear. Because if it’s just a suggestion, then whether or not hip-hop is good for memorizing wouldn’t be biblical grounds for dismissing it all together. Like the paragraph above, this is another incorrect statement.
I would agree that music can be helpful to remember concepts, which is why my wife and I utilize music to catechize our Children and help them memorize scripture. I am unable to cross the bridge from a suggestion to a definition. Nor does it work to establish hip-hop as biblical or unbiblical.
At this point, I am ready for you to reveal your epistemology. How do you know what you know about hip-hop? How do you know hip-hop is not about the words? How do you know hip-hop is not a good memory aid? Finally, how do you know hip-hop “is about drawing attention to the rapper and how he [or she] is a special person”? How do you know that “in the end, [hip-hop] is always about the rapper, even if the words are correct”? If the words are correct how does the song point to the emcee? If that is possible, then it is also possible for a preacher to say things that are true, and make it about themselves.
The elephant in the living room is that you and your colleagues—as intelligent as you are—do not know anything about hip-hop. It is frustrating to hear you speak about it with the confidence of an expert.
I appreciate your anecdote of Martin Lloyd Jones, and I agree that “good preaching needs to move the attention away from [the preacher]”. Like hip-hop (or any genre), preaching (or any public speaking) is not free from the temptation to feed the ego of the person doing the communicating. If this disqualifies hip-hop, it also disqualifies all music, as well all public speaking. On the flipside, if at least one hip-hop song moves the attention away from the emcee, then that song is ‘acceptable’.
My hope for you is that you will become like the guy in your story who was listening to Martin Lloyd Jones and give God-honoring hip-hop at least seventy-five minutes of your time. But I don’t think it would take you that long to realize that there is a kind of rap that glorifies God, even if the music isn’t to your taste.