OPEN LETTER: Christian Emcees are Disobedient Cowards?
Hate The Sin, The Sinner, and The Music
By the time you called hip-hop the “death rattle in the throat of a dying culture” I was not surprised. Maybe I should be since hip-hop is more like a baby rattle when compared to the music the satanic community has to offer. It would have been more surprising or ‘controversial’ if you would have opened up the panel with this statement. However, by the time you mentioned this, it was already apparent—you guys HATE hip-hop and have used the worst the scene has to offer to make your case—like a poorly executed documentary. You are even perceived to hate the people (or cowards) within hip-hop whether Christian or not. So of course hip-hop is the death rattle.
I actually somewhat agree. I agree that popular hip-hop is a death rattle—the kind of hip-hop that is played on the radio and broadcast on television. I would also add all popular music genres. This is why it’s nice that we have Christians planted inside. Are you or your respective churches working to reach the cultures that are producing this sin-infected art with the Gospel?
Believe it or not, there is a lot that you and I agree on. I too think that music utilized as worship needs to be understood. What if I told you that my friends and I can understand the lyrics in hip-hop songs? Then by your own test, hip-hop is acceptable. The problem lies in the belief that there is somehow a worldwide song selection standard that works across all cultures throughout history. Something that comes to my mind is what we’ve all experienced. When we were teenagers and our parents couldn’t understand our music. You’ve simply become one of ‘those’ parents, and I will one day too.
When you talk about remembering an old tune or a particular beat and then connecting it to the past, you’re giving too much power to the music. The music itself, the beats, and the melodies are not causing us to sin. We need no help to sin whatsoever. Sin isn’t coming from the outside and attacking our pure hearts and minds, it’s coming from the inside and expressing itself at some of the worst times. We were born this way. If a Hymn reminds you of a time you went too far with a girl, it’s not the Hymns fault. There is no need to tear that page from the Hymnal. You need to repent in prayer and ask God to help you have the self-control to think about Him, and not be driven by your own sinful thoughts and desires.
This is what makes the Gospel so precious. It’s not that you have done an excellent job of maintaining a pure heart by keeping inappropriate songs out of your life—or songs that connect you to something besides God—It’s that God has sent his Son to live a perfect life, something we could never achieve. That same perfect life has also rescued us from death. From the sin that is within us. We cannot rid ourselves of sin.
I appreciate when you clearly lay out your ten points to describe the kind of music you believe we should use in Worship:
- Words must be true
- We must sing to God
- Songs must be about God
- Things we say about ourselves must be reverent toward God
- Music must fit the majesty and dignity of the words
- Must be edifying
- Must be instruction
- Words filled with praise
- Not be lyrically boring / Disrespectful to God / Does not reveal knowledge of God
- Should not be a funeral dirge
We are not in 100% agreement here… 80% to be precise. Number five is arbitrary and number ten could be beautifully accomplished by someone who—with the power of the Holy Spirit—is able to appropriately work death into a Gospel-centered sermon.
Your list is helpful and gives me a concise snapshot of what it is that you and the others were trying to accomplish with your panel discussion. All of these points are well thought out and could be a wonderful system to use at a Church—where a plurality of elders agree—to follow in their song selection process. It certainly wouldn’t be wrong for a Church to do this, and it’s not going to harm the congregation. However, the problem comes when this criterion—which clearly includes your own personal preferences—becomes “biblical” and everyone who uses a different system is a disobedient coward.
To supplement your ten points, you have a series of questions that one should ask to aid in the song selection process. These questions start with an assumption that the person is “basically good” and the music is either maintaining or tainting that goodness. This is not a biblical view of sin or the reality of the human condition.
Another amen was when you said, “certain kinds of music I like and certain kinds I don’t like”. I think that is pretty obvious that the majority of this conversation has been about the fact that you and your colleagues do not like hip-hop. I will continue to have no problem with that. Our beef will always be when you say that the certain kinds of music genres you don’t like are sinful or not honoring to God.
In every Protestant denomination sect, there are the good, the bad, and the ugly. This panel was your ‘the ugly’. We all have it, and this time around you chose to put it on display. I encourage you to apologize (not like this) and seek the forgiveness of the countless others who were in your line of strange fire. I would like to extend an invitation for all of you to join myself and others in a conversation publicly, privately, online or in person. Perhaps a panel of people who are both inside and outside of the culture would be a little more useful for both sides as well as the people who listen and watch.
I’d also like to make one last comment to the guys on my side of the fence. Let’s all remember that we’re big boys. We didn’t dive into hip-hop so that we could find a nice cozy place where we’d never have to face any criticism. This panel wasn’t a setback. As far as I’m concerned it was a promotion. Let’s not waste time dwelling on this and get back to where we belong—which is on the frontlines.