Friday, December 6, 2013
Reformed Rap Music and a Deeper Issue among the Young, Restless and Reformed
Here we go with music again. Is there such a thing as Christian rap or Christian Hip Hop? By now you are probably away of the controversy that erupted as a result of some pretty heavy-handed comments at a conference recently regarding Christian Rap music. Rather than wade into the pond of whether or not the Rap genre can be Christian or not is actually not really my interest in this post. Instead, I think the conversation has inadvertently exposed some thinking by some within the Christian community that should cause everyone to step back and examine their heart and how they interact with subjects like this one.
For example, one person commented about these men with whom they disagreed, “This is spiritual elitism masquerading as knowledge. I've rarely heard as much nonsense and biblical distortion from one group of individuals. Was this the "Galatia Revisited Conference" or what?” You will notice that this statement is not an argument. It does not point out any fallacy in any of the panel’s comments. It basically resorts to name-calling right out of the box. Here is one accusing the good brothers of racism, “This is a bit more than spiritual elitism. This is ethnic and cultural elitism.” Oh how we love to mimic and mirror the culture in which we live! And another, “foolishness... cultural imperialism at its best... by the argument of all of these men they have almost disqualified all music for worship.” Again, this is not an argument. It is name-calling in the very same spirit the ungodly name-call. There is something very disturbing about this trend within the Christian community.
I am afraid I have to disappoint you by informing you from the start that I am not going to criticize Christian Rap music, per se. I am more interested in the spiritual condition it may reveal on the parts of those who dismiss it out of hand and by those that seem to think we cannot do without it in the reformed camp. The very first question that everyone should ask in this conversation is this: Is music genre morally neutral? In other words, are there genres of music that may be classified as inherently immoral? Think about it this way: music was not invented by human beings. We didn’t think it up. Music predates humanity. It belongs to God. And that means that musical genres belong to God. Now, that does not mean that all musical genres that have come to exist belong to God. Some genres are indeed the product of man. In fact, all musical genres that are the product of man are the product of fallen man. Now that should at least cause the humble and those who truly care about pleasing God to stop dead in their tracks. None of us has the inherent right to proclaim a musical genre moral or immoral in and of ourselves. I cannot, out of hand declare the Rap genre to be antithetical to godliness. But neither can the Rap proponents, in of themselves declare the Rap genre acceptable merely because they are so inclined. This is God’s business. And the last time I checked, God has not relinquished His Lordship over music or morality.
As we move forward, we must remember that is it pernicious to call sinful acts good and good acts sinful. Therefore, making a judgment about Rap music is no small matter. One could inadvertently find they are fighting against God. And that is a battle we will all lose. For this reason alone, it is in our best interests, all our best interests to be sure that we speak accurately about this subject as we get on with the conversation. For example, it is one thing for me to say that I find no redeeming value in the genre and another for me to say there is no redeeming value in the genre. The former is a statement of preference while the latter is more closely interpreted as an absolute judgment.
There is also the question of what we are actually trying to accomplish. What are the opponents trying to keep out and what are the proponents trying to introduce. We have gotten along just fine without this genre for quite a long time now. What is the motivation for causing a controversy to bring it into the community? What will we gain if we embrace the Rap genre? Will the church gain something of value? What deficiencies will the Rap genre eradicate? On the flip side, what dangers does it pose to our spiritual condition if we permit it a place beside Bach and the Gettys? These are all questions that we must face if we really want to have this conversation.
Finally, for the young and not-so-submissive and not-so-humble; I encourage you to examine your heart. When an elder that has been around in the Church longer than you have been in existence, actually comments about something like this, your very first response should be silence and then more silence and then some prayer and then some examination of your heart and of Scripture and then more silence. Somewhere along this process, it is okay for you to ask clarifying questions and express your views with the greatest humility and respect. This is not the behavior I see coming from our younger generation of Christians. Instead, what I do see is many young Christians that couldn’t find the book of Jonah if you gave them a week to do so, without hesitation and hardly any respect, spouting off about how the older folks are obsolete and need to move out of the way so that they can reshape Christianity and everything about it, into the version that best mirrors their own culture, preferences, and pets. And there is NOTHING Christian about that!
For the proponent that wants to push their Rap genre in the conservative reformed communities, I have to ask why. You seek to serve and to edify your Christian brothers and sisters, don’t you? What is missing in the Christian community that the Rap genre will bring? Are we using Rap music as a vehicle to preach the gospel? Well, I am sorry but Paul told us that God ordained the foolishness of preaching for that end and He had a very specific reason for doing so. Is this just a veiled seeker approach? God saves through the foolishness of preaching. If the power of the preached word cannot convert the soul, I cannot trust the one supposedly converted by the Rap genre. I cannot help but be suspicious.
The young Rapper should look to his elders for leadership on this issue. When I see what the young generation of Christians is producing, I have to say that I am more than a little disturbed. After all, you have given us guys like Steve Furtick, Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Rick Warren, and more Charismatics than we can possibly count at this point, and too many others to name. Your products are very problematic for the Christian worldview. The gospel is getting lost and your refusal to listen to your elders is not helping.
The Rap genre is known for its rebellious, pompous and arrogant disposition. Can Christian Rap take up the same demeanor? Should Christian Rappers lead others to believe that one can Christianize that sort of rebellion? Here is an exercise for you if you are unfamiliar with Christian Rap and Hip Hop: its called google. Google Christian Rappers and Hip Hop Artists and look at the image they portray. Then go into iTunes and listen to some of their tunes. Read some of the lyrics that are out there. It does not follow that because a couple of Rappers have a few good lyrics that all of them do as well. Compare what you see with biblical principles and make up your own mind. But take your time and be very cautious and humble as well as open minded. Be a good critical thinker.
I have not said that Rap music is sinful. I have not said that it has no place in the Christian life. Personally, I find it distasteful and unappealing on every level, minus godly words of course. I am not even sure it qualifies as music even. In addition, I have not said that Rap music is perfectly okay. For the moment, I have reserved judgment. I would prefer to avoid the sin of being wrong. The more glaring issue is the attitude of the young generation in the Church. Our elders need to take a more stern approach to the ungodly arrogant attitude of some of the young know-it-alls who are still too ignorant to know that there is much that they do not know. I will leave you with Paul’s command: Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:6-8)