Why You Should Care: A Discussion of Rap, Culture, and God

A few weeks ago I noticed Facebook and Twitter blowing up about rap music and whether or not it was Biblical or God honoring. It caught my attention because I have children who like rap music, and I’m always trying to figure out what is God’s best for our family.

After reading numerous articles on the debate, I wanted to respond, but then I realized my own pastor had already written a book on this very subject so I asked if he would be willing to discuss it on the blog.

I realize it might seem a little different from our normal topics  here on The Happy Housewife, but in reality, it is probably something we should all be considering and discussing. Thoughtful comments are always welcome.

Why You Should Care

A Guest Post

You may or may not be aware of a recent panel’s comments about rap music at the end of an NCFIC conference. The 13:18 video was posted on Tuesday of last week and has caused quite a stir.

Basically, a question was asked of six panelists. “Any thoughts on reformed rap artists?” And each panelist weighed in, essentially saying that rap was not a God-honoring medium for the communication of God’s truths.

In some ways, no big deal. There are musical genres that I am not drawn to (Yugoslavian folk dance music and Russian Death Metal, to name a couple), and there is nothing wrong with disliking one kind of music or another. Had the six men on the panel simply said that rap was not their preference, you wouldn’t be reading this. But those men–all of them pastors, I think–said much, much more.

To me the most outrageous comments came from panelist Geoff Botkin, who said that Christian rappers are “disobedient cowards.” That one crossed the line. For various reasons.

As the video began to spread through various segments of the evangelical world, a frenzy of comments, tweets, and blog posts showed up–some supporting the panel, some objecting, and some simply outraged.

Words like racist, elitist, ignorant, and culturally biased were all over the place. Well-known commentators including Paige Patterson, Doug Wilson, Ligon Duncan, and Al Mohler crafted brief but effective responses in favor of “Reformed Rap.” Facebook and Twitter lit up with links and comments filled with shock, awe, and (I have to say) no small amount of sinful judgment. For some of us, it seemed like the whole world was focusing in on this issue.

Things are happening fast right now, but I think two of the panelists have apologized and asked forgiveness (you have to honor that!) and two more have tried to explain their remarks…not very successfully, in my view. And it looks like more is yet to come. Which leads me to the title of this post, now formed as a question:

Why should you care? 

Maybe, like these panelists, you basically detest rap. Maybe you think it can be fine for other people, but it’s not your preference. Maybe you have kids who listen to rap and hearing about this debate has piqued your curiosity.

I’m here to tell you that it really doesn’t matter what category you are in. You should care about this issue. Because while on the surface this issue is about rap, it’s really about much more.

The issue is about you and your children. It’s about decisions. The ones you will make for them, and the ones they will make because of what you teach them.

If you’re a Christian, the men on that panel claimed biblical authority (though no Bible verses were actually used to make their case), which means you have to examine their claims biblically, not culturally. This is important because as Christians we are trying to teach both ourselves and our children to obey God. We are trying to show them how to succeed in a world that gets more multicultural by the minute. Even if your world is somewhat isolated from other cultures, you cannot guarantee that your child’s world will be.

We all have desires for our children, but of course we don’t know whether God’s will for them is consistent with our hopes for them. We must teach them how to think about and live in a multicultural world in a way that honors God. So this isn’t just about rap music at all. It’s about God and culture.

It’s about Christians and culture, and what we do when cultural distinctions clash. Do we just react on the basis of our own culture and denounce those we can’t relate to? Or do we think a little deeper and truly consider what the Bible has to say about these things?

If you’re not a Christian this issue is important to you, too. Every day you make decisions, often almost automatically, simply because you are part of a particular culture. With our world changing as fast as it is, a big part of your job as a parent is to train your children to think critically about how to engage with other cultures.

What happens if your state legalizes certain drugs and one of your children’s close friends takes them? Is it enough to make another rule and say “stay away”? Is it enough to just hope that drugs and peer pressure don’t influence your kids? Or is it better to teach those kids how to engage a culture that they can’t escape from?

Whether you know it or not, you are already teaching your kids about how to engage with cultures other than their own. Do you understand the messages you’re passing along? Are those the messages that will best serve them in the future?

I have two more posts for you in this “Why You Should Care” series, and I’m going to speak from a biblical perspective. I will address rap, but because the issue is bigger than rap, I will show how the Scriptures deal with the clash of cultures. I think you will see that despite all the disagreements about Christian Rap over the past week, both sides of the argument are actually right, biblically speaking.

It just dawned on me that you have no idea who I am. My name is Curtis Allen. I am a Christian, a husband, a dad, a pastor, an author, and a (gulp) rapper. And, I am a personal friend of the Happy Housewife.

Last month I published a book with you in mind. It’s called, “Does God Listen To Rap?” The title may fool you, though, because the book is about more than rap. It is about how to view culture through the eyes of Scripture. And my hope is that the only side you find yourself on in this debate about rap is God’s side. Thanks for taking time to read this! Next post coming soon.

You can read the first chapter of “Does God Listen To Rap?” for free here.

Connect with Curtis online.

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  1. What I don’t understand about Christians is that they seem to spend time exchanging in a battle of biblical quotes – often beating each other over the head with their interpretation of the bible and their sense of right.

    I find it extraordinary that the message of Christianity as with all faiths is love, and yet most Christians I come across are veciferous in their condemnation of one thing or another, fighting against ‘bad influences’ as if they are in a battle against the world. While Christians are trying to fight wrongdoing, their focus is on what they are fighting against, rather than simply putting their energy into loving action. It is love that changes things, acceptance, tolerance and love.

    For me it is very simple, doing acts daily that promote love, be it a compliment, a smile or an act of generosity. The greatest gift sometimes is to listen, without judgement, or advice, by listening to someone’s story, you are bearing witness to their life, and we all need a good listening to.

    blessings x

  2. Thank you so much for your insights (both here and forthcoming). I have a son who LOVES Tobey Mac and loves to sing the contemporary Christian music. He has a friend whose family thinks that THAT KIND of music is from the devil. My son wants to please God and it bothers him that something he enjoys would be such a point of division and even labeled as evil. He is at the age where we need to walk WITH him to teach discernment. I have not been a part of the media storm on this topic… and I’m not sure if Tobey Mac falls into this category… but it is sad that even this artist– who has consistently demonstrated a desire to glorify God and with lyrics that clearly are God honoring and that reach kids and get them praising God… would be a point of controversy and negativity. Our pastor did a series from 1 Corinthians about division in the church (and hence in the body)… and it all stemmed from people making major things out of minor things and people not having a right view of themselves (being puffed up). His messages were very convicting that there is a lot that we as Christians just need to let go of (music preferences) and to guard against (being wooed by or following a specific pastor b/c he is a more gifted speaker, etc…… Apollos, Paul, etc..) instead of always seeking God. Anyway… thank you for your insights.

  3. The Bible says many times over to not learn the way of the heathen, that we are in a spiritual struggle, not against people, but against the invisible, yet very real, forces of darkness, against the philosophies of this world, which are inherently rebellious and anti- God. It is of the Devil to take something evil and call it good. He and his ministers are transformed into ministers of light. They pose as something good. It is always Satan’s method to counterfeit God’s ways, yet his motive is to ‘kill, steal, and destroy.’ It is not enough to take something of this world and ‘Christianize’ it. Since the discussion here is focused on music, taking a rebellious form of music and put ‘good lyrics’ to it doesn’t sanctify it, because the music itself without any lyrics is evil ( if someone takes offense here or demands example, there are many, but I would ask you to consider why you feel compelled to defend in the first place – are you really seeking truth, or just to come out on top of an ‘argument.’) Culture is a nice excuse, but as are most excuses, the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. God has not changed. What is the thumping, driving beat associated with in God’s word and throughout all history spanning cultures? Idolatry, lewdness, spirit worship, witchcraft, immorality, etc. etc. God condemns calling things that are dirty clean, sweet – bitter, putting darkness for light, etc. Many put the tag ‘preference’ on things that, though they may not have specific verses ascribed to them, are either condemned by God or promoted by God in principle, giving them an easy out to not pay attention to that and instead, feed their flesh. That is why it is important to study God’s Word to not just find something arbitrary to back up our preconceived philosophies but instead to honestly evaluate the meaning in the context of comparing scripture in one place with scripture in another. When someone steps outside of the culture of the West, they can then see things a bit more clearly, and the answers to questions like this become a lot more obviously discerned. If someone’s ‘heart’ (since that is so elevated over the very commands of God these days, even though God’s Word says you are a fool to follow your heart, and that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked so much that we can’t even really know all the deep motives of the heart) is to justify rather than to actually discern God’s stance, then everything is relative and we come to situational ethics which are convenient, but not godly.

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