Thursday, July 03, 2008

Southern Baptists and Hip Hop: No, I'm Not Making This Up

Just go here and see what I'm talking about. Russ Moore, dean of the 4400-student Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship Southern Baptist seminary, interviews the Christian rapper Flame while guest-hosting the Albert Mohler radio program. For those of you who know little about either of these worlds, let me be your trusty guide and say that they do not often intersect--especially on a nationally syndicated radio program with thousands of daily listeners!

The conversation is fun and informative. Flame shares a good deal of his background, including the tidbit that he was once a "gangsta" rapper (think the sort of stuff that celebrates extreme violence and that sort of thing). Now, however, Flame raps about such diverse topics as hermeneutics and the Trinity. His stuff is not lightweight--trust me on that one. If you have a nice little stereotype fashioned in your mind about hip-hop, check out his music, and see if isn't challenged.

The interview raises the issue of Christians and their identification with secular music. Flame points out that many rappers, though fallen, accurately portray the realities of life in hard places, namely, the inner city. It struck me as I listened to this conversation that there is a real need for Christian art that doesn't simply speak the gospel in familiar musical forms. We need artists who produce music--and all kinds of art--that honestly depicts life in a fallen world, such that non-Christians naturally connect with our music (as much as this is possible, of course--I have no triumphalist social intentions).

How does the fall affect the world? What does brokenness look like in various places? I'm not just asking for "testimony" songs ("I was blind in these ways," and that sort of thing), but excellent storytelling and realistic exploration of themes of a fallen creation. Furthermore, we need stories that don't skip to the answer--the gospel--and leave things there, but that celebrate in majestic songship the reality of life with Christ. I'm thankful that Flame (and others) have begun to make headway in these areas. Here's hoping for many more artists like him, and much broader acceptance within the evangelical community of beautiful, honest, God-glorifying (though not necessarily stereotype-conforming) art.

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Blogger Terry Lange said...

I listened to the program on the podcast and found it to be interesting. I went away with one question, Why would someone want to use a genre of music that is associated with rebellion, violence, and murder to attempt to communicate the Gospel. Where is the distinctiveness of the Gospel in that "culture"? I am still wondering about the "hip-hop" music.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Terry Lange said...

I was listening to a talk radio station where the host (Chris Baker of KTLK-FM in Minneapolis) said the following, "Hip-hop glorifies predatory sex and violence"

That statement was made by someone who is not an evangelical, but yet how accurate is the statement?

The bigger question is, if what Chris Baker said is true, then why would I as a Christian and a believer in Jesus Christ want to imitate anything like hip-hop? See Ephesians 5:11

10:19 PM  

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