Contend Earnestly: Jesus Loves Hip Hop

Friday, October 09, 2009

Jesus Loves Hip Hop

With all the hype coming up and around guys like Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii and Flame and hopefully Celestine soon, you knew there would be haters. Men like Piper, Driscoll, Dever and even my close friend James White (haha) have in their own ways supported what is being dubbed Holy Hip Hop. But, for whatever reason you have guys and people out there that have an issue with Christians listening to hip hop, and even Christian Hip Hop at that. I have heard some really stupid comments, such as,

When someone rolls by and hears the rapping they don't know it is Christian so they will think it is just another secular artist that is being sexually explicit

Really? This is the excuse? Someone might think ill of you? What should make us throw up isn't the type of music someone listens to but their lame attempt to say they are Christian and hold their culture as a higher standard than another. Because this is exactly what someone is doing when they have to say that hip hop culture is evil and Jesus can't impact it in a positive way.

So, am I supposed to believe that if you love music that sounds like Barry Manilow and the Beatles that it is more godly? Am I supposed to believe that your mullet and confederate flag is less idolatrous than hip hop? Just because someone dresses different than you, listens to different types of music, sags their pants, and lives in the inner city doesn't mean that you should look down on their culture. It just happens to be different than yours because they don't drive a minivan with a Jesus fish and "my kid was student of the month at my all white school" bumper sticker.

Please wake up. Hip Hop, just like any other music can be used for the spread of the Gospel or the spread of idolatrous self worship. The Beatles said that they were bigger than Jesus yet no one is calling out those bands that sound a lot like them or play similar licks or instruments. The fact is, Holy Hip Hop is going to the places that you would never imagine living or even visiting. They are going into the urban areas giving these idolatrous kids something to look outward to (Christ) instead of looking around them at the treasures of this world. They are spreading hope, not through Obama, but through Christ. They are speaking of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus, instead of whores and rims.

The sad thing is that some think that this isn't godly. They think that Hip Hop cannot show forth the light of the gospel. They put their culture, whatever it is, above another's. And to be honest, it sounds a lot like Hitler and Germany. I know that is extreme, but honestly it has the same root. One is spreading the gospel, which happens to be Holy Hip Hop and the other is spreading religion that gives us culturally okay methods to use and not use based on their crap opinions. Just look at the different methods that were used to reach the different cultures in the writing of the New Testament. Depending on who they were writing to, they would draw on different things. John, when speaking to Greeks, used a term "logos" that would draw them to understanding. Paul, when speaking to Jews, would use the Law and it's requirements to show them the grace found in the cross of Christ.

I love when people say that they believe this because we are not to be of the world. They say this with a straight face when their clothes and music look exactly like the dude cheating on his wife, hooked on porn, beating his kids and has money as his idol as he works more than he comes home. What is the difference? Oh, one is comfortable for them, the other is out of their comfort zone. No one is asking them to spit rhymes and buy the albums, the hip hop guys are just asking them to pray for their mission and that the gospel will be shown clearly to those others are too scared to reach out to.

I would really like somone to point out to me biblically, why Holy Hip Hop is wrong. I would like to know how saying it is wrong is not culture idolatry and superiority. Jesus came and immersed himself in culture and the Pharisees were pissed that he was sitting and befriending sinners. Maybe you need to ask yourself: Do I look more like Jesus or a White Washed Tomb?

Below is the lyrics to Shai Linne's song called "The Cross (3 Hours)" which has more theology in it than the sermons most have heard in the last year.

Verse 1

There’s something you gotta see, journey with me
It’s approximately 30 A.D.
In the land of Israel- the city of Jerusalem
But on the outside there’s screams and loud cries
Through faith, this scene can be seen without eyes
The mean shout lies and seem to sound wise
As we inch through the crowd, we need to be cautious
A Roman execution, men on three crosses
But all the focus is on the one in the center
The gate closes behind you- no one can enter
The sight you behold is so odd, you’re stunned
The man hanging on the cross is God the Son
12 noon, it’s pitch-black because the sunshine’s lacking
Your minds can’t fathom this divine transaction
As slowly the sound becomes mostly drowned
You realize that you’re standing on holy ground


So forever will I tell
In three hours, Christ suffered more than any sinner ever will in hell (4x)


It’s where we see Your holiness- at the cross
We see that You’re controlling this- at the cross
We see how You feel about sin- at the cross
Your unfathomable love for men- at the cross
It’s where we see Your sovereignty- at the cross
We see our idolatry- at the cross
We know that there’s a judgment day- from the cross
May we never take our eyes away- from the cross

Verse 2

We’re now in the realm of the sublime and profound
With God at the helm it’s about to go down
The Father’s wrath precise will blast and slice
The priceless Master Christ as a sacrifice
Willingly, He’s under the curse
To be treated as if the Son was the worst scum of the earth
The scene is the craziest
Jesus being treated as if He is the shadiest atheist
How is it the Messiah is in the fiery pit
As if He was a wicked liar with twisted desires?
The One who’s sinless and just
Punished as if He was promiscuous and mischievous with vicious lust
The source of all godly pleasure
Tormented as if He was a foul investor or child molestor
How could He be bruised like He was a goodie two-shoes
who doesn’t think that she needs the good news?
He’s perfect in love and wisdom
But He’s suffering as if He constructed the corrupt justice system
We should mourn at the backdrop
Jesus torn like He’s on the corner with crack rock with porn on His laptop
What is this, kid? His gifts are infinite
But He’s hit with licks for religious hypocrites
He’s the Light, but being treated like
He’s the seedy type who likes to beat His wife
He’s treated like a rapist, treated like a slanderer
Treated like a racist or maybe a philanderer
Jesus being penalized like He had sin inside
Filled with inner pride while committing genocide
I could write for a billion years and still can’t name
All of the sins placed on the Lamb slain
But know this: the main thing the cross demonstrated
The glory and the holiness of God vindicated




Michael said...

Bro this is an awesome article you have written! I totally 100% agree with you, we need to stop judging others based off how they look. Some of the most outcast people you could think of are on fire for Jesus!! This is something the Lord has been speaking to me about personally, is "giving everyone a chance." I know what it's like being judged. Having my ears stretched and tatted up, I'm not someone you prolly want to bring home to mom :D Just like alot of our youth, they need to know there is hope. No matter how they look. They need to know the love of God! May the Lord bless you for what you have written.

Anonymous said...

Remember... that time... back in the the day when Christianity was defining the culture with the Arts, Politics, Education?

Yea, we have lost that.

American Christianity is usually 10 years behind pop culture. Some people can sleep well with that. Me, that gives me an epic headache just thinking about it.

Those who know culture when it comes to music knows that the golden age of hip-hop has passed us (1989-1996) with only a handful of artists keeping true to the art form while the rest are selling out in order to "tickle ears".

Beyond beyond theologically sound, there should be a close knit bond between pastors and emcees. Why? Because they both proclaim the gospel of God through spoken word.

For those who would speak ill of Hip-hop, let their words be lost in the air. Let those would lay down our lives for our King keep pressing on for the gospel of God for His glory alone.

Jonspach said...

First, know that I agree with you as a whole & that I love Christian Hip-Hop. But I think you might be putting forth a bit of a straw-man here.

The quote you use is definitely one that is poorly reasoned and easily disproved, but it's hardly the most compelling or sound argument against Christian Hip Hop.

The more critical argument deals with whether all forms of expression (music in this example) are automatically neutral and if not... then comes the argument.

Seth McBee said...

Actually what you stated is the outcome of my post.

Music is neutral it is how one uses it...either to glorify self or Christ.

Which I don't even believe you have to be a "Christian" band to glorify God in your music and you don't have to listen to Christian music to glorify God.

If anyone puts forth that music isn't culturally neutral, then I can then easily point to those fallacies as is an expression of its culture.

Thanks for the comment.

Seth McBee said...

I should actually say that music, like any art throughout history, is an expression of its culture...

This is shown in many of Schaeffer's writings which help out this understanding substantially.

Jonspach said...

Agree with music as an expression of culture rather than a neutral form.

I would argue that a canvas is neutral, and the "idea" of music is neutral. A drum is neutral. A guitar is neutral. A microphone is neutral, etc. - but music itself induces an emotional response. I'm speaking of the essence of what makes music, music, as opposed to the lyrics.

So to play devil's advocate: We can listen to Wagner and Handel (and we're both removed from those cultures a good deal, though perhaps not the legacy of said culture) and have a completely different feeling because of what the music is.

Just like Rage Against the Machine is going to get you more pumped (even without a vocal track) than the Cranberries. So the argument against Christian hip-hop is predicated on whether or not it is built on an emotive sound that induces feelings of violence, false bravado, pride, etc.

So a convincing argument in support of Christian Hip-Hop needs to deal with whether the music (not the lyrics) are permanently and inseparably linked to a certain ungodly attitude or feeling, rather than a polemic against another type of music that is more accepted.

I don't think the "music is neutral argument" is convincing, because frankly, music isn't.

Seth McBee said...

Simplistically, if we try and say that the music isn't neutral and there is a difference within the Cranberries vs Rage, then we could say that while Rage's music (without lyrics) causes, well, rage then we could say that the Cranberries causes one to be lazy and a slacker.

Same with Norah Jones, etc.

I think that is way too simplistic. I think that while different styles of musical instrumentation is going to be appropriate depending on the situation, it doesn't make it evil or good.

The words play a huge part and the culture that the music is found in is a large part as well.

I maintain that music is neutral when dealing moralistically and godliness. It is how one uses that music and how they worship when they listen or play it that is the bigger deal.

The same beat could be used to spew rhymes about your mom being fat and good for nothing, or that same beat could be used to say something about the day to day of someone or about the cross.

Lyrics are a bigger deal than I think your devil's advocate is putting forth.

The style of music will just depend on culture. That is why Michael W. Smith churches have a hard time with Lecrae and why Lecrae churches would have a hard time with Michael W. Smith.

Before our service starts, we play anything from secular music, hip hop to Christian Indie music. That is the culture of our church...very diverse...and I love it and we accept it.'s how you use it within the culture you are in.

Jonspach said...

Yeah, I don't want to imply that lyrics don't matter, because they do.

My point about Rage & the Cranberries is not to say "avoid this, but not that" but rather to show that music itself isn't neutral. That's music theory 101 (which is as much as I took in college). You don't have to understand the lyrics (or even have them) to respond to music. Certain types of music are created in a way to invoke a response.

So music isn't neutral - you can play a song like "Send Me" to fire people up about missions or DMX can use a similar beat to get people fired up about chewing through someone else's crew. But unless they're being ironic - no one is using that style of music to express sorrow or lull someone to sleep. You can try, but you're getting into Yoko Ono territory.

If music were truly neutral it would be interchangeable. Instead we take non-neutral music and fit it with a message. Can the message be successfully separated from the heritage of the music itself? I think so, but I'm not willing to dismiss arguments contra to that.

Also - definitely intrigued about using secular music before the service starts. I imagine there are boundaries to that, but maybe that's a different post.

Seth McBee said...

I believe that those things that are derived from music, emotions per se are not morally good or evil. Depends on the situation and the culture.

I think that saying that music stirs certain emotions is still not enough to take it from that and give it some moralistic grounding.

In that way, moralistically, it is definitely neutral.

Same with food. Some can eat a hamburger and be totally fine, other gorge their face with 10 of them and have now crossed over into sinning with gluttony. Not the hamburgers fault.

Now quit being the advocate of the devil :)

Jonspach said...

Now quit being the advocate of the devil :)

Will do. To any more earnest advocates of the devil - go buy an album by Shai Linne. You will change you mind. Seriously. Buy Storiez and listen to Passover.

Seth, always a pleasure to make the argumentative equivalent of Tartarus pushing his boulder uphill.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Shai Linne, I use his song "Mission Accomplished" to explain Limited Atonement to others.


Seth McBee said...

Being that I am unlimited/limited guy, I found that song to be brutal...therefore...deleted it off my iTunes :)

He was just regurgitating Owen's mistakes.

Darlene said...


I've only become familiar with your blog over the last several months, but from all that I've read, I thought you were a 5 point Tulip kind of guy. Have I misread you?

Seth McBee said...

Good question.
I am a moderate Calvinist. Meaning I believe in all 5 points, but I also would add unlimited atonement to the mix as well.


I believe Christ died for all men, removing all obstacles, especially for the elect.

I believe, historically, that this was the main view of most Calvinists, even John Calvin himself.

Check out Calvin and Calvinism on my blogroll...he has a great rolodex if you will on the historical understanding of God's love, desire and death for the reprobate.

Reforming Baptist said...

Seth: " The Beatles said that they were bigger than Jesus yet no one is calling out those bands that sound a lot like them or play similar licks or instruments."

Me: You havn't listened to IFB preaching much have you?

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