i got halfway through this post on friday morning, but then i deleted it because it wasn’t taking form the way i wanted it to. but when my bro CDoubleDizz over at justbeingchristian.com posts on the theology of kanye’s “jesus walks” just three days later…well, i just can’t help myself.
i grew up in suburban kansas city. most of you know this. if not, welcome to my blog. when i was young, i thought hip-hop was evil. i based this on the fact that rap used cuss words and was nothing but the sex-drugs-cash trifecta. i decided that DC Talk was a better route – meet rap halfway, i guess. wouldn’t want to fill my mind with unholy filth. i have an inkling that this thought process was (and would still be) supported by the church i grew up in and am now employed by. this isn’t a dog on my church – but more a truth about the western suburban church in general: act like life is perfect. don’t doubt God. hide your sins, etc. the church isn’t a place for hip-hop.
i supposed this may be partially true – guys like snoop dogg and soulja boy likely have very little to say regarding theology, faith and spirituality – but a strong collection of the rap/hip-hop artists have a great deal to say. it’s honest, and that honesty makes the christian world uncomfortable. but if we were as honest as the rappers out there, i think we’d would realize that the hip-hop community has just as much (dare i say more) to say about life and theology than the white suburban culture that i’ve been raised in.
where does rap and hip-hop come from? it comes from the ghettos and the public housing systems – well, at least the honest stuff does. it comes from the 12 year old drug hustlers who have dreams of getting out of life they’ve been handed. it comes from the kids who didn’t have a shot at “the good life” that i was raised in.
they’re telling their story.
and their story is what frames their theology.
it’s no wonder the suburban church struggles with concepts like “hope” and “mourning” and “doubt” – our theology has been framed by simplicity and ease, comfort and shelter. we avoid the challenging questions and speak in generalities like “Jesus help me to trust you more.” we don’t ask questions like…
“Jesus, why was there another earthquake in Japan last week?”
“Jesus, why was i born into an upper middle-class home and not into a slum in india?”
“Jesus, why do so many people have to suffer so greatly?”
“Jesus, why don’t my parents love each other anymore?”
“Jesus, if you’re so great, why couldn’t you heal my friend’s dad?”
“Jesus, why don’t i even remotely feel your presence?”
and even when we ask these questions, we give answers like, “well, we live in a fallen world,” or “we don’t understand God’s plan,” and immediately extinguish a legitimately terrific theological question. a question that we ought to wrestle with, but instead we can forget about because of the ease of the culture that defines our theology.
hip-hop does not forget about these questions. why? because it can’t.
the artists and musicians that feed hip-hop culture has defined their theology in a culture that isn’t allowed to ignore those questions because they live it. it is their story. the people of Japan aren’t allowed to ignore the answer to the “why was there another earthquake?” question. if someone from the Indian slums asked me, “why was i born here and not where you were born?” and i answered, “we just don’t understand God’s plan,” then i would hope they would slap me. cause the next question would be “so God’s plan involves me growing up on pennies a day?”
hip-hop is a voice for the oppressed, for the less-fortunate, for the marginalized.
it’s a voice for the people who never had a chance at a different life.
it’s a voice for the individuals who wrestle with the toughest of questions.
hip-hop is truer theology than most people realize – or maybe better phrased, than most people allow themselves to realize.
listen: The Roots – Dear God 2.0