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The Rap on Rap

Recent furor over a panel discussion on rap at the NCFIC has ignited a controversy in the Christian cyber community. Tragedy is not lacking in some of what has been uttered. At the outset, I confess that I have neither the rhythm nor the quickness of mind to be a rapper so I do not participate just as I do not plan to treat my campus to my rendition of “O Holy Night” this Christmas. But contrary to the panel, I have used Christian rap in chapel and will not hesitate to do so again. I also initiated a jazz degree in Southwestern’s School of Church Music.

Rap is more like a form of preaching accompanied by music or percussion.

First, rap is more like a form of preaching accompanied by music or percussion. Not one to believe that drums were invented in Africa by the devil, I see rap as potentially helpful in both theology and politics. My thinking was challenged on this some years ago in Kazakhstan when I was joined by a Christian Rock band called Sound Theology. I confess that the music did not exactly charm my already ancient ears. However, the music and the musicians were greatly used of God to reach teens for Jesus. In fact, more were brought to Christ through their music than through my preaching. Fault my preaching all that you want, but that will not change the fact that teens came to Christ in significant numbers through their message.

That experience led me to some analysis. I am not an acrobat. But if a display of dexterity and a presentation of biblical truth provided by a genuinely godly acrobat is a vehicle that God chooses to use, who am I to instruct God about what He is not to do? I stress “godly acrobat” because I remember the post not long ago about a “Christian stripper.” I am not arguing that every cultural form is neutral, much less positive.

Even if the origin of rap is unwholesome, surely Matthew’s work as a tax collector for the Romans had an unfortunate origin and purpose. But Matthew turned it around to a dinner with Jesus and some of his rowdy friends. Anyone object?

As long as the cultural or ethnic form engaged does not violate morality or Scriptural truth, is it not subject, like the donkey that carried Jesus, to the Master’s use?

There is no interest here to sanitize everything in culture or to be an advocate of the exclusive use of rap, country-western, or opera as the best approach to the participatory worship of the church. Churches are supposed to be composed of folks of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds. As long as the cultural or ethnic form engaged does not violate morality or Scriptural truth, is it not subject, like the donkey that carried Jesus, to the Master’s use? Some forms are more helpful than others and some are more aesthetically valuable than others. But to say to an earnest rapper, obviously gifted for this engagement, a man who is right in his theology and behavior, “you cannot use that medium and please God,” even if some are led to Christ through that medium, is seriously off base.

Hey, I have an idea. Why don’t we figure out how to concentrate our finest energies in figuring out how to share Jesus with every person on earth? Then why don’t we teach them what it means to follow Jesus in every way? We will accomplish infinitely more than arguing over whether rap is intrinsically evil.

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Paige Patterson

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