Revelations: Something to rap about
June 17, 2011 at 1:17 a.m.
BY JENNIFER PREYSS
A few weekends ago, I was introduced to Christian rap. It's not that I didn't think the genre didn't exist. I'm sure I considered that even Christian music extended to all genres, even rap.
But not all Christian music is good. And let's face it, Christians attempting to rap is a bit misplaced, right? The ongoing secular joke is that Christians aren't always so cool ... (Think: "Simpsons" Ned Flanders' famous catch phrase, "Hi-diddly-ho neighborino").
At least that's what I thought before I heard San Antonio-based artist Jarrell Flowers rapping to a group of teenagers at One Retreat two weekends ago. Before Flowers, I guess I never considered Christian hip-hop could be any good, or taken seriously.
If you're a fan of Christian music like I am, rap isn't something you're likely to hear on the radio airwaves. No, Toby Mac doesn't count.
Whether we're worshiping in church, or jamming to Christian tunes while driving down the road, most the songs we hear on Christian radio are pop, acoustic, gospel and occasionally, rock. Definitely not rap.
How amazing would it be to flip on the radio one afternoon and hear a powerful hip-hop beat, lyrics with attitude, passion and street-cred - that just so happens to be all about loving Jesus.
That's why I was so impressed with Flowers. Not only was the music catchy, but if you were driving down the road and it came on a mainstream radio station, like for example Victoria's KVIC, you may not even realize it's a song about Jesus, and surrendering to Christ.
And since Flowers isn't a "gansta," devoid of the typical rapper bio of growing up "street" in a lower-income neighborhood, he proudly proclaims the message of God in his attitude-filled raps, yet lives a life that any Christ-follower could admire.
So, when I interviewed Flowers in San Antonio last week, I asked him if he ever encounters dissenters of his musical stylings. You know, those churchy-types nailed to tradition, rejecting all Christian music that doesn't sound like an 1800's church hymn.
Flowers admitted he hears a bit of chatter on the issue from inside the church, often from people who can't understand how rap beats can be used to worship God, or spread the gospel.
It was sort of a sad moment for me. I could see on his face that at some point during his journey to spread God's love through rap, he's encountered a Christian, or two, who rejected his music simply because it was too progressive. It wasn't Christian enough.
On the drive home from San Antonio, I started thinking about Jesus, and how progressive and forward-thinking he was for his time. He was the man born into a poor family; a man who befriended sinners and women and defended them from injustice. He was a man who went against the grain in every way, eating and drinking with tax collectors and chastising the overly religious.
A verse came to me, Mark 2:15-17: "While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples ... When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples, 'Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?' On hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'"
Reflecting on the verse, I thought about all the unbelieving kids at One Retreat, many of them sitting bored and uninterested in God until Flowers took the stage with his song "White Rags." For the first time, they were able to hear Christian music they could identify with because it represents their culture, their generation, their beat.
And then, I thought about how often we, as Christians, want to stay in the safe Christian bubble, not reaching out to the tax collectors of our time, our generation. Don't they too need a friend who can look at them in their generation as Jesus looked at the men in the first century? It doesn't have to mean our Christian theology shifts, it just means the delivery of it might. It doesn't mean we don't honor God with these new methods of ministry, it just means we might honor God differently. Maybe it means one more person, who otherwise may have been turned off by the church, decides to give God a chance. And I don't know if a rap song is the way they get to that point; I guess I'm all right with that.
Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.