Words of Controversial Wisdom from Someone Else Don’t Blame Me I Just Repeated It But I Do Think They Are Wise So Take Them Under Advisement and May the Lord Grant You Wisdom

Here are two arguments I took down from a conversation I had with a musically oriented older man who has significant seminary training. I offer them for your consideration; I thought they were wise:

  • When people are dancing and acting without inhibition at a rock concert they’re not dancing to a cultural association. And it’s probably not primarily the text that’s driving them.
  • If someone says that the Scripture says anything about musical style, you might ask whether or not there are any dancing styles they consider wrong. The Bible says nothing about bad dancing styles.

Bravado + Bible = Just Sort of Ridiculous

Note: I sent this post to Lecrae’s record label (I was unable to locate his e-mail address in repeated attempts), and received no reply in several months. I don’t blame them; I’m sure they’re busy! But this is a public issue calling for public comment. I think you’ll see that I hold Lecrae in high esteem as a true Christian brother. But his leadership in the Christian community is creating confusion.

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My heart is with Lecrae. I watched him give an interview to Mark Driscoll, and I love so many of the same things he does, preeminently the glory of Christ! He is intelligent, and he’s not after worldly success. Perhaps his most popular track tells everyone not to waste their lives by going after merely temporal things. Lecrae in the interview was gracious, theologically knowledgeable, passionate. And Judging by the iTunes comments on his latest rap album—and by that track so many of them were praising—he’s a brilliantly good rapper. (It pains me to say such a thing, but I have no doubt that it’s true!)

However… music communicates something apart from any lyrics that are placed with it. The lyrics can complement the music, or they can stand in contrast to it.

In the case of theologically-informed rap like Lecrae’s, the lyrics and the music are communicating two very different messages, and the result is sadly ridiculous: “Submit to Christ!” says the “rebəl.” “Be humble,” he preaches with bravado.

Bravado. That’s just it. Rap music screams bravado; it’s intrinsic to the genre. A bunch of young guys waving their arms around martially and shouting “Yeeeah! Yeeeah!” in ultra-masculine tones—preaching Christ?

Look at these lines, rapped on Lecrae’s album by guest rapper “Dwayne Tryumph:”

Persecution lets go! // Tribulation lets go!

He seems to be saying “If you follow Christ persecution and tribulation will come—so bring it on!” That’s mixing the humility and trust proper to a Christian with the machismo of rap music.

Here’s some more, this time rapped by Lecrae himself:

So I know I got life
Matter fact better than I know I got Christ
If you don’t see His ways in my days and nights
You can hit my brakes you can stop my lights
Man I lost my rights
Lost my life
Forget the money cars and toss that ice
The cost is Christ
And they could never offer me anything on the planet that’ll cost that price.

Bravado/machismo music + theologically astute (though kind of corny, to my ears) rap lyrics = confusion.

“Don’t be conformed to the world,” Paul commands. I believe that that passage applies strongly here.

P.S. I found these comments from iTunes reviewers interesting:

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Maoz Zur

Pick up some free cultural and religious enrichment at Amazon׃ a traditional Hanukah song which is more than reminiscent of the biblical Psalms.

While listening, try to follow along in the Hebrew. (Please try, if only to justify the time I spent typing it out!)

Hebrew:

מָעוֹז צוּרִ יְשׁוּעָתִי לְךָ נָאֶה לְשַׁבֵּחַ

תִּכּוֹן בִֵּית תְּפִלָּתִי וְשָׁם תּוֹדָה נְזַבֵּהַ

לְעֵת תָּכִִין מַטְבֵּהַ מִצָּר הַמְנַבֵּהַ

אָז אֶגְמוֹר בְּשִׁיר מִזְמוֹר הֲנֻכַּת הַמִּזְבֵּהַ

English Translation:
O mighty stronghold of my salvation,
To praise You is a delight.
Restore my House of Prayer
And there we will bring a thanksgiving offering.
When You will have prepared the slaughter
For the blaspheming foe,
Then I shall complete with a song of hymn
The dedication of the Altar.

Transliteration:
Ma-oz Tzur Y’shu-a-ti Le-cha Na-eh L’sha-bei-ach
Ti-kon Beit T’fi-la-ti V’sham To-da N’za-bei-ach
L’eit Ta-chin Mat-bei-ach Mi-tzar Ha-mi-ga-bei-ach
Az Eg-mor B’shir Miz-mor Cha-nu-kat Ha-miz-bei-ach