Lecrae on Culture (via www.theresurgence.com)
I ran across this post as I perused the internet this morning. Lecrae expresses some of my convictions about Christians engaging culture, particularly as it relates to the urban or hip-hop [sub]culture.
One of the great misconceptions is that, if you’re engaging cultural forms of music, TV, film, etc. that somehow you’re being worldly, and that is antithetical to being Christian. Missionaries walk into a culture and try to figure out what that culture’s functional gospel is. “Peering into a different cultural world, that you don’t fully agree with as a Christian,” Pastor Mark Driscoll asks the Grammy-nominated artist Lecrae in this excerpted interview, “how do you maintain discernment, how do you interpret, how do you study, how do you make sure you’re going in [to culture], not just to be entertained, but to be informed?”
Here’s how Lecrae responded:
The top rappers are not just artists people enjoy listening to—they’re role models, they’re father figures.
Music doesn’t have a soul, gets saved, and becomes a believer, by any means, and by listening to secular music, you won’t exactly find yourself in Hellafornia. However, in the urban context, specifically hip-hop culture, music does have an influence. Hip-hop was a culture that sprung up out of the Bronx in the late ’60s, early ’70s, when some disenfranchised, disadvantaged kids said, “Man, we lost our jobs, we don’t have anything to do this summer, let’s start spray-painting, let’s start DJing and breakdancing,” things along those lines. Then it sprawled out into a culture.
Unlike rock and R&B or any other type or genre of music, I think the urban culture heavily identifies with hip-hop. They find their identity in it, they find their purpose in it, and realistically, it’s where their modern-day philosophers and their modern-day leaders come from. Some of the top rappers today [in 2007], are Lil Wayne, Jay-Z. They’re not just artists people enjoy listening to—they’re role models, they’re father figures. People take their cues from them.
Paul familiarized himself with the sayings, the teachers, the poets, the authors, the gods, and the idols of the day. That’s a necessary thing to do.
I didn’t know what a bottle of Cristal was until I heard Jay-Z say it—I didn’t know I needed Cristal. Oh, they have 26-inch rims now? Oh, that’s the new thing. I didn’t know I needed those until my modern-day philosophers told me I needed that. So at the time, I think for my church to say, “Hey, you need to chill on your music,” for a lot us in the urban context, it was probably necessary, because we were taking so many of our cues from our music. So for a period I needed to put hip-hop on the shelf.
Now, being someone who feels like I’m an indigenous minister to the hip-hop culture, an indigenous missionary, I do peer in. I do listen to what’s going on out there, for the purpose of being educated on what’s going on the culture. Not to take cues from them or champion them or say, “I believe them!” but to understand the messages that are being filtered into the culture.
I live in the inner city, not because I have to, but because I desire to see those around me come to the Lord.
Maintaining discernment in this is a multitude of things, number one being, taking cues from Scripture. Looking at Acts 17 and definitely looking at Paul’s model- seeing what he did on [the Areopagus,] Mars Hill, how he familiarized himself with the sayings, the teachers, the poets, the authors, the gods, and the idols of the day. That’s a necessary thing to do. Also using the Bible as filter and saying, “What does the Bible advocate? What does it not advocate? What does it speak against? What doesn’t it speak against?” So if I say, “Oh, rap, making words rhyme, essentially, is that wrong?” I don’t see anything wrong with that scripturally. But the exaltation of self, the exaltation of self-glorification and money and fame and things along those lines, yeah, the Bible speaks out against those, so in those areas I say, “OK, these are red flags, these are issues that are contradictory to Scripture.” But then clearly having close accountability, having brothers who say, “Man, you’re making much of yourself as of late,” guys who know me, who love me, and can pick up on those things.
On top of that, keeping my mission constantly in front of me, and immersing myself in that helps a lot. I live in the inner city of Memphis, Tennessee [he now lives in Atlanta], not because I have to, but because I desire to see those around me come to the Lord, I desire to be around the culture that I know I have influence in. So they’re constantly before me, in the deadness, the sin, the depravity—it’s constantly in front of my face, so I’m almost forced to know what’s going on, what are their values, ideals, and bring Christ to them.
This post is an adapted excerpt from an interview that Pastor Mark conducted with Lecrae, a couple years ago. You can download his latest mixtape, Church Clothes, for free here.