Church leaders have gotten into the act, as well. In the presence of Kurtis Blow, one of rap's founding fathers, Suffragan Bishop Catherine Roskam concluded the mass July 2 by encouraging "all my homies and peeps" to "keep your head up, holla back, and go forth and tell it like it is."I'm not sure how I want to react. Part of me wants to bust out laughing. Part of it is just that I'm not used to hearing that construction in that context. Forget whether it's valid or not, I'm just not used to it. I have to concede that. At the same time, do we really need to take it there? Personally, I think it would be one thing if there was a groundswell movement by Christian hip-hoppers who started their own congregations and held services like these. While I would still have my qualms about it, at least it would be legitimate effluence and not a gimmick. Yeah, the apostle Paul mentioned becoming all things to all people, but Jesus don't need no gimmicks. What makes it gimmicky is not the hip-hop element, however, it's that the people in charge don't even have the hip-hop cadence down. When Jesus met the apostles, he spoke to them in terms they were familiar with and could understand. I'm thinking that he was probably not unfamilar with those terms himself, though. With my background in funk, soul, and hip-hop, I'm probably not the best one to start some type of heavy metal outreach ministry. I don't know the lingo, I don't have a rubric for evaluating what's good, and I don't know what's popular. Hip-hop has the (dis)advantage of being very accessible. Because most people think it's all about rhyming couplets with a stress on the last word, as popularized by Melle Melle in the early 80's, just about everybody thinks they can rap. Because it's the number one genre worldwide in terms of sales and media attention, everybody has contact with it, and many people think they really know something about it. Hence, we get all these commentators who wouldn't know Rakim from Radio Raheem, talking about hip-hop this and hip-hop that, as if that little smidgen they know represents the sum total of what hip-hop is about. Unless a person deals with it and understands it at more than a cursory 'I-saw-it-on-the-idiot-box' level, they probably shouldn't fool with it, either to critique it as a whole or to try to use it as a tool. Take some time, learn about it, understand the lingo, get some historical perspective, then start trying to deal with it. All that to say I don't think it's necessarily a bad idea to use hip-hop as a tool in spreading the gospel, but I think it's probably better left to people who have already built up their dexterity.
ChristCube and Missionaries Wit Attitudes?
I love Jesus and I love hip-hop, so it would seem that the hip-hop services described in the Chicago Tribune (subscription required) would be right up my alley. For some reason, though, it just doesn't sit right with me. I'm not exactly sure about the source of my discomfort. I know everybody doesn't enjoy the same musical forms (and we can get into a debate on the musical legitimacy of hip-hop at some other time. But before you speak, make sure you can account for The Roots.), and that there's nothing wrong with expressing the love of Jesus in different genres. There's everything right with it. Still, the idea of a hip-hop service...something seems shady about it. More than likely it's this quote that's got me uncomfortable: "Hip-hop is who we are; it's how we talk," Holder said. "We're foolish if we think we going to communicate any other way." I got a problem with that. As I've said I-don't-know-how-many times, I am not a linguistic prescriptivist. I don't care about cuss words, I don't care about non-standard construction, I don't care about made-up words, I don't care about anything but making sure that the message is conveyed from the sender to the receiver. At the same time, the pragmatic part of me knows that no matter how hip-hop we are, no matter what kind of street slang we talk when we're around the way, we'd better have a different set of verbal "shoes" to put on in different contexts. I couldn't get up in the pulpit talking about, "W'sup, dawg." I suppose there's a good discussion to be had on whether I should be able to or not, but there's no question that I can't. So when I read