Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
“Gospel” Rap? “Christian” Music?
I just started reading popular hip-hop star Lecrae’s biography, Unashamed. What makes Lecrae notable is the combination of his success in the music industry, specifically through rap/hip-hop, along with his unwavering commitment to his faith in Jesus Christ.
Lecrae notes one of the difficulties with labeling music as “Christian” music:
Being an outspoken Christian in the music industry means always feeling out of place…
This is one of the reasons I don’t fully embrace the “Christian rapper” label. It isn’t that I’m ashamed of being a Christian. I’m not… But labeling the music that way creates hurdles and is loaded down with baggage. Plus, it isn’t a true expression of the music I’m making. I try to produce music that is life-giving and inspires people to hope… I want to address themes that people who aren’t Christian can appreciate. (6-7, cited below)
He tells a few stories about how this label has actually hindered the impact his music can have on the world. Is it possible that by using the label “Christian music” we may be doing more harm than good? How might Christians make music that speaks to a world thirsting for truth?
Lecrae’s autobiography has already forced me to think deeply about a number of issues. Unashamed is recommended reading, though I note I haven’t finished it yet.
Lecrae Moore with Jonathan Merritt, Unashamed (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2016).
On Christian Music– I wrote a post about the label “Christian music” and how that can lead to a number of difficulties with discernment.
Christian Discernment Regarding Music: A Reflection and Response– I reflect in depth on how we can use our discernment properly when it comes to music.
Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)
Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy movies, and more!
I often find myself cringing at the lyrics that pass for contemporary Christian music as I listen to the radio (which, admittedly, I rarely do). From songs like “Courageous,” which makes it sound like only men can have courage… or at least that only they were “made to be” that way; to those like “Lead Me,” which encourages co-dependence in relationships, I find myself wondering if there are any egalitarian Christian musicians out there making music that shares that message. I know of none.
Anyone know of any?
The question, of course, is whether the concept of gender “roles” even needs to be an issue for egalitarian musicians. Moreover, how might an egalitarian theme be put forward meaningfully through music? I’m interested to know if anyone has thoughts on this.
Of course, all of this may just be another displayed symptom of the problem I’ve mentioned before with having a distinct genre of “Christian” music over and against other types of music.
Christian Discernment Regarding Music: A reflection and response– Here I react to a post encouraging discernment when thinking about the category of Christian music.
On Christian Music– I reflect on the category of “Christian Music” and whether it is even a functionally helpful tool.
Engaging Culture: Demon Hunter’s “Extremist” and the Apologetic Task– I discuss the latest album from Demon Hunter and how music may act as an apologetic endeavor.
Here, we’ll take a look at a recent album released by a favorite band of mine. Then, we’ll look at how this project relates to the broader field of apologetics.
Demon Hunter continues to release album after album, much to the delight of their fans (like me!). The heavy metal (in the spirit of nu metal/metalcore) band is formed of Christians who speak their faith through lyrics.
Musically, the album shows the range Demon Hunter has developed over time. There are a few ballads interspersed among numerous heavy riffs and screaming. The lead singer, Ryan Clark, has developed much since the first album. His voice is haunting when he sings, and his screaming continues to reverberate through the guitars and drums.
The lyrics are where the album truly shines. In “The Heart of a Graveyard,” for example, we find an existential call to awareness of the transcendent: “Tell me that your hopes and dreams don’t end in/the heart/Of a graveyard.” The cry to realize there is more to life than an ending “six feet” under is quite poignant. “I Will Fail You” is a heart-rending look into human nature: “I will fail you, of that I’m sure/I will remind you of the pain forevermore/And when my sins are just a memory, faith restored/I will fail you to the core.” The words are reminiscent of Paul’s words regarding his own failings in Romans 7:19 and present a clear call to the need for repentance. “Artificial Light” rejects the false replacements for true comfort and peace offered by a sinful world.
Overall “Extremist” is another excellent entry into Demon Hunter’s ever-growing list of hits. The music is intense, but the lyrics are truly the star in this album. From the existential need for salvation to themes of repentance and insight into human nature, Demon Hunter hit this one on all cylinders. I highly recommend the album.
So why post this review on a website dedicated to philosophy of religion, theology, and apologetics? Let’s not forget that one of the tasks of the apologist is to critically engage culture at every level. What part of reality falls outside the purview of the Christian worldview? Short answer: no part does. I want to encourage my fellow apologists to engage with the arts as much and as often as possible.
Not only that, but an album and band like this is capable of becoming an apologetic itself. I’ll never forget hearing Demon Hunter’s song “Thorns” for the first time (from an earlier album) and relating it back to the reality of the Cross and Jesus resurrection. Music like this which is lyrically fulfilling is itself an apologetic presentation. The fact that a band like Demon Hunter has the talent to headline shows at Ozzfest, among others, speaks to the appeal of the Christian worldview even in a culture which allegedly remains “checked out.” I thus also want to appeal to my fellow Christians generally: use the talents God gave you. Your worldview will come through in your writing, playing, painting, sculpting, and the like. God has uniquely gifted you to be a light to the nations.
Engaging Culture: A Brief Guide for movies– I reflect on how Christians can engage with popular movies in order to have meaningful conversations with those around them.
Book Review: “Think Christianly” by Jonathan Morrow– Take a look at this book about how we might engage with Christianity in every aspect of our lives.
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Every week I search to find the best the web has to offer to you, dear reader. Check out my Really Recommended Posts this week, which feature everyone’s favorite topic: dinosaurs. Also featured are egalitarianism, Down Syndrome and abortion, creationism, a comic (and who doesn’t love comics!), and the worship wars. If you see something you like, let me know! Also, feel free to share your own recommendations here. I’d be happy to look into them. If you do share a link, be sure to drop a comment to let me know what it’s all about.
Rapid Burial Allows Preservation of a Hadrosaur Fleshy Head Comb– There have been a few finds of late with soft tissue preservation of dinosaurs. This allegedly presents a problem for the time scales proposed by contemporary science, according to some young earth creationists. Here, the author explores the preservation of soft tissue and argues that it actually presents a difficulty for young earth creationists.
‘If I don’t protect them, I am nothing’: The man who discovered Down syndrome– Down syndrome is a reason that many children are aborted today. It’s horrifying. The story of the man who discovered Down syndrome is a powerful testament to the need to protect and preserve life.
Women Evangelists in Acts– A brief but compelling argument that those who dismiss the notion of women in the ministry may not be taking the entire biblical witness into account. For example, what of those women who evangelized?
How Young-Earth Creationism Became a Core Tenet of American Fundamentalism, Part 1– It is often assumed that young earth creationism is simply a product of the Bible. The history of the movement is informative in correcting this misconception. Get informed yourself and check out this article.
Humans in Light of Biblical Revelation– A comic which shares an uncomfortable truth.
Worship Wars–faulty (and hurtful) logic– Does contemporary Christian music, by necessity, entail a lack of depth and wanton emotionalism? Check out this article exploring some issues related to a recent critique of CCM in general.