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The Answer

At the risk of over-simplifying things, I will say that the answer is rooted in the Approach. Jesus and Jigga cannot resolve the differences between Hip-Hop Culture and the Church. Conferences, special speakers, burning cds and posters of rap artists are not the answer either. Once we understand the void that these rap artists fill with their presence and lyrics, then we will truly comprehend the need for person-to-person interaction on this topic.

I donít think itís a coincidence that Hip-Hop as a culture and movement found a home with inner-city youth shortly after the 1960ís programs which were supposed to usher in The Great Society (see links below for opposing views on The Great Society). I wonder how much attention has been given to studying the overall response of the church to these programs that were intended to help the poor? If the churches of that time were unable/unwilling to aid the needy and advocate for the defenseless, then perhaps they proved themselves to be without effect.

Christians from a social conservative perspective are often quick to point out the problems associated with welfare programs. While there is certainly truth in such arguments, one would be wise to examine the role that churches itself played in bringing these programs into existance. Somebody has to feed the poor. Was the Body of Christ cutting up fish and loaves of bread in the 1960's? Are we to believe that the government built up a multi-billion dollar program because the Church was so effective at feeding the poor? Did these welfare checks start rolling from the government because of genuine Christian concern and generosity towards the poor? If the Church doesn't step up, then it logically follows that Congress will step in.

I am persuaded that the people of God now hide behind the government. In a move much like the ancient practice of corban from the days of Christ, the Christian establishment has allowed the rank and file Christian to think that their taxes (which pay for government programs) now fulfilled their obligation to the poor. The irony is that many people will declare without batting an eye that shoving government checks into peopleís mailboxes canít solve all the problems. And yet, how many hands go up to volunteer for Christian service projects in the inner city?

Perhaps generations ago, however, the Church would have taken the inner-city as a garden where the love of God was to be planted, cultivated and flourished. But now, too many churches regard the inner-city as the haven of enemies to be exposed and shamed. Somewhere along the way, Christians have lost that godly blend of grace and truth, where both the love of God and hatred for sin brought healing.

And so, the vacuum left by godly flesh and blood was replaced by well-meaning youth who had a talent with words. Poetic youth translated street stories and lessons learned from them for their audience. The male voice in these stories has come to fill the void left by absent fathers. As these poets gained prominence, they became mouthpieces for the wide range of moral views held by the urban poor. Whether godly or gangsta, theirs is the voice that has raised multiple millions in my generation. Of course, Iím painting with very broad strokes here. However, I donít think it can be seriously debated that todayís urban youth are being raised more on movies, rap cds and videos than they are by a household led by both mom and dad.

From a Christian perspective, there is much honesty being portrayed by rappers; but too much wrong being mixed in to give the youth the right teaching. But the biggest danger isnít the rapper with bad teaching. The danger is the perception that the Church is more interested in criticizing the artists than it is in creating an atmosphere where both the kindness and discipline of God is known and understood. Instead of tearing down the music industry, the Church needs to build a spiritual and practical platform for families.

So, weíre back to the approach again. The best answer is the one personified by Christ Himself. The God of Israel had sent prophet after prophet with messages announcing His love for His people, along with a call to repentance. This went on for thousands of years. But the ultimate message came when the Lord Himself came and embodied the message with His own life. He came and brushed shoulders, looked people in the eye, and engaged them hand-to-hand; in fact, hand-in-hand. This is the call that the Church must rise to. If the Church will be effective, it wonít be because of sermons well preached at conferences well attended. It will be because of lives well lived as evidenced by people well loved. Itís so much more than parental advisory stickers.

Bottom Line: Too many Christians have closed their ears to the cries of youth as expressed in rap lyrics. The traditional answer has been to demand that these youth put aside their favorite music and come to church. But what we must remember is that Paul not only reasoned with those who shared his culture in the synagogues- he also went into the marketplace to those outside of his culture (Acts 17:17). Therefore, the Body of Christ in the 21st century should have no other practice. Instead of offering a church as an organization of morality, we must offer ourselves personally as living witnesses to the truth and grace of God, just as Jesus was (John 1:14).

The Approach To Use......

The Great Society Pros The Great Society Cons