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Hip Hop and Black Churches?

October 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Ent., Misc., Music, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( Hip-Hop titans Jay-Z and Kanye West interestingly decided on “No Church in the Wild” as the first track on their long-anticipated album, Watch the Throne. I want to explore this understanding of “the wild” within two critical realms of African American life, Black churches and Hip-Hop culture. It’s not my desire to exclude or diminish other religious traditions; I want to speak directly to the context I know best, my own.

As a young scholar, ordained Christian minister and avid Hip-Hop head, I once found myself in a very interesting conversation about my doctoral work in  religion and Hip-Hop culture with a middle-aged, African-American pastor of a large congregation. He says to me: “I don’t allow that type of stuff in our church, especially in the pulpit. I don’t see what value Hip-Hop adds to me or the church. People don’t come to hear about Kanye but to hear about Christ.” His approach, an either/or understanding, is a clear example of why Christian ministry is often classified as culturally and socially irrelevant. It ignores the critical fact that “the wild” is not only located outside the walls of Black churches but actually inside as well.

 While the church has often housed the vitality and prophetic witness of our communities by speaking truth to power and pursuing justice, the streets, the metaphorical and literal ones, are pushing forth issues that churches (and for the sake of this article – Black churches) are often slow to respond to. The opulent and massive churches that are being built in the middle of urban spaces or on ample acreage in the suburbs are at risk of being increasingly disconnected from the streets and the day-to-day concerns of the underserved.

 Black Christian preaching continues to struggle to grasp and articulate the harshness of urban realities and, subsequently, misses the beautiful opportunity to consistently breathe life into “the wild.” Messages from far too many churches are often limited to preaching hope by ignoring crippling social realities, using Hip-Hop as a hook to catch people’s attention or using young people as the whipping boy and scapegoat for societal ills.

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6 Responses to “Hip Hop and Black Churches?”
  1. Eddie Harris says:

    Joshua and DG, I defy you to substantiate your opinions by using the word of GOD. All you have done is express your opinions without scriptures verification. As a christian, man ” MUST ” live by every word of GOD.(Mt.4:4 )Without GOD and JESUS, your opinions mean absolutely nothing when it comes to the spiritual things of GOD.
    Psalm 127

    1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
    They labor in vain who build it;
    Unless the LORD guards the city,
    The watchman stays awake in vain.

    Jeremiah 10:23

    New King James Version (NKJV)

    23 O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself;
    It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.

    John 15:5

    New King James Version (NKJV)

    5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

    2 Corinthians 3:5

    New King James Version (NKJV)

    5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,

    There is absolutely nothing your personal opinions can do to get people into heaven, however, your personal opinions can lead people to hell. It is all about the word of GOD and giving GOD all the glory.

    You can not find anything that is secular and of the world being accepted by GOD that is in the bible.

    1 Peter 2:9

    New King James Version (NKJV)

    9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

    1 John 5:19

    King James Version (KJV)

    19And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.
    By the way Joshua, I trust that we can discuss without the name calling and labeling.

  2. Joshua says:

    Eddie I am sorry but you sound like a religious nut. Jesus never cared for tradition and honestly Christian Hip Hop has been around since Hip Hop’s creation. I an all honesty there is already a ton of hip hop musical style in gospel music. Don’t get the music confused with the content. It is soley up to the artist to make the song so I highly doubt you will hear a song about bitches and hoes in a church.

    But while you point at hip hop at being a short coming for any church (LOL) there are tons of problems in any given church especially the black church. So get your priorities straight. If hip hop helps people relate to God and what the pastor is preaching than that’s good. But as long as we have half wits and religious nuts like you the Black Church will remain the same broken mess that it is now.

  3. DG says:

    Eddie, none of those scriptures speak explicitly about hip hop. Further more, current gospel music is not the same music they sang in the bible anyway.

  4. Johnnie says:

    Psalm 24:1
    The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
    The world and those who dwell therein.

    Rap and Hip Hop just updated methods of music. The content is what can be distorted by “The Enemy”. As part of the younger generation, I couldn’t tell the difference between “juke joint blues” and old school gospel until I listened to the lyrics.

    The world and everything in it comes from God, some things are just tainted by evil (like men from The Fall).

  5. Eddie Harris says:

    Bringing the Hip Hop culture into the church and the house of GOD is categorically and emphatically ” WRONG ‘. GOD is holy and that makes the the church which consist of human beings and the house of worship holy. The Hip Hop culture is of the world and does not come from GOD. If it is not of GOD, then it is man made doctrines which can not be brought into the church and the house of worship.
    Matthew 15:8-9

    New King James Version (NKJV)

    8 ‘ These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
    And[a]honor Me with their lips,
    But their heart is far from Me.
    9 And in vain they worship Me,
    Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men
    Everything we say and do ” MUST ” coincide with the word of GOD.

    Matthew 4:4

    New King James Version (NKJV)

    4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’
    The church is no conformed to this world.

    Romans 12:2

    New King James Version (NKJV)

    2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
    The whole world lies in wickedness that is why the church is called out of the world. No culture aspects can be brought into the church.

    1 John 5:19

    King James Version (KJV)

    19And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

    James 4:4

    King James Version (KJV)

    4Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

    1 John 2:15

    King James Version (KJV)

    15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
    GOD has set HIS stanard and it is”imperative” that the church “MUST” in HIS word and not what man has to say.

    Acts 5:29

    King James Version (KJV)

    29Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
    In conclusion, it does not matter what man has to say, for the church it is the word of GOD. Ergo, the Hip Hop media or culture aspects have no place in the church, it is categorically and emphatically ” WRONG”.

  6. DG says:

    Hip hop in and of itself is not the problem. It is just a vehicle for the delivery of a message. I think what scares most pastors is content.

    I don’t think churches need to fear the vehicle, if the message that is brought within the vehicle fits within the Christian principles. I think there is space for the church to have hip hop. Not Kanye though, he is garbage. My sister for years was a gospel hip hop artist and she had alot of impact in the community.

    Secondly, I disagree with your assessment of the church. The church is PART of the urban inner city reality, as such it cannot be separated from it. I think your assessment, while on point in most cases, tends to follow into the church is an island in the hood. As long as folks from the hood go to the church it isn’t an island.

    It’s role in the community has most definitely changed since it was the hub of the Black community. Its impact has diminished in the face of increasing Black materialism, and integration but it is still embedded in the community.

    I am not sure the Black church will ever get back to the relevance that it had pre-1970’s.

    I would love to read more of your in depth thoughts on the Black church and how it interfaces with modern urban culture. It is a great topic.

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