The difference between Christian Labeling and the Christian Rap Debate
The following is a guest post, written by Hafeez Baoku, the founder and president of The Urban Gospel Mission and Wade-O Radio listener and supporter. His bio and contact info can be found at the bottom of this post. If you’re interested in guest blogging, please contact our managing editor, Mikaela.
Here is the million dollar question. What is the difference between a Christian rapper and a rapper who is a Christian?
There isn’t one.
Let me explain. A rapper is simply a musician who makes music about what is on his heart to speak to the lives of people. A Christian rapper loves Jesus so out of their heart for Jesus they will make music about Jesus to speak to people, and a rapper who is Christian loves Jesus so out of their heart for Jesus they will make music about Jesus to speak to people.
But here is the key, what does it mean for a rapper to make music “about Jesus?” Does it mean that they are saying “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” in every line of every song? Does it mean they are describing every attribute of God? Does it mean they are giving full length gospel presentation of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ?”
I don’t believe so.
As Sho Baraka once told me, as long as you are submitted to Christ you have the freedom to make art about the beauty of the life of Jesus or make art about the beauty of life that Jesus has shown you. An artists who life is completely submitted to Christ who makes music about ending sex-trafficking, enjoying marriage, celebrating friends, and promoting peace is just as God-honoring as one who makes music about penal substitutionary atonement. A label isn’t what makes a person a Christian; Jesus is who makes a person a Christian.
THE CHRISTIAN WORKER LABEL
Here is another question. Was Paul a Christian tent-builder or was he a tent-builder who was Christian? Or better yet, was Jesus a Christian-carpenter or was he a Carpenter who was the Christ?
Or what about me? Currently I am employed as a teacher. Am I am a Christian teacher or am I a teacher who is Christian? Does working at a public school where I teach kids about gravity, the Declaration of Independence, and Algebra mean that I am selling out since I am just a regular teacher who is not preaching the full gospel in every lecture?
Without getting into a theological debate let me show you a peculiar passage of scripture to better explain where I am trying to go with this,
“Dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is a cart wheel rolled over cumin, but dill is beaten out with a stick, and cumin with a rod. Does one crush grain for bread? No, he does not thresh it forever; when he drives his cart wheel over it with his horses, he does not crush it. This also comes from the Lord of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.” – Isaiah 28:27-29.
Do you notice that this entire passage of scripture solely explains the job of a farmer as he prepares for a harvest? There is no gospel explanation or revelation of the person of God; it is simply about everyday farming items such as dill, threshing, grain, and bread. And do you know what the beauty of this passage is? Even though the Bible is describing a non-spiritual, mundane act such as beating dill it still says that “This comes from the Lord of hosts,” which shows there is no such thing as Christian farming and non Christian farming; or Christian wisdom and non Christian wisdom. All wisdom is from God. All truth is from God. All tasks done unto the Lord is for the Lord.
The same way there is no such thing as a Christian farmer but a farmer who is a Christian that does all unto the Lord; no Christian tent-maker but a tent-maker who is a Christian that does all unto the Lord; no Christian teacher but a teacher who is a Christian that does all unto the Lord; why is it hard to accept the idea of a rapper who is a Christian that does all unto the Lord?
THE CHRISTIAN PERSON LABEL
My favorite part about Andy Mineo’s recent interview with Wade was when he said, “If someone was to ask me if I was a Christian, I would never deny that. I am absolutely a Christian.” The key fact that some are missing within this debate is that none of these artists are trying to reject the title of being a Christian, loving Jesus, being unashamed for the gospel, or serving Jesus with their life. If they were doing so and promoting sin, folly, and evil then I could understand. But they are not.
These men still love Jesus with all their being. No matter what platform they are on, whenever they are asked where their eternal hope, joy, and satisfaction lay they always point to Jesus. So if they are simply using their talents to bring further glory to Jesus then why are we constantly demonizing them simply because they don’t want to provide a stumbling block for those they are trying to reach with an unnecessary label?
If people want the Christian rapper title and they continue to love and serve Jesus with all their heart, praise God; and if people don’t want the Christian rapper title and they continue to love and serve Jesus with all their heart, praise God. Instead of trying to judge the hearts and condemn those who we disagree with let us, we should trust that God is guiding their lives and let His word guide them on the right path, not the opinions of men.
As John Piper said, “You can call [these people] a Christian rap artist or a rap artist who is a Christian. I don’t think that matters…. What matters is every song in step with the gospel. Is the artist exalting at the every moment in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ in his heart and are the words shaped by that, rooted in that, pointing to that in one way or another. So that the entire corpus of the artist work is going to point to Jesus and Jesus crucified.”