Tuesday, the Washington Post covered a story on Christian Hip Hop at Church. The article can be found here.
A few claims were made in the article that were worth considering.
Embracing hip-hop as a means of reaching young people who are turned off by the traditional church does not compromise one’s faith.
I thought it could be obvious that Hip Hop is not contrary to Church, in the same way any cultural art expression is. It goes without saying, for myself, hip hop only led me closer to God.
“When we think about the original prophets and how they were telling their stories, hip-hop is really the story about a community,” said the Rev. Ciara Simonson, a Howard graduate and an associate minister of Michigan Park Christian Church in Northeast Washington.
Can God speak through Hip Hop? Would the prophets use Hip Hop? I believe so. I believe God loves us enough to speak to us in a way that makes sense, by a means that we will hear. A lot of hip hop artists use the term ‘dropping science,’ referring to the art of speaking wisdom poetically, whether for the sake of educating the youth or inspiring social change. Therefore, a lot of Hip Hop music is actually parallel in its goals as the Prophetic and Wisdom literature of Sacred Scripture.
Ward said the church has been slow to allow contemporary expressions of worship.
There are often debates about whether Hip Hop can or should be used in Church. Usually, proponents of it are people who just don’t get hip hop, who think that the choices of liturgical music should be focused on outreach. As a lifelong hip hop fan, I believe I would be more offended if I were to come across it, not merely because, as some people think, it appears to be irreverent, or lacking in beauty. The paradigm of almost all hip hop music is more like a lecture then praise, worship, or adoration. I wonder if it may work in the sermon in some settings. For one, like a hip hop show, the fans, or the congregation are more apt to praise the rapper, then God. In addition, I think synthetic music in Church is problematic, when natural music can be used.
It is not that hip hop is lacking in any spiritual element, it is that the majority of consumers of popular rap actually consume some of the most vulgar rap music, and therefore will likely be turned off by the use of hip hop music in Church. For the consumer of a hip hop form truer to the culture, like myself, we have such a high standard of hip hop, that when the Church exploits mediocre music for ‘the glory of God’ it feels more shameful then anything. It is a delicate balance, that purveyors of outreach, I cannot imagine, could actually successfully execute as genuine worship befitting God, Most High.
Finally, as a practitioner and critic of Hip Hop music, I imagine that Hip Hop as worship/liturgical music wouldn’t only be a failure of Worship music, but a failure as Hip Hop music. For the most part, I imagine a handful of 40-50 somethings who want to clap their hands to the rhythm wanting to subject a bunch of teenagers to lousy Hip Hop music, thinking it will appeal. SMH. Unfortunately, quality Hip Hop music does not have mass appeal, nor does it have Mass appeal.
However, this article, nor the people quoted, do not actually explicitly say that Hip Hop music is appropriate for Church. I think the issue merits a discussion
“We really have a message of hope,” said The Ambassador, a.k.a. William “Duce” Branch. “Anyone can feel like a misfit, but we want people to know that God has a solution.”
“…the hip-hop generation needs the church, because while hip-hop is an expression, it is the church that heals.”
In my experience, hip hop only goes so far, and God has to do the rest. Hip Hop is a gateway, a means of sorts, that can lead one to God. Augustine admits that Platonism became a doorway in which he had to pass in order to accept the Christian God.