“Christian Rap is cowardly disobedience.” How Reformed Theology will inherently see Christian Rap more problematic than Catholic Theology.

Several Reformed Christian Preachers/Pastors/Leaders engaged the validity of Christian Rap as a vehicle to evangelize. Every single one of these leaders found Christian Rap very problematic, and they quoted Scripture to justify their opinion. Reformed Theology, compared to Catholic Theology, often believes that they have a duty to be intrinsically antagonistic toward “the world.” On the flipside Catholics might look at their relationship with “the world” with more complexity & subtlety:

The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.

(Guadiem et Spes 1)

So, while a Reformed minded theologian/Christian might see the travails of a contemporary culture as intrinsically evil, or a cause for grief, a Catholic minded theologian would see the same travails as an opportunity:

To carry out such a task, the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel. Thus, in language intelligible to each generation, she can respond to the perennial questions which men ask about this present life and the life to come, and about the relationship of the one to the other. We must therefore recognize and understand the world in which we live, its explanations, its longings, and its often dramatic characteristics. Some of the main features of the modern world can be sketched as follows…

Influenced by such a variety of complexities, many of our contemporaries are kept from accurately identifying permanent values and adjusting them properly to fresh discoveries. As a result, buffeted between hope and anxiety and pressing one another with questions about the present course of events, they are burdened down with uneasiness. This same course of events leads men to look for answers; indeed, it forces them to do so.

(Guadiem et spes 4)

Hence, the opportunity.

I do not mean to reduce Reformed Theology (as if they have no sense of Pastoral Care & Response, which they do), and I recognize the controversy that this video has caused (despite the apparent panel agreement that Christian Rap is inherently problematic), that among Reform Christian is some kind of disagreement. Further, the panelists have also publicly apologized, and do feel somewhat embarrassed at their broad-brushed statements. In the same way, I could imagine that intelligent Catholics might find Christian/Catholic Rap inherently problematic.

However, were a panel discussion like this to happen in a Catholic scenario, among Catholic leaders, I couldn’t imagine it happening the same way.

Now, in regard to the actual panel, and the issue that they engaged: WORSHIP.

I have said before that Hip Hop is not appropriate Liturgical Music, not merely because it is not “reverent,” but precisely because Hip Hop has a lot more to do with proclamation than with worship. For a lot of the popular so-called Christian Rappers, they often make some sort of Hip Hop Worship song of Praise to God. Many of the Hip Hop artists that I like that are Christian, never create songs that are meant to be used as Prayers, Praise or Worship.

Hip Hop has always been about “dropping science” (which is another term for imparting knowledge and wisdom) or exposing social issues of injustice that receive no credence in most media outlets. What most people think (particularly the first man on the panel), is that Rap is about Rappers. Hip Hop is a culture about elements & expression, but is much broader than rappers rapping about themselves. A lot of emcees rap about much more than themselves.

Measuring this against the Christian tradition, Hip Hop would seem to have a lot more to do with the Prophetic Office (proclamation) than with the Priestly Office (worship). Christ holds both of these offices, and through him so does every Baptized follower of him. But because everyone holds all of these offices does not necessitate that the functions of these offices are interchangeable. Perhaps, in certain circumstances they are not interchangeable.

Therefore, in my own expression, even though I am an ordained Priest, I am also an ordained Prophet. Since I am ordained to proclaim I rap. I do not need to incorporate hip hop into worship or liturgy, except, in certain circumstances, in the Proclamation.

There might be some Catholics that do not see it this way. Some that would feel that Hip Hop could be appropriate for the Liturgy. I might wonder if they have an insufficient comprehension of Hip Hop culture as much about Catholic Liturgy. In fact, I could imagine that Catholics who would be most supportive of hip hop could easily be white people over the age of sixty, who are happy to give themselves a round of applause about how diverse & modern they are, while their grandkids would probably be rolling their eyes at how gimmicky the whole enterprise is.


My personal review of Restless Heart, the new Augustine film

I had the privilege of viewing the new film, Restless Heart, on the life of Saint Augustine.

I struggled going in, considering how long I envisioned what it should be. Indie, and artsy. Cinematographic interplays of darkness & light, and plenty of visually stunning natural beauty. A non-orchestral soundtrack, perhaps a string quintent, and some folksy songs. A non-linear story, focusing primarily on Augustine’s Christian life, drawing on images illustrated from the Confessions. Alas, none of that would work, or be translated from my heart.

The film we watched, Restless Heart, was more mainstream international endeavor. It was not too-Hollywood, neither was it too hagiographical (a la family-friendly saint lifestory). It had strengths, but perhaps there was more wrong with it, than what resonated with my Augustinian heart. Many people in our community were bothered by the lack of historical accuracy, whereas I was troubled by the aesthetic cheapness.

The actual character of Augustine is the greatest strength. He was charismatic and popular, an distinctly attractive preaching voice. Augustine had an amazing voice, and I think they nailed it in this film. At times, we get a sense of a personal conflict by the actor, but we could have used more symbolism on the part of the film to accentuate this.

Visually, this character story is lessened by feeling trapped in melodramatic romance tropes. The score was overly done and lacking earnestness and honesty. Aside from historical liberties, the Augustinian sense of Augustine, that goes beyond the Confessions, was completely lacking in the film. The importance of friendship was not included (Alypius was not even a character). You receive no glimpse of Augustine’s passion of discovering God amidst a community of friends. Instead, he is an individual on a singular quest, in which his whole conversion scene becomes disembodied.

Augustine was transplanted in along today’s religion-secular dichotomies: relativism-objectivism, faith-agnosticism, become the primary lenses in which Augustine was expressed in this film. Augustine is made exclusively into an intellectual seeker, rather than a passionate lover of Truth. I did appreciate the angle of this film, and it incorporated his love of rhetoric/public speaking. However, it just felt interested in dealing with that dynamic then with some of the more complicated aspects of Augustine’s personality.

That being said, Augustinian Spirituality has a special place for Interiority & the Search for Truth. Having this theme focused on film may do well for a lot of people. It was moving at times, in as genuinely human it came across at times. I am very hesitant to put an Augustinian (personal or community) stamp of approval on this one, but I still encourage people to view it.

Film Review: Of Gods And Men

Of Gods and Men is a French Film chronicling the events around a handful of French Monks in Algeria who were martyred. I do not usually find myself recommending movies, or reviewing cinema, let alone quality arthouse foreign films.

I could go on about how brilliant this movie was, but I will leave it simply at this: This has been the most astonishing, genuine, reverent, and human portrayal of catholicism and monasticism that I have ever seen on film.

I get the sense that the filmmakers and actors actually get things like liturgy, chant, and prayer, and the movie takes on a very prayerful tone throughout. I also get the sense that theological beliefs and themes have an effect on these monks. I was also deeply touched by the importance and reality of monastic common life as it was portrayed in this film.

I find movies tend to waver between a few things missing the mark: 1) They have little to no idea of what catholics believe, and why they do what they do, 2) Catholic characters are portrayed as perfect saints in perfect shiny habits being overly simplistic, 3) the Catholic characters are the archvillians and are the most one dimensional finger wagging wicked goons hollywood has ever imagined. None of these managed to sum up the film.

God see it, I haven’t been moved like this in a while over a film (especially one with subtitles). Maybe you might find yourself drawn into their life by seeing it. lol!