Does God Listen to Rap?
Christians and the World's Most Controversial Music
Foreword by Owen Strachan
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Some people think that if there is one style of music that God hates and calls unclean, it must be rap. But lots of Christians love rap, even though they know it’s associated with sin and rebellion.
Does God dislike rap? Is it OK for Christians to love it?
You’ll be surprised how much the Bible has to say…
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Description & Excerpts..SHARE..
Pastor, author, and Christian hip-hop artist Curtis Allen (Voice) presents a sociological history of the emergence and development of rap and unpacks relevant passages of Scripture to address the question of whether Christian rap and hip-hop have a place among Christians generally and within the local church in particular. This joint is sick.
SLIGHTLY LONGER VERSION:
A lot of people think that if there is one style of music in the world that God hates, it has got to be rap. Some have even gone so far as to call rap, “An unclean thing before the Lord,” and to insist that anyone who listens to rap (whether it’s made by Christians or not) risks spiritual harm.
Lots of other people love and accept rap as their preferred form of musical expression. Many of these who are Christians can’t imagine why God would have any issues with rap—at least, not with songs by believers that encourage and edify them in the faith.
Who’s right? And maybe more importantly, who cares? You should. And here’s why.
In the past 30 years, rap music has become a vital artistic and cultural force globally, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Like it or not, you are probably exposed to rap in one form or another on a fairly regular basis. If you’re interested in this book you may be a believer in Jesus who likes rap a lot, and as Christians, when we love something that is (if you hadn’t noticed) closely associated with sin and rebellion, our justification for being involved with it really does need to go beyond, “Dude, this is good stuff.”
But maybe you’re in a different category. Maybe you’re a Christian parent, concerned that rap music may have a negative impact on your child. Maybe you’re a youth pastor worried about having a rap concert at his church because of the potential pushback. Or maybe you’re just a rap fan who is curious to see if there’s even any biblical evidence for or against rap.
To put it simply, if you’ve made it this far, this book is probably for you. Does God Listen to Rap? covers two areas. First, it presents a sociological history of the emergence and development of rap. If you enjoy rap and hip hop culture, you’ll love this part of the book. Then the book explores the Scriptures to bring some biblical (not just personal or anecdotal) resolution to the question of God and rap. Ultimately, this involves a set of larger questions involving God and the arts. So while the immediate focus of the book is rap music, you’ll find here a set of tools for thinking biblically about all forms of human artistic endeavor.
So, does God listen to rap? Come find out.
About the Author
Curtis Allen is a pastor at Solid Rock Church in Riverdale, Maryland, and moonlights as a Christian rap artist called Voice He also raps under the name Curt Kennedy. He and his wife, Betsy, have three sons. Curt’s first book was Education or Imitation? Bible Interpretation for Dummies Like You and Me, soon to be re-released at From Me-ology to Theology: What Jesus Taught Us About Bible Interpretation. He can be found at CurtisAllen.net.
Read Chapter One
Read the Foreword
October 21, 2013
Ten years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I stood before a crowd of the whitest men you’ve ever seen, and I rapped. It was quite a day.
But that’s not the end of the story, pregnant as it already is. I wasn’t the only rapper in the room at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Curtis “Voice” Allen was there, too. And he, unlike me, was a serious rapper.
It was 2003. There I stood, ready to battle Curt. I could do no other. But it might have been better for me if I had. During this break from Mark Dever’s teaching on the Puritans at CLC, Curt ate my rhymes for lunch, and all before the watching crowd of Dever, C. J. Mahaney, Michael Lawrence, and Joshua Harris.
There are parts of Maryland I’ll never be able to enter again, because they’ll laugh if you say my name.
I met Curt that day, and saw his evident skill and ability. But more seriously, I saw something else: his deep love for the Lord. He was from the mean streets of DC, and I was from the mean country roads of Maine, but we instantly connected. Over the years, I listened to his albums, profited from his rich reflection on Scripture, and watched as the Lord used him and several other important artists to bring Christian hip-hop to the church.
That last sentence is important. Hip-hop had to come to church, sneaking in the back door. It wasn’t invited. This isn’t to say that all who were unfamiliar with it were hostile; not all were. But Christian rap had a tough time breaking in. As one who studies evangelical history, it’s rather poignant—and not a little bitter—to think about how, two centuries ago, African-Americans were an alien presence in many Christian congregations, and how, two centuries later, gospel rappers found themselves in the same place.
In the face of bewilderment and opposition, brothers like Curt persevered and the Lord blessed their way. Now, in 2013, Christian rap is mainstream evangelical music. Believing rappers land—and stay—on the Billboard charts. A growing number of them make their living from rap. There’s basically no area of evangelical life today not touched by gospel hip-hop: major conferences, Forewords to books by leading authors, John Piper’s Twitter account. Christian rap is large, it’s Christ-driven, and it’s glorious.
I say this as one who came to rap in the 1990s. Like many basketball-playing white boys, rap attached itself to me and never let go. Unlike many basketball-playing white boys, I cut a rap CD. I couldn’t help it. Rap spoke my language. It connected to my romantic side, with its larger-than-life stories, its tragedy, its beauty, its raw, tough breed of manhood, and its relentless, driving poetry. As I matured spiritually, I saw what Curt argues for so succinctly and potently in Does God Listen to Rap?, namely, that the Lord delights in the use of our gifts for his glory. He loves to redeem fallen things and make them his own. He’s that big; he wants it all. He’s that glorious; he deserves it all.
If he doesn’t redeem fallenness, after all, we’re in trouble. Right? If engaging or using a sin-tainted practice or cultural form that sinners pioneered is problematic, then we probably a) shouldn’t speak any language, because sinful Adam and Eve spoke first, b) shouldn’t eat food (the whole forbidden fruit thing) and c) should avoid architecture altogether (working off of Curt’s discussion of the Tower of Babel). Alongside Curt’s case, these are just three examples of many we could cite.
In sum, I think the Bible’s call to dominion and comprehensive glorification is a better one than our restrictive evangelical jeremiads (see Genesis 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Let’s give praise to our Savior Jesus Christ by any means available to us, not limit ourselves in ways that compromise our God-given freedom to do so (Galatians 5:1).
This extends, I think, to the very manner in which Christian rappers approach their craft. Back in the early 2000s, before gospel hip-hop hit the tipping point and went global, the movement was largely underground—or rather online. I frequented message boards like Sphere of Hip Hop, where fans and artists like myself debated ad infinitum over whether there was just one way to honor the Lord through rap. Should you only “preach rap” or could you do “accessible rap”? Then and now I savor artists who fit into both camps. We surely give glory to God when we rap the gospel message. That should be our lodestar as believers irregardless of our daily vocation.
But we honor our creator and Lord, I think, when we write a song—or nod our head to a song—that captures the beauty and the struggle of work, or faith, or marriage. I agree completely with Curt’s discussion of our often-polarized movement. So long as we live Christ-honoring lives, speak of Christ to the lost, recognize the world-defying power of gospel witness in any form, and make music that does not compromise biblical teaching, we’re free—joyfully, exuberantly free—to rap as we see fit.
This book makes the case better than I can. You should dig into it. You’ll learn much historically, you’ll be blessed by Curt’s scriptural and theological reflections, and you’ll have fun doing it. Almost as much fun, in fact, as I did way back when, on that fateful day when my battling career ended (at 0-1, for those scoring at home). Almost as much fun as I’m having watching the Lord use my brother as he speaks a prophetic word and blesses God’s church through the use of his artistic and literary gifts.
Owen Strachan (aka Crosswords) is Assistant Professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College, and teaches for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, both in Louisville, Kentucky. He serves as Executive Director of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and is most recently the author of Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome (Thomas Nelson, 2013)
endorsements & reviews..SHARE..
“Read this book, and ponder through its implications for your life and the Christian community as a whole.”
The popularity of rap music in the Christian culture has seen a massive explosion of almost epic proportions in the past ten years. Guys like Lecrae, Trip Lee, Propaganda, etc., have taken rap music and infused it with such deep theological truths that even older caucasian pastors like John Piper and Mark Dever not only have music from these rappers on their iPods, but even actively promote their music by having these guys come and rap at their churches. I don’t think many people would deny that the theological beliefs of most Christian rappers is deeply biblical, but there continues to be a push-back from some in the community of faith that can’t seem to come to grips with the fact that God is honored with rap music. Are their reservations with Christian rap based on God’s Word, or does it speak to a level of bias in these individuals that has no foundation in the Bible whatsoever but can be traced back to the fact that these people just don’t like something “different” than what they are used to? A new book, Does God Listen to Rap?: Christians and the World’s Most Controversial Music, by Curtis “Voice” Allen seeks to address these important questions related to rap.
In Chapter One, Curtis “Voice” Allen provides his readers with the reason behind the writing of this book. I always like reading what motivates authors to write the books that they write, since it lets me know if the book was borne out of controversy, trials/temptations, or out of a desire to make sure that the beliefs the author has subscribed to earlier in their Christian walk were unbiblical and in need of correction. For Curtis Allen, the whole reason this book was written was because he wanted to deal with the question of can/does Christian rap honor God. As a Christian rapper who had been faithfully rapping the truths of the Bible to a wide-ranging audience for years, Curtis freely admits that he had a somewhat biblically superficial response to all of the questions that were raised against Christian rap over the years. He seemingly had all of the answers, but those answers were borne out of a desire to defend something that he felt was right, but not something he had spent time studying from Genesis to Revelation to discern God’s thoughts about. Now, the first question that most people will think of is the fact that the Bible doesn’t have anything to say about rap music, and that would be a correct statement. Therefore, Curtis didn’t begin his studies to try and find the word “rap” in the Bible, or a word similar to rap in order to prove his point, but he began his studies with the origins of music as whole. This book is the fruit of those labors.
Kicker, from a 5-star review on Amazon. See the full review.