If you want to have a deep, thorough conversation about the “godliness” of Christian rap and hip-hop music, here’s a suggestion for the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches: Don’t just ask a panel of older white dudes:
Maybe that’s not totally fair. If they actually know what they’re talking about, then okay, no problem. But they don’t. They say as much in the panel. When one panelist mentions having tobyMac (one of the first big Christian rappers) on his iPod, the other panelists have no idea who he is. Another panelist condemns a rapper who had a pierced ear before saying that “rap is the death rattle in the throat of a dying culture” (10:25).
Instead of admitting their ignorance, though, almost all of them condemn the style of music without hesitation.
Just listen to panelist Geoff Botkin (5:18):
… what concerns me about this so-called art form, it’s a picture of weakness and surrender on the part of people who think they’re serving God and they’re not; they’re serving their own flesh. They’re caving in to the world. They’re disobedient cowards…
Strong words for someone who probably can’t recite any Christian hip-hop song lyrics to you.
You don’t have to listen to Christian rap to understand those who perform it are no less devout or sincere than other Christians; this is just their form of expression.
Botkin, by the way, later offered a non-apology by saying he was sorry if anyone was offended by his words:
“I need to apologize for the unintended offense and confusion of my comments on disobedient cowardice. I certainly do not believe that all of today’s Christian rappers are cowardly. My most sincere apologies go to anyone out there who was hurt by my strong language. While I do hold concerns about the use and misuse of rap, my words were not directed at any particular artist. My greater concern is for the broad cultural conformity and compromise that is not limited to reformed rap.”
He’s not sorry he said anything that was idiotic and just plain wrong, only that some people took offense to it.
Fred Clark doesn’t hold back in his criticism of the panel as a whole:
These are white men blinded by the glare of their own whiteness. It’s true these guys dismiss some forms of white culture as well as all forms of black culture, but I’m not sure that can save them from the conclusion that their response to rap and Hip-Hop is really, really, really racist.
You would think a bunch of guys whose influence is fading fast would be among the first to embrace an art form that speaks to a new generation of Christians. Instead, they chose to criticize something they know little about, just feeding the stereotype about how out of touch with reality conservative Christians are.
***Update***: Panel moderator Scott Brown offered a stronger apology earlier today:
The very question itself lacked clarity and nuance which opened the door to the misrepresentations common to the broad brush. In framing the question, I failed to distinguish between the use of music in worship compared to simply listening to music. We failed to distinguish between the various expressions of the artists. I failed to correct a panelist who made an unsavory comment. Panel discussions, off the cuff are useful for certain things, but to use a surprise question to a panel to engage a broader audience on such a complex controversial topic as musical genres they may not have been knowledgeable of was unwise. I did not engage this topic with the required care. There were moments where it lacked the brotherly tone that is essential for our critiques within the body of Christ. In at least these senses, it was unworthy of our Lord. Please forgive me.