Listen, I know only a couple of weeks ago I wrote some hard things about when we shouldn’t engage the culture. As Christians, we have to be careful not to be mindless consumers of whatever is served in the name of entertainment. But you know what’s not good? Hiding in our little Christian or conservative ghettos, yelling nasty things at the world from the walls, and throwing stones at anyone who tries to take the message outside the gates. Ya know, like Jesus said to.
There’s a really good article at Huffington Post (unclutch your pearls) about hip hop artist (unclutch your pearls) Lecrae is making the cross from the Christian music industry to mainstream hip hop. Most of it is how this Christian man is making inroads and building relationships within hip hop. But there’s a good portion dealing with the Christian backlash at how he’s going to get sinner cooties. Because we definitely don’t want the world hearing this:
Listen, if you’re really worried about a Christian brother being led away from the truth while being a light in a dark world, then pray for him! But the idea that he has to stay behind the walls, singing only to the choir or whatever curious pagan happens to peek over those walls is not only stupid, it’s sinful.
That’s right, I said it. It is a sin to criticize a fellow believer for engaging with the unbelieving world. I realize that sort of claim ought to be backed up with chapter and verse, so here it is:
“And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:11-13 (ESV)
I see two problems that cause the backlash when artists venture into the wide-world with their art. First I think we get jealous. I think this is especially true of Christians. I think the issue isn’t that we think he’s going to go the way of Katy Perry, but that he’s ours and he’s leaving us for “the other woman.” If we can’t have him, we’ll tear him down so no one can. It’s ugly and petty and undeserving of our high calling, Christians. So…
The other issue is something my friend Brandon wrote on over at Misfit Politics. He was speaking specifically to conservatives, but it applies to Christians as well: “Is it so bothersome that someone has a different opinion than you, that you have to reject them and their craft outright? Have we chosen to close ourselves off from the rest of the world if their opinions don’t fall in line with ours?”And before you say, “But they do it, too!” So? If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you? Do you measure yourself by the same standard that you say you reject?
We have developed such a knee-jerk, reactionary attitude toward everyone outside our own little circle that we are blind not only to whatever truth, beauty, and goodness may be out there, but also to the very people we are supposed to engage. Oh, we’re okay with people who come to us. If an unbeliever gets saved, we welcome him with open arms and helpful hints on how to play the part of Christian. If a liberal “converts” to conservative political opinions, we embrace her. They are more than welcome to come to us, but God forbid we go to them! We can’t engage with them as real people–giving and taking and appreciating them as fellow humans.
We’ve not only hidden our light under a bushel, we’ve turned a fire hose on those trying to be light to the world. You know what we need to be doing? Thanking Lecrae for doing what so many more of us should be doing. Praying for him. And telling him to watch for others to follow on the trail he’s blazing.
Read Brandon’s article at Misfit Politics
My full series on engaging the culture is here. Part 3 is where I look at tribalism.
For a facepalm worthy attack on Christian hip hop from inside the church and the excellent rebuttals, check out this post from The Gospel Coalition. Original panel video here. (It’s been taken off Vimeo.)