In the most recently released podcast from Religious Affections, I introduced a comparison that I’ve been mulling over for some time now. Here is a (lightly edited) transcript of the relevant portion of my comments. The section below begins about the 16:00 minute mark of the podcast:
I had mentioned, I believe, in the previous podcast, the fact that hip hop and rap do seem to have a heavy dose of ego involved in them. The form itself is very much that way: “Listen to me.”
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something that I don’t intend to be offensive, but I think is probably true. If we use hip hop for the cause of Christ, let’s compare it to preaching and preaching styles. There is a certain way of presenting the gospel (and fundamentalism in particular has been guilty of fostering this) using an approach in the pulpit that is full of ego.
The guys that support the use of hip hop are going to be very anti-Jack Hyles, and we’re going to be also…. You watch the videos and you listen to the audio (of that style of preaching) and it’s just appalling that it was about him. His preaching style was about him.
And I’m concerned, at least, that Christian hip hop has taken a form that is irreducibly egocentric, and is using it to present the gospel. But the approach to presenting the gospel is every bit as in-your-face and contentious as certain forms of preaching that we’re really trying to move away from.
Again, I say this cautiously, I throw it out there for consideration; but I think it’s worthy of consideration.
As some evidence for my proposal, I’d ask you to watch this and this. (The early going of the second video is especially useful for this comparison, when they’re having technical difficulties. This has the effect of isolating the rhetorical form of the rap.)
Note how both the preachers and the rappers employ rhetorical bombast; both seem to aim for the same kind of response from the gallery: “Oooo, that (guy, version, sin, whatever) just got burned” (or something similar). You can hear it in the crowd replies both videos at different points.
For the sake of this comparison, ignore the content of the message; I want to focus on form alone here.
If this parallel holds, both fundamentalists who oppose rap, and advocates of rap who loathe this style of preaching, need to give some consideration to the way in which their own arguments turn back against them.
There is some further discussion of this issue at the original post.