Thursday, December 5, 2013

So... this happened. And continues to happen.

There was recently a conference hosted by the National Center for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC), a sort of "meta-denomination" (my term, not theirs) which focuses on the role of the family in all areas of life (notably including the necessity of homeschooling). The panel at said conference was asked what they thought about "Reformed Rap." Also known as Christian Rap, Holy Hip Hop, etc.

The results were... horrifying. Each speaker took turns explaining why rap was absolutely, undeniably, irredeemably opposed to Christianity. The first speaker makes the relatively tame claim that hip-hop is invariably "about drawing attention to the rapper, drawing attention to how his skill is different than anybody else’s skill." And after that, it gets nuts.

It really is hard to pick one particular high (or low?) point in this panel. It might be the second speaker claiming that because of where hip-hop came from (which he doesn't really explain), it's irredeemable (which he also doesn't explain). Or it might be the fifth speaker's strange and irrational attack on Toby Mac, who has the gall to be a "50-year-old man with wrinkles on his face - got that backwards cap, and he's ready to rap." But in hindsight, it's probably-definitely-holycrapisthisreal Speaker #3's characterization of all Christian rappers as "disobedient cowards" who are "serving their own flesh... caving into the world."

But wait! It gets better! Following two apologies which weren't really apologies from the head of the panel, Speaker #2, Scott Aniol, decided to host a discussion on his own blog with leading Christian Rapper Shai Linne (here's a sample: it's pretty great). And he begins the discussion by making one colossally strange claim: That music, in and of itself, apart from any lyrics, context, or intent, can be sinful. In a follow-up post, he clarifies that music is "human communication, and human communication is always moral." He compares it to "sentences" and "tones of voice," saying that these things are also human communication, and thus moral. 

This is, to put it bluntly, a claim so mindbogglingly indefensible that I am astonished that he dared to make it. Tone of voice cannot be moral. Nor can a sentence. If they were, it would follow that certain sentences were always evil, or always good, which is absurd. 

[Let's not even touch the fact that different tones mean different things in different cultures: That speaking fast and in a high-pitched tone might be respectful in one culture and disrespectful in another culture. This fact alone blows his argument out of the water, because it shows that everything he's saying is inherently subjective opinion, while he tries to mask it as objective fact. We could stop it right here, and his argument would be dead in the water. But there's so many ways you can destroy this thing, it's like a Death Star covered in exhaust ports.]

It's evident, both from every-day experience and from the Bible, that it's impossible to ascribe morality to things like tones of voice, or sentences. 

If I lose my temper over something inconsequential and yell at my wife in a loud, angry tone with the intent of hurting her, then I am sinning. 

However, it does not follow in the slightest that a loud, angry tone is in and of itself evil, because Jesus likely used the exact same tone when clearing the temple of the money-changers. Jesus was legitimately angry: he shouted at them, he used a harsh tone, combined with harsh words, and he did not sin. 

If tone were moral in and of itself, then Jesus would be sinning by using it. Therefore, it seems clear that the morality has to do with the communication as a whole, and not with any one part of it.

Neither can individual sentences be considered as moral or immoral by themselves.

Because when a Westboro Baptist screams at a homosexual, asking him how he can expect not to burn in hell, he is sinning. And yet Jesus asked the Pharisees the same question, without sinning.

Scott Aniol claims that certain words, sentences, or tones of voice can be inherently moral or immoral. This is obviously not the case, as they are only pieces from which communication is constructed. To call an individual piece of that communication sinful in and of itself is like calling screws evil because they can be used to build gas chambers. It's absurd. It's indefensible. 

EDIT: I'm removing a part of the post that was uncharitable. My apologies. In closing, I sincerely hope Aniol addresses the gaping holes in his argument.

I wrote this mainly to get it out of my system. If you actually made it to the end, congrats! Mackenzie out. 

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