EDIT EDIT: I want to take this post down. There are cowards and poor thinkers and angry arguers on both sides (and I fall into the last category far too often). After a while, this issue is no longer worth getting excited about.
The people who believe in the inherent sinfulness of Christian Rap (and, more broadly, Contemporary Christian Music as a whole) are wrong. But thankfully, they have so little influence in the larger body of believers that had they not been so unbearably offensive in the first place, nobody would have even noticed (and by far the most offensive comments have been recanted).
For the first several days, I was heavily involved in the debate. I had some really good exchanges with some good thinkers on both sides (and, I believe, one person who was genuinely undecided). But I'm done. It's just not worth it. It's possible that one, maybe two people will be convinced, but the lines were drawn before the debate even began, which is why Scott can get away with re-defining rap on a whim to keep his ludicrous blanket statement.
I'm done. But I'm leaving this up, to keep myself accountable and to remind myself to be more careful before being drawn into something like this again.
I want to acknowledge the apparently sincere apology by Geoffrey Botkins, which I was unaware of when I wrote this post ( I was, however, aware of an earlier apology which was much less clear and a little less apologetic). His comments ("disobedient cowards") were the most egregious, but he has publicly apologized and repented for them. He speaks to Reformed/Christian rappers as brothers, and he admits that there is a "legitimate question" about whether he is even qualified to speak on this topic. He goes on to praise their "modeling of mature and responsible manhood in your lives and words," as well as their "strategic decision to work with local churches and church government [which] shows uncommon wisdom." He goes on to note that, "All this is heroism, not the fruit of disobedient cowardice."
To all of this, I say amen. If he follows through on his stated intentions to fight the disunity his comments created, he proves himself to be a man of honor and integrity. I applaud him, and I wished more in this debate shared his sentiments.
Joel Beeke, whose comments were tame in comparison to the others (although he did affirm the previous arguments "with the intensity that they've been spoken," has also apologized, admitting that he "spoke unadvisedly on an area of music that I know little about. It would have been far wiser for me to say nothing than to speak unwisely. Please forgive me. I also wish to publicly disassociate myself from comments that judged the musicians’ character and motives."
He, too, has proven his honor and integrity, and I applaud that.
This post is directed at those who have not apologized, and at those who would like to ignore the apologies already made. It is directed at those who feel they can judge a culture that they know nothing about, at those who feel that any stick is good enough to beat Christian rap with. It is directed at those who refuse to listen, and who refuse to engage.
At the end of this week, the first full week of the "discussion" that I referenced earlier, I have to say, from the bottom of my heart:
I am disappointed.
I don't know what I really expected. I don't think I was unreasonable, though. I expected compelling arguments from both sides. I expected actual engagement. I expected Scott to, at the very least, present a single falsifiable argument, a single argument that made claims that could be addressed.
Instead, I got Shai asking good questions, and Scott explaining why he couldn't answer Shai's questions, because if his daughter was being rude, how is he supposed to explain that to her?
Instead, I got Shai asking for an example of sinful music without lyrics, and Scott answering with a clip of Christian Metal with lyrics and explaining that 1) yeah I know I said no lyrics, but I can't even understand them and they're part of the music anyway so whatever, and 2) Metal totally expresses orgies. Yes, orgies. Oh, and don't forget the closer, the pinnacle of his rhetoric, the foundation of his argument: "No, I won't explain myself, because it totally sounds like that, how can you not hear it?"
But I guess in hindsight, I kinda did expect that, a little: That's the uncharitable part I removed from my earlier post. When your first argument is "the beat of rap is inherently evil and makes you want to fornicate and punch somebody," you don't have a whole lot of momentum working for you. It's going to be hard to get off the ground at that point.
But do you know what I didn't expect?
I didn't expect the cowardice of those who seem to have developed these arguments after accidentally hearing 30 seconds of a song that was probably rap (or Metal, or Rock), and are unwilling to listen to a song chosen by supporters of the genre. And it is cowardice, though they dress it up and act as though doing so would sully the dignity of their arguments. It is the cowardice of the Pharisees, who assumed that interacting with tax collectors was sinful because they had heard one talk once and the language was filthy, just filthy, and who could imagine that Jesus character ever hanging out with disgusting people like that? He's compromising the gospel, that's what he's doing!
Of course, it doesn't begin as cowardice. No, it begins with arrogance. It begins with knowing that THEY are the cowards, that the rappers are the ones taking the easy way out and conforming to the world. And to be fair, such a belief is easy to come by when you surround yourself only with those who agree with you.
After that comes the confusion: Come on, guys, everyone knows that rap music... expresses...lust? And rage? I mean, just listen to it! Metaphorically, of course: Don't actually listen to it (I know I don't!).
There is the sneaking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, listening to 30 seconds of one song might not be enough to develop a theory of the inherent sinfulness of the entire ever-expanding genre.
And then comes the panic. Then comes the frantic scrabbling, the clutching at any and all sins and throwing it at the music and praying that something--anything!--sticks. Then come the strange appeals to authority--not to the authority of scripture, but the authority of secular rock musicians. Then comes the death-rattle, the "WELL IT'S ON YOU TO PROVE IT I DON'T HAVE TO PROVE ANYTHING."
And then comes the time to close up shop, to bar the gates, because holy crap if I listen to a song that they picked out then I'm not sure I could show the sin in it! The doctor is out, rap is sinful, just... ok? . Scott isn't guilty of this, but some of the secondary blogs that Scott links to, and several of the comments, most certainly are.
That's what I didn't expect, and that's what angers me the most. That these men who surround themselves solely with those who agree with them, who retreat from the world and withdraw into their own little circle, dared to name as "cowards" those who do not retreat. That they dared to name as cowards those men who advance into a culture that is hostile to them, who expose themselves to shame and ridicule from Christian and non-Christian alike, so that they might share the riches of the Gospel, so that by all possible means they might save some.
Scott is guilty of much of this, but not all. He hasn't closed up shop, he continues the discussion...but I wonder if all we can expect is more semantics, more evasion, more arguments that can't be argued with because they don't actually argue anything. Because that's really all that we've seen so far.
I am disappointed.