On “Cultural Racism” and Christian Opposition to “Holy Hip-Hop”

December 2, 2013 — 5 Comments

As an American of Indian origin, I have personally experienced on various occasions suffering caused by genuine racism. As a dedicated Christian who has had to learn to submit to God’s ordaining of those painful experiences for my life, I have learned about my own sinfulness in various respects through these difficulties.

Given my background and life experiences, I was appalled to read recently that some Christians are asserting that “cultural racism” is a root cause of opposition by many believers to “holy hip-hop.” Having viewed the NCFIC video,[1] read several blog posts concerning it,[2] and worked through a vast number of comments on these posts, I feel compelled to respond biblically in a specific respect to this charge of “cultural racism.”

Scriptural Data concerning God’s Judgment on All Aspects of Many Cultures

The validity of the assertion that “cultural racism” is a leading cause of opposition to “holy hip-hop” hinges upon a belief that all cultures have certain neutral or even positive elements worth either preserving or “redeeming,” including especially their musical art forms. Does Scripture support such a belief?

A careful examination of Scripture reveals that on multiple occasions God decisively and comprehensively made known his appraisal of all aspects of many cultures. Three passages show this divine appraisal unmistakably.

Genesis 6-9

At the time of Noah, God infallibly assessed that all humanity had so profoundly debased itself that God was going to annihilate all humans from the earth (Gen. 6:5-7). Out of all humanity living on the earth at this time, only Noah and seven members of his family found grace from God to escape this universal destruction (Gen. 6:8-9; 18).

In light of earlier Scriptural references, we know that there were a vast number of other peoples living at this time (Gen. 4:16-24; 6:1-4) from whom there were no survivors after the Flood. Not only did all those people perish, but also everything about their cultures, societies, lifestyles, etc. was obliterated.

We have no basis for holding that Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives had ever had comprehensive exposure of any kind to all of these other cultures that were annihilated. We further know that at least some of these people were instrumentalists whose music had considerable time to degenerate (Gen. 4:21 cf. 6:5; see my post Are All Musical Styles Inherently Moral? for a full explanation of this important point).

Through the Flood, God thus rendered comprehensive judgment on all aspects of many cultures, including their musical art forms. Genesis 6-9 therefore refutes the notion that all cultures have had musical art forms that were worth preserving or “redeeming.”

Genesis 18-19

In the time of Abraham and Lot, the Lord noted that “the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah [was] great” and that “their sin [was] very grievous” (Gen. 18:20). Because of the profound wickedness of these people, God annihilated them:

Gen 19:24 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;

25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

God spared only Lot, his wife,[3] and their two daughters from this judgment (Gen. 19:16).[4] We have no basis in Scripture, however, for holding that Lot and his two daughters somehow preserved all the musical art forms of Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction because those art forms were of some supposedly inherent worth.

God’s total obliteration of everything about Sodom and Gomorrah does not support holding that they had musical aspects of their cultures that were worth preserving or “redeeming.” Both Genesis 6-9 and Genesis 18-19 show that God has assessed many cultures in human history as having no aspects of their cultures that were worth preserving or “redeeming,” including their musical art forms.

Joshua 6-8

God ordained that the Israelites were to conquer the Canaanites (cf. for example, Josh. 3:10) and place whole cities and everything in them under a ban (cf. Josh. 6:17-18). Although God did graciously preserve and redeem Rahab the harlot and all who were with her in her house (Josh. 6:17) from His destruction of Jericho, everyone else was utterly destroyed (Josh. 6:21).

We have no indication in this passage or anywhere else in Scripture that God preserved Rahab and her household because He desired to preserve or redeem some supposedly inherently worthy cultural aspects of the culture of Jericho. We furthermore have no basis to hold that Rahab and her household were proficient at all the musical art forms of Jericho and served as a means of preserving them.

Rather, God’s judgment of Jericho was a judgment of all aspects of it, including it musical art forms. What transpired next in Ai provides a striking implicit confirmation of this interpretation.

When the Israelites attempted to conquer Ai, they were soundly defeated (Josh. 7:4-5) because Achan, one of them, had violated the ban and sinned by taking some things that God had forbidden (Josh. 7:11-13; 20-21). Among the forbidden items that he coveted was “a goodly Babylonish garment” (Josh. 7:21).

God does not provide any explanation for why this beautiful garment had to be destroyed. Even though this garment was apparently in at least some respects a valuable work of human artistic ability, God did not want it to be preserved or “redeemed.”

At God’s direction, the Israelites rendered a fierce judgment on Achan, his household, the garment, and everything that belonged to him (Josh. 7:24-26). They then proceeded to annihilate all the people of Ai (Josh. 8:24-29), showing that God did not preserve any of its cultural art forms.

God’s catastrophic and comprehensive judgment on Jericho, Ai, and many other Canaanite cities and peoples (cf. Josh. 10:29-43) shows that these cultures did not have any cultural art forms that God wanted preserved or “redeemed.”

Is “Cultural Racism” Responsible for Much Christian Opposition to “Holy Hip-Hop”?

Scripture provides abundant evidence for believers to know that it is wrong to hold that all cultures have art forms that are worth preserving or “redeeming.” Christians who are well taught in Scripture and whose thinking is steeped in what Scripture teaches therefore have strong justification for holding that it is legitimate to believe that certain musical art forms of certain cultures are not worth preserving or “redeeming.”[5]

Furthermore, unless a believer has the ability to know infallibly what is in the heart of those believers who oppose “holy hip-hop,” it is wrong and unhelpful for him to charge them with “cultural racism” because they reject this particular musical expression of some human cultures. Injecting racism into the debate about musical styles is illegitimate and dishonoring to people who have suffered painfully because of genuine racism.

 


[1] Available for viewing here.

[2] http://www.mikedcosper.com/home/creation-culture-redemption-and-hip-hop-a-response-the-ncfic-panel; http://www.baptisttwentyone.com/2013/11/death-rattle-or-life-preserver-an-appeal-to-the-ncfic-panelists/; http://brenthobbs.com/index_files/Christian_Rap.php

[3] Lot’s wife perished soon thereafter because she looked back toward Sodom (Gen. 19:26).

[4] At Lot’s request, the Lord also spared a small nearby town called Zoar from the destruction that He had purposed to bring at this time (Gen. 19:17-23). Although He graciously spared this town, we know from the judgment that he had planned to bring on this town at this time (Gen. 19:17, 19, 21) that His assessment of its wickedness was no different from that of Sodom and Gomorrah.

[5] For another helpful article explaining why it is legitimate to reject “Christian rap,” see On Reformed Rap.

Rajesh

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5 responses to On “Cultural Racism” and Christian Opposition to “Holy Hip-Hop”

  1. Good Biblical points. The Cultural Racism argument is always a difficult issue to address without getting into circular reasoning, since it almost always revolves around the “offended” party claiming that opponents of Christian hip-hop just “don’t get it” – a statement which, in itself, automatically presupposes some inherent bias, and categorises all those who disagree as mindless bigots. In these situations, the charge of cultural racism ironically ends up operating in reverse.

  2. The word “racism” being stretched far beyond its original intent, that of quantitative genetic/anthropological measure – which science has demonstrated untrue and the Bible presents as untrue – now may be used for any real or perceived racial context or bias. Unfortunately with such charges comes its original and rightful condemnation, only this time, unwarranted but applied because someone used the word “racism” or “racist”, thus we now have as you described, people using it without discretion.

    One ironic twist is that those who claim special knowledge and I do not mean special academic knowledge but simply subjective special knowledge which is, in essence, that opponents simply do not understand, completely miss the possibility that they lack understanding of something, themselves.

    But as you wrote, and thank you so much, “God has assessed many cultures in human history as having no aspects of their cultures that were worth preserving or “redeeming,” including their musical art forms”, thus, this is not a valid presupposition.

    I do believe that the black people and its culture in America have had a great deal of over emphasis on the specialness of their culture and people as a compensating mechanism with respect to America’s history. Thus, it has become a sacred cow to offer criticisms of any of its products. Unfortunately, this attitude has crept into the body of Christ and many are led by this formula when dealing with such issues and only act in affirming ways, particularly when the threat of being called a “racist” looms. Thank you again for your article.

    • You are welcome, Alex. We have all sinned and mistreated our fellow man in so many ways. Only the grace of God through faith in Christ saves us from our own sins. That same grace is the only hope for all people–regardless of what culture they are from.

      My burden is to keep all our thinking focused on what God says in the Bible, regardless of the issue. I’m thankful that God provided me with illumination to provide something in this article that has been of help to some.

      May the Lord see fit to use it to help many other brethren in this important and difficult area. The Lord be with you.

      Rajesh

    • Although I have no desire to open up a fresh can of worms, there is another aspect to this debate that is often left untouched, for obvious reasons: whether an “art form” is truly art simply because its proponents profess it to be so… Does the Bible teach us that excellence or beauty are subjective? Or is there a standard that is in accord with the Spirit of God’s Word? Such as true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy. May our love abound more and more? Or more and more in knowledge and all discernment…approving the things that are (in fact) excellent? Tragically, the pervasive, worldly influence of relativism has made these kinds of Biblical discussions incredibly difficult – at least if one hopes to avoid baseless charges of subjectivity and bigotry. I can only wonder if many professing Christians who hurl accusations of cultural bias have ever considered whether the definition of an idol is perhaps nothing more than a personal love that one defends with vociferous indignation when its existence is threatened.

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