Author: Curtis “Voice” Allen
Publisher: Cruciform Press
Reading Level: Leisure
Curtis Allen’s Does God Listen to Rap release is providential. NCFIC (National Center for Family-Integrated Churches) Panel recently waded into waters way over their heads. They slandered Christian rappers (some of the comments) and were ungenerous in others (most). My quick take is the general tenor of the panel came across as elitist and culturally superior and void of good and necessary consequence from Scripture.
Ironically, Curtis starts by retelling a story about a controversy that erupted when he released his first album and then performed at John Piper’s church (pp. 10-14). I recall the scuffle he mentions because it occurred in a Christian forum I frequented at the time. Even more ironically one of the NCFIC panelist was an outspoken critic of Christians rapping in that forum. Side note, Shai Linne also was involved and generously offered his CD for free to anyone who wanted to judge his music after actually listening to it.
Enter Does God Listen to Rap? which released almost a month prior to the NCFIC Panel. Curtis addresses some of very arguments made in the panel and he does a better job of applying Scripture holistically to the topic. He’s also extremely humble about the conversation.
Obviously, I relate to those who are passionate about rap in a positive way. At the same time, I can understand the anti-rap perspective. I appreciate how this view can seem morally right and biblically faithful. I get how those who take this position believe they are defending God’s church against the further encroachment of a worldliness that can only bring harm to the faithful. As a husband, father, and pastor, I am 100 percent in favor of defending God’s people against sin and worldliness!
For anyone who listened to the panel and thought, “I know that’s off but I can’t put my finger on it.” Or “I just want to think through this rap thing more biblical” Does God is the book for you.
Curtis examines the roots of rap. He provides insights important for understanding hip hop culture and a background for the current discussion. What I appreciated most was his honesty. He doesn’t try to paint over hip hop’s missteps. He frankly discusses its short coming. A common objection to rap is that because of its rough history it’s beyond redemption. It is always morally sinful. Curtis points out that music itself is first created by the “wicked line of Cain” (p. 50). He says,
[T]he father of music and musicians was an idolater from a long line of idolaters, and that his music was therefore intended to glorify man, not God. Nevertheless, I am certain that the ability for Jubal to do these things came from God. That is, God blessed Jubal with special musical abilities, knowing that he would use them for sinful purposes. The Bible appears to be telling us that music as a form of human expression has wicked and sinful roots. . . . [E]valuating any form of music by its earthly beginnings looks like a higher standard than the one God uses. (p. 51)
He does an excellent job of concisely stating his case using Scripture. In the end, I think Curtis thesis wins the day. Christians can rap and glorify God. He boils things down so well on the closing pages of the book. I want to share a final selection:
Therefore, the question of whether to rap or not to rap, or whether to listen to rap or not listen to rap, is actually not about rap at all. It’s about the content and the intent of particular artists and songs, not the origin of the art form or the fact that it is still associated with some sinful practices. The question is not, Has rap often been used to glorify man? Not a single human activity can pass that test.
The real question is, Can rap be used to glorify God? Yes.
Should it be?
Is that happening now?
Yes, a lot.
Conversion is the acquittal from every indictment based on sinful origins. Coming to Christ rarely means that we need to make a clean and permanent break from whatever professional, educational, or artistic pursuits we were involved in prior to our salvation. What matters is whether we are able to continue pursuing these things in a way that honors and glorifies God. (p. 77)
As evangelicals seek unity in diversity, we must also be willing to set aside our prejudices and just listen. We must hear our brothers and sisters from other cultures. We must generously seek to understand their culture. This cannot be done when making sweeping generalizations or hurling accusations from across the way. Mutual edification happens in the context of relationships. Does God is a great place to start.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”