Lecrae recently released an excerpt from his book “Unashamed” where he shared his experience walking the red carpet at the Grammy Awards and attending Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Grammy Party. In the excerpt, Lecrae describes how he feels as if he was shunned, and pre-judged based on his association with the Christian Rap genre. You can read the entire excerpt here. Phanatik makes some very strong points opposing Lecrae’s stance; most of which are irrefutable. For those who don’t know, Phanatik is considered a pioneer of the Christian Hip-hop genre as a member of the legendary Philadelphia group Cross Movement. Phanatik and Cross Movement came up during a time when most churches staunchly opposed hip-hop music, even Cross Movement’s despite the fact that it was Christ centered and scripturally based. In addition to that, Lecrae at one point was signed and released music as an artist on Cross Movement’s record label Cross Movement Records. All that to say, is if anyone has a right to speak on this issue, it’s Phanatik. So without further ado, I’ll just set this right here:
UNASHAMED???? (I say this as someone who teaches a class on Hip Hop and Ethics at a secular high-school and Community College, as well as teaching apologetics at a Christian institution. So I am constantly getting to practice what I preach. Keep that in mind…)
Last week my man Thi’sl Tyler posted that he would no longer engage in discussions about CHH as far as the “title” is concerned. I read and respected his position. I even reflected on my own recent posts a bit. But here’s why I think these posts are needed. Every-time we turn around, it seems there is another Christian in the arts who is making use of their liberty in Christ to no longer be hedged in by the “Christian” title and music industry, which is perfectly fine. BUT, these artists often do damage to the bible or body of Christ when they begin to explain/justify their shift in unbiblical ways.
In “Red Carpet Treatment”. an excerpt from Lecrae upcoming “Unashamed” book, he states why he doesn’t “fully embrace the Christian rapper label”. He states that he does not just make music for people who are “super-religious”…and that there was a time when made music that only appealed to people in the church.” Does he know that categorizing believers as “super-religious” is detrimental and offensive? That it affirms stereotypes that Christians are always ‘doing too much.’ Anyway…
After detailing how out of place and unwanted he has been made to feel in certain, secular music industry settings, Lecrae identifies the problem, but he explains it in a confusing way. The industry knows who he is. He is an outspoken Christian. They’ve heard his music. Anyone who has heard his music recently knows that he’s not too preachy, and if he is, he preaches just as much if not more to the hypocrisy in the church as he does to the mis-deeds of the world. So the stigma that he lives under now-a-days does not come from his music, but from the known fact that HE is a Christian, not his art.
It is not because of his music anymore but because of his commitment to Christ that unbelievers (or uncommitted-believers?) wonder, as he writes, “Can I cuss around him? He is about to preach at me, or judge me if I drink…” At the industry party, music is not in view. Just plain human interaction is the problem. He even aims to comfort other Christians who feel the same way at their place of employment. They are in the ‘same boat’ as Crae. Conversations are filled with awkward silence as Lecrae watches and waits for someone to talk to him or introduce him to others. And when the introductions take place, he watches and waits even more as he wonders what people are thinking about him; and often he finds out that his thoughts were on the right track, its his reputation as a Christian that’s the problem. But wait! This is where the confusion comes in. Why is there so much silence, so much watching and waiting and wondering???? Isn’t this book and the mission about being unashamed? I now begin to wonder, ‘At what point do you engage and set the terms of the conversation; assuage fears, calm the storm or maybe even disturb the peace, if necessary?’
Lecrae explains why he is not first to break the silence. He is an introvert. It is not in his personality to break the ice. But, he states, if you ask him to renounce his faith or take a bullet for Jesus, he “dying that day.” But…what if you don’t ask him?………I guess we shouldn’t be surprised if there’s no strong stance then, he’s an introvert. This is what’s confusing. It’s the ‘I’ll die for my faith if asked; but, at the same time, I’m going to feel some type of way if my career or my social interactions have to die for my faith.’ All the comments on the excerpt are people applauding him for his humility and being a strong Christian in these difficult situations where he is made to feel unwanted. But can you imagine a bible story where this is the worst thing that happened to a believer in a secular setting? It would seem pretty tamed in Hebrews 11.
Crae complains about the “hurdles” and “being loaded down by the baggage” of the Christian title and how it effects him in the industry. And when the fear of that baggage impacts his interpersonal relationships, instead of calling it being “ashamed”, it gets labeled as being “introvert”. While at the same time there is now a book and a movie about what it means to be “UNASHAMED.” Nothing in the “Red Carpet Treatment” excerpt struck me as being “Unashamed”. If we are not careful, we are about to let this become the standard of what that word means: being strategic enough about how to get in close proximity with non-believers, and then, when we get their, blaming our Christian stigma as the reason why the conversations don’t lead to conversions. But WAIT!!!!! I’m sorry, MY BAD…..MY FAULT….This is not about conversions, that’s something we do as private Christians. This is about a man’s public career. Right? Exactly! So then, what the heck does any of this have to do with being Unashamed? Unashamed applies to the Gospel (Rom 1:16). And that is my point. This Unashamed Movement is using biblical language to power the most mundane endeavors. While those who desire, check for, long for, ask for, embark upon true biblical endeavors will seen as “Super-religious” and doing too much. If we let that happen, we should be Ashamed.
What do you think about Phanatik’s stance?