The Deadly Disease of Divisiveness
God has done great works through Christian hip hop. The rise of the urban missionary movement, the bridging of gaps between suburban and inner-city ministries and movements toward greater ethnic reconciliation in the church all owe their successes in part to Christian hip hop. If it werenāt for Christian hip hop, there probably wouldnāt be as much Mark Driscoll, Eric Mason, John Piper or Matt Chandler in the āhood. Christian hip hop has become an effective platform to introduce a wealth of healthy teaching into places it may have otherwise not gone. God has used Christian hip hop to display his Gospel in a profound way to millions. But can I keep it real for a minute? Christian hip hop isnāt what it could be, and much of it is because of divisiveness, the attitude that finds it easier to divide than to unify.
Unfortunately, when I survey the landscape of Christian hip hop, it sometimes reminds me of a middle school. In a middle school, youāll encounter gifted and talented people who have zeal but donāt quite know who they are yet. Theyāre struggling for acceptance, struggling to imitate trends, struggling to get an edge over their peers. They struggle for popularity. They learn how to act in front of others, learn the cool things to say and to do, learn what leads to acceptance. Cliques form, unspoken categories come into being. People divide. If youāre not on certain unwritten lists, you wonāt get into certain circles. People gossip about one another to help validate themselves. Insecurities abound, and immaturity turns petty issues into big conversations. Sound familiar?
Now, Iām not here to dog on Christian hip hop. After all, Iāve given my entire life to this ministry. I am called to love the church, and as this ministry is an outgrowth of the church, I am therefore called to love this ministry. And so I do. As the church is broken, its outgrowths and ministries will inherit that brokenness. Thatās to be expected, but itās not to be accepted. We have to learn to be fed up with our immaturity as a movement. And we should start with the finger pointed at ourselves, not āthem.ā Our collective immaturity should grieve us inside.
One of the most visible evidences of our immaturity is our incessant tendency to create unhealthy divisions between various ministries and labels. To prevent any misinterpretation, Iām not saying that all division is bad! Iām not saying everyone should be getting on everyone elseās tracks or affirming everyone elseās ministries. While those who minister in Christian hip hop are Christians (hopefully!) and therefore unified in Christ (Galatians 3:28), there are definitely circumstances where some level of healthy division is helpful. Divisions are not inherently bad; divisiveness is.
Let me give an example of what division without divisiveness looks like. I personally feel that a Christian hip hop ministry that focuses on edifying more mature Believers with deeper theological material (Lampmode obviously comes to mind) might not have an easy time becoming one ministry with a ministry that focuses heavily on evangelism and impacting secular culture. These two ministries are absolutely crucial, but would probably operate more effectively as two separate ministries. Thus a healthy division exists.
A healthy division leads two ministries to agree that Christ is at the center of both of their ministries while realizing that the methodology and philosophies for their ministries might be different. However, they are charitable toward one another in their differences (methodology, etc.), knowing that they are unified in the essentials of the faith (the Gospel, core Biblical doctrines like the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and so forth). They realize that if the Bible does not give direct teaching on certain methods of ministry, they have no right to judge or hold a grudge against a ministry for doing things differently than theyād prefer. This is charitable division without a gossiping, slanderous, divisive attitude.
Sadly, unhealthy division is an all-too-familiar predicament for the ministry of Christian hip hop and the church as a whole. Instead of agreeing to disagree charitably on certain methods of ministry (how often to reference the name of Christ in a song, whether or not to collaborate with secular artists/producers/DJs, etc.), the divisive minister takes things too far. Because some ministries do things differently than heād prefer (even though thereās no direct Biblical teaching or principles against these things), he gossips about them. You know this guy. Heās the guy spewing venom on the comment sections of videos and online forums. Heās the guy who takes gray areas and turns them into black-and-white issues.
He might even operate his own hip hop ministry, and people might look up to him and be influenced by him. When people ask him what he thinks about ______ās ministry, he speaks disrespectfully. Because he disagrees with some of ______ methods and associations with others, he says slanderous things about ______ when _______ isnāt there to defend himself or clear up what might be a misinterpretation. And this guy gives people a skewed view of ______ before they even have a chance to meet ________ to find out who he really is. And then they gossip about _____. Before you know it, ______ is cut off from relationships with other ministries which could have been fruitful in the forward progress of the Gospel. And this is just one scenario. If youāre reading this article, youāve probably seen a thousand more.
Hereās something that should make Christian hip hop ashamed: Secular hip hop has an easier time uniting over money than Christian hip hop does over the Gospel. What this shows is, Christian hip hop doesnāt seem to value the Gospel as much as secular hip hop values money. Itās literally as simple as that. Secular hip hop artists and groups can put away certain differences between themselves for the sake of working together to earn more money for each other. And Christian hip hop seems to have a harder time putting away certain differences for the sake of working together to more effectively and broadly minister the Gospel. We deserve a collective punch in the face. We skew perceptions of each other. We gossip and slander each other. We divide over petty things. We act like weāre in middle school. Even though Christian hip hop has grown by leaps and bounds, thereās no telling what it could be without the deadly disease of divisiveness.
And it starts with me. And you.
Hereās a verse of from my upcoming EP, Skylines, addressing the issue:
Christianity is more than just American
more than how your ministry does it, donāt be arrogant
people look at the Middle East and call āem terrorists
but then they see that Jesus was Jewish and Arabic
itās time to look beyond preferences and politics
time to call it quits on gossiping and all the cliques
just because we all donāt do it the same
doesnāt always mean we arenāt representing His name
itās time to see that thereās freedom in ministry
and that thereās a lot of grey areas Biblically
and what that means is that it isnāt always black or white
and that implies that both sides can be doing it right
so donāt judge a believer if thereās no Scriptural basis
spending time on petty issues is just ministry wasted
so if a Christianās different from you donāt discriminate
see what their heartās about and then help them finish the race
ācause we need each other