I know, I know. It’s not the most popular topic to discuss in the Christian community. But hey, someone has to talk about it.
When society hears that a creative (movie director, musician) is a Christian, there’s a slew of thoughts that go through people’s minds. Some of those thoughts include that some Christians are bigots and they take on a holier than thou stance. People also assume that Christians are passive, judgemental, soft, and perfect amongst other things. While there are some Christians that are unashamed of their lifestyles and are very much aware of the mission God gave them with the platform given to them, there are some that profess to be a Christian but their content and lifestyle may not match with what they profess (cursing, degrading, promoting causes that oppose God).
Does not saying “Jesus” on a song automatically make their music non-Christian?
Christian entertainment is not always popular with secular audiences because it is either deemed as corny, considered to lack excellence or duplicate programs from mainstream media sources (Christian version of Drake, Christian version of Clash of the Titans). Throughout the years, the idea of being a Christian in the mainstream, secular world was very unpopular and overlooked, Truth be told, it still is…depending on who you are. In Hip-Hop, rappers such as Chance The Rapper, Kanye West & Kendrick Lamar profess God in their music. Even if their album does not sound like a “gospel album”, they would call it a gospel album (Coloring Book, The Life of Pablo, etc.). Sometimes movies are considered to be gospel movies because they may have themes that directly relate to Christianity. Why is this so? Is it because acknowledging God automatically makes you a gospel artist? Is it because when “God” is talked about or referenced to in three or four scenes, it is automatically considered a gospel movie? Is it because it has biblical references that explicitly make it Christian?
Christian Rapper vs. Rapper Who’s Christian
The title of Christian Rapper vs. Rapper Who’s Christian has been a debate (a silly one, I might add) ever since Lecrae crossed over to the mainstream music industry with his game-changing mixtape “Church Clothes”. Along with the release of that mixtape, Lecrae faced a lot of criticism about his collaboration with DJ Don Cannon and his collaboration with Statik Selektah. It was evident that Lecrae was taking a leap of faith in his career as a Christian artist.
As Lecrae grew (or some people would say “changed”) in his music, he not only became more mainstream, but the content of his music also changed. He talked more about social and political issues than direct references to God and his relationship with Him. Lecrae said the following explaining his move in music:
“The thing about hip-hop to remember is that everybody was holding Statik Selektah onto a false sense of masculinity, a false bravado, machismo, tough guy. Kanye [West] comes along with pink Polos and backpacks, Drake’s emotional, and Chance [the Rapper] is like, ‘Man, I don’t even play by those rules.’ Hip-Hop doesn’t play by those rules anymore. Just be yourself. There’s more room for people to be themselves and not feel like they’re a part of a box. People are open to exploring that.”
Does this statement mean that Lecrae sold out? No, it means he’s being a human being using his creative gift to express himself.
Hip Hop throughout the years has been known as a genre that promotes drug usage, murder, and fast money. Now we have rappers in the mainstream writing records about God and getting more praise than someone who labels themselves as a Christian rapper. There are even artists who label themselves as Christian rappers that don’t mention God nor speak about Him in any of their songs. Some Christian rappers talk about social issues, personal issues, where they come from, their struggles and sometimes they even let us in on their thoughts of considering to leave the Christian faith. It’s okay for these artists to do it, but when Lecrae wants to be transparent in his music, people are quick to point fingers and say demeaning things about Lecrae. What is the difference between the Chance The Rappers and Lecrae? Is it talent? Is it content?
What about Christians in Hollywood?
Hollywood also uses the label “Christian” to attract a Christian audience. But what happens when the movie does not match the biblical themes that the Christian audience reads from the Bible? Do they find a way around the idea to justify that it’s still a Christian film or do they call out false doctrine being displayed on the screen? Movies such as “Noah” and “The Shack” are Hollywood films known to be based on stories from the Bible or have Christian themes in the story. These movies have generated a lot of controversies.
“Noah” came out in 2014, grossing over $362 million worldwide. In spite of the success, it still generated controversy. Although most people know the story of Noah in the book of Genesis, most claim that the Hollywood film doesn’t reflect what happened in the Bible. Director Darren Aronofsky had been working on the film for over 10 years. Finally releasing it to the public was a dream come true for Aronofsky. He said the following about the film: “This film is great entertainment first and foremost, but then it is a visual spectacle of all of the wonders that happen in the Bible.” The entertainment part of his statement stirred Christians the wrong way. The Bible is meant to minister the gospel, not to entertain audiences, most would say.
“The Shack,” on the other hand, was controversial due to having “heresy” themes, as many have claimed. It came out in March of this year, grossing over $91 million worldwide. As a creative, I admire the idea of presenting our triune God as three different people with different ethnic backgrounds and different genders. The book itself was already controversial, but the movie has reignited the controversy in the Christian community. The author of the book, William Paul Young, explained his motive behind the process of the book by saying the following “We need to have a conversation that deepens our understanding of, and appreciation for, what being human is all about and that everybody, in my view, every single human being is a unique expression of the spectrum of both the masculine and feminine, because God is neither male nor female.” Although I understand what is he saying and doing, the problem with the book is that it blends into the sinful society we live in now with gay marriage being legalized and the passivity of the church.
Being a creative in an industry run by Christian is not easy.
Being a Christian creative (or creative that’s Christian, for those who don’t like using Christian as a pronoun) is much harder than being a creative for the world. James 3:1 states: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” In the Christian community, they try to box you in. They only want you to talk about anything that will please the church including prosperity, joy in the Lord, people getting saved, baptisms, Christian anthems and all that good stuff.
Sometimes, we treat prosperity as “The Gospel” instead of a fundamental of The Gospel. If you proclaim yourself as Christian, no matter how you label yourself, stay consistent in God’s word and He will open doors to places where people will see Jesus in you.