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Podcast: Can Rap Be Christian? with Michael Riley, Part 2

Part 2 of Scott Aniol’s discussion with Michael Riley. In this episode, Scott and Michael discuss the issue of meaning in form.



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6 Responses to Podcast: Can Rap Be Christian? with Michael Riley, Part 2

  1. Sounded in part 2 as though you see a strong analogy between the culture of fundamentalist preaching and the culture of rap. Looking forward to part 3 and an answer to whether rap can be redeemed, and what the implications of your answer might be for fundamentalist preaching.

  2. Ben,

    As best as I remember, Scott and I don't return to this comparison in the third installment of the podcast. Given that, and given that I'd be interested in further discussion of this point, I'll take up your question (briefly).

    As to whether fundamentalist preaching can be redeemed, my answer is this: the style of preaching to which I referred in the podcast, in which the very manner of delivery makes it unmistakable that the authority for faith and practice rests with the man in the pulpit, is unredeemable. That manner of delivery, I would contend, is incompatible with our understanding of the authority of Scripture and of the role of the pastor.

    Do you find this a fair comparison? I am truly interested in your thoughts.

  3. Michael, my sense of the analogy was that fundamentalist preaching and rap have a point of contact in that both are often characterized by a self-aggrandizing individual antagonistically communicate his message. Without a doubt, that style cannot be redeemed. (Not a big fan of the redemption terminology, but I'll work with it.)

    It was unclear to me where you were going with that. Did you mean that the cultures that produced those things are so flawed that there's no hope for redeeming the forms because those forms are intrinsically reflective of essential characteristics of the cultures? Or did you mean that the self-aggrandizing antagonism could be extracted from both? Or did you intend a much narrower application of the analogy?

  4. Ben,

    I'm with you in not being a fan of the redemption terminology. Scott and I employed it because it is the typical language for the defense of Reformed rap, but if you drop it, I will too :)

    My original intention was very narrow: take this style of communication and that style of communication, and highlight some very unexpected similarities. If the parallel holds, strong opposition to one style should lead, at least, to the possibility that the other is objectionable. Thus, the fundamentalist who opposes rap should also oppose the sort of preaching that is stereotypical of fundamentalism (and the stereotype exists for a reason). In the same way, the opponent of blustery preaching should take a hard look at the way in which rap communicates.

    As to the question of whether the comparison can be broadened: I would wish to give that more thought, but my initial reply is "yes," because forms and cultures tend to have a chicken-and-egg relationship: the culture has values that are expressed in forms compatible with those values, and the forms of expression used then embed its values more deeply, which in turn shape forms, etc. Thus, I would be forced to say that a ministry's preaching style does say something about its wider value system.

    Thus, I'd contend that a ministry that tolerates or promotes forms that are self-aggrandizing has deeper problems, problems of piety. A mere shift of forms is not a sufficient solution to that problem.

  5. "I would be forced to say that a ministry's preaching style does say something about its wider value system."

    This is my suspicion as well. What's particularly damning is that reformed rap has what much fundamentalist preaching does not: sound, theocentric content.

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