Don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t hope for heaven to perpetuate socialism or for project buildings to still be standing. My hope and confidence is that not one brick will be left on the structure of Section 8 housing complexes. The overwhelming food supply from the Lord’s table will override any need for food stamps. The system which ensnare single mothers in what looks like a free ride and bridge to success, but ironically puts up roadblocks at every exit to get off to self-sustaining freedom, will one day be destroyed. As Nas, a rapper, imagines in his song “If I ruled the world,” describes his Utopia:
“No welfare supporters, more conscious of the way we raise our daughters.”
Nas also envisions a society which the police state is no longer breathing down the necks of people for things considered crimes in America, which are not actually evil, when he says, “Imagine smoking weed in the streets without cops harassing.” The initial thought for many is that this guy is just longing for a lawless society. Rather, he is speaking from a position of a man crying out against all of the stress he carries in a society which painted the “war on drugs” as something which would uplift communities in America, but instead has continued to destroy particular communities. In the chorus, Lauryn Hill sings, “If I ruled the world, I’d free all of my sons, I love em love em baby.” She obviously is alluding to freeing people of color, especially men from the prison system, and comforting them from their afflictions. Throughout the song you can also see there is a cry for freeing people of color in general, mentally. Nas says ,“Open they eyes to the lie history’s told foul.” He goes on in the song speaking against the oppression of the prison system: “Political prisoner set free, stress free, no work release, purple M3s and jet skis,” and, “I’d open every cell in Attica, send em to Africa.”
Nas also cries out in the song against depression and violence in the communities: “So many years of depression make me vision, the better living, type of place to raise kids in,” and, “You’d love to hear the story how the thugs live in worry, duck down in car seats, heat’s mandatory.”
Could it be if we really read between the lines of what many rappers are saying (stuck in the middle of rhymes that may be immoral) that there is a genuine cry and longing for something better. Romans 8:19–25 speaks of even the creation groaning and waiting to be set free from corruption. We as believers groan and wait for our adoption as sons, but if creation itself is groaning, we can also expect that those made in the image of God whether believers or not express some groaning as well from their current state.
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
Why would Tupac formulate his question like this: “I wonder if heaven got a ghetto”? Throughout the song he explains his life growing up in the “struggle” as a black man in America. He speaks about his rebellion and him feeling a necessity to commit crimes to succeed in this society. He speaks of the distrust for cops in the black community. He asks, “Here on earth, tell me what’s a black life worth?” The question is pretty much rhetorical, as from the perspective of people of color, black lives do not matter to anyone else, and even now do not matter to ourselves. He declares that the neighborhoods in which many people of color live is “death row.” He understands the life he and others lived or were living was not right, although he felt there was no other option. In “I wonder if heaven got a ghetto” he states,
so we loot, please don’t shoot when you see, I’m takin’ from them, cause for the years they would take it from me, now the tables have turned around, you didn’t listen, until the niggaz burned it down
We can agree that violence and revenge is not the solution to oppression. Even with the mind state Tupac and others had, however, they realized that the state in which they lived, in the hood, was greatly due to corruption. It was due to injustice. He spoke against the continuous injustice which plagued their communities from police and the judicial system. Many remember these following lyrics from his song “Changes,” however many lyrics were seen in “I wonder if heaven got a ghetto”:
I see no changes, all I see is racist faces, misplaced hate makes disgrace to races, we under I wonder that it take to make this, one better place, let’s erase the wait state
And though it seems heaven-sent, we ain’t ready to have a black president, it ain’t no secret don’t conceal the fact, the penitentiary’s packed and it’s filled with blacks
I wake up in the morning and I ask myself, is life worth living should I blast myself, I’m tired of being poor and even worse I’m black, my stomach hurts so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch
cops give a damn about a negro, pull a trigger, kill a nigger, he’s a hero
As you see Pac considered it was bad enough being poor, but its worse to be black in America. There are many wealthy black people in America who can testify to this statement as well. No matter your social status, in America if you are black you still face many injustices.
Tupac states in his song “Changes” that much of violence as well as the drug epidemic is due to systematic oppression and intentional destruction of the community by outsiders.
Give crack to the kids, who the hell cares?
One less hungry mouth on the welfare!
First ship ‘em dope and let ‘em deal to brothers
Give ‘em guns, step back, watch ‘em kill each other
In one sense heaven will have “ghetto,” if used synonymously for people of color in America, especially those at the lowest state, because no one who calls upon the Lord with a truly repentant heart is barred from heaven. All are welcome, no matter your skin color, and no matter your social status. No matter how you lived in the current life, it does not have to dictate how you will live in the life to come.
In another sense, however, there will be no “ghetto” as there will be no more oppression, no more violence, no more abortions, no more overdosing on crack, no more police brutality, no more single mothers, no more dead beat dads, no more fathers stripped away from their families, no more prisons, no more laws against medical or recreational marijuana, no more unjust judges, no more drive-by shootings, no more men crying victim as an excuse for lawlessness, no more Christians ignoring interceding for true victims, no more racism, no more division between blacks and whites, no more white supremacy, and no more socialism or corrupt capitalism.
I think if we analyze many rap lyrics we will see there is a groaning and longing for truth and a world redeemed. Even though there is much to call folly in the lyrics of these songs, there is much to consider. There is a more prophetic voice in the lines of rappers who do not know God than there is in many pulpits in America against the corrupted government. There are people who wonder if heaven even has a place for them, which shouldn’t even be a question. It makes you wonder what kind of message the church has been preaching, and what kind of society the church has allowed to exist for so long without speaking up, for questions like these to come up.
In the eyes of many, the church in America is on the side of those who oppress and neglect orphans and widows. In many churches, those from the “ghetto” do not even feel welcomed. So, for many it seems that the Christ that is being promoted is a racist who not only agrees with closed borders to America but has closed borders to heaven as well.