The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

The Great Commissions

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The June 15th edition of the USA Today carried a front page article entitled “Can rap regain its crown?” “With declining sales and rising concerns about its quality and ‘gansta’ image,” the article began, “hip-hop is in crisis. Even some star rappers say it risks becoming irrelevant.” The article goes on to interview many industry insiders for their take on the continuing slide of the once dominant rap genre. Rap record sales have fallen 43.6% since 2000, outpacing the general trend of overall record sales (of all genres), which fell 25%.

Rap's decline can be traced to a range of factors, including marketing strategies that have de-emphasized album sales in favor of selling less-lucrative single songs and short versions of those singles as ring tones for cellphones. But more important to the industry, there are signs that many music-buying Americans — particularly the young, largely white audience that can make a difference between modest and blockbuster sales — are tiring of rappers' emphasis on “gangsta” attitudes, explicit lyrics and tales of street life and conspicuous consumption.[1]

In other words, the rap “bubble” is beginning to burst. The false lifestyle, culture, and worldview that have been bought into by so many adolescents and teens are now wearing thin. Initially, rap and hip-hop provided an opportunity for so many suburban and middle-class kids to enter a world where image and selfishness were king; women were objects to be used, abused, and tossed aside; and violence, handguns, and four-letter words were the tools of the trade. The lack of positive male role models for the hip-hop artists themselves caused them to create a modern male-dominated, misogynistic culture of crime and anti-socialism. The absentee, workaholic fathers of the middle-class suburbanite latchkey kids were poor role-models as well, and the fake sub-culture of the rappers served as an attractive substitute. KRS-One, recognized as one of the early innovators in the “gansta-rap” genre as one half of the rap duo BDP (Boogie Down Productions), understands this as well. “The public has made a choice. ‘We do not want the nonsense that we see and hear on radio, and we are not putting our money there.’ Rap music is being boycotted by the American public because of the images that we are putting forward.”[2]

The culture that was being extolled and glorified by these in loco parentis rappers had a transcendent effect on the suburbanites. It gave their lives purpose and meaning. The hard life of the street thug was akin to freedom, answering to no one. “Get me mine” was the mission statement of the rap culture; and this was to be achieved “by all means necessary,” which was the title of BDP’s second record. Twenty years of this lifestyle, however, is proving to be more than the rap bubble can sustain. The bill of goods that the rappers were selling to their consumers—the life, the clothes, the “bling,” the violence—provided unrealistic answers to the everyday problems and struggles of the middle class kids. It’s one thing to act the part among peers, but trying to maintain the act on the mean streets of Mayberry was something else entirely. The substitute daddies were no more helpful in preparing their kids for the real world than the absent ones were. Rap created a false world that existed only on the inside of the confines of its own design and was irrelevant to the real world outside.

Ironically, this approach is exactly what the modern church hopes is what will attract converts. As Herb Titus reminded us at the Worldview Super Conference, there are two “great commissions” in the Bible. One is found at the end of the gospel of Matthew: “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” The church has rightly understood this to mean taking the gospel to every person on earth, but it has truncated what the gospel means in the process. Personal devotion, spiritual self-help, and escapism are often what are offered up as “the gospel.” We forget though that Christ gave this commission with the introductory “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Christ harkens back to the first great commission that was given in the Garden and has yet to be revoked. “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:27-28). Christ reminds his disciples that because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him, therefore they are to go and make disciples. Dominion and disciples go together; dominion is given, disciples are made.

As long as the church keeps the rap music mentality of creating false worlds and cultures that offer unreal and unreasonable answers to life in the “real world,” we will continue to see the regress of the church. Until the church can move beyond offering a religious cocktail where we take our problems and struggles and stir (don’t shake) in a little Bible reading and prayer and hope that it is enough. It’s not. Just as the rap world is beginning to experience the limits of its worldview, so is the modern church. We need to remember that we were given two commissions, not just one.

Steve Jones, “Can rap regain its crown,” USA Today (June 15, 2007), A1. [2] Jones, "Can rap regain its crown."

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