Proper communication, it seems, may very well be the most powerful key to progress. Unfortunately, this twisted English language that we are tied to is probably one of the worst frameworks of communication in existence. A prime example of this is the ability to make puns (of which I am very keen on practicing), an exploitation of multiple meanings of many English words. The swing towards primarily digital communication in the modern era has only served to enhance the confusion, effectively omitting tone and body expressions from the message. Cross-cultural barriers, both internationally and domestically, are also conventional catalysts of blurring communication.
Narrowing the scope further, simply to English-speaking Christians, I see this common predicament even more-so. It is for this reason that we arguably have the denominational divide. Different people interpret the words of Scripture from its ancient setting and foreign language to mean different things for us today. Even within the confines of our own generation and culture, the words of one expositor may not be heard with the same intent by the receiver. A word in one person’s head could, in theory, have entirely different implications to the hearer depending on their cultural, professional, academic, family, and intuitive differences.
Worship as Rap
The term “worship” has been on my mind a lot lately. According to Webster’s online dictionary, worship is defined as “to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power.” It is fairly well-known but under-challenged amongst middle-class suburban Christian circles that the term is often applied inclusively to music, and not to other aspects of life. That being said, even looking at just the music sector, worship is applied to a very specific genre of music. If it does not sound like Chris Tomlin, use the same instruments as Hillsong, or have the same repetitious rhythm as John Newton, it is probably not worship. Though most may not say it or maybe even think it in their own heads, the lack of artistic diversity within any single gathering of the Church broadcasts that message loud and clear.
On Saturday night I experienced the final collapse of this implicit assumption in my mind. Hip-hop has, for years, been deemed as an evil genre of music. It just does not “sound” like Jesus-music. Oh really? Granted, probably 99% of hip hop today still has connotations contrary to the character of Christ, it is imperative that the good must not be dismissed with the bad due to personal preference or cultural background. The organ, for example, was an instrument firmly rooted in drinking establishments and has been and continues to remain the baseline (and, in some instances, sole) instrument in Church music. Hymn writers often based their music on the same style as popular bar tunes. Likewise, rap is being redeemed as an extremely adequate means of worship. I gathered with 1,000 other Jesus-shouting people in a Cincinnati campus club under the leaders of a movement. On a Saturday night, in a location that should have been filled with the worship of babes and booze, both hip hop and bar were utilized to partake of one of the most important God-exalting worship services of my life and most culturally relevant of my generation.
I conclude with a few thoughts pulled from this wandering train. Hip hop can and is being actively redeemed as a legitimate and arguably more culturally relevant form of worship through music. It addresses head-on such present discussions amongst the Church as aforementioned cultural relevancy as well as the feminism of the Church. At a higher level, communication, like any other fundamental framework, requires a standard like Webster’s dictionary. In the same way, any kind of morality in life needs a standard. Neglecting the presence of any form of absolutism or moral standard, as is the premise of the post-modern era, renders all actions and ambitions futile, an utterly depressing life. The Bible, on the other hand, poses an entirely consistent, fulfilling, and applicable set of moral standards, not neglecting the solution of the age-old question, “What is the meaning of life?” I choose it, and I recommend the same for anyone who happens to read this.
I long for the day where people of all nations worship God through a means that is as diverse as the people God created, but as clear as the internal unified communication of a single body.
I long for the day where Philippians 2:10-11 comes to complete fruition.
Click here for one of the most accurate portrayals of the Gospel I have ever experienced, communicated through hip hop.
And, just remember, that seven days without a pun makes one weak.
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