Why White Christians Need to Catch Up with Kendrick Lamar

Xavier Ramey

Xavier Ramey
March 21, 2016

To truly pursue racial justice, Christians must first seek communion with the marginalized. One way to do that is through artists like Kendrick Lamar.

Teresa Mack
March 22, 2016

I really appreciate your ideas. I especially appreciate the idea that as Christians we need to go to people where they ate as they are to share and demonstrate the gospel. Thank you. And thank you for challenging ilia non-black Christians to recognize that we don't know what it's like to be black in America. We can only imagine and--most importantly--believe what you tell us!!

Ted Hajnasiewicz
March 22, 2016

I really do like this post. It is very much where we as Christians need to go. To the uncomfortable places.

Please, with respect though - the wisdom is not "in the streets". COMPASSION happens in the streets. But getting to "understand another person" does not denote wisdom. The fear of the Lord leads to wisdom. THAT is the wisdom which is spoken of in Proverbs - even the one you quoted. Though it cost you everything (and it does) - GET WISDOM. From Christ.

I do not mean to nit-pick, as I love this post, and God is leading me through this very thing in my own sheltered life. But we must never neglect, or re-write God's truth for the sake of "worldly wisdom", no matter how good that worldly wisdom is or seems. You may not have meant this, so again, sorry to nit-pick. And this correction is meant with utmost respect.

Xavier Ramey
March 22, 2016

In Reply to Ted Hajnasiewicz (comment #28002)

Ted, thanks so much for reading, and for your comments. I think you've highlighted an important point for me to clarify, which is not clear as-written in my article. Wisdom, as you noted, begins with the fear of the Lord. The PROCESS is more of what I was speaking of in this article. I did not mean that wisdom is in the people, but that the wisdom is to be shown through how we engage the people. For instance, to read your Bible all day and never go to the places it speaks of where the poor and the oppressed live does not follow a wise process for understanding and modeling Christ. Going to these places, not to evangelize and push out our beliefs on others, but to listen and learn about what breaks the world, and the Lord's heart...that is a process that is indicative of the one Christ took while ministering. He spent decades learning and studying (I like to think He was simply modeling out how we should do it), then taking what he learned and going out into the spaces where the "Churchified folk" wouldn't (the land where the Gentiles lived, visiting the lepers, etc.), bringing the Good News. MANY metropolitan white churches I have connected with in the past and present do not investigate their privilege, or their process, outside of the goal of moving Jesus (structurally) into a community. They are often seen as occupiers. The extend a soup ladle on Saturday in a low-income community, and vote against re-organizing the tax allocations for prioritizing the funding of low-income schools on Tuesday...and never really investigate the hypocrisy. They have not listened to the people's music, they have not studied their history, they have not cried with them about another slain child or unemployed man or raped woman, they have not gotten to a place of familial nicknames, they have not moved closer to them so that when they vote the community knows that the church's vested interests are with them and not across town, etc. They are not in communion. They are in communication.

Christ may have listened to Kendrick Lamar. He may have wept while hearing Nina Simone sing "Mississippi Goddamn" and not split hairs about the semantics of the title, instead seeing the pain that caused the blasphemy and extending grace because of it. He may have bobbed his head and smiled when he listened to "The Blacker the Berry" on Kendrick's "To Pimp a Butterfly" album, or truly understood why President Obama said "How Much a Dollar Cost," from the same album, was his favorite song of 2015, and how much that affirmation meant to black Americans who for generations have watched police go free after murdering them, and volunteers from across the city explain why it is right.

This is a process that emulates the wisdom we both are speaking about, by modeling what Christ did. But we cannot let wisdom stop at ourselves--relegating it to matters of prudence and holiness alone. It has to burst forth from us, in how we engage the world. But that might take some listening to "coarse language" and not using tools like respectability politics to police those we don't understand.

Ted Hajnasiewicz
March 23, 2016

OH man. I have to say, I was reluctant to comment, because I felt it was "nit-picking". Now I'm so glad I did. This incredible article was followed with an even more clear, incredible comment/response by you (not knocking the article at all :) ). And again - the very challenge the Lord is thrusting upon me. THANK YOU again, so very much, and God bless you!

Joshua Slye
May 13, 2016

I have to say something but I would like to preface by saying I am not trying to be argumentative. If we knew each other, that would be clear, I am sure of it because I have had many intense conversations with individuals that hold opposing views and we didn't walk away angry and hateful.

Your response to Ted's comment was very helpful. I find myself disagreeing with your statement there that Jesus spent His time "Going to these places, not to evangelize and push out our beliefs on others, but to listen and learn about what breaks the world, and the Lord’s heart…that is a process that is indicative of the one Christ took while ministering."

Evangelizing is everything He did. His entire ministry was about Himself. In fact, He did not seek to cure the social ills of the day as a primary goal. That was a by product of His ministry as Messiah, for sure. He elevated women above their social norm. He did in fact listen to the Samaritan woman in John 4 but with Jesus, it never stopped at listening. He always presented the truth about who He was, the one sent by the Father, as the answer.

I hate racism. I cannot imagine growing black and dealing with the kinds of struggles that our brothers and sisters live with. But I am wary of anything that pushes a social agenda of any sort into the limelight. My primary goal is to exalt Him and follow His voice.

Lastly, I cannot listen to Kendrick Lamar. I would love to. His music is fantastic. But guess what? It is truly not pure. I know from my own life that if I start listening to that again, the effect won't be that I have a better picture of black life in America. The effect will be that I drop the F-bomb more frequently, a habit I am already struggling to break.

I hope we can agree to disagree here I'd love to hear any thoughts you have here or via email.

Thank you and may our mighty God shatter the power of racism in America in our day.

Scott Johnson
November 12, 2016

The fact that I am only the sixth commenter here, after hate Tuesday (the presidential election 2016) throws me into a state of hopelessness. Where is everybody who cares about racism in the American evangelical church. Oh my God, hardly anyone here cares. I'm sorry

Stacy Dixon
April 6, 2017

Great article. And I enjoyed your interaction in response regarding wisdom as well. However, I also appreciated the comment regarding Jesus' primary mission. Jesus is all about sharing His truth. My frustration with these articles and conversations involves the practical aspects of developing relationships. I live in a small, largely white (90%) city. My children have diverse friendships at school. And they know our home is open. But aside from "weekends" how is this done? Frankly, the only concepts in the music or poetry you mentioned and I understand, may just be the swear words and sexual references. Violent behavior scares me. Violent lyrics confuse me. Not only can I not interpret the despair and rage adequately. I get overwhelmed by what to do. Sure, I can listen. I hear the pain. But I can't understand it. And I get frustrated. What can I do? Mentor refugees. Done. Foster minority children. Done. Reject blanket explanations. I do. Now what?

Paul Neil
June 21, 2017

If it takes getting past raunchy lyrics to understand the plight of black people in the US, something is wrong. As a black man, I don't encourage anyone to listen to this. The info about racism is all there and most know it, the issue is centuries old. The problem is a lack of compassion in many white people who claim to be Christian. Many who claim to know Christ get annoyed when black people cry out about social ills. They believe things are made up and that black people are automatically at fault for their own ills. (I have always said, if systematic racism did not work, it would never be employed). The real question is the heart. Do people who claim to know Christ really know Him or are they being changed by Him? If the heart is not changed one can listen to this rap Artsist from now till death and nothing will happen.

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