Hip Hop & Religious Rhetoric

Taken from the Rock & Theology Blog-now discontinued

As we enter a new era of religious rhetoric in the upcoming election year, I am reminded at some of the mythical vernaculars which get exhumed almost every time politicians run for office in this country. In an essay by Wade Clark ROOF (titled American Presidential Rhetoric from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush: Another Look at Civil Religion), American civil religion is examined while taking on the myths of “one nation under God,” the “Chosen Nation” and the timeless classic of “Manifest Destiny”; in other words, it is our “destiny from God” to be the nation from the most High. But as ROOF reminds us, “Myths are the means by which a nation affirms its deepest identities and frames its rationale for political action; they are elementary, yet profound…” (p. 287 in Social Compass 2009; 56 [2]). Therefore, these simplistic ideologies get woven into the fabric of social DNA and become things that people will die for; and kill other for as well.

We find ourselves—meaning the Christian audiences of the U.S.—at a crossroads of sorts. The religious rhetoric coming from the conservative right is at times frightening; laws changed for the “morality of God” and/ or laws put in place to “serve God” better.  These types of crowd pleasing statements are interesting as we look at socio-religious structures within America. For example, sociologist Neil J. Smelser convincingly argues (2004: 276-9) that fear of an external threat in a setting where God and country are closely aligned is powerful in reinforcing a Manichean-type morality, or tendency to frame conflicts with other nations as essentially a struggle between “good” versus “evil.” (Chapter titled “September 11, 2001 as Cultural Trauma” in the edited book Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity.)

I believe this creates a dangerous quintessence for the non-critical worldview person (which so many churches seem to have these days), which blurs the lines between church and state. Thereby creating easy escapes into the excuse for more violence and senseless killings of people groups deemed “evil.”

Hip Hoppers call this out. At the root of Hip Hop essence and culture is the power and strength to call out authority and question authoritarian powers that have, historically, been non-trustworthy and continually lied to the public; particularly the urban public. Once again, Tupac brings some very interesting thoughts on these types of issues. In a raw and unedited manner, Tupac presents a theology of culture in an unapologetic modus; he is able to cut into the depth of the issue and see it for what it truly is.

In this clip Tupac breaks down these elements of religious rhetoric and asks the question of how God can connect to him and people like him without all the dogma, caricatures, social accolades, and misinterpretations of scripture.

Take a listen. (Please note, there is language that some might deem as profane and/ or offensive. For those who do find it that way, please try to look beyond the obvious offense and look into the context and meaning of what is being said.)

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