Some have delivered thoughtful responses to theologian John Piper’s recent blog post regarding the rapper Lecrae Moore and so called “white evangelicalism.” While it is useful to understand Lecrae’s perspective on current events and how he deals with them through his faith, he also falls into a trap that ensnares many people: a corrupt ideology that only seeks to divide.
Throughout the discussion-generating interview on the Truth’s Table podcast, Lecrae continuously pits Christians of lighter skin tones against those with darker skin tones and inextricably ties skin tone to culture and an ever-fading history of oppression. In his interview, Lecrae said the following:
One of the things I wanted to do, as far as activism is concerned, this album is Lecrae. Lecrae is a black man in America who can be true to his cultural roots and still embrace his faith which has been colonized. You know, our faith has been colonized and stripped away and made to be very Western and Eurocentric. And that’s one of the ways I wanted to be an activist is to say: no, no, no, you can’t have that. It’s for everybody. Jesus ain’t American, you know what I mean? And there is gonna be more people in heaven who don’t speak English and are not white when we get there.
Yes, Jesus was not an American, and yes, some Christians are painfully unaware of that. But there is a lot more to this statement than just criticism of Western evangelicalism. Lecrae lumps everyone in Western evangelicalism into a bucket with the “white” racial moniker.
Are Ideas Race-Related, Or Truth-Related?
During the interview, both Lecrae and the hosts continually speak about differences of experience in culture, but when they discuss Western church culture, it is based on race. That disconnect is highlighted when they talk about the current political debate around groups like BlackLivesMatter and the police brutality discussion in the United States.
But these issues are not issues of racial divide. They are issues of communication, disagreement, and culture. Lecrae says he was surprised and dismayed at public reaction to the death of Michael Brown and that the “visceral attacks that came his way were a shock to the system and helped shape his new identity.” Lecrae said:
Stuff is happening and you itchin to do something, but you feel the restrictions and the confinements of like: ‘Oo, what if I…what if they get upset. What if they don’t like me.’ You know, all those issues and it took blood on the ground. It took the blood of Tamir and Mike Brown and Sandra Bland for me to say: ‘I don’t care what you think. People are dying.’ And my voice needs to be heard.
Everyone’s voice needs to be heard. Each and every one of us are individuals who bring our own experiences to the table. Again, the consistent tone of the interview has a hint of pitting white people against black people. However, there is always nuance in every topic. While Lecrae may feel like his voice was not heard on the matter of Brown’s death, there are plenty of contrasting perspectives over what does and does not cause police brutality in the United States. Political discussions are nuanced and few people are arguing in bad faith.
Both sides of that debate have valid concerns and bring a unique perspective. Being faced with ideological opposition refines our own views. In many ways, it is obvious when listening to Lecrae that he has been thinking deeply about his audience’s opposition to his thoughts on Brown’s death. He did not truly feel a part of Western evangelicalism as a result of his introspection. The point where his divide becomes dangerous to his faith is when he views that shift along racial lines.
Identity Based on Race Is a Lie
One of the hosts on Truth’s Table said: “We have been required to be culturally bilingual since learning words. I don’t know my native tongue, I don’t know my actual native tongue. So, I was born to be culturally bilingual.”
Herein lies the problem. This conversation has been made to be about race, when the actual divide is sub-cultural. The minute Christians are divided into sub-groups based on race, religion fails to be the unifier that it actually is. Christianity has its own culture. There are creeds still said today that are almost as old as Christianity itself. There are hymns sung in churches across the globe that are straight out of the book of Psalms. There are traditions that date back to the literal Last Supper. The form of worship, organization, and structure of the Christian church comes straight from the scriptures and the writings of the very early church.
No doubt Christian churches are influenced by the cultures in which they exist. However, when speaking of the church as a whole, truth is transmitted down through time, and the cultural divides of the ages melt away. Is the Apostles’ Creed Jewish Christianity? Is the Nicene Creed Turkish Christianity? Is George Handel’s Messiah German Christianity? Is gospel music African Christianity? No, they are just facets of the same Christianity that unifies everyone under Christ.
Dividing Christianity by race is directly antithetical to the unifying death of Christ on the cross. That is exactly what Lecrae is doing. Grouping all “white” Christians against all “black” Christians implies every person of those particular skin pigments must have the same experience and perspectives in Christianity as everyone else of that same skin pigment. Identity stops being in Christ and becomes identity in skin tone.
Some Criticism Is Valid
Lecrae said “trust and believe” to critics who worried he is breaking down the sacred/secular divide. It is a fair thing to say, but just being a Christian does not make him right. Valid criticism exists on both sides of this. Lecrae is right to criticize much of the Western church for pulling too hard toward particular Western cultures. But it is also fair to point out that he is wrong to go to an identity other than Christ, or a divide based on race, as somehow a holy and good thing. It isn’t.
All Christians have gaps in our knowledge. All of us probably believe wrong doctrines right now. That realization should push an introspective Christian to constantly seek Christ and the historic Christian faith. However, Lecrae tries to dodge criticism by saying he is experienced in orthodox Christianity while “white evangelicals” don’t have any experience in his world. It seems that to him there are no cultures other than “white evangelicalism” and “black culture,” and he can dismiss critics because he is an expert in both.
If Lecrae can and should expect people to listen to his perspective and what it has brought to his faith, then he should at least have the respect for other Christians to do the same. There are massive diverse perspectives on everything in Christianity even among people with white skin. Yes, we all do have our own cultures that must, to some extent, melt away with the death of Christ too.
At the very end of the podcast, Lecrae said: “Your identity is not wrapped up in how right you get it or how perfect you can posture yourself. But, your identity is wrapped up in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Well said.