Joe Fleener has been saying this for as long as I’ve known him. The Family Integrated Church has a poor and dangerous ecclesiology. I have agreed with him. Perhaps this rap flap is a good opportunity to start challenging the more serious issues of their views on patriarchy, family, and church.
Christians are always looking for the devil in the details. One of our family traits is to be proud of the fact that we can discern. So in Christianity there is a huge industry of discernmentalism that Christians entrust their minds to for direction in a dangerous and devilish world.
No one really ever understood how the devil was in the backbeat of rock-n-roll, the 2 and the 4, but a few men with the powers of discernment that no one else had declared it to be so. It was an easy sell because rock-n-roll in the sixties and seventies was almost exclusively the expression of the anti-authoritarianism of the sexual revolution. So, while the lyrics were certainly bad, the culture around the lyrics was blatantly rebellious, it made sense to people to buy into the fact that there was demonism in the backbeat. And drums. And the electric guitar.
It wasn’t obvious, but once the teachers said it was so, it sure seemed obvious.
The problem is it’s still not obvious and it is even more less obvious now that the rock style is a unique musical form that is shared by many cultures, not just the hippie culture of the seventies. Some today will insist that this is proof that other cultures (i.e. CCM) are eroding and promoting the same things that rock expressed almost exclusively in the seventies, rebellion and sex. But it takes a much more sophisticated discernmentalism now. And discernmentalism is self-propagating industry: claim to have unique insight and sound the alarm, the masses respond obediently because they don’t want to be influenced by the devil, and since they cannot actually see it for themselves they begin to depend on you for insight into everything else in their lives.
Hey! I saw first-hand the evangelical/fundamentalism crowds that financed Bill Gothard. Since his discernmentalism was so valuable to people, they looked to him for insight on their bowel movements. They lost their minds to him because they believed he saw the devil in the details that wasn’t immediately obvious to them.
People who categorically say that the rap style is worldly (which is Christianese for sin) do so against the knack for the obvious that God has given to all His children. If you don’t get it, don’t worry. Give them a listen, of course. Think about it. But don’t go home and burn everything in your library that has drums. You don’t need discernmentalists finding the devil everywhere because the works of the flesh are obvious. To everyone. The Apostle said so:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
Basically, says Paul, worry about what’s obvious, what’s evident. It doesn’t take a scholar to recognize “fits of anger.” But if you’re buying into ideas that are not obvious, you’re probably selling your soul. “They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them” (Galatians 4:17). The more nuanced and hardcore the “discernment” the more dependent followers are on the “teacher.” But, “you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge” (1 John 2:20). The Christian life is just obvious. This is the repeated theme of the New Testament. 1 John essentially says over and over again, “People, it’s evident. It’s clear. The one that practices righteousness is righteous and the one who doesn’t isn’t. Duh. Oh, and by sinning we mean lawlessness as in contrary to God’s law. You know: the obvious. Period.”
It’s why the same writer said that we don’t need teachers. Because if you need teachers to show you something that you and others couldn’t see otherwise, you’re on the wrong track. God’s teachers explain what’s obvious to believers over and over again so that they don’t get waylaid by what’s not obvious.
There are two monster problems with the pontifications on rap that you probably intuitively know but haven’t yet put to words. And intuitive knowledge is a grace given to average people like you and me as well as people with doctorates in culture and musicology. They are:
- People talking about things that they do not understand end up saying dumb things. We all understand that intuitively.
- People pontificating about things that are non-obvious actually concede the most damning fact: their point is, well, not obvious. And this point (that the their point is not obvious) is something relevant to matters of worship, gospel, and spiritual life.
Edited from original posting (12/2/13) to take out distracting statements that were too “personal” and unhelpful to a larger audience and to add a few sentences defending the cui bono query. 12/3/13
Robe-wearing, pasty white, academic conservative and classically trained musician Presbyterian minister Ligon Duncan, and genius never-out-of-a-suit cultural critic, Albert Mohler, have opined on the off-putting panel discussion on rap music by the NCFIC speakers and have, in various ways, said the same thing that Thabiti Anyabwile tweeted: “It’s a digital monument to the intractable idiocy and nearly invincible ignorance of folks almost entirely irrelevant.” And a guy named Mike Cosper nails down the best response of all, I think. However, a good summary of the online debate can be found here. (more…)
On my Facebook I’ve seen a lot of conservatives getting their underwear in a wad about Glen Beck’s promised exposure of the government this coming Monday. Fear sells. Lies do too. And Beck is cashing in on both just like mainstream media, only with a unique niche market. Too bad so many Christians are in that market too.
I grew up in Central Africa Republic and also in The Central African Empire. Same place. While many countries cope with governments that are too strong, this impoverished land has struggled to survive with governments that are too weak. Here is a fun, quick read on the land you probably do not know much about. 9 Questions about the Central African Republic you were probably too embarrassed to ask.
I think parents and society simultaneously over-protect and under-protect their children. Especially their boys.
Extreme caution is given to the physical safety of our boys to the point that it is paralyzing. They can play bloody violent video games about the end of the world and we don’t care, but the end of the world is upon us if they happen to ride their bicycles without elbow pads. We’re so confused we don’t know what’s dangerous and what’s helpful.
I observed my son’s recess in his former school where two adult homo sapiens who had zero knowledge of children homo sapiens tried to manage the jungle chaos of forty kindergarteners with pent-up energy exploding all over the place. I saw them break up all kinds of horseplay between super energetic boys, chase down runners who were only wildly running in circles, and make tacklers stand against the wall for doing what tacklers are legitimately allowed to do: tackle other tacklers. Only one time did I think they actually interfered with a bonafide fight and I kind of felt it should have been allowed to go on for just a little bit so that the playground enforcers could teach the pesky little punk his place. But, alas! However, the real problem was that horseplay was just as punishable as bullying. In fact, it seemed as if these workers could hardly distinguish the two.
And it’s not their fault. If a child got a bloody nose from the accidental flailing heel in a tangle of boys scrambling for a football there would be hell to pay with most parents. Papers to fill out. A visit from the city police. Parents simply cannot tolerate the notion of skinned knees, bruised legs, and scratched arms, the de facto eventualities of letting six-year-old boys just play. Everything in me wishes I could just say, “Let boys be boys.” After all, I think roughhousing and horseplay with its certain battle wounds is healthy.
When I was a kid growing up in Africa we used to play — everyone hold your breath! – war games! With mangoes and guavas and grapefruits. Our version of the Geneva Convention (and I have no idea how influential our parents were on these rules) was that stones and bricks were off limits. But we pushed the limits by choosing the least ripe fruit, thereby having a weapon of firmer density and therefore capable of inflicting more sting when hurled at our opponent. It was a given that playing hurt sometimes. And our opponents were of all ages. I remember getting nailed with green mangos by sixteen year olds when I was only ten. I also remember going home in the evening with bruises all over and my mother nonchalantly saying, “You boys need to be careful you don’t hurt each other out there.” Apparently, upon seeing the bruises she didn’t think we had actually gotten hurt yet. And I’m proud of her for it.
Occasionally, we’d cross a line. A big boy would throw a fruity projectile at a little boy with just a little bit too much heat and the kid would cry. More often than not I remember the big boys rushing over to the kid and saying, “We’re sorry! Are you okay?” But crying was something we all vigorously tried to avoid.
So, I wish I could say to all the over-protective mama bears that hover around our schools today that they need to just take a sedative and let playground rules rule. Let “boys be boys.”
But, sadly, I’m afraid that we’re stuck in the grip of an irony: the over-protectiveness of our parents today is resulting in an increasingly violent atmosphere at school. I don’t think we can say with a shrug of the shoulders, “Let boys be boys” because boys without fathers do not know how to be boys. And violence, the kind that leaves permanent damage, is a very real possibility now.
In this excellent interview from the New York Times entitled In Praise of Roughhousing we are reminded about the value of fathers interacting with their children, especially boys, in some good old-fashioned physical horseplay. The key to the whole interview is in this brilliant opinion:
We believe that real safety comes from knowledge, not from rules and saying “No!” all the time.
Yes! And dads who play and tackle and wrestle and roughhouse with their boys are teaching them safety and self-control. They are modeling before their sons the ability to be stronger yet restrained. And they are teaching their boys the feeling of their limits because most boys today do not know what they are capable of doing nor do they do know how to measure when they’ve been beat. They become dangerous little packages of explosive testosterone.
The beauty of playing rough with dad is that a little boy can learn self-control in the context of intensity. Children don’t get abstract theorizing. Son, when your adrenalin is is rushing and an endorphin rush is smashing through your system you need to rely on the Spirit to guide you. That means nothing. And playing rough and tumble with your little man gives a real-life context for developing a sense of what it means to get control of one’s self. Naturally, he’ll cross the line with dad, but dad is man enough to take the ear-pull and the scratched neck and say, “Hey, son! That’s not how you fight!”
I have a very intense and strong little boy. He rarely cries and he usually makes others cry. Besides the fact that I think most other children his age are weenies, I have to teach a very active little boy to learn physical restraint. I’m still trying to figure this one out, but I have found that the more I roughhouse with him the more he is able to figure out how to restrain himself when playing with other children. And he’s one tough little scrapper. Our wrestling matches are not for softies. But while I am still stronger, I’m taking advantage of winning and losing on my own schedule because he needs to learn how to win and lose like a man. While I am stronger I’m taking advantage of controlling the difficulty, by easing up or intensifying. While I am stronger I’m training in ways that I will not be able to do soon. In the meantime, he thinks we’re playing!
One of our games is “Trap” and he loves it. He often asks for it. It’s because he always wins, but barely! (Wink, wink!). In “Trap” I contort his body into mine in a bizarre tangle that looks like some kind of cartoonish graeco-roman wrestling lock and then I tell him to try to free himself, “taunting” him with all kinds of “trash talk” about how this is the hold of the century and no man ever has gotten out of it. (And, technically, that’s true, because I’d rather die a thousand deaths than hold a man like that.) He strains, and pushes, and shoves, and twists, and does everything within our rules to get out of the “hold of the century.” And I keep him there, slightly loosening my hold, and trying to sense when he’s almost about to give up, loosening again. He always eventually conquers and lays out on the ground, panting and heaving, and uttering all kinds of trash talk about how weak I’m getting. And so it goes.
Yes, one day I will be too weak. But I hope by then that some subtle lessons of roughhousing will be ingrained into his boyish one-day-to-be-a-man psyche. Here is a random list:
- Sometimes you get hurt, but life hurts generally. Man up.
- Sometimes you win, but win graciously.
- Sometimes you lose. Be thankful for a competitor that has taught you your limits and try again.
- Your body has powerful drives that have to constantly be monitored, even when you’re very excited, mad, hungry, or in the heat of battle.
- You pay the consequences for what you do when your body is in a rush. There’s never an excuse for losing control.
- You can be a fierce competitor and humble.
- There’s a difference in jesting “trash talk” that spurs each other on and the trash talk that is disrespectful and dishonoring to God.
- Giving less than your best is never acceptable unless giving less than your best is best (like when Dad lets you win!).
- There are times to choose losing for the sake of your competitor’s joy (like when Dad lets you win!).
- Respect weakness and age. For years Dad roughhoused and played with you, respecting your fragility; when he starts weakening and getting tired, respect his.
- When Dad lays exhausted on his back and wraps his arm around your neck to hug you he wants you to know that whatever mistakes he makes the only way to really love someone is to give them your time.
Boys will be boys. But boys need to be protected from real dangers like excessive video-gaming, pornography, lazy minds, and over-protective society that doesn’t let them get roughed up. Yes, boys will be boys, but the future of boys should be manhood. A gentle and strong manhood that has learned self-control in the rush of intensity.