An Open Letter to Lecrae (Christian Hip-Hop Recording Artist)
Through some of my students I have become familiar with Christian recording artist and social activist Lecrae (Lecrae Devaughn Moore born 1979). Lecrae has developed a career and reputation as a (theologically) conservative Christian hop-hop artist. He has been part of the Young, Restless, Reformed Movement and embraced Calvinism as his theology. In recent years, however, he has spoken out publicly about racism in America and defended African-American athletes who peacefully protest racism before playing football and other sports. According to Lecrae and those who know him very well, he has become disillusioned with “white evangelicalism” and “divorced” himself from the movement. I do not know all the “ins” and “outs” of this process and event, but I am familiar enough with it to say this much to Lecrae:
You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but I have come to know of you and enjoy your music and ministry mainly through my seminary students many of who, both black and non-black (Caucasian and Hispanic) have praised your music and your ministry. I have listened to your music and I want especially to thank you for one particular song called “The Bride.” What a surprising endorsement of serious and deep theology in popular music!
Although we differ with regard to Calvinism I respect and applaud your efforts to bring together popular music and theology. You have stated that one of your “heroes” is Francis Schaeffer who, at a much earlier age and stage of my theological development, greatly influenced me as well. It was Schaeffer who, in the 1970s, helped bring me out of theological confusion and folk religion into deeper theological awareness and thought.
I also want to applaud and thank you for your transparency—especially about your past struggles with drugs and sex and especially your open revelation that you were sexually molested at age eight by an older female babysitter. You have pointed out very helpfully that many more boys are molested than most people know and that more attention needs to be paid to this quiet epidemic. (I once had a neighbor who was an epidemiologist at a major research university doing research into this epidemic. That is what he called it, so that is why I call it that.)
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I also want to applaud and thank you for your activism on behalf of fatherhood and male mentoring of boys and young men. We may disagree about Calvinism (and possibly complementarianism), but we agree entirely about our society’s demoting of fatherhood to unimportant status. Thank you for working together with President Obama on this extremely important subject and project.
As I said earlier, you probably don’t know me. I wouldn’t expect you to know me. I am a lifelong evangelical Christian who has long had a difficult relationship with what you have recently called “white evangelicalism” in contemporary America. One reason for that is that my eyes have been opened to many white evangelical leaders’ lack of concern about racism in America which runs very deep and wide. It is part of the very fabric of our social order (or disorder). I have here blogged about that and expressed strong and unconditional support for African-American athletes who peacefully demonstrate against racism and especially the frequent shootings of unarmed black boys and men by police.
In my humble opinion, but as a scholar who has studied American evangelicalism for decades, I do not believe true evangelicalism is bound to any ethnicity, gender, or class. It has long been my belief that evangelicalism—as a spiritual ethos—is today best found in black churches. Yes, I have also found it in white and Hispanic and Asian churches, but, in my experience, belief in Jesus as liberator—both spiritually and socially-politically—is best found today among black Christians in America.
When you say you are “divorcing” white evangelicalism I take it that you mean you are bowing out of and away from the current American evangelical movement insofar as it is being led and dominated by white men who have little to no understanding of racism and who believe it is possible to “do” evangelical ministry in the “public square” without prophetic speech against racism. I want to assure you that not all American evangelicals are part of that movement. That movement gets most of the media attention aimed at “American evangelicals,” but there are many of us who recognize and condemn both the subtle (with words and lack of words) and overt violence being committed against African-Americans and other minorities and marginalized people in America.
Speaking as a leading evangelical theologian (that is what others have said about me), I want you to recognize a difference between being “evangelical” spiritually-theologically and being part of the contemporary “evangelical movement” in America that has bought into and supports Trumpism and Social Darwinism. I think that is what you mean by “white evangelicalism.” I could be wrong, but I suspect it is the case.
Please, please, Lecrae, do not abandon evangelicalism according to its true meaning which is not tied to any movement. Please embrace it as your own spiritual-theological heritage and ethos even as you take your leave of those white, male and politically conservative evangelicals who, I take it, have attempted to co-opt you and silence your prophetic voice about racism.
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