We’re in a time where silence on immoral cultural and social issues unwittingly becomes agreement. In like manner, vocal ambiguity is tantamount to celebration. The call of the Christian has always been a call to salt and light the earth. Our moral living coupled with the incomparable message of the Gospel is supposed to serve to bear witness of God, ultimately pointing humanity to Christ.
Recently there’s been talk among celebrity Christians regarding the best ways to achieve that goal. As far as many believers can tell, the collective conclusion is a necessary removal of Christ in any overt fashion from business, art, and in some cases, the church. This new ministry philosophy has been sparsely supported by Scripture, largely taken out of context -- a detail of little consequence as this new philosophy enjoys such popular support.
In one area of ministry in particular, the discussion has been destructively one-sided: Music. A few years ago, Christian rap’s number-one selling artist decided he was no longer a “Christian rapper.” Instead he was now to be referred to as a rapper who happens to be Christian. As the Christian rap community struggled to understand with what this meant, LeCrae declared in no uncertain terms that his chief identity was to be that of hip-hop. LeCrae’s message grew progressively louder and became clearer as he underscored his new ministry/ business philosophy with secular music collaborations, public disses of the Church, and positions on social issues that not only caused racial tensions among believers, but also pit Christians <em>against</em> culture.
For some in the Christian rap community, the shift was necessary if the culture was to be effectively engaged. For others, there was confusion, hurt, and anger. Closed-door conversations abounded. What about the believers who were unwilling to give up their “Christian” title? What about those of us who felt positive rappers were a dime a dozen? What about us who still loved the Christian rap genre and weren’t ready to see it dissolved into hip-hop? Would anyone speak out musically? Would anyone represent our position in the studio? The vacuum was both palpable and frustrating, but it appears the vacuum may at last be filled.
Christian rapper Marcus Gray, better known as Flame, has just released his eighth album, <em>Forward</em>, and it was worth enduring his nearly two-year contemplative silence. <em>Forward</em> is unquestionably Christian. And while the tone of the project is weighty and sobering, it’s filled with hope not only for every believer, but also for those yet to come to faith in Christ. <em>Forward</em> is what happens when Christian rappers let Christ in!
On a track entitled “Made Me Do,” Flame, along with Mike REAL, provides a menacing disclaimer: “When I do it, I overdo it” -- a sentiment with which I imagine every listener will agree. Although it is positive, Flame provides Christian rap fans with much more than positive rap and social retort; he provides a backdrop for Christians to position ourselves to engage the culture. <em>Forward</em> is track after track of hard truths about the Gospel and its indispensability in culture. It tackles Christians’ need to care about the state of our nation rather than joining the collective culture that now enjoys bashing it. Flame remembers our brothers and sisters around the globe who are losing their lives for the faith and does not neglect the injustice right in our own backyards.
The distinction is that of the often dismissed biblical worldview. Flame forces Christians to think through the popular yet weak philosophy of offering people real hope or eternal justice without a clear presentation of the Gospel. <em>Forward</em> is a refreshing response to the Christian rap genre’s soft sell of Christ to culture. In it, Flame leaves no room for doubt or ambiguity regarding where we the Church must stand in response to culture wars. <em>Forward</em> champions the charge for every Christian to engage the culture while not be swallowed up by it.
Over the next four weeks, Urban Family will look deeply at the grievances Flame’s <em>Forward </em>nails to Christian rap’s door. We’ll explore why we finally have an opportunity for a fair and balanced conversation about “methods.” We’ll tackle practical approaches to culture that don’t compromise our distinction as Christians. And we’ll ultimately qualify our position that for every Christian who is grappling with social and cultural issues, <em>Forward</em> is the music project you should be listening to right now.
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Urban Family Talk’s morning show “Airing the Addisons” interviewed Flame on the eve of the release of <em>Forward</em>. Listen to Flame explain why this is one of the most important projects he’s ever completed.