In March of 2014, Mr. Alex Medina, a music producer at Reach Records, wrote an article asking the question: “Must art be evangelistic to be Christian?”He concluded “The scriptures do not determine what art you must make.”He told us “Christians plugged into a local body of believers and seeking to make disciples as Christ has commanded have the freedom under the leading of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to create as they see fit.”He says art, but Mr. Medina’s record label makes is mostly known for its productions of rap music. This is only a response to their music and a small portion of his article. I disagree with a lot more he wrote, but for now, I will say that I expect music released by Reach Records to be evangelistic in nature. I expect it because of their history, marketing, and religion.
Before we start, let’s explore whether Mr. Medina’s conclusion of the Christian and his art satisfies all cases. I think it falls woefully short. To me, a painted vase sitting in a museum in France is different than a man performing on stage before a crowd of 50,000 people in Cincinnati. We might agree that the artistic process of creation is similar, but is the end product really the same? Is it really Christian just because a Christian makes it? Is it really non-Christian because an unbeliever makes it?
Lecrae Moore, Mr. Medina’s label mate and co-owner of Reach Records, is a Christian. He partnered with a man, Emilio Rojas, to create art. Their art was a song called “Young Girl”off Emilio Rojas’s album No Shame No Regrets. Emilio, whose follow up album is ZeroF*cksGiven, is not a Christian. Is the art they create Christian because Lecrae contributes to it? Does it matter that Emilio says “God d*mn” and “f*ck”on their song? Is only Lecrae’s part Christian? Is it a half and half type of deal? If I, as a painter, paint a pot made by an unbelieving potter, is it Christian art since I had a hand in it? What if I was the potter and the painter decorated it with pornographic pictures? Is it still Christian? Is this really helping us think more biblically about art?
Jennifer Knapp, a non-Christian, has written Christian Rock songs with lyrics like this: “Jesus saved me from the laws of sin”from her song “Romans.”It may not apply to her, but doesn’t it communicate some truths of Scripture? What about non-Christian Vicky Beeching, who co-wrote the song “Glory to God forever”with lyrics like “Creator God, You gave me breath so I could praise Your great and matchless name all my days, all my days.”? Are these songs Non-Christian because they were written by persons who don’t fit Mr. Medina’s description?
Check out Wikipedia’s definition of Christian music. I can agree with the first two paragraphs. Then check out Christian Hip-Hop, I can agree with the first paragraph there as well. I would argue Christian art ceases to be “Christian”when it ceases to perform a “Christian”function, but I’m not going to right now. I’m here to tell you why I expect Mr. Moore’s, Mr. Medina’s, and the other Reach Records artists’ songs to be evangelistic in nature.
I expect their music to be evangelistic because of their history. Mr. Moore told me in his song “Souled Out”that he “came here to drop a name, Jesus, the same one that blocked the pain.”
I believed him.
He also told me “I know you’d probably be impressed if I cleverly used my melody to share Christ without using His name heavily, but I’d rather be saying His name so much you could never get me confused or discredit me”on his song “Nothin.”
I believed him again.
Then he told me “I’m bumpin’these Jesus beats, whenever they seein’me. People lookin’all confused, ‘cause every one of my tunes is screamin’Jesus, peeps!”(emphasis mine)
I still believed him.
I shared his music with others. I bought every Lecrae album and Reach Records album released. I spent $18 on a Lecrae CD at Family Christian Bookstores when I could by a secular rap CD for $9 at Best Buy. I bought extra CDs to use as evangelism tools. I bought their clothes. I was an unofficial street team for Reach Records. I agreed Christian rap should be about Jesus.
Now Mr. Medina wants to tell me it’s because of my unbiblical view of art that I believed those things.
You, dear reader, judge between us. If they promised me Jesus and then removed Jesus, have I not been lied to? Did they not help form my view of art (music) and then redefine the terms without explaining themselves to me? While concerning themselves with the biblical definition of art, have they not missed the biblical definition of honesty? It’s even more apparent in their marketing.
I expect their music to be evangelistic because of their marketing. Reach Records, as a company, has used the tagline “Unashamed,”“116,”and “Romans 1:16.”Lecrae explained it to me when he said “I live to tell the world His message! Romans 116. I’m not ashamed! I ain’t ashamed!”on “Souled Out.”They printed this on their T-shirts, their posters, their stickers, and their merchandise.
Let’s read Romans 1:16 together, beginning in verse 15 in the New King James Version: “15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
Paul is ready to preach the gospel in Rome. Why is that? Because he is unashamed of the gospel. Why is he unashamed of the gospel? Because it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.
Am I wrong to expect the content to match Paul’s when someone uses this as a tagline to sell merchandise? Am I wrong to be disappointed when the company removes the gospel, continues to use the same slogan, and gives me something else in return? Am I wrong to expect the gospel?
Dear reader, judge between us. Is this not dishonest marketing? They said unashamed of the gospel, and I get no gospel. I get condescension about the biblical view of art instead. This type of business is not consistent with practitioners of the Christian religion- Christians.
I expect their music to be evangelistic because of their religion. I expect honesty from Christians in their business dealings. In Proverbs 11:1, NKJV, The Bible says “Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.”
Aren’t Exodus 20:16, NKJV, “Thou shall not bear false witness”and 1 Cor. 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”more about honesty than about art?
Even if we can’t agree about making art, can’t we agree how to sell it? This is why we have genres for music and different museums for different types of art. So that sellers can put their products where buyers can find them. If you go to iTunes, they even have a genre called “Christian & Gospel.”Would you not expect to find music that communicates something about Christianity and the gospel in this section? If you go to the Rock section would you not expect to find Rock music?
What about groceries? If I buy “organic”fruit, don’t I have a right to expect it to be grown without pesticides and herbicides from non-GMO crops? If the seller claims to be a Christian, don’t I have a right to expect them not to lie about their products? Shouldn’t Christians tell the truth about their products?
Hear Wayne Grudem on commercial transactions from his book Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teachings on the Moral Goodness of Business:“Sadly, even some who call themselves Christians are dishonest in their business dealings. I have heard stories from Christian friends about how other so-called ‘Christians’have broken their word, ‘forgotten’their business promises or failed to keep them, betrayed a partner’s trust, done shoddy work, or been dishonest about a product or the condition of a company”(39). (emphasis mine)
Do I not have an expectation of honesty in business dealings from those who call themselves Christians? When they advertise their performances in my church lobby, do I not have an expectation of evangelistic, gospel content from these promoters? Do I not have a reasonable expectation of receiving the gospel when they promote themselves using gospel language and verses? And if they don’t deliver on the promises they made, is it sufficient for them to redefine the agreed upon terms, or do we as consumers of Christian Hip Hop deserve something more?
I know I expect more from Reach Records, and it doesn’t have anything to do with a biblical view of art. It has everything to do with honesty in marketing- a topic they have yet to address.