There’s something about human nature that’s drawn to conspiracy theories. Some are harmless (“The NBA playoffs are rigged!” “Tom from Blink 182 discovered aliens!”), but when faulty logic is applied to faith topics, the effects can be more serious. As the general public’s opinion of Christianity declines year after year, viral videos like the overzealous Christian woman trying to show the “hidden message” stamped onto Monster energy drinks gain unfortunate traction. The video has been viewed more than 10 million times, convincing almost no one of the “secret Satanism” of Monster drinks but reinforcing the stereotypes that Christians are anti-science, backwards and close minded.
Unfortunately, rapper Lecrae has been the target of absurd but harmful conspiracy theories throughout the years, mainly revolving around Lecrae “secretly leaving the church for fame,” or joining the Illuminati, just because a growing number of people enjoy his music. The simple explanation that his reach is growing through his musical prowess is rejected by some detractors in favor of a more complex conspiracy roughly on par with the plot to National Treasure. YouTube videos and Twitter threads around this conspiracy abound.
It’s a phenomenon that’s been refreshed by a new song Lecrae was featured on called “Blessings,” a new single with secular rappers Mozzy and Rexx Life Raj. On the song, the other two rappers drop a handful of curse words around Lecrae’s clean verse. Per usual in today’s social media environment, the flaming darts of put-on rage are now flying toward Lecrae. The problem is that the anger neither holds up to the standards of Scripture nor common sense.
Swearing and the Bible
If you grew up in church, not saying “dirty words” was a given, but curiously, even strong conservative camps within Evangelical thought—like Focus on the Family—stopped short of calling profanity a sin. Consider the verse most Christians cite, Ephesians 4:29, which reads: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Based on that text, the vitriol against Lecrae for lending a clean verse to an explicit song is scripturally misguided. Is Lecrae cursing? No. Is he building up others? Yes. That doesn’t mean you blare the song on repeat at a children’s birthday party—art, by definition, requires interpretation and context. There’s a difference between something being universally wrong and not being right for everyone.
Can’t stand hearing a curse word in a song? Lecrae has 12 more mixtapes, EPs and albums to choose from. But hopping onto social media and slandering him for “leaving the faith” is out of line. Psalms, Proverbs and the New Testament are packed with warnings against starting needless arguments with fellow believers, and that applies to artistic choices as much as they apply to doctrinal differences.
Judging a Tree and Missing the Forest
As a Christian, there’s plenty in hip-hop to be upset about. Recently Drake, the genre’s biggest star, has been called out for years of lyrical misogyny. The new class of “mumble rappers” have an almost universal obsession with songs about prescription pills. Kanye West just released a song that might be interpreted as affirming suicide, in the same month when two notable Americans have taken their own lives.
Those are legitimate critiques, which make the “Lecrae Swear-Gate” seem trivial by comparison. Everyone who’s become fixated with a handful of curse words is missing the point of the very song in question, in which Rexx Life Raj decries materialism in the first verse: “I been losin’ myself in material things / Grab a hold of me, I’m out of control / Pressuring demons are taking a toll / Trying to live forever in a rhyme / But I see the temporariness in life.”
In the second verse, Lecrae jumps in: “And I’ve been thinking a lot / really praying a lot / Talking to God about how I don’t think I’m enough / For the blessings I’ve got, yeah. I’ve been wrestling with finding Pops / Show him all the healed scars I’ve got.”
The two verses make for a fascinating juxtaposition. One rapper admits he is lost and in need of answers, then the other spits a verse about knowing his purpose. Wouldn’t you prefer Rexx Raj Life take advice from a mature believer doing battle with him in the trenches, as opposed to a fellow rapper who suggests he drown his feelings in cheap sex and substance abuse?
Just as missionaries called to China in the 1800s interacted with opium dens and addiction, every Christian in the United States is going to encounter hedonism left and right. We tried huddling up into our own circles, creating tight-knit subcultures with our own events, music, books and movies in the 1980s and ’90s, to mostly negative results.
It turns out the only way to be salt and light to the world is to be around people who don’t believe what you do. When you hang out with people like that, you’re going to hear an off-color word or two. You can either rail against the other person to watch their mouth, or you can try to understand what they’re saying. You can never share Christ with someone, or even truly love your neighbor, without understanding the context of where they’re coming from.
Even if a belief is sincerely held, that doesn’t make it helpful to the cause of Christ. If we can drop the pitchforks and turn our collective attention onto being Christ to our actual neighbors, Christians and non-Christians alike will be better off.