Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar is one of the most popular music stars in the nation today, with multiple songs on his new album charting in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 songs. His single “Humble.” drew praise and critique from all sides of the Black community for its message as a corrective to pride and yet centering the conversation on his own desires as a Black man.
Recently Kendrick Lamar did an interview with hip-hop website DJ Booth, where he shared that one of his major messages in the new album D—. is that God is to be feared in a way that brings reverence and obedience. He shares that in his experience, many churches’ message is hope and forgiveness without talking about God’s requirement for obedience and judgment on sin.
He hopes his album will provoke thought and discussion of the idea that God is gracious and loving, but also a God of wrath and judgment who wants to use suffering to correct and discipline His children. Kendrick states in an email response to DJ Booth’s article:
“Our God is a loving God. Yes. He’s a merciful God. Yes. But he’s even more so a God of DISCIPLE [sic]. OBEDIENCE. A JEALOUS God. And for every conscious choice of sin, will be corrected through his discipline. Whether physical or mental. Direct or indirect. Through your sufferings, or someone that’s close to [sic] ken. It will be corrected.”
An incomplete articulation of the faith
Kendrick Lamar’s sentiment is spot on; God is both a God of love and a God of obedience, merciful and disciplinary. Kendrick’s feelings about hearing only of God’s hope, blessing, and happiness as a child, leaving him feeling empty, are all too real for many people, including Christians.
The sort of preaching that does not speak to suffering, judgment, and consequences for sin while highlighting only God’s blessing is an incomplete teaching and sharing of Christian faith. A Christianity that pushes consequences and rewards into “the sweet by-and-by” is another incomplete articulation of the faith.
However, Kendrick’s wording is a bit misleading and his implications aren’t in line with what we see revealed in Scripture in light of Christ. Mercy itself means that God chooses not to make us suffer for every conscious choice of sin.
The idea that God would inflict harm on someone close to us for sin suggests belief in curses or divine consequences on whole households that aren’t congruent with what the Old Testament reveals (Jeremiah 31:28–30; Ezekiel 18:1–3) and Jesus teaches (Matthew 16:27).
It is reasonable based on Scripture to say that sin has consequences and that it affects a family, but its effect comes directly from its cause (Romans 6:23, 7:5, James 1:14–16), such as violence causing physical and psychological harm, not indirect through a divine judgment.
It is absolutely true that God disciplines the believer, even in light of grace (Hebrews 12:3–11). But mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:12–14), and the very definition of grace through the death of Jesus Christ is that we do not get what we deserve for our sins (Ephesians 2:4–16).
Got Cheap Grace?
What Kendrick has pointed out for the church is that many people are not hearing the message of consequences for sin that leads us to repentance. We live in a society where sin is seen as tolerable, and forgiveness for sin comes without price.
In addition, suffering in Black communities is often ignored or given a bandage of hope in “our season” instead of confronted with the Gospel of Jesus. Or worse but more commonly, some Christians use “cheap grace” to justify their hypocrisy.
Jesus proclaims life in the midst of death, righteous living and resurrection as acts of resistance to worldliness and death. As a result of seeing Christians who articulate a theology of grace without repentance and that fails to address suffering of Black people, Kendrick is left to find explanation for his reality in the law of Deuteronomy instead of the grace of Christ.
Jesus called for us to be disciples, not simply to be saved. Salvation is a free gift; following Christ is costly. Hope is in Jesus our Savior to redeem us from our suffering, not in ourselves to live righteously enough to end our own suffering.
This faith is lived by the power of the Holy Spirit transforming us by grace, not by works that save us from curses. The church would be wise to hear Kendrick Lamar and others like him as they cry out for understanding and direction that addresses the suffering, immorality, and brokenness they see in the world.
Jesus does not leave us to account for our sin on our own by the power of the law. In love, He gives Christians the Holy Spirit by grace to transform us, make us holy, and empower us to live justly. However, the church must preach the Gospel of Jesus that calls us to repentance and new life, not simply blesses us with no accountability if we are to reach the Kendrick Lamars in our world.
In the world of ratchet television programming, balance is certainly needed. So, when wholesome family shows are created, it is worth mentioning. The Manns, starring gospel power couple David and Tamela Mann, joins the TV One family with a docu-series highlighting Christian values, family drama, and fun.
Tamela Mann juggles the hats of mom, fashion designer, singer, and actress while her husband David Mann manages the roles of dad, actor, comedian, and business owner of Tillymann Entertainment Inc., the family business. Above all, the Manns enjoy spending time with their four children, eight grandchildren, extended family and friends.
So, as if all of that isn’t enough, here are five more reasons why The Manns is the show to watch:
1. It’s a great example of Christian marriage and family.
David and Tamela Mann are a God-fearing couple who have been married for almost 30 years. Through family and internal conflicts, viewers are able to witness how a family’s faith is tested each week throughout the series.
For the next several weeks, the Manns will experience everything from Tamela’s near-death experience during weight-loss surgery to her unconditional support for her daughter Tia who considers the surgery. Then, there are the episodes when the gospel power couple must address everything from their children’s addiction to their electronic devices to their daughter Porcia’s surprise boyfriend.
But, through it all, it is their trust in God that holds them together.
2. It’s hilarious.
Get ready! The Manns will give you a heartfelt “I can’t breathe” laugh as you witness hilarious moments, such as David Sr. and David Jr. “shouting” in heels and David Sr. facing his claustrophobia, or fear of confined spaces, and fear of mice. You don’t want to miss it!
3. It’s Real.
The Manns do not paint a picture of perfection as Christians. They are transparent about their issues and are intentional in showing viewers how they overcome them. However, viewers are also able to witness special moments, such as when Tamela wins her first Grammy and launches a clothing line.
4. You will be encouraged.
The faith journey is never easy, but some fail to realize that celebrities are not exempt from pain and disappointment. However, the Manns exists as a reality show that emphasizes the importance of keeping God first.
5. You can watch it guilt-free.
Thanks to reality shows like The Manns, you no longer have to refer to reality TV as a “guilty pleasure.” Unlike many of its counterparts, The Manns is for the entire family.
Can’t get enough of The Manns? You can also catch David and Tamela on The Manns Family Tour with their son David Jr., and daughters Porchia and Tia or join the conversation by connecting via social media on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (@tvonetv) using the hashtag #THEMANNS.
Watch The Manns every Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on TV One.
The Case for Christ film, debuting nationwide this Friday, is the most authentic journey from hardcore atheism to faith. The film is based on Author, Journalist, former atheist, and now Pastor Lee Strobel’s life without Christ as he intensly seeks the ‘truth’ behind the Christian faith that he once deemed bogus in order to ‘save’ his wife and marriage.
Jesus is a Fairy Tale
Although Lee (Mike Vogel) and his wife Leslie (Erika Christensen) collectively decide not to induldge in faith as a married couple, Leslie makes the decision to turn back to God after their daughter’s near-death experience and her asking questions about who Jesus is.
The unexpected series of events sends Lee on an exploratory tirade with his investigative journalism in tow. Throughout the film, viewers are able to witness how an atheist fights to prove his beliefs as ‘gospel’ through the use of science, historical facts, and general disbelief.
Many people have been a part of debates both online and in-person that discuss whether or not Jesus is a fairytale based upon scientific facts and anger towards the plights of the world. However, even with scientific evidence of the miracles of Christ and God, the doubt often continues to leave non-believers searching for more. “So, when is enough evidence, enough evidence?”
Facts vs. Faith vs. Marriage
Before Leslie decides to become a born-again Christian, her marriage to Lee was considerably solid. However, as her faith grows, so does Lee’s rage and presentation of facts against Christianity.
Lee’s main argument is that his wife believes in something that no one else can see, and he only chooses to believe in things that he can see. To add insult to injury, Leslie tries to force her husband into becoming a believer, which only drives him further away.
In fact, there are several moments like these throughout the film that makes moviegoers wonder, “Can a faithful and faithless love co-exist?”
On social media, the answers vary in the form of everything from scripture that discusses the concept of being equally yoked to those who think you should meet in the middle.
C.B. Fletcher Twitter
@CNegarita It would depend on the level of indoctrination mostly on the believers side. My wife is a deist been happily married for 12 y + 3 children.
Gary goes on to say that, as long as her children were not coerced into believing in God or atheism, he finds comfort in knowing they are making their own choices.
Blind Faith and Real Love
Case for Christ is a love a story between God, Leslie, and Lee. When we love someone we want the best for them and fight and are willing to fight on our loved ones’ behalf. Lee fought for his wife’s ‘sanity’ , while Leslie fought for Lee’s peace and salvation. And all of this took place as God fought for both of them to find Him and grow together.
It is the undying love between Lee and Leslie that keeps them going despite their differeces, and that love is what saves them both.
Check out the trailer for The Case for Christ below:
While the pop culture cognoscenti are impatiently waiting for another creative masterpiece in the form of Kendrick Lamar’s upcoming album, which is rumored to be released any day now, my hopes are a little more modest.
In recent interviews, Kendrick has indicated that his new album will have more of a focus on God. Whatever it ends up being, I hope that Lamar’s follow-up to the critically-acclaimed “To Pimp A Butterfly” will continue to break down the divide between sacred and secular hip-hop.
I realize that, for a segment of the urban Christian population, this idea goes completely against religious tradition. Many evangelicals and people of color, like myself, have grown up indoctrinated with the idea that Christians are to be distinct and withdrawn from the world, and that includes our art and music.
One need only look as far as last fall’s release of When Sacred Meets Secular by The Ambassador to see an expression of this worldview. In it, Amba raps passionately about his desire to be forthright and uncompromising with the Gospel message. I understand this position, and to a certain extent, I agree.
The Ambassador is right when he says that Christians should be free to share their faith in Christ with the public. However, the problem is that historically, Christian music hasn’t been free to roam in the public square of ideas. It’s been sequestered behind the artificially “safe” walls of Christian bookstores and websites.
And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with building an audience among people of faith. However, when that becomes the industry standard, it means that artists are sometimes asked to be as non-controversial and “family-friendly” as possible, instead of creating the art that most candidly represents their pursuit of truth and relationship with God.
When the soccer moms and youth pastors are the ones calling the shots, you don’t want to ruffle feathers. Thus, Christians who rap for other Christians often feel pressure to self-censor anything that gets too real in an effort to avoid their music being branded as “unsafe” and pulled from circulation (like what happened with Sho Baraka and Lifeway).
What’s worse is that the problem is just as bad on the secular side, and for similar reasons. Artists know that sex, violence, and tales of the drug trade are all elements that boost record sales. Sure, there are plenty of rappers who talk about those things because that’s all they know, but the flip side is also true.
For many young rappers, it’s all they know because that’s all that gets talked about. For so long, we’ve exposed the young men and women in our community to such twisted caricatures of masculine and feminine behavior, that anything that deviates from the stereotypically “real” portrayal of urban life is derided as corny or fake—labels that Lecrae had to work hard to shake.
But slowly, that tide is turning.
Just about every Christian public figure who experiences a measure of commercial success in hip-hop ends up bristling against the stereotype of what a “Christian rapper” is or is not.
And on the secular side, there is a growing undercurrent of faith from rappers who aren’t known for doing “Christian” music. Not that this is a new phenomenon; rappers like DMX, Nas and even Tupac have been known to intersperse their chronicles of urban, street life with plaintive meditations of faith. But thanks to newer artists like Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar, those meditations have become much more explicit.
During the 2017 Grammy Awards, Chance collaborated with gospel artists Kirk Franklin and Tamela Mann for a performance that included a cover of the Chris Tomlin hit praise anthem “How Great Is Our God.” And, in both of his critically-acclaimed albums (his debut Good Kid m.A.A.d. City and the follow-up To Pimp a Butterfly), Kendrick has included prayers, spiritual meditations, and even a depiction of Christian conversion.
So, where do you stand? Is it possible for hip hop to truly exist in both the secular and Christian space?
Perhaps the two sides will continue to converge, because many would argue that folks need examples of faith that are both relatable and artistically-challenging. They need new, fresh examples of what it means to grapple with faith in the real world.
Where do you stand on the topic of secular v. Christian hip hop? Share your thoughts below.
Forgiveness is the ultimate form of love—and that love is a creation of God that is seen throughout Octavia Spencer’s performance as Papa, a character that is one of the depictions of God , in The Shack. Mack Phillips, played by Sam Worthington (Avatar), is a character whom some would call a “churching” Christian due to a combination of an upbringing by an abusive father who was an elder in the church, and the unwavering faith of his wife.
The movie, based on the bestselling novel with the same title, centers on Mack’s loss of faith after his daughter is kidnapped and killed during a period the author calls “The Great Sadness.” When Mack receives a letter from Papa, he encounters the many faces of God, including Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush), Wisdom/Sophia (Alice Braga), and what is described as the Breath of Life (Sumire Matsubara). This film will take moviegoers on a spiritual and emotional journey beyond the Bible and help them understand how God works all things out with love. Be prepared for a light chuckle, the vibration of an elevated way of thinking, and a healing upon leaving the theater.
We Are Made in His Image
In a time when the racial rhetoric has become aggressive and the Bible is sometimes used as justification, it is beautiful to see the different elements of God played by a racially and ethnically diverse cast. There was some criticism leading up to the film’s release that Papa was being portrayed as a Black woman: To some people, that is just not how God looks. As the film reaches more people, the color and gender of God depicted will matter less. Papa appears as many people to convey the idea of many religions in the film; the message is that, essentially, we are all connected through the same God, no matter the appearance.
Bad Things Happen
The biggest question that is continually reiterated in this film is: “Why did you let this happen?” This is a question on everyone’s mind as our world is filled with senseless violence, corrupt politics, and very little compassion for our brothers and sisters. Sometimes we wonder why terrible things occur if God is so mighty and powerful, or why God has abandoned us. One moviegoer, Chaunetta, a former doubter, identifies with this sentiment.
“I’ve always felt like I got the short end of the stick when it came to my life,” Chaunetta explained. “I use to say that God may be all-present but he forgot about me. Seeing this film was right on time, because now I see that I am not alone [in that feeling]. This was a message to all who feel like they’ve been abandoned, and they haven’t been.”
There is a powerful image of Mack drowning in his fears and sorrows instead of relying on God, in all forms, to work with Him and take it away. When unfortunate things occur, we can blame ourselves, God, and whomever else before surrendering it to God, which drives us into a deeper darkness and further from our peace.
We Must Forgive
Mack goes through a path of forgiveness in which he combats a variety of emotions, including anger. Wisdom gives him a “Ghost of Christmas Past”-like awakening to show that Papa is the final judge and that our willingness to take that power away is so rampant that it creates wars and more sorrow, as explained by the Holy Spirit. Jesus teaches Mack how to rely on God for healing and in those moments you’ll feel like you can walk on water. Forgiveness in this film is the direct key to peace for Mack and although it is not an easy road, it is worth the journey.
The Shack is a film for the moviegoer who wants to experience a connection to God instead of the sermon of a preacher. It is also for those who want to experience God’s grace through the eyes of Mack. And for those who have questions about God’s existence, this is a great flying lesson that reinforces how the love of our omnipresent God is with us always.
Check out the official movie trailer of The Shack below:
Do you agree with the portrayal of God in The Shack? Share your thoughts below.
Last year, after nominations were announced for the Academy Awards and all 20 acting nominees were Caucasian in the lead and supporting acting categories, Magazine Editor April Reign (@ReignofApril on Twitter) started the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
The flurry of criticism about the Academy’s whitewashed membership and honors swept social media and water coolers the world over. Not only were the lead and supporting acting nominees all white, but all of the best picture nominees featured a less-than-diverse cast and no women were among the major directing and producing honorees.
A lot has changed since then. This year, there are a record six nominations for actors of color:
Denzel Washington and Ruth Negga are up for leading roles in Fences and Loving while the supporting categories feature Dev Patel for Lion, Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris for Moonlight, Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures, and Viola Davis for Fences. The last three films are also best picture nominees and frequent winners this awards season. In the documentary category, films like 13th, I Am Not Your Negro, and OJ: Made in America have Oscar nods.
There was also history made behind the scenes: Joi McMillon is the first black woman nominated in film editing (Moonlight) and Bradford Young is the first African American nominated in cinematography (Arrival).
Many moviegoers were excited to see these films excel at the box office and obtain acknowledgment from prestigious institutions. Reign tweeted on Jan. 24: “I see y’all and I appreciate the support so much. Things are changing because our voices are strongest together.”
Brittany Hendricks, a post-production coordinator who’s worked primarily in television on shows like CW’s The Messengers and FOX’s PITCH, says her earliest Oscars memory was Halle Berry’s 2002 win for Monster’s Ball — the first time a Black woman received the honor for best actress.
“This year is such a big year for black films [and] movies like Lion are opening the doors of diversity as well,” Hendricks said. “It’s showing young kids that people like them with stories like theirs have a worldwide impact in a way that I didn’t see when I was a kid.”
Many people attribute the nominations to changes within the Academy, thanks to altered membership requirements from its president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs. The organization is currently 46 percent female and 41 percent minority as opposed to its mostly white male composition just a year ago.
However, it may actually take more time to see whether the membership changes and increased social pressure have actually changed the Oscars, given that all of these films were in production or near completion during last year’s protests.
Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer recently told Entertainment Weekly: “When you know how movies are made, the explosion of films with people of color is not a reaction to #OscarsSoWhite. The tide has changed, but we still have a ways to go, because they still aren’t inclined to greenlight a movie that’s starring a person of color, without a long list of white box-office people.”
A prime example was last year’s Birth of a Nation, a Nat Turner biopic that broke records at the Sundance Film Festival and was early talk for awards season after having barely secured funding. After past sexual assault allegations arose about its writer-director-star Nate Parker, all buzz around the film died, a stark contrast to Casey Affleck, whose film Manchester by the Sea is up for several awards despite his own very recent sexual assault allegations.
So, are the recent nominations somewhat misleading? Last year, only 7 percent of directors, 13 percent of writers, 17 percent of editors, and 5 percent of cinematographers were women based on a recent Celluloid Ceiling study. Despite the influx of minorities this year, they are all African American except for Patel. Although Black activists led the call for change, Reign explicitly used the hashtag “#OscarsSoWhite” because she was appalled by the lack of diversity for all ethnicities.
“One year of films reflecting the Black experience doesn’t make up for 80 yrs of underrepresentation of ALL groups,” she tweeted in January. Spencer seconded this by saying our biggest voice is heard by supporting movies whose casts reflect diversity.
“If I look down a list of characters on a film, and it doesn’t have gay, African-American or Latin characters, I’m probably not going to spend my money on the ticket,” Spencer said. “When we stop supporting things with our dollars that don’t represent all of us, then you’ll see an explosion of diversity.”
Television consistently proves that shows spotlighting artists of color can appeal to the mainstream in large numbers. Empire, whose viewers are mostly Black, has earned Emmy and Golden Globe awards. The most recent Nielsen TV viewership analysis shows that predominantly non-Black audiences watch hit shows like This Is Us, Black-ish, PITCH, How to Get Away with Murder, Atlanta, and Insecure, one of Hendricks’ favorites.
“I’m so incredibly inspired by Issa Rae! She started out with “Awkward Black Girl” on YouTube and now she’s the creator and star of “Insecure” on HBO. I just love how she didn’t wait for someone to give her a platform to tell our stories,” Hendricks said. “She created one of her own until people took notice, and now she’s helping other young storytellers like herself do the same thing.”
It appears that Hollywood may finally be taking notice of something TV networks are taking full advantage of, and the result will hopefully be storylines that are more inclusive. This year’s awards will have more color, and that means a lot to the people watching at home and the filmmakers working in studios. Last year, Will Smith said he was worried about all the kids who might be watching the Oscars and “not see themselves represented there.” One thing’s for certain: That won’t be such an issue on Sunday.
The Oscars will air Sunday, Feb. 26, at 8:30 p.m. EST on ABC.
Who will you be rooting for at the 2017 Academy Awards? Share your thoughts below.