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Question 37

Q: Which cultural forms are okay for Christians? Specifically, the culture of hip-hop—not just the music, but the culture of baggy clothes, rap music, and so on.

Apparently the origins of hip-hop were in the Zulu nation which is a cult and steeped in New Age beliefs. But most of those involved today don’t know of this origin. 

There’s a pastor in our area who claims that all forms of hip-hop are evil—even Christian rap is wrong and Christians should not wear baggy clothes or other identifiers with this culture. But Christian rappers claim to be indigenous missionaries that use hip-hop to better identify with the people in the culture.

I have heard you say that it’s not that baggy jeans are bad, in essence, but if it identifies you with the culture, it could be a problem. Can you clarify that?

Asked by: Chris, Illinois

A: Well Chris, I’m not so sure that I have the wisdom to answer the first part of your question.

First let me clarify what I meant when I was talking about baggy jeans. When you have a cultural change or a cultural shift that’s going the wrong direction, you don’t want to pick up customs that would identify you with that shift.

For example, there was a time when men who wore an earring were indicating they were homosexual, or at least they sent that message by what ear they were wearing it on. For a Christian to have imitated the world at that point would have been wrong, because he would have been sending a wrong message (I realize of course that today for men to wear an earring does not send the same message). That’s an example of how things change, and that there times when we can identify with a culture—and times we should not—based on what we wear and how we dress.

Now, with regard to hip-hop, I don’t know enough about it. I simply know that, in my heart, I’m not sure if it’s music that’s really glorifying to God. Certainly not, if its origins are in occultism. But these are matters over which good Christians disagree, and we need to have the kindness and charity to allow other people to have their own opinions.

As Christians, we must always ask this simple question: does this glorify God or does it simply mimic the world? And, if in good conscience we do mimic the world, we have to ask ourselves what our motive is. Paul addresses the issue of eating meat offered to idols and gives principles of discernment that I believe applies to your question (See 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13). While addressing the same topic to the saints in Rome he ends by saying, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

Scripture references

  • Romans 14—23
  • 1 Corinthians 8:1—13

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