From an early age, I was told that secular music was wrong: if it didn’t glorify God then it glorified the devil. Even as a child, I struggled with this dichotomy. I wanted to be holy, I wanted to be set apart, but I still loved R & B and couldn’t quite understand why it was considered to be untouchable. Why couldn’t I sing along to a Destiny’s Child song? My young mind struggled to internalise the words of my parents and my youth leaders, aware, even at a young age, that their personal conviction wasn’t my own. As I grew, I realised why: the idea that there was ‘secular’ music was, in hindsight, quite peculiar.
Fast forward to the current day and I understand completely that we, as Christians, need to have a different perspective on the world. We are called to something more, I agree, but we do this wearing ‘secular’ clothes, eating ‘secular’ food and making our way to our ‘secular’ jobs. The separation between secular and religious is often applied arbitrarily. Yes, there is music that outwardly conflicts with the Word of God and you must be careful what you sing, speak and condone. For example, my favourite songs, when I was younger, included Pretty Ricky’s ‘Grind On Me’ and Tony Matterhorn’s ‘Dutty Wine’. As a Christian, should I have been brocking out to those songs? Well, no.
Yet, everyone is different; what works for you might not work for me. What you are able to listen to and what I feel I am able to listen to may be radically different because although we are all Christians, we experience our faith differently. Some people can’t listen to Slow Jams because it makes them call that girl/boy and…well, you get my drift. You know what you can handle. I enjoy all genres. I currently listen to classical more than anything else, as it calms my mind and doesn’t distract me while I work. Does it glorify God? Not overtly. Does it contradict the word of God? Of course not. To be quite honest, these days I roll my eyes at Christians who feel as though listening to secular music somehow indicates the validity of your salvation.
On the 22nd November, I went to the Chance the Rapper concert and I was pretty much blown away. Chance, by simply being himself, taught me that it is possible to transcend genre lines. Instead of classifying himself as a Gospel artist, he uses his platform to share his faith with people who would otherwise been kept away from the Truth. Chance breaks down the musical genre walls, effortlessly, strategically and authentically. Chance blurs lines and pushes against the boxes we, as people, want to every individual to fit into. We are obsessed with categories; racial, gender, cultural and religious, so a rapper like Chance can often confuse us. Where do we put him? Can he be called a Christian, despite using the word ‘shit’ and in the next breath saying ‘Glory be to God?’
As I observed the drunken crowed around me crying out, ‘Glory to be God, yeah!’ I was challenged. How often do we create church events and then pride ourselves when they are well-attended, knowing full well that 98% of attendees were Christians? Church has become a place that is for Christians and run by Christians, instead of a hospital and a place of refuge for those who have been pushed out by society.
I believe seeds of faith were sown in people’s lives as Chance encouraged a crowd, most of which who weren’t believers, to ‘speak to Him’. In a world where declaring that there is one way and one truth is often found offensive, Chance manages to express his relentless faith and belief in Jesus Christ; not a higher power, not a vague spiritual presence, but the son of God, Jesus Christ, who Chance believes died and rose again.
As I stood in the midst of people worshipping, albeit unintentionally, I began to listen to Chance’s lyrics and found my mind wandering back to Jesus.
Never drown – The water may be deeper than it’s ever been, but you don’t have to let it overwhelm you
I speak to God in public – How open am I with my faith?
You gotta talk to Him –I should pray more
Someone like Chance is liberating for Christians like myself. He stands imperfect, bold, showing that faith isn’t something that can only be lived out in the presence of believers, or timidly as you ‘shine your light’ amongst non-Christians, remaining silent on the issues that really matter. Chance demonstrates that you can be approachable, accessible (and so, so cool) even while expressing your love for your saviour. Chance speaks to God in public and we should too.