Does Sho Baraka’s Song “Jim Crow” (aka Nigga Island) Harm the Gospel?

Chrisitan hip-hop artist, Sho Baraka just release his latest album Talented 10th. Prior to the album release the single “Jim Crow” was released at Hip Hop DX. The official name of the song seems to be “Jim Crow,” but many also refer to it as “Ni**ga Island.”

The title of the song alone is bound bring disagreements, especially, from a Christian artist. You can read the lyrics and listen below, but here is the hook:

I feel I’m trapped in a crazy place. Asking the Lord for amazing grace. I see the masses wanna change me. I’m waiting for someone to save me. Until then, until then. (2 x) I guess I’m stuck here on ni**ga island. Yeah, when ni**ga’s be wildin’. Yeah, and color is violence. Yeah, know that it’s silence.

A few years ago, while Sho Baraka was with Reach Records, graciously gave me an interview. The interview was just before the Don’t Waste Your Life Tour (which we took our youth group to) came to Atlanta. Sho left Reach Records in 2011 explaining that he still wants churches to support his music, but does not want to perform solely in churches or just with Christians.

Christian Hip-Hop continues to grow; I’m a supporter. I’ve even taken a poll asking Does Christian Hip-Hop Harm the Gospel? The overwhelming answer was “no” Christian Hip-Hop does not harm the gospel.

Does “Jim Crow” harm the gospel?

I’m asking if the song harms the gospel because the song is by a professing Christian and does not explicitly promote the gospel. We probably would not have taken our youth group to that concert had this song been in the line-up. On one hand, that’s fine because Christian music events do not have to be geared toward teens. On the other hand, I find it hard to swallow that there may be a Christian music event to which a church leader would be hesitant to take their teens.

As I understand, the song is about racism. Yes, believe it or not, racism still exists and it’s a sin. Yet, I have a hard time reconciling as a Christian, how this song helps alleviate the sin of racism in light of the gospel. Maybe that’s not the point of the song. Then, what is the point of this song from the pen of a Christian artist?

Last year, the issue of race and sin came up in Christian Hip-Hop artist, Propaganda’s song “Precious Puritans“. Granted, we all have blindsides when it comes to our bias, especially, in the areas of life in which we have been sinned against. While I understand the feelings that foster inside when I have been sinned against, I will probably never understand what it’s like to be sinned against as a black man in America. Is this a point of this song to help show my lack of understanding toward black Christians?

More than an artist.

A larger issue is that Sho is not just a Christian Hip-Hop artist. He is an elder in a church. He is held to higher standards in all areas of life which includes his music. I am not making a charge against this elder, but I am trying to understand better the purpose of this song in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So I’m left with the question: Does Elder Sho Baraka’s song “Jim Crow” harm the gospel? But I also want to ask: Does this song somehow promote the gospel or Christianity? How? Does it help race relations in light of the gospel? How?

Help me out.

For what it’s worth….

Mark

P.S. The lyrics and audio.

Stanza 1
I am the invisible man, though I have a soul
I am from an invisible land
They gave me a slave pen for my freedom of speech
Yeah, I’m tryin’ a leave the island, but swimming through bleach
Come on son, why you always ruin the move
Race talks happens every time you enter the room
Cause, there’s ignorance in the masses
Too many people think racism is past tense
We fight for blackness, but we don’t know what black is
I know it ain’t the zero sum of white men
There wanna know how to reach the hood like there’s magic
Like we’re all the same, huh, like we’re not dynamic
Hollywood wants to pimp us to get dough
Exploit us but give us money, somebody say “Oh”
Yeah, let’s take those movies and them TV shows
Be a token or a player, Uncle Tom row
Or be a magic negro, until the day I’m gone
Help the white man reach his goal, but never reach my own
Or a oversexed male, even a coon
A young male who loves ignorance, prays in his doom
Until then
~Hook~
Stanza 2
Say hello to the great cultural brainwash
Washing my brain through some of the thangs the race talk
Miseducate, colonize, divide, teach beauty is straight hair
And the bluest of eyes, and because of lies
I’m debating Five Percenters
How a Mid East movement is gonna be a white man’s religion
How the privileged man says it’s time to move forward
And say the game’s fair when he monopolize the board
And corporate greed just manipulates the poor
Outside the hood I don’t see liquor stores
I know God’s Sovereign and I should pray about it
But a man won’t stop it, if it increases its profits
And most, they realistic with the flow, they make music for the streets
But I don’t see em at the show
So, instead the truth, they rather be duped
I guess they want me to do more songs for youth groups
Until then, until then
~Hook~
Stanza 3
Yeah, I got a double consciousness, but I’m still in touch
Cops got my hands in the air so I ain’t feeling much
Looking for protection, all I can see is tyrants
I’m fighting them coons and thugs, racists and Don Imus
That lady you call hope, that’s my lover
That woman you call b*tch, that’s my mother
Them boys that you kill, them my brothers
Send the ship to the island, we can rescue some others
Did they fight for civil rights so we can sit on gold
I can’t walk in your shoes, you keep selling your soul
No, ain’t much Booker T. when you look at me
But a whole lot of da boys making noise, but until then
~Hook~
Stanza 4
Here we are, put on a show
Dance the jig, go Jim Crow
Here we are, put on a show
Dance the jig, go monkey go
Here we are, put on a show
Dance the jig, go Jim Crow
Go Jim Crow, say go Jim Crow
Go Jim Crow, say go monkey go
Yeah, it’s what you want me to do, right?
It’s what you want me to do, right?
Are you entertained?
It’s what you want me to do, right?
Are you entertained?
It’s what you want me to do.

Let's connect!

tagged as , , , , , , in apologetics,Christianity,Culture,Gospel,morality

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Even If Ministries January 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Mark, myy answer is going to be indirect:

Many years back, a fellow musician and I were talking about the different Christian bands we liked after worship team practice. I went and looked up some of the bands that he recommended. Not one of them mentioned the name Jesus or even mentioned God in their lyrics.

I brought this to his attention that Sunday before we went up to play in front of the congregation. He said, “I like christian music to be cerebral – I like to have to figure it out.” I asked him, “so if you brought someone, a non-believer, to church one day and the pastor said nothing about God or Jesus you would be okay with that?”

He said, No. I said what is the difference?

I add this understanding to the point that Christianity is BIG business. “Some” artists use the term Christian to make money. Some go secular to make MORE money. I guess you have to see what fuit it produces –

As far as the lyrics of this song,

“I know God’s Sovereign and I should pray about it
But a man won’t stop it, if it increases its profits”

Using the word GOD doesn’t make a song or an artist a Christian.

simply put . . . Would this song be appropriate in the temple? In the Church? In Sunday School for 10 year olds?

if not, . . . .

2 Mark January 16, 2013 at 10:05 am

I think there may be a difference between a Christian musician who attempts to deliver Christian music and a musician who happens to be a Christian. Granted, as Christians neither musician should produce music that offends or diminishes their witness.

3 tc January 16, 2013 at 11:54 am

Here’s a link of Sho explaining the song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQV-yPIpP_w
As an black Christian,I understand and resonate with this song and his reasoning behind it. I believe that he is simply speaking to his experience.

4 Mark January 16, 2013 at 12:32 pm

tc, does one’s blackness trump Christianity? Does Sho’s experience trump his position, responsibility and qualifications as a church elder?

5 Julius Mickel January 16, 2013 at 9:31 pm

he’s an elder? where?

I believe the strong language is unnecessary, that he has fans that will listen to this and yng people that may in fact not even be allowed to say such words but hey ‘sho baraka does it’. The words, despite how ‘understandable’ don’t bring any more weight to the issues.
Furthermore he’s attempting to tackle too much, he’s hitting in-house issues and external issues etc without any real development….so it’s some strong emotion invoking language which leaves you hanging, and only stirs up what’s already been there (within). I don’t see the fruit of such a random song filled with a bunch of word play, it’ll probably just make everyone mad or guilty………i believe Sho (judging from his interview) really thinks it’s impacting and maybe that’s pride idk….and i suppose he thinks it all works out when the last song is played (that’s IF people listen that way……..which in our day of single song downloads and youtube, that seems less likely).

6 tc January 16, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Mark.
Please explain how you see this song and its relationship to his position as a church elder? Would you have him not speak about his struggles and insecurities. From my experience, as an African-American, being involved in predominately white SB churches for most of my life, self-censoring was something I learned to do early and often, so I would not make others feel uncomfortable. For me, the verses of the song about the ‘great cultural brainwash” were true as I tried to deny my heritage and history to fit in. It has only been recently that I have unashamed and own my history and God’s working in it.

7 Brent Hobbs January 16, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I don’t necessarily have a problem with the strong language. And I don’t think that “Christian” artists need to do songs only about religious subjects (as comment #1 seemed to prefer). I am sometime glad to see them branch out about common human experience – that’s what art is and all truth is God’s truth. I appreciate being able to hear about his experience (the video linked in comment #3 helped as well) and hope I can learn from it.

As far as the question about him being an elder, I think that’s a question for his fellow elders and church, which I assume recording and including this song on an album is something he’s discussed with them at length.

I can understand some people thinking the song is over the line. For me it’s not, but it does push some boundaries. Maybe they are boundaries that need to be pushed.

8 Mark January 17, 2013 at 11:10 am

My friend Saiko Woods is going to discuss this issue tonight on his radio show. From his Facebook page:

Kareem Manuel Sketch Journalist Ivey Conerly IV His Son will be our guests TONIGHT at 7:30pm CST for “Real Talk Thursday” on the His Word His Way Broadcast discussing Sho Baraka’s “Talented X” CD & the controversial track “Jim Crow/Nigga Island”.

This is a show you DON’T WANNA MISS! Call 858.365.5507 with your comment/questions or go online to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/hiswordhisway to join our LIVE CHAT! See you there!

His Word His Way Broadcast Online Radio by HisWordHisWay
http://www.blogtalkradio.com

Providing a biblical worldview to man’s spiritual, social & psychological problems using the Bible ALONE as the final authority for belief and behavior.

Kareem Manuel Sketch will be defending Sho’s song.

9 Mark January 17, 2013 at 11:13 am

Julius, he’s an elder at Blueprint Church here in Atlanta. I believe you hit the nail on the head on the first paragraph. I agree with the rest of your post too. He may be impacting folks, but to what end? What’s his conclusion?

10 Mark January 17, 2013 at 11:23 am

tc, I would ask you the question another way about him being an elder – how does Sho’s language live up to his responsiblity and character of being an elder? My answer to your question is in the rhetorical nature of my question.

Some of your comment assumes way too much and it fosters a conversation in which we talk past each other. For example, I have not said one word about Sho not speaking about “his struggles and insecurities.” He does not have to use worldly language simply for attention and shock value.

My point: Christians who cite the Apostle Paul’s words to justify vulgar language note this – Paul’s words are not applauded by the world.

But I am really interested in the rest of your comment. I want to understand how, why and what you were self-censoring. I want the ‘great cultural brainwash’ defined so I can understand, especially, in light of the gospel to strive to get along better with my brothers in Christ.

11 Mark January 17, 2013 at 11:30 am

Brent, you may not have a problem with the strong language and I don’t see a purpose in it. I agree that Christian artists do not have to only do songs about religion, etc. At the same time, if a song is not explicitly promoting Christ, what is it promoting? Is it neutral? Fine. Is it a potential harm to one’s Christian witness? Not fine.

I’d like to learn to, but when a Christian’s song is indistinguishable from the worlds’, what am I being taught? What’s the end game?

I am saying he has a greater responsiblity as an elder; not whether or not his fellow elders initial approve. I suppose the public push back from other Christians, including pastors, is not enough for concern. It’s the same ole Christian celebrity story of the untouchable who wants the world as an audience, but no accountability in the same vein.

Maybe the boundaries need to be pushed, sure; but to what end? What is the purpose other than winding people up?

12 sketchthejournalist January 17, 2013 at 12:27 pm

If it helps anyone, there is an edited version of the song available online and that is being sold on the physical copies of the CD available at retail outlets.

In this version, Sho says “colored island” and mutes the “b-word.”

https://soundcloud.com/werize/sho-baraka-jim-crow

13 tc January 17, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Mark,
When I asked you to explain the relationship between the song and his eldership and my comment about his struggles and insecurities,I was was thinking about the song as a unit within the context of the entire album,for me , the song was bigger than those ‘certain’ words and I am sorry if I assumed too much. As far the “great cultural brainwash”- white is better: ” teach beauty is straight hair and the bluest of eyes”. As far as the self-censoring goes,for me, it was be don’t talk about racial issues past or present, if they come up in conservation don’t make anyone uncomfortable change the subject.

14 Thomas January 18, 2013 at 10:15 am

I don’t usually comment on message boards, but after purchasing the album and feeling passionate about the music, I feel like it’s worthwhile. The question of something/someone “harming the Gospel” is a difficult question. The Gospel is such a multifaceted truth, and a lot of people have their own presuppositions about what the Gospel means. Jesus proclaimed freedom to the oppressed, while at the same time exposing the sinful power structures of the world. This song speaks to these elements and although strong language is used, it is used in a manner that gives each word a negative connotation. I would argue that Jesus and Paul do the same thing when speaking to the different evils in their separate contexts (Jesus: woes, Paul: “castrate yourself”). In a recent interview discussing her movie ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, Kathryn Bigelow talked about the backlash she continues to receive for portraying torture techniques used by the CIA/US military. Her words are profound and I feel that they parallel the “Jim Crow debate” as far as storytelling is concerned: “Depiction doesn’t equal endorsement.” I think this conversation should be less about an artists’ choice of words or visuals (Lecrae- choice of feature: KRIT), but rather how the Christian can convey truths about the Kingdom of God through the specific medium being viewed, listened to, etc. I hope that makes sense.

15 Brent Hobbs January 19, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Mark, in comment #11, you said, “Maybe the boundaries need to be pushed, sure; but to what end?”

Well, the end may be that we’re here talking about it. If he hadn’t been provocative, you never would have blogged about it, I never would have heard the song, we’d never be having this conversation. Maybe the end has been partially accomplished.

I think quite a few people have thought through what he’s saying – specifically because they’ve been provoked into doing so. Just a thought. Some of your concerns resonate with me as well.

16 Ibeenredeemed January 21, 2013 at 2:07 am

I’m obviously not as versed in the realm of CHH as many of you are who frequent the site, but I have known about Sho Baraka since he joined reach records and was featured on some of Lecrae’s tracks sometime in 2006. He always seemed to be a little out of the box for me and I felt as if he tackled many of the issues we’re not being addressed in most churches. He never really steered away from the message of racism in his albums, but they were often overlooked and not given much thought. ( Ex. “Rebuild the city” from the “Turn my life up”album) The issue of race was brought up once on his “Why so serious” mixtape when quoting the lyrics ” i struggled with my race/ i wish i was white im such a dsigrace” . As he enterned his sophmore album we can see that he begins to take the issue of race more seriuosly with tracks such as (“I’m black”, “My life”, and “Liars anthem”). The song “Jim Crow” to me signifies the struggles that many black men and young black adults are faced with everyday. The lyrics, albeit very, controversial are very necessary to understand the weight of the issue at hand. The fact remains that although black people as a whole are physically free, we are still mentally enslaved. It is the mental aspect of black culture that needs to be addressed in order for us to realize that there is a problem. The liberal media is not doing it, the church is not taking a stand against it, so I am glad to know that an artist that I respect is bold enough to step out of his comfort zone to say something of worth. I do not feel that the song in anyway glorified the use of the n-word, nor did it glorify the use of the b-word, but it certainly brought awareness to an issue that no one seemed to pay attention to anymore or simply choose to dismiss. As a Christian, I understand that his method of dealing with the issue may not be accepted by the church and I wished he would have been able to communicate his feelings on the issue without having to use the vulgar language, but as he stated he is willing to deal with those consequences. Even if that means that some of our youth might listen to the song and get the idea that its ok be as vulgar. As a black man, husband, and father, I also understand that what Sho did was not to stir up any dormant feelings that may have been inside of us, but challenged us a black men to stand for change. It is my responsibility as a husband and a father to shed light on a dark issue so that my children will be able to know how to handle themselves accordingly and not get caught up in this false perception put out by society of what a black man should look like and how he should behave . I do not feel as if this song was made for “churched folk”, but rather those individuals who do not understand our Christian vocabulary, to challenge them to change.

17 Not afraid to speak January 23, 2013 at 3:51 am

Am I the only one who has a problem with sho baraka saying the b word as a christian?

18 Tyler Durden February 6, 2013 at 10:08 pm

When “christians” start questioning another person’s “holiness” by a certain set of their own elected scriptures, or beliefs, then you have problems of your own. This is why Jesus spoke of the Pharisees and religious leaders so much. To warn us not to be a person who looks down on others, but rather to cry out “Lord have mercy on me!”

19 Mark February 6, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Tyler, who are these “christians” (quotes yours) of whom you speak? Could the Apostle Paul be one of whom you speak since he did publicly call out Peter? To use your broad general assertions would lead us to have no use for many Bible verses. The problem with the Pharisees were that they rejected the Messiah and they were hypocrites in their teaching and actions.

20 Brent February 14, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I’m white. I live in the NW so growing up in the “hood” is about as far from my reality as possible. I have no problem with artists who are Christians singing/rapping without there being a direct gospel message in every song. But I do have a problem with the approach Sho Baraka has taken here. This song is so divisive. I can’t decide what he’s trying to accomplish with this song, filled with hate for the white man, and incorrect stereotypes( there are 4 liquor stores within 5 miles of my house and I live no where near the hood). I hear him saying God isn’t big enough.
“I know God’s Sovereign and I should pray about it
But a man won’t stop it, if it increases its profit”
I’ve heard Lecrae talk on racism and white/black issues and I think he proves there’s another way to do it and glorify God in the process.

21 TJ February 26, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Brent, in comment #20, I disagree with your interpretation of the song and I think it was an incorrect one. The song clearly wasn’t expressing ‘hate towards the white man’ but was an expression of his observation that appears to resonate within american society. As the body of Christ there should be unity, but it’s apparent, that these issues of racial tension and stereotypes on both ends of the scale are deep-rooted within the mainframe of the church, and talking alone won’t bring about any change. I’m not saying Sho took the best approach but it has clearly made an impact with believers in multiple demographics and should show us that the issue of racial tension is not something that should be overlooked nor treated lightly. I also don’t think he was saying God wasn’t big enough but was instead saying along the lines even though God is sovereign, it’s still an issue that we shouldn’t dismiss nor use it as an excuse to lift it up to our Heavenly Father in intercessory prayer. look at the lyrics and the context of the rest of the song and it should clear.

22 pastorjoehill March 5, 2013 at 3:37 pm

As a black man and a pastor for the last 10 years, I can say this song does serve a purpose for the Kingdom. I can personally identify with what he is saying because of my personal experience. This song blessed me because I have felt the same way and to hear another brother in the Lord speak about it candidly gave me a sence of comfort and hope. I do realize that it will not be benificial to most, but how many does it have to effect to be worth it?

23 Mark March 5, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Hi Pastor Joe, I appreciate you stopping by. It seems as though you are arguing from experience which can be helpful in some situations. However, I’d say the experience for the Christian must be understood through the lens of Scripture. Including how that experience is communicated.

To your question I think of 1 Cor. 10:23-24,”All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (ESV).

Some of my black brothers have been offended by Sho’s song so I could just as easily ask – how many does it have to offend to be considered offensive and unhelpful?

The larger our audience the more careful we might consider being. Yet, when it comes to American celebrity we sometimes don’t care and think – the larger our audience the more I can do what I want because I have my fans/supporters. Unless, that celebrity is in the unpopular crowd at the time.

Pat Robertson is a good example. He loves to play foot-in-mouth and many call him out for it. Yet, at the same time, he has his defenders; those who find his offense beneficial.

I leave you with those thoughts to consider. Whether we agree or disagree on this issue we can still be brothers.

24 Equaye March 9, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Last l checked my bible says we are “More Than Conquers” regardless of our skin color, background, circumstances or socioeconomic conditions and that Life and. Death are in the power of the tongue( prov 18:21), not in the governments hand , white man’s hand or anyone else’s ( not even God ‘s). The same God who told Joshua in Joshua 1:8 “when you observe to do all that is according to this book of the law ,you (not God) will make your way prosper and have good ( true ,wholistic, centralized around the Love and Fear of God) success. Just the words “black” and “white” are tools of the Enemy, to foster division, to divide and. conquer. The positive ( those lining up with God” s Word , plans and purposes) or negative words we believe and speak determine our future.Once we are born again we are in “Christ Body.” He is in the Trinity (seated in heavenly places).This is a position of power and authority and the Devil knows it unfortunately, better than many of us “black” Christians still showing signs of having a victims mentality and not the victors mentality we should be. Christian artists unless their lyrics and or music was given by expressly by God will express only the level of spiritual maturity, faith and insight they happen to be at.

25 Mark March 11, 2013 at 9:18 am

Equaye, thanks for your comment. I agree with you, but race is still a sensitive topic in the U.S. Given the history of racism, I understand why it’s sensitive.

Do you tell Christians, black or what, the same thing you expressed in your comment? What kind of reaction to you get?

26 Bryan March 18, 2013 at 1:12 am

Here’s my issues with the song, one: confusion (look around at responses people are confused by it), God is not the author of confusion…. two the power of the tongue: using language for shock value is unacceptable as we are still using that language, there is no justification.. to put it simply there are no good reasons for doing the wrong thing… If these phrases and words were not in his heart prior, he has given them a spiritual root there by speaking them into existence, especially in a form which they will be repeated countless times .. it is important to approach and uncover issues, but there is a thin line and an appropriate and inappropriate way to do that.. I believe that he has done far more harm then any potential good with this song… if for no other reason then for this: the division it has created WITHIN the body… these arguments that are taking place all over the internet, almost none as tame as this one … we are supposed to unify in love, not divide in pride .. I do believe that there are undertones of pride in this song and using vulgarity to address a battle that was never man’s but God’s and it is a battle to which he has been victorious, racism has not been entirely eliminated true, because that is the price of free will, however it has been tampered to a point where it is no longer a defining or dominant cultural trait. Racism still appears but I see it equally amongst all races not just African American but all races, included racism against Caucasians, however it is no longer a way of life in America. We are welcomed, encouraged and invited to share the battlefield with God, but in so doing we must use the tools and weapons that he has given us and not those of our own de-vising, the word of God and prayer and love… A great test of the song would be the following: If Jesus was sitting in a room with you, would you feel comfortable listening to the song, or do you think that Jesus would approve of the swearing and vulgar language, a dictionary definition doesn’t overshadow implied meaning, especially not when he who is wielding the dart is well aware of it… That dictionary definition argument I feel would only be valid if someone learned the language out of a dictionary as our culture has re-written those definitions and changed the very spiritual nature of the words used in this song.. The bible is VERY clear about the power of words and the tongue and the need to be extremely careful with them, I feel that this song fell far short of that instruction and served no greater purpose but in fact has done harm.

Blessings,
Bryan

27 Mark March 18, 2013 at 8:35 am

Bryan, good comment. I have thought about the issue of divisiveness, or to put it more kindly, the lack of unity. Appreciate you stopping by.

28 belvin smith jr March 21, 2013 at 11:56 am

I believe that he is wrong for making that song and he needs our prayers now we are in the last days and a falling away is about to happen how will it help non-christians when you are doing the samething they are doing. when i used to curse i would get convicted and repent quickly and he is cleary compromising.

29 TC Squires March 21, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Are you questioning Sho Baraka’s faith? Or are you questioning his message? In either case, I would suggest you take a step back.

Pick up your Bible and turn to Philippians 3:8 or Romans 6:1-2 or 1 Kings 12:10. Read any passage in Song of Solomon. Read about God’s commands to Israel to go and kill their enemy. In all of those cases, the Bible is explicit. The Bible. Of all things. The Holy Word of God that we draw wisdom from in our search for Him contains words that today’s culture would consider wrong. Are you telling me that God accidentally let those words slip through, that he is not all-knowing? Let’s hope not.

I bring up another example. The following is a quote by Tony Campolo, a pastor, sociologist, and author.
“I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

He brings up the same point that Sho Baraka has, the same point that you are missing. He uses the words to bring notice to a continually growing problem, both in our culture and the Church. To say that the Church and racism have nothing to do with each other (and therefore this song cannot be helpful to the gospel) is ignorant and childish. This is exactly what you are doing when you question whether the song helps the gospel. If you can’t look past a few words to see a message of wanting that so many minorities express on a daily basis, then I wonder who is the one that is harming the gospel. At least Sho Baraka is bringing it to light.

30 Red March 21, 2013 at 4:45 pm

You should start and stop with your own sentence. “I will probably never understand what it’s like to be sinned against as a black man in America. Is this a point of this song to help show my lack of understanding toward black Christians” ?

31 Mark March 21, 2013 at 4:50 pm

And you probably should use the Bible as your lens if you are a Christian. Helpful?

32 TC Squires March 22, 2013 at 12:56 am

“And you probably should use the Bible as your lens if you are a Christian. Helpful?”

This statement fails to fit any context from the above and comes across as very childish in all manners of the word. I’m not quite sure what you are trying to accomplish, but it does not seem to be for good. The fact that you’ve posted this and are holding a discussion in the first place is unbiblical in you want to bring the Bible up.

In addition to what I listed earlier, please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 18:15-18 or Matthew 7:1-6. Have you talked to your brother in Christ? Did you ask Sho Baraka about his song and its meaning? Do you know his heart better than the Lord? If your answer is no for any of these, then it is you who is in the wrong. I would speak more, but this conversation has led down a much wider path than it ever should have been. Those Christians wanting to put Sho Baraka on display to the world as a “hypocrite” and judge his “sin” (as you call it) are the ones that need to tread with care.

33 Mark March 22, 2013 at 9:42 am

TC, the statement that since I don’t understand what it is to be black, therefore I should just be quiet is childish and does not fit a Christian worldview.

Ironically, a black pastor friend who agrees with me basically said I should just state that, “I have black friends.”

Do you know anything about the history I have with Sho Baraka? Do you know that we’ve communicated before and after this post in a public forum? We’ve even laughed together about a few things since I post this article. Do you know that my door is always open for Sho if he wants to talk about it? We live in the same metro-area.

Why do those pointing out what they discern in this song as poor biblical judgement need to be the ones treading with care, but Sho is free to say what ever he wants to as large as an audience as he can gather without consequence?

34 TC Squires March 22, 2013 at 12:30 pm

I mean no disrespect when I say this, but I believe you are mistaken with whom you are talking to. The previous “tc” that posted and I are not the same person. I am not black, and though I have lived with, been to school with, and am around black and other minorities on a daily basis as a missionary in Honduras, I do not know what all it means to be black. What I do know is that in Christ, there is color (It is a beautiful thing created by God), but there is no difference in what his wishes us to do. Serve Him.

No, I do not know about your history with Sho Baraka. Whether you have communicated before or after the post makes little difference in my opinion. It’s the fact that you made the post. Is there going to be conversation about this song? Yes. Are people going to be upset? Yes. As a fellow Christian, it is your job to stick up for the faith of Sho Baraka, not bring it to the masses (both Christian and non-Christian). If you see a problem with the way he has used his “Christian fame” to bring a message that still hurts the church today, you are the one that should be going to his door, not him coming to yours.

You should tread with care because that is what the Bible tells you to do. Sho Baraka is doing exactly what 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 says. Paul tells us that he became a slave so that he may reach the slaves, to the Jew he became a Jew. To those without the law, though not without the law of Christ, to win those without the law. If a few words that culture tells us are horrible and should never be used brings more to Christ, brings more people to understand God’s message that Sho Baraka is preaching, then God is pleased. I can’t imagine the shame you are putting on those people that speak way worse things.

35 BornAgain April 1, 2013 at 10:41 pm

I think all who condone saying the n-word in a Christian hip hop song really need to evaluate their lives according to Scripture,and not argue about it upsetting one another in the lord.Everyone sins,and falls short,but should pray for one another building each other up and covering sins under the blood.Pray for sho baracka,and maybe things might just turn around….have faith brethren.

36 jaybee April 8, 2013 at 6:52 pm

I read the lyrics and have no problem with them because they are the truth and all truth is God’s truth. I’d also let me my 11 and 14 year old kids listen to the song. Hip Hop is a language that many in a white evangelical context cannot understand. Therein lies the problem. The damage to the Gospel is not somebody who proclaims the truth in a way one might consider vulgar, but with those who claim to be followers of Christ but choose not to try to “understand what it’s like to be sinned against as a black man in America.” Jesus constantly chose to stand with those “outside” mainstream religious culture of his day. In so doing he challenged the notion of “us” and “them.” The Gospel is not so much a theology but is rather a geography. It is where you choose to stand. As long as white Christians in America don’t stand with those who have been pushed to the margins (Nigga Island), those margins/Islands will continue to exist. No justice, no reconciliation. Without reconciliation, the Gospel remains something proclaimed but never realized. That is the real damage to the Gospel. This song is a prophetic message and often the truth hurts!

37 Mark April 8, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Jaybee, you said quite a bit and I’m not sure I fully understand.

The damage to the Gospel is not somebody who proclaims the truth in a way one might consider vulgar, but with those who claim to be followers of Christ but choose not to try to “understand what it’s like to be sinned against as a black man in America.”

Overlooking for a moment that you ignored my Scriptural lens of how an elder might communicate, are you saying that communicating the gospel in a way that many consider vulgar has no negative impact on the gospel proclamation?

How is the gospel harmed more if someone chooses to not try to understand what it’s like to be sinned against as a black man in America?

Jesus constantly chose to stand with those “outside” mainstream religious culture of his day.

What do you mean by this and what do you think Jesus called the mainstream religious people to?

The Gospel is not so much a theology but is rather a geography.

What do you mean?

As long as white Christians in America don’t stand with those who have been pushed to the margins (Nigga Island), those margins/Islands will continue to exist. No justice, no reconciliation.

What do you mean by stand with those pushed to the margins? What does that look like biblically? What is biblical justice and reconciliation?

Without reconciliation, the Gospel remains something proclaimed but never realized.

So, is the gospel the effect of reconciliation or reconciliation the effect of the gospel?

38 JayBee April 9, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Hey Mark, thanks for the questions. Here are my answers (some of them as questions):

Q1: What do you mean by scriptural lens? It is nieve to think that scripture is not interpreted through the bias lens of culture and denominational/theological bent. Are you saying that your scriptural lens is THE scriptural lens? Jesus did a lot of things that those in His day, who thought they had the right scriptural lens, would have thought vulgar and offensive. How about when Jesus cleansed the temple? I doubt if that went over very well with the religious elite of His day. Prophets also often used “shock value” to get in people’s faces about how God saw injustices that were overlooked and ignored.
Q2: What if God chose not to understand what it was to be human? See John 1:14. Incarnation is central to the Gospel. We are called as “Christ ones” to have the same mindset as Christ. See Phil. 2:5-8. The fact of the matter is that modern Western history is a history of white supremacy. That puts us in the place where WE (if we are white power/privileged class Christians) have an obligation to humble ourselves and seek to understand the plight of those who have been harmed by the white male, power class. That is more than sympathy or empathy. It is compassion and compassion only develops when we humbly “move into the neighborhood” and seek to really understand (give up the right to be right). The power of the Gospel is not just that it is the right message, but its power is in how it is demonstrated. Ask most Native Americans why they have rejected the Gospel. It has nothing to do with the message and everything to do with the nastiness and culturally narrow minded attitudes of the people who presented it.
Q3: The religious mainstream of Jesus day were the religious power brokers; temple authorities, scribes, pharisees, and sadducees. If you want to see what he called them to, read the parable of the Good Samaritan or Prodigal Son. Both of those parables were told to religious authorities who thought they had the right “scriptural lens.” In the Prodigal Son story, he tells the story to scribes and Pharisees who grumbled because He ate with tax collectors and sinners. Point of the stories (What he was calling them to)? Don’t allow your religious sense of “rightness” cause you to miss out on what God is up to in this world. Don’t be like the older brother who stepped away from the Gospel party because he was too self righteousness to understand the father’s love. Jesus was calling them to join the party! What was the party? Jesus said it very clearly when He quotes Isaiah in Luke 4:18-19. He taught it quite clearly in the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are….” (that’s where the party is happening!)
Q4: For white evangelicals, the Gospel is often thought of in terms of merely right belief. Believe this and you will be saved from hell and go to heaven when you die. That’s a great theology for racists, slave owners, and oppressors because it doesn’t matter if you are unjust as long as you believe the right thing. Jesus never made salvation that simple. See the following: Mark 10:17-22, Matthew 25:30-46, James 2:14-26. I am not saying that salvation is by works in that no amount of good works can earn salvation. Salvation is clearly a free gift of God (grace). However, true belief always comes with a “geography” if you will. What I believe will move me to be in certain places and not in other places. Again Jesus makes it very clear where that geography is in the above scriptures. If I truly have enough faith to believe that He is a Savior that can lead me to life, then I will have enough faith to follow Jesus into the same territories where he walked (with the outcasts of society). Christ’s Body, the Church, would then be expected to be found not first and foremost in places of power and privilege, but in places like Samaria, or Nigga Island.
Q5: Those pushed to the margins? I think Jesus does a pretty good job illuminating those on the margins in the beatitudes (those outside of power, wealth, or privilege). Biblical justice is pretty simple. It isn’t just about a right belief or political position, it is faith in action. It is doing what is right. When you see a brother in need, say trapped on unjust Nigga Island, you don’t bitch and moan about the way in which he complains about his plight (or the plight of those in need), you go and make every attempt to befriend him/them (be incarnational) and to love unconditionally the way God loves us. And if you have the power to do something to lift his/their load(s), you do it. Plain and simple. To fail to do so, is like the priest and levite who crossed the street and ignored the beaten up and robbed traveler left for dead on the side of the road. The Jim Crow song, which sparked all of this conversation, is simply that beat up body laying in the road, calling for our attention. It is an uncomfortable and ugly situation. It is very easy to try to step around it by demonizing the poet who is calling attention to the terrible injustice laying in the street. The Gospel does not just call us to believe it calls us to act! Will I act rightly? Will you? “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8) “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)
Q6: One cannot separate the Gospel and reconciliation in a chicken/egg fashion. God made the first move of reconciliation. We can only love God because He first loved us. Therefore the center of the Gospel is reconciliation. As such, reconciliation among people is also the proof and power of the Gospel. See 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. I think the second stanza of the Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night” expresses it very well. “His Gospel IS peace.” “The slave is our brother.” How can someone who we continue to oppress or ignore when they are being treated unjustly, be our brother?

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

With that, peace to you and to all! Blessings!

39 Job April 12, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Christians should not use coarse or profane language. However, this is a problem that is not limited to Christian rap, or even to coarse language. How many Christian movies get PG-13 and R ratings, for example? More than a few. (Of course, Christian movies that get released to theaters are few in number, but an increasing percentage of those that are get PG-13 ratings and some R ratings.) It is sad that purity and holiness is now associated with legalism.

40 M. Moore April 15, 2013 at 4:19 pm

You got the hook wrong:

I guess im stuck here on nigga island
Where niggas be wilin’
And color is violence
Moment of silence

Wow, by these standards Songs of Solomon should be rated NC-17 lol. Seriously, This album is made for a mature audience, let’s not forget what he is actually trying to point out. I’ve heard other Christian albums before this one drop the N word and nobody blinked, but now it’s a big deal, but why? Cuz he dropped a few words that offend people? Let’s look at the words in their context. There is no harming of the Gospel, they were used appropriately (which is why in Track 2 the B word wasn’t used).

Yeah, the line is being pushed, but this is a wake-up call. It wasn’t that long ago Don Imus called a group of black women h*es on syndicated radio and would have kept his job had nobody said anything, and we’re willing to quibble as Christians about one or two words that a few people find offensive. Let’s be honest: Can we even watch a PG-13 movie without hearing these words used in a completely different way?

Once again, the song is a wake-up call, we can either keep dreamin and instead of addressing the real issue just address the fact that strong language was used, or wake-up and realize that what he said was 1 0 0 P E R C E N T T R U E.

41 KenyattaM May 4, 2013 at 10:20 am

@Even If Ministries Could it be that Sho is speaking the truth about a situation without necessarily putting the Gospel behind it?  His words ring very true and I totally get what he is saying.  For me it’s like a Christian news reporter reporting on the political debates.  She’s reporting the news.  It’s the truth whether people like it or not.  It has absolutely nothing to do with her relationship with Christ or the gospel.  That’s just my humble opinion.

42 JARNLI July 20, 2013 at 12:43 pm

While I appreciate some people’s need to analyze, criticize and apologize, I think that if you know the heart and character of Sho Baraka, you know that he would never do anything that was intended to offend God.  If you are a Christian and you are listening and you don’t like what you hear, you can always listen to Chris Tomlin or someone else. If you want to understand black culture and the trials that exist whether one is Christian or not, you can listen and gain a better understanding.  But arguing semantics is pointless.  Sho Baraka is a genius and his lyrics are to the point and beautifully clear.  And like he says, “if you’re confused, I’m talking to you.”  It should never be an argument about whether or not he should be doing this or that as a Christian.  Be responsible for yourself and choose role models and musical selections that lift you up and make you think about whether your behavior is Christlike and loving towards others. And I recommend listening to Sho’s podcast on Lionsandliars.com to see more into the heart of Sho Baraka.  He is careful to speak truth and I have never thought what he has sung or said didn’t glorify the Lord.

43 Natalie July 13, 2014 at 1:22 am

I’ve been going to Blueprint Church for a few months now, and I don’t know about the elders, but I’ve noticed that profanity is a problem for a lot of the lay leaders. I’ve never seen anything like it.

44 Mark Lamprecht July 15, 2014 at 10:18 am

Hi Natalie, these charges seems difficult to swallow. It is just hard to believe that such a problem could exist in such a wide spread way.

Instead of bringing this up online, I suggest two actions. First, address the problem with the lay leaders. Then, go to your elders.

Have you talked with anyone about your concerns in this area?

45 Natalie July 17, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Hi Mark. No, I haven’t talked with anyone about my concerns – primarily because I am just a non-confrontational person, and I just wouldn’t know what to say or how to say it. And the church isn’t a new church, so I can’t imagine that I’m the only one who is aware of the problem, you know? Or maybe it’s not considered a problem, there. I don’t know. But it’s just odd when I sit down for small group, and f-bombs start flying like it’s a Kanye song.

I also wonder if I’m being hypocritical in any way – you know, I don’t struggle with profanity, but what about my struggle with jealousy or forgiveness? Am I wrong for being alarmed because their sin is more “visible” than mine? Or maybe my issue here, I think, is that the profanity seems to not be a struggle, but is just accepted as okay.

46 John July 18, 2014 at 10:54 pm

Probably one of the most bravest songs by a Christian artist.
If he had written the song in manner others have suggested, I doubt we would be discussing this song.
Maybe what scares us most is that this song is true.

47 M. Moore July 19, 2014 at 9:27 pm

Humbly submitting lyrical corrections.

Stanza 1
– Come on son, why you always ruin the mood

– Exploit us but give us money, somebody say “Hooooo”

– Be a token or a play an Uncle Tom role

– A young male who loves ignorance, praisin’ his doom

Stanza 2
– Washing my brain through some of the thangs that race taught

– So, instead of truth, they rather be duped

Stanza 3

– That lady you call ho, that’s my lover

– But a whole lot of DuBoise making noise, but until then

This probably doesn’t add much to the discussion, but hopefully reading the proper lyrics in their context makes the song a little clearer.

48 Laneisha Francis February 2, 2015 at 12:53 pm

I think that white people have a problem when black people speak about the unfairness going on in this world between the races. Anyone that claims to love GOD would know that unrighteousness is a enemy of GOD. Unrighteousness meaning unfairness. Just because a man speaks about relevant truth pertaining to his struggles and persecution he receives from those that claim to love GOD themselves and yet look at us as though we are a weaker vessel because of something as ignorant as the fact that our skin complexion and some many other types of discrimination that we cant receive the same privileges as any other human being is complete unrighteousness. Not to mention you misjudge our form of worship because we aren’t humming indistinct chants but our music reaches the masses because its something we all can vibe to and relate to. We don’t have to say GOD or Jesus a million times to know that for a man to speak about issues people are attempting to pretend don’t exist in the world he has to have the strength of GOD on his side because of the persecution that comes with being a follower of JESUS CHRIST. If you have never know this persecution you are not a follower of JESUS CHRIST. Jesus Christ came and even his own rejected him. Its 2015 the ignorance your ancestors before you caused this world has come back to bite them in the behind and oh how great of a bite it will be. GOD BLESS and great day. PS. for pastors and preachers your not very gracious, if you grew up black you would understand fortunately for you you been given certain privileges that kept you from knowing the true power of GOD and he is mighty to save.

Laneisha

49 laneishafrancis February 2, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Also this man said one curse word and it was completely unrelated to him caling anyone out of their name but referring to the ignorance of people that refer to women this way. so quick to judge. I wonder if he is less of a Christian to you more so because of his culture rather than the message that he put in his song. You know the message is in regard to the unfairness due to race im sorry unrighteousness so are you offended or racist?

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