April 15, 2017


"I Speak to God in Public": A Message from Chance to the Church (Devon Jerome Crawford, 02/24/2017, Huffington Post)

To be sure, the idea of God is as old as thought itself. The idea of an ultimate being upon which all other beings are grounded guides the way many in the Judeo-Christian tradition relate to one another and the "wholly other." However, Chance's unashamed and unapologetic invocation of God bears particular significance for the millennial generation. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, the number of religious "nones" is surely growing. Approximately 23% of Americans identify as "atheists, agnostics, or nothing in particular." Nearly eight-in-ten millennials with "low levels of religious commitment" describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or nones. Compared to older adults, millennials are more likely to identify as nones. The generational divide is increasingly apparent as the Baby Boomer generation declines and the millennial generation garner a growing share of the population.

So, given the data, why is Chance able to do what he does? Why are his crowds equally as hyped for "How Great" and "Blessings" as they are for "No Problem" and "Smoke Break?" I submit that Chance, by using his platform as a Hip-Hop artist to communicate the import of his theological commitments, has revealed that it is not so much the idea of God that millennials reject, but the method by which that idea has been passed down and the institutions that have held the idea of God hostage from young creatives. God is not dead, but some of the institutions that represent God are on life support. The idea of a God that remains distant, dictatorial, and confined to the cathedrals of our world will no longer satisfy the religious imaginations of our generation. The God Chance speaks of, and reacquaints us with, is intimate, empowering, a "mutual fan," and, above all, the consummate expression of a love supreme.

Chance represents the need to update the way we talk and think about God. Martin Luther, a 16th century German reformer, theologian and hymn writer, suggests, "Music is the handmaiden of theology." Through his music, Chance positions himself as a public theologian who is helping us discover how we must equip our theological toolkits for this moment in history. The personal piety and institutional estrangement practiced by many Christian Churches is unfit to engage this prophetic moment in American religious life. There has always been a need - from Thomas Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson, Kirk Franklin, BJ the Chicago Kid, and now Chance the Rapper - to update the presentation of the Gospel for each generation. We have a generation that yearns for God, but rejects the traditional ambassadors and institutions that supposedly represent God. Millennials are more likely to be found giving glory to God in Chance's concerts than in your local church sanctuary. The people - particularly millennials - are ready for their Blessing. The question is whether the Church will repent and strip itself of oppressive ideologies and practices - its sexism, ageism, patriarchy, classism, homophobia, and silence - in order to be a conduit for that Blessing.

Posted by at April 15, 2017 6:56 AM