Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Holy Mickey

So, it was requested of me to write on the topic of modern spirituality, and possibly its intersection with hip hop.

Actually, we could just start with the hip hop. A friend of a friend recently bought a hip hop album (I'm not remembering the specific title at the moment) and was reading through the liner notes noticing that each member of the crew had "God" listed right at the beginning of their thank you's. She found that observation to be a bit surprising and possibly contradictory considering the topics and subject matter addressed on the album itself. While this particular group would not be considered "gangsta" by any means, they still had plenty of songs talking about ladies, or drinking 40s, or making references to smoking weed, etc. Basically, behaviors that we don't typically associate with being a Christian.

First and foremost, I think it's important for all of us to realize that we are socialized in our thoughts and reactions to religion. Probably for anyone reading this, we all share the commonality of being socialized in a western civilization. Western civilization has its roots in Judeo-Christian thinking and to this day, whether we consider ourselves to be Christian or Jewish, atheist, or even a believer of eastern religious traditions, it's all initially informed by our socialization. Those that accept the label of Christian or Jew are simply tapping into a tradition that they are already a part of; atheists are directly reacting against that tradition; and those that take on eastern religions are also reacting against western tradition, but are choosing to hold on to spirituality, unlike atheists.

To come back to hip hop, most African-Americans in this country also share the experience of being socialized into Judeo-Christian based society. Furthermore, many African-americans also directly participate in Christianity by attending church. I would also argue that "church" fulfills a different role in many black communities than it does in white (and surburban) ones. In the black community, I think church provides a safe haven as well as a place of socializing and community. It may be the center of many neighborhoods and helps to unite people. For a black person, such as those on the hip hop album, not admitting to being a Christian, is like denying a part of where you came from.

I also, personally, don't see an automatic contradiction in proclaiming a belief in God, and participating in drinking 40s and smoking blunts with your crew. While I don't believe the Bible is an infalliable document anyway, at least we can acknowledge that we are supposedly living in the era where the values of the New Testament are elevated above those of the Old. The Old Testament is full of all of the laws, and dietary restrictions, and many ways to contextualize ritual practices. The New Testament, on the other hand, is a reprieve from the Old Testament, freeing us from the strictestness and narrow provisions of the laws, and instead letting us live by the "spirit." What does that mean? Well, my interpretation is that we are free to "interpret" how those laws may be adapted for contemporary society. In my mind, "breaking bread and sharing wine" is essentially the same thing as hanging out and eating and maybe even cracking that malt liquor. Both situations serve to bring people together and maintain community. It's a time to enjoy each other.

Anyway, that's what I've got for now...I know I'll be accused of being a huge "relativist."


Saxon Baird said...

everything is relative so anyone accusing you of being a relativist is contradicting themselves by being one.A-OH! However i understand that you are also someone who would like to believe in a certain truth that is absolute. Ah...complexity.

Jeff and Luke are both working at the Tanker tonight. Bread will be broken, liquor will be cracked. Hallowed be thy name.

nora said...

And capitalism... economics/ the economics of oppression cannot be left out of the picture when looking at religion, consumption/ excess, America and hip-hop. I don't think it's at all weird that hip hop musicians would thank God- it seems significantly less inherently contradictory than the content of televangelist preachings in teh name of God and love and giving thanks.
Also language itself and the shifting meanings, metaphors of different cultures... one must examine the words, communication, and interpretation- which I think you're alluding to in your relativism comment. Ladies: love, companionship, perhaps idolotry, beauty
40's: celebration, joy, camraderie, abundance

I miss Amy.