Ken, a dad with three kids ages approaching their teen years, sent this question to me:
[My kids] show some interest in hip-hop/rap music, so I have started to look into Christian versions of it. I have listened to Curtis Allen (have to list him first, right?), Lacrae, and Eternal MOG (Man of God). From what I have seen and read, the words seem to be gospel-centered, God exalting. My hesitation is that the broader hip-hop culture is so foul and perverse that I am not sure I want to encourage my kids towards it. I was thinking that maybe I could cut them off at the pass with solid gospel-centered hip-hop music, but I am not sure if that is wise or not. What are your thoughts on this?
First, thanks, Ken, for being an example of a parent who cares about what kind of music their children are listening to. They are at a great age for you to help them discern God’s purpose for music.
Typically Christians take one of two positions on how we should relate to music. Either we label certain kinds of music as evil and avoid them completely, or we assume that music is simply a matter of personal taste and we are free to listen to anything. Both views free us from actually thinking through the biblical issues.
Much more can be written about this topic than I’m going to be able to cover here. So, if Ken was a dad catching me after a meeting and asking me this question, this is how I’d respond.
First, if your children are drawn to a certain kind of music, make sure that you have a good relationship with them already established. If your children feel your correction more than your encouragement, if you see them as problems rather than gifts, or if you want to deal with this in a 5 minute lecture, you’re going to have difficulty helping them discern the right path to follow. Strong, godly family relationships are one of the greatest helps in resisting the deceptive pull of the world.
Second, communicate to your children that you are training them to be discerning about their musical choices. Until you know they mistrust their heart in this area and are self-disclosing, you want to be aware of everything they listen to. The Internet and Ipods have made that a little more difficult than it used to be, but that’s why trust and self-disclosure are so important. Sit down and read lyrics together. Listen to music as a family. Talk about what makes songs good or bad. Parents who have no idea what their children listen to may be allowing the world to shape their children’s hearts and minds.
Third, I’d want to be very sure that my children are able to discern the difference between rap music and the ungodly culture often associated with it. I don’t believe that the rap and hip-hop music genres are evil in themselves. My good friend Curt Allen (aka Voice) has been instrumental in helping me see how rap can be used to communicate biblical truth effectively. However, if my children weren’t exhibiting discernment in other areas, I wouldn’t introduce them to a style of music whose associations could lead them to embrace worldly values and attitudes. My goal would be to help them see that listening to music without discernment and godly intent reveals a heart willing to flirt with love for the world (1 John 2:15-17).
Fourth, I wouldn’t let a desire to listen to Christian rap, or any kind of music, dominate their thinking, schedule, time, or desires. That reveals the presence of idolatry. If their exposure to a certain kind of music produced godly fruit they could continue listening to it. But if I saw their countenance, actions, dress, speech, or behavior being negatively influenced by the music they were listening to, or if their spiritual zeal waned, I’d restrict the music and talk to them about what was going on in their heart.
Assuming that I was in a good place in these areas, I’d begin with one or two CD’s that had solid content and packaging, and see how my children responded over time.
I know some very godly teens who like Christian rap and hip-hop music. But they listen to it occasionally, enjoy other genres, and reject the arrogant, immoral culture that often accompanies the secular versions. If I wasn’t convinced that that was my child’s attitude, I’d be foolish to allow them to feed their desire for a certain musical style, even with Christian lyrics.
In the final analysis, the question isn’t whether my children should listen to rap or country or jazz. Rather, it’s whether or not my children distrust their hearts and desire to make choices that honor the Savior who bought them with his own blood. If I’m leading them in those areas, musical choices are going to come much easier.