I’m excited about this newest piece in the God Loves Hip-Hop series. Just a few weeks ago we started talking about Why God Loves Hip-Hop. We continue along that same vein as we explore God’s love for the artistic gift with this piece from the gifted Dr. Andrea Trusty-King. 
Along with a Master of Divinity degree from Andrews University, she received her Doctor of ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary with a research emphasis on Youth, Family and Culture. She currently serves as the Senior Pastor of the 16th Street SDA Church in San Bernardino, CA. She is married to Pastor Kurt King and they have two young children. You can follow her on twitter @andreaking or visit her website at www.pastorandrea.com

God Loves Artistry

strike like lightning and don’t need thunder
imagination and breathe wonder
-Common, “Invocation” 

Both the Antelope Canyon (top) and
the Danxia landform are God’s own
works of artistic genius and creativity.
On the creative and
artistic level, God has skills. Period. 
When we look at all God has created, it becomes evident that God loves
diversity and color.  The earth and
everything in it is a masterpiece.  When
you look at the Antelope Canyon in Arizona,[1] or
the Danxia landform in China,[2]
it’s hard not to imagine God with a spray can tagging the walls of this
world.  The beauty is breathtaking.
            It is God’s style to make things beautiful just for our
pleasure.  When God created the trees, he
didn’t allow the practical function to dominate His design. Genesis 2:9 tells
us “And out of the ground the Lord
God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.”  God made sure the trees were something to
enjoy both with the eyes and the mouth. 
When the priestly garments were
made, the Bible says that these garments were not just to be functional, but
fashionable.  Exodus 28:2 says, “And you
shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for
beauty.”  God wanted these creations to
be splendid with style.  They had
pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet woven around the hem.  This in itself is another act of God’s
creative imagination, because blue pomegranates do not even exist in nature.
Indeed, this was a remix!
and creativity is of God, and it flows from God.  The first people that Scripture records as
being filled with the Spirit of God were not the prophets, the preachers or the
priests, but rather the artisans: 
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “See, I have called by name
Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.  And I have filled him with the Spirit of God,
in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold,
in silver, in bronze. Exodus 31:1-4
When God was giving instructions for the temple, He told
Moses that He was going to fill Bezalel with the Spirit of God to design
artistic works.  Creativity and artistry
were so important to God, He filled Bezalel and others with the Spirit of God
so that they could create works of art with gold, silver and bronze.  Their artistry was an act of worship.
God appreciates and encourages
artistry and creativity.  This is not
just limited to visual arts but also in literary arts.  Second Timothy 3:16 reminds us that “all
Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” 
A large portion of the Bible is poetry and throughout scripture is the
prolific use of metaphors, similes, acrostics, parallelisms, and other literary
devices employed to encapsulate ideas, craft compelling stories and lay down
lovely lyrics.  God inspires creativity in
all kinds of art. 
Many of the literary devices found
in Scripture are mirrored in Hip-Hop. 
Talib Kweli, in his song, “The Manifesto.” credits God for giving Hip-Hop
the music.  My
style is all that’s seen and all that’s heard/God gave us music so we play with
our words.”
  The lyrics and style of Hip-Hop
in some ways mirror the literary style of scripture.
Proverbs 30:15 utilizes a unique
use of numbers throughout the verse, employing the numbers two, three and four:
“The leech has two daughters— Give and
Give! There are three things that are
never satisfied, Four never say, ‘Enough!’” 
Mos Def in “Mathematics” employs a similar technique with numbers one
through ten:
Yo, it’s one universal law but two sides to
every story
Three strikes and you be in for life,
Four MC’s murdered in the last four years
I ain’t tryin to be the fifth one, the
millenium is here
Yo it’s 6 Million Ways to Die, from the seven
deadly thrills
Eight-year olds gettin found with 9 mill’s
It’s 10 P.M., where your seeds at? What’s the
In Proverbs 1, wisdom is personified as a woman who
raises her voice, cries out at the gates of the city, laughs, mocks and calls
outside.  In Run DMC’s “My Adidas,” shoes
are personified, as agents of the Hip-Hop order. They attend concerts and
travel into foreign lands:
Now me and my Adidas do the illest things.
We like to stomp out pimps with diamond rings,
We slay all suckers who perpetrate,
And lay down law from state to state.
We travel on gravel, dirt road or street.
I wear my Adidas when I rock the beat.
            Although it
is not evident in English, there is rhyme in some of the biblical poetry.   It was
also common for Hebrew poets to rhyme ideas and use word-play.  Psalm 122:6 says, “Pray for the peace of
Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you.” In Hebrew, when the verse is
transliterated, a play on words emerges, “Shaal shalom ye-ru-sha-la-im (Jerusalem) shalah ahab.”[3]
Eminem is widely respected as one of the most gifted
lyricists in the history of rap music. He has mastered
the art of word-play as well as delivery.  
Rapper Eminem offers masterful rhymes and plays on words like the above
passage. However, unlike the above passage, which is laced with a prayer for
peace, his lyric is laced with profanity and pain.  In his song, “The Way That I Am,” he
And since birth I’ve been cursed with this curse to just curse.
And just blurt this berserk and bizarre sh*# that works.
And it sells and it helps in itself to relieve
All this tension, dispensing these sentences.
Getting this stress that’s been eating me recently
Off of this chest and I rest again peacefully.
Eninem employs alliteration and plays on words and sounds in
a masterfully artistic manner.  We must
not deny the creative artistry in this and other expressions of Hip-Hop.  Still, it seems almost blasphemous to
juxtapose Eminem with the Everlasting, to compare Proverbs with Hip-Hop
prophets.  The fact that many of Hip-Hop’s
creations are corrupted by coarse language makes it’s comparison and connection
to scripture even harder to swallow.
Hip-Hop artists are often lambasted
for the explicit nature of their music and videos.  There are often disturbing images that depict
violence, gang activity, and illicit sexual activity.  These images are both visual and verbal.  Senseless violence against other young
people, blatant disrespect of women, explicit and derogatory language are just
a few of the tools used to paint these disturbing pictures.  In their defense, artists say they are just
“keeping it real.”
The question, then, is how does the
Bible react to the notion of keeping it real? 
For starters, the Bible is replete with examples of “keeping it
real.”  The Bible is home to the good,
the bad, and the ugly.  The stories of
the Bible are laden with honesty and a real account of the people of God.  It includes graphic descriptions of violence,
sensual sonnets on sex, pains and politics of corruption in government and the
hypocrisy of the “holy” men and women of God. 
Furthermore, God keeps it real in his dealings of those who cross
Him.  In no uncertain terms, the Bible is
clear that the enemies of God ought to beware. 
He will exact judgment on those who war for His enemy.
What makes the Bible different from
pieces of literature and art (which include the sordid descriptions of life
that are found not only in Hip-Hop, but in American culture as a whole), is
that the Bible does not only expose a problem, but it offers a solution.  The Bible describes the curse and
consequences of sin, but also delivers a cure for sin.  It shows how people fare who ignore the
principles of the Bible and the divine cure that God has given us.
Here lies the deficiency in Hip-Hop
culture. “Keeping it real” is needed, but that is just the beginning.  Instead of just highlighting the problem, the
church must help to provide solutions. 
For starters, the church must look past the pain-ridden language and
sickening descriptions in order to understand the painful realities a large
segment of young people are facing everyday. 
Let the church arise with righteous indignation not at how these
realties are described, but rather that these realties exist and are
ever-present for millions of people. 
When some of the horrors they see everyday are dealt with, then they
will have less objectionable material from which to pull.
While speaking at Rosa Park’s funeral in 2005, Al Sharpton
challenged rappers to clean up their act. While rappers often
claim to “keep it real,” others urge for them to “get it right.”
This however is not a call to
excuse Hip-Hop from its responsibility, but instead a call for us all to do and
be better.  It is not enough to allow Hip-Hop
just to reflect the pathology of society. 
The church must come alongside of it and help Hip-Hop take the next
step.  This provides an opportunity for
Christianity to inspire.  Hip-Hop cannot
just be a mirror.  As Al Sharpton
[Speaking of rappers]‘We just
mirrors that reflect what we see.’ Well there’s something strange about
that.  I use a mirror every morning, but I don’t get up out the bed, hair all over my head, sleep around my eye, slobber around my mouth, and walk outside talking about I’ma keep it real.  Mirrors are not only to reflect what you see;
mirrors are to correct what you see.[4]
That is the call for the church to
come alongside Hip-Hop and assist in bringing some correction to the awful
reflection.  It is a well-known saying
that the truth hurts.  For this reason,
truth, in the Bible, is seldom by itself. 
The truth of this sin-scarred world is debilitating and depressing.  Truth then, is often accompanied by something
to take the sting out of it.  Often
“truth,” in the Old Testament, and especially in the Book of Psalms, is
accompanied with mercy or lovingkindness (chesed).
is a Hebrew word that means, “unfailing kindness, devotion, i.e., a
love or affection that is steadfast based on a prior relationship”[5]  It is often translated mercy in the King
James Version. In Psalm 57:3, David
is grateful that God sent mercy (chesed)
along with truth, when his enemies tried to swallow him up.  Truth and lovingkindness (or mercy) often
traveled together. [6] Paul,
in the New Testament echoes this same sentiment when he admonishes the truth be
spoken with love, (Rom. 4:13).
By example, the church can
demonstrate love in dealing with Hip-Hop and those who adhere to its
lifestyle.  The church can even applaud
Hip-Hop for its authenticity and truthfulness but help to inform Hip-Hop that
this is just the beginning.  Reflecting
the ills of society is only half of the battle. 
The call is for a partnership to begin correcting the ills of society. 
That is the hope of Scripture, to
recognize the wretched state of affairs but realize it does not have to stay
that way.  The Bible brings hope and that
same hope must reach Hip-Hop so that their songs, movies, books and other works
of art can begin to not just reflect hurts of sin but the hope of the
Savior.  When the church engages and
enlightens Hip-Hop culture, we can begin to help them see a new reality through
the blood of Jesus, where Satan works are destroyed and the kingdoms of this
world become the kingdom of our Lord.
So yes, God loves Hip-Hop because
God loves artistry. Yet, He loves the artists of Hip-Hop the most. What if we
learned to love them too; curse words, tattoos, weird clothes and all? What if
we learned to listen, look and appreciate their art? Might we be the hands and
arms of God to embrace this lost generation and win them into the family of God?
Who knows? I’m willing to try. Are you?

                [1] Antelope
Canyon picture can be found at:
                [2] Danxia
Landform picture can be found at:
   [3] “Figures of Speech Homeopropheron
(alliteration),” Truth or Tradition, accessed September 18, 2013, http://www.truthortradition.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1251.
[4] Al Sharpton, “Speech at
Rosa Parks Funeral” Online Video YouTube. Accessed July 31, 2008.
[5] James Swanson,
“Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old
Testament),”  (Oak Harbor: Logos
Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Electronic Resource.
[6] See also Psalms 25:10,
26:3, 57:10, 85:10, 86:15, 100:5, 117:2.
Callahan, Allen Dwight. The Talking Book:  African Americans and the Bible. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.
“Figures of Speech Homeopropheron (Alliteration),” Truth or Tradition, accessed September 18, 
“God, the Bible and Art, Part 1,” BJU Press, accessed September 15, 2013,
Schaffer, Francis A. Art and the Bible.  Downers Grove, IL:  Intervarsity Press, 1973.
Al Sharpton, “Speech at Rosa Parks Funeral” Online Video YouTube. Accessed July 31, 2008.
James Swanson. “Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old
Testament).”  Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, Electronic Resource.
Watkins, Ralph C., Jason A. Barr, Jamal-Harrison Bryant, William H. Curtis, and Otis Moss III. The Gospel Remix: Reaching the Hip Hop Generation. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2007.

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