The two artists rekindle this centuries-old conflict between a gracious God and a wrathful God.
None of us really enjoys feeling judged. Typically, if you’re a person who frequently says things like, “Only God can judge me,” other actual human beings have probably already judged you to be a nuisance.
Certainly, God’s aggressiveness in judging the actions of members of his flock has been a theological question as long as humans have worshiped him. Many believe Christianity allows for both a graceful, forgiving God and the one who, speaking through Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, promises to execute vengeance upon evildoers.
But the conflict between gracious God and wrathful God — a debate that has taken place among religious scholars and philosophers for centuries — has suddenly been rekindled in modern hip-hop music made by America’s two foremost artists.
As writer Miguelito at the website DJBooth noticed, recent albums by hip-hop titans Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper seem to be in direct contradiction with one another over the role God plays in shaping behavior.
While Chicago’s Chance — an electric rubber band of optimism — uses his album Coloring Book to describe the suffering around him, he also praises God as the source of all of his blessings. Chance has been praised as a pioneer of “gospel rap,” which explains why seeing him perform his exhortations about God’s love in person is such a joyous experience.
Contrast that with Kendrick Lamar, whose recent album DAMN. portrays a God that imposes dire consequences for not following His teachings. Lamar’s God is like the IRS — He’s always watching, and punishment might be heading your way when He decides you need an audit.
“Our God is a loving God,” Lamar told DJBooth in an email. “Yes. He’s a merciful God. Yes. But he’s even more so a God of DISCIPLE. OBEDIENCE. A JEALOUS God.”
“And for every conscious choice of sin, will be corrected through his discipline,” Lamar continues. “Whether physical or mental. Direct or indirect. Through your sufferings, or someone that’s close to [sic] ken. It will be corrected.”
Not exactly a slogan one will find on a coffee mug at Target. But as Miguelito notes, Chance and Kendrick are “two sides of one coin, illustrating two separate but necessary ways for the religious believer to move through the world.”
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SOURCE: USA Today
Christian Schneider is a member of USA TODAY‘s Board of Contributors and a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where this piece was first published. Follow him on Twitter @Schneider_CM.