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A bad rap?

Religion | Christian rapper takes Reformed believers to task for admiring the Puritans

Issue: "Race to the finish," Nov. 3, 2012

The world of the early American Puritans recently met contemporary rap music because of “Precious Puritans,” a new song by Christian rapper Propaganda. In this song, Propaganda laments the Reformed evangelical community’s reverence for the Puritans, reminding listeners of the Puritans’ complicity in the colonial slave trade. “You know they were the chaplains on slaves ships, right?” the lyrics say. “Would you quote Columbus to Cherokees? Would you quote Cortez to Aztecs? … It just sings of your blind privilege wouldn’t you agree? Your precious puritans.”

The song has generated vigorous disagreement in the Christian blogosphere. Boyce College professor (and rapper) Owen Strachan issued one of the most pointed criticisms of Propaganda. While acknowledging serious problems of racism in the evangelical tradition, Strachan argued that Propaganda was unfairly indicting all the Puritans, with no sense of historical nuance. Did this not go beyond appropriate criticism (which is due to all fallen humans), Strachan asked, to inciting contempt and even “hate” toward our Christian forbears?  

Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile of the First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman responded to Strachan at The Gospel Coalition website by asking how Christians can nuance such a sinful institution as slavery: “It wasn’t a nuanced practice. It was bestial and it reduced human beings to beasts of burden.”

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Propaganda also responded to criticisms of “Precious Puritans” in an interview with pastor and blogger Joe Thorn. To explain the song’s real message, he pointed to its final lyrics, which warn against undue devotion to any popular person, including Propaganda himself. Even people whom God uses powerfully still have serious flaws. The song concludes by noting that “God really does use crooked sticks to make straight lines.”

Therapy banned


California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed the nation’s first law banning therapy intended to discourage homosexual desires in minors. The law, promoted by gay advocacy groups and sponsored by state Sen. Ted Lieu, lets authorities fine or revoke the licenses of counselors who use what Brown contends are “non-scientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide.” 

Lieu calls the banned practice “psychological child abuse.” He contends that counseling against homosexuality damages children and the state’s compelling interest to stop the practice trumps objections that the law violates constitutional rights. Lieu compares the measure to the state limiting parents’ rights to allow their children to smoke or consume alcohol.

Christian and family-rights groups oppose the measure as a violation of free speech, religious liberty, and the rights of families. Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which has filed suit over the ban, says the law is “outrageously unconstitutional,” noting it “makes no exceptions for young victims of sexual abuse who are plagued with unwanted same-sex attraction, nor does it respect the consciences of mental health professionals who work in a church.” 

The Christian legal group Liberty Counsel has also sued the state on behalf of two anonymous California teenagers currently in counseling to help them overcome “unwanted same-sex sexual attractions.” Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, argues that the law places the state between counselors and their clients, forcing counselors “to overrule the will of their clients who choose to prioritize their religious or moral values” above homosexual attraction. —T.S.K.

Thomas Kidd
Thomas Kidd

Thomas is a professor of history at Baylor University and a senior fellow at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion. His most recent book is Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots. Follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasSKidd.


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