Posted on Monday, April 1, 2013

Why Lyrical Catechism?

Lyrical what-a-what-ism? Yes, I wrote a hip hop album based on the teachings in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. You maybe wondering what a nearly 400 year old document has to do with hip hop culture today, and for that matter, what on earth a catechism even is?

Let's play a simple game to illustrate the answers to both of those questions. If you fell in love with hip hop in the early 90s like me, you should be able to easily finish these lines:

"If I ruled the world..."
"Me and you, yo' mama..."
"Kick in the door wavin'..."

And one for the one hit wonders:
"I wish I was a little bit..."

You see, hip hop lyrics can get ingrained in your mind for years. As soon as you hear or read one line from a song you grew up with, you can recall the rest of it easily. And that, in short, is a catechism: a form of teaching based on repetition, question and answer, call and response. In a way, rap music IS a catechism. Ideas, values, ways of living, acting and talking get passed on to listeners via this art form. Memorable lines from countless songs get quickly recalled in various situations, helping to shape attitudes and form the basis for reacting to events around the listener. This is catechism.

Unfortunately, throughout much of rap music's history, the subject matter of the catechism has been opposed to God's word and will. I can recall song lyrics from years ago as easily (if not more) as I can Scripture from last week. For many fans of hip hop, there is a need to change the content of what is catechizing them. And that's where this old, tried and true document comes into play.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC) is in essence a summary of essential truths that are found in Scripture, organized in a very logical order and intended to be used for passing on the Christian faith from one generation to another. One great benefit of the WSC (which is one of many catechisms) is that we can rely on the collected wisdom of centuries of believers instead of trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to teaching God's word to our children, new believers and anyone needing to get a firm grasp on what exactly a Christian ought to believe. I was not the first, and will certainly not be the last, to wonder about topics like original sin, free will, predestination, why God became a man, the 10 commandments, baptism, the Lord's prayer and many more. The WSC is a helpful guide in learning the truth of Scripture on those and many other topics.

So why did I write a rap album about the WSC? For three main reasons:

  1. Rap already is a catechism and I wanted to introduce listeners to a great catechism they might not have been familiar with by using one that they already know.
  2. I want my brothers and sisters to be well grounded in the truths of the word of God and the catechism is an effective way of accomplishing this.
  3. Hip hop culture is nearly 40 years old (some would say older). It's followers have kids. Some have grandkids. In some instances, rap music has done a better job catechizing kids than parents and teachers. I'm passionate about passing on a legacy of faith in God and His Word to my own children and I pray that that passion comes through this album so that many listeners embrace His truth and desire to pass on the faith to their own children (or neices, nephews, brothers, sisters, etc) as well.
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