I think I should probably get out more. Apparently there is a video that went viral (is it just me, or does that phrase just sound bad?) on the internet of a young man standing in a parking lot rapping about why he hates religion but loves Jesus. I heard about it through the responses for days before I actually saw the video. I didn’t watch any of the video responses, but I read a great deal of argumentation against it. Finally, I went to the ignitumtoday.com post about it and watched the original video there, and then watched several of the video responses. For those who haven’t seen the original video it is here:
My favorite response was this one:
The poetry was better than any of the others, and his beard is way awesome.
I have to say, I liked the original video. It was well done, heartfelt and sincere. The poetry wasn’t great, a good number of the rhymes were forced, and the lines wouldn’t scan well written out, but that’s common with rap. It is a performing art. It is simply not meant to be read. The performer has to adjust his cadence to make the lines fit and his performance was (in my opinion) quite good, which is saying very little as I am not a general fan of rap and don’t listen to it often. It was, at any rate, a better effort than any of the attempted rap responses I’ve seen, except the Don Bosco priest with the beard.
I think most of the responses I have read and watched simply ignored the poetry and went straight to the theology. Perhaps they are right to do so, but I thought someone should at least say something about his poetry. The responses mostly begin right away with quoting from scripture to dismantle his points, one by one, and perhaps they are right to do this as well. At least it saves me the trouble. On the other hand, I don’t think I would have argued his points in any event. I don’t think that is the right response. It seems to me that most of the arguers aren’t really listening. They watched the video and all they hear is an attack on the Church, and they respond to that with varying degrees of patience, humility and eloquence.
I don’t know, perhaps they heard something I didn’t hear, but when I listened to the video, this young man reciting his poem, I didn’t hear an argument. I heard a poem. I heard an echo in my own heart of everything he was saying, and I realized, this fellow isn’t rejecting the Church at all. How could he? He has never known the Church. I don’t know whether he was Catholic or Protestant, but whatever the case may be, I would be very surprised if he has ever seen the real Church. He has seen only a shadow church, partly created by others, partly created by himself. Unable to see the reality behind the shadow, he thinks the shadow is the Church and he rejects it. And he is right to do so. He is absolutely right to reject everything he describes in his poem.
This is why I wouldn’t argue against him at all. If I tried to defend the Church I would find myself beating the air because he is not even talking about the Church. He is not even talking about religion, even when he uses the word. I would not be addressing his issues, and he would have no idea what I was talking about because his understanding of the words “Church” and “religion” are defined strictly in terms of his experience with the shadow church. We would be arguing from different premises. Not only that, but he will never read this blog and so I wouldn’t even be talking to him.
Instead I am speaking to people who have seen his video on the internet, or seen the flurry of defensiveness directed towards it and wonder what all the fuss is about. I encourage you to listen to the poem, but listen to him, not your own commentary on it. Know that this man doesn’t know what religion is, but if he were to substitute the word “hypocrisy” for the word “religion”, no Catholic would argue with it. It also would never have gone viral, but that’s another topic altogether.
If you do have the good fortune to be able to meet with this guy, or one of the thousands who listened to his poem and responded “Yes, that’s it! That’s exactly what I’ve been saying,” think about how you are to respond to them. They do not know what the Church is. They know only the shadow church. I don’t think this calls for arguing against their points. I think it calls for understanding their points, and then introducing them to the real Church, which cannot be done by words alone. Therefore it is costlier. The fruit will be in proportion to the cost.