Rap and Bad Art (1)

Believe it or not – and I’m stunned here – my Twitter stream has broken out in a regular beat-down over the last 4 days over rap music.

And before we get started here: in your car, I can’t stop you from listening to whatever it is you want to listen to. I wouldn’t bother to try. You want to rock out with your frock out, or get your wizzle all fo-dizzle, or play Lawrence Welk or listen to books on CD – you live as Christ convicts you. I have been known to secretly listen to Thin Lizzy, Ben Folds and even Black Sheep on my iPod, so let’s not pretend that I’m being some kind of prude here, or worse: some kind of legalist/hypocrite.

But here’s the thing: the argument has been foisted out that “it’s not the tool, it’s how you use it” which has frankly poked me in the eye, so I’m going to drop in a few hundred words here on the subject and then let all comers do what they will.

In the first place, that maxim is simply a dodge. It seeks to escape all kinds of things – like whether or not something is inherently sinful. Not to be crass, but there is no good use for porn – not one moral credit to be made to porn in any circumstance. So we have at least one good example of a tool which is a bad tool. Here’s a short list of others before anyone gets the idea that we’re talking the exceptions and not the rules:
  • vigilantism
  • promiscuity
  • robbery
  • envy
There are no good uses for these things – and those who will foist up examples like, “well, what if you’re the last man on earth and you have to repopulate the world,” or “what if you’re Robin Hood,” need to ask themselves what has to happen for those things to be true – because those things are, plainly and at best, reasoning from the extremes and the unlikely rather than from the Bible and from the actual world you live in.

So plainly: some things are bad tools. But what about “art”? Seriously: am I going to here rationalize that Art is itself a bad tool?

Look at this blog, for crying out loud: I am all about Art as a tool.

The problem is that all Art is not created equal. For example, I would say plainly that propaganda is a form of art which is inherently bad – because it uses the truth-telling power of art to inspire confidence in falsehood. One should not participate in using art to promulgate lies or half-truths for the sake of manipulating people’s opinions or actions.

And in that, I can’t imagine anyone would deny such a thing – especially someone who’s positioning himself as a Christian or a “biblical thinker”. It’s simply a premise of revelation, or God's act of self-testimony: that somehow what is expressed must in its own right be representative of what is true. I’d list proof texts here, but how many times does the Bible have to forbid and condemn lying before we get the message that all violations of the truth are immoral?

Now, this creates a rabbit trail which we need to give a special treatment to: fiction. Is all fiction a lie? Some people think so – in fact, someone is bound to accuse me of such a stupid thing if I don’t chase this rabbit here and now. Here’s what I think: unless Psalm 1 is a description of a historical event, then the Bible has at least one clear case of drawing a hypothetical, metaphorical image which uses analogy as a tool for reasoning. And in that, the Bible demonstrates to us how fiction can be about something which never happened in history but points us to truth which is in history and among people and from God.

All fiction is not bad. All art is not bad. But there is bad fiction and bad art, as described above.

And in this, we need to think about this carefully: is there, therefore, bad music?

I’ll be back later in the week to discuss that. You see what you can come up with in the comments.