Propaganda’s new album Excellent was what it took to finally draw me into the recent swell of Christian hip-hop and rap. After my Motownphilly days ended in late elementary school, I never really enjoyed hip-hop or rap thereafter. However, I can honestly say that I enjoy listening to Propaganda’s latest offering.
There is one track on the album that has generated quite a stir. “Precious Puritans”, a song that has been interpreted in a myriad of ways, is largely about the connection of the Puritans with North American slavery in the 17th and 18th centuries. Propaganda cites how many pastors seem to quote and revere the Puritans without an understanding of their sinful actions, especially without reference to how they may be received by those of African-American decent. You can read the lyrics to “Precious Puritans” in their entirety here.
In the blogosphere, there have been many reactions to the song. Joe Thorn and Owen Strachen, in particular, have weighed in with posts that are worth reading. This morning, Joel Beeke, president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, posted his reaction to the song on his blog. I found the post extremely helpful and desired to repost it here in its entirety.
A new rap song by Propaganda has caught the attention of a number of Christians in the blogosphere (lyrics here). It styles itself as a series of questions to a pastor who loves to quote the Puritans, criticizing them for their culpability in the slavery of African-Americans. The rap repeatedly uses the phrase “your precious puritans” in a way that is ironic, to say the least. It is sad that “precious” becomes a piece of sarcasm, for the Lord Himself said to His people that we are “precious in my sight” and “I have loved thee” (Isa. 43:4).
To his credit, Propaganda promotes the gospel of Christ in other raps, and says that he has learned a lot from reading the Puritans. But his rap song forcefully portrays them as deeply flawed men, profoundly guilty for their participation in the Atlantic slave trade and slave economy.
What should we make of this? The subjects of slavery and racism are huge, difficult, and beyond the scope of a single blog post. However, I would like to offer some perspective on Propaganda’s rap song. There are three dimensions to Propaganda’s song: emotional, historical, and theological. While these are intertwined, I think it will help to look at them one at a time.