Youth Aflame – 3-7-01
Two Wednesday nights ago America watched Eminem not only perform with Elton John in the final and most anticipated performance of the night, but also pick up three Grammys.
So how are we supposed to react? (As Christians) Apparently the world thinks this is an opportunity for us to practice one of America’s favorite words: tolerance.
Eminem, the “artist” who performs songs with explicit violence, rape, and describing murders in detail, was up for album of the year. Much of the world has reacted by contending:
Eminem is an artist expressing himself. He doesn’t stand for all the violence he sings about. He is just an observer of our society, painting a picture of what he sees. People should have the freedom to express themselves and communicate their observations-- they have a right to their opinion. Besides, Eminem has sold more albums than all of the other artist up for album of the year COMBINED! It would be parting from reality for the Grammy’s to ignore the public’s taste.
The Academy President who stood up to introduce Eminem and Elton John said that we need to “recognize music that is notable, noticeable, and worthy of recognition . . . we can’t edit out the art that makes us uncomfortable- that’s what our parents tried to do to Elvis, and the Stones . . .” He went on. “We need to accept the fact that musicians and movie stars aren’t perfect . . . or necessarily role models . . . and sometimes it takes tolerance to teach tolerance.”
If tolerance means allowing my kids to listen to a vile, vulgar, gay-bashing, women-degrading, violence-endorsing figure, then I guess I’m not tolerant. Emenim is not only being endorsed, but embraced by our society, a gesture that tells anyone who listens that the way he acts, the way he talks, and even the actions he talks about are okay!
Many groups, including gay rights activists, women’s rights spokespersons, were outraged and spoke out against the Grammy’s for even considering Eminem an artist. Elton John, a “champion of the gay community” was highly criticized for endorsing Eminem by agreeing to perform with him at the Grammy’s. These groups all cheered when Steely Dan’s album “Two Against Nature” beat out Eminem’s album “Mathers.” (I don’t think they knew that Steely Dan’s album has songs presenting the first-person world view of a pedophile and a comic account of a man lusting after his teenage cousin.)
My 2 Cents:
The word I want to bring up to these “artists” is simply “responsibility.” For years artists have clung to freedom of speech like a toddler to his or her blankie! The concept that they never want to own is “responsibility.”
If a kid shoots himself after listening to my record “it’s not my fault!”
If someone shoots the president after watching DeNiro do an outstanding performance in my movie “it’s not my fault!”
“Am I responsible” for the fact that kids are putting on Raiders jackets, black bandana’s, strapping 9 millimeters to their sides and marching down the street looking for some-one to mad-dog them!
The World’s Question:
When Eminem performs a song that starts with the sound effects of him dragging a body to his trunk and then goes on to describe to his two year old why he killed his mommy and threw her in the trunk, and wants the toddler’s help to tie a rope around her so she’ll sink when he disposes of the body . . . is he just expressing a viewpoint of our society? When he partners with the Grammy’s Producer of the Year, Dr. Dre, in his song “Forgot About Dre” and they each talk about themselves, Dre by name, using guns, strangling strangers who give them hard looks, threatening “bitches,” evading the police, burning down houses . . . is he just expressing a feeling that he has? Is he “endorsing” it? He claims he’s not. He doesn’t want you to copy him, just listen to him . . . over and over and over.
The world is debating about these questions:
1. Is Eminem’s right to free speech having a negative effect on teens?
2. If it does, should we give him an award and call him an artist in front of our children?
I have observed the world’s answer to these questions . . . and I personally don’t like the answers they have come up with.
Most teens are arguing that this music and these influences don’t affect them.
Several years ago I was picking up a vanload of kids from a rough neighborhood to take them to a children’s event. A car drove by a house right next to us and fired two or three shots at the house. I turned around and 6 kids in my van had hit the floor while I still sat there wondering what had happened. I’ll never forget what happened next. Most of them sat up and casually looked at each other saying, “another drive by.”
These kids I worked with listened to music preaching violence and gang activity. They dressed like the "gangster rappers" and started talking the talk. They were so comfortable with the idea of “gang-banging,” and “drive-bys,” that when they witnessed the results of it, they were numb to its devastating affect.
In 1987, as I was heading off to college, I listened to mainstream rap. I knew all the groups and had a lot of the albums. My best friend Johnny brought me a copy of a new sample of an unknown group called NWA (another one of Dre’s early works) This group, who called themselves “Niggers With Attitude” had the most vile songs I had ever heard . . . laid onto the COOLEST BEAT I HAD EVER HEARD. Dr. Dre is very talented with laying down beats. Many rap artists who made it big have Dre to thank. After listening to this album that degraded women, glorified violence, and used the F word enough to make Joe Pesci cringe, I concluded that I shouldn’t listen to it. (Even though I wasn’t serving God at the time, it still did something to me)
A few months later I’m in my room looking over my collection of rap music, including that very album that had shocked me a year before. My own tongue sounded as bad or worse than those albums. I started packing a gun. Whenever I got into a situation with someone, in my mind I would have no problem killing them in my mind (thank God it never came to that). Drugs were a daily diet.
Please understand – I’M NOT SINGLING OUT RAP OR HIP-HOP…this is just what I listened to in my case.
I told myself that the sexual lyrics didn’t affect me either. I convinced myself of that. But as many times as I told myself that I was just listening to the beat, after listening to it again and again I’d find myself singing right along. I didn’t think singing about it would do anything. Eventually I found my self on the dance floor every Saturday night at a local college, looking for something– I didn’t really know what– but I was looking. And guaranteed, between 1:00 and 2:00 AM, the DJ would play a Two Live Crew song, which for the sake of discretion; I won’t even tell you the explicit title. The girls that were on the dance floor in short skirts dancing to that song sent out a message that we all read loud and clear. I made some of the biggest mistakes of my life that year. Things I wish I could take back– but I can’t. (BTW – Brother Marquis is saved now!)
God’s grace is huge- I thank him daily for his work in me over the years.
Jesus’ Take On All This:
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus talked about many of the laws that people were carefully observing outwardly– but were violating in their hearts and minds.
“You say don’t murder . . . well I say don’t even THINK about hating someone– or you might as well plunge the knife in for real!”
“You say ‘don’t commit adultery’ . . . well I say don’t even look at a woman and think about it– or you might as well just be doing it!”
Who are we to think that we can listen to the crud coming out of most the Grammy award winners without it affecting us!
As we hear these viewpoints and consider an artist who is “just expressing an opinion or observation about our society” and we ask ourselves what is acceptable, and what we are to be “tolerant” of . . .
Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.  For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.  And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don't be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry.  God's terrible anger will come upon those who do such things.  You used to do them when your life was still part of this world.  But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.  Don't lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds.  In its place you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you.  In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
 Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
 Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.  And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Quite a different picture painted by our Lord and Savior, contrasted with a young, lost man who flipped off the audience off camera as he received his 3rd Grammy of the evening.
The Santana High School Shooting and Compassion for . . . Eminem???
Two days ago, a high school freshman named Andy Williams killed 2 people and injured 13 in the latest school shooting at Santana High School in Santee, CA. How should we react to this kind of news?
Now, we talked about the effect some of today’s esteemed “artists” can have on you. Most Christians applaud that message. We’re outraged with what we see in this world. Anger is an emotion that is stirring in a lot of people now– and anger in itself, is not necessarily bad– sometimes it’s a necessary substitute for tolerance. However, what we do with that anger– how we express that anger– is vitally important. Here’s a kid that was picked on to the point of driving him to shoot 15 people.
Is This What We Look Like?
The face of hate is very much seen in Christian circles (bad mouthing the former president, gay bashing, www.godhatesfags.com etc.)
Let me get straight to the point. If we look in the Bible, every time someone asks Jesus what is most important, he always answers something like this:
“Love God. Love Your Neighbor.”
All through the Bible we hear about the greatest of the commandments:
“Love God. Love Your Neighbor.”
Someone asked Jesus to expand on that “neighbor” analogy. Jesus told a story most of us have heard hundreds of times . . . but did we get the point?
THE GOOD SAMARITAN
A man was walking in downtown Reno, just down the street from the Lawlor Events center, when he was mugged by three gangbangers. They took his wallet, money and his watch.
A minister from a nearby church drove by, saw him lying on the ground, and quickly looked around for his own safety, and stepped on the gas. He would have called the police, but he couldn’t afford a cell phone, and he wasn’t about to stop and use a phone in THAT neighborhood. Besides, by the time he got home in Sparks, someone else would probably have found him.
A high school teacher drove by, saw the man lying there and pulled aside. He almost got out, but he thought it might be a trap. He’d worked with students for years, even had a knife pulled on him once. He knew what these kids were capable of. He got out of there quickly and put it out of his mind.
A limo passed by and screeched to a stop. Guess who got out. Eminem got out- and ran over to the man. He told the driver to call an ambulance, then, looking at the man, quickly changed his mind. He picked up the bleeding man and put him in the limo. He took off his soft jacket and laid it behind the mans head. He told the driver to go to the nearest hospital quickly.
At the hospital Eminem stayed until he found out the man was going to be okay. He gave the doctor his card and instructed him to call if there was any financial obligation.
Which of these men was the neighborliest?
Many of us might answer the exact way the religious snobs of Jesus day did, “the one who showed mercy to him.”
And that answer gives away the very point that Jesus was trying to make. When we heard the beginning of the fictitious story we weren’t surprised at all. Most of us even filled in some of the missing pieces of the story, like what denomination we think the pastor was who passed by without helping. Most of us would have even jumped ahead to fill in the obvious . . . “yes, yes, and then I came by and helped the man!” BUT, most Christians would have been outraged with the way Jesus chose to finish the story. Most Christians, hearing that story, are so busy being mad at Samaritans, Eminem, Bill Clinton, or the guy who shot all the other students Monday, that they can’t picture any of them being the hero in the story. People’s hate burns so deep that they can’t even say his name so they say “the ‘one’ who showed mercy to him.” They wouldn’t dare yell out “The Samaritan is the hero! Yay Samaritan!”
The point isn’t ‘stop and show mercy to mugged people.’ The point is that your neighbor is the person you hate the most, the person that just stabbed you in the back, the person who you want to be neighborly to in the least way! You need to love that person. Let go of your hate against this person and let God’s love flow through you.
We hear about PEACE, HOPE and LOVE, in which the greatest is . . . Love.
Some of us have forgotten about the love.
So What is Compassion?
Jesus’ life illustrated something very powerful…compassion is a word that can change your outlook and, in turn, change your life. Jesus was a walking example of compassion. Compassion is getting the heart of Jesus for people, and seeing them as He sees them.
BILL CLINTON - ZACCHEUS
When Jesus was walking on the road one day, Bill Clinton tried to see him through the crowd. He couldn’t see so he climbed up a tree. Jesus stopped in his tracks, looked up at the former President with compassion and said, “Bill Clinton, you come down…I’m going to your house today.”
Entire denominations boycotted and picketed Jesus for this reason. “Hey Jesus! Trust me! You don’t want to go to his house. He’s the SCUM of the earth!”
Jesus was eating in another man’s house and Madonna came in crying, and poured perfume all over his feet. Jesus, moved with compassion, started to comfort her. Everyone in the room said, “He obviously hasn’t seen her TRUTH OR DARE video or he would know what this woman stands for!”
The Hate in Me
I have struggled with judgmental, unloving behavior. I’ll never forget a few years ago when I found out that the rapper Eazy E. had died of AIDS. I had seen a lot of friends influenced by Eazy E.’s music. I had been a victim of Eazy’s lyrics. Eazy E. and NWA were probably one of the biggest influences in the growing popularity of gangster rap in the latest 80's. Lots of people rushed out to buy Raiders Jackets and hats and baggy pants- a fad started by Easy and NWA. Eazy E. disgusted me, and I never saw the hate creep up on me.
I heard the news about Eazy’s death. Before I could even think I said, “Good. He deserved it!”
The tongue is the window to the heart.
My prayer is that we as Christians don’t forget about the love that we need to have for the lost. That includes Eminem. Jesus wants us to love him. He doesn’t want us to role over and play dead. He doesn’t want us to go buy his C.D. But he wants us to look at him through Jesus’ eyes. Eyes that looked out at a crowd that spit on him, put a crown of thorns on his head and mocked him on the cross . . . just before He looked up and pleaded to the Father, “forgive them . . . they don’t know what they’re doing.”
The next time I hear someone vent about our former president (or Eminem), I’ll put my hand on his shoulder and smile, and say “Don’t forget that we need to love the former president.”
YOU HAVE A CHOICE TO MAKE…
Firefest is coming up soon, and you have the choice to stay quiet and let your friends and peers not know God and spend an eternity in hell, or you can get God’s compassion, invite them and see them born again. How many people do you know that is just another Eminem?
Do you reek hate . . . or love? Hate is not going to change anything…compassion and love will.