In the current landscape of Christian hip-hop, few artists loom quite as large as rapper, poet, and political activist Propaganda. A Los Angeles native, “Prop” (as he’s called by those close to him) developed a passion for rap early on, then he added poetry to his repertoire as a college student after attending a friend’s spoken word performance. Now, with five albums, a poetry collection, and a host of performance recordings (available on YouTube) under his belt, his rise to prominance as one of the most provocative and compelling Christian voices speaking on racial injustice shows no signs of slowing down.
Even a quick glance at Prop’s lyrics and poetry reveals a man who knows his theology well—he admits that he loves “nerding out about Spurgeon” as much as anyone. As poems like his “Precious Puritans” make clear, though, he recalls feeling like his early encounters with even his most favorite thinkers and formulators of the faith were often complicated by evangelicalism’s history of racism:
The biggest challenge [I face] is the white evangelical church. I think there was a bit of disillusionment on my end. I grew up in a very multi-cultural environment, a very socially aware environment. My father was a Panther. I didn’t know anything of this sort of “God-and-country” kind of patriotism. The “religious right,” or the “Christian conservative”—I didn’t know anything about that.
Once I started studying theology and getting my chops up, that’s where I started being considerably surprised at some of the walls we were hitting—especially when systemic injustice and racism issues started popping up. The minute you quote a Puritan, you can just go, “Man, yeah, that’s great.” You don’t have to think about Puritans in relation to your own ancestors. Kuyper, probably one of my favorite Dutch Reformers—“there’s no part of the universe God doesn’t cry ‘mine’ over”—was the same man that said the black brain is permanently childish and will always need the white man to help him not kill himself. That’s the same dude. But y’all never had to think about that.
It was frustrating, or difficult, to remember, “These are still my brothers.” I’m still doing that. I’m still suffering from active trauma when it comes to how heartbreaking it was. Like, why is this news to you? Why do I have to explain these things? How did you miss this? This nationalistic supremacy narrative that we would think the gospel would rescue us from...still sat in the pulpits of my brothers and my sisters.
It’s easy to get angry. And I have to know that that’s what I bring to the Cross; I have to bring that anger to the Cross. Christ has reconciled me, even though I made him angry, so I need to reconcile with my brothers. For the African American—that’s the cross we bear, in the same way that the cross that my white brothers and sisters bear is that you’re indicted in these actions. You’re not innocent. You have to own that. That’s the cross I bear, and that’s the cross you bear.
On this week’s episode of The Calling, join CT managing editor Richard Clark as Prop opens up about coming to terms with racism in the church, overcoming Christian hip-hop’s East-West divide, and why he wants to make sure his actions keep pace with his words.
Also, Propaganda will soon be joining Sho Baraka for Spotlight, a 6-city speaking tour of the United States where the two plan to “dive deep into the topics of compassion, unity, ethics, race, faith, and the church.” You can find more information about the tour here.
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The Calling is produced by Richard Clark and Cray Allred.
Theme music by Lee Rosevere, used under Creative Commons 4.0.