Through a season of depression and questioning, Lecrae was forging a new identity. Not all new. But new. He says,
[Lecrae] can be true to his cultural roots and still embrace his faith which has been colonized and stripped away and made to be very Western and Eurocentric. . . . No. No. No. You can’t have that. It’s for everybody. Jesus ain’t American.
I spoke out repeatedly in 2016 in many different ways, and it affected me. I went from a show that may have 3,000 people to 300. . . . Those 300 love Lecrae, the black man, the Christian, not the caricature that had been drawn up. . . . This is not Lecrae placating a white audience. . . . I don’t feel any sense of prioritizing white evangelicalism.
I just told my wife this morning, “I’m really free. . . . I don’t feel I have to be the rappin’ pastor. . . . I’m just a man who loves Jesus, who creates music and hopefully impacts people.”
Thankfulness and Hope
His new album bears a title taken from Romans 8:28. This invincible promise was key to unlocking the prison of identity confusion and depression. “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Lecrae said he wants people
to rest in the reality of grace. . . . All things work together for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. And that means all things. The pain, the suffering, the tears, the depression — it all works together. Don’t be afraid to wrestle. Don’t be afraid to process. There’s grace for you.
Do you see yet why I respond to Lecrae’s “identity development work” with thankfulness? I know young men whose disillusionment with “white evangelicalism” was not as painful as Lecrae’s, and yet they threw the brown baby of Bethlehem out with the white bathwater. They’re done with Christianity. Done with the Bible. Done with Jesus — except the one they create to fit their present political mood. That could have been Lecrae. It could be you.
It is possible that his story could have been Damascus Road in reverse. Beloved champion becomes bitter challenger. Poster boy turns into arch opponent. Mascot morphs into muckraker. It didn’t happen. I don’t think it will happen. Lecrae is not an adolescent. His faith is not secondhand. I am thankful for that. Very thankful.
What does this loosening from “white evangelicalism” mean for multi-ethnic relations? I don’t know.
Perhaps one immediate takeaway would be for majority-culture folks to ask whether the “identity development work” applies to us in a peculiar way. When Lecrae read the first draft of this article, he commented that his experience has been that “white evangelicals” generally assume they are a-cultural and bring no cultural influence into the fleshing out of their faith. Which probably means that there is some majority-culture “identity development work” to be done. That is, let there be, at least, a (growing) awareness that our expressions of faith are inevitably shaped by culture. Every expression of faith, everywhere in the world, is embedded in and shaped by culture. Being oblivious to this does not help us with the difficult task of discerning when to be counter-cultural or not.