May 30, 2014 | 03:14 pm

Embrace the Hostility

This week I am reading The Soul of Hip Hop: Rims, Timbs, and a Cultural Theology by Dr. Daniel White Hodge. This book explores theology through the lenses of Hip Hop and rap music and culture. By analyzing the poetry of rappers from Tupac to Gina Rae, Dr. Hodge reveals what is a sacred space for important Christian themes. As Dr. Hodge transitions to his chapter about the Hip Hop Jesuz, he writes,

“In order to engage the Hip Hop community and really listen to it, we must first be willing to embrace the hostility that lies within that community. Jesus did. Jesus still does. More important, he does that with all of us, every day.”

This week our lectionary brings us a story of a hostile, oppressive world. When Jesus tells the story that we call The Good Samaritan, it is not a feel-good story. The story depicts a traveller on a dangerous road who is attacked by thieves, and then ignored and left to die by passers-by. The priest and the Levite cannot approach the suffering man because he is unclean. Their very belief about holiness prevents them from doing the righteous thing. But the Samaritan breaks the invisible walls of culture and religion to embrace the man in his wounded state. This is the message of Jesus, the message of the New Testament.

As I continue to study the Jesus of Hip Hop, a different sort of prophet emerges in my imagination, turning our lectionary passage into a story of strength and sacrifice, rather than sweet neighborly niceness. Dr. Hodge challenges readers, “We continue to want a G-rated savior in an NC-17 world.” When we remember that Jesus spoke strongly, associated with the “unclean”, and confronted the injustices of the power structures of his day, this NC-17 Jesus begins to take shape in the pages of scripture. Jesus’ message centered on love, and this is not weakness. This love is power enough to face a hostile world.