You probably know what it feels like to make a decision in the face of possible ridicule.
You know it’s the right decision and you know you may pay a price but you do it anyway.
Lecrae knows the feeling, too.
I read an article on Huffington Post in 2014 – a powerful profile of the successful rapper.
“Over the last several years, Lecrae has become a successful rap artist with a rare message that is explicitly Christian. His 2008 album “Rebel” became the first rap album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Gospel chart, and his 2012 record “Gravity” won a Grammy for best Gospel album. He has also become a staple of the Christian music festival circuit, headlining concerts in front of thousands of fans.”
While not a rap fan myself, I listened to Lecrae’s talk at the 2013 Catalyst Conference and found him to be incredible. Lecrae has found massive success topping the Billboard and iTunes charts – not on the Christian sections, but amidst every other artist.
Within the Huffington Post profile, I found 8 insights for all of us as we face the fear of ridicule.
1. Your actions may be labeled “selling-out” by people who don’t agree or understand. Go for it anyway!
“Lecrae’s attempt to infiltrate popular culture while retaining a clearly Christian message is a difficult task, but he embodies a larger trend inside Western Christianity. Lecrae is one of many modern evangelicals who have rejected the path set by the combative “Moral Majority” culture warriors of the 1980s, and instead embraced an assimilation into the mainstream and its formative institutions, hoping to shape it from within.
Lecrae doesn’t want to forsake his beliefs. He wants to take his message with him. But some of Lecrae’s fans have already accused him of selling out, because he appears on stage with other rappers who are non-Christians, or records songs with them.”
2. Silence your critics and win your fans with excellence, passion and beauty.
“‘We got a hybrid artist here,’ Calloway told listeners. ‘Now, even I used to say he’s a Christian rapper. But he’s a rapper — who is a Christian.’ A quiet grin spread across Lecrae’s face. That’s a distinction he likes to make often. The way he explains it is you don’t call it Christian architecture, or a Christian pharmacy, or Christian pottery, when it is simply done by a Christian person. Rather, to be a Christian and also be an architect, or pharmacist, or potter, is supposed to mean that an individual performs those professions to the best of their ability, and with passion and excellence.”
3. The worst kind of ridicule is for doing a poor job or creating something which lacks excellence.
“Uniqueness is a quality that has largely been lacking in Christian music. The genre didn’t really exist until the 1970s, some time after the advent of rock-and-roll. Its creation was the product of a desire among many evangelicals to resist a culture they felt was increasingly non-Christian. But the genre’s downfall — like many of the cultural artifacts that have come out of evangelicalism over the last several decades — was that instead of creating better alternatives, it just made knockoffs.
John Jeremiah Sullivan captured this in a memorable 2004 piece he wrote for GQ magazine about his own trip to the Creation Festival.
Or as Cartman, of “South Park,” put it: “All right guys, this is going to be so easy. All we have to do to make Christian songs is take regular old songs and add Jesus stuff to them. See? All we have to do is cross out words like ‘baby’ and ‘darling’ and replace them with, ‘Jeeesus.'””
4. Choose which voices matter to you and ignore everyone else. (This applies whether you’re a Christian or not – you have to decide what you do with the voices of ridicule.)
“It’s so counter-cultural to all this…Christians have no idea how to deal with art,” Lecrae said more recently, during a September speech to Christian leaders. “They say, ‘Hey Lecrae you can’t do that. That’s bad. That’s secular. You can’t touch that. Hey Lecrae, your engineer is not a Christian. He can’t mix your stuff. He’s going to get sinner cooties on it…This is real. I wish I making this up,” he said. Lecrae’s songs are still centered around a Christian worldview and approach to life, but to some Christians, the outside world is something to be shunned, not engaged.
“So Lecrae modestly mentioned Jesus, yet he passionately bopped his head to extreme negative rap,” one fan wrote on YouTube. “Aren’t we as Christians called to be set apart from such profanity; rather than to be taking pride or joy in it?”
These types of comments populate Lecrae’s Instagram feed, his YouTube videos. Fans even criticized Lecrae’s wife for wearing a dress that they thought was too short. It’s enough to make Christianity unappealing to even its most faithful adherents.”
5. Voices of ridicule have been conditioned into their mindset and you can’t always win them over easily.
Evangelicals adopted an isolationist mindset for much of the 20th century. Non-Christians, the thinking went, carried sin like a virus, and the point of following Jesus was to remain as pure as possible…
The rise of the religious right, led by Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority in the 1970s and ’80s, represented an acknowledgment by evangelicals that their retreat from culture was not working…The crucial miscalculation made by Falwell and his followers was believing that they had the upper hand, that they outnumbered their culture war opponents. It may have been easy to think that when many Christians lived in conservative states, surrounded by others who thought like them. But in fact, the country was changing — demographically, ethnically and culturally — in ways that have now made religious conservatives increasingly a minority. America is a more pluralist, urbanized nation now than ever.
6. We have a higher accountability than to those who might ridicule us – we were created by our Creator to create. And to create well.
Even during the days when fundamentalist thought dominated evangelicalism, there was a resistant, if minority, strain that insisted there was a different way. Well-known author C.S. Lewis captured it succinctly in a 1945 essay.
“What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent,” Lewis wrote.
There was an aesthetic and moral driver behind this sentiment: If you are an artist, make art, not instructional materials, because that is the right thing to do and that is how you reflect positively on your creator. The same goes for science, or politics.
7. Change happens from up close. So if you’re going to change someone, build a relationship. If the person is distant, surrender your desire to change their mind.
“Lecrae believes that the best way to change popular culture, and ultimately to make a difference in people’s lives, isn’t to attack others, but to build trust through personal relationships. In 2007 he moved to Atlanta, the center of the Southern rap world. It was a professional decision, giving him the opportunity to network and build his career. But it has also given him a chance to speak about his faith to influential members of the hip-hop community…’If I was scared that that would somehow jump on me and corrupt what I’m doing, I’m rendered ineffective,’ he said. ‘They would never hear the truths that God has invested in me.'”
8. Everyone questions themselves (at some point) when they are under criticism.
“The most stressful part is coming from the Christian side. Because everybody has a standard and a conviction that they believe you need to be living by,” he (Lecrae) said. “On my worst days, on my worst days, I ask myself, ‘Am I everything these Christians say I am? Am I the hypocrite, am I falling off? Am I too concerned with all this stuff? Am I even making a difference with this music?'” he said.
“On my best days,” he continued, “I’m like, ‘I am exactly where I’m
supposed to be, and this is exactly what I was built for.’”
Make sure you check out the full article here.
I believe we all fear ridicule from someone or some group. Their opinion matters to us and we can become beholden or even enslaved to keeping them happy. The expectations of others can become a prison which holds us captive. At its worst, fear keeps us from the lives we were created to live and the purposes we were intended to fulfill.
If you’re afraid of ridicule, I hope you realized you were not alone as you read Lecrae’s words. I pray that you’ll face your fears and do what you feel led or called to do anyway. We’re with you!