Propaganda: Giving the Puritans a Bad Rap

A rap song by Propaganda has caught the attention of a number of Christians in the blogosphere

Propaganda promotes the gospel of Christ in other raps, and says that he has learned a lot from reading the Puritans. But his rap song forcefully portrays them as deeply flawed men, profoundly guilty for their participation in the Atlantic slave trade and slave economy.

 

 

A new rap song by Propaganda has caught the attention of a number of Christians in the blogosphere (lyrics here). It styles itself as a series of questions to a pastor who loves to quote the Puritans, criticizing them for their culpability in the slavery of African-Americans. The rap repeatedly uses the phrase “your precious puritans” in a way that is ironic, to say the least. It is sad that “precious” becomes a piece of sarcasm, for the Lord Himself said to His people that we are “precious in my sight” and “I have loved thee” (Isa. 43:4).

To his credit, Propaganda promotes the gospel of Christ in other raps, and says that he has learned a lot from reading the Puritans. But his rap song forcefully portrays them as deeply flawed men, profoundly guilty for their participation in the Atlantic slave trade and slave economy.

What should we make of this? The subjects of slavery and racism are huge, difficult, and beyond the scope of a single blog post. However, I would like to offer some perspective on Propaganda’s rap song. There are three dimensions to Propaganda’s song: emotional, historical, and theological. While these are intertwined, I think it will help to look at them one at a time.

(1) Emotional Dimension.

You don’t have to read between the lines to see the pain and anger in this song. He raps about “bewilderment,” “heart break,” and an “anger” that “screams.” Furthermore, he is not speaking just for himself, but as the voice behind “our facial expressions,” presumably the African-Americans in the church. White people reading or hearing the rap are also drawn emotionally into the pain in the “shackled, diseased, imprisoned face.” Propaganda’s lines pierce.

The enslavement of African-Americans was a horrific and shameful evil. It remains a stain upon our national history, a sin that only the blood of Christ could cleanse away. To read of the conditions of our fellow human beings in this bondage is painful indeed. Yet, like the Holocaust and the present international atrocity of abortion, slavery must be faced in order that we may renounce it fully and strive to end all human trafficking that continues today.

His imaginary conversation with a pastor is an important reminder that this has implications for preaching and pastoral care. The moral and relational effects of slavery are multi-generational, and we should not pass lightly over the suffering experienced today by African-American citizens in America and our brothers and sisters in the church.

But Propaganda’s song does not set a good example for us. Whatever his personal views may be, his rap portrays the Puritans in a starkly negative light. Some have commented that the song really isn’t about the Puritans, but is a clever, artistic work designed to make us question ourselves and to treat no one as inerrant. We will return to this theological point in a moment, for it has value. But making that point does not justify depicting godly Christians in such a manner.

It is naïve to say that the song does not make us recoil in horror away from the picture it paints of the Puritans. Surely many people who hear the song will be moved to anger and disgust towards the Puritans and resentment towards those who quote them, unless they come to know them better. The song could create a false shame in lovers of Puritan literature, and also give ammunition to those who are eager to write off biblical and Reformed Christianity as bigotry.

Perhaps someone might object that Propaganda’s song is just historical fact. Is that true? This brings us to the second dimension of his rap.

(2) Historical Dimension.

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