Since 2004, Lecrae has been making Christian hip hop music. Even as his popularity has grown, his message has remained the same, based in Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.”
But as Lecrae has gained acclaim, he has also received heightened criticism—not so much from the world for his shameless proclamation of the gospel, but (should it even surprise us?) from Christians. They accuse him of becoming worldly, distancing himself from the church, and “selling out” for money or fame.
Some of the facts behind these criticisms are true. Yes, he was featured on BET. Yes, he has been a guest on several secular music blogs, podcasts, television shows, and has befriended several secular rap and hip-hop artists.
But should this be condemned? This mainstream Christian critique bears a strange resemblance to the Pharisee’s most common criticism of Christ: He associated with prostitutes and tax collectors (Mark 2:15–17).
This mainstream Christian critique bears a strange resemblance to the Pharisee’s most common criticism of Christ.
You can hear the personal struggle and frustration this causes Lecrae in the numerous interviews surrounding the release of his latest album Anomaly:
“More recently, especially in conservative Christian circles it’s been, ‘Look, I’m not going to fit the mold that you think I should fit. If I’m hanging out with Chris Brown on Monday and John Piper on Tuesday, that’s what I’m doing and that’s where I live and how I exist…'”
In a speech to a large crowd of Christian Pastors and leaders at Resurgence in September, Lecrae says it even more bluntly:
“Christians have no idea how to deal with art… 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 was making this up.”
His latest record Anomaly (at times painfully) describes Lecrae’s dislocation from both secular and sacred communities. He is an anomaly. His Christian life doesn’t jibe with hip-hop culture. His hip-hop ministry doesn’t jibe with mainstream Christian culture. He feels like an outcast:
The church was never meant to be an ivory tower. It’s a siegework at the gates of hell.
“As far as the world is concerned, it’s mostly pre-conceived ideas of what I’m about. So they haven’t really investigated enough to know how Christian it is or what it is that’s gonna happen,” the Atlanta rapper added.
“On the Christian side, there’s a sense of like, ‘See, Lecrae is falling off, he’s getting worldly. I heard him do this song, he’s performing at this place …,’” he explained, giving examples of the kind of criticism he might receive on social media.
This needs to change. The church was never meant to be an ivory tower. It’s a siegework at the gates of hell. Lecrae has proven himself faithful to challenge those walls and do the practical work of the Great Commission while remaining largely unstained by the world. That’s pure and undefiled religion.