DULUTH, Georgia — Christian rapper and spoken word artist "Propaganda" is warning churches that don't embrace racial reconciliation efforts and openly acknowledge the racial sins of America's past will fade into irrelevancy and be questioned about who they really worship.
The 37-year-old hip-hop artist and former art teacher, whose real name is Jason Petty, performed at the three-day 2016 Catalyst Atlanta religious leadership conference earlier this month, where the theme was unity through "uncommon fellowship."
As racial tensions continue to be a major problem in communities throughout America, Propaganda sat down with The Christian Post to discuss what it is that churches need to do to lead the nation's racial reconciliation discussion and increase racial diversity in their own pews.
Below is the transcript from the interview.
CP: In this year's Catalyst Atlanta the theme is unity through "Uncommon Fellowship." Given the climate that we are in today with the rise of racial tensions in the country, how important is an event like this, especially with this focus?
Propaganda: In some ways, it is yet to be seen. Of course, unity is, like you said, given the climate that we are in, is important but we have to define it. If we are talking about uniformity, that is not helping anybody because our distinctions are important. These are things that God created. I am what I am because I am supposed to be.
So, if it is a matter of doing this to get homeostasis again, that is not doing us any good. If we are going to talk about this fellowship because it just makes you all feel comfortable, that is not helping us either. So, if we are going to talk about a fellowship, we are going to talk about a fellowship that embraces the other and allows for the uncommonness about it and doesn't seek uniformity but dignifies every member around the table.
So, If that is where we get to, then it is absolutely timely. But if we don't get to that, then its like you just dropped a lot of money to do what we have been doing.
CP: In the last few years, we have heard a lot about how there are racial issues in America. But it doesn't seem like there is a lot of concrete action taking place, especially within the Church. Is that what you are seeing?
Propaganda: It depends on like which "the Church" are we talking about. If you are talking about a construct that looks more sort of Western and white, if you will, you are all late to the conversation. You know what I'm saying?
So, like in that sense, there has been a lot of movement with the rest of us, who been continual members of issues of justice, race and reconciliation. You can go back to the Methodists. We have have been a part of this for a while.
I think that in that, in a good way, the dominant culture, if you will, is going, "Oh crap, our silence is indicting." I think that particular facet of the Church is sort of new to the conversation, and probably seven conversations behind where my Uncle Ray is, who never went to seminary because he wasn't allowed to go. But his understanding of what it actually means to be a culturally relevant Christian may not come from the academy. It comes from actually being a relevant Christian.
I think there is more of like a catching up, if you will, where it is like the culture has pushed that facet of the Church so far into the corner that you are either going to jump off the cliff and become completely irrelevant or you're going to be called to the table and asked, "Alright, who do you really worship?" Either you stand up and say, "Yeah, we stand for the Gospel and I am willing to get into this" or you just push yourself into irrelevancy.
CP: Do you find that white evangelicals are less willing to acknowledge that there are racial issues?
Propaganda: I don't want to blame that on all white evangelicals, per se. They are not the only ones.
Propaganda: Yeah, you could say that. I think it is more of a microcosm of the macrocosm, with the macrocosm being sort of this lullaby of equality where we thought once we ended Jim Crow, we are good now, which flies in the face of what we already know doctrinally and that is that we can't legislate a heart change.
Even if the legislation changed, still sitting in the hearts of men is evil sinful deeds that sometimes will play out along the lines of our areas of weakness.
In this particular situation is this position of privilege and cultural dominance that for the last 40 years has become such a norm. I heard a saying recently that equality feels like oppression, if you have only known privilege.
So, if you have only known privilege, it's more of a fear in the sense that if a roach walks in and if nobody looks at it, maybe it will just walk out. The implications of what that means is that so many things you have taken for granted now have to be deconstructed — whether it is your understanding of patriotism, or what conservatism is actually conserving or how much supremacy you have actually allowed to creep into your doctrine.
But if I walk down this rabbit trail, then that means I have to acknowledge it, and that is a lot of undoing and that is a natural sort of desire to protect. But the gingerness is because of the indictment that is inside of it. But if you are willing to take that acid bath, which events like this are starting to say — "OK, I'm down to take the acid bath" — then you are just deconstructing the last 40 to 100 years of what you thought.