“Let’s make this clear, I am a believer, but sometimes it gets hard.” says the rapper Dax as he stands in front of the camera dressed in biblical garb, beaten, with a crown of thorns on his head giving his best pre-cross Jesus.
I’ve never heard of Dax before today, but he is currently trending at #11 on Youtube and the religious titles like Dear God always catch my attention. As a minister and a lover of hip and culture, I’m always interested in someone else take on religion and spirituality through their art.
This video is a blue print for youth pastors to teach apologetics to their youth ministries because this is what your students are asking. It’s nothing new, its just in a rap/prayer format which your students understand. Dax is asking every question I ever asked and keep asking even as a believer for almost 40 years.
Dax, if you’re honest, is everyone, believer or not who has wrestled with the hard questions of faith or been disappointed with God.
Although he is portraying Jesus, more for effect than anything, I don’t think Dax is asking as Jesus. Dax is asking his own questions. He is doing what Paul writes to the Philippians
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 2:12
To me, Dax is taking every prayer he has prayed and made it public, it just so happens to mirror our prayers. That’s what makes the song real and raw. I can hear my prayers coming through his mouth, which is kind of weird but also kind of comforting. Someone feels like me and shares it, openly.
Let me pull out a few lyrics which echo many of my own thoughts
Tell me what’s real, tell me what’s fake, why is everything about you a debate?
Why is there only one you and multiple religions?
Why does every conversation end up in division?
I tried to call, pick up the phone (why don’t you answer us God?)
Everybody says you’re coming back, why the hell is it taking so long?
Why do I hurt, why is there pain?
Tell me where I’m going, heaven or hell?
These are all part of the first minute or two of his flow. It’s the basic questions about God. The middle and end of Dax’s flow get’s even more real with a few well place F-Bombs but who hasn’t dropped a few out of frustration with this life? We are mere more mortals, finite bengs trying to comprehend the infinite.
If you get hung on his language, you’re missing the message. God is not supposed to be clearly understood. If we could clearly understand God we wouldn’t need God. A God we can wrap our brains around is not a God worthy of our worship.
God’s character is summed up in I John 4:7,8
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
For those who say our world doesn’t look anything like God had in mind, I agree, we screwed that up. God offers us grace through Christ, for each of us to decide whether we want to return to what God did intend, which was fellowship with us. To say that God is not involved in our world because of sickness, war and poverty hasn’t read scripture or does not understand the wickedness of man.
To say that God is not present in our world today hasn’t watched the brother of Botham Jean hug his brothers killer and offer her forgiveness and share Christ with her.
Doubt is not the enemy of faith. We all live with doubt and that is what Dax is expressing. His doubts are our doubts set to a beat. If you have not doubted, I would say you have not truly believed.
Dax has a dream about walking with the Devil and being offered everything and Dax turns him down. How many people do not turn the Devil down? Dax is not saying he is more righteous, he’s saying I’d rather have what’s behind door number two, after I die.
I, like Dax, have dreams and goals. I have confessed them to God with silence, sometimes, being the only reply. But even God’s silence is holy. It makes us stir. Dax thinks the silence is because God doesn’t care, I say it’s because God is not a gumboil machine where we put in a prayer and get out a blessing.
God has given us the freedom to have dreams and goals. He has gifted us with abilities and talents to fulfill those dreams, but our dreams and goals, if they’re big enough, require work, hard work, for many years; otherwise, we wouldn’t respect the process. Big dreams are supposed to be hard and to blame God because our dreams do not come true, is selfish and childish.
” I don’t want religion, I want spirituality”
Amen. I don’t want religion either. True religion isn’t about rules it’s about how we reflect God in the world and how we treat one another. James 1:27 says true religion is
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world”
“I don’t want a church, I want a people I can call a family”
Amen again. As I work with youth ministries and coach youth workers, I’m trying to convey to them that this generation wants family, not just a group, but family is messy. Families fight but they also forgive. We say we want family, but we often don’t commit to others on a level that looks like family.
“I don’t want to tell my sins to another sinner just because he went to some academy.”
Whether this is a stab at Catholicism strictly, I don’t know but I think it applies to all professional pastors. I was an associate pastor of youth for 30 years and I had no degree. I always did my best to be real about sin, my own and others. In my mind, my sin was always worse than anyone elses’ and if someone was willing to share their mistakes with me, I tried to put judgment aside and listen. Was I perfect? Not always, but it was always my goal.
“I don’t want to read it in a book I want to hear it from you”
If Dax is speaking of any other religious books trying to explain God, I agree. Millions of books have been published trying to wrap God up in an nice little bow. If Dax is saying he doesn’t want to hear it from the Bible, but wants and audible voice or whisper from God, he’s missing it. The Holy Spirit can confirm our heart and faith and even speak to us through impressions and thoughts, but the Spirt of God is also going to affirm what God has said in scripture.
I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
I have no doubt Dax has read his bible, but if he’s looking for answers, he needs to study the Bible and not just read a verse here or there. He doesn’t want to hear it from other humans, but God uses humans to convey his truth.
And it was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for works of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,… Ephesians 4:11
Dax continues asking questions,
How do I speak to man I’ve never seen with my own two eyes?
How do I know religion wasn’t made by man to divide us, putting us in chains to making the rich get richer and poor get poorer?
How do I know that religion isn’t something to manipulate the poor to perpetuate a lie?
How do I know this isn’t some big joke?
All great questions teenagers are asking. As youth workers, never fear questions. Embrace them. Never ask for blind allegiance, rather do what Jesus did and ask questions back. Create dialogue, have a conversation.
Teens don’t want to just fall in line. They want what Dax asks.
How can I have faith when there is no hope?
Teens need hope in the form of a loving person walking with them when life feels hopeless regardless if they change their mind about God or not.
Dax brings up that he knew a pastor who molested kids. Yes, this is sick and horrible. Pastors are under higher accountability both in scripture and by society. Pastor who are hypocritical and reckless need to get tossed out of their church, if they hurt a child they should go to jail.
Pastors are not born differently than the rest of . They are human and frail. They make mistakes. Some great and some small. I know, I’ve been there. I’ve made tons of mistakes, not worthy of jail time, but I’ve said things I shouldn’t have said and acted in way that do not line up with scripture and I own all of it. I never want to be a hypocrite who leads others astray, as Jesus points out, these people don’t end up well,
Jesus said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks will come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the sea than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.
Jesus goes on to say,
Watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him, Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times returns to say, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”…
People will fail us, but we must forgive them. God will make sure the unrepentant and flagrant sinner will pay, but He will also bring to account those who do not forgive as they have been forgiven.
In his final words, Dax challenges God and says
“who made religion, I know it wasn’t you”
Also correct. God did not make religion. Religion, as in a system of how we get to God, based on works rather than faith, is not God’s way. Relationship on the other hand, is God’s way. That is why God sent his only son, Jesus, to build a relationship with us. Jesus did not come with a book or a list, he came with love and sacrifice. He gave us strong standards to live by but also gave us Himself through the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to live it out.
In the end, Dax wants God to bring back Dr. King and Malcolm X. I don’t know Dax’s religion or politics, but I hear where he is coming from. There are many good men, who made this world a better place who I’d like to come back such as Billy Graham, D.L.Moody, Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, EV Hill, my mom and dad, but they served their time, they made their mark, and now it’s our turn.
Dax ends the song with
“I just hope you know I’m still a believer so I’ll end this song with an amen.”
This is Dax’s prayer. A prayer many of you have prayed. A prayer I have prayed many times with questions, doubt, anger, fear, swear words and all, but God has not budged. He is still with me. He never leaves. He loves me and and he loves you, no matter where you are on the spectrum of faith.
God loves you so much, he sent His son Jesus to live, suffer and die. Trust him today with your life. Trust his word to guide you. Trust his Spirit to lead you. Whatever you do, don’t give up because God has not and will not give up on you.
Dax is all of us somewhere in our journey. If you think he’s just another rapper blaspheming God, you haven’t read Psalms or Lamentation. Pay attention, this is the prayer of a generation we, the church, have failed.
Wake up and get busy living your faith and loving others.