Jay-Z and Kanye West have caused “outrage” with their song and video, No Church In The Wild.
The US platinum disc rappers explosive new video contains unexpectedly strong language and not inconsiderable levels of violence but, believe me, it’s well worth staying with the message behind the music.
In my opinion, it’s a great song. There’s a great blazing guitar riff, striking chorus and plenty of high impact lyrics.
Accusations levelled at the video are mainly that it: 1) encourages anarchy, 2) encourages attacking police and 3) 'disses' God.
There’s no doubt that the rappers are portrayed as anarchists, or at least revolutionaries (to use the kinder term).
The question of revolution is interesting. The video is surely inspired by last year’s uprisings in the Middle East, and perhaps even the London riots. The important question is: is the uprising the rappers portray partly justifiable - like those in Egypt, or totally without vision - like the London riots?
Turning to the topic of religion, Church and God, I think Jay-Z is both spot on and wrong when he raps, “No church in the wild”. He’s saying that in his culture, in his world, there is no Church, and no God. The video contrasts two opposites: gang culture and religious culture.
Of course, the rappers are right! The Church has been terrible at relating to gang culture, youth culture and those on the margins and fringes of society.
“What’s a god to a non-believer?” he questions. For the rappers, the answer is “nothing”. Non-believers don’t care about God. Religion means nothing, it has no relevance. That’s the claim.
But where Jay-Z makes the mistake is he implies that because there’s no Church represented “in the wild”; the Church doesn’t have a message for those people.
“I’m wonderin’ if a thug’s prayers reach,” he says, questioning if God even cares about the struggle of the young people against the enemy in the video.
“We formed a new religion”. This “new religion” exists because the old one (Christianity) is redundant in today’s society.
Human being to the mob / What’s a mob to a king? / What’s a king to a god? / What’s a god to a non-believer? / Who don’t believe in anything?
The lyrical progression is telling. A gang or mob has no time for the individual, because the mob is greater than the individual. A god has no time for kings, for he is greater than any king. But what is God to a non-believer? The non-believer in this case has no respect for God, because for him, God does not exist. He has killed God.
When we kill God (as Western society is slowly doing) anarchy descends, as it does in this video. Without God, what do these people have to live for? Life is meaningless and pointless. Without God, there is no purpose.
Even more worryingly, what happens when we kill God is that we kill morality. I’ve yet to hear an atheist convincingly argue that morality has evolved. When we kill God, who is there to judge, give us a conscience and give us guidelines for the good of society? No one.
This is backed up in the song. In this “new religion” there are “no sins as long as there’s permission" and "deception is the only felony”. Morality disappears.
When we kill God and anarchy descends, as it did in London, the Church may be tempted to go into hiding. There’s no Church in the wild. But when people have given up on God and, therefore, given up on there being hope in the world and there being right or wrong, that is where the Church must step up. If it doesn’t, we are in danger of losing a generation.
The young people that will watch the video, and want to join Kanye and Jay-Z in throwing molotov cocktails, are the very people the Church cannot afford to ignore. There’s nothing wrong with the Church's message. We just haven’t bothered to communicate it, or when we have communicated, we’ve done it badly. The Church has always belonged in the wild. It’s time to get back there.
July 25th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes