After a new study by Pew Research Center found that the number of Americans identifying as Christian suffered a decline from 78.4 percent in 2007 to 70.6 percent in 2014, conservative television host Bill O’Reilly decided to offer a rather peculiar insight about this trend to his audience last month. O’Reilly said the secular media in America and its pernicious entertainment have been marginalizing people of faith for so long that such a shift in religious identity is all but inevitable.
“The rap industry, for example, often glorifies depraved behavior, and that sinks into the minds of some young people -- the group that is most likely to reject religion,” he said. “Also, many movies and TV shows promote non-traditional values. If you are a person of faith, then the media generally thinks you are a loon.”
Reportedly, critics were troubled by the conservative television host’s views, which they labeled as flawed, for several reasons.
According to Reverend Tony Lee, who is a senior pastor at the Community of Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church, O’Reilly erred the moment he decided to target hip-hop and leave out all other genres of music including pop, rock and country.
“I think we need to be very careful about some of the coded language in that, because in many ways that is kind of using black culture as a scapegoat for the decline of Christianity,” Lee said. “People will blame hip-hop for everything.… There is a much larger context of scapegoating of hip-hop.”
From religious scholars to commercial rappers, most Americans are aware of the spiritual connotations contained within much of hip-hop music. Lecrae is one among many other hip-hop artists today who diligently weaves religious messages into his compositions.
“For me, my faith dictates everything I do, so no matter what I’m saying in my art, my faith is the driver for that,” the rapper said in a 2014 interview. “That’s what I’d encourage people to understand as they listen to my music. It’s distinct. My worldview bleeds through my music.”
Citing Lecrae’s example, Lee explained how the famed Christian hip-hop artist has succeeded in sharing the gospel with his listeners and fans across the world and way past the confines of the church. He also said that such measures are necessary if religious leaders really do want to reach out and cater to the younger generations.
Lee argued against O’Reilly’s stance, explaining how the conservative television host failed to take notice of the true implication of Pew’s latest finding and acknowledge the larger challenges faced by religious institutions today by focusing on the apparent depravity of hip-hop.
“Millennials are not finding their place within church because the boomer generation is continuing to express the gospel in a language that is theirs,” he said. “My prayer is we will be able to turn the corner and will be able to reach back out to their generation.”
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