The Cross (Week 5 #ReclaimHolyWeek #BlackLivesMatter)

Kendrick as Black Jesus

DISCLAIMER: Explicit Content

I (Josiah) first came across this picture (Kendrick dressed up as Jesus) a few months ago in a piece about The Radical Christianity of Kendrick Lamar. I recommend the post to anyone interested in the intersection between hip-hop and Christianity.1

Recently, Kendrick has come out with a new album that features some of his best work yet. As we enter the fifth week of Lent, I want to interact with one of his newest cuts because I believe it asks a question that each Christian should be pondering as we approach Easter.

When Shit Hits the Fan, Is You Still My Disciple

In his song Mortal Man, Kendrick gives the listener interpersonal insight into his life as he expresses apprehensions about people following him. He does this by highlighting various leaders such as Moses (Tubman/Garvey?), Martin, Mandela and then, upon the outro, he “interviews” ‘Pac. The entire album is a production masterpiece but this last track in particular is genius. Part of the reason it is so ingenious is because of the refrain, “When shit hits the fan, is you still a fan?” Or said differently, “When things get tough, are you gonna stick this out with me?” The “real niggaz” buckle down and stick it out even in situations where their leader loses fame, experiences unjust accusations against their name, serves 25 for a crime they didn’t commit or is marked for death by the government.2 Without trying too hard, a parallel can be drawn between Kendrick’s narrative and the question that Jesus Christ put to his own followers recorded in the Gospel of Luke, “Have you estimated the cost of discipleship?”

See for the disciples, “shit hitting the fan” amounted to Jesus being tried, tortured and executed at the behest of the political aristocracy (Jn 18:28-38, 19:12-16) and the religious elite (Jn 18:24; Mk 14:60-64). Jesus told his disciples this would happen, but they never really believed him (Mt 16:21-23). Or if They did believe him, they foolishly claimed that they were “real” enough to stick around when shit hit the fan (Mk 14:50-52). If a follower of Jesus is not willing to take up the cross of discipleship, then they weren’t ever a “real nigga” in the first place.

The #ReclaimHolyWeek movement is desperately trying to be a movement of the cross. Despite what privileged people (of whom I count myself the most) like to think, bearing the cross has nothing to do with other people gaining rights you’ve had all along, it has nothing to do with “Darwinists” taking over the public school system, nor does it have anything to do with luxurious cruises wherein you talk about persecution while enjoying the beaches of the Caribbean. No, the cross is God’s sign to man that he takes the side of the oppressed and expects his followers to do the same. This is the expectation, but the question that the God-Man puts to us is, “Have you estimated the cost of discipleship?”

There are those that wish to qualify the linking of the cross to the wretched of the earth. “They have to call on his name,” or “They have to be part of his church,” some of the addendums go. Yet we can see in Exodus that even though the Hebrew slaves did not call on or even know God’s name (Ex. 2:23, 6:3), YHWH still heard, saw, and responded to plight of the people. Since the beginning then, the God of the Judeo-Christian faith has made his place among the despised.

As we reflect this week on the cross (and the police baton, and the prison industrial complex, and the choke hold), those of us who are Christians must ask ourselves a serious question,

When shit hits the fan, am I still gonna be Christ’s disciple?”

*Prayer for the Week*

Give me strength to bear what you send,
and do not let fear rule over me.3

*Passages for the Week*
Exodus 2:23
Luke 14:25-28
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Dedicated to Kendrick Lamar

Josiah R. Daniels

END NOTES:
[1] Michael Wiltshire and I have also taken a swing at combining hip-hop/Gansta rap and Christian theology. For more, see my Michael Brown, Tupac and God and then check out Michael’s The Theology of Kanye West: When “Yeezus” is Offensive.

[2]  Efrem Smith and Phil Jackson, The Soul of Hip Hop: Rims, Timbs and a Cultural Theology, 87-89.

[3] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is on the Cross, 55.

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