Mom, is Chance the Rapper a Christian?

It’s not something anyone expected to see at the Grammys—a rapper leading worship.

As millions of Americans gathered around their flatscreens this week for one of the most anticipated award shows of the year, they had no idea what was about to take place. One moment Gaga was singing with Metallica. The next moment one of the countless young ladies with a distractingly plunging neckline introduced Chance the Rapper… and a hush fell over the crowd as an angelic voice began singing the words, “How Great is Our God.”

“Pinch me Mildred, but did someone just switch the channels?”

If you missed the moment, then you not only missed Chance the Rapper making history winning three Grammys for his ‘streaming-only’ album, but you also missed him praising God, joined by Kirk Franklin and a full Gospel choir. Unquestionably a bold move for a mainstream rapper.

Chance fans weren’t surprised at all. This is who Chance is. But Christians tasting Chance for the first time were confused. “Is this another legit Christian rapper like Lecrae? Or is this yet another rapper who is going to thank God when he wins an award for an album titled something like, Slap the Ho?”

The confusion is understandable. On one hand Chance has numerous songs with profoundly Christian lyrics, and he talks openly about his faith journey as a black rapper. Some even say he “represents Millennial Christianity.” But on the other hand, Chance doesn’t hesitate to drop F-bombs, or rap about drinking and smoking weed. He even collaborates with extremely profane rappers like Lil Wayne and 2Chainz.

Christians are perplexed how to respond, especially when their kids ask them, “Is Chance the Rapper really a Christian?”

How are parents supposed to answer a question like that?

The Question-Answer
Maybe we should remember how Jesus commonly answered questions like this—with another question.

Like when the Pharisees asked him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

Jesus responded. “What did Moses command you?” (Mark 10: 2-3)

Or when an expert in the law asked Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus answered, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10: 25-26)

If our kids ask us, “Is Chance a Christian?” you could just respond, “What is a Christian?” Or if you feel like meddling a little bit, maybe ask, “What should I tell Chance if he asks me if you are a Christian?” (Oh snap!)

The key would be to move from a position of judging someone else to examining our own faith. One thing we know for sure. Chance needs Jesus as much as we need Jesus.

But let’s not ignore the question behind the question…

The Question Behind the Question
When our kid asks us, “Is Chance a Christian?” they might just be asking, “Can Christians curse and smoke weed?” Or they might be honestly asking, “Do I have permission to listen to Chance’s music?”

How can we help our kids seek Biblical answers to these everyday questions?

Sometimes we cripple our kids from making these decisions on their own by making these decisions for them. We don’t teach them to look for the answers; we just provide the lists of “good” and “bad” influences. We almost create checkboxes.

Good movies… bad movies.

Good singers… bad singers.

Chris Tomlin is good. Selena Gomez is bad.

Then we see on the news that Selena led worship at a Hillsong concert.

Uh… is Selena still ‘bad’?

This kind of morality misguides our kids in two ways:

  1. They don’t think Biblically about entertainment media. They just refer to the checkboxes. “Mom, is Beyonce bad or good? Where’s the list?!!”
  2. What are they going to decide when they are on their own? Are they going to call you up and ask you permission to watch HBO’s Girls? (Probably not.)

What if we taught our kids to think Biblically about their entertainment media choices? How can we lead our kids toward discovering these answers on their own?

Here are some questions that might help you on this journey:

Questions helping our kids think Biblically about Chance’s music:

What are some positive elements you see in Chance’s music?
Chance definitely seems to want to praise God in his music. We saw this clearly in his song he performed at the Grammys, How Great.

He does the same in his song Blessings, a song he performed on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, where Chance repeats over and over, “I’m gon’ praise Him, praise Him ’til I’m gone.”

Chance has countless examples of not only giving God praise in his music, but referring to God’s redemptive work in his imperfect life.

These elements are definitely worth complimenting.

What are some questionable elements you see in Chance’s music?
Sometime Chance seems to send mixed messages.

Take his song Angels for example (another song from his album Coloring Book, a song he premiered on the late show with Stephen Colbert). Here’s a glimpse of the lyrics:

Who is you? And who the f**k is you? And who is him?
All of a sudden woo wap da bam you can’t touch me
Na, na, na, na I got angels
I got angels

In true hip hop fashion Chance uses foul language, puts others on blast, and pumps himself up. But then he habitually gives that credit to God. “I got angels.” In other words, God is looking out for me.

Some would argue this crass or abrasive talk is just typical hip-hop culture. And is it wrong to brag about your own accomplishments, if you keep them in the perspective of being from God?

As you wrestle with that, let’s look at his song Smoke Break. He starts off the song saying:

We just been smoking a bowl
We just been smoking

Then he talks a bit about life’s struggles and suggests:

We deserve, we deserve
We deserve, a smoke break

Are we to believe that this is just hip hop culture as well? (Or is this maybe becoming American culture?) I guess the better question to ask is if smoking a bowl is right?

Before we get into that argument, let’s look at a parallel message from his song, All night. Here’s a glimpse at the lyrics:

All night, I been drinking all night
I been drinking all night, I been drinking, ay ay

Chance would probably be the first to admit that this song is about drinking to get drunk (unless we’re talking about Captain America here). Yes, we should sympathize with someone who is drinking or smoking weed to escape his pain. But then we should maybe ask the famous Dr. Phil question: “How’s that working for ya?”

Here’s where scripture has some amazing advice about living wisely, being careful how we live, not being foolish, not being drunk with wine, but being filled with His Spirit instead (Ephesians 5: 16-18).

Chance probably knows this. The question we all need to ask is, does listening to All Night make us reflect on the empty moments of our life, or does it make us want to do what so many songs instruct us to do, let go, lose control and drink it up?

The more you dive into Chance’s music, the more you’ll see he talks about real issues, but you won’t always agree with his word choice, and you won’t always agree with his conclusions.

Consider his song No Problem with rappers 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne:

(Chance)
B**ch I know you tried to cheat, you shoulda never took a nap, hey
F**k wrong with you? What you were thinkin’?
F**k you thought it was?
You talk that talk that make a lame ass n**ga fall in love
Not me, though, b**ch you can keep those…

(Lil Wayne)
Her p**sy too warm
All these b**ches come to do harm
Just bought a new charm
F**k the watch, I buy a new arm, you lukewarm

Should I listen to Chance the Rapper?
Most Christians will probably disagree with Chance’s word choice more than they disagree with his message. But even his message is confusing at times. (Am I supposed to smoke and drink? How am I supposed to treat others who mistreat me?) And even if these songs mirror an authentic representation of “hood life,” young people still might want to question, “Is this song a map of how to act, or a mirror of how not to?”

Bring your kids back to scripture for these answers. Open up Colossians, Chapter 3 and begin reading:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3: 1-3)

Ask your kids:

  • What are we to set our minds on? What does that look like today?
  • What are the earthly things he is referring to? (look up verse 5)
  • Why does he tell us to think about things above, not earthly things?

I honestly don’t think there’s one right answer to, “Should I listen to Chance the Rapper?” Maybe someone who grew up in hardship might be encouraged by Chance’s words and his frequent turning-to-God for answers. Maybe Chance’s music is a huge step in the right direction compared to what they used to listen to. It might actually help them “set their minds on things above.”

At the same time, many 12-year-olds who aren’t facing these struggles probably will be more distracted by these lyrics than encouraged, thinking about some of the “earthly things” mentioned in these songs.

When our kids are young, we’ll help them make these decisions. As they get older, they need practice making these decisions more and more on their own. I wish I would have done this more with my own kids.

Thinking Like Jesus
As we help our kids through this process, keep your focus on Jesus. Jesus is a walking anomaly. He is pure, blameless and Holy… but also perfectly loving… which made him compassionate, forgiving and accepting. He is the cleanest guy you know, who doesn’t hesitate to mingle with the dirtiest people you hope to avoid.

Keep that in mind when you look at Chance the Rapper.

How would Jesus respond to Chance the Rapper?

Or more relevantly… how would Jesus respond to you?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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11 Responses to Mom, is Chance the Rapper a Christian?

  1. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for this article. My son (16 years old) likes rap but wants to expand from Lecrae, NF and Andy Mineo. He recently asked me to take his restrictions off of Apple Music so he could expand his playlist with more rap. He says that the lyrics “don’t affect him” and he just likes the style of music and the beat. I am really struggling with this. Thanks for the suggestions of questions to ask him so he can come to his own conclusion rather than me just saying “no”.

    • Jonathan McKee says:

      Thanks Amy. I appreciate you sharing. At 16 he’s getting close to the age where he can move out and make these decisions on his own. So these kinds of conversations can be really beneficial to teach him– conversations where you ask a lot of questions, leading him to the answers, not answering for him. As for the “lyrics don’t affect me.” Common response. Take a peek at this post- under point No. 1. where I share a study tackling that very subject: http://www.jonathanmckeewrites.com/archive/2017/02/07/heres-my-sex-talk.aspx …but you’ll have to think of a creative way to get him to read the study and then ask him, “What do you think?” 🙂

    • Jeremy says:

      Unfortunately Amy, your 16 year old son I already listening to other rappers other than the ones you mentioned. He’s 16! He’s basically just asking your approval so he doesn’t have to hide it anymore.
      I listened to all that garbage when I was 16 too. I love hip hop still today but I don’t listen to all the junk I used to. But, when he tells you the lyrics don’t affect him that’s a lie. Lyrics are always powerful. Arrogant lyrics will make you think arrogantly. When the f word is said multiple times it seeps in until you don’t notice it much anymore. So if he isn’t affected, then there’s probably already a problem.
      But, this article is great. Not all secular artists or songs are “bad”. But we still gotta monitor what goes into our hearts and minds. What we put in we are sure to get out. And just because there are edited versions or no curse words doesn’t mean it isn’t bad either. There are no edited versions for world views.
      It’s much deeper than profanity. And if you didn’t realize it, you are already approving of one of the most arrogant rappers out there in NF. I don’t condemn his music because I like it… but to allow NF and not be open to other rappers might be a display of how much you have actually listened to the artists you allow.
      Just giving you a perspective of someone who loves hip hop and listens very often, especially Christian hip hop like lecrae, mineo, trip lee, kb…and even NF.

      • Amy says:

        Oh…I know it is true that what we listen to affects us (and him whether he thinks so or not). And I know he listens to stuff I don’t like or approve of. Look at a lot country music talking about drinking and getting drunk. Sadly these kids don’t have to listen to rap to consistently be exposed to horrible language. It is on the bus, movies and even TV has more profanity than it used to. It is widely accepted. You are right I don’t listen to it because, honestly, I cannot stand rap music. I can’t even understand half of what they are saying. Thanks for your input.

        • Jeremy says:

          I definitely don’t have the answers. It’s a struggle. I think all we can do as parents and ministers is to keep conversation open and continue to point them to Christ. Much of the hip hop today is obviously anti christ. But this is something they have to discover on their own. We hold to our faith and point them to Jesus and then allow the Holy Spitit to work.
          One resource I would point you to is a book called “the good life” by trip lee. He’s a Christian rap artist and a great author. He has a very biblical view on this topic.

  2. Amanda says:

    Thank you for this! I appreciate your posts, but this was a question my 16 yr old daughter and I were having during the Grammys. We were not familiar, but wanted to support this new artist to us–just couldn’t decide what to purchase. Your post provided our answer as well as great talking points for the Hamilton CD her younger sisters love that we have put specific track boundaries on for a while.

  3. Eleanor says:

    Truly enjoyed your post today. Lots of thought provoking comments and things to consider.

  4. Angela Murray says:

    Thanks Jonathan! I was thinking of writing a similar piece for the families in our youth group but once again…you did the work for us!

    I’m a mom of 3 boys, ages 13-19, and a youth pastor in a culturally diverse setting. My husband and I came of age during the late 80’s and early 90’s, the golden years of hip, so hip-hop/rap is one of the genre’s our sons listen to. Our 19 year old introduced us to Chance almost a year ago and as a mom and youth pastor I am taking a keen interest in his music and his development as a millennial artist who is a Christian but not a “Christian rapper”. I am finding that Christian millennials, and probably future generations, are less likely to create work that is distinctly Christian, yet still believe there faith should and does influence their art.

    I think this is something us Gen X’er and older folk will need to get accustomed to. It doesn’t allow for the easy “yes” or “no” answers to the question – “is this appropriate for my teenager. Especially as these artists themselves are still developing and growing as artists and as Christians.

    I’ve watched with interest the comments and questions on Facebook and wondered how to guide parents. Your article gives a great guide a place to start. Thanks for always providing timely and relevant insight for us parents and pastors!

    Angela

  5. Julie Smith says:

    This was very good. Thanks for sharing. Very enlightening!j

  6. Conley says:

    Excellent article. Thank you for taking the time to give us viewpoints from so many different angles. I especially love the “Would Chance say you are a Christian?” and the “What the youth are really asking is…” sections.

    I see you replying to some of these comments, so I wonder if you might be able to speak to some of my observations/questions…

    1.The two examples you give of Jesus answering a question with a question are both instances of Jesus asking, “What does the Old Testament say about that?”
    2. Is heavenly vs. earthly just another way of saying good vs. bad?
    3. Maybe Chance is the next in a long line of characters like the ones we read about in the Bible? Maybe he drinks like Noah, gets angry like Elijah, cusses like a soldier/fisherman, and leads worship like David?

    …I think those last two are the interesting conversations. How do we make sure we aren’t trading one dichotomy for another? And is there a way to teach our students about the darker sides of our biblical heroes without “giving them permission” to do likewise?

    Thanks again.