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Wednesday, February 28, 2001

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Wishing Eminem Was Still Candy Coated
WARNING: This e-newsletter quotes explicit lyrics

by Jonathan McKee
February 28, 2001

Last Wednesday night America watched Eminem not only perform with Elton John in the final and most anticipated performance of the night, but also pick up three Grammys.

If you don't know who Eminem is (pronounced like the little candies that melt in your mouth, not in your hands), pay attention, because your entire youth group does. Eminem might sound like just another foul mouthed, explicit lyric rapper (which describes him pretty well) but his album was the second best seller of the year 2000, he's now a Grammy Award winner, and his popularity is growing by the minute.

So how are we supposed to react? Apparently the world thinks this is an opportunity for us to practice one of America's favorite words: tolerance.

Eminem, the "artist" who performs songs with explicit violence, rape, and describing murders in detail, was up for album of the year. Much of the world has reacted by contending:
    Eminem is an artist expressing himself. He doesn't stand for all the violence he sings about. He is just an observer of our society, painting a picture of what he sees. People should have the freedom to express themselves and communicate their observations-- they have a right to their opinion. Besides, Eminem has sold more albums than all of the other artist up for album of the year COMBINED! It would be parting from reality for the Grammy's to ignore the public's taste.
The Academy President who stood up to introduce Eminem and Elton John said that we need to "recognize music that is notable, noticeable, and worthy of recognition . . . we can't edit out the art that makes us uncomfortable- that's what our parents tried to do to Elvis, and the Stones . . ." He went on. "We need to accept the fact that musicians and movie stars aren't perfect . . . or necessarily role models . . . and sometimes it takes tolerance to teach tolerance."

If tolerance means allowing my kids to listen to a vile, vulgar, gay-bashing, women-degrading, violence-endorsing figure, then I guess I'm not tolerant. Emenim is not only being endorsed, but embraced by our society, a gesture that tells our youth that the way he acts, the way he talks, and even the actions he talks about are okay!

Many groups, including gay rights activists, women's rights spokespersons, were outraged and spoke out against the Grammys for even considering Eminem an artist. Elton John, a "champion of the gay community" was highly criticized for endorsing Eminem by agreeing to perform with him at the Grammys. These groups all cheered when Steely Dan's album "Two Against Nature" beat out Eminem's album "Mathers." (I don't think they knew that Steely Dan's album has songs presenting the first-person world view of a pedophile and a comic account of a man lusting after his teenage cousin.)

Jonathan's Word:
The word I want to bring up to these "artists" is simply "responsibility." For years artists have clung to freedom of speech like a toddler to his or her blankie! The concept that they never want to own is "responsibility."
    If a kid shoots himself after listening to my record "it's not my fault!"
    If someone shoots the president after watching DeNiro do an outstanding performance in my movie "it's not my fault!"
    "Am I responsible" for the fact that kids are putting on Raiders jackets, black bandana's, strapping 9 millimeters to their sides and marching down the street looking for some-one to mad-dog them!
The World's Question:
When Eminem performs a song that starts with the sound effects of him dragging a body to his trunk and then goes on to describe to his two year old why he killed his mommy and threw her in the trunk, and wants the toddler's help to tie a rope around her so she'll sink when he disposes of the body . . . is he just expressing a viewpoint of our society? When he partners with the Grammy's Producer of the Year, Dr. Dre, in his song "Forgot About Dre" and they each talk about themselves, Dre by name, using guns, strangling strangers who give them hard looks, threatening "bitches," evading the police, burning down houses . . . is he just expressing a feeling that he has. Is he "endorsing" it? He claims he's not. He doesn't want you to copy him, just listen to him . . . over and over and over.
The world is debating about these questions:
    1. Is Eminem's right to free speech having a negative effect on teens?
    2. If it does, should we give him an award and call him an artist in front of our children?
We have observed the world's answer to these questions . . . and we don't like the answers they have come up with.

Our Teen's Question:
The teens we work with are arguing that this music and these influences don't effect them.

Several years ago I was picking up a vanload of kids from a rough neighborhood to take them to a local youth group. A car drove by a house right next to us and fired two or three shots at the house. I turned around and 13 kids in my van had hit the floor while I still sat there wondering what had happened. I'll never forget what happened next. Most of them sat up and casually looked at each other saying, "another drive by."

These kids I worked with listened to music preaching violence and gang activity. They dressed like the "gangster rappers" and started talking the talk. They were so comfortable with the idea of "gang-banging," and "drive-bys," that when they witnessed the results of it, they were numb to its devastating affect.

A Personal Testimony:
In 1988, as I was heading off to college, I listened to rap. I knew all the groups and had a lot of the albums. My friend Dan brought me a copy of a new sample of an unknown group called NWA (another one of Dre's early works) This group, who called themselves "Niggers With Attitude" had the most vile songs I had ever heard . . . laid onto the COOLEST BEAT I HAD EVER HEARD. Dr. Dre. is very talented with laying down beats. Many rap artists who made it big have Dre to thank. After listening to this album that degraded women, glorified violence, and used the F word enough to make Joe Pesci cringe, I concluded that I shouldn't listen to it.

A little over a year later I'm in my college room looking over my collection of rap music, including that very album that had shocked me a year before. My room-mate and I had a dis-agreement and before I knew it I flew into the same mode I had grown accustomed to in the last year - yelling obscenities and vile, degrading comments. I'll never forget when my room-mate and I met the girls that lived in the room above us.
    "You're Jonathan and Brian?" They looked at each other with big eyes.
    "What?" I pried.
    They looked at each other and started laughing. Finally one of them (a drama student) said, "Allow us to do our Jonathan and Brian impression." She got into character and began her impersonation:
    "Hey Brian, get off the phone, I need to use it."
    The other girl played Brian's part. "No, I'm using it!"
    The young actress playing my part didn't miss a beat. "Well fu - - you!" Not editing a word.
    "Chill out!"
    "FU - - You!"
    "Jonathan, why don't you . . ."
    "FU- - You!"
It's a sad moment when it takes someone impersonating you for you to realize what you've become. I have no idea who that girl was, but she made an impact on my life. A year before I had been shocked by lyrics and avoided them. Somehow in a year's time I had been desensitized, and regardless of what you want to call it, I was a different person. The stuff that was going in my head was affecting what was going out- plain and simple. No, I didn't think Easy E. was a role model. No, I didn't want to go out and kill someone. But I was filled with hate - my tongue was a clear window to that.

I told myself that the sexual lyrics didn't effect me either. I convinced myself of that. But as many times as I told myself that I was just listening to the beat, after listening to it again and again I'd find myself singing right along. I didn't think singing about it would do anything. Eventually I found my self on the dance floor every Saturday night, looking for something - I didn't really know what - but I was looking. And guaranteed, between 1:00 and 2:00 AM, the DJ would play a Two Live Crew song, which for the sake of discretion, I won't even tell you the explicit title. The girls that were on the dance floor in short skirts dancing to that song sent out a message that we all read loud and clear. I made some of the biggest mistakes of my life that year. Things I wish I could take back - but I can't.

God's grace is huge- I thank him daily for his work in me over the years.

Jesus' Take On All This:
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus talked about many of the laws that people were carefully observing outwardly - but were violating in their hearts and minds.
    "You say don't murder . . . well I say don't even THINK about hating someone - or you might as well plunge the knife in for real!"
    "You say 'don't commit adultery' . . . well I say don't even look at a woman and think about it - or you might as well just be doing it!"
Who are we to think that we can listen to the crud coming out of most the Grammy award winners without it effecting us!

As we hear these viewpoints and consider an artist who is "just expressing an opinion or observation about our society" and we ask ourselves what is acceptable, and what we are to be "tolerant" of . . . . . . .
Col. 3:2_17
Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. [3] For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
[5] So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don't be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry. [6] God's terrible anger will come upon those who do such things. [7] You used to do them when your life was still part of this world. [8] But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. [9] Don't lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds. [10] In its place you have clothed yourselves with a brand_new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you. [11] In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
[12] Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. [13] You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. [14] And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. [15] And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful. [16] Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. [17] And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Quite a different picture painted by our Lord and Savior, contrasted with a young, lost boy who flipped off the audience off camera as he received his 3rd Grammy of the evening.

Need to be educated about the music that teens are listening to? Check out this web site for lyric samples and reviews by a cool guy that you might have seen at the Youth Specialties Seminars, Phil Chalmers!


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