D.A. Horton serves as assistant professor and program director of the Intercultural Studies program at California Baptist University. He also serves as associate teaching pastor at Grove Community Church in Riverside, California. With a passion for urban and global ministry, Horton uses his writing and speaking skills to discuss insights on topics such as ethnic conciliation, collective perspective and hip hop. He has authored nine books, including “Are You Good with God?” and “Intensional: Kingdom Ethnicity in a Divided World.” Horton graduated from Calvary Theological Seminary with a master’s degree in Christian studies and is currently working on his doctorate in applied theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
How can evangelicals shape culture in a way that showcases God’s multicultural vision? And, what can hip hop teach us about simultaneously acknowledging truth and identifying misdirection in culture?
In this episode of Today’s Conversation, D.A. Horton, theologian, professor, pastor, author and hip hop artist, discusses the topics of culture making and ethnic conciliation — the idea that Jesus’ finished work has not only reconciled us to God but also from all ethnicities into one family.
Host Walter Kim, NAE President, and Damon also discuss:
- Balancing individual rights and a collectivist perspective as the Church;
- Embodying ethnic conciliation through rhythms of evangelism and discipleship;
- How to affirm truths found in culture without compromising the message of Christ; and
- How local churches can reflect and examine their own culture.
Read a Portion of the Transcript
Walter: When I think about our culture now and culture making, hip hop has really come to the fore as a powerful movement of protest, articulation, identity, cultural assessment and in making culture. So, what’s going on in hop hop culture that is so compelling at this moment, and what do we as the people of God need to be paying attention to?
Damon: What’s going on in hip hop is what’s been going on since its very inception 50 years ago. It was created out of the imagination of people — predominantly Black and Brown in the south Bronx — that were looking to communicate frustration in their sociological analysis. When you listen to the lyrics, you will listen to ethnography, sociological analysis and storytelling. You’re listening to the imagination of people that have life experiences that they are seeking to communicate to make other people aware of what life looks like and the environment they’re from. It’s composite storytelling, and so when you look at it from that vantage point, it’s not championing all the things that contradict the Word of God.
I can look at all cultural artifacts created by the imagination of any human from any place and time, but as I look at it I can identify first what is true. What are the truth claims that actually are true in the content of this cultural artifact? Just because I affirm that there’s truth doesn’t mean that I accept the entirety of the message; I must also identify where is the misdirection that is grounded in sin … because there will come a point when they will lead their audience to the direction of their idol rather than to Christ. But now that I’ve identified where their message is misdirected by sin, I can work to redirect it toward Christ.
It’s this approach of wanting to start every gospel conversation I have with Genesis 1, not Genesis 3. If I start with the Fall of humanity, I’m missing the imago dei completely. So when I begin with the imago dei, I am saying that every human has the potential to communicate truth and not everything that we do is bad. We all have been marked because of our universal fall into sin and this means that not everything we say is truthful and right. So that’s where I approach hip hop like I do academics: It’s a conversation. I’m intaking the data and perspective of another, aligning it and categorizing with substance and then evaluating it and responding.
That was the whole reason I began following the lead of the Lord to inject my testimony and theology into the lyrics but still have cultural idiom and witty punchlines and to see it as a craft of expression that can be leveraged for evangelism and discipleship and at the same time, not take away the ethnography or the sociological analysis. I live in the same fallen world as those that have been impacted by hip hop culture, and what I want to do is tell a different story: a story of redemption that has to include the Fall but also has to include the work of Christ.
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- Read Damon’s book, “Intensional: Kingdom Ethnicity in a Divided World.”
- Read “Ethnic Concilation Is the Church’s Best Move,” an article by Damon.
- Check out Azriel (D.A. Horton) on Spotify.
- Listen to a conversation between Leith Anderson and Walter Kim on Theology of Race.
Today’s Conversation is brought to you by Bless Your Pastor.