Your relationship with media will either help or hinder your decision to follow Jesus.
Muting R. Kelly:
The Christian's response to a culture-led movement
A wise person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. (Proverbs 27:12)
I will have the greatest impact as a cultural influencer when I am led by Jesus.
Most of the country has finally resolved to mute R.Kelly. After years of stepping in the name of love, and believing we could fly, it is now politically incorrect not to boo a DJ for even starting the remix to Ignition. The #MuteRKelly campaign put so much pressure on the industry that within weeks of being outed for his disgraceful deeds, he was dropped from both concert venues and his record label. It was a swift and powerful movement that forced fans to reckon with facts around R.Kelly’s child pornography and molestation charges—facts they had spent a lifetime blissfully ignoring.
The campaign should be commended for calling out society's dismissal of young Black girls and the failures of the justice system. But focus on societal defects may be distracting us from a valuable opportunity for self-examination. The lyrical content and video presentation of most of R. Kelly's music warranted the mute button long before his victims came forward and activists created a hashtag. Yet when it came to finally deleting R.Kelly from our Spotify playlists, Christians have been culture-led rather than Jesus-led.
When you might have expected believers to be most critical, it has actually been pop culture enthusiasts who have become righteously indignant about R. Kelly’s lyrics. Suddenly the most passive music listeners are applying wisdom and considering two foundational questions: 1) Who created this song? 2) What are the messages?
When fans started to process that a man such as this created songs with these kinds of messages, even they made a reluctant, but definite U-turn. They perceived that in supporting R.Kelly's music they were, to some degree, enabling his crimes, and co-signing on things that should have never been acceptable. At that, even the culture understood the need for some version of repentance.
Those of us who follow Jesus should have been the greatest influencers leading the charge against R. Kelly. Through his lewd music, R. Kelly gave the world insight into the very thoughts that foreshadowed his twisted behavior. As culture asked, how did we miss this?, disciples of Jesus might have heard Wisdom calling out in the streets. We have been charged with distinguishing good from evil, and we must begin to exercise this kind of discernment. Even if R. Kelly were never jailed for his perversion, we know that his music has always been perverse.
But when it came to finally deleting R.Kelly from our Spotify playlists, we have been culture-led rather than Jesus-led.
Unfortunately, though, we have allowed his music to become as meaningful to us as it is to those who do not follow Jesus. We know that light should have no relationship with darkness, but with every stream, album drop, and memory with his voice serenading in the background, Jesus followers have been in fellowship with R. Kelly. Put simply, we have had a lack of conviction when it comes to music.
It may be difficult to admit that perhaps we have enjoyed R. Kelly’s music because even the most explicit of his messages speak to us. Might this be because there are places in our lives that we keep separate from the influence of the Holy Spirit? If we have had “uncircumcised ears” or have been unwilling to hear from God in this area, it may be necessary for us, too, to repent.
You see, music has the power to prime the heart. It can prime us to feel at home in environments where we should feel uncomfortable, and it can prime us to be uncertain in areas where Scripture has provided clarity. If the church is going to shape culture for the better, we must prime our hearts to seek the Lord where media and music is concerned.
Scripture tells us that maintaining relationships with evil will eventually corrupt our character. As with relationships, the music that we spend considerable time with will shape our values, desires and ultimately our decisions. Thusly, the music that culture embraces will do the same for culture. We must not be deceived into thinking music doesn't matter.
Keep company with R. Kelly and there will be many things with which we don’t see nothing wrong. And it will be easy to justify such music’s place in our lives, despite the obvious conflict with essential Christian values. R. Kelly persuaded Aaliyah into thinking that age ain’t nothing but a number and the culture sang right along. What else has R. Kelly taught us? Who else do we need to mute?
What role has music played in your life? Which songs have been on the soundtrack of key moments in your life?
In general, do you think it is possible to separate an artist from his/her music? Does one reflect the other?
Reflect on the following statement: As with relationships, the music that we spend considerable time with will shape the way we see the world and influence our values, desires and decisions. How does the key verse apply?
Are you convinced that the messaging in the music you most frequently listen to has no bearing on your walk as a Jesus-follower? Is this true for others? Is it true for young people?
If you were called to mute another artist, which would be the most difficult to delete and why?
Music primes the heart. Review the current 5 chart-topping songs. How are these songs priming the heart of culture? How does your favorite music prime your heart?
How does wisdom offer freedom as it relates to enjoying secular music?
How can Jesus followers reclaim our place as the greatest cultural influencers?
1. Consider your decision to mute R. Kelly or not. What are your primary motivations?
2. Glance over your current playlist. Are all of the songs' messages God-honoring and in line with your values as a Jesus-follower? Have the settings where you have most enjoyed this music been God-honoring?
Thank you, Father, for the gift of music. We ask that you would give us discernment as we enjoy music and courage as we set out as culture creators. Direct our paths as we purchase, promote and entertain ourselves with music. We are willing to stand up first, to stand alone and to stand with you.
Hebrews 5:14 (NIV)
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
2 Corinthians 6:14 (NIV)
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV)
Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
2 Chronicles 12:14 (NKJV)
And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord.
Acts 7:51 (NKJV)
You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit.