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Reverend William E. Flippin, Jr. Headshot

Jesus and Hip Hop:Revelations 5:1-5

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I recently read Elaine Pagels rather recent book on Revelations and began to ponder on the relationship of Hip Hop in addressing the dominant themes of power so prevalent in this apocalyptic book.

Just as John, the revelator that had a vision on the Isle of Patmos, I believe that God is active in the genre of Hip Hop to those who are marginalized in a given context-homeless youth, the poor, the dope fiend, and the young woman dealing with the complications of HIV. Jesus would identify with Hip Hop because he believed that his ministry was incarnational and contextual and must be "real," in connecting to every generation within the African-American community. We see this type of connection throughout the ministry of Jesus even in his call as found in Luke 4:18 that declared him "in proclaiming the acceptable year of our Lord" and in that same Gospel particularly addressing parabolic language relevant for communal life.

Similar to the genre of Hip Hop that was birthed and cultivated in the authenticity of oppression, the hymns of Revelations speaks about the way to respond to these realities not through violent force but through patient endurance (1:9) "because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus".

In the spirit of truth stemming from John's testimony, Flavor Flav in a Hip Hop Song called Revelation 33 1/3 Revolutions with reference to the battle of Armageddon expresses:

Of prophets of rages, reincarnation as gauges set to show off in blazes.
Revolution, revelation, resurrection stages. Raw like wild dogs locked up in cages.
In nine hundred and ninety-eight we gonna take down the head of state and
Demonstrate non-stop resistance. It is time, time for a drastic change.

Flavor Flav calls for drastic change just as the angel poses the question, directed by God in verse 2 to the heavenly assembly: "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" Everything depends on finding someone worthy of this task in the midst of secular dominion has the world slipped away to despotism and vigilante justice as Flavor Flav is suggesting?

Then the solution is given in Revelations 5:5, one of the elders functions as an interpretative angel and discloses to him the secret. He mentions neither the name of Jesus nor a clear Christological royal title, but only two indirect descriptions of the messianic majesty of the one who is able to open the mysterious book and breaks its seals: he is the lion from the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:9) and he is the descendant of David, that is, the expected king of salvation, who according to an Old Testament promise, was supposed to come from the line of David. Would this be enough to propose that in the midst of oppression that Hip Hop has a voice and impetus for Revolution? David in a very sense was one that not only took down the state but develop a kingdom to be reckoned with.

The basis of Revelation chapter 5 and the hope of Hip Hop come from John's message that focuses of God and Lamb. The Lamb, standing and slaughtered relates to violence, suffering and my understanding of the Theologia cruces, police brutality and those who suffer from economic exploitation from predatory lenders. If we focus on the Lamb we can recognize that the slaughtered Christ is the original gangster and had the "Juice" in being worthy even in the midst of pain and oppression. As we declare in our liturgy of the Lord's Supper, with symbols of power and strength the visibility of Christ is found in humiliation and exaltation-in their intimate unity: Jesus is Lord over the world and history only on the basis of his self-sacrifice in death. This imagery serves as the point of mediation for nonviolent resistance even in the expression of Hip Hop to give place to both aspects-sacrifice and dominion-which are unified in Christ, the ultimate Lamb slaughtered and given as a ransom for our sins.