Implicit Religion, Vol 17, No 1 (2014)

Bigger Than Religion: Hip Hop’s Post-Modern Prophetic Challenge

Mark Deyoung
Issued Date: 22 Jul 2014


Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann describes prophetic religion as the poetic, counter-imperial acts of an alternative consciousness that empowers marginalized sub-communities standing in tension with the dominant culture. Hip hop culture is argued to constitute an implicit contemporary example of such a subcommunity, both in its origin in African-American culture and in its connection to other marginalized groups throughout the world who have appropriated hip hop culture. After developing hip hop as an implicit paradigm for prophetic religion and distinguishing between prophetic and non-prophetic forms of hip hop, specific examples are given from hip hop lyrics which illustrate prophetic criticisms of dominant religious consciousness while energizing the people in their community to move in an alternative direction. First is the critique of religion as pacification to justify and maintain an oppressive status quo. Second will be the critique of religious exclusivism and the otherworldly concept of heaven and hell, and finally, the critique of religion as institutional and authoritarian. Each of these is complemented by models of empowerment for the disenfranchised, an emphasis on inclusivity which embraces the concrete struggles of real people in the present, and the mobilization of democratic grassroots movements as a source of power and authority.

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DOI: 10.1558/imre.v17i1.63


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