Some thoughts on a new prayer book
God: Arthur! Arthur, King of the Britons! Oh, don't grovel! One thing I can't stand, it's people groveling.
GOD: And don't apologize. Every time I try to talk to someone it's 'sorry this' and 'forgive me that' and 'I'm not worthy.' What are you doing now?!
ARTHUR: I'm averting my eyes, O Lord.
GOD: Well, don't. It's like those miserable Psalms -- they're so depressing. Now, knock it off!
Perhaps God would like the Psalms better if they sounded something like this:
The Lord is all that, I need for nothing.
He allows me to chill.
He keeps me from being heated
and allows me to breathe easy.
He guides my life so that
I can represent and give
shouts out in his Name.
And even though I walk through
the Hood of death,
I don't back down
for you have my back.
The fact that you have me covered
allows me to chill.
He provides me with back-up
in front of my player-haters
and I know that I am a baller
and life will be phat.
I fall back in the Lord's crib
for the rest of my life.
This Psalm was adapted by Ryan Kearse for use in the impending
Hip Hop Prayer Book, edited by Timothy Holder, a priest of the Episcopal Church.
The publisher's description is as follows:
A powerful evangelism tool, developed at Trinity Church of Morrisania in the birthplace of Hip Hop, the South Bronx, The Hip Hop Prayer Book offers a means to worship that will draw in the young and speak to those not generally spoken to by the Church. Containing daily prayers, psalms, a variety of services (including a Eucharist), and a selection of bible stories all designed with the enlivening power of Hip Hop in mind, and prefaces by two bishops of the Episcopal Church and a wealth of contextualizing materials, The Hip Hop Prayer Book is designed for personal worship by church leaders looking for ways in which to broaden the reach of their congregation.
Here is the quote which precedes the description, made by the Catherine Roskam, a female bishop in the ECUSA:
"If Jesus were alive today, he would have been a rapper."
Someone should perhaps remind Her Grace that Jesus IS alive today, and He is the Son of God, not some rapper.
Anyway, if I get some money, I might pick up a copy of this prayer book. I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, but I am skeptical that it will be an effective missionary tool. Being a hip (or Hip Hop) priest carries with it a certain worldly glamor. It attracts a lot of attention to the self. The priest should never be the center of attention. Neither should the style of worship or the latest fad get in the way of the worship of God. People who want to be Christian missionaries today should learn as much as they can from the examples of their predecessors who were selfless and humble, dedicated to spreading the Gospel in a way which would make it culturally understandable, but also keep it authentic.
I don't see the Hip Hop Prayer Book as being faithful to the Christian tradition. Hip Hop is not a language or even a real culture. Hip Hoppers belong to a subculture and exist in many cultures throughout the world. In regard to liturgical texts, I think conservatism is best because the spiritual life which those sacred texts form, is complex and delicate--it does not react well to experimentation.