Yep, you read that right. And before you get all defensive about the whole “keeping the Sabbath Day holy” thing, hear me out.
My whole life, music has been my escape; my medicine, if you will. I’ve never been one to express all my feelings and thoughts to someone, which typically leads to a lot of built-up emotions and feeling like no one understands me.
Although I thoroughly enjoy the written word, I must admit I fumble greatly when it comes to the spoken word. So, when someone can say it better than I can through song and make me feel understood and my feelings validated, well, that’s what saves me in the end.
Unfortunately, most Latter-day Saint music doesn’t do that for me. I sometimes feel the lyrics are too “fluffy” and not “real” enough. Occasionally, I will hear a song in Sacrament meeting or on Music and the Spoken Word that stirs something in my heart, but for the most part, I need something different to connect with.
For example: in church, we sing countless songs about faith. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, until you’ve been brought to the point where you feel like you’ve run out of it. Certain times have and will occur when I just can’t sing about faith anymore.
What about doubt? Confusion? Faithlessness? It’s okay to acknowledge those feelings and sing about them, too. Am I suggesting we do this in church? Definitely not. But it helps me feel understood—hopeful, even—when I listen to songs such as “Oh Lord” by NF or “Doubt” by Twenty-One Pilots that speak of making mistakes and wanting to become a better believer.
While listening to songs such as these, I have had many experiences in which I don’t feel so lost or alone in my spiritual valley, after all. Because while these artists sing of their trials of faith, they also tell of forgiveness and repentance through lyrics that resemble heartfelt prayer. (See D&C 25:12.)
For example, take a look at these words written by Nate Feuerstein (NF) on doubting God:
It’s easy to blame God but harder to fix things
We look in the sky like, “why ain’t You listening?”
Watching the news in our living rooms on the big screens
And talking ’bout “if God’s really real, then where is He?”
I look around at this world we walk on
It’s a smack in the face, don’t ever tell me there’s no God
And if there isn’t then what are we here for?
And what are y’all doing down there? I don’t know Lord
I love that Nate speaks of human tendencies to question God, but that he also sees God in the creation of the world. He speaks of his doubt as well as his faith.
In the following lyrics, Tyler Joseph of Twenty-One Pilots speaks of repentance:
I bet you didn’t know something as absurd
There’s a word that is said more than any other word
It’s sorry, sorry
And I pray that the word was heard
Sing a song but don’t believe
Blasphemy is just for me
Hypocrite, take your pick
Cause the poison’s on my lips
Let the water wash away
Everything that you’ve become
On your knees, today is gone
And tomorrow’s sure to come
Tomorrow’s sure to come
Here, Tyler is speaking of how he feels the need to repent for being “blasphemous.” Too often we act as “hypocrites,” preaching one thing and doing another. But there is hope at the end of his heartfelt cry when he mentions prayer (“on your knees”) and the promise of a new day.
Now that I’ve convinced you of the Christian nature that exists in the world of rap music, let me also address the type of beat these songs carry. Most Latter-day Saints would probably agree that despite the Christian lyrics, rap music is still too “irreverent” in tone and beat to listen to on the Sabbath. I would like to argue that we have the wrong idea of the word “reverent.”
It’s true that when your Sunday school teacher told you as a kid to fold your arms and be “reverent,” he/she meant for you to be quiet. But “quiet” is not the definition of “reverent.” Webster’s dictionary states that reverence is “honor or respect felt or shown.” We’re quiet in church because we respect God’s house and honor our church leaders/teachers, NOT because quiet, or soft, is the equivalent of reverent.
You may disagree with me, but I believe that rap music, if portraying a spiritual message about God/Jesus Christ can be reverent, as well. In each song quoted above, it is evident that the artist respects, reveres, and honors God, as well as His commandments, despite their struggles with faith. That, to me, represents reverence.
Again, I’m not saying it’s Sacrament meeting-approved, but when I need a canyon drive and heartfelt lyrics on the Sabbath, I most definitely think rap music (okay, only CERTAIN rap music) is appropriate. We all feel the Spirit in various ways. If you’re one to feel it through the soft melodic tones of the Tabernacle Choir, more power to you! I, for one, feel it differently. And if you give rap music a try, you just might feel it, too.