Extra Jesus (Exegesis)

(first posted on Think Theology)

Interpretations that Disconnect Community
Jon Acuff articulates beautifully in his piece, My new problem with rap music” a point that many believers must wrestle with on a consistent basis. He makes his best point as he concludes that he must ultimately “be honest with himself.” The thing that he is wrestling with are some of the lyrics to No Church in the Wild by Kanye West and Jay-Z. The lyrics read,

Coke on her black skin made a stripe like a zebra
I call that jungle fever
You will not control the threesome
Just roll the weed up until I get me some
We formed a new religion
No sins as long as there’s permission’

Now, admittedly, I will agree that the words are a bit on the harsh side if not contextualized by the whole. The concept of the song was housed in the mentality that one that has no access to church or theology will ultimately develop their own-in order to cope with the stressors of their context. Much the same as Acuff does with his interpretation of the lyrics. Without proper exegesis he takes the words at face value missing the genius behind the wordplay.

Coke on her black skin made a stripe like a zebra
I call that jungle fever

Acuff assumes that this is actually a drug induced stupor about to happen when in actuality it is Kanye’s way of describing interracial relationship. You have a black girl with a white guy-this is called jungle fever on the block.

Now can you interpret this in another context…most definitely? You can make it out to be some drug induced stupor that Kanye is trying to get entangled within. I submit that culture, perspective and interdisciplinary connections will spark new interpretations every time for lyrics and the scriptures.

Performing a hermeneutical analyzes of the culture highlights the intrinsic nuisance of a text. Culture allows for proper context, which brings a realism that can enhance the interpretation of a text. Words spoken in certain cultural containers may convey a different thought or idea in another. So understanding the culture proves vital when doing a correct exegesis. Upon dealing with the ownership of slavery, Jonathan Edwards is brought to task by many. Did he completely blow it on his hermeneutic or was he a man so entrenched in cultural norms that he overlooked the entire premise of slavery? Thabiti Anyabwile appears to declare that this was a cultural decision rather than one of a misinformed hermeneutic;

“…our broad topic might be put in terms of biblical and cultural hermeneutics. Is it possible to hold Edwards’ theology and ask questions pertinent to the African American and their experience? Or, does holding to Reformed theology—often thought to be a “white” theology—necessarily prevent one from raising “Black” questions? Can a person be “Reformed” and simultaneously interested in cares and concerns particular to ethnic peoples?”

More can be said about this but the point is that more time than not, culture drives our interpretation.

Perspective is another tool that will undoubtedly bring one to the brink of a solid interpretation. Whoopi Goldberg states her view on perspective, “Art and life are subjective. Not everybody’s gonna dig what I dig, but I reserve the right to dig it.” C.S. Lewis says, “For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.” One’s perspective has the opportunity to really cause some serious implications if not checked by context and humility. If one’s perspective is built upon negative experience then inevitably their response will resemble that perspective. The issue stems from pride and hurt feelings being the soul force behind communicating what you believe. Disconnected perspectives will always be driven by a selfish motive and this is the same rather you are interpreting art or scriptures.

Proper perspectives will allow one to make thing contextual to their community. Denominational doctrines may be interpreted differently based upon perspectives of leadership. You may have egalitarian pastor who is a strict egalitarian because the gospel was shared with him by female. So his perspective my solely be based on that episode which will govern his action when it comes to this issue.

Interdisciplinary Connections-Reading
I will defer to Bryan Crawford Loritts piece, 2010 Top Ten for a dynamic presentation of what I am speaking:

“Not only does reading help me in my quest for illustrations, but the right kind of reading stretches my mind and thinking, making me a better intellectual steward and student of God’s Word. Preaching is leading. When I preach the Word of God I am leading a people in a certain direction. Leadership necessitates being ahead of the people, and reading helps me with this. One of the most tragic things is to see a preacher/leader whose congregation has outgrown him intellectually (among other areas). This always happens because the preacher has stopped learning and growing and reading. You can always spot a preacher who is not a good steward of his mind. Reading helps me to steward the mind that God has entrusted to me well, that’s why I read. If you have any aspirations of preaching the Word of God, you must, by way of survival, become a slave to books. Spurgeon read six books a week. Wesley was an avid reader who chastised young preachers for not reading. Scholar and preacher, Al Mohler, boasts a personal library of over 40,000 books in which he claims to have read them all. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones could be found high up on the ladder in some secluded England bookstore adding to his collection of books. I’ve never read of a preacher whom God used mightily who was not a reader.”

How someone interprets a thing will ultimately affect how they engage, treat and react to that very thing. A bad hermeneutic will lead to a bad ethical view or behavior, if not checked thoroughly. At the end of the day, we all will have different interpretations of things that will change how we view things at-large. The scriptures are no different and that has been a mainstay since they have been on the scene.

As Jon Acuff has misrepresented the lyrics of Kanye (in my estimation), so have many misrepresented the word of God. For what every reason some have missed the boat is unbeknownst to me but it is the beautiful part of the Gospel. Though we may not agree we can still engage in the fellowship of love. There is no Jesus for the black and an extra Jesus for the white; we are all players on the same team.

What avails itself is an opportunity for dialog once we get past the differences. It gives a convening space for an irenic conversation that allows everyone the chance to share their understanding of truth with each other. The Africans refer to it as an Mbogni, a place where learning can take place to enhance the value of the community.

A correct exegesis will always build community…

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