Lecrae: One reason is the personal restoration journey that I’ve been on: going through a crisis of faith, going through a mental, emotional, and spiritual breakdown. And then, having to journey back toward solid ground, while recognizing that it really wasn’t my devotion to God that got me where I am, but his devotion to me. This restorative work has been resonating with me as of late.
Ed: Let’s talk a little bit about your own daily life. What are some of those things that have really been transformational both mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
Lecrae: What is key for people to understand–and what I had to understand about myself–is that, coming from kind of the troubled and traumatized background I came from, because of neglect and abuse, I thought performing was how I could gain acceptance and love.
Unbeknownst to me, I carried that into my Christian journey. I would say my identity was in Christ, but I still had an element of performance to help me find value. The more I was heralded in Christian spaces, the more I felt valuable. When I came to a place where I felt like people didn’t value me, I had a breakdown. The journey has been a process of understanding where my value ultimately comes from.
It’s not in my self-righteous acts.
It’s not in how wonderful people think I am or how articulate or incredible I am, but it’s really been in the Lord. I’ve learned a lot of meditative practices. I know some people are wary of that, but the monks meditated. Spending some time in prayer and meditation, along with exercise, integrating them all. I’m memorizing promises of the Lord in scripture and I’m seeking the full integration of mind, body and soul.
Ed: Something we didn’t see coming was how you, as a hip-hop artist, would be widely embraced in the Reformed community. But some of the very people who embraced “Lecrae” as a musical artist would later, as you embraced the social causes of the day, move away. Walk us through the journey of how you were emotionally and spiritually responding when many people changed in their response to you.
Lecrae: It was pretty devastating for me, because I didn’t have any other categories for biblical truth. I didn’t have any categories for understanding the Scriptures and interpreting them outside of the Reformed evangelical community. So, for that community specifically to move away from me, it felt as if my family had abandoned me in a lot of ways, because of some of the things that they disagreed with.
I remember initially raising questions about Trayvon Martin asking, “Hey, well, what’s going on here? Why is this happening?” That was the first time I was aware that there were differences in perspectives culturally with the theological camp that I was a part of and my cultural understanding of life. That was the first awakening that I had. I initially thought I must have said it wrong. So, I said it a different way. It still met with a backlash. I went to Ferguson and just posted a picture of me in Ferguson saying how I was praying for the circumstances going on here. That post met with so much vitriol. People were saying, “I’m not listening to your music anymore.” And I was like, “Whoa, I am so confused.”
Over time I realized we weren’t seeing the same things here. But since I didn’t have any other categories I began to wonder, “If they are wrong about this, maybe they’re wrong about everything.” Maybe there’s no God, because the only way I believe there was God was through this theological context.
It took me for a ride, and it created a crisis of faith.
Ed: You were quoted in the New York Times article “A Quiet Exodus” about African Americans leaving evangelical churches. We’re seeing some of this statistically in our research as well. How would you describe yourself and describe your relationship with evangelicalism?
Lecrae: I think it was healthy for a season not to be involved in spaces that were dominated by white evangelical thinkers, pastors, and thought leaders. I was struggling with throwing the baby out with the bath water, so for me it was a healthy time period where I began to realize that there are so many other voices and so many other perspectives that are God honoring. There are people who love the Lord who don’t exist in those spaces. That was helpful. It ultimately led me to recognize how Christianity is a global faith and it’s not relegated to evangelical spaces. It is global and we’re all one body.
All of us have something to contribute: the Korean church, the Filipino church, churches across the country and across the world. White evangelicals are there, everyone who’s a follower of Christ is a part of the body and has something to contribute. There are going to be things that we will not agree on and areas where we see dimly. I think it’s our job to help each other to see clearly, but only if we’re communicating with one another.