The evolution of theology and restoration, an honest conversation with Emanuel
The evolution of theology
Pastor Phil has been in the CHH space for some 20-plus years and has had a front-row seat witnessing its rise from doctorate obscurity to revolutionary methodology impacting an entire generation. “There are real talk situations and social challenges that people face. And in the midst of that, there is a theology that resonates hope,” Phil says of Christian Hip Hop. Our goal, restoration and wholeness.
Despite its critics, Phil remains a big supporter of Christian Hip Hop. “There is a responsibility as a radio person, a pastor, and a leader in this neighborhood that I have to be as equitable theologically and as human in this thing called faith that I can be,” he asserts.
“If we can welcome the mystery of faith and the mystery of the Holy Spirit then we don’t have to have it so rigid. And I don’t have to say you’re wrong, I’m right.” Instead, the Chicago youth pastor wants to inspire people to work together through their differences in theology with grace and love, toward restoration.
During the 2022 Flavor Fest celebration and conference, Pastor Phil had a chance to talk to one of the legends of the genre Da Truth, who now goes by his given name Emanuel. His listeners know him as an artist, but Emanuel also has a ministry and he is sharing the lessons he’s learned on his journey and the evolution of his faith with us.
“In the western context, we are a very one or the other kind of culture. In sports Lebron or Jordan. You look at the back of US Weekly, who wore it best? We have a thing of putting not just people against one another, but we put everything against everything. In the eastern part of the world, it’s actually the polar opposite.” Emanuel tells Pastor Phil.
His journey into the ministry he says hasn’t been difficult. But now that people know he is a pastor, they think he stopped rapping. “No! I’m doing both!” Emanuel proclaims, laughing. “This is the way we process as a culture. It’s one thing or the other. I think people are now just beginning to embrace the whole of me.”
The Philadelphia rapper admits he always felt like a preacher. “Coming up under the influence of Cross Movement, a lot of it was about the intersection of theology and Hip Hop. We always felt like we were preaching. We always had an aim. We always had a goal. And so, a preacher and rapping weren’t mutually exclusive to me. They were both one and the same.”
When asked by Phil the motivation behind Emanuel’s transition into ministry, the veteran emcee shares a common struggle with us all. “People are constantly wrestling with choosing one thing or the other. People are choosing between being professors or being artists. It’s not even ministry vs ministry! Sometimes it’s my secular employment vs my ministry call. I think that what will help people, because it helped me; is that you can do it all! Embedded in the call is the grace to accomplish it. If it’s in you to do, then do it all.”
After facing a number of challenges, Emanuel, who is now in therapy is unashamed of making the decision to take care of his mental health. Even though he felt some trepidation before his first session, “Therapy in a clinically trained environment is not the same as biblical counseling. Even if you have a Christian therapist. It’s not the same as biblical counseling. Biblical counselors often times are there to provide you with a divine perspective. Your therapist is there to help identify you, locate you unearth the deeper things, and identify the things that are not said.”
In recent years we are seeing more and more Christians getting therapy. To the cynics, Emanuel says, “Just because it’s not biblical counseling does not mean it’s not from God.” Pastor Phil who has undergone counseling as well agrees, “We get our help from people. We get our hope from Christ! I want to be whole.”
Emanuel recently dropped a new self-titled project and he breaks down one of the bars in the song Whole which features vocals by the one and only Yolanda Adams. “I don’t want to go backward; I got more passion than compassion. I pray and I pray cause I wanna change. But it’s so much harder than I imagined.” It speaks to our humanity. The real-life struggle that comes with walking in our faith. We take small but incremental steps toward God, breaking one “chain” at a time.
“If we don’t understand the humanity of Jesus Christ that he fought it like you fought it. He had his struggles as a human,” exclaims Pastor Phil. “You’ll never fully embrace the deity of Christ! Rap is really human. They [the church] don’t get the truth because it seems unholy. Irreverent. Because of that stance, I’m not seeing the humanity of Jesus. And it causes cats to have a protection that’s false around those particular values in that context.”
Emanuel is hopeful though, “I think on some level we are starting to get it. This is to me where the culture is helpful to the church right now. There are a lot of ways the culture is toxic for the church. Of which we’ve always been aware of. We’ve always had a heightened awareness of where the culture and the church clash. In times past we demonized certain values that now we’re beginning to, through the process of deconstruction, embrace.”
“As we’re navigating the murky waters of life how do we find the middle? How do we live in tension? Where is the spirit of God moving,” the pastor rapper says of his transformation. “For me, Emanuel [referring to himself] is a lot more nuance. I understand the complexity of life a bit more. There is a lot of black and white. And there is also a lot more gray than I was willing to accept.”
You can catch Church on the Block, real talk about the church, hip hop, and the streets; every Sunday at 10 am est. right here on Holy Culture Radio, Sirius XM Channel 154. And follow our hosts, Pastor Phil, Pastah J, and DJ Ruckus on Instagram to join the discussion.
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