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Same Rebel, New Level: Lecrae’s Departure from Evangelicalism

Ameen Hudson

Lecrae Devaugh Moore is not a stranger to the evangelical Christian world. In September 2008 he released an album entitled “Rebel.” It became the soundtrack to the lives of many evangelical Christians, young and old, urban and suburban.

The Hallmark track “Don’t Waste Your Life” (based on a book by popular reformed evangelical Pastor John Piper) inspired Christians to radically pursue Jesus in a way that would show the watching world that Christ is truly a treasure to which nothing else could compare.

The album represented a bold rebellion against a culture that also rebelled against Jesus and assailed Christians who desired to remain faithful to their beliefs. Fans and evangelical leaders alike loved Lecrae’s boldness and his commitment to truth. He artistically and unapologetically expressed their passions, beliefs, and emotion through the medium of hip-hop.

This quickly launched Lecrae into the world of evangelical elites. Luminaries within the evangelical world (especially within reformed theology circles) embraced Lecrae and his crew—the 116 clique—as the young black urban theologians who flipped their traditional aesthetic of theological representatives upside down.

The Difference

Many whites in the United States identify as Protestant evangelical Christians while only 6% of black people and 11% of Latinos identify as the same.

This striking statistic gives us insight into how much of a minority African Americans and Latinos are in an evangelical world that’s largely white. Though Lecrae’s events would be full of urban minorities, a predominantly white crowd outnumbered them.

Despite this, there seemed to be an impervious unity that transcended the differences polarizing the outside world. This group of believers seemed immune to what divided those outside the church such as race/ethnicity and political affiliations. What they felt united them was their faith, theology, and God; politics and color didn’t matter – or at least they thought it didn’t.

The Divide

Following the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo and the subsequent acquittal of officer Darren Wilson (the shooter), many African Americans and other minorities within the church (especially in light of a long recent history of police brutality) was reminded of how systemic injustice and racism worked within multiple levels of society—especially within the judicial system.

As protests in Ferguson emerged, young minorities began to speak out against disparities while affirming the dignity, value, and worth of people of color. Lecrae also began to speak out. To his dismay, his largely white (and even some black) evangelical fans met him with cold-hard dismissals, insensitivity, and attacks.

Rather than being met with a willing heart to bear his burdens and stand with him in solidarity for justice, Lecrae was met with derision and disappointment. “You’ve lost focus on the mission. God didn’t give you your gifts to fight for black rights. Where is this in the great commission” was just one of the more recent responses that made it across his timeline. “Just preach The Gospel and stop talking about politics!” is another reoccurring sentiment.

For many in Lecrae’s white evangelical fan base, there was an abysmal disconnect between biblical ethics of justice and how it relates to America’s treacherous history (and continuation) of systemic racism and institutional discrimination against black and brown image bearers.

In the wake of this cultural war of ideological justice, those of us who were outspoken on issues of police brutality, implicit biases, and systemic evil were deemed to be outside of orthodox theology for upholding biblical imperatives of justice for the oppressed and marginalized.

The treatment of Lecrae was no different. He would soon discover the majority of the white evangelicals who supported him didn’t really like him for him, but for representing and advancing their values through his music. He was a means to an emotional, intellectual, and political (usually conservative) end. It was in this realization that Lecrae began to “rebel.”

The Departure and Hope

On Lecrae’s newly released album “ATWT (All Things Work together)”, he articulates his dissent on his track “Facts.” Lecrae speaks to the Christianity within America that is largely linked to a blind nationalism and a false sense of God’s favor by boldly proclaiming: “I will not oblige to your colonized way of faith // My Messiah died for the world, not just USA.” He combats the notion that Christianity within America means that your socio-political stance defaults to right wing conservatism or a binary “left” or “right” partisanism altogether: “They say, Jesus was Conservative Tell ’em, That’s a lie // No, He not a Liberal either if you think I’ll choose a side.” He also offers an apologetic for the existence of the black church in saying: “They say “Crae you so divisive, there shouldn’t be a black church // I say “Do the math segregation started that first!

Lecrae’s bold stance is unapologetic and raw. He has repudiated the sentiments from the evangelical world that would cultivate cold apathy and indifference in the face of injustice and suffering. He has embraced an all-encompassing Gospel that cares about the whole man – including his empowerment and just treatment in the here and now.

This album doesn’t just speak to the “Facts” around justice and Lecrae’s divorce from evangelicalism but also God’s sovereignty over all the trials, blessings, and failures in his life (and ours). This project is one of hope—hope that bleeds through the darkness of any situation to show us God is indeed working “All things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”

Lecrae is real, bold, and unashamed of who he is – a black man in America that loves Jesus and wants to impact and transform the world. Critics of Lecrae may express their disdain of his newfound freedom, hearkening back to the Lecrae of old – the “Rebel” Lecrae. But what they don’t realize is that the same bold, unapologetic “rebel” still exists but he is now free from the chains of evangelical expectation and has been set ablaze to be who God has always called him to be – a rebel.

“I ain’t really changed, it’s the same old rebel
Still a radical, I’m passionate, it’s just another level!”

41 thoughts on “Same Rebel, New Level: Lecrae’s Departure from Evangelicalism

  1. Jonnie

    I spent a great deal of time to find something similar to this

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  5. Trisha

    This is truly helpful, thanks.

  6. I spent a great deal of time to find something like this

  7. Thanks to the excellent guide

  8. Ruby

    Thank you for the terrific article

  9. Darrin

    I spent a great deal of time to find something like this

  10. Harriett

    Thanks to the excellent guide

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    This is actually helpful, thanks.

  12. Jamaal Rashaad

    Carlos and Michael are correct here. When interpreting stats we apply percentages to the sample, not percentages to the sample’s demographic. “Of n amount of participants sample, x% identify as y,’ so forth and so on.

  13. Jocelyn

    Scholar.google.com. Search term”systemic racism”.

  14. Denise Armstrong

    Good work Ameen! Will be forwarding to my sons who have both followed Lecrae. I love the journey that the brother is on, there are many young black guys watching him from the sidelines. Pray for him to run well, true and hard, keeping his eyes on the prize, Our Lord, Jesus, the Christ.

  15. Nathan Morris

    I agree with Carlos. I have read several posts on “The Witness” that seriously misrepresent this Pew pole. The more correct way to state the statistic you are quoting is: “Among Evangelical Christians, 6% identify as black.” The reason only 6% of Evangelicals identify as black is just because black people are a minority in the US population. I am a professional statistician, so seeing this bugs my inner OCD personality. I realize you wouldn’t skew things intentionally, but please do NOT say that 6% of Black people are Evangelicals. It is not true and absolutely misleading. Still love you in Christ though.

  16. David

    Ameen, as with other things. Your responders “choke on the gnat to miss the camel”, getting stuck on the percentage (“Hear me clear, truth and facts are important”. Let me repeat (as people often miss what you have clearly said…’Hear me clear, truth and facts are important”), instead of looking at WHY Lecrae is leaving evangelicalism.

    So often all the lengthy defenses and deflections can be shorten by switching the conversation to something important to the other individual. For example, if this were a conversation regarding liberals, abortion, big government, taxes, IRS targeting conservatives (a political conversation that would be okay to discuss in these forums (just highlight the violation of biblical principles to illustrate)), and all of this vanishes.

    So many lengthy discussion of “why are we focusing on the past”, “Don’t we need to get over the past and stop talking about it?” vanish in the next article, study, dissertation, sermon illustration of Dietrich Bonhoeffer or of the evils of Nazism (which according to the POTUS isn’t really that bad, because “they are (those who hold those beliefs) fine people). Still waiting for evangelicals to tell Steve Spielberg, “When are you going to get over the 1930s-1940s…it was so LONG ago? Why do you keep bringing this up, again and again and again??” I mean that was 20-30 years before the civil rights era.

    Lastly, for those who sooo wish to get over the past and to stop speaking about the past again and again. Note, remind your pastor the next time they bring up Communion (I mean it’s nearly 2,000 years in the past). [NOTE: clearly a time to point out that NO Bible-believing, evangelical committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ would do such a thing. It only alludes to the silliness of not discussing past issues (Civil Rights, Slavery, Holocaust (Jewish and Black/Native American) while wanting to discuss and hold to the past (Independence Day (1776), Constitution, Confederate Monuments (i.e., Civil War (a.k.a slavery)).

    The ability to pick and chose which history points to the “Golden Rule” from the movie “Alladin”: “He who has the gold, makes the rules.”

    It is said, most white evangelicals don’t need to know more about others’ histories (though that would help), they really need to know more about their OWN history that has never been told to them or whitewashed (i.e., Headright Act, Homestead Act, all of the white affirmative action, G.I. Bill, Redlining (sadly still being practiced today by Wells Fargo Bank), the formation of suburbs and ghettos, Sentencing Project (disparities in criminal sentencing crack vs. powder cocaine), and why the felony and criminal state of heroin problem (white on white crime) is being changed from a “crime” to a health concern (90% of all new heroin addicts are white, middle class in their 20s-30s and educated). Sadly, for the “Law and Order” type, they don’t want these criminals to go to jail to be, unlike the thugs of the inner cities, but to be rehabilitated. And instead of dealing with said realities, I will be called a bunch of names because these individuals parents aren’t doing a better job of parenting their kids (sound familiar?).

    So, thought I hope, that one of my sentences, clauses, improper expressed subject, verb and noun placement isn’t what is focused on (which sadly may perhaps [subjunctive case] be the case), I hope that people will look at what they haven’t been taught that allows them to pontificate on how blacks need to “present” whatever they are talking about that addresses white supremacy (though you wouldn’t need to do that if discussing Islamic terrorism, the Democratic Party, black on black crime (what is that? So what happens in a area where there are no blacks? Crime or ‘white on white’ crime?).

    Sadly, the gospel that is the answer was hijacked by the devil to be used as an argument and support for the injustices being brought up.

  17. Eliyahu BenYsrael

    Great article, and insightful. Now I need to buy his album…

  18. Mike M

    Loved this article…and love the website generally. It sickens me to hear how white “evangelicals” turned on Lecrae and leveled the criticism that you report: “You’ve lost focus on the mission. God didn’t give you your gifts to fight for black rights. Where is this in the great commission?” Those folks need to check out the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:28) and see the great commission in the larger context of the story of God’s mission to redeem and restore the whole creation, human culture, and all the social structures that make life what it is–in other words, the creational context in which “black lives” (among all others) matter!

  19. Justin

    The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander or a documentary called “13th” that I think you could find on Netflix. These were both really helpful for me to understand the issue better.

  20. Peter

    Divided by Faith does a poor job of making that case in my opinion. Racialization, as defined by the authors, is easily explained through sociological understanding of how all social groups function. This explanation is essentially deemed unacceptable because the book is built upon a premise of racialization being inherently evil, which is a conclusion that is conveniently not critically evaluated. A more careful analysis of racialization from a logical, sociological and Biblical perspective might lead to different conclusions.

  21. Carlos

    Hello Ameen, thank you for your reply. I just checked out the link and it is still the same one that I viewed before. Perhaps it is a failure on my part to explain it correctly but my previous comment still stands.

    Look back at the link that you provided and what you wrote in your article. It isn’t that 76% of all whites are Protestant evangelical Christians. The chart states that of all Christians who identify as Protestant evangelical, 76% are white, 11% are Latino and 6% are black. It’s easy to verify by looking at, for example, Muslims. The chart states that of all Muslims, 38% are white and 28% are black. Now, let’s take a look at Jehovah Witness. It says that of all JWs, 36% are white and 27% are black. Finally, let’s add up the percentages of all of the statistics for whites mentioned here. It adds up to 150% which is statistically impossible if you are talking a percentage of the population. I hope that this makes it clear now. If not, I can give it another try later.

    Grace & Peace to you fam.

  22. Michæl

    Your stat is still wrong though. You’re reading the data backwards. The Pew poll doesn’t say that 76% of whites are Protestant… it says that 76% of Protestants are white. (Makes sense, seeing as 76% of the general population is white.)

    Likewise, it’s not that 6% of blacks are Protestant. It’s that 6% of Protestants are black.


    Ameen: I was also concerned about those Pew numbers…..but, what I want to ask is your permission to reprint your essay in Christian Ethics Today, a quarterly journal. Please contact me at drpatanderson@gmail.com

    Patrick Anderson

  24. Ameen Hudson

    The original link was the wrong one, I have corrected it. The stats I gave was based on those who labeled themselves “Evangelical Protestant” not “Historically Black Protestant” since the article was about Lecrae’s departure from “Evangelicalism.”

  25. Ameen Hudson

    Thank you for your reply. I posted the wrong link originally (It was a link to other statistical research that I looked in to). The link has since been corrected and you can now go an view the statistics.


    Grace and Peace.

  26. Carlos

    Ameen, I need to submit a correction to your article. You stated that, “The Pew research poll states 76% of whites in the United States identify as Protestant evangelical Christians while only 6% of black people and 11% of Latinos identify as the same.” According to the link that you provided, that is not true at all. If you go back to the chart, you will see that according to the sample size of 8,479 people who claim to be Evangelical Protestant, 76% are white and 6% are black. That’s a big difference from what you stated in your article. Please correct this because what you stated is very misleading.

    Grace and Peace to you.

  27. Mike

    Denying division that already exists is no way to bring unity. Black folks live a life of the division that has been thrust upon them. We as white folks have the privilege of being unaware of this division.

    We must stop chastising black people and other civil rights activists for acknowledging and addressing racial division that already exists.

  28. Michæl

    The stats quoted in this article don’t sound right at all, and the provided link doesn’t support them.

    According to this Pew poll, 29% of whites and 14% of blacks identify as “evangelical Protestant”. (53% of blacks identify as “historically black Protestant”, whatever that means). http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/racial-and-ethnic-composition/

  29. Todd

    I hear you. Think it all depends on how you define evangelicalism. It means a lot of different things to people these days. Originally, the term was married to the gospel, but I think the author is using it to describe predominantly white cultural Chirstianity, or Churchianity as I often call it….

  30. Todd

    Love it and agree. Excellently written article. Thx

  31. Peter Hamm

    White guy here… and big fan… GO GET ‘EM BROTHER!

  32. Shane Waller

    Don’t understand division when through Christ we are together. Trying to start a new worldly way to worship or share the gospel is not biblical, I do not agree. Praying that unity csn be brought foward more than division.

  33. Patrick Anderson

    I am an evangelical in the sense that I want everyone to love Jesus. But the word has been hi jacked by a political movement that I cannot abide. So the term is not descriptive of evangelism as I previously used it regrettably.

  34. MARK

    It doesn’t sound like a “departure” – he sounds more like the reformers from a social perspective. To reform from within.

  35. Anonymous

    Sorry I wasn’t clear. Looking for specific examples used today.

  36. Me

    Divided by faith by emmerson

  37. Emmanuel Lane

    “Lecrae’s divorce from evangelicalism” is this true? I would think it as Lecrae has a broad view of evangelicalism that is inclusive of people of color. If we say he has moved away from evangelicalism aren’t we suggesting that he no longer affirms the gospel? At the center of evangelicalism is the gospel.

  38. Anonymous

    I am new to following The Witness and appreciate this articles clarity as I have followed Lecrae for a while now. I really want to learn more about these issues. If someone could help me with a simple question that would be great. Where can I find information on current instances of systemic/institutionalised racism, implicit biases leading to racism, and how colonial evangelicalism is implemented today – from a christian perspective to better understand the problem?


    FANTASTIC piece Bro. Ameen.


    Very well done,,,.major indictment of white evangelicalism.

  41. Timothy

    I absolutely adore this album. I have listened to it nearly every day since its release, which I pre-ordered.
    I LOVE this gospel. The one that encompasses all of reality and a person’s whole life.

    It’s not the gospel I heard growing up as a white kid – it’s so much better.

    Lecrae is using the gifts God has given him in the exact way he is supposed to be. Using hip-hop’s prophetic roots for sharpening ALL Christians to be more like Jesus, facing injustices with bold claims based on God’s standard and his Word, and like Job or the Psalmists, putting beautiful, artful words to both his praise and his laments.

    In front of a world watching, evaluating God’s character and holding the claims of the gospel at arms length. Looking not only for hope, but for beauty, truth, and justice, Lecrae is sparing no artistic expense.

    This is what full-throated evangelism and dedication to God’s standard really looks like. There are few doing it better!

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