stormin's Reviews > Unashamed

Unashamed by Lecrae Moore
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M 50x66
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it was amazing
bookshelves: memoir, religion

If I could give 6-stars to this book, I would give 6-stars to this book.

Let me give you some quick background. I randomly heard a Lecrae song riding a bus to grad school one day in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The song was Rehab--in a Target and picked it up. It's probably one of the only CDs I've bought in the last 10 years. I started playing it and I was hooked: Lecrae instantly become one of my favorite musicians, second only to my hero Dustin Kensure

Even though they make two very different kinds of music, Lecrae is a hip-hop artist and Dustin Kensrue's band Thrice is post-hardcore punk rock, they have one central thing in common: they unashamedly sing about their Christian faith in raw and authentic ways with enough talent and passion to make it in the mainstream instead of surviving in the ghetto of "Christian music".

Recently, I learned that there was controversy over Lecrae and his movement away from his Christian roots. This was concerning to me--there are plenty of artists who start out as devout Christians and then ditch the Christian label in pursuit of fame, like Evanescence and Paramore. But I wasn't quick to judge. After all, the articles I looked up all talked about his recent albums marking a turn away from Christianity, but I'd listened to every album from Rehab onward and they were all staunchly, unmistakably, explicitly Christian.

I had a hunch Lecrae was taking fire from the kind of hardline, inflexible, scared Christians who--in the Mormon community--come after me and my parents for not being orthodox enough. So, when I heard that Lecrae had put out a memoir in part to address this, I was eager to read it and find out for myself: was Lecrae downplaying his Christianity in order to make inroads on fame and success? Or was he doing what he'd always done--and what I appreciated in his work as well as in Kensrue's--refusing to accept the sacred / secular categories in the first place?

Well, before we get to that, let me just say that this story was incredibly powerful and full of a lot of wisdom, a lot of honesty, and a lot of humility. It takes a lot of humility to reveal your weaknesses to people, and not in the neatly packaged, "I was messed up, but then I got better" way. One of the most real things about Lecrae's conversion is how long it took, and how messed up he got along the way. Some of that was early on, when--in his own words--"The first thing I did when I returned to college after my conversion was steal a Bible... Old habits die hard, I guess." After that came drugs, sex, and all the stuff that he was supposed to leave behind as a Christian.

But there's more. One of the most embarrassing thing about converting to a new religion (including re-discovering your own faith) is that most people go way overboard at first. They get super religious in ways that vary from cringe-inducing annoyance to belligerent intolerance. Lecrae went through that, too, and he doesn't shy from it. That was my first indication that this wasn't just a sensational story of trauma and recovery, but that Lecrae had some real wisdom stemming from the humility of realizing that he is the kind of person who has to find every wrong way of doing the right thing.

I can relate, even though my life is orders of magnitude tamer than his no matter how you slice it.

After taking us through the long, twisty, messy road to where he is at today, Lecrae addresses his critics head-on, and he does so in a way that won me over with both it's intellectual rigor and it's unabashed passion. Lecrae describes the two books that had the biggest influence on him: Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity and Andy Crouch's Culture Making. I haven't read either one--although they're both on my wishlist now, thanks to this book--but Lecrae provided a succinct and insightful summary of each. And I was really, really impressed by his intellect at this point. He says, at some point or other in the book, that he's not that smart but this is clearly a mistake.

All this leads up to the central Bible story in the book, Daniel:

A good example of a biblical worldview is Daniel. I like Daniel. If he were alive now, we'd probably hang out. In the Bible, Daniel was an adviser to a king named Nebuchadnezzar. Working for the king was a pretty good gig, but things got weird when the king had some crazy dreams. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to know what they meant, so he summoned his advisers. In those days, interpreting dreams was a pagan practice. If Daniel was wearing bifocals he would have seen this as a secular action, an evil action, something that people who served God didn't do. But Daniel didn't see the world like that. He knew that as the psalmist would later write, "the Earth is the Lord's and everything in it." So Daniel goes to God and God tells him what the dreams meant. When Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, the king was impressed and appointed Daniel his chief adviser. Now, if Daniel we're living in our world, he might have turned down the job and enrolled in seminary, but he didn't. Because he saw this "secular" job as part of his "sacred" calling. And because he didn't see the world as divided he took the job and was able to speak Godly wisdom into Nebuchadnezzar's life. This has changed the way I do music. There's no such thing as "Christian rap" and "secular rap." Only people can become Christians. Music can't accept Jesus into its heart, so I'm not trying to make Christian music or secular music. I'm just making music.


Or, as he says in another place: "How can Christians be salt and light if they never encounter meat and darkness?"

And, just like that, Lecrae had me convinced. He's brilliant, he's committed, he's passionate, and he's doing his best to be a Christian. Count me as one of his supporters.

Couple of final points, before I wrap up my review:

1. I was really sad to read that one of the faith traditions Lecrae investigated and pass one early on was Mormonism. Speaking with total bias here: I hope one day he gives us a second look. (Not likely, I know, but that's how I feel about all the religious thinkers and doers that I admire most!)

2. Late in the book Lecrae lays out the timeline for the books that represented his shift away from the ghetto of "Christian music." And the first album? Rehab. So, everything that he wrote and that I fell in love with is the stuff that (some of) his older fans are rejecting.

I've got a list in my head of the people I would most love to sit down and talk with. It's not a super-long list, probably less than a dozen. It's mostly radical moderates like John McWhorter and Jonathan Haidt. Plus a few sci-fi writers. And Dustin Kensrue. And yeah: there's no doubt that Lecrae is on that list.
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Reading Progress

April 6, 2018 – Started Reading
April 7, 2018 – Finished Reading
April 30, 2018 – Shelved
April 30, 2018 – Shelved as: memoir
April 30, 2018 – Shelved as: religion

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