I was an insecure boy who just thought he was a genius
But always pissed off, that’s because I thought with my penis
It’s all strategic, I’m just asking us the reason
Share my faith on the track, I’m just exorcising demons
According to a Washington Post article, these lyrics from hip-hop artist Sho Baraka’s latest album “The Narrative” caused enough stir that Christian retailer LifeWay decided to remove the album from its shelves.
Here’s LifeWay’s statement to the Post, “Like any retailer, LifeWay has a responsibility not to carry resources with content our customers consider inappropriate,” spokesman Marty King wrote in an email. “After receiving complaints about some language in The Narrative cd, LifeWay decided to no longer carry it.”
I strongly affirm that all retailers have the freedom to choose which materials they will carry and which they will not. I am also thankful that LifeWay cares enough about the content of their materials to retract a resource they consider suspect.
But that’s where my concern lies—are Southern Baptists really offended by the word penis?
I am unaware of how many people complained about this lyric or how influential those complainers may have been, but this move is troubling.
First, is there no room for confession of sin in our Christianity?
How can we not open wide the door for Christian brothers and sisters to confess sins in non-graphic, non-sin-glorifying ways?
Hearing the confession of another’s sins is one of the great honors of the believer. We are given a front row seat to hear the testimony of a heart awakened by mercy. Are we really at a place where we are going to shut down authentic discussions?
Surely there are testimonies that are too graphic and give the devil more glory than Jesus, but this is certainly not one of them.
From my vantage point a move like this says to churches and the world: don’t talk openly about real things. It can also subtly convey that it is safer to sit in judgment over an honest brother than it is for him to share how his sinful insecurity showed itself through unfulfilling sexual conquests. Pharisees were experts at doing this.
I am not calling LifeWay or the complainers Pharisees, but I am saying this type of move should cause us all to examine our motives, because we might be more like Pharisees than we realize.
Second, how can we talk about sex if we can’t talk about sex?
Sexuality is a God given gift, but the fall has corrupted it and only the Bible helps us understand these feelings. Nearly every young man on the planet understands what it means to “think with their penis.” If talking openly about this cannot happen in Christian homes and in Christian churches, then we might as well close up shop and move off to the land of irrelevance.
I do not think we need to use the exact language “think with your penis,” but when Solomon taught his sons to avoid the adulterous woman, he is basically saying the same thing.
In Proverbs 7 Solomon speaks of the “young man lacking sense” who goes near the adulterous woman and “follows her as an ox goes to the slaughter.” This young man was not thinking with his mind, which Solomon is challenging his sons to do. Rather he was following his sexual urges. This is godly counsel from a man whose life was marked by much sexual destruction (1 Kings 11:1-8). I’m willing to bet King Solomon would have put this track on repeat for his sons while talking with them about living in a sexually charged world.
The bible does not shy away from anatomical language when it describes sex. Earlier in Proverbs, Solomon exhorts his sons to not indulge in sinful lust but to “let [your wife’s] breasts fill you at all times with delight” (Proverbs 5:19). That’s pretty explicit, and it is worshipful.
I want to suggest that Christians ought not be afraid of language that describes realities of life. Yes, we must ensure that our language is not worldly and perverse (Ephesians 4:29, 5:4), but we must not go further than the Scriptures to obey God in this. Over correcting just moves us from one ditch to another.
As a parent of five young children, I am mindful of what they hear and when they hear it. We have the responsibility to train our children up to worship the Lord with all of their being (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). So I commend parents who screen what their children take into their ears. I do however want to challenge us on the need to connect every day life with what God tells us in His Word (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
When a young person hears a lyrics like Sho’s we ought be able to connect it to Scripture and use it as a spring-board for conversation. When we hear the confession of a brother like this, we ought be able to praise God for the work of grace that has happened in his life, not shut him up for his honesty.
As a Southern Baptist member and pastor, I am grateful that many of our churches are places where Scripture and life are connected in God-glorifying ways. I have great hope that our churches can be places where testimonies can be shared, and where the world can come to find help, no matter where they have been or what they have done. This is what it means to be Gospel people.
Finally, we must consider what God thinks about all this. Is a Gospel-filled resource that uses the word “penis” more offensive to Him than keeping shelves stocked with false teachers like T.D. Jakes? If we are really going to be conviction driven, we must make sure we are being convicted about the most important things.
In writing this, I have been forced to examine my own heart. None of us are above self-righteous legalism and this gives us all an opportunity to reflect.