MLK Jr. Day to explore the soul of hip-hop and the church

Published: January 5, 2018

By: Annette Brill Bergstresser

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), Elkhart, Indiana, will honor the legacy and racial justice work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with two events on Jan. 14 and 15 under the theme, “No Church in the Wild: Christianity, White Supremacy, Black Liberation and Hip-Hop.”

The featured speaker will be Daniel White Hodge, Ph.D., associate professor of intercultural communications at North Park University in Chicago and a recognized urban youth culture expert and cultural literacy scholar. He is the author of The Soul of Hip Hop: Rims, Timbs and a Cultural Theology (IVP 2010) and Hip Hop’s Hostile Gospel: A Post Soul Theological Exploration (Brill Academic 2017); his next book, Homeland Insecurity: A Hip-Hop Missiology for the Post-Civil Rights Context (IVP Academic), will be released in June.

Hip-hop music and culture have a complex place in American society, observes Nekeisha Alayna Alexis, Intercultural Competence and Undoing Racism coordinator at AMBS and an organizer of the AMBS events.

“On one hand, they have become lucrative products that influence global trends in fashion, music and everyday language,” she says. “Yet hip-hop’s origins are from predominantly Black, economically marginalized communities — communities that remain pressed to the fringes and do not receive the recognition or the benefits they deserve for their contributions.”

Responses to hip-hop within and outside of the church can also be complicated, Alexis says. While some people uncritically dismiss it, others carelessly appropriate it. There are also debates among those who embrace it about how it has developed, where it's headed and what needs to change. For this reason, she is grateful for the insights that Dr. White Hodge brings to the table.

“One of the things he adds to the mix is the ability to look at hip-hop as a valuable, critical and important cultural resource that we can learn from,” she says. “I’m excited to host an educator, thinker and leader who approaches the genre as a source of wisdom, who honors the creativity behind the form and recognizes its value in our society — and even to the practice of faith in the way of Jesus.”

Alexis also notes the connection to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who as a pastor and Christian leader fought against injustice within a movement that drew strength from singing, music and storytelling.

The events, to be hosted by AMBS’s Intercultural Competence and Undoing Racism team, include:

  • Free public lecture: “The Soul of Hip-Hop and the Church in America”
    Sunday, Jan. 14, 2–3:30 p.m. at the Historic Roosevelt Center, 215 E. Indiana Avenue in Elkhart.

    AMBS is also hosting a book drive for the Tolson Community and Youth Center at the event; new and gently used non-religious books for diverse youth in grades 3-7 are especially welcome.
  • Interactive workshop: “Intercultural Competencies in an Era of Trump and Fake News”
    Monday, Jan. 15, 8:30 a.m. – noon at AMBS, 3003 Benham Avenue in Elkhart.

    Registration is required for the Jan. 15 workshop (limited to 30 participants); see description at

For information about the types of books that are desired for the book drive, as well as the events, see:

Photo: Dr. Daniel White Hodge, Ph.D. (Photo provided)

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