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Liberty University Student Spreads Faith in Unorthodox Way

“No drugs, sex, or drinking. We define what’s cool.”

Perhaps no line stood out more in the music video of Christian rapper Humble Tip then the above. Rapper Jason Lewis goes to the private school Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. His message is about spreading the word of LU—no better defined from his song and music video “LU Anthem.” Jason Lewis doesn’t just say these words—he actually believes it. It makes for a powerful new ally to a base of people who have long been seen as reactionary.

The LU Anthem (video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-dc9nHwC2w) is one of many songs that Humble Tip has come out with during his time as a grad student at Liberty University, but it is perhaps his most famous now that the music video has gone viral. The song and music video start with a seemingly hip (likely left-leaning) high school senior who is traveling with his mother to see Liberty University. He looks less than enthused by the trip, but he is going to take a tour anyway. For the first half of the video the teen is seen constantly on his phone (likely texting). The only time he cracks a smile is when a pretty blonde girl makes eye contact with him in the gym. Things start to change though. The teen sees the group prayer, the campus attitude at football and basketball games, and a young man return another man’s wallet after seeing it fall to the ground. Perhaps he realizes that Liberty University isn’t so bad after all.

“They say we are close minded saints from the South. But if you’re too open minded then your brain will fall out.”

This play on words is pretty funny, but the message isn’t funny at all. Essentially Humble Tip is saying that by using your brain and being creative and thinking outside the box you are wrong (hence your brain falling out). It’s a very naïve notion, but one that’s expected from somebody who is trying to spin a certain message.

The bigger question here is the two-fold controversy that this will create. First, and foremost, the LU alumni are bound to be an older, more fundamentalist crowd and it’s unlikely that rap music is going to tickle their fancy. It is surprising though that there are a base of people who don’t like this new form of spreading the Christian faith. One of the most secular musicians in history, Bob Dylan, converted to Christianity in the late 1970’s and was welcomed with open arms by the Born Again movement. It makes me wonder if people simply don’t want to accept it because he’s a smart, eloquent African-American making rap music and rap is usually associated with sex, drugs, and violence.

The second part of the controversy is the actual message that Humble Tip is sending. He is not afraid to share his opinions, and while it’s an admirable quality at times, his music might suffer from heavy criticism from those left-leaners (like me!). I’m not Christian and I certainly don’t support many things that American conservatives support (Constitutional amendments on gay marriage, banning abortion, putting ten commandments on federal buildings, etc.). The biggest problem I find with Humble Tip is that his message comes from a school with an emblem that has a burning book and a motto “Knowledge aflame” that could be taken many different ways.

This is a college campus with a lot of young people (13,000 undergraduates). Rap is a very popular form of art in pop and young culture today, so it’s likely that this style of presentation will be liked by the young community. I also think that Jerry Falwell Jr. has already resigned himself (regardless of personal opinion) to accept it since he introduced Jason Lewis during a speech in August of this year and had him perform the song in front of the entire student body. Alumni may not like it, but Humble Tip isn’t going away anytime soon. (Link to this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Dpcj3SrPic)

Lastly, after watching WDBJ7.com’s report on this story I saw a lot of opinion where it didn’t belong from reporter Karen Kiley. She stereotyped the University because of it’s private status and affiliation with Jerry Falwell Sr. I may agree with her opinions but the reporting itself is very sloppy. She left a lot of things unattributed and after mentioning the controversy Humble Tip was causing failed to mention or even show who it was who didn’t like what the faith-based rapper was doing. In her shoes I’d tell a slightly different story. Humble Tip’s message is not important from a media standpoint. It’s not news that there is a faith-based rapper at Liberty University. The part of this that is news is the controversy. Who likes it? Who doesn’t? In Kiley’s position I would aim to interview an alumni, a current student, Lewis himself, and a University official—preferably Jerry Falwell Jr. because he has already identified himself with Lewis or a University official who would identify themselves as not for Lewis’ message. There is no story in the fact that there is a student rapper at Liberty.

In the end it’s sort of a fun video to watch, but you listen to the lyrics and you hear the words and if you don’t agree you’re not going to enjoy. I certainly didn’t.