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Today a friend pointed me toward The Hip Hop Prayerbook , designed by an Episcopal church in the South Bronx as “a powerful evangelism tool” designed to offer “a means to worship that will draw in the young and speak to those not generally spoken to by the Church.” I have no doubt that these folks have the best of intentions and I have no idea how effective their hip hop Eucharists are, but take a look at the adaptation of Psalm 23.

The Lord is all that, I need for nothing.
He allows me to chill.
He keeps me from being heated
and allows me to breathe easy.
He guides my life so that
I can represent and give
shouts out in his Name.
And even though I walk through
the Hood of death,
I don’t back down
for you have my back.
The fact that you have me covered
allows me to chill.
He provides me with back-up
in front of my player-haters
and I know that I am a baller
and life will be phat.
I fall back in the Lord’s crib
for the rest of my life.

To me, this screams of a white guy trying so hard to reach out to inner city youth, but not realizing that no one actually says “I know that I am a baller and life will be phat.” A Village Voice article on the HipHopEMass in which Psalms like this appear only confirms these suspicions. Furthermore, if you go to a black Baptist church, you’re probably not going to hear a hip hop translation of the Psalms; “He provides me with back-up in front of my player-haters” will be rendered in the original King James English.

The book’s website offers a quotation from the Rt. Rev. Catherine Roskam, who notes that “If Jesus walked the earth today, he would be a rapper.” Perhaps. But if he were a rapper, I’m guessing he’d sound a little more like Fr. Stan Fortuna (see below) and less like someone falling “back in the Lord’s crib.”

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