A Movement of Cultural Liberation and Revolution

Effective social movements: keeping the message clear

By Carlos Aguilar

"We are the people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in the universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit."1

"I rap about my life, and I rap about it in the hardest, most blatant sense. I consider what I say as real. This is the way the world I come from is. This is the way I talk and I live. This is the only way I can be."2

Whenever a group of people is locked within the margins of American social discourse, that community may find it necessary to scream or chant or rap to be heard. It should come as no surprise, then, that alienation serves to be the catalyst for counter-cultural movements. The ache of the reverberating "What about me?" coupled with the systematic muting of your inquiry, provides the primary ingredients for revolutionary stew; the spicier the better. But alienation and frustration does not a meal make. Discontentment is only the beginning.

What usually follows is the mobilization, education and deployment of like-minded individuals. In theory, the movement that once was a fractured and disorganized cadre becomes a knowledgeable, harmonious unit. Like circumstance and like cause leads to like action. Unfortunately, this is highly unlikely.

Muted message of the cultural revolution of the 60's

A cursory glance at the Counter-cultural movement of the 60's reveals a seemingly inextinguishable social movement led by those ridden with the alienation and frustration necessary for our revolutionary stew. In predictable fashion, the movement began to organize around a common desire to change the face of the world's collective existence. Teach-ins were held, rallies attended, manifestos published and people educated. Some, in accord with the anti-authoritarian sentiment that was brewing, made non-conformity of language, music and dress a staple of their diet. Ironically, as the movement waxed in popularity it waned power. From rallies to rock n' roll concerts, the counter-cultural movement began to be more an exercise in recreation and self-indulgence rather than participation in a movement meant to liberate the self.

Social movements with rhythm

Our beloved Hip-Hop suffers from the same. The reclamation of identity, the garnering of political and social power, and the establishment of a viable economic base were aims fueled by, what some have called, urban youths location at the 'crossroads of lack and desire'. Tricia Rose, author of Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America, aptly notes that "Rap music and Hip-Hop culture are cultural, political and commercial forms, and for many young people they are the primary cultural, sonic and linguistic windows on the world." One might not recognize this while listening to an elderly white woman's comedic rendition of Rapper's Delight.3

The unlikely protagonist of cultural revolution

Given enough time, dominant culture has proven itself able to exert an ideological entropy on the likes of nearly every counter-cultural movement. The original intent and meaning of the message subsequently becomes convoluted and unrecognizable. Undoubtedly, the most colossal attempt at transforming personal and cultural existence is found in the liberating message of Jesus Christ. Be not fooled; co-optation, commercialization and convolution rears its head here as well. A band of 70 some-odd people, discontent with their existence, gather around a man who claims to have the remedy for their ache and who promises to demonstrate, by his victory over death, that he can be trusted in matters universal. He kicks death in the groin, walks away victorious and the movement grows. It spreads like wild fire. Then, a quarter of a century passes and people are being tortured unto death for identifying themselves with this God/man. In twisted historic irony, a few hundred years pass and people are forced, with the threat of death, to pledge allegiance to what is now a super religious movement bearing his name.

Misplaced messages of social movements

Flash forward to the 20th century and the message is a full-fledged cultural phenomenon. Bumper stickers, t-shirts, bracelets and weeping televangelists are those things which serve to be the identifying characteristics of this "counter- cultural movement." Christian philosopher Dallas Willard remarks, "...it seems to be a general law of social/historical development that institutions tend to distort and destroy the central function that brought them into existence."4 Unfortunately, the Church isn't immune.

Yet Jesus' message, one of reconciliation and communion with your God, is clear beyond the clouds. One may have to wade through the scores of 'preachers' begging to bilk people; uncles and aunts who attend church at 9:00 and the bar at noon; your 'Christian friend' who constantly reminds you of hell's dominion in your life; the often cryptic utterances in the Bible. Cast this aside and you still have a God who intends to communicate His message, to You, with clarity.

Clear message of liberation and revolution

The early portions of Scripture declare not only God's immense power and knowledge in the fashioning of the universe, but his enduring concern over the created order. His relationship with individual men and women was such that they found it appropriate to identify him as friend, provider, comforter and King. Yet, it didn't take much time for rebellion against God's moral order to become the modus operandi. A great divide between God and his creation surfaced, as evil and corruption of heart and action came to be the primary descriptors of the human condition. It seems clear that a moral entropy has been enacted, leaving in its remains the wounded, pummeled and trounced souls of God's creation. All this in the face of the ever-present, ever-concerned creator.

God, as such, is the consummation of all that is noble, loving, compassionate, righteous and pure. He possesses these attributes to a degree in which no greater can be conceived. He does not participate in acts of love; He is love. He does not participate in acts of righteousness; He is righteousness. And it is because of these essential attributes, and a score of others, that God is unable to provide us with the forgiveness necessary for communion with him without exacting a heavy price. He cannot compromise his righteousness, yet he hasn't forsaken his love.

I'm not certain that crosses have the ability to stave off would be vampire attacks. I'm even less certain that clutching and kissing it before I purchase my Lotto ticket will bring me the booty. But I am convinced that it has the power to reconcile us to our creator. On the cross our sin and transgression was accounted for. Jesus, being the 'anointed one of God', laid his life down as a perfect sacrifice in our stead. It takes an alienated soul, determined and desirous, to peer thousands of years back for the remedy to its ailment. "What about me," you ask? "Come to me," he responds.

With heavy heart and weary soul you approach and ask, "Father forgive me for my sin. I trust in the work of your Son on the cross and I desire to experience the change of myself , and of the world, for you." At that moment, a revolutionary is born and the life of a revolutionary proceeds as you become increasingly acquainted with our liberator/leader Jesus the Christ, your manifesto the Bible, and the world of people whose soul cries out for Truth, Peace, Justice, Righteousness and Love; and we'll tell them that He is the source of all this and more. Much, much more.


1. Port Huron Statement, SDS, Tom Hayden
2. Ice-T, www.templeofhiphop.com
3. As found in Adam Sandler's The Wedding Singer.
4. Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1998) 201.


Carlos Aguilar is a graduate of Occidental College and a Masters candidate in the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Talbot School of Theology.


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