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While Jay-Z & Beyonce’s recent trip to Cuba to celebrate the couple’s fifth anniversary stirred up significant controversy, a new song by a Christian rapper, relatively unknown to the general public, is ruffling feathers in the conservative Christian evangelical community, especially amongst a gaggle of religious gurus known as “Prosperity Preachers.”
Christian rapper Shai Linne, according to Charisma News, “recently released a song [which peaked at #7 on iTunes’ Hip Hop/Rap charts] calling out prosperity gospel teachers by name.”
The 12 pastors named are -- Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, Fred Price, Kenneth Copland, Robert Tilton, Eddie Long, Juanita Bynum and Paul Crouch – and each name is followed by the song’s refrain, “is a false teacher!”
Jay-Z and Beyonce have come under unremitting criticism from a number of long-time anti-Cuban Republican scolds, with Sen. Marco Rubio and GOP Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart leading the pack.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of U.S. visitors to Cuba last year were Cuban Americans (476,000 out of 580,000) , and regardless of the fact that Cuban Americans are a major source of funds for the Cuban government (sending nearly $2.3 billion to Cuba in 2011), “Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen said the music superstars were guilty of funding ‘the machinery of oppression that brutally represses the Cuban people’ because they went to Cuba with the permission of the Department of Treasury, which regulates the travel of Americans to Cuba,” DeWayne Wickham wrote in a recent USA Today column.
Linne calls out “prosperity preachers”
Shai Linne’s album has also caused some controversy because it is the first time a Christian rapper has used his music to criticize “Prosperity Preachers,” and name specific individuals.
“I ain't really trying to start beef, but some who claim to be part of His sheep got some sharp teeth. (They're wolves),” Shai Linne raps in the song “Fal$e Teacher$” – from his newly released album titled Lyrical Theology Part 1: Theology -- before referencing Matthew 7:16.
In the song, the performer warns that these pastors are falsely teaching that “camels squeeze through the eye of a needle.” Here’s a sample: “How dare they be specific and drop some clarity on the popularity of the gospel of Prosperity,” Turn off TBN that channel is overrated. The Pastor’s speak bogus statements, financially motivated. It’s kind of like a pyramid scheme. Visualize Heretics christianizing the American dream.”
Shai Linn also dubs these preachers’ antics as “foul and deceitful and claims that they are “treating Jesus like a lottery ticket.”
Charisma News reported that in a video posted by his record company, Lamp Mode Recordings, Linne said “he wrote the song to address an issue in the American church that is now spreading overseas—not to cause controversy.”
“You have these rallies where literally over 100,000 people will come to hear these guys talk about prosperity,” Linne told Wade-O Radio. “The people who are coming are impoverished like crazy and they're buying into it thinking that this false theology is going to be their way out of poverty. They figure, 'Hey, it must work because it's working for these guys in America.'”
An atheist for most of his childhood, Linne is Reformed in his theology. He has been collaborating with other Christian Rap artists and releasing studio albums since 2002.
According to Anthony Bradley, associate professor of theology and ethics at The King’s College and author of Liberating Black Theology, “Reformed hip-hop is a theologically driven masculinity movement. It says no to the prom songs to Jesus in ccm, no to whiny emo Christian music for hipsters, and no to empty, shallow, individualistic Christian music lacking theological content produced out of Nashville. ”
“Linne is echoing other Reformed or Calvinist leaders, including John Piper and John MacArthur, who have been openly critical of the prosperity doctrine that has swept the globe,” Rachel Tabachnick, an independent researcher who specializes in End Times narratives, told me in an email. “Tactics of prosperity preachers around the world include convincing followers that their donations to a ministry will be returned by God in multiples of what they have given.
“Prosperity doctrine preachers are among some of the wealthiest citizens in some African countries,” Tabachnick pointed out. “It is common for some of these preachers to require payment for claimed ‘supernatural healing’ of HIV/AIDS and other diseases or for ‘deliverance’ or expulsion of demons supposedly causing misfortunes.”
Paula White Ministries was the first of the named prosperity preachers to directly respond to Linne’s song. Interestingly, White’s enterprises have been as controversial as they have been financially successful.
Paula White’s son responds
But Bradley Knight, White’s son and representative of PaulaWhite.org is having none of it. In a letter to Linne, Knight takes umbrage with Linne’s characterization of White as a “false teacher”: “…So when I hear a fellow Christian leader, whom has never had a conversation with me or my mother, call her a “Fal$e Teacher” I wonder what ‘Fal$e Teaching$’ I myself have been inculcated with since I, more than anyone else on the face of the earth, have been most exposed to her teachings.”
Knight claims to be making a modest living and “forego[ing] money for the opportunity to work for a ministry that I believe in, a ministry that I witness daily changing lives across the globe. Including and especially the continent of Africa you gave a shout out too.”
White’s son characterizes the song “Fal$e Teacher$” as “pure cannibalization without Biblical precedence.” He invites Linne to walk a mile in the White family’s shoes. At no time does Knight mention the accrued wealth of Paul White Ministries, the many controversies White has been involved in, nor the congressional investigation into her finances.
In 2007, when Paula White and her husband Randy filed for divorce, they owned private jets, high-end luxury vehicles, a Trump Park Avenue condominium and a $3.8 million place in Trump Tower on 5th Ave in New York City, as well as a $2 million dollar home on Tampa Bay. When White was asked to respond to a May 2012 profile in Orlando Magazine, her public relations outfit, Burson-Marsteller Public Affairs in Dallas, turned down the magazine’s request.
Shai Linne responded to Knight’s letter, writing: “I don’t think your letter actually addresses the real issue. My song was not about you, your financial status, the genuineness of your faith, your mother’s prayers for you or the good things that Paula White Ministries does. The song was about the false doctrine that Paula White and others have publicly taught for many years and continue to teach.” In a wadeoradio.com video, Linne mentions the popularity of prosperity doctrine in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi. After acknowledging watching many hours listening to some of the most popular prosperity teachers on TBN and noticed a pattern of them working the crowd into an emotional frenzy before asking for money. Linne calls this a scam and claims these preachers are false prophets.