Fear Not: Eminem vs. The Old Testament

Eminem recently had a hit song that carried many of the same themes as what I recently preached on Haggai 2:1-9 recently at CrossView Church:

(Intro): Yeah, It’s been a ride…
I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one
Now some of you might still be in that place
If you’re trying to get out, just follow me
I’ll get you there

(Hook): I’m not afraid to take a stand
Everybody come take my hand
We’ll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just lettin’ you know that, you’re not alone
Holla if you feel that you’ve been down the same road

(Bridge): And I just can’t keep living this way
So starting today, I’m breaking out of this cage
I’m standing up, Imma face my demons
I’m manning up, Imma hold my ground
I’ve had enough, now I’m so fed up
Time to put my life back together right now

There are some good themes in this song and there are some pretty misleading statements as well when one reflects on this song biblically.

The good:

  1. Eminem realizes that to get to certain good places in your life, you must go through tough times. James has the same sentiment regarding various trials as the path to maturity and completion (James 1:2-4).
  2. Eminem seems to care that his hearers get out of their tough places. There’s no way of truly knowing this, but I gladly give him the benefit of the doubt.
  3. He understands that we were meant to walk through the tough times of life with others. We were made for fellowship (community). So he talks about holding hands, walking together, not being alone, and sympathizing for going through similar vicissitudes.
  4. He realizes that identifying with your people serves them well. He shares his struggle with them in ways that make a listener feel that he identifies with them. That’s a good way of loving and caring for another. It’s effective leadership and shepherding. All Christians should take note.

The bad:

  1. He calls his hearers to follow him and promises that he will get them there: “If you’re trying to get out, just follow me. I’ll get you there.” That’s quite a promise. It certainly cannot be true. I’m not saying that he is literally promising his 28.8 million fans that he’ll get them there. But those words, as you hear the song, are meant to make you feel that way. And I’m not questioning Em’s intentions as if he’s intentionally deceiving his hearers. But one can’t hold him to this promise. You might not get there.
  2. Because he is not afraid (we don’t know where he gets his power, he just claims he has it), he calls all to take his hand and walk together: “I’m not afraid to take a stand. Everybody come take my hand.” Fearlessness might make one trustworthy to walk with. But fearlessness may also be mistaken and presumptuous. It depends why one is not afraid.
  3. What’s Em’s solution to fear? “And I just can’t keep living this way, so starting today, I’m breaking out of this cage. I’m standing up, Im’ma face my demons. I’m manning up, Im’ma hold my ground. I’ve had enough, now I’m so fed up
    time to put my life back together right now.
    ” His solution to fighting his fear is being fed up with his current lifestyle, being resolved to break the pattern now, to stand up, face demons, man up, hold his ground, and put his life back together. The power and strength to get this done is… himself. His resolve. His being fed up. His words to himself. The solution is… himself. And his solution for us? Well it’s two-fold: ourselves and Eminem. He is our solution because we need him to walk with us. And we are our solution because we need to be like him in being fed up, being resolved, and facing our fears enough to change. Maybe it’s reading too much into it to say that Em portrays himself as the solution. But without pointing beyond himself, he leaves us looking finally to him and ourselves.

Even if Eminem is wrong in suggesting to be the solution to us, there is truth in the fact that while Jesus the Messiah is the solution for us, he does mediate his strength and encouragement through his other people. This is most clearly seen in the local church family members walking alongside us and identifying with us while speaking God’s truth to us. Christ shepherds us through his undershepherds (local church pastors) and fellow church members. Pastors and church members should offer their hand and company and identify with struggles as a means through which Christ meets them. That is similar to Em’s song, but different in that we don’t say that we’re the solution. We gladly and boldly point to the fact that Christ is the solution and answer. Yet we know he does do real work and expresses real compassion through us.

At the end of the day, Eminem has a nice sentiment but a weak foundation that can’t hold. There’s no root that goes deep in the soil of truth.

I’m going to cite some Old Testament verses. Notice the root, ground, and basis of courage in fighting fear. Why should I sing, “I’m not afraid”?

Exodus 14:13 – But Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the LORD’s salvation He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again.

Numbers 14:9 – Only don’t rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!”

Joshua 1:9 – Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Isaiah 41:10 – Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.

Joel 2:21 – Don’t be afraid, land; rejoice and be glad, for the LORD has done great things.

Haggai 2:5 – “This is the promise I made to you when you came out of Egypt, and My Spirit is present among you; don’t be afraid.”

Why not be afraid? Not because I’m fed up, manning up, holding my ground, or taking a very skilled rapper’s hand. You shouldn’t be afraid, if you’re in the Lord Jesus Christ, because God promises good in the end, God is with us, God is our God, God strengthens us, God helps us, God holds on to us with his righteous right hand, God has done great things, and God’s Spirit is present among us. Now that’s solid foundation, deep roots, and empowering truth. I’m not afraid.

About pjtibayan

P. J. loves Jesus Christ and lives to share life and share Jesus together with Bethany Baptist Church of Bellflower primarily to Southeast Los Angeles County. P. J. has been pastoring since 2002 and earned a doctorate in biblical theology from Southern Seminary (D.Min.). He blogs regularly at gospelize.me
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1 Response to Fear Not: Eminem vs. The Old Testament

  1. Evan Ross says:

    A very religious view of Eminem’s work but still interesting. I think the song might have been over analyzed a little bit but “the good” mentioned about the song was extremely interesting to read about.

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