Hip-hop's Public Enemy

Minister G. Craige Lewis has one goal: Get hip-hop out of the church. Forever.

Tomorrow he is leaving for Detroit. If it were up to him, he says, he would just send videos of his sermons. He'd rather stay home with his family.

"I don't even look forward to the weekend," he says. "I don't look forward to fighting demons. You know, I stare demons in the face every weekend, hundreds of them. It's not fun doing God's work."

Nothing upsets Lewis more than suggestions that he's in it for the money. He says the proceeds from the sale of his DVDs go right back into the ministry. His family lives off the $1,000 speaking fee he charges. That may seem like a lot, Lewis says, but it's modest compared to the five-figure fees collected by super-preachers like T.D. Jakes. He says he also doesn't collect an offering when he speaks, making him a rarity among traveling preachers.

Minister G. Craige Lewis preaches against the evils of hip-hop culture all over the country and through his popular DVD series.
Tom Jenkins
Minister G. Craige Lewis preaches against the evils of hip-hop culture all over the country and through his popular DVD series.
Lewis grew up with Kirk Franklin, the superstar who melded hip-hop to gospel with the 1997 smash hit "Stomp," but believes Franklin has compromised his Christian message.
Lewis grew up with Kirk Franklin, the superstar who melded hip-hop to gospel with the 1997 smash hit "Stomp," but believes Franklin has compromised his Christian message.

But Lewis is making good money. If his DVDs really do sell at a rate of 100 copies a day (at $20 each), he's grossing some $700,000 off that end of his ministry alone. Even with overhead, that's a good chunk of change.

"For people to say I'm doing it to make money, it's just ridiculous. So I'm like, OK, I'll do all this--risk death, have to have armed security at some of my engagements--just for money? No. I'm doing this because God called me to do it."

Lewis says he knows he's fighting an uphill battle, but he's convinced he's making a difference. "If 10 kids denounce hip-hop, thank God he called me. If five churches say no hip-hop in their churches, thank God he gave me this message. There are thousands of churches that have denounced hip-hop and millions of kids that have denounced it."

A few days later, he is in Detroit, speaking before another congregation of 2,000-plus. Not bad, especially when you consider only 3,500 paid to see Kanye West when he performed the following week in a half-filled auditorium in Dallas.

When Lewis is finished with his sermon, he asks those in the audience who've brought hip-hop CDs to bring them to the stage. They stack them in a huge pile on the altar. And then, with the assistance of the pastor, Lewis smashes them to pieces. They keep smashing until there's nothing left.

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