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"If we're going to take young people seriously, we have no choice," said Alton B. Pollard III, dean of the Howard University School of Divinity.
"When we talk about what's happening in the lives of young people, that's a subterranean culture that some of us just don't know how to get with."
Howard's recent annual convocation featured the rocking beat of Christian hip-hop artists Da' T.R.U.T.H. and Sean Simmonds, and professors are using spoken word--poetry performed as social commentary--to examine the New Testament.
At Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Tennessee, several professors analyze hip-hop music in their classes as they study protest music. At Northern Seminary in Illinois, the 2005 book "The Hip-Hop Church" is used in courses on youth ministry.
"In order to be relevant, in order to do youth ministry, you can't do ministry without engaging hip-hop," said Maisha Handy, who has taught a course on hip-hop and Christian education for two years at Atlanta's Interdenominational Theological Center.