NCFIC Panelist Gives "I'm Sorry Your Were Offended" Apology

I had wondered if the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC) was hunkering down and refusing to respond to widespread criticism of its panel video on “Holy Hip Hop.” The video and blog post that publicized the discussion panel were posted on November 25th (Monday). I saw a few people mention the video on Tuesday but things really exploded on Wednesday, when Vimeo reports over 6,800 views, up from 676 on Tuesday and 36 on Monday.

The response has been almost universally negative toward the panel’s comments and some of the panelists’ spirit. For a roundup of articles and responses to the panel,
see Joshua Breland’s roundup here. Until last night, I hadn’t seen any response from any of the panelists or NCFIC. That's when I saw on Twitter that an apology had been posted. It is available here and has also been added to the top of the original post.

Geoff Botkin, NCFIC Panel Speaker
The apology was from Geoff Botkin, Speaker #3. Botkin’s comments were the most shocking comments from anyone on the panel. He is the one who called rap a “so-called art form” and said that Christian rappers were “serving their own flesh”, “caving into the world”, “disobedient cowards.” He said they are “people who think they're serving God. And they're not.”

Not only were the words harsh (and a load of nonsense in my opinion), but Botkin was especially vehement in his condemnation of Christian rappers. You can listen to his answer (beginning at 5:15 in the video) and sense utter disgust with the genre of Christian rap and rappers who participate. I made the video and
a transcript of the entire panel discussion available in an earlier post, please feel free to review Botkin's original statement.

Owen Strachan rightly called on "NCFIC to repudiate the claim that reformed rappers are ‘disobedient cowards.’”

Here is the first paragraph of
the post at the NCFIC blog entitled “An Apology”. I believe this paragraph was written by the blog author, Botkin's own words follow later. After the text are some of my own comments responding to the apology. I’ve highlighted some important sections so that I can refer back to them in the comments section.

An Apology
A few days ago I [Scott Brown, NCFIC Blogger] released a video clip from a panel discussion at our conference on The Worship of God. One of the panelists, Geoff Botkin, referred to the people driving Christian rap as “disobedient cowards.” I interpreted his statement to mean that, in every culture, Christians are often cowards in the face of various elements of their cultures that are infected with worldliness. Geoff has explained to me that he did not intend to impugn the work of sincere men, and that he would like to apologize for any confusion caused by his statement. Here is his apology:

My Comments: Writing demands clarity and honesty. One or both are lacking from this opening paragraph. First of all, Botkin did not say that “the people driving Christian rap” were disobedient cowards. His statement was clearly directed at the rappers themselves. The original question from the moderator was if the panelists had “any thoughts on reformed rap artists”. The people “driving Christian rap” could refer to producers, music executives, fans, rappers themselves, probably any number of others. In fact, in the sentence before hand, Botkin talked about the “people who think they’re serving God. And they’re not.”

So we are off to a bad start by obscuring the nature of Botkin’s comments. They were directed purposefully at Christian rappers, not at the amorphous “people driving Christian rap.”

The second part of this opening paragraph that ought to cause concern is the statement that Botkin “did not intend to impugn the work of sincere men.” He absolutely did mean to impugn the work of Christian rappers. He said they are serving their own flesh. He said they think they are serving God and they’re not! The statement almost sounds like it’s set up to make the argument that Botkin was not impugning the work of the “sincere Christian rappers”, only the insincere ones. But that kind of distinction won’t work now. We have the text of the comments. It is clear that Botkin is making no distinction between Christian rappers. He is arguing that anyone who uses the “so-called art form” of Christian hip hop is a disobedient coward.

The third phrase that ought to cause concern is the “apology for any confusion.” There is no confusion. That’s precisely why we’re here. Botkin made a
crystal clear statement that was egregiously wrong, both in content and spirit. We might wish Botkin has been unclear and confusing. Maybe then we could give him the benefit of the doubt. There’s no confusion as to what he said or what he meant. And if anyone is confused about either, please go back and listen to his tone and derisiveness in the video.

Here is the statement from Botkin himself:

“I need to apologize for the unintended offense and confusion of my comments on disobedient cowardice. I certainly do not believe that all of today’s Christian rappers are cowardly. My most sincere apologies go to anyone out there who was hurt by my strong language. While I do hold concerns about the use and misuse of rap, my words were not directed at any particular artist. My greater concern is for the broad cultural conformity and compromise that is not limited to reformed rap.” -Geoff Botkin

My Comments: How can Botkin possibly say offense was unintended? I maintain that anyone who goes back to listen to his comments will agree that his words were intended to be offensive. I believe he considered them prophetic and used every kind of device he could muster to make them sharp and attention-grabbing - he didn’t care who was offended! How do you call another Christian a “disobedient coward” and later say that the offense was unintended?!

Did you also notice how his comments are now characterized? “My comments on disobedient cowardice.” The problem here is that Botkin didn’t make statements on the subject of disobedient cowardice. He made comments on Christian rappers. It might be forgiven as a poor illustration if he had been giving a 40-minute sermon on the topic of disobedient cowardice and happened to mention Christian rappers in passing as one of many examples. But the subject was Christian rappers and he went out of his way
three times to use the word cowards/cowardly.

In the second sentence, Botkin now says he does not believe “that all of today’s Christian rappers are cowardly.” I would like to know when he changed his mind. Because he did not make any distinction in his panel comments. In fact, he closed those comments with, “Reformed rap is the cowardly following of the world.” That sounds all-inclusive to me. Has his mind changed because he’s been reading the many critiques of his comments? Or is he trying to claim that he was making this distinction the whole time - when he obviously was not.

This statement may be the key to eventually finding some common ground with Botkin. Either he's changed his mind - for which we would be thankful and rejoice - or he's digging in and in complete damage control mode, denying the plain meaning of his panel comments. This change of mind really needs further explanation and clarity.

In the third sentence, Botkin apologizes “to anyone out there who was hurt by my strong language.” Note that he doesn’t apologize for his strong language. Never in this apology do we hear “I’m sorry that I said… I was wrong.” In well-known non-apology form, Botkin apologizes that you were hurt, not that he he said anything wrong in the first place.

In the fourth sentence, Botkin asserts that his comments “not directed at any particular artist”. Well thanks, but I knew that already. Why single anyone out when you’ve already condemned the whole “so-called art form”? It would be like me saying “all redheads are obnoxious” and then when someone rightly calls me on it being like, “What? I didn’t single anyone out!”

From start to end, this apology is disingenuous. Botkin needs to repent and apologize for his original panel comments, and now for this non-apology as well. The fact that I’m having to write this post is embarrassing. But not as embarrassing as the comments made by this panel, Botkin in particular.

The closing statement in the Apology blog post, this paragraph again from the blog author:

We look forward to God glorifying dialogue with our brothers in Christ on the important matters of culture and the transforming power of the gospel.

Then please let me suggest that begins with repenting and apologizing for the comments made by this panel - both individually and as an organization.

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