Bible Tales Told in Hip-Hop Slang

IN the beginning of this Bible, God gave light to the world by saying ``Lighten up!'' the serpent in the Garden of Eden was ``one bad dude,'' and Cain ``wasted'' Abel.

``Black Bible Chronicles, Book One: From Genesis to the Promised Land'' (African American Family Press, 190 pp., $14.95) published in August, is equal parts hip hop, scholarship, and linguistic license.

It's a message from a preacher's daughter, P.K. McCary, who has reinterpreted parts of the Old Testament for young blacks.

``What this whole thing is about is empowering a group of young people who are killing each other,'' Ms. McCary says. ``A lot of young black kids think this Bible of Christianity is white folks' religion. It's not that they don't believe in God, but they don't believe in the stories or the rules of the Bible because, to them, it's totally irrelevant.''

For taking this approach, McCary says she has been called a blasphemer, a ``pimp for the white man,'' and of portraying blacks as ``wise-cracking, gum-popping, rap-singing individuals.''

She also has supporters: ``It sounds like an honest attempt to make the Bible legible to a large segment of the African-American community, which has for various reasons been alienated by religion,'' says Ken Clarke, assistant director for the Center for Ethics and Religious Affairs at Penn State University.

It is not everyday pulpit fare. Consider the Bible's injunction against extramarital sex from Leviticus, transposed into modern slang: ``It was a bad thing to do the wild thing without a blessing from the Almighty. You had to be hitched.''

McCary remembers teaching Sunday school in the 1970s and finding kids hiding in the bathroom. So she began to spin Old Testament tales her own way and tell them orally. The kids came back for more. ``There's some Anwar Sadats out there, some Martin Luther Kings, some Bobby Kennedys,'' McCary says. ``But they've got to get there. And we can't say, `Unless you do it through the King James Version, too bad for you.' ''

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