By Shawn Hendricks
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) — While rap may not be the music style of choice in most Southern Baptist churches, some seminary instructors are pointing students to a rap video in their Baptist history classes.
Ashley Unzicker stars in a YouTube video featuring a rap song that combines the theme music from the popular ’90s television show “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” with the outline to a Baptist history course she took at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
“I’ve been writing raps forever,” said Unzicker, a wife and mother of two children — with one on the way. Her husband Todd is a campus pastor for The Summit Church in the Raleigh/Durham area.
“I used to say I wanted to be the next Weird Al ; he was like who I wanted to be when I grew up,” joked Unzicker, who is taking a break from classes during her pregnancy and being a stay-at-home mom for now. When time allows, she hopes to earn a master of arts in Christian studies.
The video, released early last year, can be seen here or by searching for “Baptist History Rap” at youtube.com.
“Ashley’s rap is by far the most creative use of my course lectures I have ever seen,” said Unzicker’s professor, Nathan Finn, in a May 15 email interview with Baptist Press. “She summarized nearly all of the historical material I discussed. A little bit of her lyrics were taken directly from the lectures, though the vast majority of it was her summarizing the material.”
Unzicker’s historical journey kicks off with a reference to King Henry VIII and ends with Fred Luter being elected the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“I think it’s really interesting just how this all happened — how we Baptists, why are we Baptists and why do we believe what we believe,” she said, “and all the different things that each person contributed throughout history.”
Unzicker acknowledges she wasn’t that interested in Baptist history when she first enrolled in Finn’s class in the fall of 2012. But he soon won her over.
“Wow, that’s why I believe what I believe,” said Unzicker, who recalled the moment Baptist history became more than a collection of dates and words in a textbook.
The class gave her a special appreciation for many influential Baptists of the past. Among her favorites: missionary Adoniram Judson, who served in Burma, and Martin Luther King Jr. and his impact on Southern Baptists during the civil rights movement.
Using the class outline, Unzicker wrote the lyrics one evening and she and her husband Todd filmed it a couple days later. While the video has garnered a modest 9,000 views since being released in January 2013, Unzicker has been contacted by Finn and other seminary instructors who have watched the video and asked to use it in their classes.
“I have shown the rap in a few classes, and I know some colleagues have as well,” Finn said. “I have not heard that it is required anywhere. However, I am 100 percent behind it being required everywhere!”
While most Baptist seminary students are Southern Baptist by the time they enroll in classes, “many have no idea what that means,” Finn said.
“It is important to teach them Baptist history and identity,” he said. “I want my Southern Baptist students to know the stories, the strengths and weaknesses, and the theological emphases of their tradition so that they can pass it on to the folks to whom they minister. I also want my non-SBC students to become Southern Baptists!”
Joe B. Kim, who is teaching a Baptist heritage and practice course at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., described Unzicker’s project as a “high quality entertaining video for Baptist studies.”
” gives a bird’s-eye view of Baptist history with particular attention to the SBC perspective,” Kim said in an email interview with Baptist Press. “This resource is helpful for priming the pump before a lecture!”
Unfortunately for Unzicker, she wrote the rap after she finished her Baptist history class and was unable to receive extra credit. “People asked me, ‘Did you do that for points?’ I’m like ‘no reason. I just really liked doing it.’ I got an A, though. So I didn’t need the extra credit, thankfully.”
Shawn Hendricks is managing editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.