“Randy and the Flea, Still Straight Hood”: Lakewood Church’s Youth Camp and Racial Stereotyping

Charity R. Carney

I’m working on an article for the Southern Quarterly that includes a discussion of Lakewood Church’s youth program, Canvas. In sifting through my sources, I ran across an interesting piece of Lakewood culture that, to my knowledge, has not gotten much exposure. Randy and the Flea are a faux rap group that makes videos to entice young people to summer camp. They have been around for several years and are again expected to attend the “Hope and Life” conference in June.

Here is a sample performance (complete with Osteen cameo):

I wanted to speak briefly to the pop culture referencing that occurs at Lakewood and the potential problems that it poses for the multicultural and diverse body that the church seeks to represent. Phil Sinitiere and I have had some very informative conversations about the demographics of Lakewood, and I expect that he has thought this issue through at length. I look forward to reading more of his work on the subject. From where I stand, it seems that Lakewood’s desire is to foster an ever-expanding and ethnically diverse congregation but Randy and the Flea intentionally (and perhaps sometimes unintentionally) foster stereotypes of southern hillbillies, black women (notice the woman with the hairspray in the video), black men (accompanying them down railroad tracks), Latinos (a man’s small stature is mentioned jokingly in one of the lines), and, last but not least, Indians (as the female reporter with her outrageous accent represents).

It’s true that Randy and the Flea are referencing the videos done by the Lonely Island (SNL's satirical rap group), but is this type of referencing problematic for a church like Lakewood? Should Lakewood’s demographic preclude these sort of racial jabs or is it because of the church’s diversity that they are able to make this commentary?

And, watch out! More videos are “coming soon” from this bizarre rap duo. 


Gerardo Marti said…
Yes, and yes. My own research affirms how the project of "racial diversity" ironically involves the accentuation of stereotypes.
Anonymous said…
I think Gerardo is absolutely right. I also think this is another demonstration of how most evangelicals aren't introspective of what gets done in God's name. There is no moment where someone goes, "Wait, what are we really doing here?" Instead, because it is done for supposedly godly purposes--getting youth to church camp--it's okay, and perhaps even thought cool (at least by the adults involved) because it is referencing youth culture. What's even more disappointing--which Charity touches on--is that none of individuals involved who were asked to play stereotypes of their own ethnicities said, "I'm not doing that; this is what fuels the fires of racial division." If someone raised the issue of stereotyping for the video, I wouldn't be surprised if someone said, "It's ok because we have a redneck so we're making fun of whites too."
Charity Carney said…
Absolutely! I completely agree with both Gerardo and Todd. I had a great chat with Phil Sinitiere last night on this subject and I think there is a lot to consider here. Phil pointed out that the actor playing "Randy" is most likely Nick Nilson, a youth pastor at Lakewood who is helping to host the event and is an authority figure for the young people there.

Another interesting piece is that Canvas (the Lakewood youth group) is willingly posting these videos outside of their site, on YouTube, for a global audience. I am curious as to how many Lakewood followers are aware of this business of stereotyping to appeal to juvenile humor.

The group also makes fun of Joel Osteen himself in this fascinating remix of his "This is my Bible" liturgy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKXO4LnWGLA.
Anonymous said…
Maybe you guys should actually attend Lakewood Church before making false accusations, you wouldnt want somebody to be negatively interpreting your personality before they've even met you
Anonymous said…
I've been attending Lakewood Church for almost 7 years. I've been serving in Canvas for almost 2 years...We have never had anyone come up to us and say that those videos are stereotypical. In fact not only do the youth like them, but also visitors have seen our Randy & The Flea....If they were making fun of Joel Osteen, then he would have never approved the video.
Anonymous said…
You know if peoole like charity and gerardo would consintrate on winning souls like lakwood, they would not be consintrating on bs crap like this article. That's what's wrong with church people today. They are more concerned about doctrine and sterio types then winning souls like lakewood does. As far as I'm concerned this article is a large waist of time.

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