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Dear Mason Betha aka Murder Ma$e aka S.A.N.E. Minister Mason Betha aka Pastor Betha of El Elyon International Church,
I’m trying so hard not to judge you right now, but what is you doin’ man? (I’m sayin’ this Atlanta style since that is where you have lived since 1999.) I just read on TMZ that you, the pastor of El Elyon International Church, up and dipped on your congregation and returned to the “rap game full time.” Where they do that at? I knew something was up when, while flipping through television channels last week, I saw you rappin’ on some video and cheesin’ it up with your infectious smile like you did before you left Bad Boy for the ministry back in the day. And I wasn’t the only one that was confused. In a recent interview with The Breakfast Club, rapper Ja Rule—who seems to be finding his own way to faith–was asked about your return to the rap industry. According to a Madame Noire post of that interview he said, “I’m very confused by what Mase is doing. I don’t know if that’s cool or not. I wouldn’t play with the Lord like that.” Say that!
You may not care what I’m sayin’ since we’ve never met, but I want you to know I’ve been a fan of yours since “Feel So Good” was released in 1998. I still love that video! You and Puff Daddy–as he was known back then–made living in the lap of luxury look so doggone cool with your shiny silver suits, stacks of flying money and that Bad Boy braggadocio. Not to mention Kelly Price singing the hook which was obviously a sample of Kool & the Gang’s “Hollywood Swinging.” But I digress.
Let me start at the beginning of the story. My fascination with you happened because of my love for Bad Boy. Puff’s “rag to riches” story still goes down as one of the best of all time. From college dropout to creating a record label in 1994 that provided a soundtrack for the ‘90s from The Notorious B.I.G. to Mary J. Blige to Faith Evans to Atlanta’s own 112 and more. It was obvious why Puff was always saying “Take that, take that.” He was servin’ up hits like he was a chef. So when I graduated from the University of Georgia with a journalism degree in 1996, I was ready to jump in and chronicle the urban music industry explosion as an entertainment journalist. Back then, everyone from Bad Boy was always in the A. I guess that’s one reason why Puffy opened up the now defunct restaurant Justin’s back in 1998. I remember clubbin’ with Puffy, Faith, and 112 pretending that I was poppin’ bottles and tryin’ to look like a model. At the time LaFace Records, which was headquartered in Atlanta, was also blowin’ up so I didn’t even have to leave my hometown. In fact, anyone who was anyone seemed to be moving here, it was like entertainment heaven!
And then I found God.
I didn’t mean to even though my father is a pastor. Actually, He found me and my lifestyle had to change. One of the drastic changes I made was transferring my love for secular urban music to the Christian hip-hop game—which is a whole other story in itself, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit I was still checkin’ for what was going on in secular urban music.
So when I heard that you, one of the latter artists to bask in the Bad Boy light, was jumping ship for Christian ministry, I was initially skeptical and then encouraged. It was difficult for me to turn my back on secular urban music at the time, but for you it must have been a seismic shift! So when I read the Atlanta Journal Constitution article “From Hip-Hop to God” in which Sonia Murray interviewed you in 2000, I saved it. (I still have it, it’s right beside me on my desk as I write.) In the article, you explained why you left Bad Boy and the rap industry in 1999 and moved to Atlanta.
“I mean, I was corrupting young people’s minds to get that money. I was telling guys things like, ‘If you don’t have sex with at least five women a day, you’re nobody.’ Leading millions of people astray. Imagine how much more I can have doing the right thing, and serving God.”
The same day the article was released, I saw you preach the message “Hell Is Not Full” at an auditorium in East Point. As they say, seeing is believing and after I saw you, I believed your conversion was real. According to the same AJC article, you were ordained as a minister at Siloam Baptist Church in East Point in 1999 and you were starting S.A.N.E. (Saving A Nation Endangered) Ministries. But not everybody supported your decision. “Friends, family – everybody besides Puff- didn’t get behind me,” you said. And I got that because some of my friendships were irreparably damaged after I decided to stop being all up in the club and all up in church instead.
Although I didn’t follow you all around town or anything, you were on my radar because I felt we were fellow sojourners. I remember when I heard you got married in 2001, I wondered why God hadn’t brought my husband into my life yet, but that is also another story for another day. One day I saw Twyla Betha, who is now your ex-wife, at a salon getting her eyebrows done and I checked her out. She seemed nice from my brief encounter with her. After hearing that you and your wife started a new church which met in an elementary school on Peachtree Street, I decided to visit one Sunday, and everything still seemed all good with you. Nicole Symmonds, the current UrbanFaith.com editor who was then a contributing writer to the site, visited El Elyon International Church and also had a good opinion of your ministry. I think I even bought your book “Revelations: There’s a Light After the Lime” and gave it to my younger brother.
But then out of nowhere you decided to rap again and released “Welcome Back” in 2004. But you assured us all was well in a 2005 TBN interview. “Why is it Christians are more confident in the Devil taking me more than Christ keeping me. What I have inside of me is more powerful than anything the world could ever offer me,” you said according to The Christian Post. However, you also pointed out that you regret abruptly leaving hip hop for ministry. “I didn’t give myself any room to grow, I went from one extreme to another extreme. I was just so gung-ho about what I was learning, that’s all I wanted.” I was giving you the side-eye a little bit, but I was hoping for the best. And then you started hanging with the G-Unit, and I was like, ‘What the what?’ But then you seemed to retreat back to the church although I got wind of some developments that made it seem like you joined the prosperity gospel movement.
I read various TMZ articles that you and your wife were having issues. You filed for divorce then reneged on the petition and then the divorce was back on again. And even while you were separated for two years, you and your now ex-wife were selling books about marriage. But Christians and non-Christians alike “wile” out behind marriage issues so I was still hoping (although a little less enthusiastically) that you were on the narrow highway to heaven instead of the broad road that “leads to destruction.” (Matthew 7:13)
And so all of that brings to where I am today – just downright disappointed that you seem have turned your back on your church (hopefully not THE church). More than anything, though, I hope you have not turned your back on God too. But below are some scriptures that I hope are helpful for you as you seem to be at yet another crossroads in your life. Do with them what you will…Hopefully, I will see you down the road…
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:3-9.
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come. If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” Hebrews 6:4-6
“As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” Proverbs 26:11
It’s not easy for anyone to be a Christian, and I suspect that it may be even harder for you. You were exposed to the “best” of what the world has to offer from riches to fame and on your worst days, the ministry may have seemed decidedly less shiny in comparison. I get that. But dude, keep it all in perspective. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36. I’ll be praying for you…
In Christian Love With a Church Hug,