Let me begin by offering my three initial responses to all those who are baffled as to why I have not yet written about Kanye: 1) I actually know next to nothing about him; 2) Although I do watch culture (as this site indicates), that does not mean I am an authority on all matters (I will leave that for God!); and 3) a busy week in Africa was a bit of an excuse for why I did not write anything about him.
And some of you may still be asking: Kanye? We are speaking here about Kanye West, an American rapper. Since I know so little about him, let me offer a simple Wiki intro to the guy: “Kanye Omari West (born June 8, 1977) is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, and fashion designer. His music has spanned a broad range of styles, incorporating an eclectic range of influences including hip hop, soul, baroque pop, electro, indie rock, synth-pop, industrial, and gospel.”
It seems he is married to another mega-American phenomenon, Kim Kardashian. But what has got everyone talking is his reported recent conversion to Christianity, culminating in the release of a new album just a few weeks ago, Jesus Is King. Here is another Wiki snippet:
In January 2019, West re-affirmed his Christian faith on Twitter. His wife Kim Kardashian described West’s Christian new birth experience in September 2019: “Kanye started this to really heal himself and it was a really personal thing, and it was just friends and family…He has had an amazing evolution of being born again and being saved by Christ.” In October 2019, West said with respect to his past, “When I was trying to serve multiple gods it drove me crazy” in reference to the “god of ego, god of money, god of pride, the god of fame”, and that “I didn’t even know what it meant to be saved” and that now “I love Jesus Christ. I love Christianity.”
And his wife was just recently baptised in her ancestral homeland of Armenia. So what are we to make of all this? Let me offer just a few personal thoughts, and then run with some quotes of others. First, if he has in fact made a real commitment to Christ, we of course need to uphold him in prayer.
Satan will be furious that one of his big-ticket items has defected to the other side, and will be doing everything he can to bring him back into the dark fold. There will be tremendous spiritual pressures on him to leave the faith, distort the faith, or deny the faith.
And as is always the case when we have a new convert, especially a mega-celeb, the pressure will be on big time to expect him to be an overnight spiritual wonder, displaying maturity and wisdom beyond his years. But he is a new Christian, and as such we should not place too many expectations on him. He needs time to grow and mature in his faith.
The passage that Paul offers to Timothy concerning elders in 1 Timothy 5:22 is usually raised in situations like this: “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others.” The idea is that we do not too quickly and prematurely shove a new convert into places of responsibility that he is not yet ready for.
We have seen many cases of this in the past where some movie star or pop star or some other celeb becomes a Christian and is instantly thrown in the spotlight, often just burning out real fast and quickly losing the faith. We do not want that to happen here.
He needs to be soundly grounded in his faith, and that includes having solid biblical teaching. Good doctrine is a big part of this. Thus there are concerns when we read reports where he said he was keen to meet up with mega-church pastor Joel Osteen.
So he needs room to grow, but he should also not be harshly judged by other believers as he begins his Christian journey. He will make mistakes and mess things up – as we all do – but we need to pray that God uses him in mighty ways in the days ahead.
And as such, just as one might question how genuine his Christian faith now is, so too with all those who hop on the bandwagon. For example, a very recent headline said this: “Thousands Gave Their Lives to Christ at Kanye West’s Latest ‘Sunday Service’ in Baton Rouge.” www.faithwire.com/2019/11/02/thousands-gave-their-lives-to-christ-at-kanye-wests-latest-sunday-service-in-baton-rouge/
It is hoped that all this is the real deal. Pop stars of course have legions of fans, and the fans will often tend to do whatever their hero does – for good or ill. So now we have reports of excited fans coming to Christ. Let us hope and pray that these are genuine conversions, not just emotional responses with no reality to them.
At the very least, it seems his new-found faith has sparked a very widespread interest in the Bible for many people. As one article puts it:
It’s yet to be seen if the entertainment mogul’s new, Gospel-infused album “Jesus Is King” will lead people to salvation, but one thing is for sure: it’s leading them to Google. The 11-track album is chockfull of Bible references, and according to Bible Gateway, online searches for Scripture passages and faith-based phrases in the songs have spiked since the record was released in late October. www.faithwire.com/2019/10/31/massive-spike-in-faith-based-google-searches-after-jesus-is-king/
And Kanye is now not only making a very public stand for Christ, but he is also wading into some of the big debates of the day. Thus he has come out in support of Brexit, of Trump, and has spoken out against abortion. All these things are anathema to the secular left, so he will really be attacked now big time.
But as mentioned, I am a novice when it comes to all things Kanye. I cannot name for you even one of his musical contributions of the past, and I have not listened to anything from his new album. So let me here draw upon a few other commentators to help round out this piece. I begin with Andrew Walker. He says this about the album:
The lyrics to each song in Jesus Is King are shockingly Christian. It is not an album of feel-good Christian spirituality aimed primarily as a message of uplift. West co-wrote and sang the hit “Jesus Walks” on his debut album The College Dropout (2004), but Jesus Is King is different. Throughout the whole of the new album, West is in many respects deeply critical of modernity and cultural progressivism. There are calls for a focus more on the family than on individual glory. He seems to applaud Chick-fil-A, which in our age is tantamount to endorsing bigotry. Social-media obsession should be exchanged for family prayer. Fatherhood is characterized as a virtue. Materialism is pilloried. Calls for worshiping Christ redound to such effect that West’s first Christian album is arguably more Christian than what most contemporary Christian artists could similarly muster.
Wow, sounds good to me! He goes on to say this:
He’s rejecting the hyper-sexualization of culture that he admitted he helped create. In an ode to the Niebuhrian Christ-and-culture typology, he said he’s now living his life for Christ and ostensibly against culture. In a word, Kanye West is now a cultural reactionary by the standards of our society, and could be, in time, a cultural wrecking ball that dislodges so much of the assumed, comfortable, and unchecked cultural liberalism that dominates the most elite sectors of our country and mocks anything resembling traditionalism and social conservatism. In an age of libertarian sentiment, when the currency of American society appear to be glamorization and the notion that consent is the only reasonable moral standard, West is calling for restraint and limits. To that end, I wish him success. www.nationalreview.com/2019/10/kanye-wests-conversion-could-be-a-cultural-wrecking-ball/
Yes, so do I. Another writer worth noting is Spencer Klavan. He finishes his piece on Kanye with these words:
There actually does not exist any room in mainline cultural commentary for the notion that a true encounter with the risen Lord might have occasioned a genuine transformation in West’s previously embattled and troubled soul. Faced with such a reality, reviewers have only snide belittlement to offer, and fallback accusations of inanity. But “Jesus Is King” is not inane: it is raw, muscular, and direct, a blunt rebellion against an ever more depraved society: “no more living for the culture, we nobody’s slave.”
“We nobody’s slave.” That is what critics cannot abide or understand, and what Christians are now welcoming with gratitude and recognition: the Gospel does not play by anybody’s rules. The wisdom of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, and “Jesus Is King” can only be folly to those who believe that its title is a lie. But this does not deter Christ, who enters into spaces that are furiously hostile toward him—spaces like pop music, or Kanye West’s heart—and claims them as his own. americanmind.org/post/kanye-actually-did-it/
And who knows, maybe God can even use a guy like this to help wake up a sleeping – if not dead – church. As Bert Farias says:
With little to no theological training, with no prestigious degree or lofty title beside his name, with riches and fame to lose, West is showing passive Christian leaders, muted church pastors and TV celebrity preachers how it’s done. Actually, West represents much more. He represents a certain judgment on the silent American preacher. He is teaching Christian leaders what a sin it is to be silent in such a grossly dark and immoral time in America. He is teaching us how to voice our faith, spread the gospel and lift up Jesus….
I think West recognizes the present danger of America’s spiritual and moral condition better than most preachers and pastors do. I, for one, am thanking God for him. Will he stand? Pray for him, and I believe his chances will be greatly increased. I understand he’s being discipled and mentored, which is most important. Could West’s conversion be the beginning of a mushrooming move of God in the music, media and fashion industries in Hollywood, and in the mainstream of the American culture? Could this lead to another Jesus Movement? It certainly is cause for rejoicing, because the gospel is being preached in the mainstream. www.charismanews.com/opinion/the-flaming-herald/78632-kanye-west-is-showing-christian-leaders-how-it-s-done
Let me close with one more important quote, this time from another celebrity who knows what it is like to stand against the secular left haters and tyrants:
Actress Patricia Heaton says she’s praying for Kanye West because people want to see him fail at Christianity. “I was just listening to the Kanye interview with Big Boy this morning as I was getting dressed. I never thought I’d be downloading any Kanye West music, but here we are,” the “Everybody Loves Raymond” actress told The Christian Post on Tuesday.
West released his ninth studio album last week, titled Jesus Is King, and it’s loaded with scripture and gospel content. The emcee and fashion mogul started hosting Sunday Service events at the top of the year that feature gospel music and, more recently, sermons. A few months ago, West announced that he was a born again Christian and found healing after he was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.
Heaton, a devout Catholic who frequently speaks out about social issues and her faith, said she’s “definitely praying for” West. “It’s very hard. I think when someone of his stature in the industry and someone who has his amount of fame makes that kind of proclamation, people then really watch and scrutinize everything he does to catch him falling down,” she said. “I hope that he is able to handle that, because that’s what’s going to happen,” Heaton predicted. “People want to see him fail at Christianity,” she said. www.christianpost.com/news/patricia-heaton-warns-kanye-west-of-whats-to-come-for-sharing-jesus-in-hollywood.html
Yes there is no question that many will want him to fail. Certainly, the God-haters and leftists will be working overtime to ensure that he fails. And even some Christians, for various reasons, will rail against him, including the usual heresy hunters and hyper-critics.
I will not go there, but will instead keep him in prayer. If, over time, he does show any worrying signs, either in terms of doctrinal deviance, or lifestyle failures, then yes, I will be obliged to speak out. But for now, I will regard him as a new Christian who very much needs prayer and spiritual warfare on his behalf.
If an unlikely hero like Donald Trump could turn out to be a much-needed political wrecking ball, used by Almighty God for his purposes, perhaps we have the same here: Kanye West used by the Lord as a cultural and social wrecking ball.
Please keep him in your prayers.