"We’ve entered into a weird space in our society where just about anybody could profess to be an advocate of God, and just about anybody would believe and accompany them."
You’d have to be very out of touch with pop culture to have missed the most recent change in the musical expression of Kanye West.
For a while now, Kanye West has been a roller coaster for his fans and devotees of hip-hop culture. He early amassed a “rock star” following, thanks to his witty lyricism, icon production, and a confidence that would not move. He’s responsible for nine studio albums; he has over 20 million in record sales and over 90 million in digital downloads. Kanye has performed with and produced for artists like JAY-Z, Beyoncé, Talib Kweli, the RZA, and even Janet Jackson. He amplified the career of Twista and introduced us to the roster of G.O.O.D. Music. Say what you want about him, but know that his bust in the hip-hop hall of fame is undoubtedly undeniable.
However, in the more recent years, he’s been less known for his music, and more known for his public troubles. The norm of Kanye has changed. If around the year 2004, you heard the name Ye you asked: “how does it sound?” Or “did he finally win?” However, around about the year of 2007, if you heard the name Ye, you’d ask, “uh oh, what did he do?”
Why 2007? Ironically, this was the year that his mother, Donda West, died from surgical complications at the age of 58. While many note this event to be the genesis towards the “new Kanye,” others disagree. Some hold that there were earlier signs of a change in his demeanor (i.e., award show appearances, conflated ego, etc.). Whatever the case, the name Kanye West became just as well-known as a music icon, as it was for moments of infamy.
2018 was a significant turning point for not only Kanye but for many of his fans and supporters. It was this year that Kanye intensified his support for President Trump (a backing that officially began in 2016). And also, the year of his infamous “slavery was a choice” showdown with the then-TMZ correspondent, Van Lathan.
The handwriting was on the wall for Mr. West. It looked as if we were watching the near demise of Kanye. In an era of ‘cancel culture,’ we asked, “How will he bounce back from all of this?” What would he need to do to turn this around? Or, how would he survive this?
"Whatever the case, the name Kanye West became just as well-known as a music icon, as it was for moments of infamy."
Well, at the top of 2019, reports began circulating about his “Sunday Service.” It was the first Sunday of 2019, where Kanye West started his “Sunday Service” rehearsals. These gatherings appeared to be therapeutic for Mr. West. He and an ensemble of singers would come together and sing gospel iterations of mainstream and even sampled music. To say that sounded G.O.O.D. would be an understatement. Try G.R.E.A.T.
The call for more public consumption of this new sound was unrelenting. So unrelenting that Kanye’s “Sunday Service” was asked to headline Coachella. While production and stage concerns hindered him from being the headliner, he would go on to bring his sound to Coachella and perform there on Easter Sunday.
By the later part of the year, it had become a regular occurrence to hear that his “Sunday Service” was in a new city, sharing its unique sound. With the Mormons in Utah, he was there. Joel Olsten in Houston, he was there. Howard University, he was there. Even in an impromptu performance in the Harris County Jail, he was there. Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted this statement on November 15, 2019 – “On this date, @kanyewest visits @HCSOTexas jail system. “This is a mission, not a show”- Kanye.”
Now I want to be precise. I’m not taking the familiar position of many concerning Mr. West. I’m not confirming or denying the authenticity of his intentions, because that is a truth that only God knows. Defaming the heart of Kanye would be unfair. Imagine if someone began denouncing the authenticity of you or me. I can’t begin to attempt to speak on his heart, because I am not his judge.
However, while I do push aside that typical argument, I think we must consider that there is a more significant problem. A problem that indeed was not started by Kanye, and assuredly won’t end with him. This problem is a problem that is far more antagonistic than his overt antics.
"Defaming the heart of Kanye would be unfair. Imagine if someone began denouncing the authenticity of you or me. I can’t begin to attempt to speak on his heart, because I am not his judge."
I want you to ask, on matters of faith, why were droves of people, so willing to automatically give him their allegiance? Even more significant, how could anyone be so assured of him, that they’d deem any inquisition of him at all as judgmental?
When ‘speculation-before-adoration’ is met with contempt, I think, by in large, we as a society have lost sight of the role of spiritual leadership in our getting to know God.
We’ve entered into a weird space in our society where just about anybody could profess to be an advocate of God, and just about anybody would believe and accompany them. Why? Because we as a “religious” people love to praise God, sing about God, thank God, cry unto God, lift our voices before God. BUT, we are seemingly hardly interested in getting to KNOW God.
Consider this. The Apostle Paul wrote the mass majority of the New Testament. However, before God called him, he was known as Saul of Tarsus. After his calling, people were understandably on the fence about him. And it was fair to wonder. After all, he was just a short while ago terrorizing the church, and wolves can dress as sheep (cf. Matthew 7:15). So, is it fair to condemn him? No, however, it’s also not wise to go running after him, simply because he says so. They were following his lead with the hopes of soul salvation, and they refused to do so blindly. The Bible says in Acts 17:11, “The people in Berea were much nicer than those in Thessalonica, and they gladly accepted the message. Day after day, they studied the Scriptures to see if these things were true.” (CEV)
"When ‘speculation-before-adoration’ is met with contempt, I think, by in large, we as a society have lost sight of the role of spiritual leadership in our getting to know God."
In other words, sure they heard of Paul, and they were willing to listen to him politely. However, before they became adherents to his doctrine, they took a moment to compare what he said to what God said. Only after his teaching was confirmed, was their allegiance made known.
Make sense? Sure it does.
Here’s the point. The prophet Hosea was inspired by God to share these words in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...” (NASB).
Someone may ask, is this manifestation the action of a man who’s trying to save a declining and wounded persona/career? Or, is this the actions of a man who’s genuinely seeking God? The answer to both of these questions is honestly “IDK.” However, that’s not even the question that matters. The more significant and more critical problem is this: if you’ve given Kanye your fellowship, on what basis did you do so?
Whatever your position is of the “new Kanye” all I ask is that you measure his message with God’s Word. Consider the particulars and become more interested in what he says, than who he is. Fact, if you can demand a Carfax before the purchase of an automobile, then you ought to certainly be able to require Biblical confirmation from your spiritual leader.
Warning: if you are going to a church that will not allow you to question the leader, RUN!
Kevin D. Jones, Sr.
Kevin D. Jones, Sr.