Kanye West. I went offline for a few days while I was traveling and when I left everyone was talking about the death of Toby Mac’s son. When I came back, my news feed was full of debate about Kanye West. Such a striking difference in tone between the two subjects. My heart is broken over what Toby and his family are currently going through and my prayers are with him and his family. My heart and prayers are also with Kanye and his family. For very different reasons but still, in some ways, heartbreaking nonetheless.
So yeah, I’m going to dive in on this topic. Before I do though, this is my little corner of the internet. If you have a differing opinion, I’m good to listen. Not argue. Listen and reason together. I’m not here to debate. Just tell you my thoughts. You’re welcome to disagree. But respect, grace, and listening to all sides needs to be the foundation of any discussion.
So now that I’ve gotten that out of the way….
I’d only really been skimming the Kanye stuff before today. I admit I was getting annoyed with some of the backlash from people. One of my friends (a big name in faith radio) asked if Christian radio should play Kanye’s new album. The debate on his page was interesting to say the least. As someone whose career started in radio (first mainstream then faith based) I found the dialogue interesting. Station managers who are afraid to touch it for fear of alienating their audience. Others who are tentatively taking up the mantle and dipping their toes into the water, albeit cautiously. Never do I ever remember an artist causing this kind of stir before. I’ve worked in radio through artists having affairs, getting divorced, coming out…but never anything like this. This morning alone I saw three separate radio stations that I have done business with each put out a manager’s statement on why they were or were not choosing to play his music. Wow. Really?
So I decided it was time to catch up on some of his recent interviews and media. I came across this video first. (It’s 20 minutes or so but it’s worth every second.)
This touched my soul. Somewhere deep. I don’t know anything about how he came to Christ or how his journey has gone, but I see a joy radiating from the man. His smile shines peace. PEACE PEACE PEACE. That’s all I kept thinking while I watched. The hard questions came – why should anyone believe this transformation? What do you say to the naysayers? There was not one single moment of anger or judgement or wrath in his answers. The man has peace. He shines.
Now check out this video:
The thing that struck me here is that he’s doing what many of us do. He fasts. He prays. He’s focusing on the project and what GOD wants from the project. He’s not hesitant about this. He’s diving in full force. He gets the naysayers. He knows it sounds weird. Still, he’s not backing down.
Also, across both of these interviews, Kanye has said something that resonates deep for me. Service. He is a servant. The man who has millions of dollars and has spent his life in the spotlight is now talking about being a servant. He has said multiple times “I am a servant of God. I’m here to do His will.” That’s some powerful stuff in this selfie-laden social media society. Wow. I mean really. Think about that.
The man known for saying things like:
Man, I’m the No. 1 living and breathing rock star. I am Axl Rose; I am Jim Morrison; I am Jimi Hendrix.
I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade. I will be the loudest voice.
I know how to swim through backlash. I can tread water through backlash…if anything that’s all giving me power.
That man is now saying things like:
I’m here to serve.
God has a plan and a purpose for my life.
I am His servant.
Kanye West is a servant of God.
And he’s saying it EVERYWHERE. He is not backing down. In watching these interviews, nothing is about him. It’s about what God has done and is doing through him. He looks like he wants those hard questions. He’s eager to answer them. He leans into them. “Go ahead. Ask the hard questions. Let me tell you what my God is doing.” Have you ever experienced that? I have. “Let me tell you about my cancer journey. Let me tell you how I got this career. Let me talk about my God and King and what He has done in my life. Let me lean in to your unbelief and share my faith.”
Yet, many Christians are decrying him for his past. They are pointing past sins and saying there’s no way he can actually be saved. SERIOUSLY PEOPLE? You want your past sins all over billboards, headlines, and social media? Cause a lot of folks out there pointing those fingers would be mightily upset if their sins were splashed all over the world in bright shiny lights. Especially if those sins were being used to say he can’t possibly be a ‘real believer’ now.
I watched the entire video clip with James Corden (posted above) and I’ll admit, I went into it skeptical. I wasn’t sure what was coming or what to expect. But somewhere in the middle, I started praising. From this little cottage next to a lake in Pennsylvania where I’m vacationing, I went to CHURCH. I felt that music. I was praising with my hands up, my eyes closed, and my soul turned to God. I had tears in my eyes and I was in complete submission to my Lord and King. I was praising Him for all that He is, all that He’s done and everything He has planned for me. That wasn’t Kanye. Kanye didn’t do that. God did.
At that moment, I saw Kanye’s bright smile. The peace radiating deep from within. It was in his soul too. That wasn’t the music. That was my heavenly father. In both of us. I mentally started referring to Kanye as my brother without even a second thought. If he walked into my church today, I would greet him with open arms and ask how I could pray for him. Just like I do any other visitor to my church. You’re part of the family.
Then I thought about that radio controversy. Why is that a thing? Let’s think about this. If you heard some of those songs with no one telling you it was Kanye, would you praise? If someone had played one of those songs for you and told you it was TobyMac, DC Talk, or Newsboys, would you have praised? I’m guessing most believers I know would have joined in. Cause honestly, I can hear some of these songs coming from any one of those artists. And I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t even blink twice if someone played them for me. I’d join in the praise. But tell people it’s Kanye West and the reaction is decidedly different. Not in a good way either.
No matter what the reality is at this moment, Kanye’s bound to mess up. Not because he’s not legitimately accepted Christ. Just cause he’s human. I mess up. More often than I care to admit. He doesn’t get a free pass for anything he might do from here on out. But he does get grace, compassion, and love. Because that’s what I got when I didn’t deserve it. That’s what I still get. And I still don’t deserve it.
Here’s the thing. He admits openly in interviews that God is using his story, his failings and his shortcomings to create something beautiful as a testimony. Do I know definitively whether he’s accepted Christ or not? No. The Bible says you will know them by their fruit. This is new. We’ll see if it lasts. As for me and my thoughts on it (as if they really make any sort of difference on this anyway) I would rather be known as the person who showed compassion before judgement. Grace before bitterness. Acceptance before rejection. If you listen to that music and you can’t think of anything but the man who is performing it and the sins he’s committed, then maybe (just maybe?) it isn’t Kanye who needs to do the soul searching.