IS KANYE FOR REAL?
HAS KANYE TAKEN A REAL JESUS WALK?
by Trevor DeVage
Although some have been skeptical about rapper Kanye West’s conversion to Christ, I’m a believer. But Christian critics, especially on social media, have questioned his faith and critiqued his public statements about it. This is disappointing and damaging.
Kanye seemed to anticipate that other believers would be the loudest to doubt his turnaround. In “Hands On,” a song on his new album, Jesus Is King, the Grammy-winning superstar rapper asks, “What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?” The answer: “They’ll be the first one to judge me/Make it feel like nobody love me.”
When someone has a radical transformation, some Christians don’t know what do to with it. Could this be because their own transformation hasn’t been nearly so radical?
I was thrilled to see Kanye’s humble, simple affirmation of his faith on Jimmy Kimmel Live and in the delightful “Airpool Karaoke” segment with James Corden. (Do yourself a favor and follow the link to watch this for yourself. I dare you not to smile and clap along with Kanye’s Sunday Service choir performing worship songs to Jesus in the airplane cabin.)
“Are you a Christian artist now?” Kimmel asked Kanye.
He paused for a minute before answering, “I’m a Christian everything!”
“So what do you and Kim do on a typical Tuesday night?” Corden asked between songs on the airplane.
“We don’t like to go out anymore,” Kanye answered. “We eat dinner and play with the kids, and then we put them to sleep and go to bed…. Kim watches Dateline, and I read my Bible.”
“You read your Bible?” Corden asked, as though he hadn’t heard him right the first time.
“Yeah,” Kanye answered simply.
Kanye has borne more fruit for the gospel in his first six months of conversion than many have in a lifetime—not because he’s a celebrity, but because he’s being so vocal. A curious world is watching—and listening. And it will be damaging to the cause of Christ if the loudest reaction they hear is from Christians criticizing Kanye’s pronouncements. Let’s not give nonbelievers one more reason to turn their backs on the church.
Let’s at least pause and allow time for this to play out. Let’s remember how long it has taken us to mature in our faith. Let’s give grace if Kanye says something we can’t agree with or does something we know is wrong. (Which of us could bear widespread public scrutiny of our own conversion and faltering spiritual growth?)
I was remembering unkind comments from Christians about Kanye after the news broke last week that Cincinnati Christian University is closing. Once again Twitter and Facebook pundits rushed to judgment, airing attacks whose only real effect is to discourage Christians and damage the church’s reputation.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. Worshipers of our God were the ones who demanded the crucifixion of Christ. The first Christian martyr died at the hands of those who had studied Scripture since childhood. One of them, the Pharisee Saul, pursued and persecuted the new Christians with self-righteous zeal. And then, after he himself was baptized into Christ, many of those Christians doubted his conversion could be real.
But because his turnaround was so radical and true, untold numbers came to Christ. We could pray for something similar as a result of Kanye’s new faith. It’s not impossible. Last week National Review writer Andrew T. Walker posted a piece under the headline, “Kanye West’s Conversion Could Be a Cultural Wrecking Ball” with this teaser paragraph: “He’s just the figure to ring a needed message that our society should reconsider what it deems praiseworthy.”
American Christians are a part of that society. All of us can hear Kanye’s simple challenge to put Jesus first in everything. Each of us can find something we praise or seek that’s less than God’s ideal; each of us can analyze our own ego, values, and priorities instead of someone else’s. And while we’re watching Kanye, let’s expect the unexpected. Who knows? One day we may see the likes of Jimmy Kimmel or James Corden come to Christ because Kanye West’s conversion was real.