Real or Counterfeit
I’ve never seen myself as a prodigious consumer of pop culture – particularly at its more outrageous extremes. But as a follower of Jesus, I am a sucker for a compelling redemption story. As a result, for the past week I have been mesmerized by the apparent, and very public, transformation of one of pop culture’s most polarizing figures. For many, Kanye West has epitomized the very essence of all that was wrong with society – misogyny, rampant excess, shameless self-promotion, promiscuity, substance abuse, etc. etc. And yet, with the release of his new album, Jesus is King, all the rumors of Ye’s recent conversion don’t sound as far-fetched as they once did. I downloaded the album earlier this week and have now listened to it several times. I must confess. The first hearing was completed with an odd mix of breathless admiration and stunned disbelief. After further investigation and reflection, the admiration has remained and the disbelief has faded.
Could he be bluffing? I consider it highly unlikely. Consider the lyrics from the track God Is.
You won’t ever be the same when you call on Jesus’ name
Listen to the words I’m sayin’, Jesus saved me, now I’m sane
And I know, I know God is the force that picked me up
I know Christ is the fountain that filled my cup…
Jesus, You have my soul
Sunday Service on a roll
All my idols, let ’em go
All the demons, let ’em know
This a mission, not a show
This is my eternal soul
This my kids, this the crib
This my wife, this my life
This my God-given right
Thank You, Jesus, won the fight
This doesn’t sound like a poser to me. It sounds like a man who has burned his boats and is striking out on a new and hazardous (yet exhilarating) adventure. Has he fully counted the cost? I think so. Check out these lines from Hands On:
Told people God was my mission
What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?
They’ll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me…
If they only see the wrongs, never listen to the songs
He seems to understand that he is going to take abuse from both sides. And yet he has gone through with it – in spectacular style. “Go big or go home”, I say.
Will it last? Who knows? Will he make mistakes? Absolutely. So will I. So will you. But, presumably, ours won’t be front page news and gleefully repeated by all those who want to remind us that they told us so. Kanye is now under such a microscope that none of us could possibly be in a position to understand or judge. Let’s leave that to others.
What does he ask from us, his fellow laborers? He makes it clear later in the same track:
I deserve all the criticism you got
If that’s all the love you have, that’s all you got
To sing of change, you think I’m joking
To praise His name, you ask what I’m smoking
Yes, I understand your reluctancy, yeah
But I have a request, you see
Don’t throw me up, lay your hands on me
Please, pray for me
I, for one, intend to do just that. Welcome, brother.