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Should the Church Embrace Kanye West?

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by George Scanlan

Should the Church Embrace Kanye West?

Of the eight studio records that Kanye West has previously released, seven have gone “platinum.” Over the course of his career, he has been nominated for 68 Grammy Awards, leading to 21 wins. From publicly criticizing President George W. Bush’s relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina, to interrupting Taylor Swift’s Grammy acceptance speech, to scores of controversial tweets and comments, Kanye West’s public life has been less-than-subtle, to say the least. True to form, a new development in his life has been announced with equal subtlety: This past Friday, Kanye West released his ninth studio album, titled “Jesus is King.” Note, there is no irony here, no sacrilegious double-entendre or mockery. The contents of the album support that simple, powerful, title statement: “Jesus is King.” By releasing this album, Kanye is presenting the most controversial subject ever to the world, the media and the culture: the preeminence of Jesus Christ. And by tapping into such explosively divisive and uncomfortable subject matter (to this secular age), he has exposed himself to the suspicion, contempt and rejection of the people that he needs most right now: the Church. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Should the Church embrace Kanye West?”

What follows are a series of questions to develop a helpful framework as we consider our next move as “the Church.” Following that are key, objective evidences to consider, namely, verbatim excerpts of songs from “Jesus is King.” Finally, as we consider Kanye West’s blatant professions, thoughts and confessions, I present my conclusive thoughts. You may find yourself in total disagreement with my resulting thoughts on the matter. However, my desire isn’t to attack what I consider wrong-thinking or un-Christ-like perspectives with a corrective scriptural apologetic. My hope is to ask some basic questions, pressing into a deeper philosophy of love. I want to call the Church to prayerful thought and meditation about Kanye’s statements, and thereby, develop a healthy framework and a compassionate ethic that we could apply to similar “high profile conversions.”

The Questions We Should Ask

Can the Church embrace Kanye West? Should it? Should we keep him at “arm’s length?” How long do we have to keep him outside before we invite him into "the family?" Is "our family" of our own making? Did we establish it? Do we maintain it? Who is the one who invites outsiders into our intimate family fellowship? Who invited us in when we were outsiders? Do we have the right to exclude anyone from it? Or to deny their status before Jesus? On what grounds can we make judgments about their status?

Does Kanye need to prove his devotion to Christ any more than he has? Are we waiting for "time to tell" about his professions? Are we waiting for "time to tell" about ours?

Is it "time" that validates the legitimacy of a conversion? How long did Jesus wait before bringing Matthew "the tax collector" into the camp? What did Zacchaeus have to do to get Jesus, the Son of God, to validate his conversion?

What proofs are given in Scripture to test if one is genuinely saved? Are those verses good enough to satisfy ourselves in our own moments of doubt? Are those verses sufficient to meet our doubts about Kanye? What does it take to convince us that someone has fallen before the cross in repentance? Are their words enough? Will it also require actions? What would those actions need to look like? Are those actions enough to prove the changed condition of the heart? Is it valid for Christians to be suspicious of a person's clear profession of faith in Jesus? Are those suspicions helpful? Or fruitful? Is suspicion of conversion something we're called to? Is this how we cultivate disciples? Does it draw seekers in? Does it drive them away?

Do we misrepresent the common grace we've received by denying acceptance, fellowship or love to one who has confessed Jesus as Lord?

The Evidence to Consider

The following quotations are sections of lyrics taken directly from Kanye West's new album, "Jesus is King."

Excerpt from "Every Hour:"

"Sing every hour (Every hour, 'til the power)
Every minute (Every minute, of the Lord)
Every second (Every second, comes)
Sing each and every millisecond (Down)
We need you (We need you, sing 'til the power)
We need you (We need you, of the Lord)
We need you (Comes)
Oh, we need you (Down)"

Excerpt from "Selah:"

"Before the flood, people judge
They did the same thing to Noah
Everybody wanted Yandhi
Then Jesus Christ did the laundry
They say the week start on Monday
But the strong start on Sunday
Won't be in bondage to any man
John 8:33
We the descendants of Abraham
We should be made free
John 8:36
To whom the son set free is free indeed
He saved a wretch like me
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah..."

Excerpt from "Follow God:"

"Tell me what your life like, turn it down, a bright light
Drivin' with my dad, and he told me, 'It ain't Christ-like' (Stretch my hands to you)
I'm just tryna find, l've been lookin' for a new way
I'm just really tryin' not to really do the fool way
I don't have a cool way, bein' on my best, though
Block 'em on the text though, nothin' else next though
Not another word, letter, picture, or a decimal (Father, I stretch)
Wrestlin' with God, I don't really want to wrestle
Man, it's really lifelike, everything in my life (Stretch my hands to you)
Arguing with my dad, and he said, 'It ain't Christ-like'"

Excerpt from "Closed on Sunday:"

"…Follow Jesus, listen and obey
No more livin' for the culture, we nobody's slave
Stand up for my home
Even if I take this walk alone
I bow down to the King upon the throne
My life is His, I'm no longer my own
I pray to God that He'll strengthen my hand
They will think twice steppin' onto my land
I draw the line, it's written in the sand
Try me and you will see that I ain't playin'
Now, back up off my family, move your hands
I got my weapons in the spirit's land
I, Jezebel don't even stand a chance
Jezebel don't even stand a chance"

Complete lyrics from "God Is:"

"God is
My light in darkness, oh
God, God is
He, He is my all and all (And I'll never turn back)
God is
Everything that I felt, praise the Lord
Worship Christ with the best of your portions
I know I won't forget all He's done
He's the strength in this race that I run
Every time I look up, I see God's faithfulness
And it shows just how much He is miraculous
I can't keep it to myself, I can't sit here and be still
Everybody, I will tell 'til the whole world is healed
King of Kings, Lord of Lords, all the things He has in store
From the rich to the poor, all are welcome through the door
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
I know God is alive, yeah
He has opened up my vision
Giving me a revelation
This ain't 'bout a damn religion
Jesus brought a revolution
All the captives are forgiven
Time to break down all the prisons
Every man, every woman
There is freedom from addiction
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

Excerpt from "Hands On:"

"Told the devil that I'm going on a strike
I've been working for you my whole life
Nothing worse than a hypocrite
Change, he ain't really different
He ain't even try to get permission
Ask for advice and they dissed him
Said I'm finna do a gospel album
What have you been hearin' from the Christians?
They'll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me
They'll be the first one to judge me
Feelin' like nobody love me
Told people God was my mission...
...Make you feel alone in the dark and you'll never see the light
Man, you're never seein' home and you never see the domes
I can feel it when I write, point of livin' in the right."

Complete lyrics from "Jesus Is Lord:"

"Every knee shall bow
Every tongue confess
Jesus is Lord
Jesus is Lord
Every knee shall bow
Every tongue confess
Jesus is Lord
Jesus is Lord"

A Few Closing Questions

Many within "the Church" remain skeptical of the legitimacy of Kanye’s repentance and of genuine reconciliation with Jesus. Do Kanye’s songs reflect enough? Is it even possible for someone to make the declarations that he makes without having experienced spiritual rebirth and regeneration? Can we move forward and embrace Kanye West as a brother in Christ, as a fellow disciple and as a fellow seeker? Do these lyrics declare Jesus boldly enough for Jesus to declare Kanye? Do his lyrics declare enough for me to accept Kanye? Should the Church embrace Kanye West?

The Bible has an opinion on this matter:

"…If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For 'whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved'" (Romans 10:9-13, NKJV).

"…Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32).

"…No one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3).

Has Kanye said enough? Scripture makes it simple: Yes, he has. The Church should embrace Kanye West. The Church MUST embrace Kanye West. At this point, with as much as has been declared, it would be sinful, even shameful, to do anything less than rejoice with the Angels of God that a sinner has repented, and as the Church, to extend our most heartfelt welcome to him. Will he make mistakes in his sanctification process? Sure. Will the road ahead be ugly at times? Absolutely. He is going to need the same patience, compassion and love that we all need as we progress through our own sanctification.

My Conclusion

I would be happy to fellowship with Kanye West. I would be grateful to be a part of his community of faith and would be happy to accept him into mine. I would be honored to spend time with him as a fellow disciple. I pray the Church gives him the welcome embrace that he needs to continue down this new path. I pray that the Church supports him in the same ways that I need support. I pray for a lifetime of growth, maturity, fruitfulness and joy, in and through Jesus, for him just as for myself. I invite him to warm himself by the same fire that warms me, which is nothing short of Jesus Christ Himself. I want to welcome him into my family, the family of Jesus.