Right-wing evangelicals can now come out of their Kanye closets.
I have to be honest. This blog post started out one way and ended up slightly different. It was originally meant to be a full blown referendum on the craziness of Kanye and the evangelicals who are now so in love with him.
But then I listened to his whole Apple Music Beats 1 interview with Zane Lowe, and I gotta say, I was genuinely impressed with MOST of what he said.
And while I may have taken a slight detour on my trip down this particular train of thought, I am still ending up at the same place. That if you say the right things, and support the right politicians, American evangelicals will love you.
And way too many people, me included, care too frakking much what celebrities think.
How it all started
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing the usual number of provocative or incendiary posts those f-ing algorithms have deemed the priority for me to see. And I started seeing a number of posts from white evangelicals espousing their newfound love and appreciation for hip-hop mogul, designer, and self-proclaimed “greatest artist in the history or art,” Kanye West.
In case you haven’t been following the Ye’, earlier this year he had a “coming to Jesus” moment and has fully embraced his Christian faith in a way he never has before. His latest album “Jesus is King” is a veritable gospel album, and the tour, named Sunday Service (a name he has actually trademarked, by the way) is pretty much like going to church on Sunday (sans sermon).
His conversion and spiritual journey even became a point of contention with his wife Kim Kardashian on an episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”
And honestly, I think the points Kanye makes in this clip are valid. He has an issue with the over-sexualization of his wife and how people look at her. However, Kim’s counter-point was equally valid: Kanye has played a major role in making Kim in this image, and just because he has undergone a spiritual transformation, doesn’t mean she’s in the same spot.
So, back to my observations. I was seeing all of this social media love for Kanye by white evangelicals, praising him, and I joked how it became my current favorite pastime watching and reading all of them going goo-goo over his “conversion.”
I know we can never truly know a man’s heart, but this is a dude who said in that interview with Zane Lowe that he is…
“…unquestionably the greatest human artist of all time. It’s not even a question. It’s a fact.”
Mozart. Beethoven. Shakespeare. Picasso. Elvis. BB King. Kurosawa. Scorsese. Beyoncé. None of these artists eclipse his greatness. According to him, it’s empirical fact.
I couldn’t help but think to myself and say, “COME ON PEOPLE. The dude is not dealing a full deck! Let’s wait a hot minute before we crown him the next TD Jakes.”
Before I go any further, let me say few things. First, as someone who lives with ADHD, I don’t take mental health lightly. So I don’t want my “full deck” joke to come off as flippant. My comment is targeted to his “greatest human artist” comment.
Second, I think it is an unquestionable fact that Kanye is an artistic and business genius. You don’t get to his level of success in that amount of time otherwise.
Third, no-one can truly know his heart. I genuinely believe he is sincere in everything he has been saying with regards to his seemingly newfound level of faith.
And as I shared earlier, I was impressed with much of what he said. His views on business; his willingness to be vulnerable and share about his addictions to sex and pornography; and his commentary on how people are addicted to social media (which they are). These are all unimpeachable comments and shows an admirable level of growth.
I also appreciate they way he talks about his relationship with God. I’ve been in that place before and it is an amazing feeling. A part of me wants to get back there again. Kanye has the kind of exuberant enthusiasm many “baby Christians” have. He talked about his desire to have everything he does be for the church and the glory of God. And I truly think that is a beautiful thing.
I think anyone’s newfound spiritual awakening and existential revelation is beautiful, even when born our of pain or grief.
But Kanye is not the first African American hip-hop artist to speak about God this way. He is FAR from it. So I couldn’t help but wonder if Mr. West had the very same spiritual awakening, but instead of praising Trump and wearing MAGA hats, was using his newfound spirituality to blast Trump and this administration (as many other African American Christian rappers and hip hop artists have been), do you still think you’d see so many social media posts by evangelicals saying how AMAZING he is?
I know a lot of people have been criticizing Kanye. I don’t have any criticisms about Kanye’s overall spiritual conversion. It seems real. I hope it is. And I hope it transforms him in a way where he can utilize his power, influence, and platform to make a real difference in the lives of people who need positive change.
I will criticize any praise or recognition he may make about this president, just as I have of any pastor or self-proclaimed Christian. And I will criticize him for comments like “Slavery is a choice.”
I will also criticize the seemingly judgmental tone he takes now when addressing other people who haven’t found his level of enlightenment. As someone who himself has contributed to the over-sexualization of women, who has said and done the things he has, I’d have more respect for his current walk if it were tempered with a LOT more humility about where HE has come from.
Trevor Noah’s recent take was spot on: that what Kanye missing, and other people who say black people are “brainwashed”, is that when you are part of a marginalized group, in this country, you’re going to vote for the party that gives you the best shot at a better life. It’s easy for a rich and famous person, even a black one, to espouse these feelings because they don’t face the same kinds of issues the rest of us face.
Nonetheless, I can still recognize that people are complex, and those individual comments, as wacko and even as offensive as they may seem, don’t completely make the man, and I hope he can eventually continue to grow and mature in a way where these points become more obvious.
My sharpest criticisms are for those evangelicals who seem to now be on the Kanye bandwagon (or, as a friend of mine on social media pointed out, always were secret fans of his music but can now come out of the “Kanye closet”).
My criticism is sharp because it feels like for many of you, not all, but for many, it doesn’t matter what a person’s faith walk is like, ESPECIALLY if they are black, so long as they are 1) praising Trump, and/or 2) NOT complaining about racial injustice.
If you fall into that category, then I ask that you do some self-reflection and ask why it’s so easy for you to praise African American hip-hop stars so long as they’re complacent with the status quo of this country’s treatment of the marginalized, and the edification of a man who is empirically the exact opposite of everything Jesus stood for.
Ron Dawson (aka “Ronald”) is a satirical writer, filmmaker, self-admitted blerd, managing editor of a major filmmaking blog, and author of the pending satirical memoir “Dungeons ‘n’ Durags: One black nerd’s epic quest of self-discovery, racial identity, and woking up in Trump’s America.” Sign up for the email list to get access to a sample chapter and be notified of the book’s release.
Also published on Medium.