Kanye West has been relatively quiet since his “coming out party” six months ago. His new gospel album dropped last October, Jesus is King – and set the Christian world wondering about the depth and solidity of his conversion.
Some praised him and declared him a brother, others declared him a heretic, and still others took a “wait and see” approach, given the frequency that evangelical culture latches on to and then is burned by celebrities either declaring their faith and then losing it shortly thereafter, or are shamed by the abject goofiness and shallowness of that newly minted belief system.
Since that day in October, Kanye, has done both excellent and awful things. He has born both good and bad fruit. Take issue with his wife’s modesty and the over-sexualized image she puts on TV? Good fruit. Partnering with Joel Osteen for church services and concerts? Rotten, decaying, putridly wretch-inducing fruit. The best take is that he’s still a baby Christian, and he’s going to get some things right and wrong, and we ought to have grace and pray for him.
It’s within that context that his interview with Will Welch of GQ magazine comes in. Presented as a four-part series that spans a period from late January to early March, it covers a wide range of topics with a focus on designing clothes, creating music, architecture, and particularly his faith. The whole interview is worth reading, but we wanted to highlight a couple of sections that deal directly with his faith to see if we can determine how his sanctification is progressing:
I want to understand the timeline of your rebirth as a Christian. Did it evolve out of Sunday Service—and can you tell me the story of the moment where you accepted Jesus?
I surrounded myself with the healing—the highest-level healing possible: singing about Jesus with my friends and family surrounding me [at Sunday Service] every single week. This was a place, contrary to popular belief about Christianity, of no judgment. I feel that the church that most people grew up on as kids had a negative environment. The greatest thing for me, as someone who’s given their life to Christ, is knowing that other people have that as an anchor and a form of healing, because you’re talking to a person that went to the hospital and back. Now you see the measured nature—being able to let the child take the driver’s seat but still be measured.
Do you attribute that to the anchor of faith?
Yes, because when you’re not in service to God, you can end up being in service to everything else. To live inside of sin, it’s going to cost you more than you can pay. You don’t want to continue to sin with no repentance. I understand that people feel that I’ve made some cultural sins. But the only real sins are the sins against God, and you don’t want to continue to sin against God.
Do you conceptualize yourself as having been born again?
I’m definitely born again.
You specifically highlighted that Sunday Service is a place without judgment. But what happens when you take it on tour and you’re headlining Christian festivals—
I feel that we all have sin, and when certain sins are worn more on our sleeves, it’s easier for Christians who are not Christ, but are human beings, to be able to channel judgment at what they see in front of them. The other thing is, if anyone claims to be Christian, they’re accepting accountability to other Christians. But people don’t realize that Christians are loud. That we have a right to righteous anger. That Jesus flipped tables. They think that all of a sudden you believe in Christ, so we’re not even supposed to speak up. And if we speak up, people will say, “Oh, you’re being judgmental.” And it’s like, Oh, now, because I’m Christian, I don’t even have an opinion any more? I’m Christian and I still have an opinion. But my opinion is based on the Word.
Let me phrase the question differently: The Kanye West that I have known over the years hates institutions and hates systems of control and will do anything to break out from being controlled. I’m wondering if that will persist as you encounter more churches and religious institutions, which I, at least, conceptualize as systems of control.
You know, I see opportunity for creativity inside our faith. But let me—because I know you’re looking for a real answer to How does the guy who made Yeezus, which is a very punk album, make a Jesus Is King?
Well, not how do you make Jesus Is King, but how do you headline a Christian festival or interact with various churches? You having your own personal relationship with Jesus is clean and clear. But what happens when these other organizations come into play that are institutions of control?
I think yes, there are groups, as man does, that take the Word and use it to control other people. But as you said, I’m expressing my personal relationship with Christ. When I was not owning up to the maximum of who I could be as a dad and the maximum of who I could be as a husband, that kind of behavior, that kind of mentality, landed me in a place where I needed to be medicated.
Now all of that energy and that creativity that I have channeled and put on track comes from me surrendering to God and saying that everything is in God’s will. People can say in the same way, “Hey, why would you go to Paris if they didn’t want you in the fashion houses?” And that’s not going to stop my love for clothing, my love of creativity, my love of going to see the shows. And people could say, “What about these things that men have done with the word of Christ that were bad and, let’s say, over-institutionalized?” And I’m saying: That’s not going to stop my love for Christ. I’m going to keep on expressing what God has done for my life.
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