I have recently been learning about hermeneutics. I learnt about understanding the original message and how it translates to us today, in our modern understanding. During my classes, I was given a chance to explore a passage of my own choice, and I chose Isaiah 6 to look at.
There is a parallel drawn between Isaiah and King Uzziah. One being a normal person, and another being a King. One claiming to be unworthy, and another claiming to be holy. One was touched by a burning coal, and became cleansed, and another touched by God and became a leper. The parallel lines draw show God’s hand in those who claim their own pride, and those who acknowledge their unworthiness before God.
Kanye West has been a rapper on my mind for the years past. In the early years of Medium, many music writers wrote about Ye’s greatest album, greatest tracks, and what makes his music so great. By the release of The Life of Pablo, I was a fan. I knew the lyrics, and the beats, and I knew the self proclaiming message he stood behind. My question was, would he ever meet God, and what would he say then.
Now, in 2019, Kanye West, along with Justin Bieber, and Shia Lebouf, proclaims about his faith in a loud and passionate way. The difference is that Bieber and Lebouf don’t carry the same cultural creative clout that Kanye does. In his political uncorrectness, he proudly voted for Trump in 2016. He was unfollowed by many friends, all this happening months after Kim’s kidnapping in Paris, and Kanye’s own mental breakdown after that. In this time, Kanye’s search for meaning seemed to have started.
In his Letterman interview, on Netflix, Kanye positions himself as a Christian, or someone aware of who God was. By the release of Jesus is King, Kanye, in multiple interviews states how God is using him. He can’t plan far anymore, because “it’s up to God”. He claims he is like Nebuchadnezzar, being taken down from the height of his own greatness.
For my link between Isaiah, and Kanye, you need to assume yourself as a creative. In my personal view of my own work, everything I have done, I feel is bad, and I feel that I would never touch it again. I might like some of it, but most of it, I dislike, and I wonder how I even came to that. Kanye, on the other hand, could perform his entire album (808’s and Heartbreak) live, and according to album sequencing, years after the album was made. His trust in his own work was sky high, and he knew it was good.
But the “Ye” (I hate being bipolar, it’s awesome)” sits there, as an acknowledgement of his own mental instability. He’s not sure anymore, I feel. He starts Sunday Service some time after that, as a place of healing, through the lights, and through the music. A pastor is placed in, and God speaks to Kanye in this time.
My view is this: for a self righteous artist like Kanye to admit his uncertainty in his music, is his own proclamation of his unworthiness. He does not think he deserves it. I would agree that Nebuchadnezzar would be more fitting an illustration, and Kanye himself stands behind that illustration.
Parallel aside, what is it about Kanye that makes him familiar, likeable, or just someone to pay attention to? To me, it is his honesty in his expression. The artist who speaks to himself, and tells himself what he thinks. The voice in his own head is the one that he speaks aloud, and as people who hide what we feel, we see his actions as bold, daring, and very interesting. We are intrigued because he lives an extensive celebrity life, doing whatever he wishes, and we are wishing to do the same. Could we one day? Perhaps sooner than later, and perhaps we already are living life the way we want to. Safely, away from the public eye. God forbid we become like Kanye, having to deal with the media, and the focus.
But that really drives the question, if the world’s cameras are on us, and tracking our Christian stories, would we be faring better or worse than Kanye? In this very specific story, God has indeed called him to fame, and called him to repentance and salvation. If he shies away from the cameras and media, would he be like the Christian who leaves his job in a bank, or as a doctor, and immediately goes to serve in the missionary service? What kind of expectations have we misinformed ourselves about the celebrities who have become Christians, in their celebrity state?
When a Christian celebrity falls, we talk about it. We wonder why God leads people this way and that. But when a celebrity becomes a Christian, we question it. We wonder if this person even know who God is, and we doubt.
Perhaps the Christian community could reflect on the refrain from Kanye’s song, Hands On:
“What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?
They’ll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me”
I’m praying for Kanye, and praying for Christians to be loving in their responses, and for the Church to be ready for God to speak to a lot more people. Let us not be the older brother in the prodigal son parable. Let’s rejoice when our brother returns.