Legendary Woman: An Interview with Michelle McClain Walters

Legendary Woman: An Interview with Michelle McClain Walters

As more women than ever continue to move into positions of leadership and all women seek their purposes it is important to have role models from Scripture to help inspire and encourage us. Michelle McClain Walters has identified not only role models, but Biblical principles that can be learned from their stories to help women and men discover and walk in God’s calling for their lives. UrbanFaith sat down with Michelle to talk about her new book Legendary Woman: Partnering with God to Become the Heroine of Your Own Story, which captures the wisdom and encouragement we need for this moment. The full interview is linked above and more about the book is below.

In today’s times of women go-getters, entrepreneurs and bosses, Michelle McClain Walters uses her faith and God’s promises to motivate women to their calling! The book highlights the legendary women who aren’t just those in traditional powerhouse positions in business, finance or politics, but also the everyday women — the single mom, the prayer leader, the stay-at-home wife— who choose to say yes to God, are also indeed, legendary. She also shares the twelve characteristics of a legendary woman,and challenges women to identify their defining moments—those moments when your destiny intersects with an epic need within your family, community, nation, or your world—and be willing to say yes to the legendary role God has uniquely fashioned for them. 

Is Kanye West’s “Donda” a Gospel Album?

Is Kanye West’s “Donda” a Gospel Album?

Kanye West is an internationally known Grammy award winning artist. His politics, public life, and his self-promotion have stirred up controversy and interest in many circles. 

His recent return to Christian themes in his music and beyond leaves his audience inside and outside of the church consistently confused and curious. Kanye West’s tenth album “Donda” honors his late mother Donda West, who was chair of the English Department at Chicago State University. It debuted in late August to mixed reviews, some celebrating the album as a show of Kanye’s continued musical genius and others hearing the 27-track album as an incoherent and exhausting tribute that actually focuses on Kanye himself. 

Donda” is now one of the highest-grossing albums of all time in the gospel/Christian category, and the most-streamed album ever in both categories, according to Billboard. In response to its success, some Christian public figures gave kudos acknowledging their work with or appreciation for West. Others expressed disdain at his dominance in Christian art spaces when his music is still deeply secular. The album features some very popular secular artists, accused criminals, gang members, and even a known atheist alongside choirs and Christian artist writers. But many believers are still asking: is Kanye West’s “Donda” album a gospel album? To answer, we have to consider several other factors.

Is it a commercial genre question?

If what makes music “gospel” is what the most established and profitable record labels, music hosting sites, and awards say, then “Donda” is gospel music and Kanye West is now a gospel artist. In one sense, this would be brilliant and expected on Kanye’s part. He has claimed that he is the greatest artist of all time, period, and he has been breaking and bending genres throughout his musical career. He has sampled, collaborated, and made music that fits comfortably in multiple genres, gaining fans from pop, electronic, dance, hip hop, R&B, rock, and now gospel circles. Kanye West now has won Grammys in the rap, contemporary Christian, R&B, and “Song of the Year” categories, which means he is recognized as one of the best artists and producers in several genres. But many Christians don’t take the music industry’s word as gospel on the subject.

Is it a format question?

Kanye West did not use curse words or explicit content in “Donda.” He even censored his guest artists. The album is “clean” for that reason–it doesn’t have any content that has solicited a parental advisory warning as his past albums have. But is the lack of explicit content what makes an album “gospel?” Most people would answer this question with a resounding no.

Is it a thematic content question?

This is where the rubber meets the road. What makes an album “gospel” should have something to do with its content. And Kanye surely titles tracks with references to God, the Lord, and Jesus on the album. He uses Christian language of forgiveness, mercy, grace, Holy Spirit, miracle, Lord, pray, sin, angels, demons, heaven, and hell. He talks about Christian themes such as redemption, grace, love, and judgment. But he also talks a lot about himself: his struggles, his success, his opponents, his view of the world, and his life in general. These themes could be labeled “inspirational” and not Christian if it weren’t for the mentions of Jesus. It could be said that not much has changed in that regard. He always talked about those same themes, but his previous albums were labeled rap or hip-hop. Music fans remember “Jesus Walks” from his first album “The College Dropout,” which won him a Grammy and stirred the secular/gospel conversation then. Was Kanye always a gospel artist? Was he a gospel artist when he did wrote “Jesus Walks” but not when he did wrote “Yeezus” or “Father I Stretch My Hands?” Is he on a long faith journey, or did he just have a recent conversion experience?  If theology matters, a gospel album should share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  

A Gospel album should lead people to Jesus. “Donda” is not focused on that. Jesus is clearly present, but as a savior from Kanye’s problems, not necessarily as the Lord trying to reach all people.

So why is Donda not categorized with Hip-Hop or Rap albums as all his previous albums were? The question is hard to answer. Christian Hip-Hop artists from Lecrae to Andy Mineo, Verbal Kwest to Cross Movement, KB to Da’Truth, Canton Jones to others have also found themselves categorized with Gospel and Contemporary Christian instead of Hip Hop. But their music is usually Biblically grounded or an effort to talk about Christian life. Is Kanye West in the same category? If we compare what Kanye has done on Donda with late 1990s or early 2000s Christian Rap we could easily say no. Many Christian Rap albums during that period were explicitly quoting scripture, referencing theology, and focused on sharing faith in Christ through Hip-Hop. But in recent years, Christian rappers have had more songs about life that pivot back to faith than songs about their faith, and Kanye is doing something closer to that with Donda.

Is it a theological question?

“Donda” has no clear biblical narratives shared, even though the Bible is referenced multiple times and tracks are named after biblical figures. In almost every instance where God is mentioned on the album, it is a prayer for saving Kanye, or an affirmation that God helps Kanye beat sin and the devil. But Kanye also spends much of the time talking about his own greatness. It is hard to tell what is irony, what is genuine, and what is an artistic tool. That is what gives me pause on whether this is a gospel album. But as a modern complex personal narrative of redemption by God, I think Kanye’s album works. 

It is as hard to tell if Kanye West’s “Donda ” is gospel album as it is to determine if Kanye West’s desire to share his Christian faith is genuine. But he has been authentic although conflicted while sharing his thoughts throughout his career. When he spoke at Lakewood Church in Houston in 2019 alongside the pastor Joel Osteen, he said “I know that God’s been calling me for a long time and the devil has been distracting me for a long time. When I was at my lowest points, God was there with me. Inspiring me and sending me visions.” He followed that with, “Following the Bible can free us all. Jesus can set you free.” This seems to be a fair encapsulation of his theology at this point in his Christian walk. Kanye knows Jesus as a Savior but seems to be unsure or unaware of what it means to follow Him, even though he knows it’s in the Bible.

What makes sharing the Gospel authentic?

So what makes sharing the Gospel authentic? Those questions have plagued Christians for centuries. We read the leaders of the early Church warning against false preachers, prophets, and teachers in the scriptures. We hear them clarifying doctrine that defines authentic Christianity. Were the false teachers in the early church Christians or just self-promoters? We get clear answers in scripture for that. 

But after biblical times, things get fuzzier. What about Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor? Were the people who were subjected to Christianity by their rulers really Christians? What about the slave owners? Traders who colonized Africa and Asia? What about people who are racist or bigoted? People who have theologies built on fear? People who commit crimes?  Are people who say they are Christian but don’t engage in Christian behavior actually Christians?  Does anyone get to decide the truth of someone else’s faith? Is sharing a personal testimony of redemption by Jesus the same as sharing the Gospel?

Kanye West offers a message of redemption from sin answer in the song “Jail,” one of the most compelling on the album. He says: 

“I’ll be honest, we’re all liars. 

I’m pulled over and I got priors

Guess we goin’ down, guess who’s goin’ to jail?

Guess who’s goin’ to jail tonight?

God gon’ post my bail tonight.”

In conclusion, is “Donda” a true “gospel” album? Although the commercial genre labels say yes, from a theological standpoint, I have to say no. It is not an album about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, nor His ministry. 

But that doesn’t keep it from being a “Christian” album. Kanye West certainly presents himself as a Christian struggling with life and faith throughout the album. He tells the story of his redemption and even His ongoing dependence on God’s help. Can we call Kanye West a Christian artist? We may have to answer for ourselves individually, but in reality, only the Lord may know.

Help And Hope For Haiti: An Interview with Fr. Joseph Philippe

Help And Hope For Haiti: An Interview with Fr. Joseph Philippe

Haiti is one of the most important nations in world history because it was the first to defeat the French Empire under Napoleon, the first group of enslaved Africans to free themselves from slavery, and inspired the world to advocate for the end of the transatlantic slave trade.

But Haiti has suffered greatly from economic oppression, political corruption, and most of all natural disasters especially in recent years. In the Summer of 2021 Haiti experienced the assassination of their president, one of the largest earthquakes on record, and another hurricane all which devastated the people of the country.

But there is hope and help for Haiti. One of the people doing tremendous work not only in the aftermath of natural disasters, but daily, is Father Joseph Philippe. UrbanFaith sat down with this incredible man who has founded and led multiple organizations that are building up Haiti to talk about the needs today and his ongoing work to transform his home country. Full interview is above, information on how to support his organizations and Haiti relief are below.

Fr. Joseph Philippe is a Haitian born Catholic priest who has founded multiple organizations over 35 years that are dedicated to building up Haiti for the long term. The Association of the Peasants of Fondwa (APF), empowers Haitian peasants and farmers at the grassroots level and creates Local Development Committees which help them to build up their community, maintain their natural resources, and organize together to build their local economy. Fonkoze is a microfinance bank that is dedicated to helping Haitians lift themselves out of poverty and has impacted thousands of families and millions of people over its existence. Sisters of Saint Anthony of Fondwa is a nuns organization that helps support the community of Fondwa, and University of Fondwa is a fully functional university which provides college and vocational education to students across Haiti with a goal of building up the 572 communities that make up Haiti over time. The websites are apfhaiti.org, fonkoze.org, and ufondwa.org.

For short term relief:

People can make their check at the order of APF ( Asosyasyon Peyizan Fondwa) and mail it for us to:

Industrial  Bank

C/O Sabrina Brice

382 125th St.

New York, NY 10027

This money is going to be used for

1)Temporary job (Cash for work)

2) Housing (repair and rebuilding)

3) Access to basic Health care

4) Access to water ( assessment, basic needs, replacement of destroyed water tank and repair)

Moroccans elect new leaders in shadow of virus

Moroccans elect new leaders in shadow of virus

People attend a political rally for Aziz Akhannouch, Moroccan businessman and head of the RNI party, in Rabat, Morocco, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, days before the upcoming legislative and regional elections. Millions of Moroccans head to the polls on Sept. 8 to cast ballots in pivotal legislative and regional elections amid strict safety guidelines as the north African country is grappling with a new wave of COVID-19, driven mainly by the Delta variant. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Moroccans voted Wednesday for a new parliament and local leaders in elections that have been reshaped by the pandemic, and whose outcome is hard to predict as opinion polls were not allowed.

Candidates promised to create jobs and boost Morocco’s economy, education and health care. The kingdom has been hit hard by the pandemic, but has Africa’s highest vaccination rate so far.

Despite a dip in popularity in recent years, the governing Islamist party is eyeing a third term at the helm of the government if it again wins the most parliament seats. But a recent election reform could limits its powers, and the role of lawmakers is limited by the powers of King Mohamed VI, who oversees strategic decision-making.

“I hope that the people we voted for do not disappoint us,” said voter Adel Khanoussi, casting his ballot in the capital Rabat. “There are so many projects that should be implemented. The people’s expectations are high.”

Turnout was 36% three hours before polls closed.

The outcome of Wednesday’s voting is difficult to predict since opinion polls on elections are banned. The race will likely be close and no matter which party comes first, it will likely need to cobble together a coalition with other parties to form the government.

At a school turned polling station in Temara, near the capital, dozens of people stopped in to vote before going to work. Two security officers were stationed outside, and a poll worker took voters’ temperatures before letting them in.

Once inside, voters are asked to provide their identity cards and hand over their phones before entering the booth. They’re required to use hand sanitizer, wear a mask and keep 1-meter (3-foot) distances.

A 36-year-old woman who only gave her name as Fatima said she hopes the parliament can bring a “new Morocco” seen as an advanced world country.

While Morocco has one of the region’s strongest economies and a thriving business district in Casablanca, poverty and unemployment are also widespread, especially in rural regions. Morocco has seen thousands of despairing youth make risky, often deadly, trips in small boats to Spain’s Canary Islands or to the Spanish mainland via the Strait of Gibraltar.

Strict pandemic guidelines restricted candidates’ ability to reach the 18 million eligible voters. Candidates weren’t allowed to distribute leaflets and had to limit campaign gatherings to a maximum of 25 people. As a result, many stepped up efforts on social media instead.

Morocco has registered more than 13,000 COVID-19-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to figures from the Moroccan Health Ministry.

There were 31 parties and coalitions competing for the 395 seats in the lower house of parliament. Voters will also be selecting representatives for 678 seats in regional councils.

The moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), at the helm of the government since 2011, is seeking a third term. With Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani, the party has campaigned on raising the competitiveness of Morocco’s economy.

El Othmani acknowledged that turnout is a “challenge” in a country where many are disillusioned with politics, but said he was encouraged at his voting station to see “good participation of voters of both sexes.”

Other major contenders are the center-left Party of Authenticity and Modernity, or PAM, the Istiqlal party and the liberal National Rally of Independents.

Istiqlal general secretary Nizar Baraka said the new parliament should “work for the people to get them out of poverty and stop the deterioration of the middle class.”

The elections were monitored by 4,600 local observers and 100 more from abroad.

 

Breaking the Myth of Generational Curses

Breaking the Myth of Generational Curses

There is a widespread myth in many churches that God sends generational curses on people for the sins of their parents. The myth argues that I am being punished by God because my father or mother sinned against God, didn’t repent for a sin, or did something wrong. The belief in this myth is often rooted more in experience than in the truth of God’s Word. Sometimes people feel like their difficulties must be a punishment from God, and yet the blame for that punishment rests on their parents who should have done something differently. However, Ezekiel 18:1-4 (NLT) says:

“Then another message came to me from the LORD:

“Why do you quote this proverb concerning the land of Israel: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste’?

As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you will not quote this proverb anymore in Israel.

For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die.”

As we read through the rest of the chapter, it is abundantly clear that the Lord does not hold the sins of parents against their children or the sins of children against their parents. In its context, this scripture was particularly important because the prophets made it clear that the judgment of God on Israel was not because of the sins of past generations. 

Ezekiel and Jeremiah’s audiences in Israel were going into Babylonian captivity because of their sins against God, not because God was punishing them for the sins of every generation of Israelites up to that point (Ezekiel 18:4, Jeremiah 31:29-30). The Lord judges each person according to their own actions, not the actions of anyone else. Each person in Israel had the ability and responsibility to choose a right relationship with the Lord and to follow His commandments; it was not based on the decision of their parents. 

The myth continued even in Jesus’ time. In John 9, Jesus is questioned about why a young man was born blind. The crowd thought it was because of his parents’ sins or his sins. Jesus responds that the answer is neither. He explains that it was an opportunity for God to be glorified when the man was healed (John 9:3). The sins of the man’s parents did not cause the blindness. There was no curse from God for sin. 

It is important to note that the sins or wrongdoing of a parent can absolutely impact a child.  The characteristics of a parent can also be passed on to his children. We do not have to look far to see how the favoritism of Isaac can be seen in Jacob, or how the infidelity of David hurts his entire family. There are a plethora of statistics that identify significant correlation between adversity and surviving a childhood with a parent who abused drugs or was incarcerated, for example. 

But statistics, family history, or precedent cannot define a person, even though they may impact the individual greatly. A person who learns not to trust because of an untrustworthy parent must deal with their trust issues. But they are not punished by God for their parent’s poor choices to lie and abuse trust. In fact, in scripture we see story after story of God empowering individuals to overcome their circumstances and family trauma. Moses went from adopted orphan to prince of Egypt to deliverer from Egypt. David was rejected by his father but became king of Israel. Jonathan stood up to his father Saul in order to save David. Esther was raised by her uncle and was an outcast before she became the queen of Persia and delivered her people. 

There is no generational curse for those who follow the Lord. We are free from any curse because of the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus has freed us from the power of sin, death, hell, and the grave. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. We can choose to love God and receive His love. We can receive peace, joy, and freedom through Christ, regardless of what our parents may have done. 

We must reject the myth of generational curses as believers. Ezekiel and Jeremiah make that clear. Jesus breaks every curse. We can put our faith in God knowing we are not being punished for the sins of our parents. We can confront our unhealthy family histories and embrace our life-giving family traditions. We can walk in freedom from the myth of generational curses through the power of Jesus Christ our Savior!