Kanye’s running for president — and his platform has a lot of God in it

Kanye’s running for president — and his platform has a lot of God in it

 

 

Kanye West answers questions from pastor Joel Osteen during a service at Lakewood Church, in Houston, on Nov. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Kanye West is running for president, and he believes God told him to do it.

That’s according to a recent interview West conducted with Forbes magazine, in which he discussed his newly announced bid to win the White House as an independent candidate.

It may be the first time the multiple Grammy-winning rapper has run for office, but it’s hardly his first foray into presidential politics. West made headlines in 2005 when he criticized then-President George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina by declaring that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” a moment Bush himself later categorized as a low point of his presidency. Although West performed at one of President Barack Obama’s inaugural balls, Obama was caught on a hot mic criticizing the performer and calling him a “jackass,” sparking low-grade tensions between the two. And more recently, West has garnered widespread attention for his persistent support of President Donald Trump.

West is also no stranger to matters of faith: In addition to releasing the religion-themed album “Jesus Is King” in October 2019, West staged several “Sunday Services” throughout the country last year that featured gospel hymns alongside rap music.

“I love Jesus Christ. I love Christianity,” West said last year.

But in his interview with Forbes, West — who said that he has never voted before, and has yet to take any formal steps to get his name on ballots come November — hinted that his fledgling presidential run may be his most overt fusion of faith and politics yet, with religion impacting everything from his decision to run to his views on vaccines.

Like many candidates before him, West believes God played a role in his decision to run for president.

Asked about his presidential run, West told Forbes that “God just gave me the clarity and said it’s time.”

Such a claim is not unusual among presidential candidates. In 2012, Republican presidential hopefuls Michele BachmannHerman Cain and Rick Perry all reportedly suggested God called on them to seek the highest office in the land.

West also said he believes God “appoints” the president, a view shared by many conservative Christian supporters of Trump, such as Paula White, the special adviser to the White House’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative at the Office of Public Liaison.

“Let’s see if the appointing is at 2020 or if it’s 2024 — because God appoints the president,” West told Forbes. “If I win in 2020 then it was God’s appointment. If I win in 2024 then that was God’s appointment.”

Kanye West speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House with President Donald Trump, in Washington, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

West no longer supports Trump but said he approves of the president’s interactions with religion and is calling for “God in all schools.”

West has been a public supporter of Trump but told Forbes he no longer backs the president, saying, “It looks like one big mess to me.” West also called on both Trump and his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, to “bow out,” saying, “It’s God’s country, we are doing everything in service to God, nobody but God no more. I am in service of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, and I put everything I get on the line to serve God.”

However, West did praise Trump’s faith affiliations when explaining why he supported the president in the first place: “Trump is the closest president we’ve had in years to allowing God to still be part of the conversation.”

West also reflected a view regarding prayer in schools that is popular among conservative Christians, insisting God be brought back into classrooms.

“Reinstate in God’s state, in God’s country, the fear and love of God in all schools and organizations and you chill the fear and love of everything else. So that was a plan by the Devil — to have our kids committing suicide at an all-time high by removing God, to have murders in Chicago at an all-time high because the human beings working for the Devil removed God and prayer from the schools. That means more drugs, more murders, more suicide.”

His running mate is a “biblical life coach.”

West’s running mate is reportedly Michelle Tidball, who describes herself as a “biblical life coach.” She lives in Cody, Wyoming — near where West owns a ranch — and runs Abundant Ministries, which features an online Bible study program. On her website’s biography page, she declares “I pursue God! … Being raised in the church I loved God, encountered Him, but wanted to know more.”

West believes prayer is needed to solve the coronavirus crisis, but he says vaccines may be connected to “the mark of the beast.”

When asked about a coronavirus cure during the Forbes interview, West responded by saying: “We pray. We pray for the freedom. It’s all about God. We need to stop doing things that make God mad.”

Regarding vaccines, West said he is “extremely cautious” about inoculations to protect against the novel coronavirus. He seemed to connect vaccines to “the mark of the beast,” a reference to one of two beasts in the biblical book of Revelation that many Christians believe are associated with the end times. He then referenced what appeared to be a debunked conspiracy theory that Bill Gates and others want to put microchips in people to track their movements.

West went on to suggest that such efforts could bar people from ascending to heaven.

“They want to put chips inside of us, they want to do all kinds of things, to make it where we can’t cross the gates of heaven,” West said. “I’m sorry when I say they, the humans that have the Devil inside them. And the sad thing is that, the saddest thing is that we all won’t make it to heaven, that there’ll be some of us that do not make it. Next question.”

Kanye West performs with Kid Cudi at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 20, 2019, in Indio, California. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

West says his faith informs his opposition to abortion and the death penalty.

When it comes to abortion rights and capital punishment, West takes a stance that would put him at odds with both major parties — but perfectly in line with his faith, he said.

On abortion, West says he is “pro-life because I’m following the word of the Bible.” It’s a common belief: While not universal, faith-based opposition to abortion is widespread, especially among conservative Christians who attend events such as the massive March for Life gathering that occurs in Washington, D.C., every year.

West also cited his faith when discussing capital punishment, saying: “Thou shalt not kill. I’m against the death penalty.”

That puts him in line with rising opposition to the death penalty, especially among Democrats. However, according to a 2019 Gallup poll, a majority of Republicans still support the death penalty. More than half (58%) opted for the death penalty rather than life in prison (38%), whereas Democrats overwhelmingly backed life sentences (79%) instead of the death penalty (19%).

West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, has repeatedly advocated on behalf of death row inmates, and she celebrated California’s decision to end the use of the death penalty in 2019. Kanye West has also put on religiously themed performances at jailhouses that were described as “part rap concert, part revival meeting.”

In addition, the sentiment echoes one of West’s most recent tracks — the faith-themed “Wash Us in the Blood,” released in late June. The song features an interlude from fellow rapper Travis Scott in which he declares “Execution, thirty states / Thirty states still execute / Thou shall not kill, I shall not spill, Nextels at the rendezvous.”

As for tax policies, West told Forbes he needed to do more research on the subject, but would speak with “the strongest experts that serve God and come back with the best solution.”

West suggested prayer and piety can help heal racial divisions.

When asked about racism and the recent demonstrations in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, West reportedly broke into rhyme, saying, “Well, God has already started the healing/This conversation alone is healing and revealing/We all need to start praying and kneeling … ”

He added: “When a rhyme comes together I’m going to complete it, not inside the lines created by organizations that we know as our reality.”

Musician Kanye West headlined a “Sunday Service” performance on a specially made hilltop stage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, in Indio, California. Video screenshot

With Joel Osteen, Kanye drops a clue about his faith, and his kinship with Trump

With Joel Osteen, Kanye drops a clue about his faith, and his kinship with Trump

Video Courtesy of Joel Osteen


This past Sunday, Kanye West appeared in front of perhaps his biggest church audience yet: Lakewood Church of Houston, pastored by Joel Osteen. West wore a blazer and crew neck sweater — a more conservative outfit than his typical fashion-forward attire. Answering a series of questions that felt more suited for a midday Christian talk show, West revealed a tidbit that goes a long way toward explaining why Kanye is Kanye.

“We actually grew with a church,” West said. “It was a pastor named Johnnie Colemon.”

With those words, Kanye’s interest in political commentary and his current spiritual trajectory suddenly became clear. The Rev. Johnnie Colemon, an African American female pastor, grew Christ Universal Temple, a megachurch on the South Side of Chicago, with her famed “Abundance Campaign.”

While Colemon’s theology often gets lumped into the classic leagues of prosperity gospellers, it belongs more properly within New Thought. This is a theology, which grew out of the 19th century American metaphysical movement, that encourages material wealth as a sign of God’s blessings and a focus on positive thinking — the notion that one’s mental state can manifest into daily living. In 1974, Colemon founded the Universal Foundation for Better Living, branching away from the core of New Thought because of blatant racism.

If Kanye’s understanding of God and Jesus are understood through the lens of African American New Thought, I would argue that his egotism, ostentation and even the tangents into seeming megalomania — onstage with Osteen, Kanye declared himself “the greatest artist God ever created” — have a historical and theological context.

If Colemon’s brand of New Thought is truly the foundation of Kanye’s beliefs, it makes sense that he sees his fame and fortune as positive manifestations of God’s blessings in his life. It makes sense that he would associate himself with Osteen, a preacher of prosperity gospel. And it explains why he associates himself with President Donald Trump.

In Trump, Kanye may see a person who, with no previous political or military experience, spoke his presidency into existence, much the way West spoke his spiritual community — the Sunday Services — into being.

The danger with such a theology is that it ignores the malicious market forces that serve to encourage poverty, white supremacy, racism, Islamophobia and trenchant immigration policies at the Southern border. If this theology were true, we should tell the children who have been separated from families and placed in cages to simply think more positively about their situation in order to be reunited with their parents.

But no amount of positive thinking can save prosperity gospel’s uncritical devotion to Western capitalism, and therein lies the rub.

Up until now, most of the discussion around West, the Sunday Service choir and his most recent album, “Jesus Is King,” has been a flat discussion about generic Christian beliefs, told mostly through the gaze of white evangelicals. The way Kanye spouts his own theology and the way it gets reinterpreted in social media posts and through media reporting offer a Pollyanna Christianity.

Such a sanitized Christianity, to quote Cornel West, “is just like everything else in America: highly packaged, regulated, distributed, circulated and consumed.”

That Kanye is a black man from the South Side of Chicago, influenced by an African American woman who split from a predominantly white denomination to start her own, isn’t a trivial piece of information. Rather, it’s the fulcrum on which everything is balanced. Kanye should not be a racial prop for white evangelicals who ignore their own racial biases because he raps about Jesus. His complex story has an origin, and it isn’t the white evangelical church.

My hope is that the collective American conscience does not idolize Kanye’s self-professed conversion to the point of whitewashing his narrative. Although, at this point, such hope may already be an exercise in futility.

(The Rev. Joshua Lawrence Lazard is the C. Eric Lincoln Minister for Student Engagement at Duke Chapel at Duke University. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)

With Joel Osteen, Kanye drops a clue about his faith, and his kinship with Trump

With Joel Osteen, Kanye drops a clue about his faith, and his kinship with Trump

Video Courtesy of Joel Osteen


This past Sunday, Kanye West appeared in front of perhaps his biggest church audience yet: Lakewood Church of Houston, pastored by Joel Osteen. West wore a blazer and crew neck sweater — a more conservative outfit than his typical fashion-forward attire. Answering a series of questions that felt more suited for a midday Christian talk show, West revealed a tidbit that goes a long way toward explaining why Kanye is Kanye.

“We actually grew with a church,” West said. “It was a pastor named Johnnie Colemon.”

With those words, Kanye’s interest in political commentary and his current spiritual trajectory suddenly became clear. The Rev. Johnnie Colemon, an African American female pastor, grew Christ Universal Temple, a megachurch on the South Side of Chicago, with her famed “Abundance Campaign.”

While Colemon’s theology often gets lumped into the classic leagues of prosperity gospellers, it belongs more properly within New Thought. This is a theology, which grew out of the 19th century American metaphysical movement, that encourages material wealth as a sign of God’s blessings and a focus on positive thinking — the notion that one’s mental state can manifest into daily living. In 1974, Colemon founded the Universal Foundation for Better Living, branching away from the core of New Thought because of blatant racism.

If Kanye’s understanding of God and Jesus are understood through the lens of African American New Thought, I would argue that his egotism, ostentation and even the tangents into seeming megalomania — onstage with Osteen, Kanye declared himself “the greatest artist God ever created” — have a historical and theological context.

If Colemon’s brand of New Thought is truly the foundation of Kanye’s beliefs, it makes sense that he sees his fame and fortune as positive manifestations of God’s blessings in his life. It makes sense that he would associate himself with Osteen, a preacher of prosperity gospel. And it explains why he associates himself with President Donald Trump.

In Trump, Kanye may see a person who, with no previous political or military experience, spoke his presidency into existence, much the way West spoke his spiritual community — the Sunday Services — into being.

The danger with such a theology is that it ignores the malicious market forces that serve to encourage poverty, white supremacy, racism, Islamophobia and trenchant immigration policies at the Southern border. If this theology were true, we should tell the children who have been separated from families and placed in cages to simply think more positively about their situation in order to be reunited with their parents.

But no amount of positive thinking can save prosperity gospel’s uncritical devotion to Western capitalism, and therein lies the rub.

Up until now, most of the discussion around West, the Sunday Service choir and his most recent album, “Jesus Is King,” has been a flat discussion about generic Christian beliefs, told mostly through the gaze of white evangelicals. The way Kanye spouts his own theology and the way it gets reinterpreted in social media posts and through media reporting offer a Pollyanna Christianity.

Such a sanitized Christianity, to quote Cornel West, “is just like everything else in America: highly packaged, regulated, distributed, circulated and consumed.”

That Kanye is a black man from the South Side of Chicago, influenced by an African American woman who split from a predominantly white denomination to start her own, isn’t a trivial piece of information. Rather, it’s the fulcrum on which everything is balanced. Kanye should not be a racial prop for white evangelicals who ignore their own racial biases because he raps about Jesus. His complex story has an origin, and it isn’t the white evangelical church.

My hope is that the collective American conscience does not idolize Kanye’s self-professed conversion to the point of whitewashing his narrative. Although, at this point, such hope may already be an exercise in futility.

(The Rev. Joshua Lawrence Lazard is the C. Eric Lincoln Minister for Student Engagement at Duke Chapel at Duke University. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)

Of Kings and Thrones

Of Kings and Thrones

Jay-Z and Kanye West’s lavish “Watch the Throne” tour is in effect and may soon be coming to an arena near you (if it hasn’t already). A review of the tour’s recent Madison Square Garden show prompted me to once again reflect on how overinflated and over-the-top our pop-culture heroes can be. Far be it from me to cast aspersions on anyone’s aspirations of grandeur. Like Whitney Houston and countless others, I do, in fact, believe the children are our future. Our children can grow up to do great things and be great people.

But friends, we need to know that there is a hidden cost to greatness, especially greatness as defined by our culture.

And I’m not just talking about the moral hazards along the way.

I’m sure every June there are many commencement speeches that draw from the lesson of Mark 8:36, where Jesus famously asks, “What does it a profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” It’s become cliché to warn our young people about the dangers of living life on the fast track to wealth and notoriety.

The fact is, some moral hazards are more obvious to certain people than others.

That’s why it’s easy to take Mark 8:36 and aim it at obvious targets, like Jay-Z and Kanye. The duo, of course, is touring in support of their popularly celebrated album collaboration Watch The Throne. On that record, the multiplatinum-selling, image-conscious, superstar rappers-turned-global-icons aim the spotlight at themselves, illustrating in great detail the extent to which they’ve made careers out of unabashedly reveling in their own celebrity. The title refers to their efforts to protect their perch at the top.

You can see this in one of their more controversial songs [EXPLICIT LYRIC WARNING], “No Church in the Wild,” where each emcee uses religious themes and imagery to justify his own moral code, which of course, includes copious amounts of cocaine, fast cars, and unashamed so-called “ethical non-monogamy.” (If the rumors are true about Will Smith having a similar marital stance, then the rampant rumors of his divorce would make sense.)

So, like I said, it’s an easy target.

As someone whose job it is to comment on pop culture with a biblical worldview, Watch the Throne is low-hanging fruit because any young person with her head on straight knows intuitively that most of this stuff is bad for you.

The Missing ‘If’

Moralistic therapeutic deism is a term coined by sociologist Christian Smith that summarizes the popular spiritual beliefs of teens and twentysomethings circa 2005, a set of beliefs that endure in today’s popular culture. The idea is that good people go to heaven, bad people go to hell, and that God generally exists to help me do good things and therefore have a good life.

It is because of the pervasiveness of moralistic therapeutic deism that Watch the Throne, specifically, and both Jay-Z and Kanye West, in general, are easy targets for cultural criticism. As much as people might be impressed with their business and marketing acumen, it’s generally understood that Jay-Z has a tremendous ego (why else would Beyoncé  write a song about it?) and Kanye West, despite being incredibly talented, is also a huge douchebag.

You could chalk that up to bias against hip-hop culture, perhaps.

But no one would use these terms to describe a true American hero, someone whose contributions to our nation’s struggle for freedom and overall heritage are unquestioned and unassailable.

Someone like, for example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose memorial was recently unveiled on the national mall in Washington, D.C. No one would ever think of him as an egotist.

That is, unless you happened to read the inscription on the statue.

The recent controversy, as covered by UrbanFaith’s own Christine A. Scheller, is over the words “I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness,” a paraphrase of a longer quote taken from a famous sermon entitled “The Drum Major Instinct.” According to Maya Angelou, the design process that led to those words being chosen ignored the subtle nuance of what Dr. King was trying to say, and instead cast Dr. King as an arrogant, self-promoting figure.

The key is in the missing “if.”

The famous sermon in question, which really ought to be read in its entirety, was the final sermon delivered by Dr. King at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The message, delivered on Feb. 4, 1968, explores Jesus’ response to his disciples John and James after their request for priority seating in Jesus’ kingdom. “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory,” the sons of Zebedee said. Reflecting on this moment, Dr. King implores his listeners not to judge James and John’s ambition too harshly. There’s some James and John in all of us, he says. “And there is deep down within all of us an instinct. It’s a kind of drum major instinct — a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first.”

Dr. King goes on to conclude his sermon with a now ominous-sounding request that at his funeral people not fuss over the trivial stuff, but that they remember him for the right reasons:

Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize — that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards — that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.

I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody….

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.

The sad irony of the recent controversy is that Dr. King forecasted the way his words would be eventually used to promote a vision of his life that was larger-than-life, and in this sermon he tried in vain to prevent it from happening. Four decades later, we should not be surprised that popular culture would retrofit the image of Dr. King in a manner befitting of itself, a culture that continues to be either indifferent toward or hostile to the Christ Jesus about whom King so passionately preached.

And therein lies the true hidden danger of being great in our world.

Once someone reaches a certain level of stratospheric influence and notoriety, either in their lifetime or posthumously, their legacy is constantly up for interpretation. People with selective memories and hidden agendas can appropriate their words and actions to suit their own objectives.

Approaching the Throne

I say all of this not to demonize Jay-Z and Kanye and lionize Dr. King, because even Dr. King had his own moral hazards.

The point is that as Christians, especially if we are church leaders, our life’s work isn’t ultimately judged on the specter of public opinion, but on whether or not we received Christ and how well we lived out his gospel. If our work is built on anything else, it will not last.

But if we build on the foundation of the gospel, we will receive a reward that no one will be able to take away. We won’t have to worry about others taking our words out of context, because the only words that will matter to us will be, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.”

In his “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, Dr. King also said this:

Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it … it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.

So I say, please … watch the throne. Better yet, approach it boldly, so that you can receive grace in your time of need.

Because Dr. King was right about what Jesus said.

The true mark of greatness is not found on a statue but on our knees.

Decoding Hip-Hop’s Controversial Lyrics

Decoding Hip-Hop’s Controversial Lyrics


NO CHURCH IN THE WILD (Excerpts)
The Lyrics: 

[Hook: Frank Ocean]
Human beings in a mob
What’s a mob to a king? What’s a king to a God?
What’s a God to a non-believer who don’t believe in anything?
Will he make it out alive? Alright, alright, no church in the wild

[Jay-Z]
Lies on the lips of priests, Thanksgiving disguised as a feast…
…Is Pious pious cause God loves pious?
Socrates asked whose bias do y’all seek?…
…Jesus was a carpenter, Yeezy he laid beats
Hova flow the Holy Ghost, get the hell up out your seats, preach

[Kanye West]
…We formed a new religion
No sins as long as there’s permission
And deception is the only felony…
…It’s something that the pastor don’t preach
It’s something that a teacher can’t teach
When we die the money we can’t keep
But we probably spend it all cause the pain ain’t cheap, preach

The Breakdown:

In the hook, Frank Ocean proposes that if you deny the highest power, you may just become the highest but you might not make it out alive.

In the first verse Jay Z paints the picture of a history of religious contradictions and challenges the listeners to reconsider their definition of piety or righteousness, similarly to the way Socrates did in the Euthyphro.  He charges listeners to free themselves by rejecting religious bias and to preach this new message.

In the 2nd verse Kanye introduces the details of this new religion, “no sins as long as there’s permission.” He suggests that this new message is new for both preachers and educators because even they do not realize that money isn’t everything and that “we probably spend it all cause the pain ain’t cheap.”

This song isn’t necessarily bashing God, but organized religion. It’s clearly coming from feelings of rejection and hypocrisy from religious institutions and each verse provides a different perspective on the theme.

The Rhetorical

What do you detest more: hypocrisy or death?

When you’ve searched for an example and didn’t find one, did you ever consider yourself?

Are you for as many things as you’re against?

The Takeaway:

When all you do is deny what you hate, you reject the real remedy, which is always God’s love.  Hate is more evil than your intentions. Need proof? When’s the last time you found yourself doing the things you hate?

POST YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK THIS SONG IS SAYING!