4 minutes reading time (769 words)

Unlikely Prophets

How easily we can ignore Jesus teaching "those of you without sin may throw the first stone." As a society, we are quick to judge others. In his song "Hands On", Kanye West says that Christians will be the first ones to judge him.

Arguably one of the more controversial rap music artists, husband to the ultra-famous Kim Kardashian, fashion designer, and self-proclaimed "greatest human artist of all time," Kanye West has just released a gospel-rap album called "Jesus is King" and everyone – I mean everyone, seems to have an opinion about it. If you haven't heard about Kanye's album, I guarantee the young people in your community have.

False prophet? On Twitter, people are calling the rapper "blasphemous" and even the "antichrist." Some say Kanye West is just pulling just another one of his infamous publicity stunts. Critics say he is too sinful of a man to ever have a sincere relationship with Jesus. After all, this is the same person who became famous by rapping about promiscuous sex, excessive alcohol, and drug use; all while using vulgar language to do so. Kanye also dubbed himself "the Yeesaz of rap." Who can forget the time he jumped on stage and pretty much told Taylor Swift that she was not worthy of her award? It's true, that Kanye West has often been in the media spotlight and not always for the most Christian-like behavior.

Yet, some are tentatively curious about what this pop culture icon has to say about God, faith, and life. Some Christians believe that Kanye's approach to ministry is just what the church needs right now. Perhaps Kanye's music can evangelize a younger audience – something the church has been struggling to do. I was recently with a group of young adults and they were all "a buzz" about how cool the album is and recommended that I download and listen to it. "Jesus is King" does consist of several spiritual themes including cautions against the temptations of superficial culture and several direct quotes or references from the Bible.

John 8:33
We the descendants of Abraham
Ye should be made free

John 8:36
To whom the Son set free is free indeed
He saved a wretch like me

Many artists have shared that their work is deeply personal, and I think Kayne's album reflects his own highs and lows in his faith journey. I am by no means a music critic and I will not pretend to be one now, but after listening to "Jesus is King," I can understand how Kanye's songs could possibly lead someone to want to know more about Jesus and Christianity. I can also see how those who already know Jesus might hear this album and be affirmed in their beliefs. As a teen, I remember listening repeatedly to the rock ballads from the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar." I knew every word to every song.

Is the album "Jesus is King" out of character for the public figure we know as Kanye West? Probably. But who am I or anyone else for that matter, to say whether Kanye has had a deeply personal faith experience? Only God knows the heart of Kanye.  If God can change the hearts of the Apostle Paul and other heroes throughout the Bible, as well as several less than perfect saints, then God can certainly touch the heart of Kanye. If you or I can have a conversion experience then so can Kanye. The Bible and our Catholic faith are full of stories about transformations that happened in less than perfect people's lives because of an encounter with Jesus.

What is important to recognize is that Kanye West's new album is helping to share Jesus' message. Google reports that searches for "Jesus" and the query, "What do Christians believe?" spiked after West's album hit the Internet. The American Bible Society took notice and launched its "Bibles for Kanye's fans campaign" and is offering a free Bible to anyone who wants one ( http://abs.bible/kanye ) Along with debuting his new album, Kanye West also released a clothing line depicting Christ blessing people. The line already sold out! Regardless of what some may think his motivations are, Kanye's album is promoting the mission of the church – spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. Will this all turn out to be another way for Kanye to promote himself as a superstar? Maybe. But, before you judge, listen to the album and hear for yourself. Then you can decide if you want to throw the first stone or wait and see how the Holy Spirit works.
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