(RNS) — Jesus is trending on Twitter, and I’d like to thank Kanye West.
On Wednesday (Oct. 23) in Los Angeles, Kanye debuted his new album, “Jesus is King” — the rapper’s first since he announced a few months ago that he would now be producing only Christian music. According to an inside look at the album and accompanying movie in a Pitchfork article by Jazz Monroe and Matthew Ismael Ruiz, the album’s tracks include lines like, “Sing till the Lord comes/Till the power of the Lord comes down.”
Since he announced his conversion and his intention to produce a gospel album, there has been a reaction from Christian Twitter, most of it mocking his pledge. Who does Kanye West think he is? Doesn’t he know that sinners aren’t allowed to talk like they know Jesus? Better save that to us, the real Christians.
I understand that not everyone might choose Kanye West to be their pastor, but if he wants to talk about his journey with spirituality through the gifts God has given him, who are any of us to tell him no?
Is there a spiritual litmus test that qualifies any of us to tell people what’s happening with our faith? Kanye may very well have holes in his theology, but last I checked, half of my Twitter feed was agreeing that author and speaker Beth Moore should “go home” for daring to speak at times reserved for men, while the other half argued that Jesus told all women “follow me.” One side has to be wrong, and yet on they’ll go, spewing incorrect theology in 280 characters, like it or not.
Honestly, if anything can bridge the gap between progressives and conservatives, it may be their mutual rejection of Kanye West. I’ve seen the liberals laugh and the conservatives clutch their pearls. Apparently, the Christians voted, and Kanye isn’t invited to the platforming of the gospel.
The fact is that Kanye’s fans are going to buy his next album, whether or not he believes that Jesus is king. If thousands of his supporters listen to his attempt to use his musical talents to bring God glory, is that so bad? Everyone has blind spots. Everyone is just doing their best to walk in the light they believe they’ve been given, no matter how dim or bright.
This isn’t the first time Kanye has talked about his faith. On December 3, 2004, he released the song “Jesus Walks.” At age 17, I hadn’t come far enough in my own religious understanding perhaps to demand to see Kanye’s baptismal record before I could trust him. But the opening words of “Jesus Walks” still burn in my head: “Yo, we at war, we at war with terrorism, racism, but most of all we at war with ourselves, God show me the way because the Devil’s tryin’ to break me down.”
I assume I wasn’t the only doctrinally confused 17-year-old listening to that song that day who thought about what it would look like for Jesus to be walking with them.
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time God used a broken person to reach the people within their scope. He spoke with pagan wise men, he gave dreams to the tyrant King Nebuchadnezzar, he used a donkey to try and talk some sense into Balaam, who himself was wicked. If God can use Samson, who slept with prostitutes, and Jonah, the only preacher in history to be mad that an entire city came up for his altar call, can’t God use Kanye — even in spite of Kanye?
Christians don’t own Jesus. We don’t get to decide who God connects to. Maybe Kanye has truly had an intimate experience with God, maybe he hasn’t. Either way, I’m not sure that we are any more qualified to make judgments on his authenticity than we are any other celebrity.
If Kanye wants to use his platform to amplify his faith, why can’t he? And if we find that there are holes in his theology, he can join the line.
Today Jesus was trending on Twitter, and I’m willing to thank Kanye West for that.
(Heather Thompson Day is a professor of communications at Colorado Christian University and the author of “Confessions of a Christian Wife.” She blogs at I’m That Wife. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)