Hate him or love him Kanye West knows how to spark dialogue. He’s skilled at using his platform to promote unpopular opinions and contradictory thoughts. I had an opportunity to attend Kanye’s Sunday Service at the LA Forum. Before I get to the service I HAVE TO tell you how I got a ticket to this sold out show. I came across an ad on Craigslist looking to swap a ticket to the concert in exchange for a ticket to the Revolt Summit OR for a ride to the Forum. I offered to drive a stranger to the Forum, and split the cost of parking in exchange for a ticket to the show. As it turns out he was a perfectly delightful man who just so happened to have an extra ticket.
The crowds were thick and the suspense was looming as we all waited to get inside. The stage was beautifully set like a hillside surrounded by flowers, tall trees and bushes—-a replica of the stage when he performed Easter Sunday at Coachella. Birds were chirping in the dimly lit arena, as the sound of gospel music filled the air. The shear arrival of the massive choir brought out the same energy and excitement as those grainy Sunday Service rehearsal videos posted online from Kanye’s back yard in Calabasas.
True to the title it was an actual Sunday Service complete with music, scripture, and a sermon from a Pastor. He performed several tracks from his new album Jesus Is King, intertwined with some of the biggest records and I mean juggernauts of Gospel music from the last 20 years. He performed modified snippets of other songs in his catalog and closed out the show with a powerful rendition of “Jesus Walks.”
Critics—have had a lot to say about his transformation and his new album. Many believe the “Jesus is King” album is blasphemous while others say this is yet another “reinvention” of an artist trying to keep his career alive. I can understand some of the backlash he’s getting from the black christian community. I’m the daughter of a Baptist preacher— a Pastor. Without experiencing the Sunday Service either online or in person I think many of his critics are missing the mark. He’s 42 year old, father of four dealing with his demons in front of the whole world. Admittedly Kanye has severe mental health and porn addiction issues. During one of his many public meltdowns he ranted about how his prescription medications altered his personality and creativity. Turning to a higher power for spiritual guidance especially in times of despair, or confusion is nothing new. And making a public declaration about converting to a new religion isn’t new either.
It’s no secret pews are getting emptier by the week as more and more people are turning away from church. I grew up in church and I don’t regularly attend services anywhere. My decision was based on a desire to not be boxed into or defined by a specific doctrine, but rather to acknowledge the higher power in my own way. The reasons people turn way from church are seemingly endless but the consistent thread is a feeling of being judged. Rather than serving as a hospital for the spiritually sick, the hypocrisy keeps those most in need of help from ever attending service.
It’s disappointing to see so many “Christians” doubting Kanye’s transformation when the bible teaches that we are all sinners saved by grace. If you are a believer and read the Bible It’s not that far fetched to believe God COULD be using Kanye. The bible is filled with stories of people society had deemed as trash— yet God was able to use them to accomplish extraordinary things. King David, called a man after God’s own heart but he was a known adulterer. Noah was a Drunk, John the Baptist was kind of a weirdo, and Lazarus’ sister was a prostitute.
Kanye may be he vessel God is using to highlight what’s WRONG with church and HOW to fix it. Gospel is feel good music. Kanye had people of all genders, races and whatever else bobbing along—- breathing new life into these classic gospel records giving everyone there an entertaining shared spiritual experience. Being a Kanye fan may have been what brought many of those folks to the Forum but it was clear he wanted you to leave knowing Jesus. Hate or love his techniques, Kanye’s encouraging people to be on fire for Christ.