It’s hard to be surprised by anything that the West/Kardashian empire does, but the full embrace of white evangelical Christianity is a little much, even for them.
It’s probably proper of me to start by saying that I don’t love Kanye West. In fact, I don’t even like Kanye West. I have made several attempts to understand the appeal of his music and all I have been able to accomplish is discovering an appreciation for his single verse in 2 Chainz’s Birthday Song, a verse in which he says that he deserves a threesome because he put a nice car in the garage. Nevertheless, that song is pretty good.
The idea of Kanye West is one that has always intrigued me. How did a kid raised in suburban Chicago position himself as such a firebrand of controversy? Who told him that he was interesting enough to demand the kind of media attention he has received for the last two decades? Mostly, how does he keep fans? I remember reading about Bonnaroo 2008 where he got booed off the stage for his set being so delayed that he didn’t take the stage until almost 5am and thinking, well he’s done now… but nope! All’s good and Kanye kept being Kanye. Maybe that’s been his secret to success for all of these years, the ability to make others comfortable with the understanding that he’s going to do crazy shit and they’re going to like it.
Things really started to get weird leading up to the 2016 election when West started to align himself with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. He was seen visiting Trump Tower for a handful of meetings, followed by a few bizarre statements about how slavery was a choice . He later apologized for that one, only to start saying similar things from the stage of his shows a few years later. At this point it’s pretty safe to assume his brain is just rich guy spaghetti and he has been empowered enough to know that he can say whatever he wants and still be in the public eye. But the more he aligns himself with right wing America, the more difficult it becomes to justify his antics as anything more than opportunism. Seizing the moment of division in our country to stay on top of the media food chain. The title of his upcoming release, Jesus is King, cuts right to the chase. It’s time for him to fully embrace white evangelical America and for them to embrace him back. His old fans will stay fans due to their understanding of Kanye being Kanye, and now our Fox News watching elders will embrace him as a voice of reason in a divided nation, standing up for the name of white Jesus and affirming the bias to which they already held closely. It is a mutually beneficial relationship between West and baby boomers who think that black America is responsible for their own suffering. A real “my African American over there” situation.
Even the most basic knowledge of the history of black civil rights in America will tell you that the idea that black Americans caused their own suffering is bullshit. That’s not negotiable.
As West further blends his image with right-leaning white folks, his press coverage continues to skew favorably with Fox News, and his coverage from left leaning publications that are saying “hey man wtf?!” serves to solidify the idea that “the left hates us and what we stand for!”.
So now we’ve got Kanye leading church services where they sing Nirvana songs for some reason, while simultaneously selling $250 t shirts so you can say you were there. He’s being invited to be part of Joel Osteen’s Houston-based empire, and will comfortably spend the rest of his life as a tool of white evangelicals to say “See, this guy gets it! I’m not racist, I like Kanye West!” That is, at least, until something better comes along. He’s almost fully aligned with the evangelical money machine, and it’s a big one.
It is possible that West has truly experienced a transformation in his life. He says that Jesus saved him from his porn addiction. If that’s the case, good for him. I’ve said before that I think true world theories can and frequently do benefit those that subscribe to them, but the current state of evangelical Christianity in America makes it a challenge to take anything he says or does too seriously. To frame deliberate ignorance as “a difference of opinion” when it comes to slavery being a choice or Donald Trump being a savior of black America is a stretch. Kanye seems more than happy to be a pawn in their agenda, a strategically placed ally to help affirm the ideas that white guilt shouldn’t be a thing because if Kanye can make it, so can you. I would bet that it’s doing just as much mentally and emotionally for him as it is publicity-wise for them. Mutually beneficial in almost every sense.
What Kanye seems to need more than anything is the ability to believe that he is “The greatest artist of all time”. A guy who says “God is using me to show off” without so much as a hint of sarcasm should be treated as someone who will use whatever methods necessary to boost their own image. I believe that he saw the cult of personality developed by our president and said “I want that, how do I get it?” He saw a large group of Americans who seem to worship at the altar of Donald J. Trump and decided to get in on it for himself. Hopefully something good comes from all of this. I try to curb my cynicism as much as possible, but in my view the best way to handle a Kanye West is with an understanding shrug and deliberate attempt to cut through the bullshit. With so much good and important art being created every day, why waste your time on this guy and his need to be worshiped?