Kanye West’s rollercoaster journey with Christianity has been problematic for the religious and non-religious alike. We are bombarded with contradictory opinions and defences, often from Kanye himself. But by analysing the steps of his career, we can effortlessly uncover his simplistic tale as nothing we haven’t seen before.
Kanye’s father, Ray West, was a Christian counsellor. This role was presumably a primary influence on Kanye’s future devotional footsteps. And from a very young age, it did appear as if a higher hand had blessed Kanye’s abilities. When he was 24 years old, he contributed production to Jay Z’s 2001 The Blueprint, often considered up there with the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. Indeed, before Kanye was even signed, he seemed destined for greatness. And nobody knew it as well as him.
“I’m like a vessel, and God has chosen me to be the voice and the connector.” – Kanye West (Vulture article)
Kanye’s debut, The College Dropout, finally arrived in 2004. Hailed for its precision and wit, a lot of attention fell upon its fourth single, Jesus Walks. While its bold embracement of West’s faith may not be to everyone’s taste, its wholesome quality fed perfectly into American Christian family values. It proved to be the ideal recipe for commercial triumph and achieved tremendous critical success.
God show me the way because the Devil’s tryna break me down,
(Jesus, walk with me)
The only thing that I pray is that my feet don’t fail me now,
And I don’t think there’s nothin’ I can do now to right my wrongs,
(Jesus, walk with me)
I wanna talk to God, but I’m afraid ’cause we ain’t spoke in so long,
– Jesus Walks lyrics, written by Kanye West
Kanye West is a musical genius. It is a self-proclaimed title, sure, but with vast merit. Following The College Dropout, album after album, he cracked the charts, infiltrating the Billboard Hot 100 with 107 songs. He’s also sold 160 million albums worldwide and won 24 Grammys along the way. But these mass conquests blew air into his ego like a balloon, and gradually Kanye’s dedication to Christ was no longer that of a man humbled by his Messiah. Instead, here was an artist who believed he was second in line.
There is a magnitude of veins one can trace when examining the blood of spirituality. Some regard the concept of God as laughable, merely an imaginary friend for adults. Others sense a deeper personal relationship with an undefinable materiality that doesn’t adhere to segregated denominations. And then there are those who believe they are “chosen”. From their viewpoint, they possess a far more advanced understanding of the “Supreme Being”, and their soul exists on an intermediary level between God and the little people of this world.
It parallels the questionable cerebral process of professions like priests, New Age gurus, or cult leaders. At what point does your arrogance build such a mental circle jerk that it deems itself as closer to God than those around you? How do you know what goes on in the hearts of others? Especially when divinity is a subjective term on a spectrum of definitions across thousands of religious perspectives? The Dhamric pursuit to shed the ego is largely lost in Westernised spirituality. So often, Abrahamic-shamanics become an enlightenment-measuring competition, everyone condescendingly convinced they’ve touched the true apex. And there is no better demonstrable person in the modern entertainment world of that than Kanye.
Full-Blown God Complex
We don’t have to look much further than his (admittedly brilliant) 2013 album, Yeezus. The title alone exposes his ever-growing Christ complex. Here you’ll even find a song called I Am a God, which features these telling lyrics:
“I just talked to Jesus,
He said, “What up Yeezus?”
I said, “Sh*t, I’m chilling,
Trying to stack these millions.”
I know he is the highest,
But I am a close high,
Mi casa es su casa,
That’s our costra nostra,
I am a God.”
– I Am A God lyrics, written by Kanye West
It’s a long stride from Jesus Walks.
Now, when mapping out Kanye West’s erratic spiritual evolutions, bypassing his mental health problems would be unfair. A bipolar disorder diagnosis (which he later denied) and suggestions of autism help paint a picture of a creative personality with a distinct grasp on reality. Some have noted these conditions in conjunction with his recent amplified preoccupations with Christ. In 2019, he released a record named Jesus Is King, and around the same time, he started leading Sunday Services like a minister. There’s no doubt the man still considers himself a soldier of Jesus. But behind the scenes, his behaviour speaks anything but the gospel.
What Wouldn’t Jesus Do?
Kanye’s well-documented obsessive harassment of Taylor Swift is a heartbreaking example. Even worse was when comedian Pete Davidson began dating Kanye’s ex-wife, Kim Kardashian. Kanye reacted in several deplorable ways, but perhaps the most disturbing was his video for EAZY, where Pete is decapitated and buried. Maybe a sliver of poetic licensing may excuse these juvenile attacks, but there is always a limit. And Kanye crossed that limit with his leap into antisemitism.
From funding white nationalist Nick Fuentes, to denying the holocaust, to expressing admiration for Adolf Hitler, Kanye was eventually suspended from Twitter after posting the Raëlism symbol. This new religious movement’s logo combined the swastika with the Star of David. And then the final nail of evidence to Kanye’s anti-Jewish messianic beliefs came during a 2022 episode of Drink Champs Podcast. In reference to his Adidas Yeezy fashion collaboration, Kanye confidently announced that “I can say antisemitic sh*t, and Adidas cannot drop me”. This proved untrue. Adidas did drop him, and his net worth dropped with it. According to Forbes, it plummeted from $2 billion to $400 million. Is this what they mean by karma?
In closing, let’s analyse these so-called godly men. They place themselves on pedestals higher than us, but it’s a self-serving pattern of egotism. In an organisational sense, this abstract hierarchy can turn detrimental to those spiritually vulnerable and, therefore, easily influenced. However, if we can regard the arrogant procedure as meaningless or even amusing, then should we allow for slight leeway in the bubble of artistic value? Kanye is primarily a musician, so should we focus on his music? We must accept individual eccentricities if we want our entertainment to be exceptional. Consequently, we shouldn’t be looking to our creative heroes for pathways to God anyway. So is the answer a separation of art from the artist? Can we enjoy Kanye’s professional expertise above his moral faults?
The trouble comes when Kanye West’s recent music has notably dipped in quality. And when coupled with such venomously hateful speech, no redeeming factors are found in the art or the artist. Hence, our tolerance on the issue will only perpetuate Kanye’s irrational behaviour, where instead, he’d benefit from a swift reminder of his human flaws.
For no matter how close Kanye believes he is to Jesus Christ the Saviour, he could not be further away in practice.