Celebrity status and social activism are very nearly synonyms, with anyone worthy of a significant social media following utilizing it to voice their opinions on global warming, reproductive rights, homosexuality, immigration, the presidency, and a host of other issues previously left to the professionals. Apart from a few notable exceptions, the majority of these celebrities advocate within the same general realm of political beliefs: a left-leaning post-Modernism that replaces exclusive religious principles with an all-inclusive agenda towards Progress. In light of these circumstances, what is truly shocking to encounter today is not dramatic progressivism, but a bold return to more Conservative, traditional values. Case in point? Rap icon, Kanye West.
Though undoubtedly embodying the usual elements of rap culture in the earlier years of his career, Kanye’s recent conversion to Christianity has changed everything about the way he wields his fame. His latest album, “Jesus is King,” is blatantly Christian, featuring elements of Gospel choir and including Scripture-based lyrics like, “Jesus is Lord/ Every knee shall bow/ Every tongue confess/ Jesus is Lord.”
Still, in light of the artist’s past tendency to “change his mind like he changes his underwear,” many are skeptical of this dramatic evangelical shift. He has been bold in voicing unpopular opinions in the past, including his advocacy for Trump, criticisms of abortion, and belief that the African-American community is being used by the Left for political gain, rather than in pursuit of civil rights. By cultural standards, these views go hard against the norm, but West’s willingness to stand alone on his beliefs is somewhat refreshing, no matter the ways they align with (or grate upon) one’s personal convictions.
Still, affirming and proclaiming Christianity presents a different set of challenges than West’s previous stands. Many believers are wary of adopting him as an example in the faith, as his history of flighty advocacy and persistent arrogance do not encourage confidence in his commitment. The man who once proclaimed, “I am a God,” definitely retains traces of that mindset, but critics ought to grant him some grace—conversion may happen instantly, but a complete adoption of Christian values (and humility) is a lifelong process.
Whatever the nature of Kanye West’s personal faith, the upheaval caused by this latest album is indicative of the society in which we live. This celebrity’s vocalization of “traditional religion” snapped him to the center of cultural conversations surrounding music, religion, politics, and race. No matter the end result of his shift, West provides a fascinating example of the ways star power can be used for advocacy, and the courage required to use this power outside of its culturally-accepted boundaries.
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