Meditations on Kanye – Part 3

The third in a series of theological reflections drawn from the lyrics of Kanye West.

“No Church in the Wild” (2011) by Kanye West and Jay-Z is a song about freedom. The freedom that comes from being unshackled from human and religious authority.

Here’s the chorus:

Human beings in a mob
What’s a mob to a king?
What’s a king to a god?
What’s a god to a non-believer?
Who don’t believe in anything?

Morality is no longer defined by a higher power but by the individuals involved:

We formed a new religion
No sins as long as there’s permission

The result for the narrator is the high life of luxury cars, weed, cocaine and sex with various women including one who is tattooed with the words “No apologies” and “Love is cursed by monogamy”.

Most of us aren’t living the “ballin” hip-hop life but Jesus uses the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) to show that the search for freedom apart from God’s authority is a common human experience. It’s the story of a son who shows no regard for his father’s authority or reputation. He prematurely takes his share of the inheritance, leaves home and lives as he pleases.

Rather than finding liberty, the son discovers that freedom from his father leads to poverty and isolation. It’s a picture of humanity separated from the good God and reaping the consequences as we seek to rule over ourselves.

When the son comes to his senses and returns home, the father responds with great compassion and rejoicing rather than anger. It’s a picture of God’s warmth and willingness to be reconciled to his lost creation.

For the Christian, freedom is not found apart from God but in right relationship with him as Father. That right relationship is ruined by our rebellion but restored by the person of Jesus, in whom we find forgiveness and learn to live according the Father’s will rather than our own.

It’s a reconciliation open to anyone who seeks to return from the wilderness.


Meditations on Kanye – Part 2

The second in a series of theological reflections drawn from the lyrics of Kanye West.

In 21st century Western society, spiritual struggle is largely regarded as the stuff of cartoons, horror movies and religious nutters. However, those who have witnessed great evil, such as those who participated in the Rwandan genocide and those who sought to prevent it, aren’t always so dismissive.

Here’s Kanye reflecting on his own, more personal, spiritual battle:

God show me the way because the devil trying to break me down
(Jesus walks with me)
The only thing that that I pray is that my feet don’t fail me now
(Jesus walks)
And I don’t think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs
(Jesus walks with me)
I want to talk to God but I’m afraid because we ain’t spoke in so long

-Jesus Walks, The College Dropout (2004)

Kanye is aware of his spiritual opponent, the being that the Apostle Peter describes as a ‘roaring lion’ bent on destruction (1 Peter 5:8). Kanye is aware of his own waning spiritual energy and his complete inability to atone for his own sin. He wants to approach God but instead he stands at a distance; alienated and afraid.

The word of Jesus to Kanye, and all who stand at a distance weighed down by tiredness, guilt and fear, is an invitation to come near:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

-Matthew 11:28-30

And here is the call of the Apostle James:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.Come near to God and he will come near to you. 

-James 4:7-8

Jesus himself was tempted by the devil but resisted (Matthew 4) which means he can empathise with our struggles (Hebrews 4:15). More importantly, he not only issued an open verbal invitation to draw near but physically opened his arms as he was nailed to a cross and punished in the place of all humanity before rising again in victory over the devil and his power (Colossians 2:13-15).

The word of Jesus to Kanye and to all the world is: come near to me and I will give you rest.