Kanye West vs. Worship Leader

Preface #1: To avoid the potential of appearing unloving and callous, I’m going to refrain from using the worship leader’s real name.  We’ll call him, “Yodat Cray.”  Some of you wouldn’t know this guy even if I gave you his name, but he’s one of the most prolific worship music leaders/worship song writers of the last decade.

Preface #2: Inspiration for this post are statements that I’ve heard from many, in regards to it being a sin to financially support filthy lyricists such as Kanye West.  “There’s no way that a Christian should support artists like Kanye by downloading his music.”

In 2010, Yodat’s extra-marital affair was exposed.  One that he had engaged in for 4 years; these four years, some of his most successful as a worship leader and songwriter. Churches are still singing these songs today; these songs written while Yodat was cheating on his wife and kids.  Nothing but love for Yodat, I’m glad for him that his affair was exposed, and I hope Jesus has (or will) restored (restore) what was lost in his life and ministry.

As far as it being a sin when Christians financially support Kanye  (or any artist known for explicit lyrics) by buying his music, this stance never felt right to me.  I realized today that my resistance is based on the fact that human beings aren’t Christians’ enemies (Ephesians 6:12).  We needn’t be disgusted with Kanye.  Offended by his lyrics?  Sure if you want to be, but repulsed by Kanye personally?  Not sure if that’s valuable.  I’m not sure if his lyrics are a legitimate basis for condemning “Christian Kanye downloaders” either.  Really don’t want to go that route, however, in this discussion.  Another day.  Another post, perhaps.

I want to focus on our comparison of Kanye and Yodat.  The only “thing” that distinguishes Yodat and Kanye is Jesus.  Is Kanye’s music offensive and/or a stumbling block to you?  Don’t listen to him.  Do Yodat’s encourage you?  That’s money, baby.  As far as their actions (and reputations) are concerned, however, I honestly don’t know which one has done more harm.  One thing I do know: the Bible says not to even associate with some one that calls himself a brother and lives a life of adultery (1 Corinthians 5:11).  With that said, it would be crazy for Christians to stop buying Yodat’s music on the basis of his extra-marital affair.  If that’s the case, people should also stop reading Psalms, must of them written by King David (murderous adulterer).  Forget reading Song of Songs, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes too, because David Jr. had his share of girlies too.  On the flip side, do you think it’s a sin for Christians to listen to Kanye?  If so, I respect that position, and yet I’d disagree. . . as long as you don’t actually do the things he advocates in his songs….oh yeah, and while you’re at it; don’t do what Yodat actually did against his wife and kids.

Conclusion:  Do I listen to Kanye West?  Yes.  Do I listen to the horrible things he says about woman? No.  (delete those songs/turn volume down/etc) Am I trying to make Kanye West fans?  Don’t care about that.  I’d even like to make a quick parental pitch, being the father of 3, that parents should be more involved in their kids’ CD changer..I mean Pandora…I mean, their Spotify. For the youngins, Kanye shouldn’t be on the Spotify.  Word on that?  I’ll even go so far as to say that this world would be a better place if less people idolized Kanye West.  With this being said, the only good that will come out of folks not idolizing Kanye would be for them to idolize and put faith in Jesus Christ.  Without Jesus as the central figure of one’s life, each person will gravitate to a different idol, which is altogether worthless.  So, Kanye isn’t the issue.  It’s whether or not some one worships Jesus.

So what’s the point of this blog? Am I trying to encourage Christians not to see people as the enemy? Yes.  Am I hoping to see Jesus be the savior and object of worship for more and more men and women? Yes.  Am I trying to encourage Christians to love more? Yes.

What does loving Kanye West look like to you?  It may or may not include listening to his music. For me, it most certainly does.  Not to mention,
the man has some dope beats on his songs.

What do you think?

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16 Comments

  1. Taylor

     /  July 23, 2012

    Good thoughts here, especially about David & Solomon. Whenever I engage with an artists of any kind, I try to learn the context that surrounds its creation, and about the artist’s life inclinations, etc. so that I can better understand what s/he is trying to convey through the art. I have no problem at all with viewing/listening to art created by those who don’t know Jesus; it stretches me to think about the difference between us.

    However, there are times when I come across an artists that has almost nothing redemptive to offer when it comes to the human condition. And it somewhat ruins good art for me when I know that the person(s) that made it live in a completely (as far as I know) unredemptive way. It severely undercuts anything good that they have to say. I don’t expect Jesus-like behavior from those that don’t follow Him (that would be silly), but sometimes the little (if any) good that their art has to offer isn’t worth the compromise.

    What are your thoughts? (This Twitter/blog are both great, by the way.)

  2. Joey

     /  July 23, 2012

    agree 100%. that’s why it’s a common occurrence that I delete songs on my itunes library. just typically not whole CDs. Main thing is that the Holy Spirit is going to guide each person what can be redeeming for each person. As longs as it’s not spelled out clearly in the bible as sin. thanks, Taylor!

  3. Jeff

     /  July 23, 2012

    Love where you’re going with this – I read a stat in “Courageous Living” that kids between 7th grade and graduation attend 7,000 hours of classroom study – but listen to over 11,000 hours of music! And we all know the affect secular music can have on impressionable youth and ourselves. I couple that fact with one of my favorite versus by the Christian rap artist “Odd Thomas” on the song “King Kulture”:
    So why you’re separating the sacred from secular
    You miss the chance to advance the kingdom of God b/c they disrespecting you / It’s time we capture the art, not to censor it but to become a mentor to it speak to it & stay true to it, no need to restore thru it and wave the banner in a manner thats not only possible to redeem the influence on a culture at the same time present the gospel.

    Being on the frontlines for Christ can sometimes mean exposing ourselves to lies our youth are buying into, and mentoring to it through Scripture accordingly. Doesn’t mean we need to bob our heads to it, but we do need to know what’s going on.

  4. Steve

     /  July 23, 2012

    I think that we are commanded and created to sing TO God and ABOUT God. I don’t see how listening to or singing a secular rapper is ok.

  5. Lee

     /  July 23, 2012

    If I’m to believe that every song created by any worship leader was created while the leader was leading a perfect life, then I’m only singing songs made directly by Jesus. I think the issue should be less about the sin the artist was doing when he created the work and more about whether or not he repented of that sin. Sure, David was a murderous adulterer, but he was called out on it and repented of the sin. Did Yodat do the same? If so, then I don’t see the issue with listening to his material.

    As for Kanye, I don’t really listen to his music (mostly not my style), so I can’t give an honest opinion there. But I think any other artist could be put in his place for your argument. So, in that light, should I tell a person it’s ok to listen to something like Tool? They’ve got some rocking guitar riffs, but their lyrics would also be considered “filthy”. My answer would be no. It in no way glorifies God to listen to Tool, and in fact supports a band who is pretty openly anti-Christian.

    Tool was probably a bit overboard for a comparison, as I don’t think Kanye has outright blasphemed against Jesus like Maynard from Tool has, but you get my point. Where we spend out money and time should reflect our morals and beliefs, so unless the song in question backs those up (which should be from the Bible), then you should probably avoid it.

  6. philip van kampen

     /  July 23, 2012

    Music is music. Art is art. Limiting the subject matter of art is contrived and often makes for bad art. I wonder if one could support an argument that we are commanded to sing about and to God exclusively. Where do you draw the line? Is instrumental music OK?
    As adults, we should be more than able to understand what is OK for us and what is not. I would think there is probably a lot of irony at play. As well, I wonder about a song like Diamonds are Forever. This song was so great because it played against the bling and rings culture of rap/hip hop and spoke to the true nature of diamond mining… for example, the slave labor and brutality employed to mine these overpriced pieces of rock.
    Everybody has different things they can handle and not handle. Let’s not forget that it was the secular that saved Christianity a little over 500 years ago. Maybe we’ve all heard of the Renaissance? It can be a slippery slope trying to develop one’s spirituality working in a kind of negative space. Maybe believers should be more concerned with the plank in their own eye.

  7. Toby

     /  July 23, 2012

    Hey steve I think you’re right but you might have a narrow view of singing songs and even talking to God. Adam was asked to name the animals in the Garden and I am so glad we call them frogs and not “Jesus of Nazareth’s Green Machines.” God allowed him to name the animals as he saw fit and thus Adam honored God and brought glory to God.

    Also children sing songs about wheels on the bus going around and twinkling stars. Those help teach our kids about God’s creation and how to live in it.

    There are things that you can handle that I cannot not but that doesn’t mean you are sinning. It means we have a God who is with us in our strength’s and weakness’ and we must allow the Holy Spirit that is working in our lives to work how He chooses in other’s. Thanks man.

  8. Joey

     /  July 24, 2012

    hey, i’ll answer this with Toby’s words:

    There are things that you can handle that I cannot not but that doesn’t mean you are sinning. It means we have a God who is with us in our strength’s and weakness’ and we must allow the Holy Spirit that is working in our lives to work how He chooses in other’s.

    i agree totally with this. there has certainly been music that i personally could NOT listen to. emery is one of those bands that just don’t glorify God at all :(
    Can’t stomach them. J/K

  9. agodlywoman

     /  July 24, 2012

    Sheep without a shepherd.

  10. Jeff

     /  July 25, 2012

    I wanted to elaborate a little on how we Christians could mentor to our non-believing friends/loved ones by applying ‘secular’ music to Scripture or using it to acknowledge God as a whole.

    First, we should make a point to our atheist friends that rock out to secular music with or without us believers, that to create music takes intelligence – how can an entity not created, create? A few examples, to Joey’s point of Kanye dropping some dope beats, those beats did not develop themselves – it took a master mc to produce them, when a vocalists belts out an unreal note -that’s a gift, key word gift – who gave the gift? That vocalist did nothing to obtain the ability to sing like that, sure they had to fine tuned their craft, but you either have it or don’t. A guitar or drum solo that just makes your jaw drop – where does that come from? In other words, composing music is like drawing stick figures compared to the complexity of our Earth & our Bodies – if music has to be created, how could Human Beings and this Solar System be a product of chance?

    Second, here a few popular secular songs that are easy to break the ice and apply the Gospel of Christ to. These examples don’t even scratch the surface:
    -Metallica’s ‘The Unforgiven II’ – what’s up with being unforgiven? is there forgiveness? where can it be found, or who can give it? do you want forgiveness? or is it cooler to be unforgiven?
    -Kanye’s ‘Jesus Walks’ in relation to some of his other music, what’s up with the conflict? Let’s take a look at Romans 7 and see what Paul has to say about it.
    -Avenged Sevenfolds ‘Nightmare’ – is there a hell? care to be bound there? if there is a nightmare of eternal damnation, that must mean there is a dream of eternal bliss, right? does the song contain vulgar lyrics, absolutely yes – as a Christian, try and see past them because the vulgarity of those lyrics are a walk in the park compared to being eternally seperated from God’s Love. Your atheist buddy that happens to jam out with that song blasting should be advised, while yeah – one heck of a song, the truth behind this song is nothing to celebrate. Remember, listening to or putting up with a few vulgar lyrics is nothing compared to missing out on an opportunity to present the truth of salvation via Christ to someone.
    -Tool’s ‘Parabol(a) talks about being eternal beings but fails to acknowledge God or Christ? Yes, this walk on Earth truly is a Holy experience, when lived while walking with the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob.
    -Tool’s ‘Jambi’ talks about drowning in the ways of the devil then being lifted up and turned around. who saves you from the devil? is the devil real? what’s up with demanding silence from legion at the end of this song? and who is the benevolent Son that is called to shine upon the broken?

    Finally, take a Kanye West fan and introduce them to Lecrae or Trip Lee, A Metallica or Tool fan and introduce them to Skillet or Kutless or Emery (plug intended).

    And I close with my favorite “secular” song ‘simple man’ by lynyrd skynyrd…”And don’t forget son there is someone up above…” Who is up above?

  11. Rachel

     /  July 25, 2012

    Jeff,
    I’d like to respectfully point out that your line of thinking comes across as some sales strategy, like a training manual. If I knew someone had overtly planned a conversation with me like this I would feel like I was being “sold” ,and in this day and age that comes across as a lack of caring. I wouldn’t be inclined to listen or converse in that situation, because it seems that your interest isn’t to genuinely connect with me. On the other hand, I’d be glad to talk and communicate if it was genuine and a 2 way conversation. For example, I’d like to hear why you like Tool and their lyrics. And why that means something to you.

  12. Jeff

     /  July 26, 2012

    Thanks Rachel – the examples I’ve given are ones that are personal to me (except the Kanye one, I was just rolling with the theme) because they are real life experiences with friends that I love, not that I try to create sales angles with. Although I can certainly understand how it can be taken that way. To answer your question (and hopefully clear the air that this is genuine, not systematic)…I came to learn of Tool after a long time friend invited me to go to their concert in 2009…believe it or not, despite the bands popularity I wasn’t familiar with their music…the only song I had heard was “sober” covered by Staind…so even then I didn’t know it was Tool. I fell in love with their music and began to listen to it more and of course analyze it…as any decent Tool fan would do. The more I listened, the more I found parallels to Scripture…and shared them with my friend. So my intent was not to learn Tool’s music, then create a sales pitch of the gospel around it to unknowing suspects, but instead I was introduced to Tool by a dear friend that I’ve known for over 15 years, then happened to draw parallels to our need for salvation around it.

  13. Bob

     /  July 26, 2012

    I’m a big fan of your music Toby, but I feel that we are missing an important aspect. Anyone who has accepted Christ as savior is already sinless in the eyes of God. Paul’s point was that Christians need to stop focusing on not sinning and start focusing on being a new creation. What we as Christians strive for is to become more like God. Two areas we do this in is in holiness and wisdom. While listening to Kanye or any other worldly artist might not be sinning, but having a loop of worldly lyrics in my head throughout the day is not going to bring me any closer to being like my Father and simply isn’t wise. I certainly listen to a good amount of secular music which I consider to be of the same moral ambiguity of Emery’s break up songs, but the better use of my time and spirit is when I can speak to God through the lyrics of a song written for him. (Emery’s Fix Me, DownHere, etc.)

  14. Joey

     /  July 26, 2012

    bob, toby is sleeping, so i’ll answer for him. The only problem with this rationale is that you aren’t starting with JESUS. You are starting with a certain standard of morality that isn’t clearly identified in the bible. You say Kanye West isn’t christian enough. Someone else may say that Emery’s songs that don’t talk about God aren’t Christian enough. Next thing you know, you are throwing out the TV, radio and internet, your kids are being made fun of at school, they are terrified of everything that’s not like TBN, and thus, they don’t know how to love people like Jesus did. Then, you realize that while you thought you were doing your job as a parent by getting rid of all “unchristian” things (whatever that means) by helping your kids be holy, your kids actually hate the church and are delusional about a relationship with God, thinking that all He cares about are rules and not them as a person. You see, i’m ok if Kanye is unacceptable for YOU to listen to. I can even applaud that, since you are potentially yielding to God’s will in your life. However, once you make that a universal standard for the whole church, you have the potential of leading people to death, bondage, and a truly Godless life. Those sorts of standards that aren’t biblical reek of legalism, which Jesus destroyed 2000 years ago. Protect the church’s freedom, bro (Galatians 5:1).

  15. Ted

     /  July 26, 2012

    You hit on a great point, Rachel. This is a little bit off topic but I deeply struggle with the “tactical” nature of being an evangelical Christian. Having a sales strategy to attract new people is not unique to Christianity–in fact I would argue Jesus didn’t need or employ sales prowess when he founded the church. He loved people where they were, he was honest with people where they were, he corrected people when necessary, he taught people at their level of understanding. He was an all-around real, sincere, genuine person. There’s something inherently attractive about those things. Oh, and he was God so he was able to be and do all those things perfectly. The transcendent power he wielded was and is stronger than worldly power and I think attraction to it is built in to every human. Good and bad, just look at how the world has responded to Him.

    People who are not Jesus are not able to be or do those things perfectly. Whether it was done consciously, I don’t know, but my impression is that much of the church has gravitated towards developing tactics and messages to sell people on Christianity. I think we resort to being a little sly because we’re just not good at interacting, loving, and giving it up to our Father like Jesus did. I’m not saying I think what Jeff described fits that mold, rather that I understand how the secular world could see almost everything Christians do as some sort of insincere tactic because it often is.

    Disclaimer: I’m not trying to make blanket statements regarding all church strategy. I could be going overboard in how I describe what I sense as a problem and I could be wrong. Just get uncomfortable seeing the business side of church organization cloud our vision.

  16. Joey

     /  July 29, 2012

    great thoughts. great discussion. we’ll probably roll out a “kanye vs. worship leader II” in the future to address a lot of additional issues raised here.

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