Like I mentioned last time, in addition to starting and stopping my Lenten blog posts with reflections on Mexican-American spirituality, I am making an effort to genuinely pray for certain, shall we say, unsavory people. Now, remember, these are not the worst people on earth. I’m not scraping the bottom of the barrel for humanity’s dredges here. I’m just highlighting people that I personally have a tough time loving. They probably don’t qualify as actual enemies since none of them even know I exist. Nevertheless, my heart is generally turned away from them, and so hopefully this exercise will be good for me at least.
Anyhow, today’s candidate is the infamously arrogant Kanye West.
Gee… where to begin?
I first heard about Kanye when my brother had me listen to his song “Jesus Walks” on his 2004 The College Dropout album. What at first seemed a surprisingly fresh openness to spirituality in hip hop eventually grew into one of the most godless of entertainment careers.
In fact, rather than promote anything resembling Christ-like humility, Kanye’s words and actions have grown increasingly more self-aggrandizing. From his self-identification with Jesus, hence his nickname Yeezus, to his self-deification, “I am a god” (which is actually a song on his Yeezus album), Kanye has demonstrated none of the false humility celebrities often employ, and far more self-worship than most ever would.
So iconic is Kanye’s arrogance that the day after the death of anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, philanthropist, and South African president Nelson Mandela, satirical fake-newspaper The Daily Currant ran an article claiming that in an interview Kanye had said, “I am the next Nelson Mandela.” This interview of course never actually took place, and Kanye didn’t actually say that. But the story spread so quickly across the Internet precisely because it felt like the exact sort of thing that Kanye would say.
And while grandstanding and self-worship is not uncommon in the hip hop world, Kanye has a knack for doing it with a religious flare.
And, in case you missed one of West’s more recent boorish statements, in his latest album, The Life of Pablo, he raps:
I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex
Why? I made that bitch famous
Apparently Kanye thinks that by interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, he established her fame. He must have missed the part where Taylor was already accepting an award (hence, already famous). And while Kanye is certainly the best-selling digital artist of all time, when it comes to certified album sales he doesn’t even break the top 100 (which Swift does). The point is simply that Kanye’s arrogance knows no bounds or reason, and the notion that Taylor would sleep with him only further demonstrates the mysogyny that goes hand-in-hand with his narcissism.
From start to finish, Kanye West is the sort of asshole that people love to hate. And it doesn’t take much effort to find a reason to do so.1
And yet, even though most of his religious and spiritual musings turn back to his own worship, Kanye seems to be genuinely looking for something transcendent. I am familiar enough with his music to know better than to assume that he is simple employing religious language for purely hedonistic reasons. However subtle and sparse, there is a thread of authentic reverence that runs inconsistently throughout his work.
And, for all the douchiness that he heaps on people, he has apologized from time to time for running his mouth without thinking.
More importantly, Jesus loves Kanye West. In fact, when I consider the incomparable sacrifice that was made on the cross for every sinner, I can’t help but conclude that God’s love for Kanye is unsurpassable. As difficult as it may be to imagine, God actually loves Kanye more than Kanye loves himself. And if God loves Kanye, then I need to learn to love him too.
So, here is my Lenten prayer for Kanye West:
I pray that you would bless Kanye West. Not so much with financial success, but with spiritual wealth. He seems to be searching for something, and doesn’t seem to be finding it in his own prosperity. May he find the true glory that only comes through humility. I pray that he would realize the deep significance of the religious concepts and categories that he uses. And may he come to learn to love others more than himself.
I pray that you would bless Kanye’s relationship with his children. Help him to be a good father, one that they can be proud of. May his character come to improve, and may the memory of his improved character be the legacy that he leaves behind. Help him to see others not as means to ends or as objects of his own pleasure, but as having equal significance to himself. And may he find joy, real joy. May Kanye come to experience a powerful and pure sense of fulfillment that goes beyond what his entertainment career could ever offer.
1: For more reasons why I (and other like me) have trouble liking (much less loving) Kanye, check out this video.