Anybody who knows me knows that I’ve been a huge fan of Kanye West for a long time. His “My beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is a masterpiece of an album, possibly my all-time favorite outside of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” and for the most part, I like his brash, no-filtered style. In a world of celebrities where everything seems so fake, it’s actually refreshing to hear somebody say exactly what’s on their mind, no matter how outrageous it may be.
With all that said, his behavior as of late has been disheartening to say the least. The culmination of events that has led to his most recent “I like Hitler” statement has been excruciating to watch. There were many to quickly condemn him, and others who blame his episodes on mental health. And while that may be a part of it, I believe his struggles are much deeper than that.
Whether we’re aware of it or not, Kanye, like the rest of us, is caught in the middle of spiritual warfare. And sadly, I fear he’s losing the battle right now.
The word Israel literally means, “to struggle with God,” as told in Genesis chapter 32 where Jacob literally wrestles with an angel for an entire night. At the break of dawn, the angel finally lets him free, changing his name from Jacob to Israel, of which Jacob’s 12 sons would eventually represent the 12 tribes of Israel. And how fitting a name that would be, not just for Israel, but for all of humanity.
Throughout history, you see this struggle play out. Moses led the Exodus from Egypt, paving the way for a great Kingdom under King David, only for the Jewish people to lose their way and eventually fall to the Babylonians. There’s a similar story with the Christians Crusaders leading to the Dark Ages. Today, we’re watching this struggle not only play out on a macro level with our country, but on a micro level in our individual lives.
And unfortunately for Kanye, the curse of stardom means that his struggles are out in the open for all of us to see.
For a long time, Kanye was doing exactly what the devil had planned for him. As he gained popularity, his music became cruder, with songs that included a vulgar rant about how “Yeezy taught,” a woman how to perform incredible sex, to even referring to himself as “Yeezus” in a direct afront to God. The devil was more than happy taking this talented rapper/producer further away from “Jesus Walks,” and more towards “I am a God,” and he was rewarding him with all the material treasures of this world. He received the most desired woman in the world as a wife, he had become extremely wealthy, and his influence was only growing, even reaching people like me who, like Kanye, had strayed from their spiritual upbringing.
But then, something happened. Something that wasn’t in the devil’s plans. No, it wasn’t Kanye putting on the red hat (though I’m sure that wasn’t in his plan’s either). He did something far more treacherous, far more betraying…
He declared his allegiance to Jesus. And he did so with a bang.
His album “Jesus is King,” debuted at number 1, and the titular song, “Selah” was a loud and proud tribute to the glory of God. This boisterous rapper was now using his powerful influence and far-reaching voice to not only praise and honor God but deliver His message and make converts out of those lost souls.
This looked like a positive turnaround for the accomplished rapper, but like all of us, he is a fallen creature in this sinful world. And his figurative chickens were about to come home to roost, leaving us with several lessons.
1. You cannot serve two masters.
Kanye, like many of us, claims to serve the Lord. And while we mean well by it, we often fall short of that claim, for we have our faults, our idols, and our weaknesses that prevent us from committing our full service to Him. It’s why Jesus said it’s easier for a man to go through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy man to get into heaven. Although Kanye was vigorous in his faith for God, he believed, like many of us foolishly do, that he could work that into the secular empire he had emersed himself in, one who’s worldview was in complete contradiction with the Christian worldview. Sooner or later, something had to give.
Is Kanye’s love for Jesus greater than his love for fame, wealth, influence, and most of all, his ego? Only him and God know the answer to that question. But it’s a question all of us need to ask ourselves. We may not have what Kanye has in terms of material things, but we all struggle with those worldly desires that we just don’t want to give up, from the lonely single man addicted to porn to the church pastor who’s more concerned about retaining the size of his congregation over preaching the true word of God. And how many of us wake up on Sunday morning thinking about how our favorite NFL team is going to do vs. how we’re going to honor our Lord and Savior on the Sabbath? I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been guilty of that sin many times.
I hope Kanye can eventually get to that point. I hope we all get to that point. However, to do so, we must surrender those vices and temptations that have control over us so we can fully serve the one true God. However, the enemy does not give up that easy, which brings me to the second lesson…
2. Never underestimate your enemy.
Kanye West is a gifted individual. By watching his documentary “Jeen-yus,” you see how the combination of talent and relentless drive and determination propelled his career to become one of the most influential rappers of our generation, despite several roadblocks and powerful people in the industry not giving him a chance. The same qualities that made him such a success also generated many of the flaws we see in him, of which Satan has his own drive and determination to exploit. Not only is he cunning and relentless with this exploitation but has no problem leaving a path of destruction in his way. As Christians, it’s important to understand this, for we all have our weaknesses that we must actively combat.
His Christian faith clashed with the hedonistic lifestyle that comes with the Kardashian name, and it was only a matter of time before his marriage would fall apart. And that’s when the attacks really began to ramp up. He was provoked by an individual of whom I’m actually starting to believe is involved in satanic worship (but that’s another story for another day). Immediately after their separation, this man started sleeping with his wife, even going as far as tattooing the name of his children on his body. Something like this would drive anybody mad. Mix in a diagnosed bi-polar disorder, and it’s a recipe for disaster, as was apparent all over social media.
The downward spiral into self-destruction continued. He began receiving threats of physical harm, threats of never seeing his kids again, and even threats of losing his wealth, the last of which came to fruition on some level. Each time he responded, the situation only seemed to get worse. I can understand the indignation, for any righteous person would, and frankly should have some level of anger if ever they were to receive the type of attacks Kanye faced. But Satan was in control of the situation, and the more the saga went on, the more Kanye relied on his ego, fame, and influence to combat him instead of relying on God’s guidance.
3. We all need good, spiritual guidance to develop spiritual maturity.
When you listen to Kanye talk, he speaks as if he’s ready to be a general in God’s army, when in reality he barely just finished his first tour of combat and lacks the maturity to lead an army into a battle of such magnitude. He is in severe need of spiritual guidance, of which I don’t think he’s getting much of. Right now, he’s being heavily influence by a man named Nick Fuentes, which admittedly, I know very little about. A quick internet search pretty much makes him synonymous with “white supremacist,” a term so broadly and overly used these days to describe anybody with differing views that it’s pretty much been rendered meaningless to me. Regardless of what his racial views are, it’s apparent that he’s taking advantage of Kanye right now, acting as an enabler to his addiction to fame. Each time Kanye needs his fix, Mr. Fuentes is there to deliver the goods with another podcast appearance, with each hit costing him nothing but a small a piece of his soul for payment. Sooner or later though, he’ll have nothing left to give, while the dealer will simply move onto the next unfortunate soul.
Kanye is not alone in his need for spiritual mentorship, somebody to guide us on a personal level on our walk as Christians. Sadly, I think that’s something lacking in our churches, and whatever leadership it provides often hasn’t been sufficient to prepare us for spiritual warfare.
In other words, Joel Osteen’s prosperity gospel isn’t going to cut it anymore, at least not in this culture. Being a Christian isn’t an easy task. It isn’t “believe in Jesus and all your problems go away.” It takes hard work and discipline to follow to 10 Commandments, to not give into temptation, to free yourself of the material desires this world brings and commit yourself to serving Jesus. And with the trajectory we’re on, it’s only going to get harder in the coming days. Thus, if we are to truly live out our lives as the Christians we claim to be, it’s imperative we surround ourselves with righteous individuals and seek the council of elders who have walked this life and can provide the wisdom to endure.
It’s heartbreaking watching somebody get used, abused, and fall the way Kanye West has, especially considering how vocal he’s been with his faith as of late. Not only is it heartbreaking, but terrifying. It’s terrifying because his decent into darkness is something that can not only happen to us, but most likely has happened to us in some point in our lives. On some level, we’ve given into temptations, disobeyed our Lord, and paid a steep price for it, and will eventually pay the steepest price of all… death. And seeing Kanye with a mask over his face, a symbol of hopelessness, and saying the things he said is a stark and dark reminder of how serious the struggle, the same one Jacob had many millennia ago, really is.
Except that mask isn’t our symbol, and it doesn’t have to be Kanye’s either. Our symbol is the cross, the symbol of hope, the reminder how Jesus walked the Earth as a man, facing the same emotions, the same struggles as all of us. In fact, his struggles were greater than ours, considering how he was given the task of sacrificing and placing upon himself the entire sin of humanity. He struggled so much so that at one point he actually began to sweat blood, and the last time I checked, I don’t recall anybody so stressed out that they literally sweat blood.
But as a man, he answered that call. He was beaten, tortured, mocked, humiliated, and eventually nailed to a cross to die. And at the end of it all, after his friends—his disciples had abandoned all hope, he rose from the grave, conquering death, and conquering Satan once and for all. Not only did He set the example to how to live your life, but He saved us from the eternal damnation we all deserve, and that includes Mr. Kanye West.
I hope that Kanye remembers this, and I pray he receives the spiritual guidance he desperately needs; not just for his sake, but for everyone else’s as well, for all of us need that same spiritual guidance during these times.