The transformation of Kayne West from bad-boy rapper to musical Christian evangelist is one of the more interesting, and on one level, inspiring cultural developments of our time. To be sure, the new Kayne is not to everyone’s taste. NBC News is pretty sure that Kayne’s conversion, with a hit Christian rap album entitled “Jesus is King” and a new opera called “Nebuchadnezzar”, is a publicity stunt that is more about Kayne than it is about the Lord.
“Once upon a time, I used to believe in a certain version of Kanye West — the man who condemned then-President George W. Bush for not caring enough about Black people during Hurricane Katrina, or the straight Black man willing to speak out against homophobia in hip-hop — but no longer. His narcissism, his self-loathing and his politics have been on full display long enough for me to know that I don’t need to attend Sunday Service or subject myself to a “Jesus Is King” listening session. West’s latest shtick is clearly nothing more than him showing us a Black Pat Robertson in a dumb red hat with a beat machine, with pretensions of being gospel star Kirk Franklin.”
Kayne’s performances at Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Houston also caused some people to raise their eyebrows. Osteen’s brand of “prosperity Christianity,” which preaches that God wants us to be rich, is not to everyone’s taste. However, not mentioned in most media accounts, is the fact that Osteen’s church is one of the least segregated in the world, attracting both whites and blacks to Sunday service at the Lakewood Church, a venue that used to be the Summit where rock concerts with a lot of unchristian behavior occurring with the music.
The fact that Kayne has transformed from George W. Bush’s most fierce critic to Donald Trump’s best friend has people reaching for the antacid.
It was only a matter of time before Kayne, the hip hop evangelist, managed to annoy the atheists.
Around the same time he was packing them in at the Lakewood Church, Kayne paid an unannounced visit to the Harris County Jail. Hot Air described what followed. “An interesting part of the story of Kanye’s trip to Houston that weekend is his unannounced visit to the Harris County Jail. He performed two shows, with a choir – one for men inmates and one for women inmates. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez was excited to welcome him.”
Most readers might imagine that the denizens of the Harris County Jail could benefit from a visit from one of the world’s most popular musicians delivering a message from the Gospels as only he could. However, the notable exception to this goodwill would be a group calling itself the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation is a group of atheist scolds who search out instances in which the government gets too cozy with religion and then swoops down with complaints and the occasional lawsuit with the zeal of the Spanish Inquisition ferreting out heresy. Sheriff Gonzalez was very fulsome in his praise of Kayne, describing on twitter his appearance in his jail as more of a church service than a concert. This description was too much for the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
In essence, the FFRF regards Kayne’s performances as a violation of the First Amendment, which it says mandates a separation between Church and State. The principle has been used by meddlesome atheists as far back as when Madelyn Murray O’Hare acquired a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting prayer in public schools in the early sixties.
On the other hand, prison ministries have been operating for decades unmolested by the courts. Kayne’s shows could be seen as one of those on an epic, musical scale. Attendance was not mandatory and no one inside the Harris County Jail was heard to complain. Some were moved to tears. The idea is that the more convicts turn their lives over to the Lord, the fewer who are likely to re-offend once they get out of jail. Religion thus serves a secular purpose.
A spokesperson for the First Liberty Institute, the organization that successfully mounted the defense of the WWI Peace Cross Memorial in the courts, said it most eloquently. “If every sheriff in America invited Kanye West to visit their jails, we might have less need for jails.”