Rapped in the words of grace


By Betty Slade
Preview Columnist

“Why are you listening to rap music?” My son questioned. “Are you going to start rapping? Is that your next calling?”
“No! And I’m not rapping. I’m only getting into the words of a song. Believe it or not, they are heartfelt.”
Once again, I found myself defending my actions to my son.
I suppose I could learn to rap by listening to some of today’s biggest artists. But more than anything, I wanted to hear what Kanye West was saying. Yes, he is radical, but I have no doubt that he has made the biggest decision, turning his life over to God.
I understand radical. When God touched me, I became as radical as Kanye, maybe even more so. The religious world didn’t know what to do with me. I probably even seemed like a complete mockery to those who acted differently than I did at the time.
Recently, I attended my Tuesday night prayer group via videoconference. It is a composite of five sets of parents (and one grandmother) whose children are involved with filmmaking in Hollywood, Calif. These young adults are facing some big decisions in the movie business as they learn to stand on their own Christian foundations.
One of the prayer group attendees played Kanye West’s new single, “Jesus is King.” I listened to the musical lyrics with complete attention. Here is an artist who has worked in the world of entertainment, professing to no longer desire the life he had lived to this point.
He has decided to walk a new path and has made Jesus his King. People are questioning his authenticity. While it is not my place to judge, here is an interesting thought: How many people questioned his authenticity before he professed his new-found faith?
Kanye West dropped his ninth album, “Jesus is King,” following a lengthy and confusing rollout that left fans wondering what he was up to. Many have said that his faith-based dramatic decision could cripple his music career. He could lose sales and popularity.
Beyond the message that he now professes, and inside his lyrics, I heard a sadder story. Here is a man who has felt judged by the religious world. A man who doesn’t fit in with his old buddies. Now, he is surrounded by new friends who may be skeptical of him.
It must be an odd state to find oneself pigeonholed by his own decision. Undoubtedly, Kanye has put himself in-between people who he once felt comfortable with, and those who may not be entirely comfortable with him.
His own wife is having trouble embracing his changed lifestyle. Here is someone he committed himself to in sickness and health. She dressed provocatively, wearing on his arm like his best suit. Flash forward and we see Kanye opening up about his before and after, stating that he wants her to “cover up.” It will be interesting to see if thread count wins in the end.
To be fair, I didn’t even know who Kanye was until he came forward as a changed man. His past? Doesn’t seem to be getting him down any. He is visiting prisons and bringing many to their knees as they profess their own decision of faith.
A friend told me that Kanye had been invited to a Houston mega church. He spoke honestly, but clearly lacked biblical knowledge. While it’s not fair to judge where he is or isn’t in his Christian walk, it does make you wonder if this man is being elevated before due time. We are told in the book of Timothy not to promote a novice for he will surely fall. It seems like a long way down for someone positioning himself on such a high pedestal.
I remember when Michael English won two Dove Awards in 1992 for Male Vocalist and New Artist of the Year. Soon after that, God convicted him and he came clean confessing he had an affair outside of marriage. He was brutally crucified and was stripped of everything, the Dove Awards, his recording contract and a promising career.
Many in the religious world turned their backs on English. In fact, it has taken years for him to find his way back to the stage. He went through a divorce and wrestled through many nightmares. Today, Michael has a beautiful family and is standing above his fall.
Final brushstroke: We all have a past. For some, we need to reconcile where we put ourselves. For others, there is an opportunity to reconcile what we have been delivered from. Whether we are walking through a lit door that has been previously darkened, or seeing spotlights fade, requiring a candle to guide our way, it is by grace that we know where and how to stand.
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