Written by: Liz Haveman

Writing about the new album by Kanye West, “Jesus is King,” is a tricky thing in today’s Christian world. As soon as this work hit the shelves, Christians were immediately divided into two camps. “He’s lying”, or “Welcome new brother”!

The evolution of Kanye as a person and an artist is truly dizzying, and it is clear that he takes his inspiration for his art mostly from whatever he’s thinking about, feeling, or going through in any given moment. However that is not unusual. Most artists  find expression through life experiences. It is fascinating to watch his personal and artistic growth through the openness of his music.

The Christian world was rocked by the revelation of Kanye’s conversion. Many openly expressed skepticism and disbelief, and for good reason. His past projects have included some raunchy and truly debasing efforts. Some feel that he is an unhealthy narcissist being rewarded with more attention.

While this may be true, I’m thankful for any outlet that proclaims Christ. Kanye’s fan base is definitely made up of those who wouldn’t normally be hearing the word of God. He has the potential to reach a whole new group of people untouched by the word.

Kanye West has a turbulent history. His past makes Christians uncomfortable at the very least. But then, he met Jesus. The dramatic conversion of a man notorious for explicit lyrics, sexual content and a sinful lifestyle has certainly been surprising.  But then again, this is how God has always worked.

In Phillipians 1:18, Paul addresses complaints that not everyone is preaching the gospel of Christ from pure motives. His response? “What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I rejoice.”

Let’s get to the music.

There are some head spinning shifts throughout this concept album, occasionally making me think I missed an opening or ending of a song. Sometimes the theme of the song shifts right in the middle. For timing, this album is short – a brisk sprint of only 27 minutes. But the overall theme is clear and consistent: God saves. Jesus is King.

Right from the start with “Everything We Need,” Kanye starts pouring scripture and biblical references into his music.

“We began after the storm inside  / Lay the land, it’s just the morning light  / switch my, switch my attitude / I’m so, I’m so radical  / all these people mad at dude / This for who it matter to / What if Eve made apple juice? / You gon’ do what Adam do? / Or say ‘Baby let’s put this back on the tree’ / cause,We have everything we need.”

I like that he feels how this new direction his life is taking is radical, and that some people are not going to like it. But the only one he’s doing this for is the only One that matters, God. We are all presented with choices like Adam and Eve, and all we can do is try to make the right choice, and when we’re tempted to sin, put the apple back on the tree.

One of the oddest songs in the group is “Closed on Sunday.” The tagline was really funny when I realized he was singing about Chick Fil A, lauding the merits of their admirable lemonade. However, I’m pretty sure it’s not meant to be funny. The lyrics transition from fast food to family, using the restaurant’s policy of being closed on Sundays as a parallel for how we should be focused on our families and God and rest on the Lord’s day. It’s funny and serious, clever and just kind of strange all rolled into one. But really, it’s about time that someone other than Tim Hawkins started singing about Chick-Fil-A.

The song “Water” intones, in a very homogenized way,  the Bible’s many uses of water as a picture of purity, cleanliness, and grace. It’s definitely one of the prettier songs musically, one that is really pleasing to listen to. It brings a moment of calm into a rather spastic playlist.

“Use This Gospel” has a very worshipful sound to it. “Use this gospel for protection / It’s a hard road to Heaven / We call on your blessings / In the Father, we put our faith.” Later in the song, Kanye seems to acknowledge his own arrogance in some of his past illegal activities, then asks for help saying, “Just hold on to your brother when his faith lost.” Artist Kenny G collaborated to play some smooth saxophone fusion for the lyric transitions on this piece.

One of his songs should be piercing to the heart of every Christian. “Hands On” begins by talking about past mistakes, and a run in with cops, rough times. After the tumult, he decides that he’s done working for the devil. “Told the devil that I’m going on a strike / I’ve been working for you my whole life.”  When he goes to the Christians to ask for help, they reject him. “Told people God was my mission, / What have you been hearin’ from the Christians? / They’ll be the first one to judge me / Make it feel like nobody love me. / Make you feel alone in the dark and you’ll never see the light.”

This piece speaks a terrible truth about the judgmental attitude of Christians towards sin. When a heart is seen that is clearly searching and in transition, the last sentiment they should be met with is suspicion and skepticism. There is definitely a balance here that is very difficult to achieve. The Bible says in Matthew 10:16 that we are to be wise as serpents, yet gentle as doves. It’s good to be wary, so as not to be taken in by people that are out to deceive. But when a heart is searching for Christ, we should take that very seriously, and be ready to disciple and nurture a young faith. Kanye was brought up in a Christian home. He was familiar enough with Christian culture that he saw the rejection coming before his album even dropped. His plea here is heard in one of the last lines of the song: “Somebody pray for me.”

“Selah” wraps things up with a fighting punch, a call to battle and a call to worship. With an uplifting opening about fighting through life’s trials, the quickening lyrics grow into a Hallelujah chorus crescendo lifting up the name of Jesus. “God is King, we the soldiers … / Won’t be in bondage to any man, John 8:33 / We the descendents of Abraham / Ye should be made free / John 8:36 / To whom the son set free is free indeed / He saved a wretch like me / Hallelujah.”

Did Kanye West have a real conversion experience? Only God knows his heart. It takes time for fruit to grow. I’m going to offer him what he asks for through his music. Prayer.

As my good friend Segun Aiyegbusi, a pastor from New Jersey wrote, “Ananias’ and Barnabas’ friendship were critical at key Junctures in Paul’s life. While others said, “Let’s wait and see what comes of this…” These two men crossed the aisle and gave the brother a hug and welcomed him to the family of God. Let’s welcome Kanye home with a hug.”

Welcome home, brother.