Kanye West, the artist who has recorded many blasphemous, vulgar lyrics and who spent some time referring to himself as "Yeezus," has now released a Christian album.
And, despite his past work and reputation, the album (titled "Jesus is King") really is Christian. It explicitly proclaims Jesus Christ as Lord and the way to salvation through its 11 tracks and 27 minutes of music.
The question surrounding Kanye and this album in Christian circles has been whether this apparent turn toward the faith is genuine, or whether it's just the latest in a long line of marketing stunts.
The answer is simple: We don't know, and it shouldn't really matter.
Of course it matters in the same way that anyone's eternal destiny matters. Christians should certainly hope and pray that Kanye has put his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, as we should hope that for anyone, famous or not. But whether he's actually done that is between him and God at this point, and only the fruit of his life over time will show us what the truth is.
However, in the more general sense, in terms of what it means for our culture or for Christianity, it doesn't matter. Because in religion, as in politics, we should always elevate beliefs and not people.
It is the desire to cling to people who represent our beliefs, rather than to the beliefs themselves, that erodes institutions and leads many to fall away. It's when we fall in love with pastors and not the God they preach about, or musicians and not the message they sing, or politicians and not the values they claimed they would govern by, that the system is undermined.
Entire churches fall when the congregation has too many members who were simply fans of a pastor who gets caught cheating on his wife or stealing money from the church account. Political parties become unrecognizable when members cling to elected officials who will bear the party name and compromise the foundational party values. Adhering to people and not values will lead you astray every time, because people are fallible. Every single one of us.
The temptation is to see someone like Kanye and hope so strongly that he's really on "your side" that you will believe whatever supports that hope and reject evidence to the contrary. The same thing happened to some conservatives when Kanye put on a MAGA hat and hugged President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. Look how that turned out.
Kanye made a Christian album, and it's good. Kanye says he's a Christian now, and that's good. Kanye is spreading the gospel, which is great. But let's not make the mistake of putting the whole weight of American Christianity on whether he means what he's saying right now.
The gospel doesn't need any help from Kanye; it has stood on its own for quite some time. God can make the rocks cry out in praise of His name, so if He has decided to use Kanye West to tell people that "Jesus is King," that's wonderful — but we'd be just as foolish to worship Kanye for it as we'd be if we were worshipping the rocks.
If he's truly saved and living a changed life, then the angels rejoice. If, weeks or months or years from now, he abandons Christianity in favor of the sinful allure of fame and this world, then we can at least say, like the Apostle Paul, that we rejoice that the gospel went forth through him to some people who may never have been open to hearing it otherwise. That's all that really matters.
"Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice" (Philippians 1:15-18).