A Love Supreme: Celebrity Conversions

From the epoch of Christianity, there have been celebrities with stunning conversions. Members of the Sanhedrin were among those who took Jesus down and buried him in their own tomb (Joseph of Arimathea & Nicodemus), Paul was an up-and-coming Jewish leader whose conversion changed the church forever, Constantine, Augustine, and countless others have come to faith under dramatic circumstances. But despite the wide publicity these conversions brought to the faith, for the most part, the church has looked like Paul’s description of the Corinthian church:

26 Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. 27 Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. 28 God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, 29 so that no one may boast in his presence.

1 Cor 1:26-29 (CSB)

Recently, a celebrity conversion has garnered lots of attention among Christians and unbelievers alike. One hardly say the name to know who it is, but Kanye West has been the sort of pop culture phenomenon whose personality seems to demand attention because of his, at times, bizarre behavior.

As an unbeliever I went to Bonnaroo in 2009, a large music festival which brings tens of thousands of people to hear some of music’s biggest names. Kanye had been there only a few years before and his late-show on the concert floor way into early morning had caused the festival goers to chant “[explitive] Kanye.” Graffiti subsequently adorned the festivals wooden fences for years after, including the 2 additional times I went after.

Despite the antics, Kanye has thrived in the midst of criticism, he’s launched successful fashion brands and worked in the music industry. For years, he’s even included Christian references in his music such as “Jesus Walks” in 2004 with his album College Dropout.

But despite lyrical nearness to Christian doctrine, his life hasn’t lived up to the Christian ethic taught by Christ. His response at the 2008 Bonnaroo festival was less than gracious. But a few weeks ago came reports that Kanye had been “born again” and was claiming to be a genuine convert to Evangelical Christianity:

While many Christians have heard of spurious conversions by celebs but soon came the announcement by a rather Reformed Evangelical pastor that he had spoken with and counseled Kanye and believed it to be genuine. Further, Kanye announced that he was releasing a new Gospel Rap album and would no longer make secular music.

As one of my friends said, the new album, Jesus is King, is like a baby Christian album. For now, everything is new for Kanye. Life in Christ, life in the Spirit – all new and exciting and enjoyable. Yet, if Kanye is really Christ’s it’s going to be a hard road, as he admits in his song “Use This Gospel:”

Use this gospel for protection

It’s a hard road to Heaven

May God have grace upon Kanye. May he also have grace upon the nameless multitudes who will never make headlines, but are fighting the same battles he will face against the same enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil.