On Kanye and Conversion (Lest YE be Judged)
The barista, to one of her regulars, “So, what are you going to be for Halloween?” him, “I dunno, didn’t have much time to plan it this year. Probably just going as a priest, and I’ll carry a little sign that says, ‘I listened to Kanye once.’” Just a few days before this eavesdropping, two of our parishioners and friends (two whose opinions I trust) were hyping up Kayne West’s new record, Jesus is King.
Mr. West has, in recent months, undergone a significant transformation in his spirit. Only gospel music from now on, he says. Spending his Sundays packing arenas full of people to hear and sing good news. Telling his wife she should avoid sexually explicit photo-shoots. This is clearly not a career move. Something in his soul has been stirred.
I’ve successfully managed to avoid Kanye’s music for the past ten years or so. I haven’t listened to Kanye for the same reason that I don’t read our President’s tweets: unhinged, incoherent narcissism is bad for my IQ and blood pressure. I planned on ignoring this release in my usual way, but our friends and that smarmy cappuccinist challenged me. I listened to the whole thing, even suffering through the Spotify commercials.
What do we have to lose by adopting an openness toward high profile folks who convert, even the most unlikely ones? Jesus says that it’s hard for rich people to get to heaven, but he also bothers to give them the time of day should they show up for a chat. A little skepticism on our part isn’t wrong - St. Paul spilled a lot of ink trying to convince the Church of his own conversion. Sometimes Ambrose has to counter Theodosius.
I can’t know the inner machinations of Kanye’s heart, and I don’t need to. I do know that by Kanye’s fruits we will know him. If his conversion is genuine, it will, like ours, happen again and again in fits and starts. Stumbling along after the Lord, progressing in holiness by grace. More important than questioning his motivations is praying that he joins a church. When the honeymoon is over and the time for cross-carrying comes, he’ll need the help of his brothers and sisters; encounters with Word and Sacrament.
He’ll need what we all need.
For the record, on the record: the Chik-Fil-A song was silly, but other than that, I’ll give a “Pretty Good/10”