6 Reasons Why Kanye West’s New Cult — I Mean Church — Is Cause For Pause
Break out your haute couture Sunday best, because Kanye is taking us to church.
There’s no denying that some of Kanye West’s erratic antics in recent years have created cause for concern, especially among ride-or-die fans. When he first transitioned from producer to rapper, he was revered as one of the best conscious rappers of our generation. Because his brazen candor somehow spoke to his profundity as an artist and illuminated his own self-awareness as well as his cognizance of the world around him, it was easy to dismiss each outburst or accept it as an endearing part of his natural charisma. However, between West’s dragon energy-fueled Donald Trump obsession and his comments on slavery as a "choice" (I know he apologized, but I’m still not over it), each verbal seizure has left many of us waiting for some form of divine intervention — for Jesus to take the wheel, in addition to all the MAGA hats.
Well, it looks our prayers have finally been answered (sort of). Instead of running his mouth and Twitter fingers, Ye has spent 2019 channelling his artistic mania into a new “musical church.” The Kardashian-Wests have reportedly been hosting annual weekly pop-up spiritual gatherings known as Sunday Service. These star-studded, Christian-based prayer events reportedly feature sermons led by DMX and an incredible gospel choir and live orchestra led by Ye.
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OTIS- SUNDAY SERVICE pic.twitter.com/G6VFv8f3Ec— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) March 31, 2019
Since the release for West’s upcoming album Yandhi was put on an indefinite hold, it’s easy to speculate whether or not these private church services are a genuine exercise in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, or a calculated, damage control-related public relations strategy to drum up positive press. Whatever the case, it makes sense that Kanye would want to create a platform that not only lets him release his creative energy while experimenting musically, but also is more conducive to preaching, given his propensity for uninhibited (occasionally illogical) ranting. Although developing this “church” has likely been cathartic for both Kanye and Kim, and each already has a huge following based on their respective careers, the jury is still out on whether or not they can responsibly foster a sensible spiritual collective.
Here are six reasons why I have reservations about the Church of Yeezus.
What started as an intimate gathering at Kimye’s home has since mushroomed into “the most prestigious, highly-coveted invitation among the greater music community in Los Angeles,” Variety reports. But much like Moses leading the Israelites through the desert, Kanye has yet to find a permanent home for his church, shepherding his flock from one secret location to the next. Weekly prayer services have been spotted all along the West Coast, from undisclosed areas of Hollywood Hills to the Adidas headquarters in Oregon.
Although there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with having a traveling congregation, the inconsistency and lack of stability does put the church in an unusually vulnerable position. For instance, on March 26, the LAPD reportedly shut the service down in response to a noise complaint. According to In Touch, “It’s also believed that Kanye did not have a permit.” While Kim might be down with sprinting from the po po in her Sunday best, I'm gonna have to pass.
One appealing aspect of Kanye’s Christian-based services is the celebrity following it’s attracted. In addition to the usual Kardashian-Jenner crowd, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, Busy Philipps, Courtney Love, Diplo, Rick Rubin, David Letterman, Kid Cudi and Paris Hilton are just a handful of the celebrities who’ve reportedly been spotted in attendance. So for those who would like their times of worship with a side of networking among the entertainment elite, this may be the spiritual experience you’ve been looking for. However, unlike your average Christian-based prayer service or spiritually focused gathering, Kanye’s congregation does not seem to have an open-door policy — it’s an invite-only affair.
For those who don't make the list, their participation in this spiritual community is relegated to whatever snippets of video First Lady Kim cares to share on Twitter and Instagram. Those who are privileged enough to score an invite are reportedly obligated to sign NDA agreements in order to attend — you know, because Jesus’ biggest Last Supper regret was forgetting to draft a confidentiality agreement before breaking bread with the apostles.
Though services thus far have been invite-only, there has been a plan in the works to officially open up the congregation to the general public — for one day. On March 31, Coachella announced that Kanye’s Sunday Service would join the Easter Sunday performance line-up during the festival’s second weekend.
Kanye West's Sunday Service on Easter, Weekend 2 🙏 pic.twitter.com/jFIcLYNUlV— Coachella (@coachella) March 31, 2019
Is it just me, or does opening up access to a community of worship via one of the most expensive music festivals in existence seem a little odd? While I’m not yet familiar with the Church of Yeezus’ take on scripture, I was under the impression that spiritual groups with a Christian influence expected its leaders to approach all areas of life with a “what would Jesus do?” attitude. Though I’m no theologian — just someone who grew up in the church, my sense is that Christ not only encouraged inclusivity, but also made catering to the less fortunate top priority. While Kanye’s choir will undoubtedly slay this set, and as such deserves to get paid, this Coachella partnership seems like Pastor Ye’s way to impose a $429 offering plate minimum on laymen parishioners who have yet to be baptized in fame.
In other words, if you can’t afford general admission to Coachella 2019 —
We all know Kanye enjoys being provocative and dropping truth bombs, especially at the most inopportune times. It’s one thing when Kanye goes full Kanye as a guest star, during an interview or in the middle of someone else’s award acceptance speech, but it’s quite another when he’s the one in charge holding the mic. One good thing that can be said about Kanye starting his own church is that he now has an outlet other than the recording studio that's conducive to his preferred method of delivery, without the risk of yet another “wrong time and place/WTF are you saying bruh?!” scenario.
It wouldn't surprise me if the aforementioned NDA agreement also includes a clause or two outlining the consequences of publicly questioning or challenging what's discussed during service. Should he decide to give a sermon on how he’s “Shakespeare in the flesh” or babble on for hours about how he has all the answers to the world's problems, it's his prerogative to do so. His invited guests are simply at his mercy.
There was a point in time in which Kanye didn’t need to remind us of all that makes him amazing and brilliant, because the quality of the work spoke for itself. However, that was before the divine awakening of Yeezus.
Somewhere along the line, Ye's self-esteem has escalated to a level of arrogance that would likely intimidate even the most narcissistic personalities. While that big ego may be useful when navigating the entertainment industry, Kanye’s lack of humility when articulating his perspective leaves me to wonder how capable he is to selflessly take on supporting the spiritual guidance of others in a constructive, healthy way. Would Ye had even created this environment of prayer and worship if it didn’t also enable his ability to be worshipped, as well? Who can really say.
Love them or hate them, Kanye and Kim have each helped shape the landscape of contemporary culture in their own ways; Kanye as an innovative artist, and Kim as a pioneer in the “famous for being famous” movement. The launch of this church inevitably takes their pre-existing positions of influence to the next level, now responsible for the spiritual welfare and well being of a dedicated community.
Though their Sunday Service has yet to evolve into a formally recognized, organized religion, between Kim and Kanye’s respective followers and fans as well as that of their celebrity parishioners, it’s clear that this particular congregation is an incredibly powerful group. Add to that Kanye’s fearless attitude toward radical thought and his compulsive inclination to provoke, and you either have the ingredients for the next great wave in spiritual enlightenment or groupthink-motivated scandal. While the Church of Yeezus seems like the average wholesome Bible study group now, even the world’s oldest religions have experienced undercurrents of corruption or toxic extremism.
As the lyrics to "Power" aptly state, “No one man should have all that power." Now that Kanye seemingly has it all, hopefully he will use it wisely.
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