To be sure, one of the most influential contemporary Gospel artists of our time is Kirk Franklin. Like Thomas Dorsey, Andraé Crouch, The Edwin Hawkins Singers and The Winans Family before him, Franklin’s innovative style has pushed the limits of Gospel music.
As is the case with other Christians in the “industry,” Franklin has collaborated with various secular artists. The list includes the rapper Salt of Salt-N-Pepa, Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly and Bono. For this, Franklin has drawn some criticism. However, news that Franklin appears on the new album of hip-hop artist Kanye West has drawn the most passionate criticism Franklin has faced during his career.
So, the question is, are any of the criticisms levied against Franklin warranted? To address this question, I believe we need to begin with how Kanye West has portrayed himself publicly, and end with how Franklin has responded to his critics.
In 2013, West was interviewed by Kris Jenner – who is now his mother-in-law. In this televised interview, West declared, “I’m a Christian.” Some Christians will see this statement and say something like, “Praise God! He may not be the best role model, but at least he’s saved.” Others will point to West’s song, “Jesus Walks,” as evidence of Christian faith.
But, wait a minute. If a person says, “I’m a Christian,” does that make such an assertion true? No. In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Anyone can profess to be a believer, but only a true follower of Christ possesses the gift of salvation. Further, whenever people say, “I’m a Christian,” we need to determine how he or she defines the term “Christian.” Their concept of Christianity may very well be a departure from the true Christianity presented in the Bible.
There are two statements West has made about Jesus that I find to be particularly problematic. First, in the lyrics to one of his songs, West states, “My Jesus likes sex, so he didn’t die a virgin.” Such a statement is clearly antithetical to Scripture. West also said, “I believe in Jesus as an icon, but I don’t feel I need to take responsibility for my own successes or failures.” Jesus is no “icon,” He is the Son of the living God.
In keeping with his controversial persona, West appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone with a crown of thorns on his head and blood streaming down his face, thus making a mockery of Jesus. Additionally, West’s sixth studio album is called “Yeezus.” On it, there is a track titled, “I Am a God.”
On numerous occasions, West has been seen wearing jewelry that depicts a pagan deity, and he has openly displayed occult imagery. Conspiracy theorists have even claimed that West and other entertainers are a part of the Illuminati. That notwithstanding, there is much about West that ought to concern every Christian.
In an interview with Big Boy radio, West made the following statement about Franklin’s appearance on his new album: “When I was sitting in the studio with Kirk, Kirk Franklin, and we’re just going through it. I said this is a gospel album, with a whole lot of cursing on it, but it’s still a gospel album. … The gospel according to Ye. It’s not exactly what happened in the Bible, but it’s this story idea of Mary Magdalene becoming Mary.”
So, how has Franklin responded to his critics? In an Instagram post, Franklin said, “Kanye is not me. I am not him. He is my brother I am proud to do life with.” Franklin continued by saying, “To a lot of my Christian family, I’m sorry he’s not good enough, Christian enough, or running at your pace, … and as I read some of your comments, neither am I.” In another statement, Franklin said, “Don’t judge me for working with Kanye.”
Essentially, Franklin is saying that no one has the right to tell him he’s wrong for connecting with West in this way. That is a rather prideful position for any believer to take when engaged in questionable activity.
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SOURCE: Kentucky Today – The Rev. Joel A. Bowman, Sr. is founder and senior pastor of Temple of Faith Baptist Church in Louisville.