Word broke out earlier today that Kanye West allegedly has been talking to Evangelical, televangelist Joel Osteen. Osteen, who is the senior pastor at Lakewood Church with a 50,000 congregation, has faced controversy. Osteen has held the position that homosexuality is a sin and that a person can “be freed” from a lifestyle of homosexuality. In 2017, during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Osteen received significant criticism for not making Lakewood Church, a 606,000-square-foot, 16,000 seats former basketball arena, available as an emergency shelter for those displaced by the storm. Osteen and his team countered by stating that due to the flooding, they could not get to the church to open the doors. However, photos showed both his church and his 17,000-square-foot home was spared from any hurricane damage.
So we must ask, what is Trump-loving Kanye West, who once called President George W. Bush racist on live TV because of his Hurricane Katrina response, doing talking to someone like Joel Osteen? Is Kanye at the final step of his full transition into an evangelical pastor? Is this all a marketing stunt?
There are a lot of similarities between Mr. West and evangelical pastors. Like Kanye, Joel Osteen, and other evangelical pastors unapologetically preach that God has blessed them. They also blindly support President Donald Trump through all his injustices and inhumanities. That includes separating children and their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. It also includes refusing refugees’ safety, denying health care to the most vulnerable, and denigrated women who, in many ways, they see as objects.
In a much-discussed interview with Zane Lowe for Beats 1, Kanye did not have a clear answer as to who benefits from church donations to his church: “Sunday Service.” He did, however, suggest he considers sales form Sunday Service merchandise to be donations to the service, “Everything I do is for the church, even designing a shoe. John 3:16 instead of 350s. Now everything is for the church the vision that I have to be an innovator. Christian Innovator. There are a lot of organizations that have figured how to use creativity and innovation.” So not unlike other controversial evangelical pastors, Kanye stands to benefit significantly from spreading his gospel, often off the backs of hard-working people.
It is entirely possible, if not probable, that Kanye West believes what he is saying and does want to spread the gospel and get more people to follow his religion because he thinks it can help them. It is also possible, if not probable that Kanye West knows this is a “good” business move for him to sell more merchandise. Evangelical mega-churches mean business. Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church received a total of $78.6 million in contributions last year.
However, Kanye West seems to forget where he came from and who his fans are. Howard University’s chair of the Department of Afro-American Students, Dr. Gregory Carr reached out to Kanye via Twitter:
Carr later told The Washingtonian, “As far as I’m concerned, Kanye West is not crazy. He’s not misled. He’s a very shrewd businessman.” He went on to say, “If you’re gonna use a platform, you can do that at an auditorium, you can do that at GW later on Saturday night. But what you’re not gonna do is come to Howard University and not be engaged. It’s our responsibility as teachers, as faculty, as intellectuals at a historically black college, to use that as a moment. And that’s what I tried to do.”
West did not reach out to Dr. Carr, which Dr. Carr knew would be the case, “I knew that he wouldn’t respond because that would have been cross-purpose to his goal, and his only goal, of course, was marketing. He’s not interested in dialogue.” Carr felt of West’s visit “could not go unremarked upon in a moment when the incendiary rhetoric in this country—white nationalism—has in some ways found a fig leaf in Kanye West.”
Over the past few years, we have seen many Kanye Wests. Still, since President Trump was elected, we have seen a Kanye West who seems to embrace white nationalism by not speaking out against it and instead of wearing a hat that represents it. We have seen a Kanye West who is okay speaking with a Pastor who did not open their doors to Hurricane Harvey victims (most of whom were black). We have seen a Kanye West who wants you to refrain from pre-marital sex and, most importantly, a Kanye West who doesn’t understand the bible or the teachings of Jesus. Jesus would have never called himself a king. That wasn’t the point of Jesus. Jesus would not have been okay with evangelical leaders profiting off of his name, selling product off his name, or using it as some marketing stunt.