Here’s the Gospel Truth – if Jesus came back and made a Gospel album, Christians would hate it.
Now, the obvious question some of you might ask is why that statement is on an activism blog. The answer is simple; faith is activism, and activism requires faith. Not every activist might have faith in a God, but I believe that every person that believes in a God is called to be an activist for the equality, safety, health and security of their fellow man. Which brings me to something that drove me up a wall yesterday…
I read this
absolute bullshit interesting article about Kirk Franklin’s last album ‘Losing My Religion’ and recent links with Kanye West being evident that he’s given up his Christian faith. You see, the idea that Kirk would have an album title that challenges the dichotomy between the institutional and personal-spiritual relationship with God makes him a heretic. The ability for him to go in the studio with the likes of the Freemason Kanye West makes him a Satan worshipper too. He’s made his decision to forsake the church. Shame isn’t it?
Nope. I’ll say it. Bullshit.
Now, it’s worth saying that I’m not even sure I like Kirk Franklin. I’ll be the first to say there is at least one problematic thing about his music. I kinda dig some tracks of his…but he’s not a singer, he’s a choir director. He’s the DJ Khaled of Gospel, years before DJ Khaled even made music. I wish that at least his album covers would be more honest about his role in the music we’re hearing to (where the hell is the most likely all-female choir that I’m actually hearing in all this?!?!). But would I say his music isn’t Christian?
(Yes, I know that might be a harsh word. But to use another word is, to me, the same as lying. That wouldn’t be Christian, would it?)
And Kirk’s not the first. There are videos about successful Gospel Rap artist Lecrae selling his soul. When female Gospelypso artist Nicole Ballosingh-Holder came on the scene, folks said that could never be Gospel. Heck, this is not even the only thing that folks are saying about Franklin!
There’s one major problem that I see in folks’ perspective about Kirk’s latest work though…that is, if folks actually read the Bible and think that Jesus would’ve done a huge deal different, I think they need to read again.
Jesus, one of the first examples of faithful activism, was shooting in the gym with straight-up hoodlums. The folks we wouldn’t even let come to church today without scrutiny and shame and even ridicule. The same folks that the church is excluding. You think Jesus would come back to sing the tired hymns that we’re singing in church? Heavens no! He’s making a Gospel rap album. Would he feature Kanye? Who knows! But if Kanye is willing to chill on the block with Jesus, he wouldn’t tell him no. And anyone who’d say no needs to show me that proof in the Bible, because that’s the source text I’m using here.
Kirk Franklin is trying to make art to reach people. From the perspective of his faith, decidedly, but also for those who might not have the same faith. So is Lecrae, and Flyleaf, and even Hillsong. Maybe even The Fray and Sia. And, at least to my immediate knowledge, the hate that they experience for trying to share their faithful perspective is not one I see Muslims tossing to Lupe Fiasco. To most folks, he’s still Muslim. Weird, maybe. But Muslim.
Therein lies an even bigger problem. Fundamental Christianity mostly isn’t interested in respecting the spiritual journeys of others – something I have not experienced with devout Hindus or Baha’i or even Muslims. If you don’t toe the institutional line of Christian faith – listening to Kanye, reading Harry Potter, being a sex-positive feminist – you’re in league with demons. Plain.and.simple.
To be fair, it might be a little more complicated… The larger Christian community has the power that makes this sort of fear-mongering possible through hardline interpretation of scripture…but there is a fragility to Christianity that makes it necessary to make these sorts of statements as well. The recent primates meeting of the Anglican Communion shows that – that, in order to keep the Christian community from potential separation (read: continuing to investigate the scriptures to grow closer to the truth), those who challenge the norm need to be kept at arm’s length or further.
The Episcopal Church was living their truth as informed by God by no longer alienating LGBT people. They didn’t do it for style points – in fact, it’s driven folks out of their churches. They did it anyway. Kirk might be living his truth here. And us rushing to demonize him before he even releases a song with ‘Ye…well, that’s worse than unfair. It’s downright unChristian.
Back to the Gospel Truth – if Jesus himself made an album, it would be even more honest and progressive and decidedly not mainstream as an album named ‘Losing My Religion’. The album title might even be the same. And 21st Century Christians would hate it. Because, whether we like it or not, the church that speaks so negatively about the Pharisees and Sadducees…has become the same as them.