Thinking Out Loud about Kanye West’s JESUS IS KING
Nathan Rittenhouse, Cameron McAllister, and special guest Shawn Hart discuss Kanye West's new album.
Kanye West’s latest album, JESUS IS KING, offers a striking reversal from his earlier work, and has inspired elation, fury, and bewilderment in nearly equal measure. Gone are tracks like “POWER” and “I Am A God,” replaced by songs like “God Is” and “Jesus Is Lord.” Given the shaky nature of celebrity conversions in our cultural moment, many people are understandably skeptical. Is Kanye sincere or is this this just a publicity stunt to boost album sales? Is the album even good? In this episode, we’re joined by special guest Shawn Hart (co-host of the Cover to Cover podcast) for a discussion on Kanye West, the dangers of celebrity culture, and the unabashed faith on display in the album.
Follow the Thinking Out Loud hosts on Twitter:
Image: David Shankbone [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]
Want to listen to this later?
Please Note: Thinking Out Loud is produced to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Hello and welcome to Thinking Out Loud. Thinking Out Loud is a podcast where we think out loud about current events and Christian hope. I'm your cohost Nathan Rittenhouse.
Cameron McAllister: And I'm your cohost, Cameron McAllister.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Cameron, an exciting day because for the first time ever it's not just the two of us.
Cameron McAllister: That's right. We do have a special guest. A friend and colleague, Shawn Hart.
Shawn Hart: Hey guys.
Nathan Rittenhouse: There he is. And the reason that it's important for us to have Shawn Hart is because for those of you who have been listening to us for a long time, you'll know that we love taking on topics that we really don't know that much about. Now on this particular topic, I know just what I've read. Cameron is moderately up to speed, and Shawn we're looking to as an expert because this morning we would like to discuss.
Cameron McAllister: He looks really comfortable with you saying expert, by the way.
Shawn Hart: I think I need to leave now.
Cameron McAllister: If I may interject really quickly, some of you will know who Shawn Hart is because he's a speaker here as well, but Shawn also has a podcast.
Nathan Rittenhouse: That's right.
Cameron McAllister: And it's called Cover to Cover, and where they devote an entire season to discussing a book by an RZIM...but so far it's been RZIM speakers. So season one was Abdu Murray's...
Shawn Hart: Saving Truth.
Cameron McAllister: Saving Truth.
Shawn Hart: Yeah, and then Sam Alberry's Seven Myths about Singleness. I look forward to you guys writing books so we can get you on there as well.
Nathan Rittenhouse: There we go.
Cameron McAllister: All right, we'll do what we can.
Nathan Rittenhouse: All right, so the podcast this morning is going to be, or today, is going to be similar in the sense that we're going to go cover to cover, but we're not doing a book. We're doing an album.
Shawn Hart: Yes, exactly.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Kanye West, Jesus is King. Now probably for those who know Cameron and I, maybe a bit of a surprise here to see us covering this, but help me out here with the cultural significance and the timeline history. Why is this such a big deal?
Shawn Hart: Yeah, I mean as I look at Kanye West and just even how he came, where he came from and the...Man, he's such a loud person.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Back up, and tell us about your introduction to Kanye.
Cameron McAllister: Oh, so how far back are we talking here?
Shawn Hart: Well the interesting is on Kanye in particular, like I became a Christian when I was 22, so 2002. And then I was really trying not to listen to, I grew up on hip hop, so that was, I loved it when Christian artists started putting out hip hop albums that weren't like really corny like back in the eighties and nineties. Like you know, all the 116, all the people there. And there's many more I could name. But I was like, "Oh finally someone who speaks my language." Because that's what I grew up on, but is actually like not talking about all the things that most rap music is. And so, you know, introduced to Kanye as growing up. But I actually didn't interact with him a whole lot in terms of listening to him, just because a lot of the stuff he was rapping about, I just didn't want to get down with, and didn't want that to be what my mind was kind of circling in my mind all the time. Because it's amazing how much lyrics become meditations. Because they get stuck in your brain.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah, and we should do a whole ‘nother history, a podcast on just the fascination of the man who is Shawn Hart, and his background, and why it is that he knows all of this stuff. But we'll bracket some of that. So back to where you were, kind of catching us up to the cultural moment that we're in. Recognize, I mean 2002 is a long time ago. So here's a man with a long musical history.
Shawn Hart: Yeah. And I think he made, Ice-T and some others did a book called the rap yearbook. And I think in 2005 Kanye West is when he's featured on his song Gold Digger, which came out with Jamie Lee Fox singing the hook on it. And it was such a catchy song. It's one of those songs like, "Okay, you don't want to..." It's really hard to actually talk about because you don't want to say, "Oh this is a good song," but man, it's catchy. And it'll have you moving pretty quick. But you know, he started in producing. He started as a producer with Jay Z, and then he eventually started entering into rapping, himself. And so no, I haven't, again, I don't, I couldn't tell you all the songs or even all the albums of Kanye. But we've seen this loud character. The one thing that's been clear is that he doesn't really care what people think.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Right.
Shawn Hart: And that has, I have been so fascinated with Jesus is King for that very reason, of him just basically is like, "Listen, I'm going to say what I want to say," and the things he's saying I'm just like, "Man, this album is a lot more, I'm finding a lot more Christian than a lot of Christian hip hop." It's just saturated with Jesus.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah.
Shawn Hart: Yeah.
Nathan Rittenhouse: It seems like from what I've seen around it, there's a bit more actual theological thought put into it than some of the more cliche type phrases that you often hear in Christian music. Cameron, you're, you're nodding here.
Cameron McAllister: Yeah. I think part of what makes this event so significant also is back to what Shawn was saying as well, is that Kanye is such a polarizing figure. He's kind of known for that. I think in many ways the event that sort of crystallized that very abrasive side of his personality was the Taylor Swift moment at the awards show. And just in case you didn't catch that, or maybe you don't care that much, but this was a pretty big deal when it happened. Taylor Swift had won some musical award, I believe this was the MTV awards. I could be wrong here. But he stormed the stage and said something to the effect of, "Taylor Swift's really good but Beyonce, she's really the one who should have gotten this award," essentially is what I said. And Taylor…
Shawn Hart: While she's like, while she's standing.
Cameron McAllister: She's standing right there.
Shawn Hart: I couldn't believe it.
Cameron McAllister: She's standing right there, and I think she even is tearing up a little bit. So it was, he was kind of persona non grata after he did that.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Right, yeah.
Cameron McAllister: And so well…but then there's been a series of publicity, well that look like, almost in hindsight, publicity stunts. Because they brought them in the news and they got a lot of attention on him, which is why maybe we can step into some of shadier territory here. Some of us are a little bit more circumspect or maybe even cynical in our response to this album.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah.
Shawn Hart: Yeah.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah. Well and also you said he was a, what you said, persona non grata there from that, but then also he's made some political statements that have no fit well within what he's expected to say. And so who really, who likes Kanye right now? I mean culturally speaking?
Shawn Hart: That's actually a really good question.
Cameron McAllister: It's a complicated question.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah.
Shawn Hart: Right?
Nathan Rittenhouse: Because he says he doesn't care.
Cameron McAllister: Well I think he commands tremendous respect, on the one hand, for his skills as a rapper and as a producer. As Shawn was saying, he was a trailblazing producer. I mean there are certain signature features of hip hop that kind of are pretty commonplace now that he pioneered. The chipmunk sample, as it's called, where you take an old sort of sample of a soul song or something, speed it way up so the voices are really high. You can hear this in a song of his like Through the Wire. Well he actually pioneered that. That's kind of a staple in a lot of hip hop music now. So he's respected as a producer. He's respected as a rapper.
Cameron McAllister: And actually even if you look at a publication as picky and snooty as Pitchfork, they actually gave Jesus is King a pretty high rating. I think something around 7.4. Don't ask me what the 0.4 or 0.3 is in their scheme. And if you challenge them on it, by the way, they get pretty annoyed on social media. They stick to that. But so that's 7.4 out of 10, that's much higher than I would've thought that they would've given the album. But they said this has some really great tracks on it. They particularly love the track Water. But they did say that they felt that this record was kind of phoning it in a little bit and wasn't as good as some of his past stuff.
Cameron McAllister: So I think he's, and also if the numbers are to be believed, and Kanye is in typical Kanye fashion, you know, sharing these numbers very loudly. His album's been number one across many platforms. Clearly a lot of people are listening to it and clearly a lot of people are talking about it. If you're tuning in right now, even if you're not immersed in the world of hip hop, chances are you're hearing Kanye's...
Nathan Rittenhouse: You're going to see a reference to it or you're going to hear something about it.
Cameron McAllister: Yeah, it's getting dropped right now. So I think there's a lot of people actually who like him. More people like Kanye than want to admit it. That's my answer to that. I don't know what Shawn would say.
Shawn Hart: Yeah, I think so too…And it's fascinating to me to see the reactions to it. How various people are responding to album. I had one person message me a screenshot of the album and said, "Have you heard this? It's clean." Because they assume that everything I listen to is absolutely clean, right? And I was like, "Yeah, I've heard about it, I've been thinking about it quite a bit." He's like, "I should've known." And he said, I think the way he actually said it, he's like, "Kanye's a headcase," as if like kind of, that's his way of kind of dealing with the fact. I was like, he's like, "Oh no," he goes, "Going back to his Jesus Walks days for sure." And I was like, "I think this is different than his Jesus Walks days." And he was referring to a song that Kanye does, Jesus Walks.
Shawn Hart: And people were like, "Ooh, is this a Christian album? Is this him Christian? And it was like, "Well, no," like, this was, you listen to the lyrics, at least that version of it, and he was, he was playing around with the idea of...I that may have been more of a publicity stunt. I don't know. I have to do some more reflecting on that. But then he, but then after I said "No, I think he actually said himself, I'm a born again Christian." And then the interviewer also said to him, said, "So are you a Christian rapper now?" He said, "I'm a Christian everything." He's not making any distinction. He's like, "Everything I do is Christian now." And I was like, "So I think this is different." And then the person said to me, he's like, "Well, he's a headcase. Everybody knows it." And like that was it. That was him, his way of explaining it away. And you know, regardless of what, and I basically ended at the saying time will tell. We'll see what happens.
Nathan Rittenhouse: So I think actually this is an important, I have two thoughts here. One, this is an important theme for me because I'm kind of in the same boat of like, yeah, well this started this year, you know? And so it's a fascinating shift as we're analyzing people's public and private lives, and their faith, to say, "Actually we don't care so much about intensity as we do about stability." And so here he comes. I mean, you want to talk about a culture splash. Here's the sort of thing, and we're all kind of like, "Yeah, well we'll see." And so there's a fascinating thing where we know that passion and sincerity don't correlate to stability and longevity. And that's something that I think we look for as a hallmark of Christian discipleship. So it can't be more than what it is because he's just getting started. On the other hand, we can't make it more than what it is because he's just getting started. Does that resonate?
Cameron McAllister: I think that's a crucial distinction because in years past, I don't think it would have mattered as much to the broader culture. In Christian circles, long-term faithfulness and stability, ideally speaking, if you're talking to mature Christians, those are essential. They matter deeply. They're integral to discipleship versus just a quick knee jerk response. But now that we've seen so much moral failure, so much hypocrisy writ large in our cultural institutions, and think about our entertainment industry, Hollywood, you name it. Now the wider culture is looking for that kind of consistency as well. So I think some of the widespread skepticism is healthy skepticism in a way. And also within the church. I know this is a whole ‘nother can of worms, but that's what we do here on Thinking Out Loud. And now we have help. So we have a complicated relationship as a church with celebrity as well.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Oh, yes. I want to talk about this.
Cameron McAllister: Yeah, we'll talk about this in a second, but to me the example that comes immediately to mind is actually Shia LaBeouf. Because it was a couple of years ago when he was promoting the movie Fury. And there was this big celebration about him supposedly giving his life to Christ. There were profiles of it in some of the Christian publications, et cetera. And it turned out to be not quite what people were expecting. And so I think some of us still have that ringing in our ears here. But before we go down that road, which is really interesting and Nathan is chomping at the bit, so we're going to do that. We need to go back to a basic question here that I think a lot of our listeners will be interested in. And that is what do each of us think of this record?
Shawn Hart: Hmm. Yeah.
Cameron McAllister: Because I mean I know Nathan's listened to the first 30 seconds of each track.
Nathan Rittenhouse: I listed to all of the free sections that were on NPR.
Cameron McAllister: And, but Shawn, Shawn's listened to it several times. I've listened to it. So why don't we go around and just say what we think about it. Because I know if I'm, if I was doing into this, I would want to know what do the hosts actually think of this record.
Shawn Hart: Yeah. Honestly I've probably listened to it 40 times through. I mean it's…
Nathan Rittenhouse: And it's been out for three days.
Shawn Hart: Has it? I don't know.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Or no, no, six days, six days.
Shawn Hart: Well it's what I put on while I'm working out, which I will say I had like, on Spotify, I had the automatic play where when it gets to the end of the album it then plays other music like that. Don't do that for this album. I was in the middle of a set and all of a sudden one of his other songs came on, which I was like, yeah, it was really bad.
Nathan Rittenhouse: You wouldn't want your children stepping in on that one.
Shawn Hart: But man, I just, yeah, exactly. I love this album. I found myself, you know, the other day I'm like, "I'm actually like singing praises to the Lord." And I'm like, "I cannot believe this is being led by Kanye West. This is so bizarre." So I've had the first two times I listen to the album, it was really a shock for me. And I found myself just kind of drifting off being like, "Is this real? Like is this really a thing?" But then you listen to like a song like God Is and it's Kanye, and it says it's only, it always says if there's a guest artists on there, it says just his name. So I'm assuming it's him who's singing. And to hear Kanye West singing the words that he's singing. He's healer. He's now he's saying, you know, just worship Christ. He is King. Lay it down all at your feet. Like, I mean, I'm just like, "Come on, like this is pretty amazing stuff." I mean, and just so lyrically from that sense, but even artistically, Water. Yeah, I love that.
Shawn Hart: I love how the album flows. It starts with this big, you know, gospel choir, goes into a song. The song I love, Hallelujah. He is wonderful. And the song Selah, the next one. And then he just kicks it up. And you could tell he's reading scripture, but then he also is admitting to the fact that he hasn't read all scripture. He's like, "I'm only halfway through Ephesians," and so that's a casual admittance of like, listen, I'm still learning. So yeah, I feel like there's a real rawness and the album that I just really appreciate it.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Let me go next since I'm the least qualified here. I think that in some ways it's so different from anything that I grew up with or naturally drift toward, that some of it is just a lot to take in. But I think from what I've read, again, you have some good lyrics, but also I think maybe what's being recaptured there is some things like the word hallelujah is not just a sterile word that you say. It's a whole being expression. And so I think a good artist can help us pull out some of these. Jesus is King, you know, that's a very, that is a loaded statement. You can't really say that in a normal voice. And so what I'm fascinated to see is as the different ways in which some of these theologically deep enriched things are embodied vocally in a way that bind us to the energy that is carried with the terms and phrases themselves, more so than we would get if we just read it or said it.
Cameron McAllister: Yeah, I think that's a good reading on it, especially listening to the first 30 seconds of each track. And actually I know many of you listening would love to get Nathan's full response. So maybe we'll get Nathan to listen to the whole album at some point here. For speaking for myself, I like it a lot. And it's actually, it should be said, it's very easy to listen to the whole album. It's not very long.
Shawn Hart: Yeah.
Cameron McAllister: It's pretty short.
Nathan Rittenhouse: 27 minutes.
Cameron McAllister: Yeah. So that's a very, very quick record. And it does flow beautifully like Shawn was saying. It's got his trademark amazing production on it. The track Water has one of the most fantastic baselines I've heard in a long time. But lyrically, like Shawn, I found myself continually surprised thinking, "Am I, it's surreal. Am I really hearing this?" The phrase Jesus is King is majestic as it stands, and of course we all get behind it with full conviction, but hearing Kanye West say Jesus is King carries a whole different kind of weight. So it's very strange. So I think from an artistic standpoint, this is not my favorite Kanye West album. I think he's got better albums. As another one of our colleagues has said ... So Kevin, our friend Kevin, he had a really good response to that. He said that it's not quite right to compare it. It's not quite apples to apples because Kanye is still learning a new language here. You think about that line about, I'm only halfway through Ephesians. So there's very, I was surprised when I listened to it by how little rapping is actually on it.
Shawn Hart: Yep.
Cameron McAllister: This is significantly less. Most of his other records clock in at well over an hour with, I mean there's, they're lyrically very, very full. But this one you see a lot less of that. And I think that shows that, again, he's still in the growing stages. I think it forms a really interesting contrast to some of his earlier records. One of those would be probably the most confrontational Kanye West album is Yeezus. And that's an album that is, that comes across with real spiritual desperation. It's also one of the most uncompromising, one of the most lewd. So if you're going to listen to that, just be forewarned. This is why Kanye has a reputation for being very controversial.
Shawn Hart: Parental advisory all over that one.
Cameron McAllister: Oh yeah. He pulls no punches, but the feeling that you get, and this is the one with the infamous track, I am a God.
Shawn Hart: Yeah.
Cameron McAllister: But interestingly, if you listen to I am a God, and if you even, if you're brave and you look at those lyrics, what you'll find I don't think is so much a celebration of his own achievements or his own colossal status. It's much more, that album gives you a feeling of such desperation and fatigue. And I think he even, that's the album where he even raps about being at the top of a really elaborate, beautiful penthouse building and wanting to jump out the window. So you see that, he kind of hits the spiritual low point. And there's this real darkness about it. I think that album came out not long after he had lost his mother, he was very close to his mom. And then you contrast it with Jesus is King.
Cameron McAllister: Artistically, I think Yeezus is a better record. Spiritually, this is going to sound weird and corny, especially if you're on the fence or if you're not a Christian, but Jesus is King has such a peace and a beauty to it that it's really, it's not explainable in anything other than spiritual terms. It's not purely an aesthetic category. It is just, it's a man who is experiencing a new degree of freedom and happiness, and that is a gorgeous thing to hear. And it's absent on some of his more artistically excellent records.
Shawn Hart: Yeah, that's really well said. And I think one of the things that we, as we listen to this and we interact with artists who are proclaiming their faith. I mean the fact that it's so short, I kind of feel like he just felt like he needed to get this thing out. Like, "I need to write this, I need to proclaim Jesus is King." I feel like there's maybe this angst there to like get it out. Like, "Here's what I think. This is where I'm at right now." I think we need to give him room to grow. I think too quickly we look at celebrities, we look at someone like Kanye and like just the other day on his Instagram, he did a survey, a post and it had the F word in it. And it's like I could see people being like, "Well see it's got the F word in it." And it's like, "Listen, he's new. He's young." And so giving him time to grow.
Shawn Hart: And I love what he says in one of his, in his song Hands On, you know, or I heard someone else say for instance, "Oh I see you still got that pride issue." And I'm like, "Well I still got that pride issue, and I've been walking with Jesus for a long time. Let's not like all of a sudden think that he should be fully sanctified and, you know, he's through it." I look at him and the one song Hands On, he says, "I understand all the criticism you got. What I need you to do is lay hands on me, I need you to pray for me." Oh And he says, "I understand your reluctancy even to believe this." And so that's really where I kind of land with the album. I'm like, "Okay, time will tell." I remember when people said to me when I became a Christian, "Oh this is just a season." Well, it's been a long season. And so hopefully for Kanye it's a long season. And in the meantime like I just want to pray for the guy.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah. So do you think, it's interesting here because we have that, and then we also have the history, you know Jesus' parable of the sower and the seeds, right? And the different seeds, you know, some doesn't germinate, some sprouts gets eaten, some sprouts and withers because the roots are shallow. It's interesting the things that quash early Christian growth are things that Kanye has already been through. So it's kind of a funny reversal of that in the sense that the worries of the world, deceitfulness of wealth, all of that seem to be things that can be an impediment to Christian growth and flourishing. And he's had a lot of that before coming to this point. So it kind of messes with our usual trajectory there of what then does cut in on the people running this race. Just because we want to get there before we run out of time, do you mind if I loop back to that other?
Cameron McAllister: Do it.
Nathan Rittenhouse: So for context, several years ago there was a mainstream news organization that ran a headline called The World's 50 Most Famous Atheists. And they were all singer/songwriters, actors and actresses. And I thought that's fascinating. Like I'm sure you're dashing good looks and melodious voice make you a master of all knowledge-ology. And so...
Cameron McAllister: Knowledge-ology, it's real. It's not “epistemology.”
Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah. So it's just, it's interesting because like somebody establishes credibility in one discipline or one field, and then we automatically conferred to them a certain level of mastery of all forms of reality. And it's easy to point at that. But Christians do the exact same thing. And it's fascinating to me to look at actors, professional sports players, that the church really latches onto. "Oh, did you know this person's a Christian?" Oh, well just because somebody famous believes something does not make it true. And that applies in both directions. And in fact, I almost wonder if there's a little bit, I'm struggling here to think of the right word for like, does it make it feel like it's more true to me if somebody famous believes the same thing that I do? Is there a desperation there that we cling to for our belief structure of looking for somebody else to a kind of bandwagon with. Do you know what I'm saying? What's the right phrase there for that?
Cameron McAllister: Well, I don't know if I've got the right phrase. I think I have a description from Walker Percy that describes the phenomenon a little bit. He talks about in his famous novel, the Moviegoer, how when you, let's say you live in a small place, a little down.
Nathan Rittenhouse: I do.
Cameron McAllister: Yes. Like you do in West...Yeah, so this is not theoretical for Nathan Rittenhouse. I know that comes as a shock. Well, okay, let's say let's take Columbus, Indiana. That's a really tiny, that is a really tiny place and good friend of mine happens to have grown up there. But Walker Percy talks about when they make a movie, let's say they make a movie in your small town, wherever it is, it's almost as though the existence is confirmed and verified in a whole new way and you find people get really, really excited. Now, in the Atlanta area, we experience this quite a bit now because a lot of shows are filmed. In fact, they filmed portions of the show Stranger Things in the extremely rundown and dangerous mall right near my home. And all of a sudden, whoa that's so neat. It's almost as though this mall has a whole new corner on the existence market. Well, I think something similar happens when a celebrity embraces the faith that you claim. It's almost like this form of verification that validates it in a whole new way. Even though in truth that's pretty illusory.
Shawn Hart: Right, yeah.
Cameron McAllister: I mean if you live in Columbus, Indiana, just because they made a movie called Columbus, and they did, doesn't make it any more real than it was before to all the people who are citizens. And yet there's just something about fame, celebrity, aiming a camera lens at something that seems to confer a new level of reality on it. Is there a word or phrase to describe this? I'm sure there is. I'm sure there's some philosopher.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Somebody's written a PhD on this, there's a thesis on this somewhere.
Cameron McAllister: I'm sure they have. Yeah, but it's true. So I think that's why when we, that's a complicating factor when it comes to the celebrity conversation, particularly as it intersects with Christianity, right?
Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah.
Shawn Hart: Well and I think on both sides too, right? I mean that's why I don't, it's been great to hear some of the reports of like, you know, a dad, I heard of a dad saying that his son went to church with them after hearing this album from Kanye. And I think that we'll hear plenty of stories of people, Kanye's album actually leading people to an openness to Christianity. And I'll say, God's going to use that and God's going to do that. And that's great that it could work on this side, but our faith shouldn't be determined to be stronger or weaker based on Kanye West. Just as when a Christian celebrity falls away, we shouldn't waver by that either. But unfortunately we do. So I'd be, if you guys find the phrase, I like to know it.
Nathan Rittenhouse: What that, yeah, what that attachment theory is. It's almost the energy of our belief system is externalized, not to God, but to a cultural momentum rather than a spiritual reality. Yeah.
Cameron McAllister: Yeah. I guess, you know, I know the phrase. It's our old friend Charles Taylor that talks about exarnation. Remember, rather than incarnation, where everything is...
Nathan Rittenhouse: You better flesh that out for us. See what I did there?
Cameron McAllister: Oh, I see what you did there. That's very clever. No, essentially, it plays right into a lot of Charles Taylor's complex terminology that he uses to describe the sort of secular shift. But basically there's, instead of focusing on spiritual realities, we now, everything gets kind of placed in the immediate, in the severe of the immediate. His other phrase here is the imminent frame, but basically, yeah, so it's rather than having any kind of an inward focus or balanced inward focus as well, we're considering motives and inward intentions as well. We focus primarily on externals. There's a whole lot more there, but we just don't have time to go down the Charles Taylor route. So maybe I shouldn't have brought that up in the first place. Sorry, guys.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah, just recommend a 900 page book there for people listening in.
Cameron McAllister: But yeah, there's that kind of outward focus. But I liked what Shawn was getting at there, too, that balance. Because the other side of the coin here is that when some Christian celebrity abdicates the faith, right, or walks away, whether it's a worship leader or somebody who had been a famous convert, and then we start to waver. Well that's probably a good indication that we need to search our hearts a little bit.
Nathan Rittenhouse: So what was your friend, you said, but Kanye's a headcase, is that what he said?
Shawn Hart: Yeah, because I mean, I think they're, I don't know all the background, so I don't want to say things that aren't true, but my understanding is that he went, he was in a mental institution for a bit. And even...
Cameron McAllister: No, that's true.
Shawn Hart: Yeah, I even heard that he wrote quite a bit of this album during that time. But in that one, I love that, again, in that song, God Is, he says his encounter with Christ, now I'm sane. It's like now he's at his sane moment.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah.
Shawn Hart: Encountering Christ.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Well, and the Apostle Paul ran into that too. Your great learning has driven you crazy, kind of…
Cameron McAllister: That's certainly a charge that we're used to, right, as Christians.
Shawn Hart: Yeah, I thought about Acts 2, "Who are these men? They're drunk on wine."
Cameron McAllister: Yeah.
Shawn Hart: There's always Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. What did they want to do? They wanted to kill him. There's always going to be something that, but yet they want to see more miracles. There will always be something that will cause non-belief to just continue to exist in a heart that's hard towards God. Now, God will also break through when he wants and how he wants.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah. Well this is just so fascinating because it's so multi-variable here and multi-layered. I mean, and I think what we're, what we've been trying to do here in the last five minutes or so, subconsciously, is we're trying to parse out the message from the messenger, and it looks like Christianity doesn't allow for that separation. And so that's why the lifestyle, and the discipleship, and the sanctification following the justification, all of that, is so important. And I think that's also what makes this just a fascinating topic from our perspective as Christians listening to somebody very well known outside of the Christian world to try to make sense of that.
Cameron McAllister: I think so. And making sense of it is definitely an ongoing process. So we, yeah, as usual on Thinking Out Loud, our hope here has just been to get your wheels turning on the matter and really to kind of spur you on, we're hoping, to a little bit more thought here. And so we certainly haven't solved all of this. And keep your eyes open.
Nathan Rittenhouse: Who knows what will happen next.
Cameron McAllister: Yeah, who knows what will happen next. I mean Kanye West is, this is definitely an ongoing journey and it certainly is fascinating. And it's certainly tempting to say that the Lord has quite a sense of humor in the midst of all of this. Of all the people, this, he, Kanye West seems like one of the least likely to walk down this road. And so, and by the way, I just, Shawn's quoted from it several times now. Just a note to listeners, if we could recommend one track off the album, I think Shawn and I would both say God Is is a great place. And even if you don't like the music, take a look at the words. And it's just, there's pretty powerful stuff. I mean, it's one thing to fall into all the controversial discourse and it's another to actually let this album speak for itself. It really is quite stunning. I still have to pinch myself as I'm hearing it.
Shawn Hart: Yeah.
Cameron McAllister: But thank you for hanging with us through this conversation and thank you so much to our special guest, Shawn.
Shawn Hart: Yeah, thanks for having me on, it was a pleasure.
Cameron McAllister: It was awesome having you, Shawn. And so you have been listening to Thinking Out Loud, a podcast where we think out loud about current events and Christian hope.
Every article, podcast, and video on this website is made possible by the kindness of our supporters.
If you'd like to support our mission of sharing a thoughtful Christianity to the world, you can donate through our site.