"Christian" Music and Kanye West

"We only let our kids listen to Christian music."

Great, fine, that's good. But what makes music "Christian?" Is it when it's produced by a "Christian" music company? If that's your rule of thumb, you probably don't let your kids read anything not published by a "Christian" publisher. To be consistent, you'd have to ban books by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Katherine Paterson, Madeleine L'Engle, and even not-so-famous writers of books for young readers, like me.

Is a song "Christian" when the artist professes faith in Jesus? Take rapper Kanye West, for example, who recently came out with a bold declaration of faith, albeit peppered with four-letter words in his usual style. Here's an excerpt of the song Jesus Walks:

(Jesus Walk)
God show me the way because the Devil's tryna to break me down
(Jesus Walk with me)
The only thing that I pray is that me feet don't fail me now
(Jesus Walk)
And I don't think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs
(Jesus Walk)
I want to talk to God but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke in so long.

To the hustlas, killas, murderas, drug dealas even tha strippers jesus walks with them
To the victims of Welfare for we living in hell here, hell yeah, jesus walks with them
Now hear ye hear ye want to see Thee more clearly
I know He hear me when my feet get weary
Cuz we're the almost nearly extinct
We rappers is role models, we rap we don't think
I ain't here to argue about his facial features
Or here to convert atheists into believers
I'm just trying to say the way school need teachers
The way Kathy Lee needed Regis, that's the way I need Jesus
So here go my single dawg radio needs this
They say you can rap-about-anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, video tapes
But if I talk about God my record won't get played, Huh?
Well if this take away from my spins
Which will probably take away from my ends
and i hope it take away from my sins
and bring the day that I dream about
Next time I'm in the club everybody screamin out

(Jesus Walks)
God show me the way because the devil's tryna break me down
(Jesus Walks)
The only thing that I pray is that my feet don't fail me now

Kanye West was asked by Time Magazine recently how he reconciles his faith in Jesus with the profane and sexualized lyrics in his songs. His answer: “It’s definitely a contradiction. Contradiction is a part of who everybody is. I am a real person, and I make my mistakes and I laugh and I cry and I smile and I hate and I love. One song is, ‘I love God,’ and the next song is, ‘Can you come over?’ That’s how I feel. Sometimes you’re in church and you’re looking at the girl’s dress right next to you.” (Time, 12/20/04)

So would you encourage your teen to download his albums? What about just that song, even with the four-letter words? Walt Mueller of the Center For Parent Youth Understanding provides a great discussion of Kanye West and hip-hop music in general.

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