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Readers Speak!: Outside View of Western Culture on the Influence of a Celebrity, from the President to Religion

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Kanye West was one of the rappers I disliked the most ever since the Taylor Swift incident where, during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), he snatched the microphone from her and said, “I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best (music) videos of all time.”

After Kanye jumped on stage after Swift received the award for the Best Female Video category, he interrupted her acceptance speech to acknowledge singer, songwriter, and actress, Beyoncé Knowles. Kanye then shrugged his shoulders and returned the microphone to a confused Taylor Swift, who was stunned silent during the live encounter.

Even Beyoncé was taken aback, later rescuing Swift’s lost moment, yielding her time to Swift when Beyoncé won her own award for Best Music Video of the year. She allowed the then-19-year-old country singer to have her moment. Nonetheless, Kanye was roundly denounced minutes and weeks after he crashed the stage. He was even asked to leave the award show. Rightly so.

But who would have thought that this is the man who would start a culture revolution? Or at least spark one?

I know culture revolution is a bold statement. It’s more like a spark in the tilt of Western culture. What is the tilt of Western culture? In a recent column by Victor Davis Hanson, a professor and nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services, Hanson pointed out how young students are taught in universities how to blame their ancestors, without a shred of gratitude for where we have come as a society. It has caught on.

But imagine a college student living 1,000 years ago in Europe without electricity, WiFi, cafeterias, videos games, fast food, and without anybody backing them financially (aka parents or the government). There’s no support and the work they’re doing is most likely hard labour without a shred of entertainment, other than rudimentary board games and the beginnings of street performers.  But that is if you live in the right area. If you lived on a farm, even that was out of the question.

As books were not widely available in the middle ages, you’d be lucky to have a chess board to entertain yourself, as it cost a lot more of your working hours to buy one. The only available book would be the Bible, except that it’s kept only in church. Also, it’s only available in Latin or other languages.

But now with access to television, the internet and even celebrities, themselves, through social media, the influence of celebrities on culture is undeniable.

The Taylor Swift event was 10 years ago.  All this time later, who would have thought that Kayne West would come out as a President Donald Trump supporter and then a Christian, whose album, “Jesus is King,” is the number one selling album for the past nine weeks?

Kanye, who appears on late night talks shows like Jimmy Kimmel, mentions Jesus and gets applause. Kanye, who visits Trump in the White House and mentions “infinite universe(s),” “alternative universes” and says that is the reason Trump should consider pardoning Larry Hoover is because “in an alternate universe, I am him.”

Like it or not, I admire Kanye’s sheer cojones to go out there and float his personal theories in front of the president, while being filmed and photographed for the whole world to see.

While there are people who think that Kayne is doing this for publicity, I cannot judge by my perceived motivations of a person – one can only rightly judge these things by viewing the words and actions of a person.

The cynical versions of reality exist in the minds of cynical people. Let that sink in.

And, sure, Kayne is an artist that’s been out there for a while, but now he’s promoting Christian music. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Like it or not, he is starting the conversation on the topic, and he is making people at least talk about Trump in other ways, whether he – or it – is liked or not.

On the Christian front, Kanye is intensifying an effect that, in my view, Jordan Peterson started. Peterson, an author, clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, has a following nowhere near that as Kayne, but the effect of Peterson on making people think about religion has been undeniable.  His Biblical series is widely followed.

Available on YouTube, the series has been viewed by millions and some people credit it as a turning point and eventual conversion to Christianity. However, Peterson himself never likes to explicitly state that he is a Christian.

But Kayne is a different story altogether. The shift in his music career from rapper to the title of his new gospel album, makes it clear for everybody to see where he now stands – “Jesus is King.” It is what he is now standing for. And being that Kanye’s following is considerably larger than Peterson’s, one has to wonder: how many people will Kayne impact with his ideas?

If YouTube comments are anything to go by, there’s something shifting. Under a song called “God Is,” a commentator writes, “I’m not even religious and this album got me reading the bible.” Under a different song, someone said, “I think Kanye brought me back to Jesus. 2019 is wild.”

If we take that these comments are from real people and they’re serious, then there are thousands or tens of thousands of examples that we never hear about, because the sample size of people that have bought Kayne’s albums is enormous – nine weeks on top and counting.

That is not to say that Kanye will – or is even out to – convert everybody and a lot of new fans of Kayne are already Christians that have never bought a Kayne album before. However, it seems like Kayne West has become a Christian influencer and a Trump supporter with a wide influence, especially in the United States – if not worldwide.

Last year, after he came out very publicly in support of Trump, despite a slip up of “slavery is a choice” during an interview with TMZ, there were reports saying that he doubled the support of Trump among black men. It’s hard to know what’s true since polls were not taken.  After all, polls were dead wrong in the 2016 elections. The only real measure will be next year’s presidential election.

Like Oprah, when she supported Obama in 2008, is Kayne influencing voters for the 2020 election or at least to debate the merits of what he is talking about?

The Longshoreman philosopher, Eric Hoffer, said that history is made by examples. Given how many people are buying Kanye’s album, is it really a stretch to say that some artist in the future or, perhaps, in the near future, with equal musical talent, will record another album with gospel songs? Will it become a thing? Will Christian values become mainstream again in the Western world?

It’s strange to contemplate, but consider this: He’s making Christianity cool again.

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