As Kanye West told Joel Osteen about his newly discovered faith on Sunday morning, comments from people watching the event livestreamed on the church’s Facebook page poured in.
“I know that God’s been calling me for a long time and the devil’s been distracting me for a long time,” West said at the start of the event. The audience erupted in cheers. West bit his lip, then smiled.
“The fact that he is a happy man should preach about Jesus!” wrote Facebook user Lucy Vega.
Most comments were similarly affirming. Cheers and applause echoed throughout the 17,000-seat Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas during a 20-minute conversation with Osteen. The page’s comments section also buzzed with enthusiastic support.
“Do the work my brother!!” wrote Dominique Amos-Taylor. “Go places that many Christians are scared to go!! Reach the multitudes by any mean[s] necessary!”
Osteen asked West to talk about his upbringing and path to faith. West said his parents brought him to church several times per week as a boy but he was interested in music and other things, so church bored him.
While making his 2016 album “The Life of Pablo,” his seventh, West said he wanted it to be a gospel album but didn’t know at that time how to make one. Christians in his life weren’t professing the gospel to him because they were, as he put it, too beaten into submission by society to preach to a superstar.
“But the only superstar is Jesus,” he said.
It was at his lowest moments, like his 2016 “mental breakdown” and hospitalization, that God gave him visions and inspiration, West said.
After that episode, he had worked to start a church but it didn’t have a pastor, so he and his family were listening to uplifting music in a studio and feeling good about it. A friend told him that he needed to incorporate the name Jesus into his celebrations to provide “solid food” for people.
West blamed media and marketing for bombarding children with unhealthy sexualized images at an early age. He said billboards advertising strip clubs were actually promoting sex trafficking because club managers refer to a shift’s customers as traffic. He noted that alcohol is often called a spirit and is advertised to the public, but said that promoting the loving spirit of Jesus is less accepted.
Some online viewers commented that Osteen appeared nervous as he and West spoke. The rapper has a history of rants and outlandish statements that range from whimsical thoughts to topics like politics and slavery.
A few interactions prompted criticism. West smiled as he acknowledged his “cockiness and arrogance,” saying that Jesus won because “now the greatest artist God has ever created is working for him.”
Facebook user Michelle Morrissey was quick to react: “Oh heck no… its not about you Kayne. This is about Jesus! Pride is a dangerous thing! Self worship[.]”
Criticism was quickly followed by commenters who defended West. “Awww! Don’t you have anything better to do than troll a service dedicated to God,” wrote Glover Felicia. “Seems like the devil has a pretty strong hold on you ma’am.”
West addressed criticism of Osteen, who critics have called out for his effusively positive messaging, his embrace of prosperity gospel and a much-publicized 2017 incident when the stadium-sized church didn’t immediately open its doors to shelter people fleeing Hurricane Harvey flooding.
God is not all fire and brimstone, West said. “There’s a lot of people in the Christian community that try to give Joel a hard time because when you turn on the radio, he keeps on showing you how good God is,” he said.
Osteen grinned as the audience clapped and cheered. “When you’ve got Kanye defending you, you’ve made it, man,” he said.
Facebook user Monica Johnson commented: “Joel? Seriously?? I thought you said, God is your defender?! What’s wrong with you? Suddenly you’ve become secular and self serving.”
Earlier in the event, West stopped talking to admonish someone in the audience for calling out to him while he was speaking. He told the man it was distracting him from his stream of consciousness testimony.
“I really appreciate the support but I’d like for everybody to be completely silent so I can let God flow through me as I speak to you guys today,” West said.
Such glimpses of West’s egotism, infamously on display when he interrupted a 19-year-old Taylor Swift as she received a Video Music Award in 2009, drew the most criticism.
“God hasn’t transformed this man…this guy is just trying to keep himself relevant,” wrote Michael J. Seale.
Nevertheless, West and his gospel choir performed their Sunday Service concert for a sold-out crowd of 45,000, most of whom watched it from the church’s spillover area.
For every critic there were multiple retorts charging them with undue negativity.
“Oh so called ‘Christians’ this is why Jesus didn’t come for you holier than thou,” wrote Nitah Ntongo. “When your baby speaks for the first time, do you shut him down or applause? This is why people fear coming to church. Remember the first time you received Christ. God is love!”
Date published: 22/11/2019
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