Kanye West dropped his latest album The Life of Pablo right after he performed two of the songs from the album on Saturday Night Live on February 13th. Kirk Franklin, a highly credited gospel and R&B singer, is featured on the first track of the album, titled “Ultralight Beam” which has a gospel feel and sings of wanting to be closer to God. Franklin was also on the SNL performance along with other artists like Young Thug and Chance the Rapper. For some Christians, this was a collision of two worlds, the religious and the secular, and that was against everything that they believed in. Others, myself included in this crowd, see the value in relationships like this.
West is known for saying just about every cuss word that exists on most of his albums, so for Franklin, a so called “man of God” to appear on the very first song in the album is definitely a ground-breaking thing for the church, and maybe not in a good way. Franklin, as expected, got a lot of hate, and even himself said he was “crucified” by followers on social media who were angry with Franklin for enabling West and his latest album.
Franklin spoke out against the negative words put towards him on his Instagram profile. Here is what he said:
Kanye is not me. I am not him. He is my brother I am proud to do life with. No sprints, but Marathons; like most of us are on. Before one song was released, I was crucified because my brother asked me to take a picture. Again “no Kanye, you’re not good enough”? No. That is a dangerous message I believe we send to the world when our posture is they have to meet certain requirements before they are worthy to kiss the ring. It says people are not redeemable, forgivable or candidates for grace. That my friend is religious. I will not turn my back on my brother. I will love him, prayerfully grow with him. However long he’ll have me, and however long the race takes. To a lot of my Christian family, I’m sorry he’s not good enough, Christian enough, or running at your pace…and as I read some of your comments, neither am I. That won’t stop me from running. Pray we win.
Franklin’s Instagram profile is usually filled with snapshots of his daily devotionals and Bible readings, so this was a bit off-course for his followers, for sure. But what he had to say to his critics was great, and as a church goer that also keeps up with the hip-hop and pop culture scene, it really resonated with me, and brought up some interest hypocrisy that needs to be addressed within the church.
I think the best thing Franklin said in his Instagram rant (for lack of a better word) was that he isn’t trying to be religious, which is one of my favorite things about the church I am a part of. Franklin’s latest album is titled Losing My Religion which can be confusing for some who don’t understand what that means, since Franklin is a Christian. For many Christians, going to church and studying the Bible isn’t about being right, doing the right thing, and saying all the things that will set you up for success in the afterlife. Sure, the ultimate goal is to live a life that pleases our creator and end up in heaven with him for eternity, but Christianity is not about being religious. It’s about a relationship with God. The whole church community should be about relationships.
The relationship we have with God is important, but perhaps just as important are the relationships we have with those around us on this earth. Franklin understands that, and his relationship with Kanye shows just that. Franklin isn’t slamming Kanye and telling him that since his music doesn’t demonstrate his exact idealisms that he won’t work with him. Franklin is working with Kanye and cultivating a meaningful relationship with the artist and his friend.
It comes down to the thought that is brought up in church: healthy people don’t need a doctor, sick people do. Christians aren’t doing anything good for the church by staying within their circle. We’ve got to break out of that circle and help those around us. As Franklin says, that message of saying “no Kanye, you’re not good enough,” is dangerous.
This spoken word that came out a few years ago really put what Franklin is saying about not being religious, and the importance of relationships with non-christians into perspective.
And of course, slamming Franklin for working with Kanye is hypocrisy of the church. The Christian music scene has stood behind Grammy-winning hip-hop artist Lecrae for years now, and when his latest album Church Clothes 3 came out, it was praised that he was working with artists other than just christians for the exact reasons that some in the church are slamming Franklin. Lecrae’s latest album featured E-40, another hip-hop artist who has lyrics similar to those of Kanye in a sense that they are not clean by any means.
One of Lecrae’s lines in the song was “I gave Chief Keef my number in New York this summer I told him, ‘I could get you free”, I’m on my Nat Turner.'” That lyric was praised for him reaching out to those beyond the christian circle, and “saving the unsaved.”
Some are failing to see that what Franklin is doing with West is the exact same thing, and should be praised just as much as Lecrae’s actions were, not criticized.
Drop the hypocrisy, church. If you want to save the hurting, don’t criticize and put down your own for reaching out to those who might not be at the point of Christianity or life that you feel is right. We are not the judges.