“I Am a God” is the name of one of the songs on Kanye West’s new album titled, “Yeezus.” Yeezus resembles the name for Jesus in the koine Greek language, in which the New Testament was written. Kanye, who has just had a baby girl with Kim Kardashian is considered by many to be one our culture’s most loved and innovative artists. As a gifted marketer, Kanye’s album has already gone to the top of the charts. His controversial statements regarding faith, however, are nothing new.
Kanye, after all, is not the only one to claim deity for himself. Madonna and Jay-Z are amongst others who have made claims of spiritual equality to Jesus. Jay-Z referred to himself as Jay-Hova after the name of Hebrew/Christian God.
Several reviewers of Kanye’s songs in mainstream media suggest that Kanye’s work is not blasphemous but rather authentic art expressions.
But some religious groups believed such claims of deity are blasphemous. Adam Holz who reviewed a previous album of Kanye’s, for the blog, Unplugged, says that Kanye’s sexual messages mixed with his spirituality are incompatible with the teachings of the historical Jesus. Holz who reviewed Kanye’s album observed, “We hear references to oral sex, anal sex, group sex, lesbian sex, prostitution, masturbation, orgasms, promiscuity, male and female genitals and filming sexual exploits. On ‘H*** of a Life,’ Kanye sings, ‘I think I just fell in love with a porn star/Turn the camera on, she a born star.’ The song's chorus proclaims, ‘P***y and religion is all I need.’ ‘Devil in a New Dress’ describes a Christian couple's capitulation to carnal pleasures, ‘We love Jesus, but you done learned a lot from Satan/I mean, a n***a did a lot of waitin'/We ain't married, but tonight I need some consummation’.”
Even while we as Christians strongly object to Kanye West’s message about spirituality, several things can be observed about Kanye’s work. One, Kanye’ reference to Jesus Christ reminds our culture that the real Jesus Christ is still the most talked about person in the history of world. While close to an astounding ten million people follow Kanye on Twitter (only thirty million behind Justin Bieber), over two billion living people claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. So while we are offended by Kanye’s message, we definitely are not discouraged but ask ourselves, why does Kanye mention Yeezus, and not Mohammed, Buddha, or Abraham? Could this indicate that perhaps Yeezus (Jesus) was truly unique in his claims of deity and bodily resurrection?
The art of rap can actually trace some of its roots back to the Greek poet Homer’s rhapsody, the Illiad. Homer’s work, the most widely read in the ancient world influenced many other Greek poets and writers including the Greek, Lucian of Samosata of the second century.
Lucian mocked Christianity in his satirical writings, writing, “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day — the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account...You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.
Although the Christian community of the second century were perhaps offended at Lucian’s mockery, religious scholars centuries later, now appeal to Lucian’s writings as another source from a non-Christian writer who actually provides historical confirmation that Jesus did in fact live in history, died by crucifixion and that his early followers worshiped him, believed in the after life, did not fear death and shared their belongings as common property amongst each other. In other words, in the second century, Lucian sought to make a mockery of Jesus, but perhaps he only provided more historical proof of Christ’s uniqueness of being God. Likewise, those Christians who are concerned about Kanye’s songs being a satirical mockery of Christ’s unique claim of deity, can affirm that perhaps Kanye’s lyrics provide just one more piece of evidence of the compelling and influential life of the first century Jewish man, Jesus, who people are still rhyming about 2000 years later.