the 47th annual Grammy Awards Mavis Staples
opened a worship vignette with “I’ll Take You
There”, setting up acclaimed producer and now rapper
Kanye West who emerged from the back pew in a black suit
singing “If I talk about God my record won’t get
West’s staged death the Blind Boys of Alabama sang
“I’ll Fly Away” a cappella over his casket.
Suddenly West ascended from his coffin, coiffed in a
white suit and sporting giant angel wings. He then flew
over the stunned audience singing his Grammy winning
Bacon, the next noncelestial to take the stage, asked
the rapper Ludacris,
“Do I look different to you? ‘Cause I think I might
have just been saved.”
ratings for the Grammy Awards have fallen precipitously
over the years. This year their audience share was down
28%. The music industry’s financial woes are partially
to blame. Kids now steal as much music off the web as
the biggest culprit is self-inflicted by the
industry’s negative stance toward America’s
cherished institutions of faith and family.
that shocking? If you ridicule people for their beliefs
and how they live their lives they stop watching your
awards shows and stop buying your music.
maybe the producers of the Grammys decided it was time
to tone down the ridicule and tune up some respect for
the role of faith in our culture.
If so we’ll take it.
same producers must have noticed that Christian music is
one of the fastest growing segments in contemporary
music. Christian concerts are packed. What’s more,
Christian kids tend not to pirate music off the net, so
Christian labels make money.
something more than this is going on.
West won the Grammy for Best Rap Album and for Best Rap
Song “Jesus Walks”, he recalled his near-fatal car
crash in 2002.
I had my accident, I found out at that moment, nothing
in life is promised except death. If you have the
opportunity to play this game of life, you need to
appreciate every moment. A lot of people don’t
appreciate their moment, until it’s past.
an earlier interview:
have flashbacks of what happened everyday. And anytime
I hear about any accident my heart sinks in and I just
thank God that I’m still here.
is now credited with having something to say, not just
beats to play. For contemporary music to sustain itself
it must be more than "Bling Bling", sex, guns,
and rims. Make no mistake about it, West is conversant
with these as well. But, as with the rest of our
culture, he recognizes we need to commit ourselves to
more than just getting what we want.
what you want is the seduction of an emerging
radicalized secularism in America and the West. But
secularism alone can never sustain us. Why is this?
secularism relegates nature, society, and government to
the status of instruments dedicated only to the
fulfillment of our material desires masquerading as
secularism forces us to pretend we do not have deeply
held religious beliefs. It censors discussions of the
transcendent, only allowing recognition of the temporal
in the public square.
a hundred years ago William James described this in The
Varieties of Religious Experience. He concluded
that religion in the modern West was splitting between
the public and the private. Because of the conflict
inherent in arbitrating deeply held beliefs, conflict
that historically has resulted in,“hypocrisy and
tyranny and meanness and tenacity of superstition,”
James concluded that the proper realm for religious
faith was the purely private.
hear this today, that people have God within them so
churches aren’t important any more.
goes beyond the separation of church and state. It is
one thing to limit the influence of the state on
religious organizations. It is quite another to limit
the influence of religion on the state and culture by
relegating religion to only the private sphere.
experience of God requires a vocabulary. If churches are
no longer important and it is considered impolite or
silly or illegal to speak of God and our faith in
public, how can an individual come to faith?
is why radicalized secularism is inherently atheistic.
danger, therefore, is that a secular culture can easily
slide into secularism when it denies the use of
religious vocabularies in public.
is why people of faith in America are working against
West’s Jesus Walks:
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,
has won this in-your-face challenge. His record has been
played and played and played. And now it’s won a
sustains many of us, not just personally, but
corporately. This means expressing our faith publicly.
And this expression should not be limited to our worship
services and religious associations.