By Kristi Carras
Los Angeles Times
Kanye West brought his famous “Sunday Service” to televangelist Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Texas this weekend, and he had many thoughts on God, the devil and everything in between.
During a 20-minute Sunday spot, West took the stage at Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, alongside the celebrity pastor, who prompted his special guest with questions about his upbringing, faith and music. The “Jesus Is King” rapper answered each thoroughly in his signature “stream of consciousness” style, making several eyebrow-raising statements throughout.
“I know that God’s been calling me for a long time and the devil’s been distracting me for a long time,” he said before a crowd of about 17,000 at Osteen’s church. “When I was in my lowest points, God was there with me and sending me visions and inspiring me, and I remember sitting in the hospital at UCLA after having a mental breakdown, and there’s documentations of me drawing a church and writing, ‘Start a church in the middle of Calabasas.”
West’s spiritual awakening was a running theme throughout his lecture, in which he “let God flow through” him. Here are some of the boldest claims the musician made during the service.
The devil “stole all the good” artists
Early on in their chat, Osteen asked West to elaborate on his feelings about fame, and West had a hunch about why he and other artists have become so obsessed with material wealth.
“You start to feel like Satan is the most powerful, and you start to feel like if you service God, that in life it means you will not prosper, and the only way to prosper is in service to fame,” he said. “It’s like the devil stole all the good producers, all the good musicians, all the good artists, all the good designers, all the good business people and said, ‘You’ve got to come over and work for me.’”
“Now the trend, the shift is going to change,” he said. “Jesus has won the victory — I told you about my arrogance and cockiness already. Now the greatest artist that God has ever created is now working for him.”
Cheers erupted in the spiritual arena as West flashed a smile. At multiple points in his speech, West elaborated on how God has guided him and chosen him to spread the Gospel on his elevated platform.
“All of that arrogance and cockiness that y’all have seen me use before, God is now using for him,” West said. “Because every time I stand up, I feel that I’m standing up and drawing a line in the sand, and saying that I’m here in service to God, and no weapon formed against me shall prosper.”
“Closed on Sunday” is “the hardest record ever made”
While ruminating on his faith, West also commented on the state of music, which he argued is often sinful and misguided due to a collective desire among musicians to stay relevant.
“To maintain the idea of coolness, we have our own daughters, and we’ll still be rapping about trying to hook up with somebody’s daughter,” he said, followed by heavy silence in the church.
But since West had his come-to-Jesus moment, he says his “idea of coolness” has shifted, as have the subjects of his lyrics. Several tracks on his most recent studio album, such as his ode to fast-food restaurant Chick-Fil-A, “Closed on Sunday,” reflect that shift, exploring themes of Christianity and piety.
“‘Closed on Sunday’ is the hardest record ever made,” West said. “It’s hard as an N.W.A record. Because it’s talking about protecting your kids from the indoctrination of the media.”
Strip clubs promote “sex trafficking”
West’s lecture took an unexpected and bizarre turn when he began to describe the “loud” vices present in society that serve to threaten one’s faith — especially when he offered his stance on one kind of vice in particular: strip clubs.
“When I’m in California, or when I’m in Vegas, they’ve got posters up advertising sex trafficking, because if there’s an advertisement for a strip club, that is advertising sex trafficking, because at the end of the night, when they close up, the manager says, ‘How much traffic did we have?’” he said, quieting the crowd. “So if it’s a man that’s going through things with his family or going through things at work, and he feels he has to go there, we all end up participating in these spirits that get advertised to us all the time.”
Christians are “beaten into submission” against sharing their faith
In addition to plugging his latest effort, “Jesus Is King,” West reflected on another of his albums, “Life of Pablo,” which dropped in 2016 during his spiritual transition — a transition that, according to the rapper, was hindered at first by societal forces acting against the Christian community.
“I said, ‘This is a gospel album,’ and I didn’t know how to totally make a gospel album, and the Christians that were around were too, I would say, beaten into submission by society to not speak up and profess the Gospel to me because I was a superstar,” he said, before adding, to rapturous applause, “but the only superstar is Jesus. So as I sat there saying, ‘I’m going to make a gospel album,’ there were Christians that were there.”
The “Stronger” hitmaker closed his lengthy speech with a prayer, as Osteen nodded along passionately.
“Thank you for bringing me up in the church,” West said. “Thank you for the opportunity to have given me a platform that is so vast that no one can take it away once I’ve turned over everything to you. Thank you for the opportunity to stand on this stage without judgment next to one of the strongest voices in the Christian community.”In keeping with his unpredictable career trajectory, West also recently announced a new opera, “Nebuchadnezzar,” which he plans to debut at the Hollywood Bowl on Nov. 24. Tickets to the surprise show, directed by Vanessa Beecroft and featuring “music with Sunday Service, Peter Collins & Infinities Song,” will go on sale at noon Monday, according to the Hollywood Bowl’s Twitter.