Jesus Walks

***Before you read this know that the lyrics and videos contain strong language and images.***

The hip-hop song "Jesus Walks" by Kanye West found on his 2004 album, Late Registration(Roc-A-Fella label) is likely one of the most religiously honest songs in our modern pop culture. I've had it rolling around in my brain for quite a while now as I tried to break down the reasons supporting my opinion. It's stunning at how accurately the lyrics capture the desperation and depravity of the human condition without the hope of Jesus the saviour from ultimate death. But what is it that makes it stand out from any number of songs out there that say the same thing? My humble thoughts:

1. It's not what you think. This is not another song by a black artist bemoaning the stereotypical message of how a racist, white society is solely at fault for the negative image and plight of the African American community. Does he address the issue? Sure, but rather than indite everyone white as a bunch of 'crackers,' I think he fairly draws a line at those whites that are true racists who corruptly abuse their positions of authority to carry out their prejudices (In the first video what color is the angel? What if it were a white dude passed out with a black angel helping him?).

2. No one is innocent. The actions and behaviors by minorities negatively stereotyping their own race aren't excused (allot of Johnny Cash's work does this for whites). There's an implied message of personal responsibility for those that blame their situation on everyone else while perpetuating a negative image of minorities at the same time. Look at the first lines citing our war with terrorism, racism, but mostly ourselves. It can work a couple of ways. On one level it addresses the global horrors we fight because of the evil in our nature, but on another, more specific level it acknowledges the fight against racial and social injustices, but places the stress on the detrimentally worse war within those groups fragmenting the unity needed to fight against those external injustices. And, don't fall into the trap of thinking this fight is only applicable to just racial minorities. It's a message for middle-class whites in the burbs and organized religion just as much as anybody.

3. It's courageous. There's an easy road that Kanye could have taken while still earning the praise and recognition that helped propel his career as a mega-star. But he didn't. What I'm referring to is that he could have just limited his message to the issues in society mentioned earlier and left it at that. Instead, he went on to point the finger at the entertainment industry - to include his fellow entertainers - for their roles in promoting negativity in society. That takes... guts (ya, and a pair of those too). Read the lyrics towards the end questioning the greed behind the regular portrayal of our cultures vices as glamorous, cool, and attractive while trying to stifle Kanye's unsexy message of Jesus as the solution.

4. It doesn't take sides. Dismissing the typical hang-ups of religion, Kanye (who co-wrote the song with friend Che Smith) makes it clear that the message isn't about which demographic get to claim Jesus as exclusively their own (I ain't here to argue about facial features), and it's not a call to faith or an endorsement of one religion over another (or here to convert atheists into believers). The simple message is that Jesus is the answer and time is running out (we're almost nearly extinct) before death, in one way shape of form, gets us.

5. It's not a pretty song. I'll admit, every time I play this track I wince at the word "niggas." I know there's a debate on its changing connotation, but by enlarge, it's not a good idea to employ it in everyday conversation. Yet, it's essential to the message. It's supposed to make you squirm. Ask yourself this. If this were written/performed by a categorical "Christian Recording Artist" would the impact be the same? I don't think so. In fact, you could almost leave the lyrics alone, (making only "pretty" corrections) and people would see it as preachy and self-righteous knowing it came from the religious sector(unfortunately, on a large scale the Christian community is "mostly at war with ourselves" blunting a message of compassion). Originally, I intended to use the 'Wal Mart' version of the lyrics and video (I included both & you'll see why) to soften the offensiveness, but then changed my mind because I thought it would minimize the impact of redemption by hiding the extent of the ugliness we are delivered from.

There are a few more ideas I could ramble on about(note the themes of grace, repentance and personal choice in the first video), but I'll wrap this up (no pun intended). I don't know why, after all this time, I felt the urge to express all this now, but the urge was there. Despite arguing with myself over the logic of the timing and my small readership, I was supposed to do it now and so I did. It's also necessary to say that for anyone that doesn't know the very imperfect me, I am not exempt from needing this same Jesus just because I put down a few thoughts on a blog in the middle of cyberspace. Finally, you may hate or love Kanye West as a person and/or as an artist, but he's as human as the rest of us. In 2005, Time wrote an article showing the real Kanye apart from his celebrity image, and after reading it, my perception of him as "just another out-spoken rapper" changed for the better(and this was before I even heard 'Jesus Walks'). However, all opinions aside, even though I wouldn't recommend adding this song to your Sunday morning worship segment (maybe the evening service - JK), the power in the message is undeniable.

Take a moment to read the lyrics and then watch the videos (Kanye loves making multiple videos). I would love to hear your thoughts given this is just my opinion (and bouncing ideas off myself technically makes me schizophrenic).

- Do you think the impact of the message would be stunted had it come from the Christian music industry?

- On what scale (ie. isolated cases, organizational level, denominational, or Christianity as a whole) do you think we are at war with ourselves (or even at all)? And how much of a negative impact do you think it's having?

- General thoughts?

- Should Ron just stick to goofball blogs (kidding, I can be serious from time to time with enough meds in me)?

Jesus Walks

Yo, We at war
We at war with terrorism, racism, and most of all we at war with ourselves
(Jesus Walks)
God show me the way because the Devil trying to break me down
(Jesus Walks with me) with me, with me, with me [fades]

You know what the Midwest is?
Young & Restless
Where restless (Niggas) might snatch your necklace
And next these (Niggas) might jack your Lexus
Somebody tell these (Niggas) who Kanye West is
I walk through the valley of the Chi where death is
Top floor the view alone will leave you breathless Uhhhh!
Try to catch it Uhhhh! It's kinda hard hard
Getting choked by the detectives yeah yeah now check the method
They be asking us questions, harass and arrest us
Saying "we eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast"
Huh? Yall eat pieces of shit? What's the basis?
We ain't going nowhere but got suits and cases
A trunk full of coke rental car from Avis
My momma used to say only Jesus can save us
Well momma I know I act a fool
But I'll be gone 'til November I got packs to move I Hope

[Hook x2]
(Jesus Walks)
God show me the way because the Devil trying to break me down
(Jesus Walks with me)
The only thing that that I pray is that my feet don't fail me now
(Jesus Walks)
And I don't think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs
(Jesus Walks with me)
I want to talk to God but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke in so long

To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers
(Jesus walks with them)
To the victims of Welfare for we living in hell here hell yeah
(Jesus walks with them)
Now hear ye hear ye want to see Thee more clearly
I know he hear me when my feet get weary
Cause we're the almost nearly extinct
We rappers are role models we rap we don't think
I ain't here to argue about his facial features
Or here to convert atheists into believers
I'm just trying to say the way school need teachers
The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that's the way I need Jesus
So here go my single dog radio needs this
They 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 Huh?
Well let this take away from my spins
Which will probably take away from my ends
Then I hope this take away from my sins
And bring the day that I'm dreaming about
Next time I'm in the club everybody screaming out

(Jesus Walks)
God show me the way because the devil trying to break me down
(Jesus Walks)
The only thing that that I pray is that my feet don't fail me now
(Jesus Walks)
And I don't thing there's nothing I can do now to right my wrongs
(Jesus walks with me... fades)
I want to talk to God but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke
in so long

Version 1 (Safer Version)

Version 2 (Non-Sesame Street Version)

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