Thank You, Kanye West: Christianity’s Rise in Pop Culture Could Change the Future for America’s Youth

Overwhelming popularity of the rapper's latest album reflects deep needs among our young people

Politics aside, we have a problem: It’s a crisis of identity.

Many of our young people have a lethal combination of inflated self-identity and deflated self-worth.

There is a sense of loneliness behind all the smiles we see on social media — and it’s not discussed enough.

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The overwhelming popularity of Kanye West’s new album, “Jesus Is King,” is a reflection of a deep need in our culture. The attention the album is receiving from consumers is far greater than the media are letting on.

The support for Kanye’s freedom of expression is polarizing — yet the effect of “Jesus Is King” on America’s youth is a cue to the government that we have been barking up the wrong tree when it comes to battling the newest wave of depression, anxiety, and drug abuse in this country.

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Our young people may look pretty on Instagram — but they’re dying in record numbers, so much so that it is affecting our average life expectancy as a country.

What does Christianity have to do with the crisis we face? We’ve thrown all kinds of proverbial spaghetti at the wall in regard to the drug crisis and nothing has stuck — so, let’s consider it.

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Drug buybacks won’t save a kid from taking his last fatal dose of heroin. Shaming him won’t save him. Coddling him won’t save him. Saying he can shoot up in a safe place won’t save him. Arresting him won’t save him.

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Beating him up and throwing him out on the street with no shirt on his back won’t save him.

Giving him a comfortable home and a warm place to sleep and hot meals won’t save him. The exploitation of a reality TV intervention won’t save him.

So what else is there. What haven’t we tried?


But not a 12-step version of religion, in which “it’s up to you” to decide who God is and the price of admission to the group is to admit that you’re inherently flawed, moreso than your peers.

Not the religion of a super-arena church, either, where the preacher cares more about his stage makeup than his audience.

I’m talking about a real working relationship with God, one that involves prayer and sacrifice — a relationship that our youth needs.

As Kanye West reminds us, one with “the true and living God.”

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Judeo-Christian values seem to be slipping through the fingers of the fabric of our nation. When we teach our kids to worship Starbucks and Abercrombie and SAT scores and college acceptance letters, or some home-spun version of spirituality that begs nothing of us but feeds our own egos, whims, and philosophies — we don’t quite ever feel satisfied. Do we?

We often choose ourselves over God without meaning to — for instance, leaving the church in which our parents raised us when we decided we were too enlightened to continue in their faith.

When we choose to mold our God for our own sense of comfort, the imbalance becomes greater than we, or our children, can bear.

Luckily, most kids are resilient. But we are still losing our young people in disheartening numbers to a sickness that cannot be blamed solely on pharmaceutical companies, if we’re being honest with ourselves.

In most cases of opioid-related deaths, the parents and families are hurting in the same ways as the child or teenager. These young people are often overprivileged in means — and underprivileged in self-acceptance; they’re looking for salvation in a culture that is lost.

Too many young people look for acceptance and love in the number of likes on Instagram or the selfie they took just so.

Searching for screen validation seems to be surpassing human connection: “Pics or it didn’t happen” is a funny phrase until you think about how much too many of us believe it.

All the while, many people are starving for a relationship with God and for peace of mind, often not knowing that’s the real relationship we are missing.

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How often do we pray for each other?

How often do we bare our souls to God in private?

I say we should do it more.

Nothing else is working.

Christianity has taken some hits in recent years in pop culture — but Google searches focused on Jesus and the Bible skyrocketed when Kanye’s latest album dropped.

He’s doing something right.

Keep up the good work, Ye.

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Robyn Kenney
meet the author

Robyn Kenney works as a producer and television host and is the owner of Island Bay Media, a media company based in Boston, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Mount Ida College in Boston.

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