Why Kanye West is America’s “pervasive Christian traditionalist”

Embracing a newfound focus on family and fatherhood

December 10, 2019

One of the most noticeable effects of Kanye West’s highly publicized conversion to Christianity has been his newfound dedication to his family. This has been observable in a number of ways:

In his new Jesus Is King album, songs are liberally accented with a pro-family message.

He told late-night interviewer James Corden that at night, after putting his kids to bed, he reads his Bible. He’s retreated from the hustle of Los Angeles to Wyoming, believing it to be an easier place to raise a family.

He’s made headlines for expressing frustration at how his wife, Kim Kardashian, dresses too sexually provocative. 

In an interview on Beats 1, West said he regrets how he’s allowed his young daughter to wear make-up at too young of an age, and how he does not think it right to allow his young daughter to dress in ways that mirror celebrities.

In the music video for “Follow God,” West is seen driving around his Wyoming compound with his father. The lyrics to the song give voice to a formerly fractured relationship with his father, while the video gives evidence of reconciliation. 

And now, in a video released last week for “Closed on Sunday,” maybe the album’s most overtly family-centered song, West’s video features him in prolonged montages with his immediate and extended family. The message of the song is very clear: The family is where joy and a sense of self-orientation to the world are to be found, and West is taking up the charge to be the leader and protector of his home. 

A man free to pursue God’s calling 

In the song, West speaks clearly to the need to take charge of his family, protect its purity, and to stand alone in doing this if necessary. This is a message of righteous defiance: West understands that his calling as a Christian husband and father is to stand up for its innocence and integrity. He wants a home of prayer, not Instagram likes. He wants to protect his children from corrupting influences; to train his sons to be righteous. Considering the rate of family dissolution and culture’s hyper-sexualization, nothing could be more countercultural than West’s message.

The lyrics, to quote the deservedly-mocked New Yorker profile of Chick-fil-a, promote an unmistakable “pervasive Christian traditionalism.”

So Kanye West has become something of modern-day Edmund Burke, the 18th-century political theorist who wrote of the family as the “little platoon” of society, the “first principle of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed toward a love to our country, and to mankind.”

All of this, West says, is because as a Christian, he sees things differently now.

Far from the caricature of it being harshly patriarchal or grounded in a 1950s’ vision of moral traditionalism, Christian thought insists that the differences between men and women are God-ordained, grounded in creation, and to be applauded and upheld because they are good.

Critics of Christianity accuse the religion of being staid and restrictive in its understanding of gender and gender roles. In West, however, a portrait of a man freed from worldliness emerges, and in that portrait, a picture of a man free to pursue God’s calling on his life. And it is the family and home which men understand as their highest dedication and vocation. That undertaking, in his own words, is not one of domination, but service. The idea of the husband laying down his life for his family echoes a biblical message.

All of this stands in stark contrast to the world and its objection to the man, husband, and father as a sacrificial leader and protector. All of this, we’re told, is simply rebooted patriarchy coupled with oppressive traditionalism. The progressive zeitgeist seeks to strip a man of his uniqueness and calling, telling him that he’s no different than a woman, and if he dare assert protectiveness, boldness, and leadership, he’s acting on unrefined caveman impulses that our betters inform us need refined and made gender-neutral.

So now we have Kanye West, America’s throwback family man, a man seeking to acknowledge the different ways that God has made men and women and the respective capacities each is designed for. And he’s not apologetic about it. 

Far from the caricature of it being harshly patriarchal or grounded in a 1950s’ vision of moral traditionalism, Christian thought insists that the differences between men and women are God-ordained, grounded in creation, and to be applauded and upheld because they are good. West is echoing this sentiment, as the newly converted Christian man will not become a feminist, but a man on fire.

As I wrote previously at National Review, it’s important that Christians not make West an avatar or hood ornament for their own cultural insecurities or desire for cultural triumph. Rather, let’s let him be a disciple of Christ, someone learning to conform himself and his home in the way of Christ. While West is tremendously influential, we should not look to West as a late-stage Constantine-like figure who can restore the glories of Christendom. Rather, in seeing West demonstrate such overt acts of male leadership and protection, he reminds us that the progressive and egalitarian spirit of the age is not so victorious that it can suppress what comes natural to men.

Between the symbolism of the family’s centrality and the message on defending his family’s purity from a parasitic culture, West is communicating a more confident, joyful portrait of gender difference than some Christians who are embarrassed that Christianity teaches such gender differences at all.

Andrew T. Walker

Andrew T. Walker is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24