The Power To Let Power Go-A Lesson Brought To You By Kanye
March 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
Confession. I like Kanye West.
I guess I should say I like his music. I don’t know the guy so I don’t know if I like him but I like what he has to say at times. I know this isn’t a popular opinion but screw popular opinion. Because with all his antics and celebrity narcissism, sometimes, if you listen closely, something pretty brilliant can come out of his mouth.
One of those times is in his song “Power” off his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album. As with pretty much every song, people have some crazy interpretations of what message he’s trying to convey, you know, since every singer is a secret member of the Illuminati. I like to imagine the Illuminati is really just what Jay-Z and Beyoncé call their weekly hang out times with other celebs that if I attend enough Nets games I will eventually get invited to. Fingers crossed.
My simple interpretation of “Power” is a mix of messages, where he struggles with the power thrust upon him and the power he takes for himself and how both have entangled him.
At the end of the song, he alludes to committing suicide just to free himself from the power play. As the song is fading, he presents the question “you got the power to let power go?”
Now I’m going to make a maybe not so big leap from Kanye to Christian culture.
I believe we are so consumed by power that it starts a war every time we are challenged to even slightly let it go. We have abused our freedom. We have let the freedom to have our own personal set of beliefs and morality stop us from thinking outside of ourselves.
This is why we have culture wars. Because we have the “luxury” of being offended by issues we do not have the right to be offended by. Not because they are not in and of themselves offensive (but they’re probably not) but because we are so often not offended by what is actually offensive. We have the luxury of not baking a cake for a gay couple, while LGBTQ youth are committing suicide at alarming rates and we remain silent. It is easier and more comfortable for us to abstain rather than to engage. Because engaging would mean stepping outside of the suburbia of Christian culture that we have created and lived in for so long.
This attitude has not only seeped out of us as American Christians, it has seeped into our churches. We cater our churches to attract the people we want to instead of growing with the people who are placed in our communities. We have the freedom to pick and choose. And as Kanye says, no one man should have all that power.
I was in a chapel service once where a couple from Africa came and spoke about their work there. Typically when people came and spoke at my school’s chapel services, the guy would get up and talk about their ministry and the women would stand off to the side, holding the kids and maybe, if we were lucky, pray at the end. This couple, a breath of fresh air, was not like that. The woman spoke about how she saw a need for an orphanage and so she started one in their village. Both spoke at equal lengths about how God was using them. As they were talking, I leaned over to my friend and said “If we asked them what role they believe women are allowed to play in ministry they would probably laugh in our faces.” But this was a huge debate at my school, with many believing women should not have the same amount of leadership as men.
You see, other countries (and continents, I know Africa is a continent) do not always have the “luxury” to pick and choose who gets to participate in ministry. No, if there’s a need, someone just steps up and does it. No questions asked, no illegitimate fears raised, no antiquated debates, just simply a community of believers doing what they can to bring the kingdom to earth through any means necessary. There’s no selectiveness, just people, people wanting to do right by Jesus. Man, I wish we had that kind of freedom.
No, what we have is the selfishness to be selective, to create church in our own image, to pick what kind of music we like, what style of preaching, what kind of people, what set of beliefs, if we like the vision, mission, pastor, leadership, etc. after annoying etc. all under the guise that it is our right. We treat church like a Starbucks and expect to have everything changed to what we need. Sure we have the “freedom” to do so. But is that freedom actually freeing or has it reached the point of bondage? Have we used our freedom to make us slaves to ourselves? I think too often we have used our freedom and overabundance of resources as an opportunity to nit-pick, to hold beliefs about ideas that have nothing to do with Christ and his church but rather our own desire for legalism and we are in bondage to our own personal set of beliefs rather than being in bondage to God’s desire for the church, which has always been unity in diversity.
Another song about power that I love is Handlebars by Flobots. The song starts off with him realizing that he can ride his bike without holding on to the handlebars. And gradually he becomes more aware of his abilities and of his power. He at first realizes his power can do good saying, “I can make new antibiotics, I can make computers survive aquatic conditions, I know how to run a business”. And as he realizes more and more of the extent of his power, the music builds and it all climaxes with “I can make anybody go to prison just because I don’t like them, I can do anything with no permission, I have it all under my command because I can guide a missile by satellite….and I can end the planet in a holocaust.” This song builds up to this point and after it is over it goes back to slow music and “I can ride my bike with no handlebars”, showing how cyclical power is and how easily we can get drawn into its enticement.
We need a Kanye slap to the face every day to ask ourselves, do we have the power to let that power go. Do we have the power to take this so called freedom and actually free ourselves through the love of Christ and actually free each other through the love of Christ. To take the voice that we have been given, the power and influence and use it for good, use it to help others, use it to speak up against injustice and not get up in arms about small “injustices” we think have been done against us because the entertainment world would not let comments not spoken in love be spread on television. Will I take this power that can be so ensnaring and break the chains by going against my “rights” in order to serve another person, caring more about their rights as children of God and to give mercy in every situation.
Jesus went against the cultural norms of his day, but not in an abrasive, starting cultural wars kind of way. He many times refused to participate in petty cultural debates and he used his power to extend love to those society would not. I would like to say in all of this, we need to be counter-cultural. But it seems to me that the culture 21st century Christians need to go against is our own.
Note: This image is taken from the blog Hyperbole and A Half by Allie Brosh. You can read her hilarious and profound thoughts on power (and many other things as well) as told through the story of a 4 year old and her dinosaur costume at her blog hyperboleandahalf.com