Exposing Academia’s Penchant for Cultural Idolatry
The cancer of egocentric nihilism continues to metastasize throughout our network of colleges and universities.
According to its course catalogue, Washington University in St. Louis debuted a class this spring named “The Politics of Kanye West: Black Genius and Sonic Aesthetics.” To entice students to enroll in this academic novelty, the university presents Mr. West as a “case study for interrogating the interplay between fame, gender, sexuality, and race.”
Undoubtedly, the Bible-believing Christian will accurately identify the harmony between this social justice themed content and the hyper-progressive cultural climate. However, this barely scratches the surface in terms of the Biblical significance of this seemingly whimsical course offering.
What does “The Politics of Kanye West” reveal about the spiritual health of our national system of higher education?
As we perform our inquiry, I would like the reader to bear in mind that this course features a price tag of $1,950. Assuming the class is comprised of a mere 25 students, our culture is investing nearly $50,000 into this course (per semester!) for what essentially amounts to forty hours of star-struck veneration.
So who is Kanye West and how does he contribute to American culture?
Kanye West defines himself as a god who is deserving of praise. These are his words in the song entitled “I Am a God,” the third track on his sixth studio album. In the rap, he shouts the phrase on twelve separate occasions.
I know what you are thinking. This is sensationalism. This is theater. This is simply an entrepreneur engaging in a garish production to garner media attention.
Perhaps these were the thoughts of BBC Radio DJ Zane Lowe, a man given the opportunity of interviewing West shortly after the release of his album. When asked to clarify the meaning of the song title during a radio interview, West indignantly shouted, “I just told you who I thought I was…a god! I just told you. That’s who I think I am!”
West later appears to embrace a savior mindset when discussing the political landscape following the 2016 election. He interrupted his own concert in San Jose, California to explain how he has “been sitting here to give y’all my truth even at the risk of my own life — even at the risk of my own success, my own career.”
Washington University apparently believes idolatry is a subject worthy of rigorous study.
During a separate interview with Ellen DeGeneres in 2009, West shamelessly confessed that although he has a band help him produce and assemble his music and performances, he makes them “sit down in the pit so I can get all the shine.”
Washington University apparently believes selfish ambition is a subject worthy of study.
Of course, Kanye West is perhaps most famous for an incident during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Midway through her award acceptance speech, West took the microphone out of Taylor Swift’s hands to protest the injustice of the award not being given to Beyoncé.
Washington University apparently believes discord and factions are subjects worthy of study.
Kanye West has engaged in multiple emotional outbursts during his rise to stardom. When his bodyguard began a conversation with his wife, he “flipped out” and fired him immediately. Years earlier, he “lunged at a photographer” for inquiring about Kardashian’s ex-boyfriend outside a Miami restaurant.
He railed on the paparazzi and his potential fans in a profanity-laced tirade during a New York City concert in 2013, an outburst in which he used a disgraceful pejorative to describe infant children.
Washington University apparently believes fits of rage are a subject worthy of study.
Like so many American colleges and universities founded prior to the Civil War, Washington University was built upon the foundation of God, the Bible, and timeless Christian principles. In fact, Pastor William Greenleaf Eliot, Jr., the university’s first Chairman of the Board of Trustees, explained in the university’s 1857 inauguration that the university was founded “to educate the rising generations in that love of country…and in that faithfulness to God and Truth.”
Now, 160 years later, this school functions as just another in a long line of Christian colleges and universities not only running from their heritage, but actively evangelizing the adulation of self throughout the culture.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians contends that this is the exact opposite of what an institution of higher learning should be promoting:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Thus far, we have addressed West’s actions, but what about his beliefs and philosophies?
During earlier interviews with Ellen, West spoke on the topic of education. He openly ridiculed the classical method of instruction, explaining that he is “like all about not reading.” He later asked “what is the point of thinking?” when asked to reflect on the challenging issues in his life.
On the subject of philosophy, he explained that he likes to “come up with theories that I thought applied to my life…not what applied to someone’s life thousands of years ago.”
These declarations strongly suggest that Kanye West believes that there is no value or relevance to anything outside of himself. Is this what we are so eagerly seeking to teach the next generation of adults?
If Washington University insists on learning from a living black man, why not study the economic policy of Thomas Sowell or the legal opinions of Clarence Thomas?
When Christians sympathize with the high-voltage cultural themes of race, diversity, and inclusion, they would be wise to filter these fleeting developments through the eternal principles of the Bible, not the other way around.
When the Israelites equally yoked themselves to Baal in the book of Numbers, the Lord’s anger burned against them. Not only should we have nothing to do with these flirtatious dabblings in egotistical nihilism, we are called to shine the light upon such wickedness that attempts to masquerade as education.
There is no enlightenment in idolatry.