Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Stanley Files - Diligence or Why I Love Kanye

“The Good News for me is that anyone can become stronger with nothing more than diligence.” - Stanley Lee, 1.20.10

I've been on a Kanye West craze recently. If you've been hanging around with me recently, you might have noticed that.
I've been trying to figure out why I love his music so much. For one thing, I think he is the second-best rapper of all time (behind Jay-Z, of course). His lyricism is unparalleled, and his flow is rivaled only by (maybe) Eminem. But that's not the main reason. I think I really started listening to Kanye after I realized that his musical content only consists of two subjects: The carnal gratification of sexual desire through the objectification of women, and the constant desire to be the best. I'm intrigued and impressed by his seamless incorporation of both subjects into his songs. I believe the first one is tragic but necessary in his music, but what I'm most drawn to is the second subject; his never-satisfied desire to succeed; to be bigger, to be number one; to get to the top; to overcome all odds. And its his sheer force of will and determination that I'm so attracted to.

this is the story of a champion
runners at the mark as they pop the gun
stand up, stand up, here he comes
tell me what it takes to be #1

Some people listen to Kanye West and hear another pompous, talentless recording artist, so full of himself. I hear an educated man who is intimately acquainted with the inner workings of fame, someone who truly understands the desire to be great, and therefore deeply understands human nature. Some people listen to Kanye and hear a man who only stumbled into popularity by the sheer stupidity of the population. I listen to Kanye and I hear a man who made it to where he is through hard work and sacrifice. Someone who is so determined to be the best that he never takes a day off. And yes, I see someone who is full of himself, selfish, and impatient. But it doesn't change or diminish the part of his character that I admire and love so much.

like we always do at this time
I, I go for mine, I gots to shine
now throw your hands up in the sky

Kanye is a hard worker. There's no getting around that. He's one of the few rappers to spin his own beats; in fact he even got his start by producing for Jay-Z. There's no one in the public light that inspire me more to work hard than Kanye. Sure, there are my football role models. Everyone knows that Kurt Warner got his start bagging groceries; we've all heard ad nauseum about Peyton Manning's work ethic and his discipline in studying film. But the truth is, there's no one that embodies determination more than Kanye West.
I always had a passion for flashin'
before I had it, I closed my eyes and imagined
the good life

It doesn't matter, PD, that his vision of the good life is completely different from the good life according to the wisdom of Proverbs. Kanye's raw determination to achieve it is the same as my determination to achieve a good life as taught by the Word of God. Sure, he may be going after the wrong things in life, but his diligence and persistence often eclipses the diligence of a Christian pursuing the glory of God. Does it shame you, Christian, that a man like Kanye West more doggedly seeks after fleeting glory and temporal treasure than you do after eternal treasure and the supreme glory of God? It ought to.

what you about?
all that independent sh--
traded it all for a husband and some kids
you ever wonder what it all really mean
you ever wonder if you find your dreams

There are readers right now who are thinking, “How could Dan, a future pastor, enjoy someone as worldly as Kanye? Isn't there a contradiction between the lifestyle and values that he represents and the life and truth according to the gospel of Christ?” For you who are uneasy with my Kanye fascination, I implore you to read harder into all that I've written so far. I never once endorsed Kanye's other values. I never once spoke of his objectification of women or anything of the like. My whole point is this: Kanye West works harder to achieve his goals than MOST Christians work to bring about the kingdom of God. And you can't take that away from him. In fact, if anything we all should be ashamed by our own work ethic.
I think of the churches I've visited since I started college and the thousands of Christians that I've met and talked to and sometimes I get the feeling like overall, there's a real lack in a sense of urgency. I feel like most of the time we forget the gravity of our kingdom work; how important it really is. Have we forgotten that every lull in our fervor means a few less people hear the gospel? Perhaps we don't realize that every moment of laziness and idleness we entertain means that some people drift farther from God. Perhaps we've forgotten that our work is a matter of life and death, that heaven and hell for God's people hang in the balance of our diligence.
As I sit here writing, I am getting angrier and angrier at myself for those moments when I was lazy, or failed to answer God's call, or took a day off I didn't deserve. I also think about the hundreds of churches in our country who just get along. They tend to their own things; make sure service runs on time every week and that the organist remembered to practice; they occasionally run middle-of-the-week Bible studies; the parents keep their children out of trouble; make sure they don't smoke or hang with the bad crowds; the congregation shows up every Sunday to put in their time. Nothing too big happens, no ambition, no rocking of the boat. Everyone gets along. To you pastors and Christian workers who are only interested in getting along, shame on you. To you ministers who give up greater gospel work in the world for the sake of maintaining the status quo, shame on you. To the Christians in Boon Church, the Christian in Flushing, and NYC, and the US, and the rest of the world who have forgotten that they are first and foremost, citizens in heaven working for a greater cause, who have settled, who are content with a lifestyle of “work, work, work, work work, play, church” SHAME ON YOU
Don't settle. Don't sediment. Don't let a man like Kanye shame your gospel-commitment. Don't give in to that temptation.

or they could step out of bounds quick
the sidelines is lines with casualties
who sip the light casually
they gradually become worse
don't bite the apple, eve (Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z)


  1. you have inspired me to write about my fascination with Gaga.

    you're right though. shame on us for not pursuing the things of Heaven with even more fervor than the fleeting things of this world! the kingdom of heaven IS NEAR!

  2. I don't know if I can handle the celebrity that comes with being quoted here.

    Though I do agree. On a tangential note, I think that one limiting factor is the slavish Christian attachment to mediocrity that disguises itself as "not making *it* an idol." Intensity of purpose and design is frowned upon in all non-mystical forms of Christian life. Praise goes to the man who prays 12 hours a day. Accusations and abuse go to the one who spends 12 hours a day in the studio working on perfecting an album. In valuing grace, hard f'in work has unjustly been devalued.

    But that's OK as we all depend on God to do everything anyways.