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Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Mark Brumley

Is this the point where I get to scream?

Carl Olson

Mark: Yes. And yell: "Why is this garbage on the blog? It's time to bring Olson in!"

Mark Brumley

Oh, well, I say that every day :). I mean, "Is this the point where I get to scream that western civilization is a corpse waiting for the autopsy?"

Mark Brumley

Look, your comments here are better than your reviews of AMERICAN IDOL.

Shaun G

Y'all might hate me for this, but I think, artistically, the cover is amazing. (Much better than anything else Rolling Stone's produced in the past couple years.)

If we didn't know that this was Kanye West, and that he was being compared (or comparing himself) to Christ rather than just visually representing Him, I'd say this is the sort of print I'd like to have on my wall.

Heck of a lot better than Jim Caviezel, the typical Westernized image of Christ -- with dirty blond hair and blue eyes.

(You can bet that somebody's going to answer the objections to this cover with, "You just don't wanna see a black Jesus, that's all.")

And even taking into account that this is Kanye West, a foul-mouthed, egotistic rapper, whose use of the Christ imagery is all but certainly for his own greater glory and not for Christ's -- I can't help but think that we're still called to try to "see the face of Christ" in him.

Not, of course, in his actions ... but in him.

Carl Olson

"Heck of a lot better than Jim Caviezel, the typical Westernized image of Christ -- with dirty blond hair and blue eyes."

That would hold up better if it were accurate. But it just ain't so:

I agree that the photo and art direction are excellent. My issue with it, however, is not artistic. Nor does it have anything to do with race. It's about West's sad attempts to turn himself into a victim, when he is really the predator. Sad.

John Powers

I have always like Ivan (Van) Morrison as well. He has a soulfullness that can only come from the stormy Northern Counties of Ireland. I read he was a Scientologist for a short while, though he always seemed too sensible for that.

I recently read that he has rejoined the Church of Ireland (Anglican Communion).


Shaun G

My bad about the Jim Caviezel line -- but insert an "or" after the comma, and maybe it'll hold up better.

Another Steve

Come on you guys RELAX. You should know by now that ANY publicity even BAD publicity os better than NONE.

That cover just might spark a little interest in Christ crucified. If it brought about even just one conversion in time, even an informal one, it will have been beneficial.

Carl Olson

Steve wrote: "You should know by now that ANY publicity even BAD publicity os better than NONE." That may be true in some cases. Unfortunately, the publicity here is not for Christ, but for Kanye West. I respect your optimistic take on the cover, but have a hard time agreeing with it.


To their credit: Rolling Stone recently referenced G.K. Chesterton in an article about Neil Young.

see Chesterton & Friends

Another Steve

Yes Carl, I also agree it's a little hard to stomach when secular materialism takes over sacred images for its particular non religious even verging on blasphemous purposes but its something we have to live with and many many times in the past Church's have been desecrated by mobs of rabble or invading soldiers: but the Body of Christ still survives.

Further to Rolling Stone mag: lest anyone forget: it was Rolling Stone reporter Randall Sullivan who, intrigued by the miraculous went out (probably) to prove their fraudulent nature and ended up a believer of sorts and set out his findings in "The Miracle Detective" - a very good read, IMHO.


The Rolling Stone cover is clearly the work of Satan. It's blasphemy wrapped in an attractive package. It should not be praised in any way whatsoever. I fully realize how protozoan this sounds today.

Carl Olson

Steve: I agree that we often have to endure blasphemy. But I'm sure you agree that we don't have to like it. Nor should we feel badly about calling it what it is.

I've heard excellent things about Sullivan's book, but doubt I'll get to it any time soon. If I recall correctly, he became Catholic after writing his book, did he not?

Carl Olson

John: The Belfast Cowboy is one of my three or four favorite musical artists; I'll take him any day over the Beatles (they leave me cold), the Rolling Stones (incredibly overrated), and Bob Dylan (learn how to sing!). You might enjoy this article, "The Incarnational Art of Van Morrison", that I wrote a few years ago for Saint Austin Review.


Eh. I think you are off the mark. Kayne West does have an oversized ego, but we all have our sins. Suggesting that the musician who wrote Jesus Walks and Diamonds of Sierra Leone mocks Christianity though is completely ridiculous. He's one of the few artists in the rap industry who confronts faith and the culture at large in his work, but you'd know that already if you'd ever bothered to listened to his albums with an open mind instead of being completely dismissive of an entire genre of music.



I am unfortunately very familiar with West, since my students at Hampton University think he is THE man. But he does not further the cause of Christianity: he represents a sort of cultural Christianity that manages to be both blessing *and* blight of much of the African-American community. He is foul-mouthed and self-absorbed, at least the part of him the emerges in carefully orchestrated p.r. interviews. As for "Jesus Walks," is may be spirtitual, but hardly Christian in any defining sense. As for Rap, it deserves to be mostly dismissed, since it beforehand dismisses most of the rules of civility and decency, and has seriously injured a great American subculture.

Carl Olson

"Kayne West does have an oversized ego, but we all have our sins." That is something we can agree on, Jenn. But that's really beside the point, because criticizing criticism with the "we all have sin" line is simply a pseudo-moralizing non sequitur.

So, we'll have to kindly disagree on rap "music". I won't deny that there is some talent involved, just as there must be talent involved in playing poker, curling, and tipping cows. But rap -- especially "gangsta rap" -- is a mostly loathsome "musical genre." (And, for the record, I heard plenty of ths stuff — Luke Skywalker and the 2 Live Crew, anyone? — back when it first hit the scene, mostly because a couple of good friends thought it was nifty.)

Perhaps I am a bit narrow minded in not having a rap album among my collection of 2500+ CDs. I do listen to jazz (incl. classic jazz, bop, post-bop, neo-bop, and some fusion), classical, hard rock, pop, progressive rock, progressive metal, art rock, alternative, folk, country, lounge, electronica, opera, ambient, blue grass, Sinatra (a genre unto himself), contemporary Christian, and (gulp) some contemporary Catholic music — but not Kayne West. Am I thus flawed? Perhaps. A snob? Sure, why not. But I doubt this is a sin of omission.


As for rap, I hold to the principle that what is not worth doing is not worth doing well. So just as it's impossible for me to get excited about a spectacular tattoo or the latest cutting edge developments in nose-piercing technology, rap does nothing for me. Casting aside every current fashion of thought and taste, I say without any gloss: Rap is trash, without a single redeeming quality.


Carl, West is not a gangsta rapper and there's more to the genre than gangsta rap and 2 Live Crew -- who haven't released an album in about 10 years or so if I remember correctly. In fact, since you're such a jazz fan you'd probably like The Love Below by Andre 3000, but don't let me try and persuade you if you'd rather not check out something more recent than albums released in 1995.


hey Carl, I'm glad to find another Van Morrison fan! (though better than the beatles is saying too much!) Surprised you didn't mention Poetic Champions Compose (i forgot that love existed) or Hymns to the Silence in your article.

And Randall Sullivan's book is a great read. A good book to give as a low key evangelistic tool.

John Powers

Carl Olson,

Lets hear it for more Catholic Music...How about Elvis Costello (Declan McManus)? He has proven that the Famine boats stopped in Liverpool to drop off a good one over the years. Peter Noone from Herman's Hermits is entertaining in a light way much more so than Freddy Garrity of Freddy and the Dreamers but not as boring as Ray Manzarek from the Doors and a former seminarian (Quigley South).. Bruce Springsteen definitely has made some rhyming confessions over the years, though he really didn't improve much over Eddie Money in many cases; of course Shawn McGowan and the Pogues would be a literal riot at the Knights of Columbus Hall (maybe Johnny (Rotten) Lydon could come by if he could make 1st degree), while my all time favorite is the Minneapolis Catholic/Lutheran Combo the Replacements with Paul and Chris taking up the Romanist cause, and the Stinson brothers acting as breakaway Augustinians.

For a younger performing group of Catholics try The Hold Steady, also from Minneapolis. They really rock, and have consistent Catholic themes with temptation, sin, redemption and elation. They are sort of a musical Graham Greene, with the good guys winning more often than GG's conscience would ever let them.

Viva Cristo Rey and Viva la Rock,

Carl Olson

Gosh, Jenn, has there really been new music produced and played in this world since 1995? You're not toying with me, are you? [Sigh] First you take me to task for not listening to rap and then, when I note that I have, in fact, listened to some rap, I'm informed that it's an ancient form of rap and therefore not suitable to the purposes of our discussion.

Fine. So West isn't a "gangsta rapper." My bad. I guess I made this egregious error because I read some of his lyrics and thought the unremitting vulgarity, arrogance, and constant references to drugs, sex, and violence were evidence of "gangsta rap". But I find that West is actually a practitioner of an art form called "hip-hop" (which I am familiar with because I do listen to some acid jazz from time to time). Which means, I suppose, that I'm out of touch. Thank goodness!

Listen: I really don't want to continue barbs about this, especially since I really respect and admire the fact that you've returned to the Church after a long and difficult journey. I don't like rap, but it's not my defining characteristic, especially not as a Catholic. I think we'll have to continue to disagree about the merits of rap, but I do hope -- I know!-- that what we share is far more important. Pax Christi.


The image itself is stunning. Kayne West appears handsome and masculine. (I can’t help thinking more of Willem Dafoe as Christ (“The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988)) than either of Jim Caviezel as Christ (“The Passion of the Christ” (2004)) or traditional art depicting Jesus of Nazareth after the scourging with a crown.)

Nevertheless, out of contrext it is an image that all conscious Christians and those who truly seek the Good can relate to as an inevitable in this life.

In context, it is “controversial”, “raw”, “edgy” and marketed very well by those who care little or nothing at all about offending Christian sensibilities to sell Rolling Stone magazines and Kayne West records. It could be that it is also a campaign to promote Kayne West’s Grammy Award® bids. He has 8 nominations for the February 8th show.

Americans always seem to like the underdog. We always seem to have a special place in our heart for those who are victims or overcome actual obstacles to achieve goals. Kayne West positions himself as one. Although, in stark contrast to his being a victim or “being kept down by the mythical ‘man’”, his success, wealth and fame surely indicate otherwise.

Image is simply image. Like Malcom X and the Nation of Islam in the 1960’s the image was one of clean-cut, well-dressed and well-mannered black youths with a just cause, but on the inside the reality was one of confusion, anger, rebellion and so forth. Kayne West doesn’t present the same wholesome image. However, if he wants to compare himself (images are as powerful as words) to the Greatest Man Who Walked The Face of The Earth then the analogy with the Nation of Islam holds since the moral content of Kayne West’s music is less than edifying and is quite distant from the Beatitudes of Our Lord to say the least. In fact it is highly corrosive.

At root, along with so many other negative things, it is a cry for love. Along these lines, West and the rest of us can really learn from Pope Benedict’s recent Encyclical Letter of December 25,2005, made public this week, "Deus Caritas Est" (God Is Love) that "eros" (desiring love) must mature into "agape" (self-giving love).

Carl Olson

"I'm glad to find another Van Morrison fan! (though better than the beatles is saying too much!) Surprised you didn't mention Poetic Champions Compose (i forgot that love existed) or Hymns to the Silence in your article."

Well, I like Van more than the Beatles. It's subjective. I cannot deny the talent of John, Paul, and Co., but I've never cared much for their music. I can't explain it.

There was a word limit for the article, otherwise I would have also drawn from "Hymns..." and "Poetic Champions..." A much longer article could have been written, that's for sure.

Cristina A. Montes

I'm unfamiliar with West; maybe I've heard his music without knowing it was his. I'm rather indifferent towards rap. Reading the lyrics that were posted on this blog disturbs me, though.

My take on him "putting on Christ" -- next time, West, make it for real!


From Lola Ogunnaike's RS article:

I ask him about the last line in "Gold Digger" — the "he leave yo' a** for a white girl" line. It's one of his best lyrics, he says. "When I said that line in my head I was like, 'This is why I get paid the big bucks. It's lines like that that seperate the good from the great.'"

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