Kanye West Says Watching Famous Comedic Movie Made Him Like Jewish People Again
In October of 2022, rapper Kanye West began a months-long fusillade of anti-Semitism that would make David Duke blush.
He began by claiming fellow rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs was controlled by the Jewish people and said he was going to “use you as an example to show the Jewish people that told you to call me that no one can threaten or influence me.”
A few days later, he posted a strange Twitter rant, saying he was “going death con 3 ON JEWISH PEOPLE” and that he couldn’t be “Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew also” — a reference to the beliefs of the Black Hebrew Israelites, a highly anti-Semitic black power organization. In an interview with Chris Cuomo, he tried to, air-quotes, “clarify” things by saying he was talking about the “Jewish underground media mafia” and about how “black musicians signed to Jewish record labels and those Jewish record labels take ownership” of their work, which he called “modern-day slavery.”
He began palling around with white supremacist, Holocaust-denier and all-around waste of carbon molecules Nick Fuentes, who he brought to dinner with former President Donald Trump. (Trump said he didn’t know who Fuentes was.) Appearing on Alex Jones’ “InfoWars” conspiracy theory extravaganza alongside Fuentes, he said people should “stop dissing the Nazis” and said that “every human being has value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler.” A day later, he posted a photo showing a Star of David fused with a swastika to social media, leading to his suspension from Twitter.
Then, earlier this week, West had a major announcement to make: He liked Jewish people again because he’d watched the reboot of “21 Jump Street” with Jewish actor Jonah Hill in it and said “[n]o Christian can be labeled antisemite knowing Jesus is Jew.”
Right. So I think we need to have a little talk about Christianity, repentance and changes of heart here. Because some people didn’t seem to think this was as silly or disturbing as it sounds.
And believe you me, it was both.
Just so we’re clear, this wasn’t a mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima maxima maxima maxima maxima culpa on West’s part. The post consisted of the poster for the 2012 remake of the 1980s Fox TV cop TV show (the movie actually is actually pretty good, in case you were wondering, although I rather doubt you were) along with this message: “Watching Jonah Hill in 21 Jump street made me like Jewish people again.
“No one should take anger against one or two individuals and transform that into hatred towards millions of innocent people,” he continued. “No Christian can be labeled antisemite knowing Jesus is Jew.
“Thank you Jonah Hill I love you.”
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Now, for the most part, the comments section is exactly the circus you would think it would be. However, some people bucked the trend, considering this genuine repentance. One Instagrammer said Kanye was “on his redemption arc,” another wished him “all love,” another said “21 did something for him” and another went as far as to say “21 jump street saved hip hop.”
As a practical matter, there’s always been a question as to whether Kanye West was a labile genius who would oft go through dark periods but proceed to sort himself out, or whether this was someone who was legitimately mentally ill and needed far more serious intervention. A handy timeline of the events that transpired between October and December of 2022 from Forbes, if you want to give it a glance, seems like a short and dispositive summary judgment for the latter position.
However, I’d like to talk about this as a spiritual matter — because those who will delve into the comments sections on various social media sites will cite this as a Christian’s sincere, if bizarre, repentance for his very public sins.
You’ve probably heard the airy-fairy Bible verses before. Matthew 18:21-22: “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.'” Luke 6:37: “’Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.'” Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Our repentance meets God’s grace, right? The unmerited favor our Creator hath bestowed upon us is granted to the contrite. Piff, poof. Now, here’s some loud modern worship music and a smoke machine so that you can really feel all that grace.
However, what the Kanye incident proved to me, if nothing else, is that Christians desperately need to talk about contrition and what real Biblical repentance looks like — something many of us who use the word “grace” almost as if it were a comma tend to tiptoe around.
As I write this, it’s the Lenten season and I’m sure many of our congregations are going through the book of Mark. Even if not, you will doubtlessly have read Mark 10:17-22 at some point:
“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.”‘ And he said to him, ‘Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.’ And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
Much of the focus of this passage, naturally, has to deal with Jesus’ statement, several verses later, that it would be “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Misinterpretations of this are legion, however: What Jesus was telling the man was to give up his idol, which was his riches. Total faith requires total ability to die to self — especially to die to one’s idols.
Kanye West’s idol is himself — and his ego. He is a controverisalist whose penchant for manufacturing controversy is fueled by a mental condition I shan’t speculate on. This, suffused with a two-month spree of unbridled anti-Semitism unprecedented from a major celebrity in the social media era, and his celebrity imploded on itself.
Kanye’s repentance: Saying “21 Jump Street” made him like Jews again and how no Christian can really be an anti-Semite because Jesus was a Jew.
What does total repentance look like? Total repentance. If that sounds tautological — and to be fair, it is — let me expound a bit more from the Good Book:
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” — 2 Corinthians 7:1.
“‘Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.'” — Ezekiel 18:30.
“‘And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.'” — Matthew 18:8-9.
Is that standard met by praise for “21 Jump Street”? Is watching a Jonah Hill movie “cleans[ing] ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit” or cutting off an offending, sinning body part to enter the kingdom of God?
Christians have been too quick to give Kanye a free pass after previous Kanye-isms because of his seeming turn toward Christianity in recent years, although none were as vile as this. In the past, I’ve been just as guilty as the rest of the crowd on this count. Not this time, not this “change of heart.”
Repentance, contrition, the outward fruits of sanctification — these are all spelled out in the Bible as clearly as God’s grace is. We cannot tout the last concept with a megaphone while stuffing our fingers in our ears whenever the first three are mentioned, yelling, “LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU” as if it were a choir hymn.
At the very best, we should be praying that Kanye fully repents of his sins and seeks spiritual and medical help. That is not fulfilled by praising Jonah Hill and “21 Jump Street.” I cannot believe those words have to be uttered. But then, we live in a world where too many of us try to cover our king-sized sins with a fitted-sheet of repentance made for a twin-sized bed.
Now, you may say your sins aren’t as bad as Kanye’s. They’re certainly not as public, I can say that much, and I bet you’re not thanking “21 Jump Street” for setting you straight.
But unrepentant sin equals death, and kinda-repentant sin is still unrepentant sin.
You do the math.
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