Culture: Kanye West's Sunday Service


Beginning on the first Sunday of 2019, Kanye West launched a “Sunday Service.”

Is he promoting a new album? Starting a church? Is it Christian, or not?

Who is Kanye West? He’s an American musician, rapper, singer, songwriter, fashion designer, producer, and entrepreneur. He’s also known for being the husband of the very wealthy (net worth of $350 million) and very famous for being famous Kim Kardashian West.

Kanye West has also sold over 135 million records and won 21 Grammys. He also made headlines for a very bizarre meeting with President Donald Trump.

He’s a significant cultural figure. So when Kim Kardashian began promoting Sunday Service to her sixty million Twitter followers and posting videos previewing the event on Instagram the idea garnered attention while raising countless questions. Was Kanye searching for religion? Or was this something else.

Answers have begun to emerge. The gatherings are invite only. Attendees sign non-disclosure agreements, but it appears that broadcasting portions of the event in Instagram stories is permitted. Kardashian has said that there is no praying, only music, and that the service is more about a feeling. There is no preaching. Kourtney Kardashian, another member of the Kardashian clan, has said the gatherings are Christian.

Rick Rubin, Tyler, the Creator, Courtney Love, and Katy Perry have attended. Celebrities like DMX have been there, as has Chance the Rapper. West’s latest Sunday Service was held on a grassy hillside near the Coachella music festival, which you can read about in this New Yorker column by Jia Tolentino. Tolentino is also quoted in this National Public Radio segment from “All Things Considered.”

This column in Elle by Nerisha Penrose links to several Instagram videos revealing what Kanye is up to.

Kanye’s Sunday Service looks a lot like self-promotion, another piece of exploratory performance art. But it is also representative of spiritual longing and a breaking away from traditional, institutionalized Christianity. Kanye West’s erratic behavior has caused many public commentators to worry about his mental health, and he has been criticized for controversial statements he has made on social media about slavery.

Some worry that Kanye’s Sunday Service is but another example of West (and, by association, Kardashian) are seeking to grow the cult Kanye. Hailed as an artistic and musical genius, Kanye may see religion as but one more conduit for the expansion of his empire.

Gen Zers and Millennials know Kanye and pay attention to what he is saying, doing, and creating, and his music, particularly the song “Jesus Walks,” has inspired discussion of faith. It isn’t clear what Kanye is up to. But emerging generations will be among the first to know.