Kanye West has never been known for his modesty.
The talented rapper, perhaps as well known for his awards-ceremony interruptions as for his considerable artistry, has a penchant for comparing himself to Jesus, from his infamous Rolling Stone cover (where he wears a crown of thorns) to his 2013 album Yeezus, where he tells his listeners “I am a god/Even though I’m a man of God.”
So perhaps it was just a matter of time before someone gave West a starring turn in the Bible itself.
You can now buy something called The Book of Yeezus—essentially the book of Genesis with all references to God replaced with “Kanye” or “Yeezus.” Its makers (who have no affiliation with the rapper) call it both “interventionist art” and a “coffee-table novelty.”
“The Book of Yeezus is a creative vision, bound in gold leaf-etched black leather, that details the story of Genesis–for the new age,” its makers say on the website. “In its foreword, we explore our culture’s state of religiosity and its capacity for wonder. How does spirituality, an evolutionary reflex, manifest in a digitized world? Why does Kanye West take such outsized significance in the lives of many?”
Many Christian culture watchers were unimpressed.
“The Book of Yeezus is not art or novelty,” wrote Jennifer LeClaire for Charisma News. “It’s foolish and blasphemous. The website, which features a photo of the 37-year-old West glaring at onlookers, urges visitors to buy with the line, ’20 Dolla, 20 Dolla, Get ’em while they hot!'”
LeClaire’s right: The book is blasphemous. And the concept is provocative, too. It reminds me of our very human inclination to want to make ourselves into gods.
“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do,” wrote Anne Lamott. There’s truth in that for many of us. Sometimes when we dive into Scripture, we look to confirm what we already believe to be true. We look to support our political beliefs. We look for ammunition to shame someone. We don’t want our own problems or predilections challenged by what we read … and yet if we read carefully, they invariably are. The Bible can be an extraordinarily uncomfortable book to study. And lots of us—either for a morning or a lifetime—steer clear of the uncomfortable bits.
Thomas Jefferson, a deist, notoriously cut-and-stitched together his own Bible—one that deleted Jesus’ resurrection, His miracles and most hints of anything supernatural. And throughout the culture, we see a desire to take our own societal scissors to the book and turn it into something more palatable for the 21st Century. Secular pundits often say that Christianity must change with the times if it hopes to stay relevant.
But Christianity has remained relevant precisely because of its stubborn adherence to the eternal. Lots of people don’t get that. Sometimes we Christians don’t get that. To be a Christian is to be out of step with the world at times. That’s a hard thing. But it’s what we must do. And to do anything else, to massage God’s Word to better fit our inclinations, ushers us into a spot where we play God.
“In the beginning was the Word,” we’re told in John 1:1. Changing that Word to fit our own image … well, that’s a problem. The Book of Yeezus is indeed blasphemous. But for me, it also shines a light on our celebrity-obsessed, self-worshipping culture … and how none of us are necessarily immune to sticking ourselves where God should be.