By Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter
Kanye West is igniting a historic revival. I know it sounds crazy, but bear with me. This is obviously a bold statement that needs excessive explanation, but first, what comes to mind when you read those words? What do you picture? I picture a radical movement of Christianity that encompasses the entirety of the United States. Kanye’s recent release of his first gospel album, “JESUS IS KING,” is the beginning of a revival that parallels that of Billy Graham’s great crusades.
Whether you are a Christ follower or not, it is objectively true that Kanye has major cultural influence. He has sold over 140 million records worldwide, boasts nearly 30 million Twitter followers, has 30 million monthly listeners on Spotify and just so happens to be married to the most famous Kardashian. Kanye is A-list. That kind of fame can help boost a powerful movement, such as Lebron James’ educational initiative that impacted much of the Northeast. Kanye is on the verge of positively using his platform of fame to point people toward faith.
Before I point out the similarities in influence they share, I would be remiss to not note the obvious differences between Kanye West and Billy Graham. These differences don’t necessarily harm Kanye’s ability to spark a movement, but may actually help him move even mightier.
Graham was not famous to start. Kanye actually has a larger reach as an already prevalent figure. Graham did not start as a nonbeliever. Interestingly, Kanye could appeal to more people considering he can relate to those who are not currently Christians by referencing his life before converting. Lastly, Graham never had the ease of using social media to instantly influence billions. Kanye is a click away from impacting the world.
The difference between the two is there — so much so that their comparison is odd — yet Kanye and Graham are similar in their ability to ignite an evangelical movement.
Graham reached millions internationally with his frequent radio and television appearances beginning in the late 1940s. In the wake of a major Southern Baptist revival, Graham impacted an estimated 2.5 billion people. In the same way, Kanye has already shared his newfound faith with millions since his conversion three years ago. If Kanye continues to proclaim Christ’s name, he is on the doorstep of impacting the same number of people as Graham, if not more.
Kanye’s first major step toward reaching the masses came in the form of the aforementioned album, “JESUS IS KING,” that was released last week. The work is projected by multiple outlets to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts and already has an 85% approval rating according to Google.
Since the album has been released, multiple posts concerning the controversial work have gone viral. For example, a church comment card posted with the words “my son came to church for the first time today because of Kanye” received thousands of likes and shares on Instagram.
Expect the album’s release to inspire other artists to continue to publicly profess faith. In a world that is seeing a revival led by popular churches such as Hillsong, Passion and Bethel, stars like Justin Bieber, Chris Pratt and Kevin Hart have begun to contend for the Christian faith and Kanye is the next big star that will push the trend forward. Christianity is on the rise in mainstream media, and many former unbelieving celebrities are here for it.
While many doubt Kanye’s legitimacy, his faith should not be written off. In the words of the Rev. Graham himself, “Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing.
Drake is a freshman journalism major from Vilonia, Ark.