Recently, musician Kanye West received attention from concerned friends and colleagues after displaying erratic and emotionally charged behavior in the days following an announcement that he’d chosen to mount a presidential campaign. I have no interest here in addressing the question of West’s presidential aspirations or his suitability for office. Rather, I want to focus on West’s remarks on something far more personal and spiritual.
West expressed remorse over his former views and attitudes, which, at one time, he was willing to put into action. It’s no secret to those who know of him and his work that he’s undergone a significant transformation both artistically and, it seems, personally, centering on what he describes as a conversion experience.
In one interview I recall seeing, West described how he’d always been aware of Christ but pushed him to the margins of his consciousness and life so that the Lordship of Jesus Christ had little influence over his daily choices or even his long-term goals. At some point, West’s priorities reconfigured. I don’t know the whole story, but I suspect it had a lot to do, as it does for many, with having children and suddenly realizing that the world he’d been building through his actions wasn’t the world he wanted for them. It wasn’t a healthy world. It wasn’t conducive to their true good.
He awoke, it seems, to what it really means to love—to will the good of another as if it were your own personal good. He hadn’t cared much about what was really good (bonum honestum) until the presence of his children forced the question upon him, and he experienced a politically incorrect “alt-wokeness,” if I might coin a phrase.
I have no reason to question the genuineness of West’s conversion—though, as often happens in high-profile cases such as his, many people do. But as I said, he received attention from concerned friends and colleagues because he displayed erratic behavior. He mentioned that he’d intended to abort his first child but for his wife’s resolve. His grief over this matter was so intense that he appeared to many to have taken leave of his senses.
But there are many people in this world who take their spiritual lives seriously, who, having undergone a personal conversion from a sinful past to a life rededicated to God and his righteousness, grieve over the way they’d lived before. They mourn their past sins and think of them often, with deep remorse. This is what Catholic theologians used to describe as a “penitential posture,” back before the idea of “mercy” became disconnected from the reason it mattered in the first place.
“I cried at the thought of aborting my first born and everyone was so concerned about me,” West stated in a recent Tweet, “I’m concerned for the world that feels you shouldn’t cry about this subject.”
What believer could read this line and not see his point? He’s right. Abortion is a grave evil, but it doesn’t happen in the abstract. It happens in the concrete. People choose to have abortions. That’s what “pro-choice” means, after all. It’s the choice to have an abortion—to kill your own child before he’s born—and that’s a choice that people make every day in the United States.
For West, abortion is a serious issue and one that hits close to home. Had he made that choice, one of his children would never have been born. And because that choice is made, tens of millions of children never took a first breath or ever saw their mothers’ faces.
West is also right when he points out that abortion affects blacks more than any other racial group. While blacks comprise only about 13% of the population of the United States, black mothers account for 28% of abortions. What’s more, fully 39% of all pregnancies in the black community end in procured abortion: nearly two abortions for every three births. But that’s for black Americans overall. In the inner cities, where Planned Parenthood locates its clinics by design, black women are more likely to have an abortion than to give birth.
Planned Parenthood had been called out for decades by Pro-Lifers for its racist, eugenicist, Nazi-sympathizing origins, but it wasn’t until, now, in the Summer of Wokeness, that some among them have decided to distance themselves from their Foundress, whose writings they still promote and who’s been venerated almost universally, as a kind of saint, by the Progressive Left. To be fair, Margaret Sanger actually saw abortion as a scourge on civilized society, but there’s no question that she sought to limit the growth of minority populations. She was a racist, white supremacist, plain and simple. And, when birth control fails, abortion provides a final recourse.
Those are the facts.
West’s “alt-woke” posture toward abortion and Planned Parenthood may represent a significant moment in American history. It’s not just him, but his fame gives him visibility and makes him a beacon for others now coming to a similar realization. Do black lives really matter? Is the status quo on abortion in the United States something any of us, of whatever race, should just accept? And more, what believer could possibly think that abortions should be even easier to obtain than they already are, that there should be more of them?
“I’m concerned for the world that feels you shouldn’t cry about this subject,” says West. And I agree with him. His friends and colleagues saw he was distraught and feared for him. But perhaps he was just reflecting on his past sins and found himself confronting them anew. That’s what Christians do.
The problem isn’t our remorse over the things we can’t undo but despair of God’s forgiveness. I don’t think less of West for his recent episode. I think more of him. He probably won’t earn my vote for president, but he’s earned my respect, as well as my compassion and a vote of solidarity.
(Editor’s note: This post was updated on August 29th, noting that there are nearly two abortions for every three—not five, as originally stated—births for black Americans.)