In honor of Easter, and as part of the Coachella music festival, Kanye West hosted a “Sunday Service at the Mountain” at a campsite somewhere in the California desert.
The service consisted mostly of gospel-infused musical performances by West — whose hair was dyed purple to match the 50-person Yeezy choir, all dressed in head-to-toe purple jersey ensembles — as well as frequent collaborators Chance the Rapper and Teyana Taylor. The world’s most romantic soul 2 Chainz was there! Travis Scott and Kylie Jenner kissed! The event was live-streamed, for whatever reason, with a peephole filter that made it look as though the cameraman was watching the affair from the inside a shoebox.
This is all perfectly nice, assuming you aren’t disturbed by the visual of hundreds of people in identical ill-fitting clothing dancing in the desert at the request of Kanye West. The event, however, also featured a “Church Clothes” merch collection, which was reacted to on social media largely with a collective “yikes.”
The offerings, designed by West, included sweatshirts ranging from $165 to $225, reading “holy spirit” and “trust God” on the front and “Sunday Service at the Mountain” on the back. Socks were $50 and read “Jesus walks” or “church socks.” Sweatpants with “Sunday” down one leg and “service” down the other were also available, all sold by young women whose mouths were covered with black fabric.
God would like to be excluded from this narrative https://t.co/WOb0WyJm12— KB (@KaraRBrown) April 21, 2019
As a lapsed suburban Methodist who completed at least 900 hours of Sunday school and Bible camp earlier in this life, I am obligated to point out that Jesus explicitly hated it when people attempted to use worship services as money-making opportunities. Each of the first four books of the New Testament offers slightly different versions of the same story, in which Jesus comes upon a temple with, essentially, a flea market and currency exchange station set up inside, and flips over all of the tables in rage.
From the more polite, Matthew version:
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
West has been hosting similar services in his home and in undisclosed locations around Calabasas, California, for several months — though those have been invite-only and seen mostly via clips on Kim Kardashian West’s Instagram Stories. His religious pursuits were first covered by The Cut’s Mariah Smith, who asked in January, “Is Kanye West starting a church?”
Kanye’s Sunday Services have been referred to as a concert series inspired by church, an inspiration catalyst, and a church service by the media and Kim Kardashian West, and I must admit: I am confused. Is Kanye West starting a church, or is this some sort of concept album long-game that’s leading up to a release in the name of God and record sales?
Smith also pointed out that West’s mother-in-law Kris Jenner has been part owner of the controversial California Community Church since 2010, which charges a $1,000 monthly membership fee and is perennially accused of tax evasion. In early March, West took his Sunday Service to Adidas’s headquarters in Portland. With the Coachella event, West seems to be inviting more public participation in his religious endeavor, though it’s still unclear where it’s all going.
But church is incredibly cool right now, particularly in California and among young celebrities — it’s been used in recent years as a clean and easy rebranding strategy for famous people who get into hot water. Unsurprisingly, super-famous young Christians Justin and Hailey Bieber were in attendance at West’s service on Easter.
West has had a quiet 2019 aside from these Sunday services, which have been attended by the likes of Diplo, Rick Rubin, Courtney Love, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, Kid Cudi, DMX, and Busy Philipps. Though he spent most of 2018 bickering with half of the popular culture industrial complex about his ardent support of President Donald Trump, he hasn’t tweeted about the president since New Year’s Day. After hosting the Pornhub Awards last fall then sparring publicly with everyone from Drake to Ariana Grande to his de facto brother-in-law, Travis Scott, throughout December, he’s mostly been out of the news cycle beyond a sneaker release here and there.
His choice to come back into the spotlight as a peppy young religious leader hosting genuinely fun-looking group sing-alongs in beautiful natural environments may not be a cynical one, but it’s certainly a smart one. And given the photos of the lines at the merch booth on Sunday, a profitable one.
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