Using God’s Name for Clout
A recent Billboard chart-topping album promotes a dangerous trend in popular culture: DJ Khaled’s “GOD DID” shows that Jesus is becoming a name to flaunt, not a cross to bear.
A popular trend in America is giving lip service to the Lord of lords with no intention of following him according to biblical standards. Just as athletes point to God after their game time success, some musicians dip their toes into the Christian music waters, the most recent examples being Justin Bieber, Kanye West and now, DJ Khaled and Eminem.
West subverted expectations in 2019 with his first entirely Christian musical effort, “JESUS IS KING,” a gospel-influenced hip-hop album about the rapper’s struggles and belief in God. His two-hour follow-up “Donda” sees him teetering between his newfound faith and familiar human nature.
Bieber is also a proponent of the Christian-based music trend. In 2021, the same year that he released his latest album “Justice,” he also released his first overtly Christian effort, an EP titled “Freedom.” On the extended play, he confessed that he doesn’t yet know his place in religion and pop culture while still openly singing praises to God.
DJ Khaled undoubtedly heard of his fellow celebrities’ religious experiences, and he couldn’t resist giving the Christian name a test run. His latest album’s title track “GOD DID” is an eight-minute confession that “They wanted us down … They didn’t believe in us … But I know God did.” The rest of the song features verses from well-known rappers like Rick Ross and Jay-Z, and the Christian content stops there.
The album’s next song is a callback to Kanye’s “JESUS IS KING” as DJ Khaled remixed “Use This Gospel” and brought along hip-hop juggernaut Eminem. Here is the clearest picture of nominal Christianity to date: Eminem’s lyrics are half-hearted on a song that DJ Khaled seems to use for his own personal agenda. “I’m armed with Jesus, my weapon is prayer,” Eminem raps as if he’s been trying his best to follow God.
If DJ Khaled, Eminem, Justin Bieber, Kanye West or any other celebrity is called by God to salvation, our best hope is to trust a sovereign God that has the power to save anyone.
But the Christian life is one of self-denial. Christ bids his followers to “take up your cross” in pursuit of him (Matthew 16:24). Nominal Christianity is not a golden ticket to heaven, but lostness adorned in pseudo-meaning — a facade of the real God and a grab for his glory without the holiness he requires. For DJ Khaled or anyone else to claim the name of God, they must know the cause of Christ is marked with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, (and) self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23), which cannot truly be found in the world they are accustomed to.
“GOD DID” is another installment in a long line of nominal Christian efforts. It is defanging the Lion of Judah in an attempt to make him a house pet. A careless, far-off friend that has no real control over life is far easier to claim than the bruised and battered King of kings that demands everything of his followers.
In a culture that loosely and hypocritically claims Christianity, the most impact we can have is living according to the Bible, loving as Jesus did and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to truly change hearts.
Bower is an opinion writer for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on the Twitter