For creationists, the famous bible verse that reads, “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even in plowing and harvesting seasons, you must rest,” is understood to be a reference to a divine being working hard for six days to create Earth and taking the seventh day to rest. Many still follow this injunction, using Sunday as a day to relax, take off from work and revitalize themselves — many, that is, except Kanye West.
West, who already wears the many hats that come with being a musician, producer, businessman, fashion designer, father of four and husband to mega-celebrity Kim Kardashian, has recently started the venture of creating his own religious practice called Sunday Service.
Sunday Service, a surprisingly bland and unoriginal name for someone who calls himself Yeezus, has been in the works since January. What at first appeared to be some sort of promotional tool intended to tease upcoming works has transformed into an alternative church activity hosted by the famous family.
Religion isn’t anything new to West, though. Since the release of the song “Jesus Walks” from his debut album, “College Dropout,” he has continuously used religion as a theme in his music. Before the release of “The Life of Pablo,” he even announced during a radio interview that the album was “a gospel album with a whole lot of cursing.”
Although West seems to outwardly show the importance and understanding of his faith, there are quite a few glaring differences between traditional Christianity and his own approach to Sunday Service. Yes, everything Kanye West does is purposefully detail-oriented, but there are so many things that point to the fact that Sunday Service is, dare we say, cult-like.
When fans first speculated back in January that Sunday Service was purely promotional, the choir crammed into a small rehearsal space seemed harmless enough. There was no crowd, no matching outfits, and it just looked exactly like, well, a rehearsal for something bigger.
Well, that bigger thing became the Sunday Service that is now broadcast all over pop culture media. With a much bigger choir, one seemingly more suited for a big music venue than a church, comes a much bigger crowd of followers. What’s hard to miss is the star-studded audience for the service. There’s no doubt that West and his high-profile family have quite a few connections, and Sunday Service reflects that.
All of the attendees at Sunday Service have some sort of clout behind them. Whether they are fellow musicians, like Katy Perry or Diplo, or friends of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, anyone who’s someone is invited. The exclusivity of the service is a stark contrast to the inclusivity of any other religion that usually welcomes new members with open arms. Instead, the people in attendance are acting more as followers to West himself rather than to God for putting on the service.
So, with an elite and loyal following at attendance and an over-the-top choir, all of which is eventually streamed and posted to Instagram for millions to see, having a dress code wouldn’t be unlikely for West. Since the release of his clothing line Yeezy in 2015, the fashion designer and businessman has used his most elite friends and family (hello Kim Kardashian) to promote and wear his clothing as a marketing tool.
It should come as no surprise then that wearing clothes from the Yeezy line almost seems to be a requirement. Clad from head to toe in the usual monotone color palette that the collections usually sport, every person at Sunday Service is completely matching. The term “Sunday-best” has transitioned from sun dresses and suits to crop tops and sweatpants.
Okay, maybe the elite crowd and Yeezy-only uniform isn’t enough to convince you that Sunday Service is a cult. Although the location has been confirmed to be placed in the mountainous landscape of the upscale neighborhood of Calabasas, home to Drake, Will Smith’s family and of course, the Kardashians, the seclusion of the meeting place sounds a little too familiar to another famous cult story.
The People’s Temple was a cult that started in the mid-‘50s and ended in the late-‘70s with what is known as the Jonestown Massacre. What had originated in Indiana eventually moved and spread across California. When the private settlement in California received scrutiny from the media attention, they moved to Guyana, where the leader Jim Jones ordered his 900 followers to drink a poison-laced drink that put an end to the cult via mass suicide. This gruesome story is maybe a reach from West’s Sunday Service, but there’s still some comparison in the private locations that he and Jones chose for their closest followers.
The one opportunity where Sunday Service was open to the public was at this year’s Coachella festival. The word “public” is used loosely because of the hefty price that comes with a Coachella ticket, but the performance was still a treat to those that drink the kool-aid for festivals.
Last, but most definitely not least, a cult could never exist if it didn’t have a powerful leader. What makes this point the easiest to prove is that Kanye West is already a self-proclaimed god. When he released his 2013 album “Yeezus,” a play on the name Jesus, the lyrics to his song “I Am A God” state, “I am a god, even though I am a man of God.”
This is far from the only time West has made narcissistic statements or actions. Kanye West’s outspoken opinions and criticism comes regularly and exudes the type of confidence needed to be a controversial leader. However, with any leadership role, especially one with such close followers and fans, comes great strife. West isn’t immune to this either, as there have been several reports of decline in his mental health and even a hospitalization.
These points might be a little bit of a stretch to actually define Sunday Service as a cult, but they are all still valid. One thing is for certain, Kanye West has the ability to influence a great amount of people, and although he’s already done that through his music and fashion line, there’s nothing stopping him from creating something as hubristic as his own religion.