Faith-based

Jerry Falwell Jr. Says Kanye Called Him Out of the Blue and They “Struck Up a Little Friendship”

Pals Jerry Falwell Jr. and Kanye West.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images and Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The theology of Kanye West and his family is as eclectic as Kanye’s politics. A California pastor named Adam Tyson, who has ties to a conservative seminary founded by firebrand Calvinist pastor and radio host John MacArthur, has been preaching at West’s recent Sunday Services.
Kanye and Kim’s wedding ceremony was performed by a Pentecostal pastor from Florida, Rich Wilkerson Jr., who is also in Justin Bieber’s circle of hip evangelical pastors. Kardashian and the couple’s youngest three children recently traveled to Armenia to be baptized in an Armenian Orthodox church. And Jerry Falwell Jr. told me in a recent interview that Kanye called him “out of the blue” in mid-September to ask if he could hold a large church service at Liberty University.

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Falwell is one of President Donald Trump’s most prominent evangelical supporters, and Liberty University is a prominent stage for (primarily) conservative speakers and entertainers. West’s relationship with politics is so complex as to be impenetrable. He wore a red MAGA hat to a meeting with Trump in the Oval Office last fall, where he said the hat made him “feel like Superman.” He has distanced himself from the president since then and spent the past year holding invitation-only churchlike musical events he calls “Sunday Service.” This week, in an interview promoting his new album Jesus Is King, he called wearing the hat “God’s practical joke on all liberals.” But West’s private outreach to Falwell, and his interest in performing at Liberty, suggests he still has a comfortable relationship with the evangelical leaders in Trump’s inner circle. Falwell and Kanye, the college president said, have now “struck up a little friendship.”

West’s specific plan to perform at Liberty didn’t last long, according to Falwell and a Liberty spokesperson. West called on a Tuesday, and wanted to hold the event at Liberty’s football stadium the following Sunday, with an audience of 25,000 split between Liberty students and Lynchburg, Virginia, locals. As organizers scrambled to assemble the logistics, West said he had to check with “the best publicist in the world”—his wife, Kim. According to Falwell, Kim deemed the event too difficult to pull off on such a short timeline. (An actual publicist for West did not respond to a request for comment.)

Falwell also said that West asked him about some ideas he had for relief projects for people who had lost their homes when Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas: for instance, to build houses in the U.S. where displaced Bahamians could live. According to Falwell, he tried to convince Kanye that this plan wasn’t feasible. Then he connected West with evangelist Franklin Graham, who heads the international relief agency Samaritan’s Purse and is also a strong Trump supporter. “Franklin gave him a lot of good advice,” Falwell said. “[Kanye’s] got a good heart.”

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The notion of West performing at Liberty was until recently such a preposterous idea that the school newspaper published a satirical article about it on April Fool’s Day this spring. The article “reported” that West and his wife had appeared at “Kanvocation” to announce that he is running for president in 2024. Neither possibility, needless to say, seems particularly far-fetched now. Just this week, Kanye told an interviewer that he will eventually be president. Falwell, for his part, said he talked West into waiting until 2024 to run.