By: Amber Shaw
The word for this week is…Religion.
Dallas native, Kirk Franklin, is one of gospel music’s most high-profile artists, songwriters and producers.
You name it; he’s done it, and he always does it in a major way. For over 25 years, Franklin has been the driving force and inspiration behind a number of gospel hits that span the last two decades. His ability to fuse hip-hop, urban contemporary melodies and the word of God together, so it resonates, has worked. It has worked so well, that Franklin has become a multiple Stellar, Dove, NAACP and Grammy Award winner, with him receiving his most recent Grammy on February 15, 2016.
It’s been several years since Franklin’s last album release. The hiatus could have something to do with him starting his own record label, Fo Yo Soul Entertainment. His first signees were Houston’s sibling quartet, The Walls Groups, and he even found time to sign Tasha Page-Lockhart (RCA), the winner of BET’s Sunday Best (Season 7), which he is an Executive Producer. All and all, Kirk has been a busy man.
Kirk Franklin’s ministry continues. This past November, he released a highly anticipated album entitled, “Losing My Religion”. The debut single, “Wanna Be Happy” is reminiscent of Franklin’s “God’s Property” (1997) and The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin (2002) CD. The messages are simple, applicable to real life situations, while the melody/beats are definitely something you can tap your feet and clap your hands to. The video for “Wanna Be Happy” follows several random people who each have a situation (i.e. drinking, limited finances and domestic abuse) that they’re dealing with which will ultimately be life altering if they continue to allow “themselves’ to get in the way.
Matthew 19:26 says, “And Jesus looking upon them said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible”. We’ve all been there; we try to fix the situation on our own not realizing “we” are making the situation worse. If we allow Jesus to take the wheel, (allowing him control) the happiness we seek and desire will avail itself.
Although “Losing My Religion” has consistently been atop the Billboard Gospel charts and racking up nominations and awards, the controversy surrounding the title and Franklin’s explanation have left some fans and critics in awe. Let’s be clear, Kirk Franklin is no stranger to controversy when it comes to his music. Throughout his 20 year career, several of his chart topping gospel songs have been unapologetically slammed with criticism for not being gospel at all. He’s known for pushing the envelope when it comes to reaching people with unconventional messages, attention grabbing beats and throwback music samples from artists such as Bill Withers, Kenny Loggins, Patrice Rushen and Houston’s own Scarface, just to name a few. Do you remember the intro lyrics to Franklin’s 1997 single, “Stomp”, featuring Cheryl “Salt” James (of Hip-Hop/Rap group Salt-N-Pepa)? The song starts off with Kirk Franklin saying,
“For those of you that think gospel music has gone too far.
You think we got too radical with our message.
Well I got news for you; you ain’t heard nothin yet,
and if you don’t know now you know. Glory, Glory!!”
Now that was 1997…let’s fast forward to 2016. Franklin’s latest project has the Internet, gospel radio personalities and artists a buzz following several interviews he’s done while promoting the album. I must admit, even I thought the album title was different; interesting, to say the least. I’ve never put much thought into an album title until I received this one in the mail. My first question was simple, “Is it possible to lose your religion?” Religion is defined as: the belief in a God or in a group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a God or a group of gods. Just in case you were wondering, Franklin says, “Religion, throughout the years, has become a very oppressive thing that doesn’t allow people to get to know the God it was created to try to lead them to. So basically, it’s just like marriage cannot guarantee intimacy, religion doesn’t guarantee relationship.” He goes on to say, “Religion is man’s systematic approach to try to keep the rules. The problem is that when man’s ideology and thought process gets involved, sometimes what he does is change the rules,” Franklin said. “A lot of times the thoughts of religion are not all bibliocentric, sometimes they’re cultural. Then it becomes cultural to say, ‘it’s wrong to do this and it’s wrong to do that. It becomes a misinterpretation of scripture.”
Is religion simply the traditions we were taught and grew up doing over and over again and should we discontinue them?
James 1:27 says, “Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world”. I can remember a number of things we were told to do and an even longer list of what not to do. In order to get closer to Christ, should we look past the traditions and cultural inserts we grew up with or should our personal relationships with God be guided more by our spirituality and faith? Has Kirk Franklin gone too far and is his message too radical?