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US rapper Kanye West posing as Jesus triggers media rhetoric

The image of US rap star Kanye West posing as Jesus for a recent cover of Rolling Stone magazine has drawn from editorial writers and religious organizations the sort of pungent rhetoric West himself has been producing for years.

The 27-year-old rapper took three more Grammy awards, the music industry’s Oscar, on 12 February. But his appearance on Rolling Stone’s cover at the same time with a crown of thorns and blood running down his face made as many headlines. The magazine is nearly 40 years old, has a circulation of over 1.25 million and is considered a top publication on music and popular culture in North America.

"The good news is that Jesus Christ has finally been depicted as a black man on the cover of a national magazine," one commentator, Gregory Kane, noted on the BlackAmericaWeb.com Web site. "The bad news is that the black man is rapper Kanye West."

In an article accompanying the photo, West compares himself to Jesus saying both "had to fight for recognition and success". He goes on to say, "If I was more complacent and I let things slide, my life would be easier, but you all wouldn’t be entertained. My misery is your pleasure."

But Kane asked, "What is it with this guy and his ego? Did his parents have to keep a crowbar handy when he was growing up, the better to pry his lips loose from the mirrors around the house?"

Keira McCaffrey, a spokesperson for the Catholic League said of the whole issue, "It’s moronic. I mean, Kanye West as Jesus? He’s a pop star."

Catholic League president, William Donohue, accused the magazine of taking advantage of West, "It’s one thing to rip off Catholic iconography. It’s quite another to exploit a poor soul like Kanye West. Anyone who is this morally and mentally challenged deserves our sympathy, not our derision."

West is known for blunt social commentary, most recently for saying "George Bush doesn’t care about black people" during a telethon for Hurricane Katrina victims. But he also has drawn greater awareness to the violence and tragedy of mining "conflict" diamonds in Africa, especially Sierra Leone and Angola.

(c) Ecumenical News International