Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Lifting Le'Andria Johnson: The Perks and Pitfalls of the Spotlight

By now, you've probably heard about the controversy surrounding Grammy-winning gospel artist Le'Andria Johnson. Last weekend, she went on a tirade about corruption and wrongdoing in the church. Names were called, profane words were spoken, and as a result, she was removed from the gospel lineup at Essence Festival. I've seen the videos, but I won't post them here because more exposure will just add fuel to the fire. All weekend I watched as people inside and outside of the gospel music industry weighed in on Johnson's spiel, stating whether or not they were on her side. Unlike those posts, the only side I'm taking here is the side of Christ.

Image source: Le'Andria Johnson's official website

As a gospel music enthusiast, while I have met a plethora of gospel artists, I've only seen the industry from a supporter's perspective, and even that has allowed me a glimpse of how unforgiving the business can be. Johnson was right on that point: Gospel music is a business--and so is the church, to some extent. This is where a separation needs to occur: First of all, we need to separate Christ Himself from those who claim to be following Him. Secondly, we need to separate the gospel artist from the person.

The truth is, a lot of people claim Christianity, but very few of us live it. If we're sincerely striving to live righteously, we should naturally expect for every other Christian to treat us respectfully, speak to us cordially, etc. Right? WRONG. Some people in the church are corrupt, while others genuinely want to win souls for Christ. The good news is, it's not our job as Christians to point fingers at those who are doing wrong. God will deal with them. Our only assignment is to do what is right. In order to fully appreciate the Church (with a capital "C") we have to know the difference between Christians who are doing God's work, and people who look like Christians, but are actually just pushing their own agendas.

Now to my second point, separating the artist from the person. As I said, I've met a lot of gospel artists. I'm familiar with some more than others, because I often go to multiple shows in support of the same artists. The same way the Church is filled with both real believers and perpetrating "Christians," the stage is full of people who either sincerely sing for God, or sing about Him and live for themselves. I make it a point to stand in line after gospel concerts, not just to buy products, because most of the time, I already have them (#SupportKingdomMusic) but to see a little bit of the person behind the music and find out how they're doing.

Image source: Clipartix

Most of the artists I've met seem to genuinely be doing Kingdom work. Yes, they want us to buy their CDs, because that's their livelihood. Yes, they'll take pictures, because they understand that their music is ministry. They care about winning souls and they want to hear about how their music makes an impact, but I see how tired they are. I see how much the constant traveling, time away from their families, comments on social media, and industry politics (much of which we, as consumers, don't see) drains them. You'd be surprised to learn how uncommon it is for supporters to ask artists, "How are you?" to care about their wellbeing. We need to realize that before these people are our favorite artists, they are human.

In Matthew 7:3-4, Jesus asks, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye" (NIV)? Gospel artists have ungodly, unhappy, frustrating moments where they drink, smoke, curse, etc. just like everybody else. The only difference is, because of their platform, they don't have the luxury of a private fall from grace. If they don't have anyone to vent to, the emotions they are forced to bottle up can reach a very dangerous (and very public) boiling point.

I saw Le'Andria Johnson in concert about a month ago, and while I didn't get a chance to meet her, I could tell in her performance that she was going through something...but she still sang to God like nobody was watching. Despite whatever it is she's battling, I genuinely believe she loves Him. I think she just needs to rest and regroup.

Yesterday, Johnson issued an apology via Instagram. She owned up to her comments, saying in the caption, "I accept full responsibility for what I communicated out of frustration." From her apology, it's clear that she deeply regrets some of the things she said in those videos, not just what she said, but how she said it. She's still one of the most anointed voices in gospel music, and I hope that this controversy will not overshadow that. Instead of shining the spotlight on her shortcomings, let's give her grace.

Let this post serve as a call to action. Cover your favorite psalmists in prayer, always. Even if they're not strong enough to admit that they need prayer, especially if they're not asking for prayer, they need it! Even if you don't know what to pray for specifically, just speak their names into the atmosphere. The weight of the gifts they carry can bear heavily on their hearts. Before you judge them, ask yourself if you could handle the pressure.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that we should show grace to Le'Andria,because the word of God says that let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I thank God for Grace and Mercy!