The firestorm started as soon as Kandi Burruss announced on her reality show, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, that she would be recording a gospel song, titled "Stay Prayed Up."
Certain gospel fans took offense to the fact that a woman who openly embraces her sexuality - through hosting an erotica-themed radio show called Kandi Koated Nights and hawking her own line of sex toys - and recently purchased a home with her boyfriend, could dare record a song dealing with anything Divine.
And fans were especially concerned by the decision of gospel star Marvin Sapp to collaborate on the track.
The following was posted on Sapp's Facebook page:
Mr Sapp, I was a big fan of yours however as a Christian I'm a bit confused about your motivation to record the record prayed up. I intentionally watched you on the HOA and was taken back by your conversation with Kandi at the studio. You continued to tell her not to try to explain herself, and that she didn't have to apologize etc. I'm just wondering is this the watered down version of the word you are teaching in your church? The bible says "my people perish because of a lack of knowledge." It also says "GOD would rather that we be hot or cold." Not trying to come off as judgmental but this is the type of thing that makes the church look no different than the world. So fed up with this new concept of stooping to the worlds standards to reach souls Jesus hung out in places with sinners to reach them but HE never comprised GIS (sic) standards nor GOD's word. Kandi is motivated by money just wondering what's your motivation?
Interestingly enough, "Stay Prayed Up" is just the latest in a string of collaborations between gospel and mainstream artists that have rocked the industry and sparked debate.
When Kirk Franklin released "Lean on Me," the lead single from his 1998 album The Nu Nation Project, the backlash was swift and severe. Because of the inclusion of secular artists R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige and U2's Bono, many Christian radio stations wouldn't even play the song.
And then there's the singing sister duo Mary Mary. Erica and Tina Campbell have gotten so much flack over the years - from recording "Superfriend" with notoriously hardcore rapper David Banner to featuring a slew of secular hip hop artists (Kanye West, Common, Farnsworth Bentley) in their video for "God in Me" - that it's become almost commonplace.
"Such collaborations, I suppose, can be controversial because many within the Church might equate Christian artists and secular artists engaging in the creative process with violating the Biblical instructions to 'live in the world, but not be like the world,'" says Greg Freeman, a songwriter and gospel music scholar. "On the other hand, having a 'holier-than-thou' attitude and maintaining that gospel artists can't associate with secular artists can otherwise alienate individuals and drive them from the very message we want them to get."
And, says Freeman, these collaborations (including Burruss and Sapp's) often have far-reaching positive effects.
"I do not know Ms. Burruss personally. I only know what I have read, and her personal life -- like our own lives, no doubt -- has not always exemplified good Christian living," Freeman says. "I do believe the song has spoken to her profoundly, and she has acknowledged as much. If the song affects others similarly, perhaps it can draw many to the straight and narrow. Rather than tear her down for singing a gospel song, we should celebrate her spiritual consciousness, pray for her and pray that all who are within earshot of this song are stirred by the message of the Gospel."
And it was precisely this sentiment that Sapp echoed when he took to his Facebook page to defend his actions:
We say we are christians which means being Christ-like but question peoples motives that model his behavior....The bible speaks about witnessing and that you need to be wise to win souls and Paul says I became all things to all men that I might win some.... Again big picture 10 million people at 1 time were challenged to PRAY in difficult times WOW!!!!