I’ve spent alot of time in my car this month. Alot of time thinking, listening to the radio, and worrying about the future of the country. 14 days and 40 hours of driving in any normal circumstance usually brings clarity on life- personal problems, conversations gone wrong, or awkward moments that didn’t make sense at the time but now make total sense in hindsight…you get the point.
But I have no answers for you right now. No true clarity. Just opinions and thoughtful concerns that hopefully you’ll consider as we move towards November 8th.
Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.
These very words have defined my year. Not just because I finished and released a song about it that took 4 years to write, not just because of the cool media coverage that came from the NPR Tiny Desk contest feature (if you wanna watch the original song and submission, you can check it out here). But more than anything I’ve found myself hanging my head lower and lower with each news report of a Philando Castile, a Flint, Michigan, or a Wells Fargo incident. Nothing surprises me anymore. If anything I’ve traded my surprise in for sadness (i hate to admit).
I remember sitting in a lecture at the Summit for Change in D.C. this past June listening to Bryan Stevenson break down the inequities of the criminal justice system. A rigged system with a disproportionate number of minorities involuntarily feeding a corrupt, money-making prison industry. I remember his words clearly:
We have a system of justice in this country that treats
you much better if you’re rich and guilty,
than if your’e poor and innocent.
Which brings us to November 8th. And for me, it all comes down to Bryan Stevenson’s words; because how we filter those words through our worldview determines exactly how we filter this ultimate truth of how we are to live:
Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly.
I’m not naive. I know most of the people reading this aren’t Christians and probably don’t recognize those words as Biblical text or an ultimate truth. I also realize there are alot of people who don’t hold justice, mercy, or humility as top priority…and I’m not faulting anyone for this. Some people are seriously just trying to pay their rent, put food on the table, raise kids who aren’t drug addicts, and keep their families together. Some people seriously aren’t thinking about saving the world or being Mother Teresa. And y’know I think that’s most of us on most days – myself included.
But here’s the real problem.
The problem with America isn’t that we lack bankers who are competent with money, or people who know how to install lead-free pipes, or cops who can police fairly. It isn’t that our judicial systems are understaffed or filled with judges and lawyers who don’t know the law or how to use it properly. We don’t have a problem with under-educated college graduates who don’t know how to use their knowledge (at least I hope we don’t if we’re dropping 20k a year on tuition). No, the real problem with America is us. It’s our hearts. Corrupt hearts, love of money, love of self, pride, self preservation, turning a blind eye to injustice, living and maintaining our perfect little bubbles of normalcy and homogeny. Safe little bubbles where everyone looks like me, talks like me, and thinks like me. Give a sh– only when I’m getting paid to, go to church so I can say I’m a good person, put in my time at work and get paid for doing the maximum when I only did the minimum, give to charity so I can feel better about myself, the list goes on and on.
If you want to know the measure of a man (man used in general terms here) don’t look at where he spends his money but how he spends his time. Who is he in public and, more importantly, in private. If you want to know the integrity of a man, listen to what others say about him. His reputation will precede him. Do you find trash or treasurer? If you want to know the character of a man, spend time on his history. Find out where he’s been, what he’s done, what he cares about and who he associates with. If you want to know the heart of a man, listen to him talk. When he speaks does he encourage others, embody hope, admit fault, or tear down those around him and criticize others’ mistakes while diminishing his own?
By now (if you’re even still reading) I’m sure it’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Donald Trump.
As someone who often finds myself in the in-between about nearly everything, I’ve looked at this from every angle. I should also add that I do not consider myself a political person and literally left the room every time my sister would turn the news on for the first 8 months of this year. But eventually I gave in. And after giving in, and doing some listening, watching, and evaluating, I settled on something I’ve known for years:
Leadership has very little to do with competence and everything to do with character.
While knowledge is important, it only requires a very small sacrifice of absorbing information and regurgitating it when necessary. Good character, however, cannot be manufactured overnight. It is a life-long pursuit that demands Wisdom (experiential knowledge), Honesty (not to be confused with blunt cynicism), Respect (not just for those in the same tax bracket), and Inspiration – because the people you are appointed to serve and the people who work under you want to believe in you and to be proud of you. They actually want to see your face on TV and not loath you or have a visceral reaction every time you open your mouth. Believe it or not, your people actually want to like you.
So let me break it down.
Nobody likes Donald Trump. Nobody as in 95% of the population (don’t quote me on this. Just a random guess). Alot of people, especially those voting for him would never admit that he might be sexist, racist, xenophobic, and a narcissist (which, believe it or not, is the hardest one for me to deal with). The truth is though, most of the people voting for Donald Trump, are not actually voting for Donald Trump the man. They are voting for Donald Trump the place-holder for the Republican Party. Which means they’re voting for the platform, not the person. As someone who comes from a very conservative background, knows a lot of conservatives, and still holds many conservative opinions, I get it. You want a party that shares and enforces many of the convictions you hold. As someone who is unapologetically pro-life, I get it. I really do.
But here’s what I don’t get.
I don’t get the insults, the degradation, the humiliation, the hatred, the sheer disregard and lack of respect for others, the proud, unabashed responses to accusations of wrong-doing. I don’t understand a heart that refuses to show respect for those he vows to serve, or empathy (key word) for those he vows to advocate for. Most of all, my heart breaks for a Church that wholeheartedly stands by in support. My heart breaks for a Church that has now embraced a double-standard in our country – quick to call out sin but just as quick to ignore it in the case of Donald Trump. Were he running as a Democrat, this would be a completely different story.
I also find it hilarious, but again not surprising, that a culture that so readily objectifies women through its mass media is so quick to point a finger at Donald Trump because it’s convenient. Let’s not forget the billion dollar industry of pornography that quietly runs through the veins of our country. And nobody’s talking about it. Nobody! A lot of double standards here. This is one big game of convenience and everyone is losing.
Back to the Church.
Forgiveness. As Christians it’s what we do (or try to do), but as believers the very call on our lives is to be Christ-like. What does that mean? It means you’re washing everyone’s crusty feet even though you’re the most important person in the room. It means you stop to feed 5000 people when they should be cooking you dinner. It means you might actually be God’s gift to mankind but still you sacrifice yourself b/c you’d rather be slaughtered than see your own people suffer. That’s leadership.
If we are not a people who can be brought down to our knees in humility, who can be shaken by injustice and compelled to address it, who can extend a hand of grace and mercy to those in need, we are not truly the Church nor should we support those who opportunistically embrace conservative political views for the sake of winning a race. Because that’s what going on here. Tell the truth ya’ll!
Of course, Donald Trump does not represent all or most Christians. And neither do the major Christian media outlets. Also realize that those voting for Donald Trump aren’t ‘bad’ people or bad Christians and the ones voting for Hilary Clinton aren’t the ‘good’ Christians.
Again, I’m not naive. I know this woman has as many battle scars and badges of honor as she does bad moves, bad decisions, and bad judgement. She’s been in the game a long time and knows how to keep a poker face. There is alot of stuff in Hilary Clinton’s history that I don’t like. Maybe in another post and another time I will talk about Margaret Sanger, eugenics, compulsory sterilization in ethnic communities through the mid 80s, and the history behind what we now know as the pro-choice movement…because history is everything and there are alot of things we aren’t talking about. And maybe just maybe, even if you don’t agree with me, you’ll see where I’m coming from. If you want a head start, you can read one of Sanger’s speeches.
Like I said, until September, I managed to stay apathetic about election season. But when I did begin to pay attention I noticed two very different dialogues within each camp. One offered ambitions for racial justice, gun violence prevention, and tuition-free college, while the other camp repeatedly used its stage-time (and social media presence) to encourage violence, belittle women, condemn the competition, and literally offer no game plan.
The decision seems pretty clear, right? Yet even now and over the past two weeks, the words of 19th century theologian Charles Spurgeon have been ringing constantly in my ear:
Of two evils, chose neither.
So let’s talk about what’s reaaaally going on here.
I believe writer Isaac Sharp described it best while writing in the voice of a C.S. Lewis character, Screwtape:
For those inclined toward great political concern, your task is slightly more nuanced. You must push them toward two important conclusions. You must first convince them that their preferred candidate is THE ONLY OPTION for true Christians, and that voting for any other candidate is not only wrong but also evil. They will see this binary model on display from the candidates themselves. The tendency away from moderation coupled with the seductive pull of extremism will prove too much for many Christian voters, and they will divide into opposing parties most naturally. Division is inherent in the system, and getting them to the furthest edges will be all too easy… And once they realize that voting is only one small and relatively minor way of bringing about their desired change we, my nephew, are more or less doomed. (The Screwtape Letters)
I am a firm believer that we live in two realities – what we see (with our eyes), and what we sense happening in the bigger picture. Macro level. The aeriel view. The Spiritual realm. You know what I mean – like that funky feeling you get when someone walks in a room and the whole atmosphere changes. That kind of stuff.
You guys, this election has nothing to do with Hillary or Donald, Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, Black or White. This election has everything to do with chaos and confusion. The enemy, let’s call him Screwtape, is fostering an atmosphere of hatred discord, and distraction. The devil is in the details ya’ll, and he’s doing a really good job with them right now.
BUT, and I’ll speak directly to the Church, WAKE UP!!! Vote for whoever you want…even if it’s no one (no seriously, you should go vote though). But wake up! We’ve lived in a nation where the Church has become a country club, existing for its members but largely irrelevant to those outside its 4 walls. And as the Church has sought to become more like the world with flashy stage lights, hipster-looking bearded preachers with lots of hair gel, saavy video-productions, digestible 75-minute services and its own Christian version of literally eeeeverything (especially music), it has lost its relevance. We can’t expect to stay at a comfortable distance, create our own subculture of music, books, and entertainment, and still aim to regulate the way others live through a political party. I’m all for a more sacred lifestyle. I think we’ve lost something very special by removing prayer from schools and making Sundays yet another business day *lifts hands in guilt*. But our country is really changing, and while I’m not blaming the Church for its ‘demise’, I am saddened because the Church kind of forfeited its spot.
The days of complacency are so over. I don’t want to be a good Christian. I want to be a Spirit-filled one! I want to walk in the truth and power of Jesus Christ. Take him everywhere I go. Live him out. Be the Gospel to those around me. Offer hope and healing, whether it be with my words or in my music. I don’t want to be a place-holder, warming the pew on Sunday morning, do my time and be on my way. I don’t want to go to the homeless shelter down the street, slap a serving of cream-of-corn on some old dude’s styrofoam plate and act like I did something for him.
If God is real. If Jesus is real, if I believe it, if I live it, then i take it out into the world every day and give Him to someone else. If I remember that my vote, while important, does not let me off the hook as an active world-changer, hope-bringer, ambassador for Christ, then I don’t ultimately place my hope in ‘my candidate’. Instead I wake up in the morning and decide not to be apathetic or judgemental, or condemning. Instead I wake up ready to serve others. Instead I wake up and stop being so comfortable in my perfect little bubble.
This year has been craaazy, ya’ll! And we’re all tired. Tired of black men and cops dying, tired of hustling to find work, tired of ridiculous nightclub shootings, tired of uncertainty. Vote your convictions. Vote for good leadership. Dare I suggest that neither candidate has stellar character and maybe one of them just hides it better. I dunno. But one of them is going to be the President whether we like it or not. Oh yea…there’s that 3rd guy too.
At the end of the day, if we don’t realize we have sin in our own hearts and that we condemn others while begging for mercy in our own lives, how could we possible expect our leadership to be any different?
Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.
p.s. i really wanted to use this photo up top b/c it looks like they’re singing a duet, but i was afraid you wouldn’t take this post seriously :)
Are you calling for peace or defiance
Is this darkening counsel or wisdom
Are we all perpetrators or victims?
Is this childlike simple rote history
Is it complex deciphering mystery
Is this blessing or ill gotten wealth
Am I speaking for God or myself?
Is this confidence born of a calling
Is this ego and pride before falling
Are we standing to fight for what’s right
Are we angry and hopelessly blind?
Are we companions of Job or prophets of God
Are we not of this world or just painfully odd
Is it time for free grace or tough love
Or a little of all the above?
Sooner or later we’ll know more about it
Sooner or later we’ll understand why
We’ll understand why
It’s a hard world for a second guess girl
With one hand and another
I try to take it in and it leaves me spinning
Trying to love my sister and brother
It’s a hard hard world for a second guess girl
Trying to love my sister, love my brother