When Populism and Personalities Kill

“He will fight for us. He’s not your typical politician. He will shake up the establishment.”

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Those words and many others are what have enticed a number of President Donald J. Trump supporters to hitch their wagon to his train and ride it all the way to its destructive end and destination. He is a man who has captured the minds, dollars and fervent loyalty of his supporters to include many evangelicals. In capturing and holding such loyalty, President Trump even attempts to “talk like us” (and by “us” I mean Christians) by using certain words that kept many by his side without seeing even the dangers of that.

But through the chaos, division, gross malfeasance and lawlessness that has been the hallmark of Trump and his Administration during these past four years, the train on fire that many rode to the end manifested itself devastatingly on January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol where at least five people were killed, many citizens and law enforcement injured. Millions of Americans and others worldwide watched in horror as a mob of insurgents stormed and overtook the U.S. Capitol as those believing that their president, their hero and country had been unfairly ripped from them through the outcomes of the 2020 presidential election in which President Trump was defeated. NOTE: This mob does not include the many Trump supporters who are not part of this travesty and are equally grieved by what occurred.

Capitol Riots on January 6, 2021. (Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Daily News and WUSA-9 CBS/Washington, D.C.)

The process on January 6, 2021 on other such occasions in our country’s history was to be a routine formality for Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to certify the election results (certifying Joe Biden as the next President and Kamala Harris as Vice President). But days leading up to, an insurgent mob loyal to President Trump arrived in our nation’s capital and on Wednesday, January 6th, stormed the Capitol in what lawmakers condemned as an attempted insurrection aimed at overturning the results of an American election–a response largely publicly championed and incited by President Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and others. What Congress began at 1 p.m. that day was derailed by an attempted coup that led to lives lost, multiple injuries, destruction to the Capitol, offices and property therein as rioters pushed their way inside. With members of Congress, staff, Vice President Pence and others quickly escorted to safety and fitted with gas masks to overcome tear gas used by law enforcement to scatter the mob, the unfolding events shocked and appalled. It is a day that will live in infamy and certainly stains our country. Committed to what they started on Wednesday afternoon, Congress and Vice President Pence returned to certify the electoral college votes, completing this process around 4 a.m. Thursday, which affirmed Trump’s 306-232 defeat.

People are responsible for their own actions. We also expect for those who acted criminally or contributed in some way to the violence to be held accountable. Several have already been arrested.

I live, work and worship in Washington, D.C., and am praying for our city and this country, as you likely are. I did not expect the grief that is so heavy upon my heart.

The Church

This is not a political message as I strive to remain apolitical. Though it has political references, this message is expressly for the Church. The Church has long been an enemy of the state–an enemy of this world as was expected and intended. With the prince of this world (Satan) operating as he has been since being kicked out of heaven and taking one-third of the angels along with him to wreak havoc against God and His children, the Church, the Christian is squarely in his sights. Persevering through opposition, oppression and persecution are par for the course for those who decide to follow Jesus. Jesus clearly warns us of this in John 15:18-21 (New International Version):

18 “If the world hates you,(A) keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you(B) out of the world. That is why the world hates you.(C)20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[a](D) If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.(E) If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name,(F) for they do not know the one who sent me.(G)

It is dangerous for the Church, for the body of Christ to seek an agent outside of Christ to relieve us from persecution. True–it is good that we have allies joining us in the fight to advance light and godliness amid darkness. In fact, not even Christ is pulling His Church out of the battles but rather, calling us to engage so that we are indeed that “city on a hill,” the light that points the lost, the deceived and the hopeless to Christ and the cross–not to a politician, platform or personality.

So what is populism? Populism is defined in several and yet similar ways. The Oxford English Dictionary defines populism as “a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups,” also defined as “the quality of appealing to or being aimed at ordinary people.”

Certainly, there were many other reasons why voters voted for Trump for 2016. Whether in hopes for a better economy, a fair shake for small businesses instead of golden parachutes for corporate America CEOs, or Hillary Clinton was covertly evil, cold and can’t trust her, or whether to support and advance pro-life policies or simply for the fact that he “talks tough” following President Barack Obama who was weak on a number of issues. The reasons are varied and not a broad stroke. This is the case with many voters who vote for a candidate (and often the conflict of doing so). In America, we’re allowed to vote for who we choose. We’re also allowed to change our minds (which some did once seeing the Trump Administration on display). The fervent support and loyalty that President Trump received from many in the church was built trusting that he would not tone down who he was, that he would fight to protect the underdog (and some evangelicals see themselves and the collective Church in this category), and that he would not capitulate to the political establishment. This was an attractive, shiny object that blinded many.

Whether politician, a personality or “celebrity” preacher, being loyal to such things and people can kill the witness of the gospel and skew our line of sight. It is dangerous when the Church is not willing to call such people to account for their wickedness, division and lawlessness. She loses footing in her walk, in her light and line of sight. We don’t walk alongside the world’s systems and behaviors. The Church, the body of Christ was never meant to. If Christ was hated by the world, those who follow Christ will be too. We don’t need a rescue from anyone else other than Christ. We don’t need anyone to stand up for us. It will most certainly backfire.

Our Inheritance, A Glorious Kingdom

Dear brothers and sisters we belong to a Kingdom not of this world! We have a glorious inheritance, a glorious Kingdom in which our God reigns forever and ever and ever! He is seated on the throne today even in the midst of this upheaval. HE is our strongtower that the righteous run into and are safe (Proverbs 18:10). HE is our Rock and a mighty Rock is He. HE is our refuge.

Let us run this race as the Church that truly believes this (and many of you are). We need nothing else. Be bold enough to call evil what it is and have no loyalties to it (Ephesians 5:11). We can advance the gospel and godliness without the backing of a personality. Let’s boldly lift Christ up so that HE may draw all men unto Him (John 12:32). We need not lift up anyone else’s banner for in doing so, we kill our witness.

Love and prayers,

Nicole

Immigration Reform: We Cannot Stem Lawlessness by Sacrificing Children

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Papi! Papi!” “Mommy! I want to go with mommy!” Grief and anger panged me as if these children were known to me. More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents by law enforcement in illegal border crossings. The wails from the mouths of little ones we’ve viewed this week in news coverage punches to the gut and rips at the heart. Knowing God’s love for children, He cannot be pleased at their suffering.

Many of us have prayed for ministering angels to minister to these children and their parents. Years and years of data show the psychological impact that could be lifelong, even if the children are reunited with their parents. From this June 20, 2018 Wall Street Journal article, “The Effects of Parental Separation on Children,”  biological stress responses are activated in a child separated from their caregiver. The symptoms exhibited could include elevated blood pressure and heart rate, anger, depression, social behavioral disturbances, among others. “If the biological response is continuously engaged, it begins to cause “wear and tear” on the child’s body,” according to Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there are “lifelong consequences of extended exposure to serious stress, a condition sometimes called toxic stress. Current research indicates that chronic stress puts people at increased risk of psychiatric disorders and other health problems.”

Immigrant children separation 1

This is unacceptable.

The process for the reunification of separated parents and children is unclear. A policy that was cobbled together in a fashion with little to no regard for the human toll, has many wondering if reunification is even possible. As journalist and CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, poignantly said, “You go to the dry cleaners, they give you a ticket for your clothes. You leave your shoes at the bowling alley, they give you a ticket. They take your children and there’s nothing…no receipt, no bracelet, no tracking method, nothing.”

Immigrant children separation 6

This is unacceptable. This is not a win for anyone. There is no art to this deal.

Many of those crossing our borders illegally are seeking asylum from devastating brutality and violence, and simply a better life. Not all of these people are deviants and dangers to the community. Yes, these are illegal crossings. Yes, we are a nation of laws and must justly and fairly enact the laws. We are also a nation of people, of immigrants created in God’s image.

Dear friends have shared with me their personal stories of immigration and separation for a time from their mom or dad and the trauma felt of that experience. Their emotional reaction to that childhood trauma is still palpable. I’ve heard the stories of children whose behavior in the classroom drastically deteriorated from kindergarten to first grade when their father was deported within that time. I know the hard work of friends in social work who help immigrants deal with various traumas, day in and day out.

America has a long and shameful history of separating, locking up and incarcerating people, particularly our black and brown. We have no misgivings about their age, even if they are toddlers wearing diapers. Those who do the incarcerating benefit heftily: contractors of the detention facilities are being paid millions by our federal government, some more than $40 million. Here’s an article on contractor-run shelters in the Washington, D.C. region that are banking lucrative contracts to house migrant children.

Immigration-Detention

There’s also Juan Sanchez, CEO of Southwest Key nonprofit who runs 26 immigrant shelters across the country who was paid nearly $1.5 million in salary — a salary double than what he was paid the previous year. I can tell you as someone who completed their Master of Public Administration in nonprofit and faith-based management, this salary is waaay out of line in administrative costs (with just his salary alone) over program costs. Southwest Key is a smaller nonprofit in comparison to the multi-billion dollar American Red Cross with vast responsibilities whose CEO, Gail McGovern earns $600,000 in annual salary.

The Problem (only one?) with Government 

We are deceived and will be disappointed if we think our government will behave right. We cannot expect a callous, removed, impersonal, bureaucratic and cumbersome government to act personally toward what’s happening on the ground. It is simply not designed to do so. It’s role is to enforce the laws. To be frank, we the Church and the world became comfortable when government created programs to help others so we could move on with our lives — not realizing the world of difference we would awake to right now when we assumed that government would act godly and just. There is no substitute for godliness. This is one of the heartbreaks and false comforts of progress without godliness. The government, masters of implementing and evaluating systems, processes, regulations and laws, but unskilled in matters of compassion.

The truth is this: in our government’s attempt to curb the insidious activity of criminals (human and drug traffickers) from infesting our soil, they have made insidious decisions to where families have been torn apart and perhaps irreversible damage done. We cannot stem lawlessness by sacrificing children. Human trafficking, child smuggling, drug trafficking, those wanted for arrest, I get it. We are a nation of laws and laws need to be enforced justly and fairly. We are also a nation of people.

Our Role as Christ’s Ambassadors, as Dual Citizens

I’ve made it a point to remain apolitical on our ministry platforms. My main reason for doing so is to prepare us for God’s Kingdom which is permanent and perfect over the temporary and very imperfect system to which we are geographically subjected. But this issue required a response.

No matter your political leanings, we know that families together is God’s design. Satan loves nothing more than to promote ideologies that seek to distort, divide and destroy God’s design.

Indeed, our nation’s broken immigration system has long needed fixing. Our immigration system is not sustainable in its current state. It is a complex issue and the very complexities are why previous administrations have left it to future administrations to fix.

Some Christians are divided over the issue. But as Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, said on the dual citizenship of Christians: “As citizens of the U.S., we have an obligation to support the government and the government’s laws for conscience sake. As citizens of the Lord’s heavenly Kingdom, we also have a divine mandate to act redemptively and compassionately toward those who are in need.”

As Christians, we should be especially compelled to advocate for those who are caught in the margins — who lack a certain status and thereby more vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment.

© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporationAs Christ’s Ambassadors, we have been called out from the world to not behave as the world does. In a decaying world that has lost its way, this separation should not make us abstain from bringing light to darkness. This is and always will be our role. To engage so others can see the hands and feet of Christ at work amid insidious, skeptical and unjust situations. If we love God, we will love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). We have an opportunity to demonstrate His love in this issue and many others.

While God certainly has many purposes at work, it’s undeniable the squeeze placed upon our nation and world that has brought many more to their knees, praise God. The situations are being used as instruments to expose on a larger scale the depths of our immorality and prejudices and long-held indifference about it, giving us a real good look at ourselves. The situations are also turning us back to God. As a dear brother reminded several of us in prayer meeting this week, our God is and always has been in control! No matter how things look, His purposes WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED! God cannot fail! (Thank you, Dracy)

As a dear sister reminded me, God is at work even in our suffering. We see this depicted in the lives of those throughout the Bible, and we have experienced His Presence in our trials. The news will not depict this but trust that God is a very present help in our situations. Be encouraged. Take heart for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We need to act like we believe this even amid vast injustice. Concerned as we all are about these children’s future, I am entrusting them to our very present God who holds their future.

Immigration child separation 7 we belong

Many wonder how history and others will remember them. If you’re looking for a mission field, or looking to leave a legacy, start here: May we strive to become a united Body of Christ that hears, shares in and is compelled to relieve the suffering of others, to be a refuge for others. Will we be who we say we are? Yield to however the Holy Spirit leads you to do this and do it without hesitation.

20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:20-21 #NoRegrets #BoldLiving

May our living be bold.

Our actions do not need to be gigantic but inaction is unsatisfactory.

May we also keep lifted in prayer the parents and children, the social workers and health care community, the faith community, legal community and many others who will be called upon to help rebuild these fractured lives. We pray for their strength where fatigue is certain. We pray for provision and abundance of resources to carry out their efforts.

Love, prayers and blessings,

Nicole

“In the Beginning,” Came the End

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

People. Birds. Animals. Insects. Trees. Flowers. Stars. Planets. Everything God created has a life cycle. Everything created will die. While you were watching the NBA finals last night, or eating or feeding your family, hanging with your peeps or finishing your homework, someone and something else died.

I write this on the heels of Thursday’s news that President Donald Trump decided to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. The accord is positioned as a voluntary agreement for countries to contribute financially and technologically to mitigate their impact in producing harmful emissions that are said to be causing Earth’s increasing temperatures. The pollution is also said to cause climate change and global warming (billion dollar words that are $$ billion dollar businesses for a number of companies and industries) in which scientists and experts say is wreaking havoc on our planet’s ecosystem, weather patterns and ultimately, humanity’s survival.

In short, the earth is dying.

Yesterday’s news announcement has troubled many at home and abroad from citizens to domestic and foreign leaders. The concerns raised are certainly valid: What will become of our and our children’s health if pollution factors are not reduced or eliminated? What will become of the United States’ ability to compete technologically and economically to lead and not fall behind in this effort? How does this decision make the United States appear before the 195 other countries who chose to participate in the Paris Climate Accord—as the U.S. joins the only other two countries (Nicaragua and Syria) that did not participate?

While many people are ranting, protesting and hugging trees about the dreaded news, I sat at my desk last night thinking about the awesomeness of our awesome God. I reflected in awe on the opening words from Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Honestly, this verse and the entire passage of Genesis 1 that describes God’s intentional, purposeful and ordered creation of Earth, night and day, sea and sky, land and vegetation, animals and human life, keeps me in arrested awe of His great work!! I cannot fathom it!! Can you? Everything He did in creating the Earth, the universe and us depicts God’s intentional and intimate design to have a relationship with us. For decades and even unto today, scientists have submitted varying creation theories on how the universe, earth and we came to be; how the earth is precisely positioned (not one degree off), exquisitely calibrated and contains the perfect elements to support life (aka, the “anthropic principle”)! How can such perfection come if not from an external and intentional Creator/Designer?

 

Earth

Like all creation, the earth and universe has been given a life cycle. The clock started ticking billions of years ago and is winding down to death. This process began with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Admittedly, I am no scientist yet I’ve learned enough to simplify the complex.  In learning about our universe, many scientists have arrived at two unmistakable laws about its creation and trajectory: 1- that something cannot come from nothing (there must be an external creator, matter cannot create itself) and second and last, 2- the law of decay (second law of thermodynamics) which implies that the universe rather than expanding in life is instead gradually dying. The universe and earth has a beginning and an end. Both will be no more.

In fact, Jesus tells us this in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

In all of the chaos, expert data and opinions, news of the day, God says words we can be sure of: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), and to “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). This is the same God who says, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7)

With the aforementioned verses, do we have any reason whatsoever to be fearful about news, the coming events or the trajectory of our planet in its winding down? He is God, the Great “I AM” who knows the number of hairs on your head or hairs that were once there  🙂 . He is the God who hung the stars in their place, who causes day and night to greet you, who promises to be your refuge; to protect you and rescue you as told to us in Psalm 91.

Will you take comfort and rest in the intentionality of God’s faithfulness and care for you, even as things are dying, in perceived chaos and decay? If you’ve read the Book of Revelation, you know worse is to come. But even still, has He taken care of you?

I am reminded of a hard and fast promise I learned about God when I was a little girl along with my friends. You may have learned it too. We sang about it and even had gestures to accompany the words:

“He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands. He’s got you and me brother in His hands, He’s got you and me brother in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands. He’s got you and me sister in His hands, He’s got you and me sister in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

A simple truth that should comfort His Children today, tomorrow and even when our beginning becomes the end. The worries and concerns of our day are reserved for those whose confidence is placed in and built upon the idols of data, experts, systems, intellectual pride, news stories and bandwagons. The news reports are devastating for those who have made earth their home rather than those of us who are focused on our eternal home in Christ Jesus. Christians are well to acknowledge good science that accurately tells the exquisite story of God’s creation. In that creation and science, we are indeed called to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with and entrusted to us (we have not done this very well). But it doesn’t mean we elevate the science above God.

To those of you who already walk in the understanding of Whose report to believe and trust in, praise God! You are indeed fit for the fight! For those needing their concerns and fears allayed/put at ease, know that He’s got you and He’s always had you. You will not be snatched from His Hands (John 10:28). He has the whole world in His Hands. And we are reminded in scripture of more Good News: But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). Amen!

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.