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

When Are the Numbers Enough?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

By the numbers:

  • Seven shootings within 48 hours this week, in the same communities.
  • Three murdered as a result of those shootings.
  • As of this time last year, Washington, D.C., had 44 homicides, compared to 47 homicides at present time (May 19, 2016), according to Metropolitan Police Department crime data.
  • D.C.’s homicide totals for 2015 was 162 people murdered.

As a D.C. resident, I remember being abhorred last year by the almost daily news casts reporting of another murder in the District. Today, unfortunately, it seems the problem is increasing.

What’s worse: this week’s shootings occurred in broad daylight, averaging between the hours of 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Schools would be letting out around 3 p.m., and as Natalie Williams, Advisory Neighborhood Commission chairperson for Southeast D.C.’s Ward 8 told NBC4 this week, “It’s a shame that we have kids who are getting out of school right now, and when they come up all they are familiar with is these yellow tapes.”

Williams also said that “people are afraid to simply live,” given the increased violence. Community meeting after community meeting, neighborhood rallies and an increased police presence in these high-crime communities has not done much to stop the violence or quell residents’ fears for their own personal safety.

In fact, shootings that typically occur during the wee morning hours of 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., are now happening in broad daylight. A full disregard for human life and no concern for the many who will be impacted by the loss of life, whether family member, friend, student passing by yellow tape, residents or the news viewer. The collateral damage has reverberating effects.

crime scene tape

Why do I write about this?  Because even as gut-wrenching and sobering as the numbers are (at least to me), when will the numbers be enough to move more people, particularly Christians, to make resolving this issue a priority?

I ask this, as a burden the Lord has placed on my heart in mentoring D.C. youth, many who between the ages of 15-24 are either perpetrators of or victims of violent crime. I spoke this week with the executive director of a Southeast D.C. youth mentoring faith-based organization. The FBO has been active in its immediate community since its founding in 1995. The FBO has a number of business, community, individual and nonprofit stakeholders who support its work. Yet, even in all of this, I asked the executive director, “Where are the gaps? Why an increase in crime and not a decrease in this area, particularly as it pertains to youth?”

His response to me was simple and sadly, something I already knew:

“Many people have not made the youth a priority. We need more caring people and more caring institutions to care about the issues and put egos aside.”

I will also add that Christ is our only hope in transforming hearts, homes, neighborhoods and communities. A number of folks in the Body of Christ hesitate to share about Christ, concerned that they may offend someone rather than make way for their spiritual healing.

Outside of it being the seat of federal government and its highly flocked to and visited monuments, museums, other tourist attractions, and its four and five-star restaurants, Washington, D.C. suffers the same societal ills as other urban cities rife with crime and violence. Many of Washington, D.C.’s neighborhoods that are low-income, have high rates of homelessness and underserved in resources also see an influx of drug trafficking, thefts, home invasions, spikes in violence, gang activity, etc.

Washington DC skyline

D.C. is a wellspring for many churches, faith-based organizations, nonprofits, community based organizations and interest groups who set up shop in the nation’s capital to provide programs and services to address such social ills within the city and nationwide.

So why do the problems persist? While evil will always be with us until Christ’s return, it requires that the Body of Christ truly be engaged in their God-given callings, standing as the standard in the communities and domains God has called them to. Some will say, “We need more money, more resources to do this work” (God will provide).

But in fact, we need more hearts to stand as salt, light and truth to stem the tide of decay. It requires us to prioritize such matters and to be INTERESTED. The Lord has led me to write and speak recently on the need for many more in the Body of Christ to be INTERESTED and to serve where they are placed. As told to us in Matthew 9:37, The harvest (the opportunities) is plentiful but the workers are few. 

When will the numbers be enough for you? Where has God given you a burden to serve in the things that break His heart? 

If you’re already walking in this and serving in obedience in the lane God has called you to, THANK YOU. If you have sat on the sidelines hoping the problems will simply go away, or you hope someone else will step in or you’re praying that Jesus will soon return to snatch you out of this chaos, please rethink your position.

LISTEN: Meanwhile, I invite you to listen to our short message on “Interesting or Interested?”

THANK YOU to many of you who because you ARE INTERESTED and believe in what God has called our ministry to do, you have contributed to our “Bring Godliness to D.C. and Society” campaign. You are helping in our work to reach the lost with truth.

Heavenly Father, help us to always be INTERESTED in and make a priority of what you’ve placed in our hearts to do. Lord, I pray we desire to be obedient to what you’ve called us to do and not deviate from or short change it for the lesser things of this world. As Christians, we need to spend more time being interested in others.  As a dear brother in Christ said, “When God gives us a burden for something, we need to look in the mirror. More often, WE are the answer to prayer.”  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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.