If you were addressing the nation on Wednesday, Nov. 7, the DAY AFTER the election, what would you say? What advice would you offer to your fellow Americans about the next four years?
In the past few years, we have given a lot of weight and credence to the campaign season. We have lobbied and stumped for our favorite candidate(s), held prayer vigils, watched debates, given lectures and sermonic selections in hopes that “our candidate” would be elected to a position of power, status, privilege and authority. Many of my individual efforts recently have been synthesized around a “Souls to the Polls” Campaign in collaboration with other ministers, ministries, scholars and social activists attempting to encourage our people to vote. And in light of this, history (especially 2008 Presidential campaign history) suggests in doing so, we have missed or at least mismanaged the necessary follow-up action on behalf of the electorate to hold elected officials responsible and accountable for faithfully representing the best interests of “we the people.”
It is the grassroots efforts that have suffered and become stagnant; well-adjusted with seemingly victorious “moments” and negligent relative to the impact of “movements.” It is only progressive and prophetic movements that lead to substantial and impactful change. We have been missing that.
In countless faith communities, we too have drunk from the well of opportunism. Many of us have succumbed to the priestly pleasures of having back-slapping relationships with political officials. This is not to suggest that we ought not to forge relationships to keep our politicians grounded in their theological principles while we ensure that our theology is politically relevant. However, we have been found guilty of taking back-door-deals, silencing and extinguishing the prophetic voice and fire that people of outrageous misfortune have longed to hear and receive from the various faith communities that claim to represent them (us) in the name of love and justice.
In this past season, I have felt that my prophetic hands were tied, at least to a degree, in some instances. Many of my President’s policies were continuations of his predecessor’s, a predecessor who I critiqued vehemently and frequently, publicly and privately. And in light of the backlash and uncooperative, filibustering insensitivity Barack Obama was met with, I acquiesced in many of my critiques of his lack of progressive fortitude and fulfillment of his campaign promises relative to issues of race and class. I have empathized with President Obama, knowing that election cycles are ever-present and politicians have to “count the cost” in order to be re-electable. I’m praying that in the next 4 years our President will be more sensitive to the “least of these” and not pander to a mythical middle-class that is not only colorblind, but often times colorless.
My response to our election is clear. Going forward, organizing and mobilizing is non-negotiable. And these efforts must be rooted in something other than consumerized and commercialized models of “social justice” masquerading as piety. I will be the prophet to the White House AND the Trap House, Wall Street AND Main Street, the Academy AND the Church and beyond. My task is to mobilize and empower my brothers and sisters in the faith, within the ministries in which I serve, the academic platforms on which I stand and the street corners that I frequent to make sure “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” I will keep before the people and the prophets the penetrating question of “What WILL the RIGHTEOUS do…. TODAY?” And as I ask it, I’ll be DOING THE WORK!
“…And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him… Now after that…” Mark 1:12-14a (KJV)