10 Lessons From the Back of the Desert

“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.”
Exodus 3:1 (NKJV)

As I reflect on this season of Coronavirus COVID-19, the wildfires in California, Hurricanes off the Gulf Coast, the killing of unarmed Black people at the hands of police, poverty and homelessness, illiteracy, mass incarceration, femicide, and so much global unrest, I recognize that many people perceive themselves to be living in a wilderness. And truthfully, many afflicted by the turmoil of this world find themselves not just in the wilderness, not just in the desert, but in the back of the desert. And it’s normal to, when in the back of the desert, ask, where is God?

The beauty is that according to the book of Exodus the mountain of God resides in the back of the desert. If you find yourself struggling in the back of a desert what you need to know is that there are 10 lessons to learn while there. Let’s take a dive into Exodus chapters 3 and 4 and discover these 10 lessons. 

Lesson #1: God Will Get Your Attention

In Exodus chapter 3:2 the Bible says, “the Angel of the Lord appeared to [Moses] in a flame of fire from the midst of the bush. So, he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but was not consumed.” As you read this I am certain that you know what it feels like to be in the desert. Many of us know what it feels like to be in a place where there’s little sign of life, the environment feels unbearable, and God feels absent. But the end of verse 1 tells us that the mountain of God is in the back of the desert.

So, no matter how much you believe you’re alone, the truth is that the back of your desert is where God resides. And whenever you find yourself in the back of the desert know that God will get your attention. Right now, as you are in the back of your desert, how is God trying to get your attention? What in your life is on fire, but not being consumed? 

Lesson #2: God Will Require Your Sanctification

Now, the moment God has your attention He will immediately require your sanctification. Verse 5 says, “Then [God] said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’” This is a critical command. Oftentimes, we want to be in the presence of God, but don’t consider the reverence requirements necessary to enter.

God tells Moses he has to take his shoes off because the ground is Holy. In your wilderness, where is the holiness of God? What has God asked you to do, to stop, to take off in reverence of His presence? We’ve got to understand that in the wilderness God is going to do whatever is necessary to get our attention and then He will require our sanctification. 

Lesson #3: God Will Call You to a Mission

Once God got Moses’ attention and Moses could discern that it was in fact God speaking He then surrendered to God allowing himself to be made holy. Then, God shares with Moses the mission He was calling him to in Exodus 3:7-10. In this moment we see that the Creator God is not a far off, disengaged Being. Instead He is one that is intimately acquainted with and concerned about the unjust treatment of humanity. So much so, that God declares that He has come down Himself to use His own hand to deliver the Israelites. The only caveat is He desires to accomplish this in partnership with Moses.

This is such a powerful truth because it in the back of our deserts, that God shares His heart with us. It’s in the wilderness that God crosses space and time and inserts Himself onto the Earth seeking to partner with humanity for the liberation of people. The question is, have you stopped to give Him your attention? Have you allowed yourself to surrender to His holiness? Have you heard the heart of God and received the call on your life?

Lesson #4: God Will Read His Own Introduction

It’s when we hear the heart of God that we come to know the character of God. But when Moses asks God what His name is, He says, “I AM WHO I AM.” This is so powerful to me, because Moses has heard the heart of God, learned what is burdening Him, and now He has learned His name.

And when God says, “I AM WHO I AM” He is saying, I am the origin of all families, the seed of all heritage, the spark of all culture, the Father of every living thing. In me exists all things and without me nothing was made that was made. So that in God at all times is whatever you need. And we see God manifest this truth throughout the Exodus Story. In the back of your desert have you allowed God to introduce Himself to you?

Lesson #5: God Will Declare Your Recitation

In Exodus 3:16 God tells Moses to “gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob appeared to me, saying, I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt; and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.’”

In other words, God gave Moses the script. Not only did God share with Moses his mission, but He also told him exactly what to say. So many times, we worry and shrink back from what God has called us to do because we don’t believe we know how to do it. But in the life of Moses we see that God won’t just call you to a mission, but He will also equip you for it. What has God told you to do? And how did He tell you to do it?

Lesson #6: God’s Liberation Promises Reparations

The title of this lesson alone may have caused you to tense up, but I want you to look with me in Exodus 3:21. The Bible says, “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed.” Here we see that God desires not just to use us to free people, but He also desires that we do it in such a way that they are economically, socially, and physically repaired from the oppression they lived through.

Ellen White in her potent article “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” published in the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald in 1896 begins saying, “The American nation owes a debt of love to the colored race, and God has ordained that they should make restitution for the wrong they have done them in the past. Those who have taken no part in enforcing slavery upon the colored people are not relieved from the responsibility of making special efforts to remove, as far as possible, the sure result of their enslavement.”

If we were to be honest, oftentimes, our approaches to serving and saving people oppressed by various systems fails to do this. We must consider who are the people in our contemporary period in need of freedom? What does it look like for them to leave their oppressors emancipated and not empty-handed?

Lesson #7: God Will Show You Confirmation

The wilderness is a difficult place to be. And the back of the desert seems even more overwhelming. This is why whatever God shares with you in the back of the desert He confirms with you in the back of the desert. Chapter 4:1-9 God shows Moses a variety of signs and wonders to prove His power. He turns the rod into a snake, inflicts Moses’ hand with leprosy, and declares that Moses will turn water into blood. In other words, God will confirm your calling and seal within your heart and mind His power so that you will know without a shadow of a doubt that this is what He’s called you to.

Lesson #8: God Will Give You Affirmation

Now, oftentimes, even after the confirmation of our calling and the confirmation of God’s power we still doubt, we remain insecure. We feel like what God is asking of us is far too much for us to take on. Immediately, we join in with Moses and begin sharing with God all of our short comings, inadequacies, deficiencies, along with every reason why He should have picked someone else. But I love how in our moments of insecurity God declares His confidence in Himself!

This reiterates that we are not doing anything we’ve been called to by God in our own strength. He says, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what to say.” Here God is saying, your weaknesses, your inadequacies, your deficits are no match for My power! God is not looking for qualified people. He’s looking for willing people. Any willing heart can become qualified. Particularly when they have the power of God flowing through them.

Lesson #9: God Will Provide Collaboration

Technically, God’s confirmation and affirmation should be enough for us to accept the call and walk in obedience. But some of us are like Moses and we require a little bit more. And according to Scripture our lack of faith does frustrate God. But even in that anger He is gracious enough to give us individuals that we can collaborate with who have strengths where we have weaknesses.

In Exodus 4:14 God encourages Moses to partner with his brother Aaron. And this is important because it’s critical for you to understand that God has people in mind who will come alongside you to aid in you in fulfilling His purpose for your life. The question I want you to wrestle with is, who has God encouraged you to collaborate with?

Lesson #10: God Expects Dedication

After all that, the only thing left for us to do is obey. Once we allow ourselves to go through this entire process, God is then looking for us to be dedicated to completing the mission. My prayer is that you receive this truth. While you may be in the back of your desert God has everything you need in the back of the desert in order to prepare you to come out equipped and empowered to accomplish His will in the Earth. Take some time to consider these lessons, ask yourself these questions, and allow God to speak to you.

#WhatsTheMessage EP 039: Architecture & Social Justice with Wandile Mthiyane

Architecture and community development are an essential aspect of social justice work. Particularly in communities and countries where indigenous people are the victims of stolen land. Check out Thursday’s #WhatsTheMessage episode with Wandile Mthiyane, Obama Leader, TedX Fellow, architectural designer, social entrepreneur, and the Founder & CEO of the Ubuntu Design Group. Make sure you tune in live Thursday at 11am EST to engage with the podcast live.

Learn more about Wandile and his work with the Ubuntu Design Group by checking out the recent documentary produced on him called “Child of Apartheid.”

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#WhatsTheMessage EP 037: Healthy At Last with Eric Adams & Donna Green-Goodman

In this episode Carmela and Claudia welcome Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President and Author of the forthcoming book Healthy at Last: A Plant-Based Approach to Preventing and Reversing Diabetes and Other Chronic Illnesses, along with long time Food Editor, Donna Green-Goodman. They talk about the power of a plant-based diet and provide insights. Tune in to this inspiring episode and learn how a plant-based diet can literally transform your life.

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Police Brutality is on the Ballot

How Senator Kamala Harris Highlighted the Families and Victims of Police Brutality

Towards the end of the highly anticipated Vice Presidential Debate, moderator Susan Page asked the candidates, starting with Senator Kamala Harris, whether or not justice was served in the case of Breonna Taylor.

Justice for Breonna Taylor

Image for postOn March 13, 2020, 26-year old EMT worker Breonna Taylor was fatally shot in her Louisville, Kentucky apartment. Asleep when police officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) broke into her home for the purpose of a drug raid, Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker, a man with a license to carry, says the officers did not announce themselves and so he thought the officers were intruders. He fired a warning shot. According to officials that shot hit Mattingly in the leg. The officers subsequently fired 32 shots in return, 6 of which hit Taylor and she subsequently died. According to police, Taylor’s home was never searched.
A case concerning an innocent, unarmed Black woman serving as an essential worker during the COVID-19 pandemic, many around the country are outraged by the story. These feelings only intensified on September 25, 2020 when Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that the grand jury decided that only one officer, Brett Hankinson, would be indicted for “wanton endangerment” because his shots went through the wall and into the neighboring apartment. Ultimately, no officers would be charged in the direct killing of Taylor, merely the potential endangerment of her neighbors.

Distress & Civil Unrest

Reports chronicle Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, was heard weeping after hearing the grand jury’s decision. In addition to her disappoint, CNN reports that “the grand jury’s ruling sparked protests as thousands walked the streets crying for justice from the afternoon hours well into the night in Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.”

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People march for the third day since the release of the grand jury report on the death of Breonna Taylor on Sept. 26, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

These are the details that come to mind whenever the name Breonna Taylor is mentioned. To African Americans watching the Vice Presidential Debate, this is a sensitive case. Breonna Taylor is not a debate question. She is an all too familiar reality. She is paralyzing truth that Black people in America cannot even sleep without the burden of suspicion of guilt. Such a reality has many pained, even angry and afraid. It is these emotions that national president for the NAACP Derrick Johnson believes “we must channel to change the system and get the right people in office in order to prevent this from happening again.”

The Affects of a Black VP

With this in mind, it is critical that Americans understand that police brutality is on the ballot. Debate moderator Susan Page understands this and so she asked the question, “in the case of Breonna Taylor was justice done?”

In this moment, Senator Kamala Harris, former California District Attorney, second African American woman and the first South Asian American to serve in the United States Senate, and the first African American to appear in a Vice Presidential debate as a nominee, showed why it’s so important that we have a Vice President who knows the names of the families and victims of police brutality. Tonight, Senator Harris showed us that a vote for the Biden Harris ticket is a vote for criminal justice reform, police accountability, and understanding and compassion for the terror of systemic racism that still plagues our country.

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Senator Kamala Harris at the 2020 Vice Presidential Debate. AP Photo/Morry Gash, Pool.

With a heavy sincerity, Harris declared, “I don’t believe so. And I’ve talked with Breonna’s mother, Tamika Palmer and her family. And her family deserves justice. She was a beautiful young woman. She had as her life goal to become a nurse and she wanted to become an EMT to first learn what’s going on out on the street.” Immediately, the Democratic nominee for Vice President humanized a young woman victimized by police brutality, and politicized by a country desperately debating police reform and law and order.

Committed to justice for her life, Senator Harris gave validity to her family, her dreams, and showed a divided country that this young woman is not an isolated incident. But instead, she is the latest case in an ongoing machine that choked Eric Garner, hung Sandra Bland, and knelt on the neck of George Floyd. With boldness she declared, “…and I was a part of those peaceful protests,” a necessary declaration to counter the constant narrative that every protest was violent.

Vote for Police Reform

Tonight, when Senator Harris answered the moderator’s question she showed us what it means to have a Black woman on the ticket for Vice President of the United States. Tonight, Senator Harris made sure that those who resonate with the cases of police brutality were seen, heard, and spoken to directly. She pushed passed a moderator seeking to count her time and declared,

“We need reform of our policing in America and our criminal justice system. Joe and I will immediately ban choke holds…We will require a national registry for police officers who break the law. We will get rid of private prisons, cash bail, decriminalize marijuana, and expunge the records of those who have been convicted for marijuana. This is a time for leadership on a tragic issue of unarmed Black people in America who have been killed.”

Without missing a beat, Senator Harris declared her commitment not just to compassion, but to reformed law and order. She asserted herself as the Vice President who will go into office with criminal justice reform on her mind.

Justice for Law & Order

Contrastingly, her opponent Vice President Mike Pence chose instead to deny systemic racism and reiterate the importance of law and order. Pence responded, “The family of Breonna Taylor has our sympathies. But I trust our justice system, a grand jury who refused the evidence. Really it is remarkable that…a grand jury got it wrong. And with regard to George Floyd, there’s no excuse for what happened and justice will follow. But there’s also no excuse for the rioting and looting that followed…” In these opening comments, Vice President Pence was clear, the concern for the Trump administration is that of law and order. They care more about property damage than the loss of life. Hence, Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s announcement of justice for Taylor’s walls and not Taylor’s life.

Image for post
Vice President Mike Pence at the 2020 Vice Presidential Debate. AP Photo/Morry Gash, Pool.

Furthermore, Pence reiterated his disbelief in systemic racism, implicit bias, and the possibility that “a grand jury [could] get it wrong.” His unwavering belief in the justice system reveals his unwillingness to even consider the broken humanity often accompanied with the policing of Black and Brown bodies. In fact, he implied that whatever consequences come to Black bodies whether death or detaining they are all justified because according to Pence the system is always right.

Justice for Public & Private Property

In this moment, Vice President Pence shifted the focus from justice for Breonna Taylor to justice for public and private property. In addition, he asserted his support, not to the innocent, unarmed victims of police violence, but instead to the police themselves. He declared,

“This presumption that you hear consistently from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris that America is systemically racist, and as Joe Biden has said that he believes that law enforcement has an implicit bias against minorities, is a great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement. And I want the men and women who put on the uniform of law enforcement everyday to know that President Trump and I stand with you.”

Such a statement reveals that the current administration does not believe in systemic racism. They do not believe in implicit bias. And furthermore, they invariably believe that to even suggest such exists within our policing and criminal justice system is to insult the very men and women of our local police departments. Such a statement implies that insulting a police officer in service to law and order is a worse crime than killing an unarmed driving, walking, jogging, sitting, even sleeping African American.

To American Voters

What we as American voters must understand is that police brutality is on the ballot. Who we intentionally re-elect or permit continued access to the Oval by virtue of our inactivity will directly impact our current police brutality issue. Lack of engagement or an outright vote for a Trump-Pence ticket directly means further support of police and property over the lives of Black and Brown people. Contrastingly, the Democratic ticket of Biden and Harris currently espouses a plan to address not just police reform, but mass incarceration, and the re-entry of the formerly incarcerated.

This is not the election to sit out. We must vote. Political scientists record that Trump won the 2016 election not because of an out pouring of votes for him, but because of an overwhelming number of citizens who did not engage at all.

This is not the time to distrust the system. We have never and will never have a perfect ticket, or the perfect candidates. But, if we are going to see reform in the systems that are killing Black and Brown people, then we must vote in officials willing to reform that system on our behalf.

#WhatsTheMessage EP 036: The Truth About Law & Order with Dr. Tim Golden

In this episode Carmela and Claudia welcome Dr. Tim Golden, PhD, JD, a Professor of Philosophy, Legal Studies program coordinator, and Director of the Donald Blake Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture at Walla Walla University. For 20 years, he was a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia and in the federal courts. Dr. Golden joins us on the podcast to discuss the recently released transcript of the Grand Jury trial surrounding the Breonna Taylor case, and helps us make sense of law and order.

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Message Zoom-a-Thon

Tuesday, September 29, 2020, we had a successful Zoom-a-Thon featuring contributors like Dr. Carlton Byrd, Donna Green-Goodman, Dr. Joshua Nelson, Melissa Webster, and Dr. Jaime Kowlessar. The night was filled with music by Sing Off winners Committed, George Powell, Jamila Silvera, and Stephanie Jean-Pierre.

A night designed to help raise subscriptions and donations for the ministry and production goals of Message Magazine, we had an incredibly successful night. Thank you to all of you who have recently subscribed and donated. We will continue to share the Message because of your contributions.

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#WhatsTheMessage EP 035: Message in Your Ear with David Person

In this episode Carmela welcomes David Person back to the podcast to discuss his project in partnership with the Message Podcast Network called Message in Your Ear. This podcast available on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, and iHeartRadio Podcast focuses on highlighting the voices of Black Teens Being. The most recent episode deals with Black Teens and their approach to spirituality and religion. Check out this episode to hear how teens are engaging in social justice, questioning their spirituality, and helping to make our churches and communities to grow.

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#WhatsTheMessage EP 034: The Next NormalX with Marquis Johns

In this episode Carmela and Claudia welcome back Marquis Johns, Evangelist and Director of Adventist Community Services and Prison Ministries for the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Most recently, he is the host and organizer of The Next NormalX, a powerful virtual experience exploring the future of evangelistic practices for Black Christian churches, especially Black Adventist churches. Join us Thursday, September 17th at 11am as we talk with Johns about his vision for evangelism, and what he believes is the next normal.

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#WhatsTheMessage EP 033: The Frustrated Leader with Dr. MyRon Edmonds

In this episode Carmela and Claudia welcome Pastor, Author and Community Developer, Dr. Myron Edmonds, DMin. Author of the recent book The Frustrated Leader: Using Frustration to Accomplish Your Vision, Myron Edmonds is passionate about equipping leaders with the tools they need to move past the paralysis frustration brings to the beauty of executing vision in spite of frustration. This is a conversation we all need and that you do not want to miss!

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Black Votes Matter

How Voting is Key to Social Justice

Whether through literacy tests, poll taxes, or contemporary voter ID laws this country has systemically sought to impede Blacks, Latinos, women, the elderly, and even students from making their voices heard at the ballot box for over 150 years. In her book One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy, Carol Anderson provides a detailed history of voter suppression, particularly against Black Americans. She chronicles how the moment the Three-Fifths Compromise was removed from the Constitution, and particularly when Blacks were freed after the Civil War, local State and even the Federal Government, proceeded to use a series of voter suppression tactics to harass, obstruct, frustrate, and purge American citizens from participating in democracy. Given how close we are to Election Day, it is critical that you understand how to avoid voter suppression and engage in social justice work through voting.

The History of Voter Suppression

Voter suppression saw particular prominence during the reconstruction period. After the Civil War, Joevahn Scott in his TED talk “Fighting Voter Suppression,” chronicles that “Before the 20th century there were 20 black men who served in Congress and two in the United States Senate before voter suppression reduced our ability to get elected officials in office removing our voice from government and leading to decades of [systemic and legalized] oppression.” Such electoral participation and Black government representation infuriated a still racist Southern America.

Unwilling to be outnumbered by a newly freed population, various States set up barriers that made voting not just difficult but literally impossible for Black Americans. They imposed literacy tests that required Blacks to read and interpret dense portions of the Constitution and explain it. And if that weren’t enough, states implemented the Grandfather Clause in the 1890s which was a set of laws that declared that only those who could vote prior to the emancipation of the slaves or who were the lineal descendants of voters could vote.

This along with Poll taxes became the primary restrictions to voting for African Americans. Arguing that it costs money to hold elections, local states charged Blacks high prices in order to cast their vote. For example, in Alabama in 1944 a person would need to pay a $30 tax in order to vote. This is equivalent to $722 in 2016 according to George Stoney in his article “Suffrage in the South: The Poll Tax.” And when literacy tests, and the Grandfather Clause, and the poll tax were not enough, Black Americans were threatened, jailed, beaten, and even killed for voting. In fact, the times when the government would step in and get the rare Black person registered, many times their names were never added to the list or they were purged off the list preventing them from voting on Election Day anyway.

Decline in Voter Participation

This led to a serious decline in Black voter participation. In fact, Anderson writes that in Louisiana, where “more than 130,000 blacks had been registered to vote in 1896, the figure dropped to a bleak 1,342 by 1904.” The numbers were even worse in Alabama as they decreased from 180,000 to 3,000 in just three years. Carol Anderson writes, “Indeed, by 1940…only 3% of age-eligible blacks were registered to vote in the South.” In fact, in Anderson’s research she shows that voter discrimination worked so well that “In 1867, the percentage of African American adults registered to vote in Mississippi was 66.9 percent; by 1955, it was 4.3%. Between 1954 and 1962, only eight blacks in all of Claiborne County had managed to come through Mississippi’s gauntlet” (16). Counties in Alabama had zero to less than 2% of African Americans registered, and Georgia had less than 10% in 1962.


Joined by Coretta Scott King and John Lewis, then of the Voter Education Project, a crowd estimated at 5,000 people marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., on March 8, 1975, to mark the 10th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” civil rights march. AP file

This decline remained in spite of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 showing that voter suppression was not rectified until the passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. While watching the march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where former Congressman John Lewis and others peacefully marched across to their state capital to demand their right to vote, the country watched in horror as peaceful protestors were tear gassed, whipped with barbed-wire bull-whips, and police on horseback trampling over the bodies of protestors. Such trauma led to sweeping passage of the Voting Rights Act with overwhelming majorities in the House of Representatives (328-74) and the Senate (79-18).

The Problem With Voter ID Laws

Our country would not be confronted with such grotesque voter suppression again until the 2000 Presidential Election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. There, Florida becomes a seat of controversy as thousands are purged from voter logs, polling places are closed early, and people are restricted from participating leading to President George Bush’s win by the Electoral College, despite his loss of the popular vote.

Such systemic voter suppression is further solidified in 2013 when the Supreme Court decided in Shelby County v. Holder to amend a key element of the Voting Rights Act under the belief that the racism and systemic oppression that existed restricting Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and women from participating was no longer a factor. In their estimation our country had moved on from these ills and the citizens no longer needed protection from such disenfranchisement under the law.

This would prove to be wrong as States like Indiana under the leadership of then Governor Mike Pence would institute Voter ID laws requiring people to present their birth certificate in order to obtain a state ID, but would then require a state ID of persons in order for them to obtain their birth certificate. In fact, Thom Hartmann in his book The Hidden History of the War on Voting: Who Stole Your Vote – and How to Get it Back writes that “In Indiana, then – Governor Mike Pence’s new rigorous voter ID law caused an 11.5 percent drop in African American voting.” States like Texas would proceed to refuse people the opportunity to vote if their drivers license was expired or if there was even a slight comma, name change, or spelling error that they could not account for with a birth certificate, marriage license, passport, divorce paperwork, or any other legal document.

This is a form of voter suppression because many of the individuals who require these documents often cannot afford to obtain them. This makes voter ID laws a direct attack against persons of color and the poor. They are also an attack against women, as many women get married and according to the Brennan Center for Justice “90% of women take on their husbands name” thus immediately causing a discrepancy between their state issued ID and their birth certificate. In fact, in some states, women are turned away from voting for not having the precise exact documents. Hartmann writes:

Voter ID laws have a disproportionately negative effect on women. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, one third of all women have citizenship documents that do not identically match their current names primarily because of name changes at marriage…roughly 90 percent of married female voters have a different name on their ID than the one on their birth certificate. An estimated 34 percent of women could be turned away from the polls unless they have precisely the right documents.

Voter ID Laws and the Fear of Voter Fraud

Voter ID laws were implemented because of the Republican outcry against “voter fraud.” This is idea is based on the fear that people are voting multiple times under different names, or foreign operatives are voting and turning our elections. In other words, some kind of deviance or discrepancy is occurring at the state level during the electoral process and people are seeking to, as Carol Anderson records, “protect the integrity of the ballot box.”

Demonstrators hold signs at an NAACP-organized rally on the steps of the Pennsylvania Capitol to protest the state’s new voter identification law on July 24, 2012 in Harrisburg, Pa.

Political scientists have done extensive work on “voter fraud” and found it be extremely rare. Furthermore, Carol Anderson documents in her book that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that “the only kind of voter fraud that SEA 483 addresses is in-person voter impersonation at polling places.” He then subsequently admitted that “the record contains no evidence of any such fraud actually occurring in Indiana at any time in its history.” In other words, the state of Indiana where Governor Pence was enacting some of the harshest voter ID laws political scientists, lawyers, and judges attest there is no tangible evidence or documentation of even one instance of voter fraud ever in the history of the state to even present a need for Voter ID laws in Indiana.

Why Vote?

With so much voter suppression and voter obstruction, why vote? The truth is, the Votes of Black and Brown people are critical. Frankly, if they weren’t local and federal officials wouldn’t try so hard to prevent you from voting. The main reason they are critical is because voting is about representation. It’s about having a voice, a say, in how the country is run. Voting is the central controller of what Thom Hartmann identifies as the “American Commons.”

In the introduction to The Hidden History of the War on Voting Hartmann explains that the commons include “air and water; our roads and skyways; the frequency spectrum we use for communication, radio, and television; our public school system; our military, police, and fire departments; the agencies we use to ensure the safety and quality of our food and medications; the systems and laws that keep people laying the game of business within legal boundaries; our jails and prisons; our oceans and public lands; and our social safety net – among other things.” In other words, our vote for who is in government directly impacts the environment, the economy, the criminal justice system, healthcare, education, agriculture, infrastructure, foreign affairs, and every kind of human protection you can imagine.

This is why Stacey Abrams, avid advocate for voting rights, says that “voting rights serve as the conduit through which all other change is made possible.”

Voting rights serve as the conduit through which all other change is made possible

We cannot have social justice a part from voting. The moment you refrain from voting or are restricted from voting you are deemed impotent in producing any kind of substantive and systematic change for the vulnerable within this country. It is this truth that the great Congressman John Lewis died upholding and fighting for.

Biblical Grounds for Civic Engagement

In fact, Scripture provides support for your responsibility to your country and Earthly citizenship. In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 17:24-27 we see here that our spiritual identity, our spiritual reality, as sons and daughters of the Creator God does not absolve us of our social and political responsibilities to this Earth. Instead, our spiritual identities in Christ actually commission us to a life of servanthood and sacrifice. We are responsible for holding ourselves accountable both to God and the political powers that be. This means that we have both a spiritual and civic responsibility to vote.

What Should I Do?

  1. Register to vote today!
  2. If you’re already registered call your local Board of Elections and make sure your name has not been purged from the list.
  3. Contact three people and ask them to register and vote
  4. Determine your Voting Plan. Will you be voting by mail? Early in-person voting, or voting in-person on November 3rd? Decide now and get things in order today! You only have so much time to request your ballot and mail it in. Get on top of things now.
  5. Volunteer at your polling station. Help to ensure that not only is your vote counted, but the votes of others in your community are properly counted also.