American Covenant: Glenn interviews author Timothy Ballard

[gbtvembed content_id="21515053"]

Glenn invited The Covenant author Timothy Ballard onto radio this morning to discuss National Day of Prayer and the role of faith in the founding of the country. You can purchase the book here!

Transcript of the interview is below:

GLENN: I want to tell you that today is the 17th of May. Today plays a very important role in American history. Today is the day that George Washington in 1776 said we have got to beg for forgiveness, humiliation fast and pray and beg the Lord to be on our side or we're never going to beat the British. This is the first time that he really did this. It's a very important day. We'll explain what happened because ‑‑ what I believe because of that in a few minutes and I also want to introduce you to somebody who has written a new book that ‑‑ and I just started to tell him this story. Tim Ballard is with us and I want to tell you the story of how this book ‑‑ why this book is important to me and why it should be important to you. About two years ago ‑‑ correct me if I'm wrong, Pat. Wasn't it about two years ago? It was before we went ‑‑ it was before we went to Israel.

PAT: Yeah, I think so.

GLENN: Maybe a year and a half ago. I went to some of the biggest scholars on American history, and Peter Lillback, who is a George Washington ‑‑ he probably knows more and has more record of what George Washington said and wrote about when it concerns God than anybody else. He's probably the biggest name in George Washington religious information. And I called a few of these professors and researchers up and I said, listen, I have a theory. I have a theory that we made a covenant starting really with Columbus, really then again, it really took shape with the pilgrims. They honored that covenant. That gave us the generation of the founders. And with Whitfield coming over, he laid the groundwork to really cement it and George Washington and the founders made a covenant with God and it is the reason why we were founded, why we were protected and why Israel was established and we won't make it because now we've accomplished that one task. The question is now, are we over because I believe all the founders saw it, they were laying the foundation, are we over or do we renew the covenant. Every single one of them said, you won't be able to prove that, except for Peter Lillback. Peter Lillback said, Glenn, I can't think of anything that says that that's true. And I said, Peter, would you be willing to look into it? Just look into it. He called me three months later and he said, "Glenn, I can't believe it. There's a ton of evidence just from George Washington that that's true, that that's what he believed." He actually published a little teeny book on the founders and Israel based on that theory. So now fast forward, Pat, when was it, fall of last year, some place? Yeah, because we were still in New York City.

PAT: Mmm‑hmmm.

GLENN: I hear about somebody who's working on the covenant, the Founding Fathers. I hear about this separately. We get a phone call, Pat gets a phone call from somebody who knows you and says, Pat, you guys have got to get together with Tim Ballard because you won't believe what he's found. It's exactly the same thing. You've done all the homework. You've done all of the research. This is not your field of expertise. This isn't really even what you were setting out to do when you were going to write a book, right?

BALLARD: That's right.

GLENN: What were you ‑‑ bring the microphone in to you. What exactly was your ‑‑ what is your goal of when you started to write this book or when you started to do the research? What were you doing?

BALLARD: Well, my background is kind of in the foreign policy apparatus. I work for the United States government. I do a lot of work overseas. And I was fascinated by the power for good that the United States is. I work in child exploitation and we ‑‑ I get to witness the greatness of this nation and liberating the oppressed overseas and abroad and I thought I'm going to ‑‑ you know, it kind of informed my research into the foreign policy side of things and so I wanted to look into that. I thought, hey, I'm going to write a couple of chapters on the founding to kind of set this up. Well, those couple of chapters turned into a whole book because I was absolutely shocked at what I found. The question I had is what is the power for good. I mean, 200 years ‑‑ I mean, this country's an infant, 200 years old or so. Why are we so powerful? What I found was that word: The covenant. The founders knew of this covenant. It's a covenant attached to the covenants of ancient Israel. They knew that power, they tapped into that power, and it worked.

GLENN: We were talking yesterday off air about the prayer at Valley Forge where George Washington gets down on his knees and he always prayed looking up, he always was praying up to God and he was very, very humble. And here he is in Valley Forge. He goes off into the woods by himself and he kneels down in the snow. He always knelt when he prayed and he spoke his ‑‑ he spoke his prayer. Unbeknownst to him, he thought he was alone, there was someone who was on the side of the British watching him.

BALLARD: Isaac Potts. That's right. And he sees this. He feels this power. He feels the power of this covenant that Washington is making, this connection with heaven. He runs home to his wife and says we're on the side of George Washington. I'm changing, I'm changing sides because we're going to win this.

GLENN: He's like, it's over. For Great Britain, it's over.

BALLARD: That's right.

GLENN: You should have heard this man pray. And if this guy is praying and this is what ‑‑ he's using the power of God ‑‑ it's over. It's an amazing story. Okay. So explain what the covenant is exactly.

BALLARD: The covenant ‑‑ well, really look at the Old Testament. The Old Testament establishes a covenant. God says to Israel, I will be your God and you will be my people. And he promises them liberty and protection, prosperity, if they adhere to him. If they turn their hearts to him. And there's this story that develops in the Old Testament, a fascinating story. This story continues in the promised land of America.

GLENN: Do you have any doubt in your mind that Columbus, when he first went to Spain, he was so arrogant, he didn't understand the covenant. But the second time when he went after living with the monks for a while, he was humble enough to understand the covenant and got it when he first came over.

BALLARD: He got it. And all you have to do is look in his book of prophecies, his diary. He named it this. He understood ‑‑ I mean, he understood things so profound, he understood that the connection to Israel. He believed that his discovery of this new world that he thought was the Indies, he believed that this was going to create something, start a chain of events that would actually ‑‑

GLENN: Reestablish Israel?

BALLARD: Exactly, exactly.

GLENN: Right. And that's exactly the same thing that the pilgrims felt.

BALLARD: Exactly. The pilgrims get here, they call themselves the new Israel. John Winthrop gives the speech of American literature, the City on the Hill speech. That's an invocation of the covenant. And he says in his writings, it's a capital C, he puts the Covenant, the Covenant, we're making a Covenant. We're taking out a commission, he says. And he repeats the same pattern. It's like reading the Old Testament all over again, reading American history. They name their towns after Israelite towns. Salem, for example, a derivative from Jerusalem, they name their children Hebrew names, they invoke the covenant and the miracles happen. The miracles immediately fall upon them.

GLENN: One of my favorite stories is George Washington makes this covenant, tells the American people, make the covenant on this day. I've asked people and I don't know if you remember but I asked on this day, fast and pray, make the covenant with God, I'm fasting, praying, I'd love for you to join. Pray for the country, make the covenant with God because that's what changed everything. Now, he did it twice. He did it here and then he did it again in July, right?

BALLARD: That's right.

GLENN: Was it July?

BALLARD: That's right.

GLENN: Made it in July. Tell me about, I find this, this is the first evidence that it is starting, it has an effect. If you read history and you read the journals on either side, the Battle of Long Island is the first sign of the miracles of God.

BALLARD: And it is an unbelievable miracle. I mean, look at this. George Washington, he's a farmer. He's got citizen soldiers with, you know, they barely know how to shoot a gun and they are going up against the world superpower. It was the largest naval fleet ever sent from one nation to another nation in that time in history. What's he thinking? How in the world is he going to do this thing? He crosses the East River onto Long Island and they have their first major battle. Well, the Americans get routed and the British think, this is over. We're going to win this thing. They're laughing, as the colonists were running back towards Manhattan for safety. A miracle happens.

GLENN: One of the reasons why they're laughing is because this he know they have British warships in the river, behind the U.S. troops. So as Washington is coming in, the British warships are coming down the river and they are going to meet Washington from behind. So they'll slaughter because they have them surrounded, they will slaughter them from both sides.

BALLARD: It's the ultimate trap.

GLENN: Right.

BALLARD: It's over, this revolution's over. Washington tells the commanders, we're going to cross the river. They say, how are we going to do this thing? Just trust me, we're going to do it. When night falls, we're going to do this thing. Night falls, and with that night comes an enormous windstorm that pushes these British ships out of the way and Washington makes the ‑‑ starts making the crossing. And then the wind shifts westerly to help facilitate this exodus, if you will. And then what's happening? The sun's going to come up, it's going to expose this scheme and the British land ships will see it. It will be over. What happens? David McCullough explains it better than anyone I've found. As night ‑‑ as the sun comes up, a pea soup fog drops down right over where Washington's crossing. Not so much on the Long Island side or the New York, Manhattan side, but right where Washington's crossing.

GLENN: They are all ‑‑ they all say on their journals, nowhere else on the island, nowhere else in the area. Just over Washington's troops.

BALLARD: And they make the escape. 20 minutes after they get to the other side, the fog dissipates and the British are standing there ‑‑

GLENN: Where did they go?

BALLARD: ‑‑ putting their hands on the air, "What on Earth just happened."

Now, I want to say something else about May 17th. I just found this. May 17th John Witherspoon, an underrated founding father, one of the signers of the declaration, on May 17th he gave a speech to his congregation and he said, "We will win this war because the grand artist will utilize the elements." And I kid you not, I'm not making this up. He said he will send. God almighty will send an unforeseen fog to halt the operations of the enemy. May 17th, the very day Washington's fasting and praying for that very miracle, the fog comes. Absolutely stunning. And this is just one of I don't know how many experiences that follow this pattern.

GLENN: Okay. So we're going to take a quick break and then we'll come back. You contend that we ‑‑ I contend that we broke the covenant.

BALLARD: Yes.

GLENN: And that it can be made again, you contend. It's really not that hard. Right?

BALLARD: We can reactivate the covenant, absolutely.

GLENN: Okay. Back in just a second with Timothy Ballard. The name of the book is The Covenant: One Nation Under God.

PAT: The American Covenant.

GLENN: Okay. All right.

BALLARD: Well, actually now it's The Covenant.

PAT: It is The Covenant now? Okay.

GLENN: The Covenant: One Nation Under God. I think you were reading an earlier version of it.

PAT: I think so.

GLENN: The Covenant: One Nation Under God. Is it available everywhere?

BALLARD: It's at Amazon right now.

GLENN: Okay.

BALLARD: Legendslibrary.com.

GLENN: Okay. And I believe we have links also at GlennBeck.com. Grab this book. You'll learn so much about history and it all makes sense. When you read it, you're like, "Oh, my gosh." It's what I've been saying for about a year and a half now. It's not that hard. It's really not that hard. There's no way to win. Exactly what George Washington and the founders knew: There's no way to win here, gang. You're outnumbered, there's no way to win. Yes, there is. Exactly the way Washington won. Exactly the same way. Using the same firepower. It is the only way to win. The Covenant: One Nation Under God. Today is the 17th, the day that Washington begged the American people, "Make the covenant. Make the covenant." At least start the journey and learn what the covenant is historically speaking. It's an amazing, amazing ride. We'll give that to you here a little bit more here with Timothy Ballard in just a second.

First our sponsor this half hour, it is Freedom Works. The restoring love event is coming July 28th and I want you there. I hope you're planning on attending. Freedom Works is going to be joining me at this historic event and they are also hosting what's called Free PAC. It's happening on Thursday, July 26th here in Dallas, Texas. This is something that you do not want to miss. This is the kickoff of a global Tea Party movement. The Tea Party movement, it's not enough just to save America. God is not neutral on the freedom of mankind, and we can't do it alone. And we're about to lose the rest of the globe as well. I've been over to Europe and I've talked to European parliamentary members, I have talked to people in the Knesset, I've talked to people from all over the world, from the former Soviet bloc. These are Tea Party activists. And I've also talked to politicians over there. Some of the politicians have asked, can you help us start a Tea Party? No, I don't think so. Not with politicians, no. But the activists, when I went over to Europe, I called Freedom Works and I said, "Would you help me put these guys together." Got into a room with, I don't know, 30 of them. There are now 1,000 Tea Party freedom‑loving activists over in Europe and the former Soviet bloc and all around the world that are coming to Dallas to this event on the 26th of July. They are begging for Tea Party activists to come and help them, teach them the principles of America. Let's unite, and the very first time ever a Tea Party movement has been organized globally with Free PAC from Freedom Works. If you'd like to get more information and you want to preregister, please do it now. They've just rented the American Airlines arena. That only seats I think about 25,000. The Dallas Cowboys stadium is already sold out. Please register for this now. Go to FreePAC.com. That's FreePAC.com and register now for a summer that will go down in American history on the positive column.

(OUT 11:22)

GLENN: Timothy Ballard is the author of the new book The Covenant: One Nation Under God, America's Sacred Connection to Ancient Israel, and it is, it is stunning when you tie history together and you really look at what not somebody's opinion but you look at their own words and the pattern of American history. It is always the same. We connect with God, we renew this covenant and there's this moment of brilliance that moves us forward and then we get fat and lazy and it goes away and then there's a flash of brilliance, and it happens every single time. It happened in the American Revolution. I contend we started to break the covenant about 1830, maybe a little bit before that, and the covenant wasn't really, it wasn't strong enough because of ‑‑ we still had the blood of slavery on our hands, and it started to fall apart. But it was the Christian movement, the covenant again that brought us forward with Abraham Lincoln. It's what saved us.

BALLARD: That's absolutely right. That's absolutely right, yeah.

GLENN: Before we ‑‑ before we move forward, I want to go to the past. First let's go to the ancient past.

PAT: Yeah, Tim, you say that almost every prophet of old, like Old Testament prophets prophesied, foresaw America. I don't think a lot of people believe that.

BALLARD: Yeah, that's right. That's not a super popular idea.

PAT: No.

BALLARD: I hear a lot, I hear a lot that ‑‑

GLENN: America doesn't exist, nowhere in the Bible.

PAT: Yeah.

BALLARD: Doesn't exist in the Bible, therefore it's going to disappear off the face. You know what? I have a very different idea, a very different theory. I believe that these ancient prophets knew of the promised land of America. I believe that ‑‑ well, there's all sorts of prophecies about who the lost tribes would be and where they would go. And really you need to read the book to get the whole context. I won't be able to do it in a quick interview. But I believe, and I believe the evidence is strong, that there ‑‑ that God led migrations out of Israel and that they ‑‑ he led them to the promised land of America. This was another exodus of sorts.

GLENN: The pilgrims believed it, Columbus believed it.

BALLARD: Yes.

GLENN: All of them believed they were completing the journey that Moses started. All of them.

BALLARD: Yes.

GLENN: All of them.

BALLARD: Absolutely. And they called George ‑‑ I mean, when George Washington came to town, they called him their Moses.

GLENN: Yeah.

BALLARD: Their Joshua. This was a theme that, yeah, this isn't so much my idea ‑‑

GLENN: This goes ‑‑

BALLARD: ‑‑ as it was the pilgrims' idea.

GLENN: This goes to Bruce Feiler's book. Do you remember Bruce Feiler's?

BALLARD: American Prophet.

GLENN: Yes.

BALLARD: Awesome book.

GLENN: Yeah, awesome book.

BALLARD: Yes.

GLENN: Here's a guy who's Jewish that says look at the role of Moses every single time in American history. It's Moses. It is the completion ‑‑ the Statue of Liberty is Moses.

BALLARD: Yes.

GLENN: It is ‑‑ she's holding the two tablets of the law. It's Moses breaking the chains of slavery. That's what that is.

BALLARD: And Bruce's book is also complemented by another book. I don't know if you heard of a book called The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn.

GLENN: I have heard of that. I don't think I've read it.

BALLARD: Best selling book. Him and I have been talking this week. He says the same thing. He's also, he's a Messianic Jew, runs the Jerusalem Center, he has a ministry. Unbelievable book. Says the exact same thing that I'm saying. The covenant has been extended from Israel, from ancient Israel to America.

GLENN: If you look at the ark of history, there had to be a plan to restore Israel and it's my contention that we were that piece. We were that plan. We've done it. Now the question is, we've done our job. Are we done as a nation? More in a second.

(OUT 11:31)

GLENN: We have Timothy Ballard on. He is the author of a book called The Covenant. He will be on with me tonight on GBTV and we'll get into a lot more specifics. And this is really important. And look, we have ‑‑ we have lost stations, we have lost, you know ‑‑ we've lost friends, you name it because I really truly believe that God is the answer. I don't care what religion you are; God's the answer. It's the only way out. George Washington knew it. We can play the little PC game all you want, but it's not going to change the answer. And because I truly believe it, I'll say it. And if it means that, you know, that's the last thing you ever hear from me, okay, that's the last thing you ever hear from me. It's the truth. It's the truth. April 30th is a very important day. Today is a very important day in history, May 17th. This is the day that George Washington said make a covenant with God. America, please get on your knees and make a covenant for divine protection for this American experiment because we're never going to win. And he said, fast and pray. I've asked you in the past if the you would join us on this day, May 17th and fast and pray for the one specific reason. Please, we'll be your people. We'll turn our hearts to you if you'll just protect us. We'll do what you say if you please protect us. That's the covenant that George Washington was talking about.

Now Timothy Ballard has the book out The Covenant and it is a theory that you're not going to get any place else and it's really, I mean, you weren't even looking for this, were you?

BALLARD: I was not, no.

GLENN: It's not really even a theory. It's theory that we can restore it, I guess. I believe we can. But it's not theory. It's historic fact on this, what this means.

BALLARD: It's their words and their actions, I'm speaking of the founders, absolutely.

GLENN: Got it. So tell me about April 30th. Why is April 30th an important day?

BALLARD: April 30th should be a national holiday. April 30th was a day of covenant‑making in this land like nothing else perhaps we've ever seen as far as covenant‑making goes. This is the day George Washington took his oath of office. It's the picture that we're utilizing for the cover of the book. What happened on that day in that moment will blow your mind. It blows my mind. First of all, a proclamation goes out a week before: Come to Federal Hall in New York City. That's where the capital was at the time. Come and see your president take his oath and come ready to pray. This was the press sending this out. At 9:00 a.m. the bells will ring in the city. Go to your house of worship and pray that God will accept this land as his.

GLENN: You're probably one of the very few besides David Barton and me that get teary‑eyed talking about this stuff.

BALLARD: I do. I get emotional. And then what happens? It's not over yet. George Washington comes out and takes his oath, raises his arm in the fashion of a covenant‑maker and places his hand on the Bible. But not just on the Bible but in the Bible. Where in the Bible? Historians muse at where he placed his hand because they think for a deliberate man like Washington, who knew posterity was watching, why in the world did he just flip that book open and put his hand anywhere? He didn't just put it just anywhere. Pat talked to me about, asked me about the ancient prophecies of Israel. I can't ‑‑ I don't have time to explain it. You've got to read it. It's better to discover it through reading the whole context of everything. Where he placed his hand told the world and the nation that he understood the covenants of Israel and he understood this covenant had been imported by the founders into the United States of America.

GLENN: If I'm not mistaken, one other president has opened the book, opened the book in exactly the same page and did exactly the same thing. Do you know this?

BALLARD: I don't. I don't know this one.

GLENN: Ronald Reagan.

BALLARD: Oh.

GLENN: First term.

BALLARD: This is a man, Ronald Reagan, who understood the covenant.

GLENN: Yes. It's a guy who then got out there and said it's an evil empire.

BALLARD: Yes.

GLENN: And it needs to be destroyed.

BALLARD: Yes. A little hint. I've found that those presidents who back, who back Israel ‑‑ I'm talking about the nation state of Israel today ‑‑ always are the ones who understand the covenant. Those who don't back Israel do not understand the covenant.

GLENN: Harry Truman did.

BALLARD: Harry Truman understood the covenant. He's in my book because he understood it so well.

GLENN: Yeah.

BALLARD: But the day continues on April 30th. It's not over yet. Washington after he does this thing, invokes the covenant, the people go are there praying. He goes in ‑‑

GLENN: Hang on. He also added to the oath ‑‑

BALLARD: Yes.

GLENN: ‑‑ "so help me God."

BALLARD: So help me God.

GLENN: That was an ad lib from him.

BALLARD: Absolutely. He did this thing and then he walks in and he gives what I call the Smiles of Heaven speech which is what? An invocation to the covenant. He said the smiles of heaven can never be expected upon a nation that disregards the rules of order and right, which heaven itself has ordained. That's a quote from this speech. He says other things invoking the covenant, clear invocation. Then it's not over yet. He calls the government, the senators, their representatives, newly elected, takes them down to the street and they walk. They march. It's a procession, a religious procession. And where do they go? Where does Washington lead them? To St. Paul's chapel. The first joint session of congress is now upon them.

GLENN: Okay. Hang on just a second. It's important to know on that walk there were all faiths.

BALLARD: Absolutely.

GLENN: There was everyone arm in arm. All faiths walking arm in arm intentionally. They're all walking together in ‑‑ to worship God. All of them.

BALLARD: Absolutely.

GLENN: I bring this up because right now there are so many people that are like, "Oh, I can't ‑‑ well, no, not with you, not because of that. No, well, they're not of my faith." That's crazy talk. Stop it. Stop it.

BALLARD: And this was a huge theme, what you're talking about with George Washington. He talked about it all the time, that every religious sect in this nation needs to be upheld, needs to be given their due freedom, and that was ‑‑ that was key to him and to his understanding of the fruit of this covenant, that all religions. And so he leads them in to St. Paul's chapel and they bow and they pray and they dedicate the land to God. I mean, this day is completely a religious day. It's a religious service, and we do ourselves a disservice by pretending that it was just some token acknowledgment of God, that you might quote Washington here or there. No. The whole entire day of his Inauguration Day was the day that the covenant was further established, was recognized by the nation. And why on Earth I had to dig so deep, I had to find primary sources to find all this stuff, because our historians aren't doing the job.

GLENN: Oh, no. They are doing worse than that. They are erasing all of it. They are erasing all of it.

BALLARD: There are scholars, I get so frustrated. I start yelling and my wife has to calm me down. I read their books and I see ellipses in the quote and I went, what did he pull out? I go look at the original source, it's all the focus of the statement. And it was all about God. What are we doing?

GLENN: Well, you have that with the president. That all men are endowed with certain unalienable rights. Wait, there's a dot‑dot‑dot there. I mean, there's more dots than there are words.

BALLARD: We cannot take God, we cannot take God out of this nation. It's a slap in His face. And we'll lose the blessings.

GLENN: Okay. So tonight I'm going to have you on and we're going to talk about how ‑‑ what the covenant is specifically and how to make it again and what we need to demand of ourselves. And also, if you will, spend some time on what page he opened the Bible to. I just ‑‑ I just showed Timothy something, just got this yesterday. David Barton hand‑delivered this yesterday to me. This is ‑‑ what I'm holding in my hand is a Bible, and everybody says, "Government, it's ‑‑ we're not Christian nation." This is a Bible printed by the congress of the United States of America in 1772. This is the Bible that was printed for the American Revolution. So we don't know the providence on this particular one. This might have been in the hands of Knox, it might have been in the hands of Washington. We don't know who the hands that had this Bible, but this was the one that was given to the revolutionaries. This was for congress. There's eight of these in existence. Anybody who doesn't think that they cared or that they were Christian or that they didn't ‑‑ that they weren't paying attention to God, we've now made this into magic tricks. We've made this into folklore and magic tricks. It's not. It's not. It's very clear. It's a simple formula: Two plus to equals four. You plus a covenant equals security. Prosperity. Peace. That's the way it is. It's just that simple. Join me tonight on GBTV.com for more with Timothy Ballard. The name of the book again is The Covenant available everywhere. It's available on Amazon.com. You can find links to it at GlennBeck.com. Also we'll have more on TheBlaze.com coming up today and GBTV tonight. The Covenant. A book you must get by Timothy Ballard.

Summer is ending and fall is in the air. Before you know it, Christmas will be here, a time when much of the world unites to celebrate the love of family, the generosity of the human spirit, and the birth of the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

For one night only at the Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, on December 7th, join internationally-acclaimed radio host and storyteller Glenn Beck as he walks you through tales of Christmas in the way that only he can. There will be laughs, and there might be a few tears. But at the end of the night, you'll leave with a warm feeling in your heart and a smile on your face.

Reconnect to the true spirit of Christmas with Glenn Beck, in a storytelling tour de force that you won't soon forget.

Get tickets and learn more about the event here.

The general sale period will be Friday, August 16 at 10:00 AM MDT. Stay tuned to for updates. We look forward to sharing in the Christmas spirit with you!

Ryan: Elizabeth Warren does the Wing Ding

Photo by Sean Ryan

Two thousand people yipped and howled as Elizabeth Warren bounced onto the stage like it was a stairmaster and she was a gym rat.

Sold out. Maximum capacity. Whole place writhing, all 30,000 square feet, with tight rows of folding chairs like checkers on the dancefloor big as a Walgreens.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Under the disco ball that hung from the dark blue ceiling, the crowd screamed like Warren was Led Zeppelin and the year was 1970, when really she was a 70-year-old Senator and this was a fundraiser called Wing Ding, in Clear Lake, Iowa, at the Surf Ballroom, where Buddy Holly spent the last few cold hours of his life.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Warren did not stand behind the podium like Biden or Bernie Sanders.

She was a yoga grandma! A rapping pastor! A beat-boxing cop! An energetic manager! A cat who thinks it's a puppy!
It was like she needed to move around the stage and wave her arms and fire up the congregation or else the floor would belch into lava.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Iowa would work its magic on Warren. By the end of the weekend, she emerged as a top contender, a position she'd maintain with alacrity, then build on.

In her turquoise blazer and her shoes-that-meant-business, she strolled out to the edge of the stage and gave her speech like a natural-born specialist of hootenanny.

Only thing missing was The Who's "Teenage Wasteland," or, better yet, that "Sail away, sail away, sail away" song by Enya.
Warren was a car commercial, the kind directed at Millenials, with plastic indie rock and a phony "who gives a shit" vibe. She was expensive cheese from right around the corner. She was Nancy Sinatra, but without Lee Hazelwood.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Voice like a stack of hay catching fire, she made promises. She riled the crowd. And it was an odd sight, the way these meek folks attempted to get rowdy. The way they grimaced and writhed, it was like seeing the reclusive kid volunteer to be the mascot.

It was like they were trying to match the intensity of Trump rallies. No politician has been able to do that so far. The man fills arenas, for God's sake. And his supporters wait for hours outside hoping to get inside. Then he makes them wait. Let's the place get feverish.

Until people are so psyched that they literally cannot remain seated, and they stand their eagerly for thirty minutes, gasping every time a song ends with the hope it means he has arrived.

The Wing Dinger — God bless them — just didn't have that dragon energy, that ravenous devotion. Have you ever seen that show "Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job"? The people in the ballroom were hyperventilating and spazzing like characters from Tim & Eric. The whole occasion would have been a pickpocket's dream.

Variously, they bulged and shuffled and freestyled to themselves. Who gave the kids sugar cookies at the Baptist youth sleepover? You know they can't handle it, you know they get twitchy, so manic it's almost violent.

And that fed Warren, revved her manic engines.

Full speech: Elizabeth Warren speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding www.youtube.com

If this had been the 1980s, I would have suspected everyone there had spent all day railing cocaine. And Warren would be the Sly Stone of the event, guarding the vault full of drugs.

If only she could have pulled out a guitar and played AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" or performed a duet with a cat on a keyboard. My dad and I had arrived late, and both of us struggled to relax our eyebrows because this scene was unbelievable. It must have been especially odd for my father, who emigrated from Ireland at 33.

And right now he was frowning because it was so loud in there.

As Warren shouted into a handheld mic, my dad turned to me, almost upset, "Who is she?" he asked, but before I could answer, he said, "I do not like that woman."

*

When Warren was 12 years old, her father suffered a debilitating heart attack.

He didn't die, but he wouldn't be able to work for years.

The medical bills got so bad that Warren'sfamily nearly lost their home. The car was repossessed. Those were gritty, emaciating days.

Her older brothers joined the military. Her mother got a minimum wage job at Sears. And, at 13, Warren started waiting tables.

She grew up in Oklahoma, where I myself was raised, so I can tell you that it is the Cinderella of States. My personal favorite. At night, the stars croon down over you like they are checking on their infant in its crib and you are that infant. Much like Iowans, people from Oklahoma tend to be kind, and patient, and wild like Americans ought to be.

*

When Warren was growing up, Oklahoma was a Blue State. Her family wasn't Republican. And, these days, Warren is considered a progressive.

But her worldview has evolved over the past few decades.

Photo by Sean Ryan

As a girl, she had seen the effects of bankruptcy firsthand. But her early conclusions led her to personal responsibility. After all, she had taken a job at 13 to help pay her dad's medical bills.

One of Warren's former students, told reporters that, "What changed [Warren's ideology] was the stories of ordinary people filing for bankruptcy. That speaks really well of her that she was presented with information contrary to her worldview and adopted it."
Before that, she leaned right, politically. Or, in the words of one of her best friends growing up, "Liz was a diehard conservative in those days."

Another friend called her an "ice-cold Republican."

A colleague at the University of Texas in Austin, where she worked in the early 1980s, said that "Liz was sometimes surprisingly anti-consumer in her attitude."

Another colleague said "I remember the first time I became aware of her as a political person and heard her speak, I almost fell off my chair. She's definitely changed. It's absolutely clear that something happened."

Until 1996, when she was 47 years old, Warren was a registered Republican.

And I do not mean this in a snarky way. Opposite. It's admirable when people undergo personal change. We have to. It's a matter of survival. A person who never evolves is blinded by hubris and destined to fail.

Longtime Warren collaborator Jay Westbrook has told reporters, "It drives me crazy when she's described as a radical left-winger.

She moved from being moderately conservative to being moderately liberal. When you look at consumer debt and what happens to consumers in America, you begin to think the capitalist machine is out of line."

At some point she got pregnant for the first time, setting in motion a series of events that may have involved discrimination, or may have been a fabrication she has since used in stump speeches as a heart-tugging anecdote.

As far as controversies go, it's as goofy and PG-rated as her onstage persona.

Who cares if she lied for the sake of a story and the benefit of victimhood? Trump lies constantly. Politicians lie constantly. It's part of the reason public trust in government has sunk lower than ever before.

No, it's not morally acceptable that politicians are habitually dishonest. But the outrage aimed at Warren isn't actually about that, is it?

*

Warren won state debate champion in high school. Shortly after graduating, at 19, she married Jim Warren, a mathematician who worked for IBM, then NASA.

The two dated when Elizabeth was 13 and Jim was 17. Warren chose marriage over a full-ride to the prestigious George Washington University.

Three years later, she gave birth to her first daughter. You can find the picture of her in the hospital bed, surrounded by white sheets, her eyes an oceanic blue, glowing as she holds her baby for the first time, a technicolor sash around her left shoulder.

She focused on being a mom for two years, then put herself through law school at Rutgers. At her graduation, she was eight months pregnant. Most airlines won't allow women so close to their due date.

After ten years of marriage and two children, her husband divorced her.

Warren hadn't expected it. One night, she asked her husband, "Do you want a divorce" and he said yes, even though she'd been asking in that, "Something's wrong but surely things aren't so bad" kind of way.

Imagine the enormity and disbelief she must have felt as her husband said he'd be leaving her. The kind of moment that gives a person vertigo.

Warren tried to revive the marriage, but her husband had given up. Before long he moved out, quit smoking, got super into dancing, then remarried.

Politicians tend to mention tragedies only as evidence for a policy stance. Or occasionally these stories will appear in a candidate profile. Or you can read the ice-cold Encyclopedia version.

I always wonder about the desperation people suffered in those moments that must have seemed so long, the quiet after bitter words or desperate outbursts. The enormity they must have felt.

In moments of trauma, we become intensely aware of the noises and smells and colors and momentos around us. What was the first object Warren noticed after hearing her husband say, "Yes"?

She has since said that she and Jim never really fought. That she didn't blame him for leaving. But that they just didn't work out. "I can't imagine anybody putting up with me over long periods. It's why I can never be cranky about Jim. I get it."

Still, a marriage has to be fairly bad for a couple with young children to divorce. But even an amicable divorce is devastating. It marks the death of a love that had once been good enough and deep enough for two people to bind themselves together, if only by law.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Now, Warren was a single mother. Surely, at times, that was lonesome. She must have felt moments of intense waywardness.

There must have been anxious nights, lonely mornings, swarming with memories about life as it was, all those plans for the future that must feel so naive in hindsight.

Warren's quirkiness has made her an easy piñata for her rivals.

But I just think about her, alone in a room, folding clothes or staring off, blinking and slouching there alone, and I feel disgust for politics as a bloodsport.

What do rancor or invective get us in the end? A winner who trounced a loser? What is the human cost? Not just for the people being targeted, but for the world as we'd like it.

Why isn't it enough to disagree with an opponent? Why does there have to be humiliation?

And if it's wrong from one politician, it's wrong from them all.

A person can't decry the abuse that President Trump faces — which is daunting in intensity and volume — then cheer him on when he's doing the same exact thing.

Somebody is going to have to take a slap or two to the face and not react, but it would accomplish far more than a vitriolic comeback.

At this point, three years into Trump's Presidency, there was no way to tell who started it and who was just reacting, so everyone involved in the fight was guilty.

In other words, people could no longer blame Trump for how the selfsame persona they had taken in response.

To quote Morrisey, "It's so easy to laugh, it's so easy to hate. It takes strength to be gentle and kind."

When the ram charges straight for you, all you have to do is take a step to the left or the right and off the angry bastard goes, headfirst into the ground. Do that a few times and you'll get more support than you might expect.

Which, I'm not saying to never fight. Conflict is healthy. Passivism can be worse than violence. To fight is to live honorably. But only if justice is the reason for fighting.

If the ram is coming at you because it wants to silence or control you, grit your teeth, chalk up your horns, lower your head, and go to battle. Courage and morality are vastly different than bravado and self-righteousness.

As Tolstoy wrote in his novel War and Peace, "If everyone fought for their own convictions there would be no war."

*

Two years later, Warren married Bruce Mann, a law professor. They've been married ever since.

For nearly three decades, she taught law, mostly at Harvard.

Then, she shifted to politics. In 2008, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appointed her to a congressional panel. Two years later, she became a special advisor to Barack Obama, who had selected her as special adviser to the Treasury secretary, but stopped short of nominating her as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Shortly after, she resigned. A month later, she announced her Congressional bid, which gained momentum after her speech at that year's Democratic National Convention.

In 2013, she was elected senior Senator of Massachusetts after beating Republican incumbent Scott Brown with 53 percent of the vote. She would go on to win a second term in 2018, this time with 60 percent.

Every candidate has a stain. Warren's happens to have led to mockery. For years, she claimed Native American heritage. For many of the right, it was yet another example of the left's allegiance to identity politics.

The left was more concerned with the way the issue come to attention to begin with, after remarks President Trump made during an event honoring Navajo code talkers. As has become the norm, many of the country's leading news outlets ran scathing anti-Trump op-eds that they labeled as hard news.

In other words, opinion was being packaged as fact. In other words, propaganda. Like the passive-aggressive tone of this Washington Post article.

Which is certainly not the right way to handle injustice. And is certainly not journalistically sound.

Once again, the media's blatant disdain of Trump only served to further empower him. Gave him more proof of fake news. And allowed him to justify, in the eyes of his followers, the repeated use of the Warren's nickname.

Worst of all, it widened the distance between the news media and the portion of the American public they'd long ago lost access to.

Likewise, conservative news outlets pounced with an air of, "See? I knew it all along?"

And responded with a different version of the same aggression used by the media. Outlets like FoxNews played up their masterful victim narrative, the idea that the mainstream media has a stranglehold on America, despite the fact that FoxNews has long been the dominant news source of the mainstream media they claim to be a victim of.

Photo by Sean Ryan

This feedback loop played out until Elizabeth Warren's genetics became a national conversation.

Last year Warren released a DNA test that revealed sher to be only between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native America. Fellow democratic candidate Corey Booker — a Senator from New Jersey — has more Native American DNA than Warren. And, unfortunately for Warren, the nickname that President Trump gave her gained more power.

During an interview on MSNBC, Warren said, "It is deeply unfortunate that the President of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur. Donald Trump does this over and over thinking somehow he is going to shut me up with it. It hasn't worked in the past, it isn't going to work out in the future."

In a bizarre twist, Warren's ex-husband was a pioneer in the field of genetics and helped make the technology accessible to the public when he co-founded FamilyTreeDNA, which sells genetic testing kits.

*

Across the street from the Surf Ballroom, 300 yards from the entrance, a Trump 2020 sign the size of a front door glared out, impossible to avoid.

Photo by Sean Ryan

It's a power play in line with Trump's own combat style — which, again, there's nothing wrong with a good fight, even if there is some dirty fighting, but why did it have to be all of the time? And why had everyone joined in on it?

*

Warren began her presidential campaign on Febraury 8, 2019, with a rally in Lawrence, Massachusetts, at the site of the 1912 Bread and Roses textile strike, a two-month-long standoff that led to 296 arrests.

Three people died, an Italian immigrant, who was shot in the chest. A Lithuanian immigrant who was beaten to death for wearing a pro-labor lapel pin. And a Syrian boy who was bayoneted in the spine.

The strike takes its name from a James Oppenheim poem.

"As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,For they are women's children, and we mother them again."

*

As Warren drove her speech to a close, Kamala Harris paced down the long ramp by the side of the stage, then walked through a curtain that divided the hallway from backstage, then into the crowded ballroom, immediately surrounded by cameras, lights, hands, selfies.

Ten feet behind the curtain, Joe Biden shifted at the side of the stage, chatting with several people in brand-new Biden 2020 shirts, and waiting to go on.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Each candidate had 10 minutes or so, which Biden, like most of the other candidates, would use to insult Trump and fumbled through his "President's words matter" speech, two days after his "poor kids are just as talented as white kids" comment, and I wondered if everyone else found the irony as hilarious as I did.

Now Warren was pounding her fist.

The already hysterical crowd became even more incensed with each of her words. It was the first moment I realized that Warren actually had a shot at winning the nomination.

*

Of all the towns we visited while in Iowa, Clear Lake was the most puzzling. It didn't feel like the rest of what we'd seen. It didn't resemble any other town in the country, far as I can say. Just a general ideal for "lovely American town."

Maybe Clint Eastwood's Carmel, California, or the wealthy part of Charlotte, North Carolina, or the gorgeous shaded Rice Village neighborhood of Houston, Texas.

Warren shuffled offstage and shook hands with Biden.

Then cue the Bruce Springsteen song. And somebody hurry up and push the button that activates Biden's facelift.

"The words that Presidents speak matter," said Biden. And some of the crowd were hearing him say it for the first time.

Warren gabbed with a lady in a floral dress backstage. They held hands like sisters. After a minute or so, she vanished backstage. Then the whole gig was finished. Closing time had come.

Andrew Yang hung out in the lobby after all the other candidates left. He took selfies. Talked policy. Behind him, young people in Yang 2020 shirts and hats that said "MATH" handed out Yang money.

He hugged. He laughed.

People puttered out of the Surf Ballroom in no sort of hurry, giddy in their candidate t-shirts, ready to effect change, to dethrone Trump.

The air had a gentle sway, tilted by a northern cold that felt winter-like, especially for August.

Right as the last big group of Wing Dingers walked out of the Surf Ballroom, a small car drove by, windows down, packed with young men who kept shouting, "Vote for Trump, baby!"

Then, stalled at a stop sign, the driver revved the engine and spun the tires, and as it sped off, one of the guys in the back seat shouted "Trump 2020, bitches."

New installments of this series on the 2020 elections come out every Monday and Thursday. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

He may not be a super hero like he plays in the movies, but Chris Pratt is proving once again why he's a hero to so many. The silver screen protector of the universe announced on his Instagram page a contest that will benefit the Brain Treatment Foundation, who is a partner of Mercury One that does amazing work with veterans. The Brain Treatment Foundation specializes in helping combat veterans who are suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The contest asks fans to donate $10 to the foundation for a chance to win a trip to drop in on the Guardians of the Galaxy star on the set of his new film Tomorrow War.

Watch his video below to hear all the details.


Ryan: The Ascent of Kanye West

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Apollo, god of poetry, light, prophecy, dance. Star of Greek mythology, rivaled only by Zeus, his father. God of justice. God of purification, knowledge, healing. God of the Sun. But most of all, god of music. So they called him the Leader of the Muses.

And on a bright Sunday morning midway through November, at the tail end of a decade, Kanye West looked out at the congregation of Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, a 16,000-seater originally built for the Houston Rockets, and said, "Jesus has won the victory: Now the greatest artist God ever created is now working for him."

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Kanye's newest album, Jesus Is King, had been out for three weeks, and like every Kanye album, it was controversial, as adored as it was unaccepted.

Critics had shown a mostly tepid response, but nobody could tell if their disinterest was genuine, or if it was politically motivated.

After all, for the past year, Kanye had once again managed to penetrate the epicenter of American society. The last two Presidents had literally shamed and cursed Kanye, but, still, who could've guessed he would befriend this one?

Photo by Caroline Ryan

The week after Kanye's Olsteen appearance, at the House impeachment hearings, as the entire country watched and listened, Congressmen and diplomats would mention longtime Kanye collaborator A$AP Rocky no less than five times, in casual reference to the Kardashians and the deal between Trump and Sweden, struck at the urging of Kanye West.

Meanwhile, Jesus is King became the ninth consecutive Kanye album to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 — a feat he shares with Eminem and The Beatles — and the sixth time in the 2010s alone. And, to be fair, his only studio album not to debut at number one was The College Dropout, his first, which went triple platinum and earned the third-most Grammy nominations in one night, winning Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song with "Jesus Walks."

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Jesus is King was also the first record ever to top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, Rap Albums, Christian Albums, and Gospel Albums simultaneously. All eleven tracks charted on the US Billboard 100, joining the other 96 Kanye songs to have landed on the Top 100.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

This album was different, and not just because of Kenny G. For the first time, Kanye was not a god or a self-destructive fallen angel. He was a father, a husband, a son, and, most important, a man full of belief, with his hands outstretched, surrounded by a choir.

"I remember sitting in the hospital at UCLA after having a breakdown," he told the congregation, "and there's documentations of me drawing a church and writing about starting a church in the middle of Calabasas."

That night, following an afternoon of ice-skating at the Galleria, Kanye returned to Lakewood Church and performed a concert. Imagine hearing a his electro-gospel opera in an arena designed, acoustically, for professional basketball games. Only better, because everything had been padded. With LSD graphics on the swirly blue carpet.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

When we experience art, it changes us.

So there I was, four rows from the stage, crying in front of FoxNews. Because Kanye had brought his Sunday Service choir with him, and they were singing "Ultralight Beam," one of the few perfect songs ever made, a song that played during my wedding ceremony, the song my daughter, God willing, will be born to, a song I have never once listened to without at least tearing up.

“Jesus Is King" A Sunday Service Experience at Lakewood Church with Kanye West youtu.be

"This is a God dream, this is a God dream. This is everything."

Kanye was the only person onstage dressed in his own clothing, a neatened blazer. The choir were draped in grey, like holy silhouettes.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

So who cares about FoxNews and their snotty reporters in their shoulder-padded blazers. The rest of us had drifted into the immediacy of it all. And I wasn't about to play stoic journalist here. I wasn't a reporter first and a human or an American later.

The choir zigzagged on the loft flanking the stage. Each of them had a headset microphone, like Garth Brooks.

God only knew how they sang so perfectly. How did they project their voices like that? More beautiful than anything we had ever heard, more beautiful than water.

After "Ultralight Beam," it was "Every Hour," the mesmeric opening track of Jesus Is King.

Sing every hour, Every minute, Every second, Sing each and every millisecond, We need you

Every Hour youtu.be

The performance felt all the more sacred because this was church, where people gathered to lose themselves, to sing as a chorus, to confront who they really are.

Across the street, one protestor stood hollering.

Meanwhile thousands of people waited at the entrance, giddy to get in. They would join us in no time. Soon, they would fill every seat in this church.

*

That morning, Kanye told Olsteen,

"It's like the devil stole all the good producers, all the good musicians, all the good artists, all the good designers, all the good business people and said, 'you gotta come over and work for me.' And now the trend, the shift, is going to change."

Jesus Is King was the result of a new cultural and artistic movement that more or less started with 2016's Life of Pablo, Kanye's closeted gospel album. Which was a surprising departure from 2013's Yeezus, with its tangled social commentary and fashionable solipsism. And that drum sound, the one every half-decent producer has spent the last six years failing to emulate.

The 2010's saw him grow more cerebral. He even teased a book of philosophy titled Break the Simulation.

Then, in 2018, he released Ye, the second of five albums in a Kanye-produced series, all recorded at his Wyoming studio. In keeping with the criticisms of hip-hop he voiced on "Ye vs. The People"

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Kanye eschewed many of the themes he'd embraced for so long, replacing them with meditations on mental illness, fatherhood, suicide, love, and addiction. The album's working title had been "LOVE EVERYONE."

On "I Thought About Killing You," he raps,

The most beautiful thoughts are always beside the darkest.

The title "Ye" is not just the diminutive of "Kanye."

As he said in an interview

I believe 'ye' is the most commonly used word in the Bible, and, in the Bible, it means 'you,' so it's [saying] "I'm you, I'm us, it's us." It went from being Kanye, which means the only one, to just ye – just being a reflection of our good, our bad, our confused, everything, that I'm just more of a reflection of who we are, just as beings.

Philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer wrote that

All individuality is a manifestation of universal life, and hence everyone carries a tiny bit of everyone else with him, so that divination is simulated by comparison with oneself.

In the months following the release of Ye, Kanye would live out this idea, and build his own movement, a reflection of who we are, then begin his church in Calabasas.

*

At 10:30 that morning, the three of us — Samantha Sullivan, my wife Caroline, and me —- strolled into the arena and claimed seats in the media section.

That place resembled the inside of an ant colony. We were three ants.

The service began with errorless music, then shifted into a quick, stirring message by Osteen, who always seemed to appear onstage from nowhere, privvy to the kind of big-money stage tricks you find at a Shania Twain concert.

The entire place and all the Jumbo-Trons and all the people, it all had a cinematic presence.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

A preliminary giddiness spread through the room. Then, Kanye emerged, there on the stage, and the place erupted.

A man in a "Jesus is King" shirt danced around his seat.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Everyone took their seats, but one man standing in the crowd shouted affirmations. "Speak truth my brother," he shouted.

The man shouted several more times, then Kanye politely told the guy to hold off on the support because it wasn't helping, because Kanye needed relative quiet to capture and release his flow.

The ceiling glowed in skittish purple.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Kanye described the corrupting force of the media. A chill came over the room. Behind him, the unapologetic blue of Jesus Is King.

It was my first encounter with Joel Osteen, and I was surprised and somewhat baffled to find him likeable, based on everything I'd ever heard about the man.

Kanye said as much, that Osteen is nothing like the version of Osteen many people have broadcast.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Osteen laughed, "When you've got Kanye defending you, you've made it, man."

Rays of light danced through the arena. I'm talking Pink Floyd light show levels.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

With 21 Grammys, Kanye is tied with Jay-Z as the most decorated hip-hop artist of all time.

Osteen asked Kanye what he would say to his younger self, if he could go back in time.

"You know, it's nothing I can say to the younger Kanye through words," he said. "I could speak to the younger Kanye through music."

*

Osteen played the middle section of "God Is," arguably the focal point of the album.

And Kanye danced and rapped along with it. And the surreality of the situation was daunting. Was that really Kanye West up there? with Joel Osteen? dancing to his gospel song?

Six or seven years ago, I saw Kanye a mile away at the Toyota Center — coincidentally, the current home of the Houston Rockets — for his and Jay-Z's Watch the Throne tour. It was a much different experience than this.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

When Kanye finished, the media flooded out. As did a quarter of the people in the congregation. This bothered many of the regulars.

Security and ushers yanked big grey mop buckets from cabinets, and dispersed them down aisles, and money music played.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Then the time for prayer. Prayer leaders lined the walls and pews. And anyone could walk over to them and pray. Men and women clung to strangers, crying sometimes, hugging. Holding hands, whispering phrases.

*

One of the media coordinators pulled us out of the sermon, led us through passageways and elevators, past classrooms and security guards, through a black sheet, then behind a barricade.

This is where all the media had rushed off to like old folks trying to get the best seat for bingo.

Each news outlet was allowed one question.

After 15 minutes, the energy changed and you could tell they were near.

Then, Kim Kardashian-West was walking our way, holding her daughter's hand, followed by Kanye, who was followed by Osteen.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

"Nice tags," Kanye said, referring to my "GOOD" necklace.

Then:

Brief interview with Kanye West and Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church, Nov. 17 in Houston, TX www.youtube.com

Some of the outlets asked more than one question, but that was on them. They were the ones sinning in church.

*

As Kanye and Olsteen shuffled away, down the line of journalists, I said hello to a small crew from FoxNews as they packed their equipment.

"We're from TheBlaze," I said, smiling. To which they sneered and glanced at one another then got back to their conversation.
Samantha rolled her eyes and the three of us wandered around for an exit.

"Did we just get stiff-armed by Fox News?" Said one of us. "I didn't think they were allowed to look down on anybody."
"I've had that with people from Fox on several occasions," one of us replied.

"I mean, I thought I was doing them a favor a favor by acknowledging them. Nobody else does."

Then it happened again, a few minutes later, this time with someone we had worked with, someone who knew us.
You bet we were salty.

Bad as it felt to be judged like that, it was good to be underestimated. A relief. It meant we could perform without anyone caring or watching.

They had no idea who we were or what we were really doing. Good.

*

In November 2007, Kanye's mother died during a routine surgery. He and his mom, Dr. Donda West, had always been incredibly close. She raised him alone, after Kanye's father left, when Kanye was three.

A few months later, his engagement with Alexis Phifer abruptly ended.

He was 30 at the time.

Oddly, this tragic sequence of events would cause the birth of auto-tune in rap. Broken-hearted, Kanye wanted to sing. So he ran his voice through a vocoder.

Kanye's album 808s & Heartbreak, which like Jesus is King has no curse words, shoved music ahead at least two decades, into a world of synth-driven robotic R&B/Rap love songs belted out in janky auto-tune. That description doesn't sound ridiculous today. But that's only because Kanye eschewed the stale hip-hop of the early 2000s and reinvented the genre, something he has accomplished with every album.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Then, he went on tour. But he never took off any time following his mother's death. And, by the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, he'd fallen to what he calls his sunken place.

He and then-girlfriend Amber Rose brought a bottle of Hennessy with them to the award show. They took slugs in the limo. Then on the red carpet.

When Taylor Swift won the award for Best Female Video, Kanye stormed the podium, sunglasses on, and grabbed the microphone, said "Imma let you finish," then let everyone know the award should've gone to Beyoncé, for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)."

He was kicked out immediately. He tweeted, "Everybody wanna booooo me but I'm a fan of real pop culture... I'm not crazy y'all, I'm just real."

Followed by an apology. Then a few days later, during an appearance on debut episode of "The Jay Leno Show"

Leno asked Kanye, "What do you think [your mom] would have said about this?"

That hit Kanyelike a punch to the jaw. He teared up, froze.

He publicly apologized to Swift. Several times.

But it did little to quell the blowback. Once again, it felt like the entire nation hated Kanye. Compounded by a hot-mic recording of Barack Obama — the country's first black President — calling Kanye a jackass.

So the embattled Kanye retreated to Hawaii to record a masterpiece, 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

*

"We are a Christian country," Kanye said at one point, to uproarious applause.

The vast majority of Americans, 90 percent, believe in a higher power.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

And America has the largest number of Christians in the world, with roughly 167,000,000, comprising 65-to-70 percent of the population. But that's down from 80 percent, as part of a downward trend over the last two decades.

The percent of Americans who attend a religious service of any kind — church, synagogue, or mosque — is even lower, less than half.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

One political scientist blamed the public's growing distrust in institutions. Another blamed conservatives. A writer from New York Magazine took it a step further.

Meanwhile, David French.

As always, the issue is far more nuanced than either side will admit.

Somehow, in the last twenty years, church and religion had become not just uncool, but slightly villainous.

All day, every time I looked around — at people singing, at people dancing, at people crying in joy or in the relief and recognition of their pain — I thought, "How could this ever be a bad thing?"

Photo by Caroline Ryan

I had spent my life going to concerts, had seen Kanye West numerous times, and this was something other than a concert, and unlike anything I'd seen from Kanye. It was also more than just religious or spiritual.

A family of strangers in a city of 6 million, in a world of 7-and-a-half billion, broadcast live, led by a man who fought off the devil in front of us for years. Who struggled with life just like we do, only we could nitpick through the one-way mirrors of our phones and our TVs.

But, now, he had been baptized in public.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Some people were still negative about Kanye's recent faith, especially Christians. As Kanye raps on "Hands On"

What have you been hearin' from the Christians?
They'll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me

Consensus was, they couldn't believe him. As a Kanye fan since I was 13, I can tell you that he is genuine. It's really his only setting. Plus, his spiritual transformation has been building for quite some time.

*

By the time we returned to Lakewood that evening, the sky had turned dark blue, and frantic with airplanes.

The sidewalks around the arena overflowed with people. Police cars jutted out in crooked lines to block entrances or exits, the strobe of red-white-blue whirling onto pedestrians' faces.

Across the street, facing the giant arena, a man with a bullhorn ranted about the evils of sinful music.

Earlier that day, sheepish protestors had occupied the spot, holding red poster-sized letters that spelled out "I M P E A C H." There were only four of them, though, so they had to double up and share, and sometimes the "H" slanted down or the "I" slipped loose.

"Impeach Kanye?" one of us said, laughing.

"Kanye 2020," shouted someone.

The air was electric. People bounced when they stepped, or walked faster than normal, or turned oddly as they spoke like a third-year professor.

They sang along as they passed traffic-jam cars, most of which were blasting Kanye.

A chorus of police whistles and the usual rumble of semi-trucks passing on US-59. Just down the street, porn shops and strip clubs and a Ferrari dealership. Immediately Southwest, the Mahatma Ghandi District. West, the Galleria, home of the opulent Galleria mall, where Kanye and Kim and family gone ice-skating earlier.

Inside the arena, a different world, low-lit and glowing. A dreamscape of lambent crimsons and violets, a deeper, warmer, slower take on the lights atop the police cars outside. Globular squares of blue were arrayed along the ceiling.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

When the musicians emerged to their instruments, the arena was still half-empty. The show had already been delayed 40 minutes. The demand to get in was so ferocious that the security gate was jammed up like a glass Ketchup jar.

Then, like spirits, men and women drifted onstage in all-grey uniforms and matching hats that looked like they should say "VIETNAM VETERAN" but actually said "Sunday Service."

Every single member wore brand-new grey YEEZY Boosts.

From the start, the performance was cinematic, a sort of new-world opera sung by a chorus of young American muses with nose rings or gold chains or dreadlocks or pink hair.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

From the huddle, a young man rose, and began reciting a poem. It was the invocation of the muse.

Gadamer wrote that poetry "becomes a test of what is true, in that the poem awakens a secret life in words that had seemed to be used up and worn out, and tells us of ourselves"

*

After a whirling rendition of Carl Orff's "O Fortuna," the choir began "Ultralight Beam."

They let the song spread. It grew enormous.

The air swirled as the song widened.

Kanye waited out of view, then appeared without ceremony.

A collective gasp when people recognized the melody of Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed." Which sounds like a dream already, with all that wilderness.

So it was even stranger when the song morphed into SWV's "Weak," a skating rink anthem written by Charlie Wilson of the GAP Band. A classic.

The choir were their own countervailing force. Yet they also connected us to the drama of the performance.
Looking back, I wish I could live in those moments forever.

*

Then came their cover of "Father Stretch My Hands" by Pastor T.L. Barrett And the Youth for Christ Choir.

Father Stretch My Hands www.youtube.com

Kanye has paid homage to Barrett's track on two different songs, from two different albums.

It was his prayer.

Pastor T.L. Barrett, a man who's lived an exciting and at times difficult life, only to become a Pentecostal preacher on Chicago's south side, and form a choir of 40 teenagers from his weekly choir practice.

If you dive into Barrett, you'll better understand what Kanye is doing.

*

Ten seats from Kim Kardashian-West, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (TX) stared ahead in a neat grey suit, occasionally poking at his phone and blasting people on Twitter.

Which means there were at least two people in the building who have appeared on Saturday Night Live.

There were other politicians, including Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick. And even more at the earlier service. You could tell they were politicians the same you can tell a vegan burger from a real Whopper. Several times, Kanye held up his phone up and read the words from his newer songs.

Like "Selah," which built into "Hallelujah"s at the end, intoxicating and perfect, like being sucked into an undertow. Which led into "Follow God," a continuation of "Father I Stretch My Hands."

Kanye uses the image of stretched hands to express his own submission and the process that leads to his healing. As a reference to John 21:18

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.

But the song is also about Kanye's literal father, and an argument they had. Then, under it all, he adds a sample of "Can You Lose By Following God" by Whole Truth. He ended the song with his Kanye shriek, somewhat confusing and abrasive with a choir present.

Then — something I did not expect. The thumping bass of Cajmere's "Brighter Days (Underground Goodie Mix)."

And now this was cosmic gospel.

It felt like a rave. Have you been to a rave? It's people dancing, taking MDMA. That is what it felt like.

Flourishes like that were part of Kanye's genius. No other gospel performance would dare. You won't find that kind of diversity at any other hip-hop show, either. The acoustic instruments, the choir. Maybe during a set by electronic musicians like Moodyman or DJ Koze. But, no choir. Yet here Kanye was, at Joel Osteen's church, blasting classic techno.

Oddly enough, though, the most popular song of the night was "Closed on Sunday," Kanye's ode to Chic-Fil-A.

Everyone in the arena knew the words. So then there were two choirs, in a dialogue. I didn't think it was possible, but the collective harmony got even more intense and engulfing than it had all night. So much so that the house speakers started to peak in one corner of the arena.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

The Ancient Greeks were the first to use a chorus. In the 5th Century B.C., 50 actors would gather in the orchestra pit and sing in unison, commenting on the action of the play, describing scenes to the audience. They were a collective force. They represented one character, who was able to connect the audience to the characters and events onstage.

Kim Kardashian was front and center filming with her phone, as two of the West kids jumped around on the trippy blue carpet.

The performance was nearing its end, and suddenly Kanye was dressed like everybody else in the choir. Grey Yeezy kit and the Sunday Service hat. His transformation. From Kanye West to Pastor Ye, stretching hands.

Then, he was gone.
One by one, the choir began fluttering off the stage, to the Clark Sisters' "You Brought the Sunshine."

Half were gone, when I noticed the singer with braided hair crying. With every exhale, she collapsed her hands into the floor. Let them fall like tired flowers. Arrayed in fitful blue. She gasped. She heaved her shoulders like a wingspan. For a moment it was like she would actually take flight.

A security guard peered over the railing from above the stage. He looked like God.Symbolically, he was.

New installments of this series on the 2020 elections come out every Monday and Thursday. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com