Sharia law in Texas? Don't miss this incredible interview

On tonight's Glenn Beck Program, Glenn was joined by Dr. Taher El-Badawi and Imam Moujahed Bakhach to discuss the Islamic Tribunal in Texas. Believed to be the first such body operating in the United States, the tribunal operates as a legal non-profit and follows Sharia law. In the interview, Glenn let the two men speak at length about the role of the Islamic Tribunal in their community and why people shouldn't be afraid of Sharia law.

While both guests said that they don't have the authority to enforce the Islamic Tribunal's rulings and those involved have to decide for themselves if they will adhere, they also didn't shy away from some of the harsher punishments in Sharia law.

This is one interview you need to watch and decide for yourself how you feel about the story:

Below is the transcript of the interview. 

Glenn: Well, hello, America, and welcome to The Glenn Beck Program and to TheBlaze. This is the network that you are building. North Texas is the last place in the world I would expect to hear about sharia law in the local news, but that’s exactly what is happening. Texas, you’d better wake up. It’s now catching the eye of the nation, but the gentlemen you’re about to hear tonight are ones…they are the principals involved, and they have not been on the national news yet.

Let me quickly get you up to speed on the story. A group of Muslims have created what is believed to be the very first official sharia law system in the United States of America in the form of an Islamic tribunal. The leaders of the tribunal call it a “nonbinding arbitration firm that adheres to Islamic principles.” Leaders also claim that it would only make decisions on noncriminal cases and defer to state and local laws and courts on criminal cases.

Now, many people are concerned that this is the beginning of what has already happened in the UK, where they now have 85 sharia courts. The BBC investigated and found extensive abuse among women, among other human rights violations. Can we expect the same pattern to follow here in the United States?

I want to make it really clear. All of our churches, our synagogues, we have our own tribunals, if you will. You can be excommunicated from your church. You have councils that tell you and help counsel you on how to live your life in your own personal life. If that’s what this is, then we can’t expect anybody to be any different.

I spoke earlier today with the leaders of the Islamic tribunal. They are at the center of all of this. I want you to watch carefully and listen carefully, and you decide what this tribunal is really all about.

Interview:

When people hear sharia law, they tend to get a little nervous. Can you understand that?

Imam Bakhach: Yes, I understand that, but I want them to understand what is sharia law, why we didn’t speak about sharia law the way that they think about. Sharia law is not what they are talking about and they are protesting, because we protest the same way if that would be sharia law. Sharia law, the word sharia first as an Arabic term refers to a set of rules and regulations, principles, guidelines for the Muslim to live with, and this includes family issues, includes manners, behavior characters, including marriage divorces, including inheritance law, including a lot of aspects of the family and the social things.

Also, if there is true state, to say, to claim that I am Islamic, which we don’t have today, long time ago, even Saudi Arabia is not practicing sharia law the way that it should be, there’s no need to talk about it, because it does not exist. But we have here as we are dealing with the Islamic tribunal that we are trying to help those who came from different backgrounds, culture packages, and Muslim from different nationalities in this society just really being here, and they have issues.

When they have disputes, in a family dispute, to say, they appoint one or panel to arbitrate or to mediate and to tell them what they should do from Islamic point of view.

Glenn: So, if a woman goes to the tribunal, or she doesn’t go to the tribunal, she goes to a U.S. court to get a divorce, is she divorced?

Imam Bakhach: That’s the very great misconception. Both of them parallel with each other, because the Islamic divorce will not be sufficient without the American civil divorce. At the same time, if she went to the court that we have many times on most of the cases are true to say that go to the court first, being granted decree from the judge that being divorced in the court would not be sufficient for the Muslim individual, he or she, that to be enough. He still is in need or she is in need to have the Islamic divorce, because the marriage being established through the word of God—

Glenn: But will she get the divorce? If the U.S. gives her a divorce, will she get the divorce through the Islamic court as well?

Imam Bakhach: That’s what I’m saying, because here there’s no need for that maybe, but when she go back home to travel to go like…on a very common, the most and the strongest our ally in the Middle East, Jordan, will not accept the only American divorce. They ask the embassy from here and go back to the country. Go back, we need the Islamic divorce. So, where to go? She will come to our tribunal to be granted that way. As a mediator, I mediate. We mediate the issue first, and then there is no solution, you got the American divorce? Yes, so we can discuss that and have meeting for the process.

Glenn: Is a woman’s testimony as valuable as a man’s testimony?

Imam Bakhach: Absolutely. Most of the cases that woman applying, not for men. Actually, we see the men object. I have a case yesterday, today is Monday, yesterday in Fort Worth, a lady from Djibouti. They married tribal system way. I’m not familiar with that. I’m from Lebanon. What they do, the chief of the tribe, he performed the marriage, and it was verbal. There is no document to sign. There is no paper, nothing. She came here as a refugee, been here now two years. Her husband was not granted the refugee status, so he still in Djibouti.

Now she wants to finish the relationship. What to do? She doesn’t have the money to go to the court or to give the lawyers or something, but she need only Islamic divorce. What to do? When I asked give me the address, there’s no address. “Why there’s no address?” to me, I wondered. She said because he has three cows and one donkey in that village. There is no way to reach. So, how to reach him to contact him to tell him that your wife applying for divorce? I didn’t accept the case yet to say, but this case happened yesterday, is the most recent situation we have.

Muslim community, wherever they are, they came from different background, different culture packages, and different traditions, you know, so different understanding. Misunderstandings really common among the men to understand that wife have no right to apply for divorce. We say no, it’s not true. Fourteen hundred years ago, God gave her the right to apply for divorce, but what we as Islamic tribunal do, advise to go first to the court and then to be granted that way, whatever now, especially when they have children and custody and all the child support and the visitation rights and no traveling, documents, international law, all this stuff that we cannot ourself handle it.

Glenn: So help me out, because, you know, I look at sharia law as it is being used around the world, and it allows for abuse. It allows for slavery. It allows for the stoning of homosexuals. I mean, it pretty much makes lawful everything that most Americans despise.

Imam Bakhach: That’s what the mistake misconception. I’m very thankful to all of you to help us to come here to clarify this position. As you know, there is a criminal court, and there is civil court. We cannot, no way to discuss the criminal court because all the time scary tactics here, sharia, no sharia, in a way that cutting the hand off or chopping the head, this is not sharia. It is not sharia. What we see and overseas now with ISIS, ISIL, the whole Muslim world condemned that and rejected it, unacceptable.

Glenn: Not true.

Imam Bakhach: At least from our side to say we condemn that.

Glenn: Where’s the reformation come from then? You’re saying that you don’t practice that kind of sharia law. Who is the reformer that you look to that says—

Imam Bakhach: For every Muslim actually that’s a student of knowledge or a scholar to start, first of all, the sharia law does not refer to the government, not refer to the civil…it was in the hand of scholars, religious scholars, to translate the text that mentioned in the Qur’an, and that’s called the first resource of the law. With the Jews, they have their law. The Christians, they have law. So the law based on any, as we say to any Muslim, wherever you are living, if you have a problem, first to say what God says in the book. Then you go to the next.

Glenn: But Jews and Christians don’t believe that man making laws is an abomination, where it’s my understanding that in the Islamic culture, man doesn’t make laws, God makes laws, and that’s sharia law.

Imam Bakhach: Who is beyond the sharia? The sharia means a holy text mentioned, whether general or specific. For example, Muslims, we do not drink alcohol. Why? Because God says in the Qur’an don’t drink alcohol.

Glenn: Right.

Imam Bakhach: Why we don’t eat swine, for example, prohibited, so the law prohibition, that permissibility is mentioned in the Qur’an even when we pray and when we respect our parents, respect the elders, all of this in the law. My point really I want to make clear here is not the issue of cutting the hands and even the criminal law. It’s not just because somebody steal and then cut the hand. It’s not that way. There is a system of investigation, a system of hearing, and a system of finding out if it’s criminal. We have execution. Just recently somebody executed in the jail because confessed and proven beyond doubt.

Glenn: There is a separation here. I’m assuming you both would say the Constitution is great, but God willing, you would rather live under sharia law, under Islamic rule.

Imam Bakhach: If you understand what the intents and the objectives and the principles of the Islamic law from Islamic perspective to say what the goal achieved, what the desire of God intended from these laws. We have five major departments—to preserve the faith for the individual, regardless what his faith is or the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, doesn’t matter in the society, to protect the soul that nobody to attack without any right.

I mean any right if not violated by a human being that he did not commit a crime to be deserving the punishment, then will be Islam very sure and very clear and very strict that nobody has a right to violate and attack this innocent person as we see today done by many so-called ISIS, ISIL, or others. That’s not Islamic sharia, by the way or to protect the mind or to preserve the mind or preserve the offspring, the children and the wealth, the fifth one.

So, all the objectives of the sharia are of Islamic law, to say, that’s called sharia in Arabic to preserve all this point. It’s not just cutting or chopping. That’s not the issue. We have nothing to do…let’s go back to the point. We are here today. We are here. We’re dealing with the issue of family disputes, and we mediate, and we arbitrate. They ask us we need help, what Islam say, because a lot of ignorance among the Muslims themselves.

So, what we should do? What should I do as a wife? Where to go? What do you advise me to do? Do I have the right or not have right? We have somebody an Islamic point of view, when a husband marry his wife, he must, not an optional, must give his wife gift and to be mentioned in the contract, and this gift can be paid during their life together or at divorce or after death if not paid during the lifetime. That’s her right, because from Islamic law that the wife is not requested to spend any penny on the house. If she want to volunteer chair, that’s okay but not requested.

The husband, there’s the commitment from the beginning of the marriage, I’m willing to commit myself to take care of you and the family. There’s talking of commitment but must be given. Why must be given? Because God says in the Qur’an the husband must give his wife. So here now come a time of dispute, he would run away from that. He will try. Fifty thousand dollars, $100,000, he doesn’t want to pay it, so what to do? The wife will ask the help.

The system, with my respect to all the judges, they have no idea what we’re talking about, so I was invited to different courts in Tyler Texas, in Dallas in family court that explain to us what we have, what you do, and how we perform and what does it mean, these things, because through the lawyers, they present the issue, Your Honor, that the husband commit himself to pay on this and this and that, so we need you to approve that and order him to get it through that court, not our court.

Glenn: I think where a lot of people come from is we can all live side by side, and we can all have different faiths. You know, every church has their own kind of little tribunal where, you know, you can be excommunicated, etc., etc., and if that’s what’s happening with the sharia court, then every religion has that, but I think where people come from is there has been no reformation.

I mean, our president just accused Christians of slaughtering people, you know, during the Crusades, but there’s been a reformation. There’s no reformation in Islam. I mean, for instance, the Qur’an says that the trees and the rocks will cry out there is a Jew hiding behind.

Imam Bakhach: It’s not true.

Glenn: It’s not true?

Imam Bakhach: No, I challenge you to bring me that. What’s her name, Barbara Walters, she challenged the minister of education in Saudi Arabia in his palace. I remember that years back.

Glenn: It is in the charter of Hamas.

Imam Bakhach: I don’t know about Hamas. I’ve nothing to do with that issue, but here we are here as Muslim too. You are referring to me that the Qur’an as in the God mentioned in this book, what you are saying about, the cry, that’s not true.

Glenn: Is it in the hadith?

Imam Bakhach: I’m sorry?

Glenn Is it in the hadith?

Imam Bakhach: This is fabricated.

Glenn: It’s fabricated? There is no place in any Islamic scripture that says that?

Imam Bakhach: No. You know, when you have every, let’s say the hadith sciences, I’m talking about, they have the sound hadith. They have weak hadith. They have a preferable hadith, so the ranking, more than 23 ranks and levels of hadith sciences that the scholars worked very hard on this to verify how many people added to what is not from. That’s the point.

Glenn: Okay, so well then, an easy way to solve this is you reject Hamas?

Imam Bakhach: Absolutely.

Glenn: One hundred percent reject?

Imam Bakhach: Not reject, condemned.

Glenn: Condemn Hamas?

Imam Bakhach: Absolutely.

Taher El-badawi: I am here, I am sorry to say it, back to the first point, I am here to discuss issue with Islamic tribunal, so please don’t get up ask us to another situation. We are ready for any discussion. It is open.

Glenn: No, I know that.

Taher : We are ready for any point to discuss with, but the main point here, the reason we are here to discuss this issue what kind of cases Islamic tribunal handle, and you start with the sharia. Why the people afraid from sharia? I’m sorry to say it, one point related to this, cut head is not just in sharia law, just in Islamic law. It’s everywhere. Who said that just in Islamic law? That’s even another sharia, in Jewish sharia, in Christian sharia, in American here, we cut we cut head for some reason.

So, I’m asking you an easy question, if anyone kill another, he should get killed by law, by Islamic law, by government. He should get killed. What is wrong with that? If a thief jump, I’m sorry, to your house, scare your wife, scare your children, scare your neighbor, and they did that with our stores, this is the law, the law to cut his hand because if he feels my hands were cut because of that, he will think about this 100 times. He will never do it. If he do that one time, he will never do it again.

Look how many millions of dollars American here or other states or other states outside spend to keep the criminal in jail, a lot of millions of dollars. We can save that, just let him go, and that’s it, because he did something wrong in the whole community and this kill the whole community. Why not? So, back please to the point. Islamic tribunal, yes, we never deal with anything of that. We don’t have authority for that. We don’t have power for that. We just have two cases.

Glenn: You seem to be okay with that if you had the power for that, but you don’t have the power.

Taher: Absolutely not. As Imam said, we have system. We are very organized people. If, last time, sorry for this example, somebody killed my dad, I shouldn’t kill him. I have to take this case to the judge, and judge have to consult the governor. There’s a system, procedure, I have to follow, so it is not like this one killed this, let’s get him killed—no.

I give you just an easy example for leader, [indiscernible]. This is after Prophet Muhammad [indiscernible]. He sent one to Yemen, and he told him, before he leaves, he ask him always as a habit, “What did you do if the people bring a thief for you?” He said I will cut his hand. Okay, he said, you do that, okay? [indiscernible] said, after [indiscernible], he said, okay, if one person came with me without work, unemployed, I will cut your head because he has no job.

If you rob something from the store or grab something from here to eat, nothing happen to you, but if you have your job and enough income to care about your children, and you have house, and you have car, and you rob from any store or thief from here or there, you have…so this is the law, but please, the point with sharia I ask people, we are not here to do that at all. It is not our authority. It is not our power. It is not our job.

We have specific people to do that stuff, and those people have full of power and full of authority, full of knowledge too. So, we are not dealing with these cases at all. It is not our job, and our cases is family cases, just religious part, that’s it.

Imam Bakhach: Even the point that you mentioned, I mean, there is a procedure that there is a judge, hearing sessions to investigate and find out to bring the proof and the evidences beyond doubt that this man, he committed the crime, whether to confess or other evidences or witnesses that saw, the same with the system we see in the civil world today. Then, after all this procedure now found out that there is no doubt that this man, he committed this crime, not toward the hunger, not for the unemployment or whatever the reason, excuses, you know, there is an excuse and doubtful, you know, what’s the reason of doubt of what a crime committed for.

I think at that time the judge would say your case would be, if that any doubt, even the sharia article that you mention about that even a single doubt that this man did not with the intention ahead of time and planning of this, then it would be excused, lesser punishment will be then to be maybe in prison, maybe to pay lien, whatever. But beyond doubt, beyond all this, so there are a lot of procedures to wait until finally he is the one. Then what is the code? And the code, yes, we have a verse in the Qur’an that says—I will say it in Arab—

Taher: Absolutely right.

Imam Bakhach: We in Texas here, we used to have in cowboy time that to hang the people in the public square, downtown maybe to say. Why it was in public, not behind the walls in the jail? Because let the people to see the crime committed like this will be the same punishment and preserve, as we said, one of the principles and objectives that the sharia are to see what to accomplish that to observe and protect the rest of the society from such crime or such, you know, person to be evil that way.

Glenn: What do you think? We let them say their piece, and you have to decide. By the way, I’m not an Islamic scholar, but it is in the hadith what I referred to. Let me quote. “I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, ‘The Jews will fight with you, and you will be given victory over them so that a stone will say, ’O Muslim! There is a Jew behind me; kill him!’” That’s in the second-highest or most accepted volume of the hadith.

The most accepted volume of the hadith uses it, saying, “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘You Muslims will fight with the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, ’O ’Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.’”

If we can’t trust an Imam, a scholar that knows the hadith, the two most respected volumes of the hadith, and he denies that he has ever even heard that, how do we trust the rest of what he said? Back in a minute.

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

Don't believe in time travel? Think it's just a wild conspiracy theory reserved for late night alien radio programs? Well, we have unearthed bombshell evidence that will blow you away and have you questioning everything!

A 120-year-old photo PROVES climate change activist teen Greta Thunberg is actually a time traveler warning all generations of the dangers of global warming.

Glenn did some exhaustive research and found several other photos and subjects in historical paintings. Check them out here and see if you are now a believer:

Warning Elvis fans

Ryan: Suction energy, pt. 1

Photo by Sean Ryan

After his speech at the Boone County fairgrounds, Joe Biden nodded and people engulfed him like he was their oxygen. Journalists shouted questions, photographers shoved people aside. Biden's bodyguards even drew closer. I found a good oak tree and hid out in the shade, 100 yards from the chaotic huddle.

Photo by Sean Ryan

They shoved closer and closer and closer, with a vacant urgency to their eyes. They had to get as close as possible. It was like some force of nature had taken control of everyone, and now their only goal was to merge their lifeforce with Biden's.

The frenzy of writhing arms and contorted bodies reminded me of Shark Week, when the hulking Great White breaks through the protective cage and how's the diver gonna make it out alive this time?

*

A need for convergence, often leading to upheaval.

Most of the Democratic candidates caused this effect. As did their opponent, to a far greater degree. Because he was the president, and he was Donald Trump, so, for the time being, he embodied this magnetism more fully than anyone else in the entire world.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Every time Trump entered a room or a building or a space of any kind, every person within a reasonable distance felt it. And they couldn't help but bob their head around, and arch up on their tiptoes, scouring till they saw him, and then all they could do was lean forward and wonder if it was actually him.

Some of the Democratic candidates had a stronger magnetism than others. Which meant the gravitational pull had laws that guided it. The term I started using for it was "suction energy."

It was something you could physically feel.

At the Iowa State Fair, Bernie Sanders' suction energy was so intense, so visceral that it reminded me of a hurricane.

Photo by Sean Ryan

People wanted to be as close to the man as possible. They wanted a picture. Proof that it happened—that they had actually seen someone that famous.

And they were perfectly right. And their reactions were understandable and lovely even, and altogether innocent. Encouraging. Because they were genuine.

Even journalists were susceptible to suction energy. In fact, they could spazz even harder. Unlike the public, they were there as workers.

*

Suction energy is an art, something you cultivate. But it's also a result of luck and reality. Some people will just never have an ounce of it.

Take, for instance, Jay Insleey, who was apparently a Democratic presidential candidate in the 2020 election. At some point in my travels, I wound up in the same place as him.

Maybe it was a couple times. A couple, two, three. I can't remember.

All I know is that I went to Clear Lake, Iowa for the Democratic Wing Ding, to see Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren and the 20 other candidates, and this guy Jay Insless ... sorry, I mean Inslee took the stage at some point. It's hard to say when exactly because, as I mentioned, he was impressively forgettable, like a human thumbtack.

Wing Ding featured Jay Insee?Photo by Sean Ryan

He was yammering about something, and, man, he looked and sounded like P.C. Principal, from South Park, and that was pretty funny.

I told my dad, and then we were both laughing. Then my dad did an imitation of P.C. Principal, and we were really hooting.
Then all I could think about was P.C. Principal. So I ducked out into the hall to watch a P.C. Principal clip compilation, and I laughed and laughed and nobody went "Shush!," because there were plenty of others like me.

Photo by Sean Ryan

And, boy, I laughed. I was actually a bit sad when the clip was over. I'd forgotten where I was, and when I caught a glimpse of the guy onstage, my sadness deepened into pity. The feeling you get when you realize that the amateur thinks he can beat the professional. When the replacements think they will know valor. When your dog thinks they're going to the park, but really it's the vet, and they wake up without balls.

Do we have an obligation, a moral imperative, to tell a Square when she's trying to shove into a Triangle hole? How much teeth-lettuce does a person lodge into their incisors before you are inclined to alert them?

Like, after this speech, that guy John Insley, would wander around the walkways of the Surf Ballroom, same as Kamala Harris and Andrew Yang, only he'd lack their glow.

Crowds flocking to Kamala HarrisPhoto by Sean Ryan

At one point, he'd clench his jaw into what must have been a smile, ready for any nearby journalists to sneak a candid photo or rush forward for a quote.

Photo by Sean Ryan

If any of the others noticed, they didn't let on. So here was this chubby kid in a costume knocking on the front door, and I know full well Halloween was weeks ago, but who's gonna feed the harmless lie if I don't?

Photo by Sean Ryan

Nobody, that's who.

So I groaned and shrugged and told my dad, "Let's give the tubby kid some Starburst."

"Wha?" he asked.

Then I asked would he get a picture of that candidate over there.

"Who," he replied. As in, "I can't see an important person over there, which one is running for president?"

In other words, Insleep had absolutely zero suction energy. To a near-magical extent.

Within a few weeks, he would announce the end of his campaign on The Rachel Maddow Show.

Yet there he was, somehow center stage, looking out at the packed Surf Ballroom, where, on February 2, 1959, Buddy Holly played his last show.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Buddy Holly, now there's a man with suction energy. So much suction energy that, when he died, music went with him.

*

When I saw Kamala during the week of the Iowa State Fair, she was at the height of her campaign, having climbed to second place, within nine points of Biden.

Everywhere I went, there was Harris, with her personalized KAMALA bus, and her chartered press pool, and her entourage of staff and fans and media.

Photo by Sean Ryan

On the first Saturday of the Fair, my dad and I wound up seeing Harris five times. Five times! In part because she could hustle. She wanted that job. But also because she understood power and optics.

Before her speech at Jasper Winery, (when she played savage 4D chess with Andrew Yang, she spoke to several hundred people packed into the atrium of Valley Southwoods Freshman High School in West Des Moines, her fourth rally of that day.

Photo by Sean Ryan

When she finished her speech, a horde surged straight for her, eighty or so.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Just a month earlier, The New Yorker had run a glowing profile on Harris. That was huge. As of the release of this story, Harris was the only 2020 presidential candidate that The New Yorker had featured.

Photo by Sean Ryan

At that point of the election, excitement for Harris was so intense that it seemed obvious she would get the nomination, or close to it. So I wrote five pieces about her.

But by the time I finished all five stories and added them to the publishing schedule, Harris had sunk 11 points to 4 percent, which put her in 8th place. In New Hampshire, the first state to hold primaries, she was polling at 1 percent. By comparison, Biden, Warren, and Sanders were locked at 19.

Now, the only headlines were about her foundering campaign and her dwindling cash and her downsized staff. In each case, the sentiment was the same, "Whatever happened to Kamala Harris?"

Which answer a question I posed in my first story. Would Harris "I got this one in the bag" attitude help her or ruin her? Turns out the ostentatious bus and the unnecessary press accommodations had been a premature move, and now she just seemed cocky.
Because suction energy can, and often does, vanish in an instant.

A Bernie can always become a Jay InslepInslee. Nobody is immune, no matter how powerful they appear. Look at Bill Cosby. Harvey Weistein. Both were godlike in their power. Both had a gravitational pull so intense that they raped women for decades and nobody did a thing. Cosby's suction energy was so intense that he collected honorary degrees like a vacuum collects dog hair. 70 of them. Then, off to prison to eat pudding in the dark.

By the time I saw Harris at the Democratic Debate in Houston, a month after she stormed Iowa, she'd begun transforming into Joe Biden, focused on all the wrong things, laughing at her own jokes, without realizing that nobody else was laughing.

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