From the Pulpit
I wrote From the Pulpit to express my anger and anguish at the Church's capitulation to government in America. The piece uses the voices of prominent pastors, theocrats, and televangelists including Robert Jeffress, Ben Carson, Paula White, Franklin Graham, Buddy Pilgrim, Pat Robertson, and of course, President Trump.
My collection of these quotes was deeply personal, and literally close to home. The quotes from Paula White and Buddy Pilgrim come from a production by Kenneth Copeland Ministries, based in Fort Worth. I grew up with Robert Jeffress as the pastor of the largest church in my hometown, Wichita Falls. After his move to Dallas, many of my friends and family members remained part of First Baptist Church - Wichita Falls or have since joined the congregation. I myself have performed at the church many times, regularly during breaks in the academic calendar, and even in their own patriotic services around July Fourth. The primary theme of my piece, to Carson's voice, was taken from one such service - the "Celebrate Freedom Sunday" service at First Baptist Church - Dallas on June 28, 2020. This service, held in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic with no social distancing and a full unmasked choir and orchestra, featured Vice President Mike Pence in lieu of a sermon and was attended by notable Texas Republicans such as Attorney General Ken Paxton, State Senator Angela Paxton, Senator John Cornyn, and Governor Greg Abbott. I attended this service with a sign folded and tucked into the back of my waistband under my suit coat. On one side I wrote "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," (from the 1st Amendment to the Bill of Rights) and on the other "Jesus said 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's'"(Matthew 22:21). I stood and silently held the sign when the vice president was speaking until I was escorted out.
The central section of this piece is a sonic collage of the events that occurred in Lafayette Square, adjacent to St. John's Episcopal Church, immediately on the north side of the White House grounds. On June 1, 2020 federal forces dispersed peaceful demonstrators with tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray pellets. President Trump then walked through the park to have photos taken of himself in front of the church holding a Bible. For me this scene evoked a more visceral horror than any other moment in his presidency. The sounds of hissing tear gas canisters, blasts from the firing of rubber bullets and pepper balls, and the screams of the protesters are clear. In the chaos you can hear protest chants of "Black Lives Matter" and "You Are The Threat" as well as one man advising another, who had been sprayed with a chemical irritant in the face, "Don't rub your eyes, believe me, don't rub your eyes."
I released this piece two days before the 2020 presidential election on November 1, 2020.