Story Behind The Song: How Much Longer?
How Much Longer?
Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:23-24)
In the midst of the US presidential election of 2016, with the backdrop of a series of events fueled by racial tension and violence across America, the writers of 'How Much Longer' met together to write for the first time. Three sons of preachers; two black, one white.
How Much Longer was conceived and written on a former plantation near a cemetery where slaves and Confederate soldiers were buried side by side. Reflecting on the current turmoil we wrestled with two ideas:
1. How much longer will we continue to see the same kinds of divisive issues in America around race and ethnicity? How much longer will justice sleep?
2. Why do we continue to fight one another in life with such fervor even though we know that eventually, we will return to the earth? As we looked to the graveyard in the distance, we pondered whether we would only have unity and peace in death.
We concluded our session with the burden of creating a battle cry for renewal as reflected in the bridge: Come on brother, lay your weapons down, where the river of justice rolls and all oppression drowns.
There are broken and flawed systems set in place that that perpetuate brokenness in our society. I’m not writing this to explore or explain those systems and how they effect the poor and needy, but merely to state that they do exist. They do exist and they are failing our countrymen and our fellow human beings; our brothers and sisters. Personally I am not someone who has felt the weight of oppression, but having very close friends who do on a daily basis, and having experiences as a first hand witness of hate towards people based on things like class, race, religion etc. have helped me see where we have gone wrong as a society. I’m writing now to say that we are tired and fed up with these generational injustices. We want to see change. We want freedom for the downtrodden, and hope restored to all people. We are calling out of anger and exhaustion and conviction asking both people and our God, how much longer.
When the morning news reads "another mass shooting" what goes through your heart? When you listen to politicians debate the human rights of migrant children separated from families a the border, what is it you hear? When you see the lives of unarmed African Americans killed on camera by police, how does that make you feel? And when you look at the ways in which we have been complicit in not loving our neighbors as ourselves, what is your resolve?
Well, from such questions and the answers to them is what gave birth to this song. "How Much Longer is the cry of those who long to see a day where justice flows like a river, a day where both action and desire meet." A day where followers of Jesus not only sing of this new day but are guilty of helping bring it to pass.