Story Behind The Song: Kingdom Come
There are many thoughts and emotions that come as I sit to write about why I wrote the song, Kingdom Come. I must say that, as you read this blog, understand that this is an attempt to bring clarity to why I think unity will never occur without us submitting ourselves fully to God. Humans were not created to fully attain pure unity without the source that created us to share in his unity. I wrote Kingdom Come at a time of discovery. I found myself stuck in the middle of white people, who unintentionally played ignorant to the racism in America, and black people growing more and more tired of innocent black victims dying due to prejudices and racism being displayed on the media. During this time that the media began to highlight police brutality against black victims. The intention of this blog is to help you understand the heart and soul behind Kingdom Come, coupled with the explicit and implicit messaging musically and lyrically. Although inspired by all of the innocent black lives being taken, this blog and song bring to light the white supremacy and racism that still exists in America.
Although there have been many black lives taken unjustly for centuries, the first one that really captured my attention was Trayvon Martin. I remember wrestling with this shooting, but, at the time, there was no outlet. I could not process it with anyone in my majority white evangelical space. I remember the Sunday prior to his shooting the church went “on with business as usual,” never addressing the national crisis. I did not want to raise awareness because it was my first full-time job and, for the first time, I felt as though I needed to work to fit in and learn white culture, and bury the internal conflict with which I was wrestling. From 2012 to 2014 many black people died and I began to grow more and more frustrated with America’s complicity. The narrative would shift for me from it being an issue of police brutality to an American issue, birthed in white supremacy and racism. From Michael Brown and Tamir Rice to Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland, it seemed as though black lives were being taken too frequently. These were people, my age, who looked just like me. I grew more and more paranoid while living in my predominantly white town in South Carolina. The question I wrestled with was why wasn’t the church saying anything? The church I worked at did not address these issues because, I later learned, those issues were ethical and social, not gospel related.
In 2015, I led a team of middle schoolers and staff to Charleston for a summer camp. It was during this time that the shooting at Mother Emmanuel AME church took place. This was extremely significant because God vividly spoke to me saying, “be prepared because it is going to happen in Charlotte soon.” I shared with my team what I heard from God and they received it and ensured me that they would be willing to be a part of the healing process when it happens. The church where I was working at the time addressed the issue from the pulpit and condoned the actions, but I felt as if it was not done in the way it should have been. Sure, this was not a cop, but this was an individual who supports the idea of white supremacy and racism. The church focused more on the actions of the shooter, Dylan Roof, while appearing to ignore the implicit white supremacy that existed in the world, and even within their culture. This was very telling, and my eyes began to open up. More black people died, and very little or nothing at all was said by white churches. Even some of my black friends were silent because they did not want to lose their jobs at their evangelical churches. Around this time, the Black Lives Matter movement began.
In September 2016, the prophetic word would come to pass with the death of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte. After his death, the culture changed from business to protest. I watched my social media explode and I immediately went into the heart of the city. I called my colleagues and asked them to join me as I sought to radiate Christ’s love and mourn with those that were in deep mourning. Many of them did not answer my calls or text, and if so, they had other obligations. The passivity led me to rage and even more frustration. This finally highlighted the complicity of evangelicals. I had conversations about with many of my “woke” friends about their fears and hesitation. Many of them were hurting and confused. Despite portraying “woke” ideologies, they were not about the life of protest. Protest is a lifestyle that is not an option as a Christian, but it is the inherent nature of Christianity when dealing with injustice. On September 22, 2016, I wrote Kingdom Come.
I went home after a long day of praying with individuals, listening to my people hurt, affirming the white individuals that were in Charlotte to listen and protest, and grab my pen and paper. I wrote Kingdom Come in twenty minutes as my mind was racing. I could not slow down the lyrical process, despite being a person who usually will sit on a song for months before feeling like it is good enough to release. The lyrics I had were good enough and portrayed the picture I wanted to paint. The first verse is a lament, calling God out for the war and violence in this world. After all, this is His created world. We are His created people. Many Christian artists resist this language because it is not attractive and does not please their labels; however, I find it endearing and more pleasing to God because it is honest and vulnerable. To deny honesty and transparency within Christian songs, is like denying the beating and murder of Jesus. To make it easy and more explicit, consider the psalms, the prophets, and Jesus on the cross saying, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Do not mistake the lyrics as me venting to God, it is merely a hopeful plea to God while being transparent about the state of America, at the time. The chorus is the hopeful state that I pray we get to. God restoring minds and hearts so that His kingdom is fully displayed, here on earth. The second verse highlights the tensions between many of the black and white friends of mine. In this verse, I really wanted my white friends not to misinterpret the protest that had been happening for years. The media can often be corrupt and seeks to bring more division than needed for ratings. However, it does highlight certain realities that should not be ignored. My white friends, though I do not think they would have marched and protested, were fearful for their lives. Fear is not of God. All of the disciples of Christ died egregious deaths, so why are we afraid of what we signed up for? They missed the fact that black people were protesting out of anger, hurt, betrayal by the system, and similarly, fear for their lives. What really hurts me to say is that for many black people, we will probably always have this posture when protesting. The second half of the verse addresses the rock many white people live under, believing that racism is nonexistent or uncommon. The best way to highlight white privilege is to have the freedom to be silent and ignorant of racism in America. The bridge relieves the tension that has built throughout the song. Releasing the tensions between reality and what I hope for is displayed through the repetitive lyric in the bridge. Let your kingdom come. This was me laying down my hope, anger, fear, anxiety down so that God could speak and replenish my soul.
Musically throughout the song, there are many complexities. I called my friend Bryan Phar and said, “brother, I need you to help me produce this song.” Bryan is a very talented producer and writer in Charlotte. I told him that we needed to knock this song out of the park. I knew that I wanted strings to capture the emotions and tensions within the song. I wanted the chords to be deceptive, yet intriguing. Overall, the song had to be musical and captivating. As you listen, notice the complex and subtle movements of the strings, piano, and pads. Become one with the music and let it take you places. That was the hope for the song. The strings dance, they sing, they captured the internal conflict inside of my soul. The piano and even the key of the song is very dark intentionally and mellow, but you also find substance wrapped inside of the mystery. In the second verse particularly, the strings reflect the tensions of the verse, that also reflected the current climate. The chords are not as traditional as many people think. I intentionally chose chords that leads the ear to think predictability, but when listening closely, they are not as predictable as many would think. The drums, the heartbeat of God’s kingdom, carries throughout the song, except for the bridge. I wanted the drums to march throughout the song will having God’s heartbeat and motives in mind. I wanted the bridge to simply sing. I like to think of the bridge like this. Imagine yourself in an empty cathedral, encountering the presence of God. There’s nothing like it which is precisely why I wrote the bridge this way. Moreover, I wanted the choir and strings to really shine and sing because I truly believe that this is the nature of the kingdom. Kingdom worship is not limited to predictability and played out musicality, that many Christian songs settle for. I did not want this song to be commercial which limits the imagination, I wanted this song to be real. I wanted this song to be me. A kingdom sound explores the depths of God’s heart and heavens creativity, while still having a way to access the heart of God’s people. I wanted to challenge people to think deeply about every aspect of the song and not settle for the status quo. We have coddled listeners and we must rethink the way we create. Creativity should be an overflow of what is internally happening in our lives. The low chorus at the end was me acknowledging that this is not reality. I wanted to leave the song in a vulnerable, honest, yet hopeful place.
As I reflect on my own life, this song, and my heart for God’s justice, looking back I think my white friends assumed that I was the exception to the rule and that it would not happen to me. They really are good people who truly love God, that’s not my issue, it is an intentional choice choosing ignorance when racism and white supremacy exists. Many white people do not acknowledge white supremacy because it is like breathing, and you simply do not think about it. Imagine having bad breath and not knowing it, even worst, denying it. For many of us, we smell the breath and it is terrible. It is time for many white people to accept tic-tac and not be offended. We are just looking out! Just because you do not smell your breath it does not mean your breath does not stink. Again, we are just trying to look out with you feeling judged or embarrassed.
As I conclude, I think it is important to note that we have a long way to go. This song is not just about Black people being shot, but the racism that still exists and the complicity of many white people, today. There are real tensions that cannot be ignored and if we desire to see God’s kingdom here on earth, we must reflect Christ himself. This takes work. This takes education. This requires protest. This requires humility. Most importantly, this will take time. Until we have conversations, become more honest with God and ourselves, we will not see God’s kingdom fully manifested here on earth, despite what people think. God’s kingdom is connected to God’s justice. Until we denounce our prejudices, white supremacy, and racism, we cannot live in true unity. This begins with believers truly model Christ to each other and to the world. I’m not talking about the white American Jesus we have created, but the true Christ. Embrace the tensions, denounce the lies, and love one another. Loving one another requires time with each other.