This is a headline the Washington Post recently ran that implies Evangelicals typically identify with the values of at least one presidential candidate, which is typically Republican. But with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton likely to face off in November’s general election, many Christians feel convicted to not vote for either major-party nominee.
Sho Baraka is used to this feeling.
“I find it pretty amusing that, now, a lot of Republicans and conservatives are feeling the plight of individuals that I’ve always ran with,” the Atlanta-based artist said.
Instead of “sitting around complaining,” Sho and attorney Justin Giboney co-founded an answer to this plight, The AND Campaign, which launched on February 27.
“If you’re tired of being forced to choose between social justice and biblical values, then you’re ready for a new voice with new thinking, new engagement and new politics — a new campaign,” Sho said in The AND Campaign’s introduction video.
Sho has long been interested in politics.
“I studied public administration and policy in school at the University of North Texas. I grew up in a very politically active family. My mother was very active in the Black Panther Party, so we’ve always had conversations and affections toward the plight of people,” Sho said.
“And if you care about people, you obviously care about the laws that govern people. And if you believe politics touches every aspect of life, you have no choice but to get politically involved, so though I’ve never had any official political background — I’ve never ran for an office; I’ve never pursued law school — I have always been concerned about the policies and the laws that govern our society.”
This interest is not news to fans of Sho’s music. Few albums have been as acclaimed in Christian hip hop as his last project, Talented 10th, since its release in January 2013, and his latest venture springs from the heartbeat that wrote the 14-track LP. The following are his first words on Talented 10th.
Yeah, I feel the pain of a 70’s soul singer /
Who just saw the death of one of its soul leaders /
I wanna sell records but yet I feel eager /
To write political tunes that give a certain finger
Read an excerpt of Rapzilla’s interview with Sho about The AND Campaign below.
Is The AND Campaign a political party?
The AND Campaign is not a political party. … We transcend political parties. There are individuals who are apart of our campaign who fall both on the left and the right, but ultimately — and this is why we say we transcend — we hold very tightly to biblical values.
We try to deemphasize party and ultimately challenge people to think about the ideologies as they stand by themselves without associating them to a party. Because, as Dr. Carl Ellis says, when you marry a political party, they will pimp you.
What we want to do is get people to look beyond the partisanship that our society is so deeply connected to and even more so about the policies. You can be a Republican or you can be a Democrat, but if you feel like your party is perpetuating some policies that you feel aren’t biblical and aren’t beneficial to society, you should speak up. You should do something and do as much as you can to change that without feeling like you have some irresponsible loyalty to a party that’s not serving your true foundation as a Christian.
How are you approaching this upcoming election, or thinking through politicians and how to use your vote as a Christian with everything The AND Campaign stands for? A lot of Christians feel stuck, "Ah, I don’t want to vote for Hillary or Trump."
What’s interesting is how I’ve been in this space for as long as I can vote. As long as I could vote and I’ve been a Christian, I’ve felt this tug, this bifurcation of having to choose my values versus the things that I’m passionate about when it comes to issues in our community. I find it pretty amusing that, now, a lot of Republicans and conservatives are feeling the plight of individuals that I’ve always ran with.
For me and a lot of my friends, we’ve felt this way forever. As African Americans and minorities, we felt this pseudo-allegiance to the liberals and Democrats because the general population of African Americans have voted that way. But when you look at the values that we’ve had as Christians, people who seemingly would hold to more classical values, that doesn’t line up with a lot of the Democratic stances.
But then, if you say, “Well, I’m just going to vote my Christian values,” you look at a lot of the conservatives on the right and you’d say, "Well, man, they lack a lot of compassion when it comes to issues of justice; when it comes to issues of economics, and I don’t want to just throw the pain of a people that I’ve grew up with out the window just because [Republicans] have tied themselves to this Christian ideal," which I would argue is not the Christian ideal.
That’s where I’ve been for the longest time. This is not a new posture for me. And so this coming up election, I want to do what I’ve always done — not want to concern myself so much with the presidential election, though I’ll probably vote for a third party, but concern myself with those individuals who are going to be making statewide decisions, federal decisions and local decisions that I think are just as impactful as deciding who our president is.
Can you give an example of local elections being just as impactful as federal ones?
Yeah, there are individuals who are running for judge seats here in Georgia, and they have some terrible records. ... We have this habit of voting straight ticket, but at the end of the day, we got to think, "What’s the track record of this individual?"
I’ll even give an example that’s national. Baltimore is a city that has seen a lot of struggle. It’s been plagued with all kinds of riots dating back to the 60’s and 70’s, and, as we know, there’s been recent riots dealing with Freddie Gray.
Well, for instance, just because the overwhelming population is African American, they seem to just vote Democratic. The mayors there for the last I don’t know however long [since 1967] have all been Democrat. But we see that if we just vote straight ticket, it hasn’t changed Baltimore.
If we continue to have Democratic mayors in Baltimore who don’t really care about the people that are putting them in office, then maybe we need to start reevaluating how we vote and why we vote, and not just vote straight ticket and starting thinking, “Alright, well maybe we need to start thinking outside the box.” That doesn’t necessarily mean vote for a Republican, but just because somebody may look like us and just because somebody is in a party that we’re familiar with doesn’t mean they’re gonna actually serve our best interests.
Ultimately, we don’t really, really dig into the policies of those individuals who are on the lower level.