As a comedy performer and writer, this is one of the first things I ask myself when creating new material. A comedy show at a downtown bar that regularly hosts burlesque and poetry readings attracts quite a different crowd than a comedy show at a craft brewery in suburbia that hosts bluegrass pickin’, beard growing contests, and children’s birthday parties.
Considering the identity of your audience also applies when you present yourself as a salesman, teach in a rural school, or even post to social media. If you want your jokes to land, sell your product, instill understanding, or earn some likes; you have to package your message just right so those to whom you present receive, accept, and respond positively to it.
On Friday, President Trump addressed the nation, speaking exclusively about China and taking no questions about the protests erupting across America. Instead, he took to the protective Presidential bunker unused since September 11, 2001 and tweeted, “If they had [breached the fence] they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.”
On Monday, President Trump stated, “If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.” As he spoke, police were deploying tear gas, flash bangs, and rubber bullets to disperse a crowd of protestors outside the White House before curfew and without warning. The President then led a retinue across a cleared Lafayette Square to be photographed standing in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church while brandishing a Bible.
His words? The President spoke them to convince us how strong he was, referring to himself as “your president of law and order” after people accused him of cowardice for hiding in a bunker.
His actions? The President stood in front of a church that had been damaged in a fire and held up a Bible declaring, “We have the greatest country in the world,” which leaves me confused.
Was he illustrating that because the church was damaged during a protest, the protestors went against the law of God? Was he showing that America was founded on Biblical precepts and would therefore triumph over evil? Was he trying to look tough, appealing to religious conservatives? Was he claiming God was on his side? Was it some combination of these? Did I miss his point completely?
As an evangelical Christian, I believe the Bible both communicates the message that God loves all people without exception and tells the story of how He, Jesus, pursued relationship with humanity throughout history. I read God’s Word to deepen that relationship, gaining the courage to love others as I am loved.
The Old Testament book, 2 Chronicles, summarizes the reigns of every Israelite king from David’s son, Solomon, to King Zedekiah whose rule culminated with Babylon subjugating Israel. For the author of 2 Chronicles, the true test of whether a king was effective or not was if they “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” The kings who led their people in serving the Lord and obeying Him enjoyed long reigns and victory over rival kingdoms. Those who turned away from God saw their reigns cut short and suffered defeat in battle, so Biblically, a leader who achieves success is the one who realizes their audience is the Lord, ensuring everything they do is done to please Him.
In the New Testament, the book of Titus states, “An elder (leader) must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”
If it’s your job to lead a nation, and you are bold enough to stand in front of a church, hefting a Bible like a shot put, then who you are as a person should reflect the standards to which God’s Word calls you.
Mr. President, the world is watching, If you’ve done wrong; been unfaithful to your wife; raised unscrupulous children; are overbearing, quick-tempered, drunk on power, and violent. If you pursue dishonest gain, are inhospitable, love what is evil, fly off the handle, are morally and ethically corrupt, deny the truth, and tear people down; you need to set an example by humbling yourself, admitting you’ve done wrong, and seeking to heal the hurt you’ve caused. If not, this desperate situation will collapse into a crisis from which we may never recover.
Don’t perform for your political base; don’t flex when you feel threatened. We’re all looking for someone to follow, and if you’re following Jesus in name only, if you don’t make Him the audience to whom you devote yourself 100%; you risk shortening your time in power and relinquishing your role as the nation you’ve led succumbs to subjugation.
Do the right thing.