Praying for Tina Campbell
I have been a Mary Mary fan since they released “Shackles” almost 18 years ago. I bought all their CDs and have seen them in concert more times than I can count. They brought a fresh wind to Christianity and made it cool to be a Jesus kid. They embraced their curves and colorful styles in a way that helped many sisters like me embrace our own. And to top it off, you could tell they were churchy. It wasn’t fake; they loved God for real. Of the two, Tina Campbell was my favorite “Mary”. She can hit a note that will pierce straight to your soul. And I felt like her “no nonsense-tell it like it is” attitude mirrored mine in a way that could have made us wonder twins. Tina don’t play. It was clear on BET’s Sunday Best; it’s clear on social media and it’s most evident on the reality show she shares with her sister, Erica. And it was my love for Tina that actually made me stop watching that show. As a Mary Mary fan, I was disappointed that they chose to do reality tv but when the show began to focus on the fractures in Tina’s marriage, I knew it was time to let it go. Tina was in the midst of an emotional tailspin that, in my opinion, didn’t need to be televised so I wasn’t going to watch it.
Yet despite the care and compassion I had for Tina’s life and career, it has become evident that the feeling isn’t mutual. Recently, while on the press tour for the final season of the reality show, Tina revealed that it was Donald Trump’s views on Christianity that made her vote for him. While she made it clear that she has not agreed with everything Trump has done since taking office, essentially Tina suggests that her faith aligned more with Donald Trump’s than Hillary Clinton’s. I had a feeling Tina voted for Trump. When she wrote that open letter at the beginning saying that, as a Christian, she was willing to pray for and forgive him (when he never asked for forgiveness), I knew she believed he was going to make America great again. And while she never said exactly what Trump’s views on Christianity were, many have used that phrase as a way of identifying with his alleged traditionalist views on marriage and abortion. They don’t want to come out and say they’re against marriage equality and believe that life begins at conception. Though there are numerous resources that provide understanding on just how Christians can reconcile these “opposing” views with their faith and/or remain in solidarity with those who are being villainized by Christians about these issues, Trump supporters seem not to care. But even if marriage equality and abortion are wholly important to you, how do Christians make sense of and overlook Trump’s anti-Christian behavior during the campaign?
In his quest to restore America’s “greatness”, he was one of the most divisive candidates in modern history. He advocated beating up Black protestors, claiming that his presidency would restore “law and order”. He openly mocked a differently abled journalist and called Senator John McCain a loser for being captured in the Vietnam War. He consistently berated and reduced Hillary Clinton and republican candidate Carly Fiorina to their looks, while we had the audio of him joking about sexual assault. He campaigned on building a wall to keep Mexican immigrants out of the country and promised to strip millions of healthcare. Where is Jesus in any of that? He can’t be found. This isn’t rocket science and we do the beauty of Creation a disservice when we use our God-given minds to rationalize inhumane things in Christ’s name.
Thankfully, the majority of churched sisters had enough sense to see through Trump’s flaccid attempts at Christian behavior and voted otherwise. Tina was a part of the meager 3% of Black women voters who aligned themselves with Trump. While I’m grateful that most sisters had good sense, Tina’s vote actually worked to harm the very communities that are the reason for her success. Be very clear: Mary Mary are international superstars because Black churchfolk supported them. Tina enjoys a semblance of wealth because Black people of faith purchased CDs and concert tickets. They sowed into her dreams long before WETv and other mainstream spaces came calling. They deserved her advocacy. Their support of her deserved that she looked more closely at the presidential candidates and selected one who would work to alleviate their suffering. Donald Trump campaigned on the assurance that Black life in America would become harder. It’s fine that she didn’t want to vote for Hillary; she could have written in the President of the Mother’s Board. But Trump? Because of his Christianity? Sis, no.
Across social media, the “cancelling” of Tina Campbell has commenced. Some have even called for a boycott of the show, her music and to cease any support of future projects. While I personally choose not to throw Black women away, I do recognize the impossibility of supporting Tina at this point. Voting for someone whose entire message is so antithetical to the Gospel of Christ tells me everything about what Tina and other Trump supporters think of me. While we are free to vote however we choose, this election made some things clear and it is becoming increasingly evident that we cannot walk with those who cannot affirm our humanity. A Trump vote denied the humanity of every marginalized group in America and we know that. It doesn’t take discernment from on high to figure that one out.
So, while Tina won’t get any more of my coins, I will offer her a final prayer. I sincerely pray that she is able to recognize authentic faith from the counterfeit. I pray that recognition enables to her to reflect on the scores of Christians, in Scripture and throughout history, who stood in defiant opposition to powers and principalities. I pray she understands that her platform and voice are not just to sing about God’s goodness but to highlight the ways in which God’s people are suffering. More than anything, I pray she hears the critiques and doesn’t dismiss them as hate or the work of the enemy, as she has done. The personal has always been political and theological for Black women. Sisters have always had to read ourselves into God’s love because there were always forces reading us out of it. So, when you vote against your very own humanity, one must question if you have ever had a deep, transformative encounter with the God you have been singing so beautifully about all these years.