Harlot is a spoken word poem (by Michael Card, "Forgiving Eyes) that was done by a girl (Jennifer R./Akhon Apire) I met while in New York recording. She was one of Jesse’s friends and she came to the studio specifically to help with this track. I always wanted a female voice to do it.
Jen was a testimony in and of herself. She was born Akhon Apire in Africa (I hope I get this story right!) she was born to a woman who died during childbirth. The surrounding clans people lived in such poverty that none of them could even imagine taking up the raising of an extra child. So Jen was simply placed in the corner of a tent as everyone waited for her to die.
There was a missionary from an American church organization that was visiting the settlement and he heard the loud wailing of an infant. He asked the people to take him to the baby and they did. They explained to him what happened. And his heart, no doubt, broke! He lifted the little crying baby girl out from the corner of the tent where she had been condemned and told them that he would take her. He ended up adopting her and brought her back to America where she grew up. He gave her an American name and an African name. We, over here know her as Jennifer. But her tribal name was Akhon Aphire, which means ‘motherless child’.
As she told me about this part of her life, I could see in her eyes how much of a redemption story she knew she had. And it didn’t hit me until later of how much she paralleled with the poem I wanted her to read. I didn’t write the whole poem. I read something that inspired me and used some of it, but have long forgot where exactly I what the original was (if someone knows, email me the name of the original author). It’s a well known story in the bible (John 8:1-12) of a woman who is caught in the act of adultery, a very serious sin in those days. She was taken out to Jesus who was teaching by some pharisee’s that wanted to catch Him saying something they could use against Him (in the old laws such a person should be stoned (Lev. 20:10). If Jesus was against her stoning he was ‘against the law of their forefathers. But if he agreed then they could say that he was a cruel person. So they asked him what they should do. And Jesus stooped to the ground and started to write in the sand, acting like he didn’t hear them. They asked him again and he said,’ Let him who is without sin cast the first stone’.
This convicted the crowd so much that they threw down their rocks and walked away. This woman was condemned to death just like Jennifer. Two women at different times, in different circumstances, but both receiving the same judgement by man. Both women experiencing an awesome salvation! It was all too good for me!
So Jennifer read the poem and it became the intro track to the ‘a War to restore’ album.
Ok, maybe not that easy! Jennifer was a bit shy to record on that mic. We had all agreed that we wanted a bit of emotion in her voice. But she couldn’t ‘act’ with all of us standing there watching her. So eventually we had to hit the record button and leave the booth while she recorded with a friend in solitude. I dunno what her and that friend (Luke) did to get that emotion out of her but it worked!
After Jen left, Jesse and me rented some old ‘Jesus’ movie and sampled pieces of this particuliar scene behind her (I don’t think a lot of people picked up on that!). we did that in the same ol’ ghetto way as best I know how (see ‘Theophilus’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’).
When the album released I thought it sucked the way some people took this track. My idea for this project was to make the first part of it a ‘concept album’. This means that my goal was to take the listener through a specific audible journey. And that ‘journey’ (without sounding too preachy) was certain steps of the salvation process in which God redeems sinful people back to Him! (look at the first 6 tracks: Untitled is a loop of a man saying ‘God make it stop haunting me’, ‘Harlot’ is the condemnation one feels in sin, ‘Blunted Edge’ is the struggle of a person living outside of Gods will, ‘Christ’ is the solution to that struggle that brings peace, ‘Scripture’ is where you learn about that Salvation plan, and ‘Saving Private You’ is how sometimes a friend has to come and help pull you out).
But some peeps that reviewed the album complained that I didn’t just get up and move right into the album off the bat! No intro, just get to it! But the point I was making with the first 2 tracks is that any body can hit skip and go directly to their favorite songs. But I wanted to create an album that was pleasing at the times when you just pop in a CD and do house chores and actually listen to the whole thing. I wanted to give something to the people that want to take in the whole scene in patience.
Surrounded by shouts, the cruel accusations
dragged to the court, no hope of salvation
all hope was lost, becuase those who contain me
knew who I was, they caught me in my iniquities
I thought it seemed strange as we entered in
they're stopping a young Rabbi to ask his opinion
'Imma prostitute', that's why they hate me
my body can feel the stones that await me
my judge...a man from Galilee
yet in his eyes I can see
a Father, a Brother, and a Son
a Lamb, and a Lion
the crowd is gathering, so angry and violent
as he stood beside me, so peaceful and silent
then with one word and one question
He shows them
that they too are guilty, and cannot condemn
what does He write in the sand
that's asking me 'were are they'
I open my eyes...and through tears, see a courtyard that's empty
the stones that were gonna taste my blood
had been dropped back onto the ground were they came from
and in this new light, I now understood
that He would not condenm me, even though He could.....
(end with echo)