Why It Isn't Enough to Quote Scripture

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Published:
July 21, 2016

Like many people in the United States, I woke up shocked to discover #Brexit had gone from clever hashtag to reality one month ago. On the morning of the E.U. referendum vote, I found a few articles on Twitter to help try to make sense of what had happened. Most people agreed this was bad news that placed the global economy at risk. Moreover, the health of Europe’s ever-so-fragile peace was disrupted now that far-right nationalist groups from France, the Netherlands, Greece, and others saw an opportunity to incite anti-E.U. platforms.

After processing for a bit, I wondered if maybe Facebook might have something to add. One post stood out: a friend had published a status appearing to make light of the entire situation and saying that #Brexit was simply a manifestation of “they shall not cleave together” (see Daniel 2:43). 

As the day went on, this public position was assumed by a number of friends—all of them writing that this whole event was just another fulfillment of end-time prophecy and, although not said in so many words, it carried a subtext of “don’t be alarmed,” which began to feel dismissive.

I became upset; to casually dismiss the very real ramifications of the event seemed short-sighted at best and rude at worst.

What of the thousands of lives who will be de-stabilized financially?

What of the thousands of refugees that the “Leave” campaign targeted and scapegoated?

Were we really going to ignore how #Brexit furthered the power of an ever-growing xenophobe, nationalist, and populist public?

The Seventh-day Adventist church is a worldwide community whose top leaders have historically been and continue to be primarily white men. The Seventh-day Adventist church is also a worldwide community primarily composed of “colored” people, and the plight of colored people—including Adventist people—both around the world and here in the United States has recently become even more problematic.

We have seen Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations galvanized as a result of the tragic deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Before their deaths, we had not quite finished grieving the horrific hate crime against the LGBTQ Latinx community in the Orlando shooting at the Pulse Nightclub. On top of all this, the GOP nominee, Donald J. Trump, has tapped into the worst of Americans through his blatant immigrant bashing. 

Since the Internet has made it easy for organizations to quickly and promptly address their members, I think I speak for most Adventists in saying that we hoped and expected to hear from our church. Wonderfully enough, Ted Wilson did address the global Adventist community. However, what we got from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was disappointing.

In the face of tragic events against minorities this summer, and the persistent racist and xenophobic rants from Donald J. Trump, which do a lot more for fueling race wars than anything BLM does, the address made by Ted Wilson, President of the GC, was one that only loosely alluded to doing something about our current social issues. The address focused on admonishing Adventists—encouraging them to study prophecy. Focus not on this world, but be comforted by the Christ who will guide us through even worse end-time tragedies was what Wilson’s message distilled into. Because Ted Wilson failed to acknowledge the events affecting a large part of his constituency, the address did not sound like a call to action. It sounded distant and dismissive.

It hurts for the issues affecting me as a Latino Adventist to be dismissed with prophetic texts.

I know Adventists are loathe to discuss politics, but I am not asking anyone to become politically explicit—or God forbid, Democrats (As Clifford Goldstein once quipped, “So many Republicans?"). All I ask for is recognition and justice.

There is nothing Republican or Democratic about leaving the religious comforts of this-is-all-in-keeping-with-prophecy-nobody-panic and saying, “Hey scapegoating Latinx immigrants is un-Christlike,” or “We recognize this country developed laws and policies weighted against blacks, and we should seek to repair them out of love for our neighbor without taking vengeance against cops.” 

Apparently, a large portion of white Americans do not consider minorities integral to their communities; if this was not so, then Donald J. Trump would not be sitting on the Republican presidential bid. But is it too much to ask the Adventist community—whose growth numbers and tithe totals we pad—to consider us important enough to defend us? I am weary of being around Adventist laity and leaders afraid of standing up for an important part of their community because they are afraid to be political or because Hillary Clinton is undesirable. 

We minorities know Hillary Clinton is not that great, but what we do not know and want to know is if you see the troubles and issues that plague those with our skin color and are willing to help us fix the issues.

My heart has been encouraged by preachers like David Asscherick who have been willing to acknowledge that yes not all cops are bad, but all black lives matter. My heart was encouraged when NAD churches in Florida offered support and service to the LGBTQ community of Orlando. My heart is encouraged as I see the NAD respond to the race issues of our time. And yes, my heart is encouraged by prophetic insights, by proclaiming the gospel, by the age to come, and by Jesus the Christ. 

However, eschatology cannot change my present reality, nor is abstract truth-telling a proper substitute for incarnational truth-living. 

Top-level leadership speaking against social injustices would be nothing new; in fact, they would honor the legacy of one of our founders: Ellen G. White boldly condemned this nation for its slavery and racism in the 19th century. Let all our present-day leaders follow in this legacy and speak a popular word addressing and acknowledging the racial pains of today.

As a minority Adventist, this is my plea and this is my cry.

Look at us. Experience with us. Feel with us.

Yes, it may simply be a reflection of clay and iron not mixing when #Brexit, #PulseShooting, #PhilandoCastille, #AltonSterling, #PrayforDallas, and #PrayforNice trend, but for some of us, the issues surrounding those experiences will be with us long after they stop trending on Twitter, and when Twitter no longer speaks on our behalf, who will if not our faith family?  

 

Bryant Rodriguez is a Theology student at Southern Adventist University who in 2013 completed an internship at the Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism Europe. 

 

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