America is hurting. America is burning. Can America survive the violence by the men and women who are supposed to protect us? Can America survive those who are destroying businesses in the name of peace and equality?
These are questions many are asking in the wake of the unrest happening across America.
Writing this on Sunday, May 31, I once again find myself locked down in my apartment; this time due to, not the pandemic, but to the violence and destruction happening in Denver.
Fear came frighteningly close to our Conference office over the weekend as the violent uprising moved from downtown Denver into the surrounding neighborhoods. Our country’s issues came too close for comfort. Can we allow the violence and destruction to take place blocks away without doing something, without changing the way we live? We can’t be silent any longer.
Frankly, I’m appalled by the video of the police officer murdering George Floyd, but what can I do?
Racism is just one piece of what is happening in America. Behind it came destruction. It may not affect me, my family, or my church family, but doing nothing doesn’t seem to be the best response.
“As Seventh-day Adventist Christians, we cannot sit back quietly at a time like this! When satanic forces create injustice, we must speak up in defense of our brothers and sisters who have no voice,” said Ed Barnett, RMC president, on behalf of the Rocky Mountain Conference. “That [the violence we see] doesn’t give us license to do evil. It gives us license to love like Jesus loved! And believe me that will make a difference.”
Racism is nothing new. It was around long before Christ walked this earth. When Christ came, He not only came to save us from our sins, but to be an example for us on how to live. He spent a lot of his time with people, who for centuries had been spit upon, beaten down, and yes, even targeted by government and ecclesiastical officials.
“Adventism has long been a movement that has grasped prophecy as necessary and relevant. In this time of upheaval, led by an oppressed group, it is necessary that Adventists acknowledge that in aligning our voices and actions with freeing the oppressed, we continue the prophetic understanding of Adventism,” said Jenniffer Ogden, pastor of Boulder Adventist church.
What did Christ do? Did He march? Did He release a statement on behalf of the temple condemning certain actions? Was He overwhelmed with anger destroying shops in Jerusalem because of the evil and violence He witnessed? Did He give up and let evil win? Did He lose hope?
“To remain silent sends a loud message that I am apathetic about George Floyd’s murder, about the abuse of power, about the racism that leads to actions that demoralize, dehumanize, and minimize, or that my heart isn’t aching for his family and so many of my friends and family who have endured abuse, hatred, and other atrocities like this for way…too…long. Why? Because they don’t fit the narrow mold determined by some as acceptable citizens,” Diane Thurber, commented on Facebook.
“It is not Christlike to remain silent when any segment of our society is being subjected to injustice! We must clearly and loudly speak up to condemn, and actively reject racism and any other form of oppressive evil within our society,” said Daniel Birai, pastor of Fort Collins church. [See full statement below]
I am white, so I don’t know the fear that my brothers and sisters experience whenever they leave their home. “Is this the day I’m going to have a knee held on my neck for nine minutes?”
I’m single, so I don’t know the fear parents experience regarding their children. “Is this the last morning I’ll be able to hug my children before school?”
I’m an American citizen, so I don’t know the fear my immigrant friends experience. “Is this the day ICE will break down my door?”
For some, the fear is unremitting. We live in an evil and fear-filled world. So I ask, where’s the church? Have we ignored Jesus’ words, “Love thy neighbor”?
Is there any hope?
While many people may be losing hope that real change can happen, hope isn’t gone. When we love our neighbor, hope returns, it lives. Where hope lives, Christ lives.
“My voice matters. Let’s be angry, speak up, love and hug everyone and anyone,” commented Rajmund Dabrowski, communication director for RMC. “No might will prevail. Love will. Tears have no color,” he added.
“I admit and recognize that equality and justice have never truly been realized in our nation for some groups of people,” Christopher Morris, associate pastor of Littleton church stated. “I’m going to be intentional and active towards changing that reality.”
“We stand with Jesus as we support and uplift the widow, the orphan, the captive, the impoverished, and the oppressed.” Ogden stated.
Let’s stand up and advance God’s kingdom here by living out hope.
“I love seeing my generation stand up to racism, but is there a place for that in our churches? I believe our church’s response to this blatant and disgusting racism will cause teens and young adults to either lean into or away from the church once again. So, I beseech the church that I love…Step up! Speak out! Say the names of those murdered at the hands of police brutality. Let your actions proclaim that black lives matter. Stop making excuses,” commented Jessyka Dooley, RMC assistant youth director.
“Pursue justice and equality with passion. Do not be lukewarm on the issue of racism or I, and many of my brothers and sisters, will spit you out. This is not a flowery comment on an issue many hesitate around, but rather a plea for our church to be better and live on earth as it is in heaven,” she continued.
Are we going to live a life in an ignorance bliss-bubble, or will we take a step forward and repent for staying quiet too long? Christ has called us to action. He’s been knocking for a long time, and it is high time we answer the door instead of ignoring His invitation to be present where we are. No matter how difficult.
Full statement by Daniel Birai:
I have grown up with the idea that our role as Seventh-day Adventists was to preach the “gospel”. This gospel focused on defending the 10 commandments, especially the Sabbath, and a focus on doing the right “things…not going to watch movies, dressing appropriately, not eating meat, and so forth…” Speaking about social issues, such as racism and poverty, or community outreach that wasn’t explicitly aimed at drawing people to a bible study or a Daniel/Revelation seminar wasn’t celebrated, or even encouraged. The thought was that we couldn’t fix everything, and instead needed to keep our eyes on the ball by spreading the “gospel” as far and wide as we can. After all, “Jesus is coming soon!”
As our country and nation dealt with different issues, such as police brutality, treatment of immigrants, among others, I was often counseled some well-meaning friends, loved ones, and church leaders not get mixed up in issues that would cause controversy and division in the church. On the other hand, I watched some friends in the ministry break the norm by actively speaking up about social issues affecting communities and churches. I felt torn. Meanwhile, I witnessed an exodus from the church of fellow millennials due to their perception of a disconnect between our message, Scripture, and our actions. We preach about love for our neighbor, what it means to be a Good Samaritan, defending the weak and the fatherless, while repeatedly walking right past our brothers and sisters in Christ who’ve repeatedly been beaten by our country’s unfair systems and left for dead by the side of the road. We’ve failed to acknowledge their plights, offer words of comfort, or speak on their behalves when our voices could have made a difference.
As I prayed and became a student, listening, asking questions, and thinking, I’ve come to realize that the Bible is very clear about what we Christians ought to do when we witness unfairness and injustice:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31: 8,9.
I have concluded that it is not Christlike to remain quiet when any segment of our society is being subjected to injustice! We must clearly and loudly speak up to condemn, and actively reject racism and any other forms of oppressive evil within our society.
In the words of the great MLK, “[t]he ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over the good people.”
This article was written by Jon Roberts, communication/media assistant for RMC, with input from Rajmund Dabrowski, communication director, and was originally published by RMC NewsNuggets, and is reprinted here with permission. Photo courtesy of RMC website.
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