I must confess I hardly know what to write. It is my Wednesday routine to sit at this laptop and compose another entry for my Fourth Watch blog. But today's headlines are the visceral recitation of our nation's ugliest truth. Racism.
We sat in a Zoom circle a few days ago—and listened as our colleague and friend, Taurus Montgomery (African American pastor of our Harbor of Hope campus in Benton Harbor), described the shock of being yelled out of his car. A teen at the time, Taurus had been impatiently waiting for his sister to emerge from the house—when a white police officer in an unmarked car screeched to a halt and with a revolver pointed at Taurus and his brother, yelled: "Get out—with your hands up!" The stunned young men obeyed immediately. A split second later the officer's radio goes off in the background, "Suspect has been apprehended." Without a word, let alone an apology ("Sorry, fellas"), the officer holsters his gun, jumps in his car and speeds away. End of story.
End of story for you and me, perhaps. But for a black kid growing up with racism, how do a story and an adrenalin memory like that ever end? Sitting in that Zoom circle it was more than obvious the PTSD sort of stress every black man must experience when another killing—three of them in a row recently in this land of the free—strikes. Another black life snuffed out by raw power. End of story? Are you kidding!
I listened today to another colleague of mine, African American Adventist pastor of the Brinklo Emmanuel church, Anthony Medley. Visceral pain from vented anger over racism's chokehold, bondage not even the church (not to mention society) has been able to break, let alone heal.
The video images now of George Floyd dying are seared on the collective conscience of us all. Ever notice the soldiers played a game of craps as the Man on the cross was dying? "Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get" (Mark 15:24). The nonchalance over a man dying at their hands—how do you forget that picture?
But if that's all we remember, how can that chain be broken? My friend, Nick Miller, attorney for the Lake Union Conference, last Sabbath afternoon on a Facebook Live panel discussion (thank you, Debbie Michel, host), shared three provocative Ellen White admonitions worth brooding over:
- “The desire to show their masterly authority over the blacks is still burning in the hearts of many who claim to be Christians, but whose lives declare that they are standing under the black banner of the great apostate. When the whites commit crimes, they are often allowed to go uncondemned, while for the same transgressions the blacks . . . are treated worse than the brutes. . . . Will not God judge for these things? As surely as the whites have brought their inhuman cruelty to bear upon the negroes, so surely will God’s vengeance fall upon them” (14LtMs, Lt 99, 1899).
"Whew! Not my problem." Keep reading.
- "There is a cause for the moral paralysis upon society. Our laws sustain an evil which is sapping their very foundations. Many deplore the wrongs which they know exist, but consider themselves free from all responsibility in the matter. This cannot be. Every individual exerts an influence in society. In our favored land, every voter has some voice in determining what laws shall control the nation. Should not that influence and that vote be cast on the side of temperance and virtue?" (RH November 8, 1881).
"Whew! That one's about temperance and not racism." You missed the word "virtue."
- "While we will endeavor to keep the 'unity of the Spirit' in the bonds of peace, we will not with pen or voice cease to protest against bigotry" (16MR 216).
"Protest against bigotry." The time has come for white Adventists to step out of the shadows and "with pen or voice" do just that, "protest against bigotry."
This Sabbath in both Livestream worship services your Pioneer pastors and Andrews chaplains will read a statement on camera describing where we can go from here. Next steps. Because as history has taught us, if we don't begin somewhere, we won't be going anywhere. With Jesus.