The Fourth Watch

By Pastor Dwight K. Nelson

May
17
May 17, 2017

This winter I read through Jacques Doukhan’s new commentary, Seventh-day Adventist International Bible Commentary: Genesis. And in his fascinating description of the Tower of Babel event (Genesis 11) I wonder if we find the antecedent to (or at least the seeds for) what is happening to this nation even as I write.

“Babel”—“confusion” —“because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world” (Genesis 11:9). Could there be a more succinct descriptor for the babble of confusion that now defines this nation’s government? It seems there is hardly a soul in the capital not culpable for this chaos—in the administration, Congress, the news media, late night entertainment, et al. Washington is now a veritable cacophony of chaos and confusion: he said/she said, he said/they said, he said/we said. Does anybody know the truth anymore? Or is truth even knowable now?

In the construction of Babel, you remember, the workers (who set out to build “a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves”—v 4) suddenly found themselves unable to communicate with each other. For the Creator “came down” and rewired their linguistic circuitry. According to Jewish tradition: “And great confusion took place; nobody knew what the other spoke. If one would ask for an ax, the other would hand him a shovel; and getting angry he would throw the shovel at him and kill him. So they left off building the tower, and God scattered them from the face of the earth” (Jacques Doukhan 190).

But there is more to the story. Doukhan writes: “The story of the tower of Babel also conveys a message of hope. There is an ‘after’ Babel: God will come down. This is the central message of the story. . . . This hope resonates throughout the Scriptures. It is seen in the prophets’ vision of the gathering of all nations under the rule of God [one day]” (186).

Because no matter the confusion that reigns in our government right now, there is One who will have the last word—when “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed . . . . but it will itself endure forever” (Daniel 2:44). The Apocalypse declares: “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon [from “Babel” or confusion] the Great!’. . . ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments’” (Revelation 18:2; 19:1-2).

I find peaceful assurance in these words from a century ago: “. . . the complicated play of human events [even in Washington] is under divine control. Amidst the strife and tumult of nations, He [who sits] above the cherubim still guides the affairs of the earth. . . . To every nation and to every individual of today [including the President] God has assigned a place in His great plan. . . . All are by their own choice deciding their destiny, and God is overruling all for the accomplishment of His purposes” (Education 178).

So we need not fret. God is on His throne. The door of opportunity to reach this nation is still open. And He will have a people loyally devoted to Him over all rulers and politicians. And His people will surely soon mobilize themselves across this country with the urgently good news that Christ is soon to come. No confusion in their message. Just the earnest appeal to, as one ancient prophet put it, “Prepare to meet thy God!” (Amos 4:12).

May
10
May 10, 2017

I have a young friend named Wandile Mthiyane, who is wrapping up his degree in architecture here at the university. Wandile is a South African born in the large seaside city of Durban. The story of how he got to Andrews is itself blog worthy. But the very short version is that with no money and a prayer he decided to ask the mayor of Durban for financial aid. Lo and behold he spots the mayor exiting a meeting, introduces himself, gets invited to sit down with the mayor, whereupon he shares his dream for designing inner city housing for low income South Africans. The mayor is enthused, provides the money for Wandile to come to this country and Andrews University to pursue architecture and this dream to house the homeless.

The End? No—the story continues: Wandile learns the skills of architecture at Andrews, takes a break last year to return to Durban with classmates from the School of Architecture, secures initial funding for the new prototype housing, and begins construction. The dream is full steam ahead! In fact, he sent me an email a couple weeks ago with a synopsis of this newly birthed project. Here it is:

"It always seems impossible, until it's done." Nelson Mandela

It's amazing what people can do when they come together for a common goal.

Since last August, Andrews University’s Masters School of Architecture [has] partnered with a local shanty community in Durban, South Africa to help design and build a home for a disabled family of three.

This project was motivated by Wandile Mthiyane, who grew up in the area and wanted to go back and be the hands and feet of Jesus. Currently all the designs are done, and Wandile is on the ground building the house with the local community and architecture students from Durban University of Technology and University of Kwa Zulu Natal.

The building experience has opened doors to ministry as local officials ask Wandile, “Why in the world would you leave everything to come and do this?” Wandile says he usually answers that he’s “just carrying on the mandate Jesus left for him on earth.” As you might imagine, this leads to full-blown conversations about faith in the broken world we live in.

What has been most inspiring in this project has been seeing white South African students from the suburbs come down to the townships for the first time and exclaim how they feel safe and loved in a place they’d always been taught to stay away from. This project is making us realize that we’re more alike than we are different, which is what the whole concept of Ubuntu is all about: “I am because we are”—and really we are because He is. We have experienced how this project is helping to break the walls of Apartheid.

Each year our pastoral team here at Pioneer votes a single mission project to add to the many projects this congregation already is supporting right here at home. We believe this amazing Ubuntu project is the right one for Pioneer to support in 2017. The project now needs $3,500 to finish its initial phase. If you would like to partner with our School of Architecture in establishing this new prototype housing for the Durban townships (and it is very possible the prototype will spread to shanty towns across the Republic of South Africa), please mark your contribution “Durban Project” on a Pioneer tithe envelope.

Isn’t this what Jesus meant? “Inasmuch as you do it to the least of these My brothers and sisters, you do it to Me” (see Matthew 25:40). No wonder Desire of Ages discloses: “We shall find His footprints beside the sickbed, in the hovels of poverty, in the crowded alleys of the great city, and in every place where there are human hearts in need of consolation. In doing as Jesus did when on earth, we shall walk in His steps” (640).

So why not walk in His steps with a gift to the Ubuntu project? Who better to follow?

May
3
May 3, 2017

Last Sabbath will certainly go down as an historic day in the journey of the worship communities of this university. Not just because well over a thousand people were fed Haystacks (Heaven’s favorite menu item?) and homemade desserts in Johnson Gym Sabbath afternoon. But also because of the spiritual quest that ignited the Great Exchange between New Life Fellowship and Pioneer Memorial Church Sabbath morning.

The quest for racial reconciliation has been on the hearts of the leaders of New Life Fellowship and the Pioneer Memorial Church this winter. As a symbol of that shared mission, the leaders of both worship communities considered a plan for the final Sabbath of the school year. What if the New Life Fellowship, meeting in the crowded seminary chapel, exchanged places with Pioneer’s second service congregation (11:45 AM) on that last Sabbath, so that both worship communities could experience each other’s worship space, each with their unique style of worship? The idea quickly expanded to include a campus-wide Sabbath dinner (with One Place joining them) following that exchange. Last Sabbath it all came together in a memorable morning and afternoon expression of koinonia, the Greek word describing the spiritual and social fellowship of the infant church after the Day of Pentecost: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship [koinonia], to the breaking of bread and prayer” (Acts 2:42).

The written survey at the end of both worship services  (New Life Fellowship at Pioneer, and Pioneer at the seminary chapel) will provide the grist for “Where do we go from here?” discussions, as both leadership teams this coming fall explore how their two worship communities can move beyond last Sabbath’s symbolism to a lasting expression of and commitment to racial reconciliation here on campus. It is anticipated that any formal action will commence January 1, 2018.

But April 29, 2017, remains a vital first step toward the deeper unity Jesus prayed for His followers (John 17). And this Koinonia Day could not have happened without the enthusiastic support and efforts of a host of leaders and volunteers. The administration of Andrews University, Plant Administration, and Dining Services all wholeheartedly supported both the Great Exchange and the Grand Dinner. Special kudos to Paul Elder who procured and then set up with his volunteers the blue canopy-covered walkway that stretched from the cafeteria to Johnson Gym, and to Rebecca May who organized a team of faculty and staff volunteers for both facility set up and crowd moving, and to the three university chaplains who oversaw the worship details of the Great Exchange, and to the 119 Pioneer families who provided homemade desserts enough to feed an army, and to the deacons/ushers/greeters of both Pioneer and New Life Fellowship who exchanged their usual comfort zone for a new environment to serve, and to the worship leaders and musicians of both worship communities, and to their pastors—to all of these dedicated leaders and volunteers we all owe a debt of gratitude!

(And to all those who came to me during the Grand Dinner at the gym and suggested that we consider providing such a sprawling dinner at least once a school year, or once a semester, or as one individual suggested, “once a quarter”— to all of you with such timely suggestions comes this immediate and irrevocable deputizing for “next time around” [if you read these words—you are herewith assigned to the planning committee]!)

But in the end, of course, “to God be the glory, great things He has done.” The truth is much prayer preceded much planning. Moreover, we have only just begun. But we can be confident of Scripture’s compelling promise: “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion by the Day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). God finishes what He starts. And the good news is—with Jesus—the best is yet to come.

Apr
26
April 26, 2017

Pacheco Bustamante from Miami was having the time of his life. It was the perfect ruse. He drove an old Ford Crown Victoria (the last time you saw one of those it was a cop car). He found a blue light. And he stuck a BB gun pistol in his belt. Voila—he looked like a real live policeman.

And so driving his Ford on I-95 the other day, he decided he’d play “traffic cop.” Spotting a nondescript car ahead of him, Pacheco pulled in behind it, flipped on his flashing blue light and siren, and with BB gun strapped to his side, walked up to the driver pulled over onto the shoulder. But the driver in the unmarked car turned out to be a real police detective, who promptly arrested Bustamante when it became clear he was no officer. OOPS!

The AP press release concludes: “It wasn’t immediately clear if Bustamante has found a real lawyer to represent him” (https://apnews.com/f0096159b18a4ca6b143987da0e7746d).

The good news is—you don’t have to fake it. If you’re a friend of Jesus and a child of God, who needs a BB gun pistol, when you’re already armed to the teeth? Ever hear the story about Jonathan and his armor bearer? Two young men take on an entire Philistine garrison of professional warriors. Jonathan’s strategy was simple. The two of them would step out into the open and begin scaling the steep incline up to the garrison. If the pagan warriors commanded the two to wait until soldiers came down, they would hold their ground. But if the Philistines taunted them, “Come on up and we’ll teach you a thing or two,” then Jonathan whispered, “‘Climb up after me; the LORD has given them into the hand of Israel’” (1 Samuel 14:12).

And that’s exactly what happened. Two brave young Israelite men against an entire enemy garrison—and they end up routing them all! Erwin Raphael McManus comments on that victory: “Somehow Jonathan understood that when you’re moving with God, you must move with an advance mentality. You move forward unless God tells you to stop. You advance unless God tells you to wait” (Seizing Your Divine Moment 155).

I love that. Moving forward with an “advance mentality.” Why? Because you are not a fake soldier or a fake friend and child of God—you have entrusted your life to the King—and He will unleash every celestial warrior He has for your protection. “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11).

McManus goes on: “There are certain things that you do not need permission to do. You’ve already been commissioned to do them. There are certain things that you do not need a calling to do. You’ve already been commanded to do them” (ibid).

In the words of Jesus: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people” (Luke 5:10). Your calling and His command are wrapped up in that simple invitation, “Fish for people”— anyone, anywhere, anytime, anyhow. Don’t need a degree to do it—don’t even have to go to school to do it—don’t need anybody’s permission either. He said GO—so you GO. He says FISH—so you FISH. You can move with an “advance mentality” and inject Jesus into any conversation anytime you wish, and never have to be afraid of what might happen.

Because you’re not a fake fisherman—you’re the real thing. Never mind your track record. No fisherman catches a fish every time she goes fishing. No fisherman gives up after a day of no fish. You just keep fishing, believing and know the day is coming when your net will explode with God’s catch!

And on that day—whether it’s one fish or a hundred—you will experience the most exhilarating joy a human can know—I promise you—the joy of leading a friend or a stranger to the Savior. And you won’t have to fake it!

Apr
19
April 19, 2017

In Japan, the land of my birth, the public has been stunned with the number of deaths linked to its culture of notoriously long work hours. So severe are the mounting statistics that the Japanese have coined a word for it, karoshi—“death by overwork.” It is estimated that more than 2000 suicides in 2015 were the result of work issues, chiefly overtime and overwork (www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-13/japan-s-bid-to-stop-death-by-overwork-seen-falling-short).

And when the court ruled that the suicide of a 24 year old female employee of the giant Dentsu ad agency was the result of illegally long hours on the job (105 hours of overtime per month!), the government scrambled to respond. Last month Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led a government panel to recommend that “an employee’s overtime should be kept under 100 hours in any single month, and average no more than 80 hours a month over any two- to six-month period, with an annual cap of 720 hours.” But activists have vigorously challenged that recommendation. Noriko Nakahara, a member of the National Association of Families Concerned About Karoshi, whose physician husband’s suicide was ruled karoshi, protested that “the 100-hour limit is too high and could legitimize a culture of excessive work that hurts the mental and physical health of employees” (ibid).

In an effort to promote “a healthier work culture,” the Japanese government has instituted what it calls a “Premium Friday” campaign—encouraging companies to allow their employees to leave early “on the last Friday of every month” (ibid). Well. At least it’s a start.

Truth is we in this nation can’t exactly point fingers at the Japanese. Our own can-do culture that applauds its overachieving, overworking sports heroes, entertainment and music stars, and business icons seems to bestow its highest laurels for all who are driven to succeed never mind the cost.

Could it be that what both nations need isn’t a “Premium Friday” once a month, but a restful Sabbath every week? “Come to Me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest,” offers the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 11:28 GNT). “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth . . . but He rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11 NIV). The Creator embedded within our DNA the universal need to discover in tandem, in relationship with Him our deepest and most satisfying rest—physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual rest.

Marva Dawn is right: “In an age that has lost its soul, Sabbath keeping offers the possibility of gaining it back. In an age desperately searching for meaning, Sabbath keeping offers a new hope” (in Gregory P. Nelson’s A Touch of Heaven 22).

But as Wayne Muller explains: “Sabbath is more than the absence of work; it is not just a day off, when we catch up on television and errands. It is the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true. It is time consecrated with our attention, our mindfulness, honoring those quiet forces of grace or spirit that sustain and heal us” (Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives 8).

Plain and simple—God’s gift to us of the seventh-day Sabbath offers this civilization the very rest we’re dying for—a Sabbath rest for the rest of our lives. 

Plain and simple—won’t you take it?

Apr
12
April 12, 2017

Nineteen year old Helen and her honeymooning groom, Dickinson Bishop, were as star struck as newly-weds could be. The two young adults from Dowagiac, Michigan, were setting sail on what at the time was the largest moving object on earth—the RMS Titanic. Boarding the maiden voyage of the four-stack luxury liner on the evening of April 12, 1912, in Cherbourg, France, the couple set sail for New York City embedded in the luxury of first-class cabin B-49.

Two nights later Helen was already in bed and her husband reading in their cabin stateroom, when a knock at their door summoned them to the deck above. Neither had felt or heard the Titanic strike a floating iceberg. But when they ascended to the upper deck, officials there announced there was no danger and they might as well return to their cabin. As they prepared again for bed, a friend knocked, concerned that the ship was listing to its side, and so the Bishops dressed once more and hurried top side, where only a few passengers had gathered. Moments later crew instructed them to don their lifejackets, and the Bishops were ordered into the first lifeboat (No. 7).

In fact Helen was the first Titanic passenger to board one of those vessels, dangling from its perch 75 feet above the dark and frigid Atlantic. Afraid of its precarious height, many passengers were reluctant to climb on board any of the lifeboats. Thus at 12:45 AM, when lifeboat No. 7 was lowered to the night sea with 28 passengers, it was less than half full. Only three crew were aboard, which meant the passengers took turns hurriedly rowing the vessel into the night away from the massive sinking hulk.

At 2:20 AM, April 15, the unsinkable Titanic silently lurched forward, then nosedived into the sea, its twinkling lights simultaneously extinguished as the Atlantic swallowed the iron ship, carrying 1503 passengers and crew to their death. There were lifejackets available for all 2,208 passengers. But only 705 survived.

Rescued by the Carpathia, the Bishops returned to New York City, and eventually to Dowagiac. Both testified at a Senate investigation, headed coincidentally by Dowagiac-born Michigan Senator William A. Smith.

But tragedy continued to track Helen and Dickinson. Their infant child born that December died after two days. And on November 15, 1913, “the couple was returning to Dowagiac from Kalamazoo, Michigan, in their motor car when it went out of control and struck a tree. Helen suffered a severely fractured skull and was not expected to live. She recovered with a steel plate placed in her skull, but the accident caused a change in her mental condition and their marriage suffered. In January 1916, the couple divorced. Three months later Helen fell while visiting friends in Danville, Illinois. On March 16, 1916, she died and was buried in Sturgis, Michigan” (www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/helen-bishop.html). She was twenty-three years old.

One hundred-five years later the sinking of the Titanic remains a story of enduring sorrow. Such boasted promise, such hope misplaced, such tragic endings for both rich and poor.

And yet the story of an empty Palestine sepulcher two millennia ago offers to exchange our enduring sorrow with Hope’s singular promise: “Never again will death have the last word” for “because I live, you shall live also” (Romans 6:9 The Message; John 14:19).

No matter how titanic the tragedy, the sorrow, the death that stalks us. Today we seek Him. Who still promises. Resurrection hope.  

Soar we then where Christ has led—Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head—Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise—Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies—Alleluia!
—Charles Wesley

Mar
29
March 29, 2017

Thanks to a faculty member of an engineering school in Italy (who with his wife has been watching our worship service), I read a fascinating piece this week by Tom Harford, “The Problem with Facts.” Couple it with this week’s TIME magazine cover story, “Is Truth Dead?”—and it is clear growing suspicions are becoming public conversation. Are we witnesses (even participants) to a dramatic shift in public ethos regarding truth telling and fact checking? 

Harford opens with the 1953 narrative of how Big Tobacco pulled off their stunning public relations coup by dissuading the public from believing the mounting evidence smoking causes cancer. In 1995 a Stanford University historian detailed the tobacco case closely. “This is the study of how ignorance is deliberately produced. . . . The facts about smoking—indisputable facts, from unquestionable sources—did not carry the day. The indisputable facts were disputed. The unquestionable sources were questioned. Facts, as it turns out, are important, but facts are not enough to win this kind of argument” (http://timharford.com/2017/03/the-problem-with-facts/).

In the on-going tug of war between the news media and the President, the question of truth and truth-telling, of facts and “alternative facts,” of news and “fake news,” has hit an unprecedented fever pitch. As a consequence the miasma of “he said-she said” has effectively obscured not only the public’s knowledge of “truth” but also its trust in the heretofore generally regarded reputable truth-tellers of the news media and the White House. That there are those who argue it’s always been this way—and after all, the Brexit proponents across the pond resorted to the same distortion of facts and truth to achieve their victory—hardly mitigates the obvious paradigm shift we now witness regarding public integrity, ethics and truth-telling. “In the radical democracy of social media, even the retweets of outraged truth squadders [those defending truth] has the effect of rebroadcasting false messages” (TIME 4-3-17 p 37). And so it goes. And it only gets worse.

But why be concerned with this food fight between our media and our politicians? Because truth really does matter. Pilate’s “What is truth?” dismissal, when the One who was and still is “the way, the truth and the life” stood before him, is a reminder of the high stakes fall-out when leaders waive truth aside in favor of expediency (see John 18:37-38; 14:6; 19:16). And if the crucifixion of Jesus portends the end result of when church and state collaborate to rid themselves of uncomfortable truth and uncompromising truth-tellers, then we do have reason to not only care about truth-telling today, but to also be concerned, deeply concerned.

Concerned that a public so easily persuaded by Big Tobacco marketers to reject what was “obvious” scientific evidence could just as easily become a public dissuaded by other “marketers” from believing compelling biblical evidence championed by a band of truth-tellers one day yet to come. The truth is—truth matters.

So how should you and I be living in these days of prevarication? (1) We must always tell the truth—“You shall not give false testimony. . . . Do not spread false reports. . . . Do not lie to each other” (Exodus 20:16; 23:1; Colossians 3:9). And (2) we must always live the truth—“Let your good works [words]  shine before others that they may glorify your Father in heaven” (see Matthew 5:16). Notice how high God raises the bar: “A glance, a word, even an intonation of the voice , may be vital with falsehood. Even facts may be so stated as to convey a false impression. . . . Everything that Christians do should be as transparent as the sunlight” (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing 68 emphasis supplied).

Why? Because  truth matters. So in a world running out of it, I say let’s stand up and let it shine!

Mar
8
March 8, 2017

When I was a boy in Sabbath School, I remember the leaders teaching all of us little tykes a ditty that has hung around in the back room of my mind ever since—did you learn it, too?

I have two dollies and I am glad;
you have no dolly and that’s too bad.
I’ll share my dolly, for I love you;
And now you have a nice dolly, too.

Ostensibly this little chorus was to impress upon our young minds the credo that sharing is the right way, the happy way, the Jesus’ way. (I don’t recall a verse for us boys about sharing—perhaps at that age we all played with dolls!)

But now that we’ve all grown up, of course, there are no more ditties to sing and dollies to share. And as the chorus bemoans, “and that’s too bad.” Because life really is about sharing, isn’t it?

After all, John the Baptist thundered to the crowds in the wilderness: “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same” (Luke 3:11). “I have two dollies.”

Why even Jesus in His epic Sermon on the Mount declared: “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well—give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:40-41). “I have two dollies, and you have none.” 

Paul joins the chorus: “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. . . . For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings” (Romans 12:13; 15:27).

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). “I’ll share my dolly, for I love you; and now you have a nice dolly, too.”

Think of how blessed this world would be if this notion of sharing were the operative way of living. Rich nations sharing with poor nations. Regions with surplus sharing with communities in need. People with extra sharing with people without. “I have two dollies, and you have none.”

And how about congregations? And churches? Does this obviously strong biblical credo apply to them? To us?

Here on the campus of Andrews University the Pioneer Memorial Church has been blessed with an abundance of space for children in Sabbath School, youth in study, for people—for many, many people and families—in worship. “I have two dollies, and I am glad.” And we should be—God long before any of us came on the scene made certain our forefathers and foremothers wisely built a very big “House of Prayer for All People” (as the chiseled words above our front doors declare).

But what space shall we share?

In multiple circles over the past few days people have been contemplating that question. Is there space in the Pioneer Memorial Church that could be shared with others who need such space? Space for what? Space for worship. The conversations continue. Because the chorus is still true—“I have two dollies, and I am glad; you have no dolly and that’s too bad—I’ll share my dolly, for I love you; and now you have a nice dolly, too.” Sharing dollies, sharing space—it can’t be that much different, can it?

Especially since God invites us, “to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:18).

Feb
22
February 22, 2017

How can you heal someone’s pain, when you can’t feel someone’s pain? There is pain deep within our faith community and our university campus. And the truth is most of us can’t feel it. How could we possibly feel it? We’re white.

Years ago a friend gave me a book that I never got around to reading. Until a few days ago. It’s Paul Kivel’s exploration, Upending Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice. One glance at the title and I knew that this wouldn’t be for me—since I’m not a racist, since I see little if any racism around me, so why should I worry? That was over twenty year ago. Now the book speaks volumes:

It is not necessarily a privilege to be white, but it certainly has its benefits. . . . Privileges are economic “extras” that those of us who are middle class and wealthy gain at the expense of poor and working class people of all races. Benefits, on the other hand, are the advantages that all white people gain at the expense of people of color regardless of economic position. . . . [J]ust because we don’t have the economic privileges of those with more money doesn’t mean we haven’t enjoyed some of the benefits of being white. (28)

Kivel runs through a checklist of such privileges: we’re able to count on police protection rather than harassment; we’re able to choose where we want to live with safe neighborhoods and decent schools; we’re “given more attention, respect and status in conversations than people of color”; in news, music, history books and the media “we see people who look like us” in a positive light; we have more access, credibility and recourse with lawyers and courts; “nothing that we do is qualified, limited, discredited or acclaimed simply because of our racial background,” et al (28-29).

And white privilege begins in childhood: people around us will have higher expectations for us as children; more money will be spent on our schools; we’ll get called on more times in class; we will see people who look like us in our textbooks; “and if we get into trouble adults will expect us to be able to change and improve, and therefore will discipline or penalize us less or differently than children of color” (29).

Kivel concludes: “All else being equal, it pays to be white. We will be accepted, acknowledged and given the benefit of the doubt. Since all else is not equal we each receive different benefits or different levels of the same benefits from being white” (29).

How can you possibly heal someone’s pain, when you can’t feel someone’s pain? 

Ask the Good Samaritan. The crime victim was a Jew, and Jews hated Samaritans—so why should the Samaritan bother at all? He couldn’t feel the victim’s pain. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. observed about Jesus’ parable: Whereas the priest and the Levite fretted, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”, the Samaritan asked, “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” (Let the Trumpet Sound: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. 140).

What will happen to her, what will happen to him if I don’t stop and pour myself in their pain? It’s the Golden Rule hammered out in the crucible of another person’s pain. The Samaritan knelt beside the victim and administered (ministered) to him the emotional and physical intervention the brutalized man desperately needed. And in his self-sacrificial love for his “neighbor,” we see not only the truth about Christ who knelt beside us, but the truth Christ calls His radical followers to embrace: As you would have others treat you, you treat them.

There is a pain deep within our faith community and our university campus. It may not be your pain—but until it becomes your business, the pain—plain and simple—cannot and will not be healed. In the school. In the church. In our own hearts.

Update: Since this blog was posted, the University has released the following videos as part of the ongoing dialogue on this campus - Official University Response | President's Remarks During Thursday Chapel

Feb
8
February 8, 2017

In the latest issue of TIME magazine, the leader of the former Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, writes an op-ed piece that begins: “The world today is overwhelmed with problems. Policy makers seem to be confused and at a loss. . . . It all looks as if the world is preparing for war” (TIME February 13, 2017, p 22).

In very similar language this observation was made over a century ago: “The present is a time of overwhelming interest to all living. Rulers and statesmen, men who occupy positions of trust and authority, thinking men and women of all classes, have their attention fixed upon the events taking place about us. . . . [T]he world is on the verge of a stupendous crisis.” (Education 179-180).

Could Ellen White and Mikhail Gorbachev both be right?

I’ve been reading Jacques Doukhan’s new commentary on Genesis this new year and am now immersed in the story of Noah. Commenting on Genesis 6:11—“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (NKJV)—Doukhan writes: “The word shakhat ‘corrupt’ refers to destruction and annihilation (Dan 9:26). This verb often occurs in the context of war (2 Sam 11:1; 1 Chron 20:1) and killing (Judg 20:21, 25, 35, 42; 1 Sam 26:9). . . . What makes the earth corrupt is the violence that predominates there. . . . . suggest[ing] not only the intensity of corruption, but also its totality; all aspects of corruption are implied” (Genesis 141).

Didn’t Jesus Himself predict, “As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37)?

Is the world “preparing for war?” Are we on “the verge of a stupendous crisis?” Are we facing unprecedented corruption and violence globally? Is Jesus soon to return to this earth?

What if the answer were Yes? Would it make a difference in the way we live today? Racially? Last June the Pew Research Center surveyed the nation and opened its report with these words:

Almost eight years after Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s first black president—an event that engendered a sense of optimism among many Americans about the future of race relations—a series of flashpoints around the U.S. has exposed deep racial divides and reignited a national conversation about race. A new Pew Research Center survey finds profound differences between black and white adults in their views on racial discrimination, barriers to black progress and the prospects for change. Blacks, far more than whites, say black people are treated unfairly across different realms of life, from dealing with the police to applying for a loan or mortgage. And, for many blacks, racial equality remains an elusive goal. (www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2016/06/ST_2016.06.27_Race-Inequality-Final.pdf)

And how is it in the church, the church of the Jesus who prayed: “. . . that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21)?

“STORM: Finding Jesus in the Gathering Dark”—Pioneer’s new pulpit series segues with Black History Sabbath today, because the mounting evidence is inescapable. If we are saved by “the faith of Jesus,” then we will live by “the love of Jesus.” Why? Because in the end it will be the only way a secular, godless culture will recognize the divine—in a faith community where Blacks and Whites and Yellows and Browns are bound together by the radical, bold, self-sacrificing “love of Jesus” for one another. For as C. S. Lewis once observed about this faith community—“What you say about the VII Day Adventists interests me extremely. If they have so much charity there must be something very right about them” (Letters to an American Lady 109).

Really?