Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

 

The lies that resulted in the loss of life at the United States Capitol this week were the inevitable fruit of the poisonous tree. We express no surprise in Wednesday’s outcome—the swelling crowds, stirred into believing that they have been disenfranchised, the overrun of police, the overspreading of chaos across the Capitol, penetrating it with the deadly virus of violence. We condemn it, nevertheless.

Though we deplore the civic confusion, we saw it coming. The Trump administration set out to skirt the ethics watchdogs in government early on. Repeated attacks on the news media have meant that the whistleblowers have been effectively muted. Repeated attacks on critics, anybody who threw a flag on the play, meant that they suffered the allegation of self-seeking, and their warnings also rendered ineffective. Baseless lies now motivate the actions of so many, leading us closer than ever to our own destruction.

I pause here as a I remember a maxim taught by my friend Brian Wright whose parents never suffered lies in their home. Lying was met with the strictest of consequences because “if you lie, you’ll do anything.”

So here we are. President Trump, who maintains a pathologically compromised relationship with truth,  stood back and stood by while the crowd he commanded moved on the Capitol. It should have been foreseen that a fringe on the frontline would tragically overstep.

Time and investigation will tell us more about the mental state and culpability of those who scaled walls, broke through barricades and windows, and who in utter disrespect propped their feet upon desks, while daring to pose for selfies. Prosecution, if it is to come, will determine their fate. In the meantime, as a black Christian, several untruths must be confronted—again.

Security Lapse Due to the Failure of Racial Profiling

While President Trump may have incited the crowd that marched on the Capitol, it remains to be seen how involved the administration had been in directing security forces to stand down. As of this writing, the head of the Capitol police has resigned in acknowledgement of the historic lapse in security. But, the fact that they were overwhelmed, outnumbered, or failed to call in reinforcements in advance, was not a failure in the heat of the moment. And, reinforcements from the National Guard arrived an hour after the call from Washington, D.C. mayor, Muriel Bowser according to a Reuters report. It appears, at least now, that the threat was largely underestimated, and woefully dismissed.

The Capitol was stormed one day after prosecutors in Kenosha, Wisconsin announced they would not charge the police officers in the shooting of Jacob Blake. Note the egregious double standard: Blake was unarmed, shot in the back, seven times, while walking away from police, after a domestic disturbance in which he was not involved. Juxtapose this with the spellbinding video of police being brushed aside while thousands of white rioters maneuvered themselves into what we thought would have been one of the most secure settings in the country.

The lie perpetuated is that black skin and black bodies are more dangerous, and suspect, at any given time and circumstance. The lie perpetuated is that one can trust white skin and white bodies, no matter how many, how dangerous, and how much damage done. That is the faulty assumption and failure of racial profiling in a nutshell. And this is the naked, racist truth on display for all the world to see, again.

So, in my black body, contemplating my black husband, and black children, and black friends, I echo a social media meme I saw that day: “It’s not that I want them to shoot them. I want them to not shoot us, the way they don’t shoot them.”

Looking for the Real Right

The second area of untruth is found in the tangled association with some in the Christian right. As Christians, we winced at the sight of the individual who carried the bright yellow placard heralding “Jesus Saves”, or the orange Jesus flag that draped an interloper breaching the House floor. What about the senior, white man carrying the Christian flag?

We can think of nothing about the cause of Jesus that is consistent with the attempt to impede any process by brute force. This, the latest and extreme misappropriation of Christian faith rides a defiant wave. As a Christian publication, we’ve seen the strident rhetoric ramping up:

“Americans need to resist the ‘progressive’ push coming from so many influencers in our society, and restore a Christian conscience to our nation,” said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, in a press release we received Monday. “We are in a battle to show America her way back to God.”

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s breach, another Christian group, Moms For America, sought to discredit the news reports, downplay the danger, and deflect blame on Antifa, and even Black Lives Matter.

“Why am I here?” said Kimberly Fletcher who was on Capitol Hill Wednesday ( in her own press release), “[b]ecause freedom is worth fighting for. When my children and grandchildren ask me where I was when the Constitution hung in the balance and the Republic was on the verge of collapse, I will say I was there, on the frontlines, fighting to my last breath to save it!”

Just as racial and political unrest—fueled by mistrust and untruths—have been fomenting for months, so is there unrest among the faithful. Amid conspiracy theories about nano-technology in vaccines that would inhibit the conscience, and first amendment objections to mask mandates, or safety restrictions on the numbers of worshippers at church, believers are in danger of devolving into a spiritual mob. The result is a confusing witness that tends to engender skepticism and resistance here among our youth, and around the world, rather than trust and openness.

One friend told me she received this very question in an email from a sincere Christian, new in the faith, from Afghanistan: “What does ‘Jesus Saves’ have to do with ‘Don’t Tread on Me?’”

Stay Sober, My Friends

As lawyer, activist, and song writer James Weldon Johnson penned the song “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” more than one hundred years ago, sober vigilance in these last days is a tall order. We must protect discernment, act in truth, and reject the temptation to corrupt it for personal gain.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

 




Latest Issue

RETURN TO THE  DEEP


 – Finding Purpose and Connecting with History in the Atlantic Ocean – 

FEATURES:

11 Financial Lessons the Pandemic Taught Us
by Ruthven Phillip
/ Emergency fund? How about a 100-Year-Pandemic-Fund?

12 Slave Food
by Columbus Batiste and Eric Walsh
/ How still eating the diet of the enslaved shackles potential.

16 Return to the Deep
by Anthony Medley
/ He overcame his fear of the water, and now plumbs its depths for history and healing.

18 Raphael Warnock: Can you serve God and Country?
by Paul Anderson
/ Once again black preaching is called to task for its challenge to the powers that be.

19 Leadership lessons from Marshall & Houston
by Carl McRoy
/ What can we learn from two influential men working together to chip away at segregation and racism.

20 The civil rights work of apostle Paul?
by Carmela Monk Crawford
/ Misread, and misappropriated, one scholar reclaims the Word of God for justice.

22 Belief systems
by Omar Miranda
/ Our world tied together.

30 FLEE
by Nathaniel Lyles, Jr.
/ Is it time to “self-quarantine” in the mountains?

FAVORITES

4 ELEVATION
by Phillip McGuire Wesley
/ Media That Takes You Higher

5 EDITORIAL
by Carmela Monk Crawford
/ Valuation

6 Eye on the times
by Edward Woods, III
/ Renewal of conscience

8 Optimal health
by Donna Green Goodman
/ Healthy at last

10 RELATIONSHIP Rx
by Willie and Elaine Oliver
/ The time of departure

24 Futurecast
by Carlton P. Byrd
/ take a stand

26 The experience
by Ellen G. White
/ the kingdom of god & heaven

27 The experience study
by Rashad Burden
/ for those who don’t have enough

28 Message resources

29 Bless & be blessed




Valuation

After a painstaking search in the dusty records of an Kentucky recorder’s office, my friend Jacqueline Palmer found her ancestor Franklin Dale. Palmer and her cousins scanned large volumes to find clues and signs of life. All that remains are the legal entries in a book, and that’s where they discovered a ledger that indicated the portion of shares investors held on each enslaved soul. She tells the story in a Dayton Tedx video due out this month. Palmer’s great-grandfather and other family members had been reduced to commodities, with investors holding shares of their black bodies. Astonishingly, the portfolio of one self-styled entrepreneur included a 1/144th share of a human being.

Disgusted, but not surprised, Palmer remembered the prevailing thinking at that time caused a nation to apportion congressional representation by recognizing and counting African Americans, but only 3/5ths of each of them. 

That’s a big discount. That’s the term that William “Sandy” Darity uses to determine the quality and value of the lived experience of black life and financial worth in the U.S., when measured against that of white lives and net worth. Darity, a professor of Public Policy at Duke University and his wife, folklorist Kristen Mullen, co-authored the book From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the 21st Century, published last April. 

“The discount rate on black humanity has been enormous” Darity and Mullen wrote in From Here. “A variety of metrics indicate that even after the end of Jim Crow black lives are routinely assigned a worth approximately 30 percent that of white lives.”

Ancient moral wisdom found in the Bible rebukes this history, and the system that birthed and perpetuates it. How do we know this? I point you to the Bible’s repeated declaration that “God hates dishonest scales.” The Bible explains that false balances are an abomination to the Lord. They represent the criminal tools used to steal and cheat. They are the infrastructure that furthers the aims of those who lack scruples, to the benefit of their progeny and prosperity. The scales, hold the appearance of integrity, equity, and due process. One may not be able to detect the faulty calibration with the naked eye, yet it’s there. One cannot always trace the human actor that set the scales askew in the first place, but God assures us that He sees the actor and the system. “Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights?” (Micah 6:11, NLT*). 

One needs no forensic accounting to see the current evidence of this illegitimate value system, Darity said during a Brookings Institute session “Reparations: Whether, Why and How?” The disparate impact of the Coronavirus on black lives now takes center stage, leading other areas in which blacks take a greater hit, like health and environmental justice, food and housing insecurity. 

Last year we watched this value differential at work, illustrated in Kenosha, Wisconsin in stark relief. There Jacob Blake a black, 29 year-old, father suffered a police-involved shooting in front of three of his children while unarmed. As a result of the shooting, Blake was paralyzed from the waist down, and handcuffed to a hospital bed. When protestors converged upon the small city to demand justice of police officers, Kyle Rittenhouse, a white, 17 year-old showed up with an automatic weapon. Rittenhouse walked, undetected and un-arrested, until he was confronted by protesters, at which point (or points), he is alleged to have shot three people, killing two of them. What makes this story evergreen is the surprising, and disgusting overwhelming financial support for him. His $2 million bond was paid by interested donors, including presumed believers who visited the Christian crowdfunding site “Give Send Go.” We don’t have space to cover the nearly $200 million raised, post-election, to support recounts, and runoffs to support a status quo with which more than half of the country’s white voters agree.

I’m so glad we live in a universe where the Creator God values us all individually so much that He has logged the number of hairs on our heads. This God gave all to have us in His life. In His hands and feet Jesus bears the marks of His Divine stake in us. “How can I give you up?” Jesus said, and where can we go from Him? the Psalmist asks. He has assessed our future, and immeasurable inheritance as a son and daughter of God. Until then, He has given us the distinct privilege to call out the lingering imbalances that attempt to legitimize faulty human valuation, particularly because of race and ethnicity. 




MESSAGE MAGAZINE ZOOM-A-THON 7pm Tonight

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I Dream a World Where We Can Make It Stop

I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!
—Langston Hughes

Back to back Black bodies building up in the streets have our communities triaging men downed in the coronavirus, racism and poverty pandemics. One hundred years on from Langston Hughes’ dreaming, this nightmare is still going.

I recently discovered the work of Kareem Lucas, who Kickstarted a theatrical event around his observational poetry. His “Rated Black: An American Requiem” sits on an unusual, dramatic device: a young man preemptively administering his own “homegoing” ahead of what he expects to be his inevitable, tragic demise.

“After consuming all this violence upon and death of Black people I decided to tell my own story on my own terms in my own way, before I become a trending hashtag that’s an unwilling martyr, or a super predator instantly shamed and blamed,” Lucas wrote in a petition for funds for “Rated Black.” “Death is not a distant thought. Death is a fast approaching inevitability that must be accepted and appropriately planned for.”

God, where am I going?
The lines in front of me
use references that lie,
and the truth is not a direction.
I need to inspect my expectation.
I wish I could talk to my destiny
and ask it ‘What will I be?

A month ago, I was ready to chuck the silly dreams for a collective destiny of co-existence. No trigger warning could have prepared my spirit for the murderous aggression we saw against Ahmad Arbery by a white former police investigator and his son. Nothing could rouse us from the nightmare of knowing Breonna Taylor perished when police shot her in her sleep. I couldn’t stomach the evil of police officer Derek Chauvin’s barbarism toward George Floyd. Nothing steals your optimism more than hearing of white Christian brothers wonder why George Floyd has been made a martyr. This has been a rape of our fragile peace.

Except, then, the people took to the streets. Now Congress is pushing through a bill—likely to face hurdles in the Senate, and risk of veto—that renounces brutish practices such as chokeholds, and “no-knock” warrants. When the people took to the streets, we see District Attorneys bringing their case against murderers, and securing indictments, and exacting justice for the depravity with which these people treat life. When the people took to the streets they mounted attacks on the symbolism of racist regimes. They turned their sights to monuments to the civil war, the confederacy and slavery worldwide. This included that of ole’ Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacy, who fell with a crunch on Richmond, Virginia’s Monument Avenue. Pennsylvania Avenue, with one of the world’s most famous addresses, is now our yellow brick road, for it declares that “Black Lives Matter.” And who knew that Martin Luther King Jr.’s often repeated dream would see fulfillment, not in child’s play, but in the coming together of little children of all races to fight the power.

Can I dare to dream that this will change anything? My personal piece ‘d resistance came in the observation of a grainy image of hope, when police vehicles clustered in my neighborhood. While the lights swirled and officers worked, off on a side street sat a little red hatchback. Its young, white, male driver—sealed inside—trained his cell phone camera on their every move.

2020 July August cover
This article is part of our 2020 July / August  Issue
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2020 May / June Issue

The Testimony Issue


Free online articles from the Magazine.

FEATURES

28 LAST-MINUTE MINISTRY
by Donald L. McPhaull /
If anything, COVID-19 teaches us to plan ahead.

FAVORITES

5 EDITORIAL
by Carmela Monk Crawford /
Bucket List for the Saved

23 FUTURECAST
by Carlton P. Byrd /
DON’T MISS THE MIRACLE

24 THE EXPERIENCE
by Ellen G. White /
SOCIAL DISTANCE

25 THE EXPERIENCE STUDY
by Rashad Burden /
WHITE AS SNOW




BUCKET LIST FOR THE SAVED

PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW

I praise God that even though it looks like we may have to slog through months of economic challenge, health threats, global movements and machinations, He is still in control. We don’t know what’s on the horizon, and truthfully, stock analysts, political pundits, policy makers, and executives don’t either, yet God knows. I praise Him that even now, as the earth experiences a new quiet God’s Spirit speaks to our hearts, and agitates the subconsciousness.

IN MY HEAD. IN MY FEELINGS.

Confession truth: we have nagging questions and unfinished business, made real by the realization that we, too, could contract this virus that could wipe us out in a matter of weeks. As we grieve in acute sadness and isolation the passing of our loved ones, we, too, realize this thing could come for us. There would be no time to say good-bye, no time for getting things in order if they have not already been. Answers to those nagging questions can surely be found in the Word, in prayer and through providence. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart,” Jeremiah 29:13.

The midnight madness, the 2 a.m. sleeplessness, and the 4 a.m., listlessness, are all opportunities to seek peace and alignment with the Almighty God.

And, if we don’t let them, there’s not one thing that will take us away from God’s loving care. (Romans 8:38, 39)

FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM

Expectancy, is a state of joy, not dread. The joys and sorrows here and now, will be completely eclipsed upon the return of Jesus. Even so, come Lord, Jesus! It helps to imagine that moment. What’s on your bucket list? Here’s mine:

5. I want to reunite with loved ones. I imagine my father clasping the hands of the angel sent to wake him up and bursting forth from that box we laid him in. That “twinkling” moment to come (1 Corinthians 15:51) reminds us that whether your heart disappeared into a hospital, never to be seen again, or whether it visits the graveside every month for decades, this is a season. Like the fragrant cherry blossoms of spring, our friends and family members, asleep in their graves spring up when the light of the Son breaks forth upon the earth.

4. I want to experience the power to sustain. Don’t get me wrong. I have experienced, and am experiencing God’s day-to-day grace. Like David, I have been young, and now I’m old, and I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread (Psalm 37:25). The Mighty Rock flowed twice for Israel when they were thirsty; manna appeared every morning in the wilderness; ravens visited the refugee prophet Elijah; and, a poor widow’s meal and oil just would not run out as long as it was needed. I wouldn’t mind seeing what God cooks up this time.

3. I want to see the rescue of the saved. I often think of the story of how Jesus was taken to the temple as a baby (Luke 2:22-38). Levitical law required parents to present their son and an offering before the Lord. Can you imagine the scene when Joseph and Mary walked in and when the priest asked the baby’s name, they said Jesus? (Matthew 1:21). That day, the Holy Ghost revealed to two onlookers that this is it. This is Whom you’ve been waiting for, the consolation of Israel. Likewise, I wouldn’t mind seeing the plans for destruction against God’s people fail. I wouldn’t mind seeing the weapons falter, and, after all, the clear indication of God’s favor. I wouldn’t mind seeing the spine-tingling sight of a little cloud, the size of a man’s hand in the distance.

2. I want to fly away. 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; 1 Thessalonians 5 says whether we wake or sleep, the saved are going to be caught up in the air to meet the Lord. Richard Branson, Elon Musk, space travel is in my future. Star Trek, Star Wars, no need for a time warp technology, because what is time in infinity?

1. I want to see Jesus. This theme of scripture, hymns, poems, and gospel songs fills the number one spot. Ironically, perhaps our wishes are moot, because the Bible already says of the return of Jesus: “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen,” Revelation 1:7. But, as many songwriter’s have mused, I want to see Him.

Don’t despair now. Our ancestors used to sing,

I open my mouth unto the Lord, and I won’t turn back. I will go. I shall go, to see what the end’s going to be.




The Official Statement of MESSAGE on Police Brutality and Racial Injustice

In solidarity with the outcries of justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless others who have died at the hands of police brutality, Message denounces racial violence and calls for the prosecution of all the officers and persons involved.

Reflecting on the recent murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 by Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, and the global outcry for racial justice, Message shares in the outrage that Floyd’s death followed an officer’s senseless restraint over an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. We condemn the violent take down of another unarmed black man, father, son, and friend. And we condemn the violence that caused a most humiliating and inhumane death.

We condemn the police line of protection around this act as repugnant to everything we stand for as an organization and as a nation. Rather than serve and protect George Floyd, the police chose to stand in solidarity with their comrade Derek Chauvin. In spite of eight and a half minutes of pleading on deaf ears, pleas of a grown man for his mother, pleas for his life, not one officer intervened. This passivity counters the deadly belief of the “one bad apple,” making Chauvin’s choice their choice, and created a real time illustration of how institutional racism continues to spawn.

Here at Message we also condemn the pause in determining whether to prosecute. The pause evidenced a sense of ambivalence toward justice for George Floyd in contravention of his birthright as an American. It was this pause that stirred the feeling of hopelessness and angst in the hearts of people of color everywhere, and contributed to the unrest and protests across the globe.

While we are pleased to hear of the recent arrests of the remaining officers we believe it necessary to continue to apply pressure to ensure all four officers are indicted and convicted. It is precisely the inability of the court system to discern right from wrong and execute justice that enables the contagion of such brutality. As advocates for criminal justice reform, Message believes it critical that justice be found for George Floyd.

As truth tellers, we commend the capture of this incident and the screaming protests waged while it unfolded. Without you many would never have acknowledged the depths of the ugliness of America’s systemic racism. This infection of racism has festered so deeply into the bone that without direct action and change we are in danger of losing the life of our country. We encourage you, pray for you, and join you in your protests to ensure that even when against the highest wall of opposition truth can and will be captured and disseminated.

Our condemnation extends to the militaristic response to peaceful protests and protestors. People are more important than property, yet, leadership mobilizes the military to protect windows, while it sets off tear gas on protesters. We further decry the characterization as “violent” as it applies to passionate protestors. Violence is a word that applies to the injury of the body of George Floyd. Violence applies to the suffocation Derek Chauvin employed while restraining Floyd. It is not violent to protest, and is a constitutional right.  So we decry the expenditures and deployments now to protect property. They could easily have been realigned previously to support people in need. We join the calls for redirecting police department funds–where they are especially rich in heavy equipment and tactical gear–into schools and communities. 

Finally, we lament that this is one more injury to the spirit, one more layer of anguish African Americans, have to navigate. While we bury our dead in greater numbers in the midst of a pandemic, and while so many jobless struggle to find the means to support their families, we find ourselves now having to deal with more state sanctioned violence. We mourn because of the vicarious pain caused here by the police. We cling to our loved ones, afraid for them to live because they could die. We are afraid to sink into a never ending loop of grief, hopelessness and powerlessness. But while we mourn we will still mobilize; while we hope we will still help; and while we sob we will still stand for justice and righteousness.

As a publication we are committed to, in the midst of such great tragedy, bringing you truth, hope, and inspiration as we all continue to war against injustice in all its various forms.

It is our greatest hope and privilege to call on the strong arm of the Lord to assist us and you in this fight. Be encouraged that we serve a God who sits high, and looks low. He will not overlook the sins of the guilty, but in His righteous judgment bring all to justice.




In Honor of Pat Sparks Harris, Friend and Associate Message Editor

September 25, 1947 – May 20, 2020

Pat Sparks Harris, the long-time backbone of Message (1999-2018), served most recently as our Associate Editor before she retired. What distinguished her 20-year career was that she never lost the keen realization that her work mattered.

Pat’s life came to a tragic end this week, the result of a horrific traffic accident on a Pennsylvania highway. In the final, final analysis we expect to find that she was running the Lord’s errands.

Mischief and Mission

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Pat was known for her active personality and mischief. She shared that she often tasted soap as a consequence for her “smart mouth.” Growing up, Pat played the accordion, piano and organ. And, though a beloved little sister to several protective brothers, she was a true caretaker to them. She married Leonard F. Harris, a religious literature salesman, or “literature evangelist” and associate publishing director in New York.

Together they reared two children, and then Pat became a single parent. Her children devoted their lives to ministry, like their mother. Daughter Lisa Quailey is part of the Volunteer Atlantic Union Adventist Youth Ministry (AYM) Compassion Advisory, and serves in the New York City Community Partner and Faith-based Networks. Her son L. David Harris is a prolific writer and longtime contributor to Message.  He currently serves as the Communication Director for the Central Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Pat’s children with their spouses and children held an all-consuming and treasured space in Pat’s heart.

Pat Harris at 18. Sisters like her are special, says Alvin Kibble, Vice-President of the Adventist Church in North America. Some are given at birth, “and some by Divine Purpose.”

Family Ties

“Sisters are really special, each one designed for us by God. Some by birth and some by Divine Purpose,” said Alvin Kibble, vice-president Vice President for Big Data + Social Media, Public Affairs & Religious Liberty, Literature Ministries, and Executive Coaching, Training & Development at the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. Both a childhood friend and long-time colleague, Kibble remembered their last meal together, one that included plenty of chatter, teasing and laughter.

“She was a lovely Christian woman who loved the Lord and His people and His Church,” said Daniel Jackson, President of the Adventist Church in North America. “She would come by my office from time to time and we would just talk and laugh. She would often put on a stern face and pretend to be upset with me or the brethren but then, after a few moments she would break into laughter. Both Donna [his wife] and I loved her.”

“We have lost a great friend, sister in Christ, soldier on the battlefield, and prayer warrior of God,” said Alex Bryant, Secretary for the Adventist Church in North America and Chairman of the Message Executive Committee. “I will forever cherish her warm smile and thoughtful compassion. She seemed to always know intuitively when things were not quite right with you. At those particular moments for me, she would often come and just say that she was going to send up a special prayer for me. She did it in a way that you knew that she knew something was on your heart but she would not pry.”

“She was just texting us last week,” said Dwayne Crawford, Owner of Byrd Tire in Hagerstown, Maryland. While they may not have always known her name, everybody in town knew the kind lady who stopped to chat, and leave books.

“As a former vice president of the Review and Herald Publishing Association and Editor of Message Magazine (1999- 2007), one of the distinct privileges and experiences I enjoyed was the hiring of Pat Harris as my Executive Assistant and Associate Editor,” said Ron C. Smith, PhD, D.Min., President of the Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. “I was always impressed with her missional heart for the salvation of underprivileged people.  Our professional, but, fun-loving relationship as brother and sister transcended geographical relocations over the years since we worked for seven years together in the same office. I’ll never forget her passion for prison ministry and the circulation of Message Magazine copies in urban communities.”

Lifetime Ministry

In 1985, as an adult learner, Pat completed her Bachelor’s degree in Public Health with an emphasis in alcoholism counseling from York College, part of the City University of New York network. She became the owner of Sparks Funeral Home in Brooklyn, the business her beloved brother Chester Sparks built from the ground up. Once, for a major protest, Pat loaned an empty casket to activist and civil rights leader, Al Sharpton. The casket was an important statement against police brutality and killings, a cause that stirred fire in Pat’s spirit. She also worked with influencer and activist Dennis Dillion, a pastor whose Brooklyn Christian Center ran a long-running black, weekly newspaper called the New York Christian Times.

Another central value for Pat was advocacy in the interest of young people and children. Fiercely protective and always engaged, she would often chastise senior adults who were less than patient and understanding. She hated their dismissiveness: “Excuse me,” she would point her finger, “how old was Jesus?”

It was the work of literature evangelism that defined Harris most. This intensely personal,  middle-of-the-sidewalk kind of introduction to Jesus still works. She would regale, but not with stories of conquest. Instead, her eyes would moisten when she recounted the Spirit’s leading, the providential meetings, and the opening of hearts. She was grateful to play a part.

We once took a six-hour road trip. Every gas station attendant, toll booth operator, and passerby received a book, magazine or tract. Sometimes she made me give it to them. I once told her I found an unpriced sharing book on the shelf in the media department at Wal-Mart. She looked away with a wryness that let me know she had been sharing in stealth mode. And, true to Christ’s mandate, Pat made sure she attended church services monthly at a Maryland prison from which she always left inspired.

Famous Last

“The first time I met Ms. Pat,” said Garrison Hayes, Pastor of the Community Praise Center in Alexandria, Virginia where Pat attended regularly, “we sat down at Sabbath lunch and talked for over an hour! We talked about how much she loved her family and she shared some of the fascinating and complicated parts of her upbringing. I was captured by her outstanding and honest storytelling abilities, and befriended by her endearingly infectious smile.”

Pat Harris was not one to stand in front of a crowd—ever—to tell her shockingly painful life-story. Yet, she shared it, personally, one-to-one. Though so many knew of her personal heartaches, we also caught her testimony of forgiveness. Though we often shuddered to think of her history of childhood trauma and mistreatment, she schooled us in people-loving. Never one to waste a good lesson, she encouraged the habit of seeking God in prayer for everything. “And, I’m not just talking to you,” she would say, “I’m talking to me.”




The Thinking Man’s Vegan

Behind the marketing, the untold impact of animal products menaces communities of color.

 

Vegetarians and plant-based eaters bite off a little more respect these days. Overall, vegetarians make up 3% and vegans only 2% of the United States population. However, being plant-based is increasingly more popular with African Americans and other people of color who chuck the chicken at three times the rate of their white counterparts (Gallup.com; Pew Research “The New Food Fights: US Public Divides Over Food Science”).

It helps that a star-studded A-list of African Americans claim the lifestyle. Status or not, Americans have suddenly and drastically cut their consumption of dairy products, cheese in particular, from an average of 35 pounds a year, to 15 pounds a year leaving an industry that is already propped up by massive government subsidies to survive, even while consumer demand plummets (“What Will the Government Do With 1.4 Billion Pounds of Cheese?” PSMag.com).

Other antiquated policies masquerading as dietary standards continue to push meat and dairy on the unsuspecting. Therefore, milk, cheese, and meat are still very much part of the diet given to low-income individuals, school lunch programs, and food pantry programs.

The Health Evangelist

Enter Milton Mills, a Stanford University Medical School graduate who did his residency at Georgetown.

As an Internist and specialist in preventive medicine, Mills is an evangelist of good health. You can watch him dish on YouTube with a comparative analysis of all God’s creatures, and what it means to be a natural carnivore (meat-eater), herbivore (plant-eater), or omnivore (eats both meat and plants). Watch him confront members of a dietary recommendation panel where he skewers the idea that anyone needs to consume dairy for good health. You may have also watched Mills in the 2017 viral documentary “What the Health?”

The clapback from those whose dietary recommendations include dairy is very strong. (“What You Should Know About the Pro Vegan Film, ‘What The Health?’” Time.com) Read and think between the lines, Mills insists. A majority of Americans of color experience symptoms of illness when consuming dairy products, yet, the recommendations to drink milk, for it “does a body good,” persist.

Government recommendations persist, partially because of the idea that dairy calcium and protein prevent osteoporosis in women. Black women, however, are “genetically protected” from osteoporosis, and unless they have another disease that leaches calcium from the bones, black women don’t get it.

Further, there is more at stake than symptoms of “mild discomfort” from eating dairy. Ingesting hormone-rich milk increases the risk for hormone-related cancers. Consuming dairy products markedly increases the risk for breast cancer among African American women, and worse than that, the mortality rates are higher.

For black men consuming animal products is the number one risk factor for prostate cancer. The rates of prostate cancer are 60% higher among black men, and once it occurs, black men are twice as likely to die from it. It’s a much more malignant form of the disease.

The Creation Diet

Mills believes it was God who taught him, from an early age, through the most trying of circumstances. Growing up in a Pentecostal Christian home, Mills’ family prayed at meal times and attended church regularly, however, his journey into the Word didn’t occur until the relatively happy family broke apart. Upon his parents’ divorce, 13 year-old Mills approached his pain very methodically:

“My response was like, wow. Is life going to be this random series of unknowable, unavoidable painful events? Or, is there some way to navigate through life and minimize these painful occurrences? The first thing I needed to figure out was, was God real? If God was not real, then I didn’t want to waste my time in a useless round of religiosity and ceremonies if He wasn’t. But, the opposite was equally true, that if He is real, then it’s absurd to try to live your life without acknowledging Him and making Him a part of it.”

God’s voice penetrated Mills heart early. When as a young man he prayed for a resolution to personal struggle, he was thus impressed that a plant-based lifestyle would clear his mind, and his ability to perceive God’s leading.

Subsequently, three truths sprung from the pages of his Bible when young Mills began to read it: 1. God created the world, and did it in seven days. 2. On the seventh day—the Sabbath—He rested. 3. God gave His first people plants to eat.

Knowing God became the ultimate intellectual experience, and the spiritual activation that caused Mills to be the strident seeker and proponent of truth. It propelled him to seek a medical career.

“If I weren’t a doctor, then my whole life, when I told people ‘you need to stop eating meat,’ they would say, “You can’t tell me that. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Mills aced his prerequisites for medical school while working nights and attending the former California State University Hayward (now California State University East Bay). He became the first Cal State Hayward student accepted into Stanford Medical School. From then on, he researched, taught and refined his case against the consumption of animal products.

Dietary Myth: Animal Products Are Good for You

“We have been taught that animal tissue is healthy and necessary for human health. Nothing can be further from the truth,” Mills declared during a recent interview with Message.

“Animal tissue is completely unnecessary for human health, and is unhealthy.”

Before you call the beef lobby to report him, Mills asks a few observational thought questions. First, why are milk and dairy products— even in limited quantities or moderation—a dietary recommendation when so many people are lactose intolerant? Lactose is a carbohydrate naturally found in dairy products, and it causes discomfort in the form of bloating, diarrhea, and cramps for people who are lactose intolerant.

As many as 90% of West Africans and and 75% of African Americans are lactose intolerant. Even 30% of Caucasians are lactose intolerant. Why is a substance that makes people sick a dietary recommendation?

Second, as you think about the massive plant eating animals such as giraffes, rhinos, and elephants, when do they ever consume animal products? The answer is: when they are babies and are nursing. The proteins found in mother’s milk stimulate growth. For us, however, consuming growth stimulants when full grown does not stimulate growth in ways we may want, Mills said. The result is growth, alright, but in benign lipomas, moles, cysts, enlarged prostates, and uterine fibroids. Sometimes, those growths become cancerous.

Third—speaking of growth, how do they get the chickens that we eat to grow so rapidly? People who grew up near a farm knew that “spring chickens” hatch and then grow throughout the year.

“Now these ‘Franken-birds’ that they have, hatch and go from egg to adult weight in like, six, eight weeks,” said Mills. “You just have to imagine the kinds of growth stimulants that have to be in that animal’s tissues to make it grow like that. It’s like a child going from birth to a 200 pound adult in two to three years. It’s completely abnormal. And, if you’re ingesting these kinds of growth compounds into your body, it’s no wonder it driving cancer in so many places.”

Dietary Myth Corollary: There’s no carve out.

That leads to the second myth surrounding the consumption of animal products: “We think going to Popeyes, Chick Fil-A, and Burger King—thinking that because we’re eating chicken and fish—it is somehow healthier.” One need only to examine the processing environment and habitat of the animal products we consume to learn why disease is no respecter of animals.

Mills: “Imagine if you had to only eat the lungs of an animal. Would you eat the lungs of an animal raised in a coal mine? Of course not because of the dirt, filth, soot that the lungs have to process there. Well, think about the way fish breathe. Through their gills they filter water; and the oceans are the most polluted places on the planet; fish is the most toxin-laden tissue that you can consume. So, no, you shouldn’t be eating fish, and definitely not shellfish.”

Mills minces no words when it comes to the seafood lover’s platter at many a favorite restaurant. Shellfish are the filters of the waterways. “That’s their job. I mean lobster, shrimp, they’re just ocean-going roaches. [If] you emulsify raw sewage and flow it over a bed of oysters and clams, the water will come out clear, because what they do is they eat that particulate matter.”

It’s a beautiful thing. God made them that way; He didn’t intend for us to eat them.

Live Long and Be Meat Free

For the thinking man’s vegan, the health evangelist Mills, has one important secret of disease prevention: a plant-based diet. Anything else, is a loss physically and spiritually.

“We are being shortchanged by being robbed of our health by primary or secondary intention. It also upsets me when we do it to ourselves. Because we’re throwing away our birthright for a bunch of garbage.”