By The Word of Their Testimony
How everyday people can protect and promote the mental wellness we need.
12 Bounce Back
by Kim Nowlin Logan / Staying The Course: Mastering the art of bouncing back.
13 Can you trust yourself?
by Ruthven Phillip / Five Ways to Keep Your Credit in Check.
14 Won’t He Do It?
Electrifying Evidences That God Is Still on The Throne!
• Overcomers by The Blood of Jesus –
• The Closer -Sim Fryson
• God of The Magnet – Lori Diaz
• Last Woman Standing – Denise Frazer
• There Is No God, Said The Fool – Luis
• God’s Deliverance – Billy Mirander
• God’s Protection – Jyremy Reid
• God’s Mercy – Gianna Snell
• God’s Comfort – Sharon Jamison
• God’s Plan – Tyler Brown
• Home Away From Hell – Shay Price
• Surrendered Heart – Milton Coronado
• God’s Leading – Patti Conwell
6 Eye on the times
by Edward Woods, III / The Fall of Civility
8 Optimal health
by Donna Green Goodman / The Doctor Is In! Special Guest, Milton Mills, M.D.
11 RELATIONSHIP Rx
by Willie and Elaine Oliver / Kids of Divorce
Want to See God Move in Your Life?
As a child, I would bring my dime to church for tithe (10 percent on my whopping occasional increase of a whole dollar). The words that followed from the front each week were so predictable that the enormous power of the promise has faded.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” Malachi 3:10.
This promise of God—way better than any contract in good faith among mere mortals—raises our expectations. It purposely gets our hopes up. It intentionally invites us to go out on a limb and believe for what He has said. “Prove,” meaning “test,” “try,” or “investigate,” also implies God’s hope. He hopes that in the proving process, when we glimpse who He is, and trace a small part of what He wants for us, we would discern between the choices in front of us and choose Him.
While the promise in Malachi is so ubiquitous in service, the architecture of it is worth noting for those of us who want to see God move in our lives. It requires us to first get in position. Position? Yes, proving position means we align ourselves with what we know to be true, the things we know He has asked of us, things already clearly revealed in His Word, the Bible.
In Malachi, the prophet indicated that the proving position was returning the tithes. For Joshua and the children of Israel—wearied, jaded, and weak in faith after wandering 40 years in the wilderness—the proving position was dipping the toes into the river Jordan. It was then that God parted the water for them to cross to the other side (Joshua 3:9-17). In the prophet Elijah’s day, during a widespread famine, the proving position for a poor starving widow and her son who had so little, was to share of her last little homemade cake. It was then that her supply, and her Supply, never ran out (1 Kings 17:10-16). For a man whose hopeless, helpless case meant he lay at a poolside impotent and paralyzed for 38 years, proving position meant immediately acting on the call of Jesus (John 5:2-10).
Testimony to Come
Want to see what happens? Position yourself to get a glimpse of God, and His plan for your life:
Trust and Believe, even in the face of skeptics, doubters and haters. You’ve got evidence—just that calm inkling that things will work out is evidence itself (Hebrews 11:1).
Trust and Obey, even when we don’t understand (and we may often fail to understand) (1 John 3:22).
Trust and Listen—through His Spirit and through His Word—to gain an understanding (John 16:13, 14).
Trust and Pray while you wait, letting the Spirit do the talking (Romans 8:26).
Trust and Speak and “act in harmony with your prayers,” wrote Ellen G. White in the book Christ’s Object Lessons. We are, after all, working on the same team, as “co-workers” with God, (1 Corinthians 3:9).
Tell what you know, what you’ve seen, and what you’ve heard of Him in your life to others. “We have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
This article is part of our 2019 May / June Issue
NEW MESSAGE TRACTS: miniMESSAGES
We are so excited to introduce our new Message tracts! Make sure you take advantage of our
“Juneteenth BOGO Special.”
Tracts are in bundles of 100 at $4 per pack + a FREE pack of 100 for every pack purchased by June 19, 2019 (Regular price after that will be $480 per MESSAGE Tract Attack Kit)
Here is a list of Titles & Descriptions
500 Years of Protest – From Martin Luther to Martin Luther King, Jr. and beyond. In a fallen world, there will always be corruption, greed, and injustice – thus there will be continual calls for protest. Will you be part of the solution or part of the problem? What is your standard of what’s right and wrong, just and unjust?
50 Ways to Keep Your Lover—Some of these quick and practical tips might be new insights for you, while others serve as piercing reminders. Either way, these little sparks will help rekindle our relationships in the midst of the busy-ness of life. Applying these principles will promote communication, joy, empathy, and resilience in our relationships.
Comforters, Incorporated—Because there are so many sources of stress, grief, and discouragement, God has provided a variety of comforters to restore hope, joy, and strength. Experience this comfort for yourself and share it with others.
Faith, Family, and Finances—Systemic flaws in American society have robbed countless black citizens of their unalienable rights—among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, over the decades. Today, the problems still exist. Yet, we can accomplish much if we get back to the basics and remember how God has led us in the past. Tackling the issues of “Faith, Family and Finances” is a good place to start.
Fearless Focus—Are political unrest, natural disasters, war, disease, and forecasts of doom and gloom generating anxiety in your life, or making you numb to the news? Here’s some guidance to focus on current events in a way that activates your faith instead of amplifying your fears.
All For One: One Dish Meals That Pack a Punch—Donna Green-Goodman shares a glimpse of her story as a cancer survivor and how transforming her diet helped her overcome the second deadliest killer in America. Her tasty, healthy recipes can help you beat the odds and live the abundant life.
Loving Them to Death: Advice for the Families of Addicts—Patrice Conwell, and Clifford and Freddie Harris of Drug Alternative Program (DAP) counsel us about five deadly ideas that will get your loved one killed and six life-giving strategies that just might help your loved one overcome addiction.
Reframe Your Pain: 6 Lessons on Loss—Job is one of the best known figures in the Bible, because of how he dealt with the sudden devastation of his property and riches, the death of all his children, and a painful, disfiguring disease that made his breath stink. How do you hold onto faith, and life itself, when even your spouse thinks you might be better off dead? Learn these lessons of healing from Job and share it with others.
Righteous Rage— People are outraged everywhere you look. There are protests against gun violence, pipelines, police brutality, racism, classism, fascism, sexism–and for every protest there’s a counter-protest. Is it wrong to be outraged? Can our outrage be counterproductive to the problems we hope to solve? Is there such a thing as righteous rage?
Social Justice Holiday— What if there was a weekly Social Justice Holiday for us to work together with Jesus toward bringing healing, wholeness, liberty, and justice to those in need? What would that look like? Why not start by sharing this tract with everyone in your circle? Then expand your circles!
My Sweet Addiction— If you’ve ever bitten into a ripe, juicy mango or crisp apple, you know that the Creator intended for us to enjoy “sweet”. Yes, sweet is a very good thing, until too much of it is eaten in the form of refined sugar. Donna Green-Goodman helps us keep this potentially lethal, yet perfectly legal and socially acceptable, addiction in check!
What It Takes to Heal: 7 Transformational Tips for Abuse Survivors—The numbers of victims of sexual abuse are staggering, even though they’re underreported. This tract, written by a survivor, helps provide healing and restoration: There is a way out. Your life matters. Your healing matters. You matter.
*To learn about the Juneteenth holiday, go to:
Meet Me Here
Notre Dame’s shock soothed by rescued relics. What commemorates your faith?
What could assuage the shock of seeing the Notre Dame Cathedral Paris amid roaring, uncontrollable flames?
Raging devastation paralyzed the faithful few who worshipped there. Even the secular touring public, for whom Notre Dame’s flying buttresses, Gothic-era gargoyles, and gorgeous rose windows are a Parisian must-see, stood transfixed as the catastrophe unfolded.
Before the inferno claimed the roof of the 800 year-old international landmark, a priest, part of a human chain, rescued the sacraments, and the relics, including to the relief of so many—one Crown of Thorns.
Chain, Chain, Chain
Yes, that Crown of Thorns. By way of quick background, here is what legal evidentiary practice calls the “chain of custody”:
• The “Crown” appears in the Bible’s, account of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. It was placed upon the brow of Jesus as He is mocked for claiming to be the son of God. He was derided for being “The King of the Jews.” Matthew 27:29, Mark 15:17, John 19:2. John 19:5 indicates: “Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!”
• The loss and subsequent absence of important evidence for 400 years would surely render the evidence problematic in a court of law, yet in this case some people believe the crown of thorns resurfaced by 409 A.D.
• From there, according to the Catholic newspaper The Compass, the Crown’s whereabout are traceable, and “can be unbrokenly traced back only to Constantinople, where many of the church’s treasures originally in Jerusalem were transferred to the Byzantine Empire between the fourth and the tenth centuries.”
• In a humiliating episode, the relic was pawned, in a sense, by the Latin Emperor Baldwin II to raise funds in 1238.
• Shortly thereafter that King Louis IX of France paid the Venetian bank holding the relic, and claimed it for France. Because the monarch claimed it and other relics, then in humble celebration, is said to have walked barefoot and in a simple tunic behind the crown into the then Sainte-Chapelle, the Catholic church canonized him. Incidentally, Louis’ tunic is one of the relics saved in Monday’s fire.
• The Crown of Thorns survived the French Revolution, hidden away in the National Library for safekeeping. Even though the bloody conflict ended with the fall of the pope in 1798, by 1801, Napoleon Bonaparte I executed a treaty with the Catholic Church, returning the “Passion relics” to its custody at Notre Dame.
• The Crown of Thorns has been at Notre Dame since, offered for worshippers on the first Friday of every month, and each Friday during Lent, until it was saved from the fire on Monday by Jean-Marc Fournier, a priest.
Money Where Your Mouth Is
Social elites, wealthy business owners, and concerned parishioners around the world chipped in to rebuild the Cathedral—growing its pre-fire $6 Million renovation budget to $1 Billion after the fire. And, this feat of reconstruction will be completed in five years, according to the optimistic French President, Emmanuel Macron. But, now just two days away from the day that Christians around the world commemorate the Resurrection of Jesus, this event highlights the power of a relic over real religion, especially as some see money diverted from human suffering to religious architecture.
Human intervention is what turns an ordinary inanimate object into an artifact, said Alfred Williams, Jr., Ph.D., a Paine College professor of Religion and Philosophy, an expert in biblical archeology. Throughout the centuries, religious relics emerge as a result of the subjective religious meaning and value attached to them. And, it is unlikely, that the objects revered were at all considered to be worthy of such at the time of their creation or use. Hence, Roman soldiers and Pilate certainly would not have viewed a crown of thorns as holy, or valuable. Their intentions were just the opposite.
Centuries past the Age of Enlightenment, and well into our post-modern world, tangible evidence and visible revelation is critical to the faith of many believers.
“Faith has become a lot more challenging to have” said Williams. “We seem to desperately need something. Faith should be enough, [but] humans seem to want to have something to hang onto. What is more important, rather than the relic itself, is your belief and your faith. At the end of the day, a relic doesn’t mean very much, but your faith is everything.”
In France, at least, a fascination with form rather than actual function of faith seems consistent with the findings of Pew research released in December 2018. Pew examined religious practices across Europe, ranking European countries according to the self-reported experiences of adherents. In a list of 34 countries, France ranked 26, with only 12% of its population identifying themselves as “highly religious.” To be “highly religious” was defined as “attending religious services at least monthly, praying at least daily, believing in God with absolute certainty and saying that religion is very important to them.”
Maybe they need to feel close to an artifact. And, they are not the only ones, Williams concedes. It is very human to be struck with inspiration at an object that ties us to our faith. So, what about us? The question is, what assuages our faith as we watch the world on fire, the rolling catastrophes of each news cycle, and our sense of powerlessness in the reflection of it all?
The Bible points us to three events for commemoration, (see this article from our Vault by the late evangelist Earl E. Cleveland) all of which, upon reflection, have the power to usher us directly into the revelation of God’s glory and grace: 1. Communion. 2. The Resurrection, and 3. The Sabbath.
Why not meet Jesus there, at the scene of His prayers for you in Gethsemane? Meet Him who endured the crown of thorns, not in veneration, but in humiliation. Meet Him who rose again with all power, and came looking for you and me. Meet Him, whose passion for your will last for eternity.
2019 March / April Issue
TENDING THE HEALTHY MIND
How everyday people can protect and promote the mental wellness we need.
12 BOUNCE BACK
by Kim Nowlin Logan / Trust and security issues arise for couples who co-habit.
13 BUILD A WALL AND AVOID SHUTDOWN
by Ruthven Phillip / Protect your family against whims and winds of financial stress.
Tending The Healthy MindSpecial health section
14 CRISIS CARE FOR EVERYDAY PEOPLE
H. Jean Wright / Could you step in when a loved one suffers breakdown?
-Better engage people living with mental illness
-Mental Renewal and Repair
-Remember: You Can
18 YOU CAN’T POUR FROM AN EMPTY PITCHER
by Wilma Kirk Lee / For the caregiver, it is important to take care of yourself.
20 UP AND OUT
by Omar Miranda / She almost lost her children, but Bible wisdom and counseling lifted her from despair.
22 COMFORTERS INC.
by Carl McRoy / The five comforters committed to getting you through this.
by Phillip McGuire Wesley / Media That Takes You Higher
6 EYE ON THE TIMES
by Jackson Doggette / Social Justice and Spiritual Impact of Wellness
8 OPTIMAL HEALTH
by Donna Green Goodman / Bible Nutrition and Diet?
11 RELATIONSHIP Rx
by Willie and Elaine Oliver / My wife has bi-polar disorder
30 POWER PLAY
by Brenda Simon / Search the Scriptures
Hands-on Mental Health
You may have seen the story on your social media feed: “Schoolboys grabbed suicidal man and refused to let him jump” blared the UK Daily Mail. That headline accompanied a picture of a serious Shawn Young, Davonte Cafferkey, and Sammy Farah, ages 12, 13, and 14 respectively, at the time.
The boys had been “loitering” on the way home from school, recalled Young’s mother, and as they were about to cross an overpass in Hertfordshire—about 30 miles North of London—a passing adult told them to go another way because a disturbed man was on the bridge.
Their sense of mischief and curiosity aroused, they proceeded across anyway. There they found a distraught 21-year old man with a rope. His face was red and he was crying quietly, but sweating and breathing heavily. He tied the rope around part of the bridge, tossed his keys and phone to the boys and told them not to answer if anyone called. He put the rope around his neck and climbed over the railing.
This pressed the boys into smart and aggressive “textbook” action,” said Carol Young. Cafferkey and Farah clutched the man for dear life while Shawn ran for help. The young man became dead weight there on top of that bridge, over the busy highway. He slipped in and out of consciousness while the boys yelled at him: “Don’t do this! Think of your family! You’re too young to die!”
Ultimately, two other passerby assisted the boys in bringing the man to safety and averting the loss of life.
“A few weeks after,” Shawn told Message recently, “he came to Devontae’s house to meet us. He brought us flowers and cards. He said he was grateful; he wasn’t really thinking properly.”
The kernel of truth buried in this story with a happy ending is what support for people living with mental illness is all about. That’s because when you rewind, you realize that it was an adult who told the boys to avoid crossing the bridge where a “crazy man” was up there doing some strange things. Instead, like the Bible’s “Good Samaritan” who risked his life to come to the aid of a person in need—all while other, qualified and seemingly spiritual people passed by—the boys stepped in anyway.
“Shawn was brought up as a child to attend church. His belief is there. He’s had training,” said his mother who took her children to work in the community “religiously,” and taught them to look after people who need looking after.
As a Seventh-day Adventist, for whom belief in the wholistic health message of the Bible is critical, I was taught early to “Trust in Divine Power,” a helpful, hopeful approach to well-being that most certainly includes mental wellness.
“Trust in divine power boosts positive emotions and helps neutralize negative emotions, serving both to enhance life and increase coping skills as negative life events are put into proper context,” writes Lillian Kent, in an article “The Adventist “Health Message” Unpacked, www.ministrymagazine.org. “Individuals with these beliefs have greater well-being, happiness, hope, optimism, and gratefulness and are less likely to experience depression, suicide, anxiety, psychosis, substance abuse, delinquency, crime, and marital instability.”
Yet, traditionally communities of faith and the faithful struggle with incorporating psychological and psychiatric support with religious or spiritual belief and practice. Longstanding suspicions widened the gulf between science and faith. That left many to struggle alone in stigma, or in anonymity, or in abuse.
“Most services of worship are silent about the mental and emotional problems among those present,” according to an article by Clark Aist, Ph.D, a former director of Chaplain Services and Rehabilitation Services Supervisor of Clinical Pastoral Education, for Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C. “They are not lifted in prayer or sermons, nor mentioned in social hour conversations. This conspiracy of silence serves to perpetuate the stigma associated with mental health conditions.”
With mental illness affecting “tens of millions” of people in the United States, and only an estimated half of the people affected getting treatment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, there is room for more discussion, education, and intervention. In our houses of worship, cited Aist, it is estimated that one in four families has someone living with a mental illness. At that rate, we can no longer afford to stigmatize mental illness, or simply pray it away, but actually use a hands-on effort to look after people who need looking after.
This article is part of our 2019 March / April Issue
Bryan Stevenson’s Monumental Task
HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE, DEATH PENALTY ADVERSARY, BRYAN STEVENSONSees healing on the horizon but not before we do the hard work of remembrance and. repentance
Lord, How Come We Here?
Election night, 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama. Sports bars, restaurants and hotels flickered with scrolling results on television’s Fox News. Downtown streets were quiet except for a lounge singer covering 80s hits on a hotel patio.
Confederate statues and the Confederate White House sat just a block away. Gentrified buildings and swank food joints inhabit the spaces under Montgomery’s famous archways and over its tunnels that used to accommodate slave trafficking. But, in the city where Rosa Parks sat down to take a stand, and Martin Luther King, Jr. preached, the lights at Equal Justice Initiative were on.
Working for Progress
That night, Coloradans voted to outlaw slavery—under any circumstance— the first such protection against vestiges of slavery that linger in the Constitution’s 13th Amendment. Other old issues hung in the air, too. Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign supporters applauded when she said she would be on the front row for a “public hanging.” In a state with a history of more than 650 public hangings, lynchings, according to the Mississippi Civil Rights Project, the statement must have gone over well. They re-elected her that day.
In spite of the 218 times the United States Congress tried to outlaw lynching, it never passed Congress. It wasn’t until late 2018 when Senators Cory Booker (New Jersey), Kamala Harris (California), and Tim Scott (South Carolina) initiated a unanimous vote in the senate to make lynching a federal crime. Another bipartisan bill to overhaul the criminal justice system just creaked through Congress in December 2018 as well.
No wonder the light is on.
It was an act of Congress in 1994 that propelled EJI founder Bryan Stevenson to open the organization in Montgomery, Alabama. Alabama was the only state that failed to provide legal defense for people with death sentences.
Since then the Harvard Law School graduate successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court that it is unconstitutional to give children 17 years-old and under life without parole—basically a sentence to die in prison. And, in 2016, the court decided it should apply the rule retroactively, giving more than 2000 people who grew up in prison, a chance at review and release.
The organization’s most lauded cases helped spring innocent men, at least 125 of them, from death row. He captured his life story and early work with EJI in the acclaimed 2014 bestseller, Just Mercy, which makes it to the big screen in 2020 starring Michael B. Jordan.
Like the mythical Sisyphus, Stevenson finds himself in a punishing, uphill struggle for justice. Because systemic problems such as policing bias and lack of representation result in mass incarceration, disproportionately affecting black and brown people, he has found it necessary to address the myth of racial differences, white supremacy and the enduring effects of enslavement. To do this, he sought funding for and built the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration.
The memorial’s visually arresting and massive iron monuments, suspended from the rafters, “bleed” in the rain. The museum in a small, but powerful U-shaped exhibit, hammers the point home: this isn’t over yet.
“Even in our communities we haven’t wanted to talk about it,” Stevenson said for an exclusive interview with Message. “We felt as if our survival required us to be silent in our coping with this. That’s where our fore parents made the biggest difference. They taught us to stand up, when people said sit down. Speak up when people say be quiet. You have to find the courage to tell our truths.”
From the time one walks into the Legacy museum, Stevenson’s point is easy to access. The museum starts with a short walk down a dark hallway, the end of which confronts the spirit with ghostlike figures whose eyes peer through history and whose voices sing the question on everyone’s mind: “Lord, How Come We Here?”
Stevenson draws a straight line from genocide of Native peoples to our history of enslavement, racial terror, Jim Crow, voter suppression, the “war on drugs” to today’s racial profiling and racially imbalanced mass incarceration. We’re here because we haven’t dealt with the consuming disease and public health threat of racism.
“We gotta talk about the fact that we live in a post-genocide society: that what happened to native people when Europeans came to this continent was a genocide. And we didn’t deal with it as if it was genocide. We said ‘no, those Native people are savages.’ We used this rhetoric, that’s rooted in race, to justify that violence. And that’s why, for me, the great evil of American slavery wasn’t involuntary servitude. It wasn’t forced labor. It was this ideology that we created that black people weren’t like white people. It was this myth, this narrative of racial difference.”
Old South Romanticism
The corrupt narrative makes romanticizing Old South history possible, while ignoring the effects of domestic terror, and the Great Migration of black people away from it. The narrative ignores the trauma and humiliation of “White” and “Colored” iconography that cemented the ideas of racial differences in the psyche.
“And today, we still live in a country [where] this infection, this disorder, this disease continues to manifest itself,” said Stevenson. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a person of faith, doesn’t matter whether you’re a bishop, minister or elder, a kind person. [It] doesn’t matter if you’re a great student; doesn’t matter if you’re an architect; doesn’t matter if you’re a lawyer or doctor. If you’re black or brown, you go places in this country, and you’re going to have to navigate presumptions of danger and guilt. We unconsciously are doing things all the time to manage these presumptions that we have to overcome, and it’s exhausting.”
Observe the 59 markers to the confederacy in Montgomery, two high schools named for Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, and a holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr., shared with Lee. This is a far cry from the remembrance and attempts at healing, visible across the landscapes in South Africa, Rwanda, and Germany. One cannot be there without being confronted by chilling, shameful results of hatred.
“There are no Adolf Hitler statues in Germany. There are no swastikas. But, in this country, we haven’t talked about slavery. We haven’t talked about lynching. We haven’t talked about segregation. We have confederate symbols everywhere.”
Confession—not punishment, not guilt-mongering—leads to repentance and redemption.
“There’s something that comes after that—that is cleansing, that is emerging. That’s how redemption happens. And we haven’t done that as a society. So yes, we want to talk honestly, directly, about the pain, shame, and the heartache and the brutality of enslavement. We want people to see these monuments and understand the trauma and terror and the taunting and the menacing that people of color had to go through. And then we want them to tell the truth. I really do believe after truth comes redemption, comes reconciliation.”
Old Rugged Cross
Speaking of a “come to Jesus moment,” it is time for the faithful to revisit the “fixation and fascination with the death penalty.” And, though the Bible permitted capital punishment, Stevenson argues, Biblical principles of fairness and humility must also be applied, and in doing so, people of conscience cannot support the death penalty today.
“For me, it’s not about the morality of the death penalty, the propriety of the death penalty. I think, at least in this country, the threshold question is not do people deserve to die for the crimes they’ve committed; I think the threshold question is do we deserve to kill?”
Fact: for every 10 people sentenced to die in the United States, one of them is innocent, Stevenson said. The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty clarified this statistic a few years ago. “As of October 2015, we have executed over 1,414 individuals in this country since 1976. 156 individuals have been exonerated from death row—that is, found to be innocent and released —since 1973. In other words, for every 10 people who have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S., one person has been set free.” ( http://www.ncadp.org/pages/innocence )
What Does The Lord Require?
Such a high error rate leading to death would not be tolerated in any other setting. Further, the historical track record of racially motivated policing and prosecutions, and a lack of access to sound representation also creates unfairness. “And,” said Stevenson, “we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty, then if you’re poor and innocent.”
What does the Lord require? Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God, (Micah 6:8). Yet, in a system of justice that fails so often, it is arrogance to continue to exact life as a penalty, Stevenson argues.
Of Hymns and Hypocrites
Further, and better, the prophet’s message supports lives of the vulnerable and at-risk populations if the faithful internalized it. That’s what Stevenson thought while listening to strains of the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross,” while sitting across the table from a condemned man. The man was completely shaved and prepared for the electric chair.
I couldn’t help but think, ‘yeah, where were they when you were three and your mom died? Where were they when you were six and you were being abused? Where were they when you were nine and you were being sexually assaulted? Where were they when you were 13 and you were experimenting with drugs? Where were they when you came back from Vietnam and were traumatized from that injury? I know where they were when you were accused—they were lined up to execute you.
Not only does mercy say, ‘No,” mercy understands that each individual—including those condemned in the system—is worth more than the worst thing he or she has ever done.
Bryan Stevenson doesn’t look like what he’s been through. Fit and trim, youthful and well-rested just isn’t how one pictures a tireless, overworked CEO and legal advocate. It is not how one imagines a person burdened with the task of saving people from death row, and uplifting humanity. As Rosa Parks once told him, “You’re going to be tired, tired, tired.”
Stevenson grew up in poor, rural Delaware, and attended “colored” schools until Brown v. Board of Education made it possible for him to access public school education. He excelled in his academics and sports, even playing the organ and singing with the church choir. Yet, to Stevenson, his social consciousness—developed partly through hearing the constant struggle of the men and women during testimony time at their African Methodist Episcopal Church—found no outlet in his Harvard Law School experience.
Stevenson turned to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and resigned himself to being a policy wonk, or, yet another unfulfilled dreamer in a dreary law career. It was when he worked as an intern for the Georgia Southern Prisoners Defense Committee that Stevenson met a man condemned to die. Nervous, and fearing he could only disappoint his client with his inexperience, he sat down for what would have been an hour interview. That hour turned into a three-hour life-changing experience.
Seeing himself in that young black man, Stevenson bonded over the conversation, learning about the case, the man’s family, and his life. When guards burst in to end the session, angry because it had gone on so long, they grabbed his client. They pushed and shoved, chained and shackled, and pinched his flesh with handcuffs, leaving Stevenson stunned at the violence.
“Bryan,” said his client, “don’t worry about this. You just come back.”
“And that young man closed his eyes, just put his head back and started singing: “I’m pressing on, the upward way, new heights I’m gaining every day, still praying as I’m onward bound, and he said, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground. . .”
Stevenson knew then he found his mission, one he says now animates his life and engages his heart, and that is to help condemned people to find higher ground.
“When you are mission-aligned, when you actually get to do the thing that fulfills you and makes you feel like you’re serving the way you’re supposed to serve, you wrestle, but you don’t wrestle with God. You wrestle with the challenges, the obstacles and complexities of what it means to be as effective as you possibly can.”
Walk with Me
- Order the Equal Justice Initiative Calendar for 2019 to learn about the history of racial injustice and its impact in the United States.
- Go to the Equal Justice Initiative website to learn about upcoming events and the work of justice. https://eji.org/
- Tour the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration
- Remembrance: bring a marker and memorial to a county near you.
- Watch for the movie Just Mercy starring Michael B. Jordan
Carmela Monk Crawford, editor of Message, with David Person the owner of David Person Media, LLC. Since 1986, he has been working as a broadcaster, journalist, documentary director, and media consultant.
2019 January / February Issue
BRYAN STEVENSON’S MONUMENTAL TASK
BRYAN STEVENSON BELIEVES IN TRUTH, REDEMPTION, AND RECONCILIATION IN THAT ORDER.
13 Grab Hold of Your God, Your Provider
by Ruthven Philip / Work this program of faith and financial freedom.
14 Monumental Task
by Carmela Monk Crawford and David Person / Author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson on remembrance and repentence.
17 Racial Facts and Fictions
by Jean Emmanuel Nlo Nlo / Celebrate the truth that sets us free from myth of colonial Christianity.
20 1619 Redux
by Malcolm Luther / It’s 2019; are you really free?
22 Sabbath Rest
by Alicia Jones / When your spirit is weary as the mother of a newborn, a good Sabbath rest is what you need.
6 EYE ON THE TIMES
by Edward Woods III / REOCCURRING LESSONS
8 OPTIMAL HEALTH
by Donna Green Goodman / IN SEASON
11 RELATIONSHIP Rx
by Willie and Elaine Oliver / SHE’S SO SLOW…
12 BOUNCE BACK
by Kim Login-Nowlin / SEX FOR SAVED SINGLES
30 POWER PLAY
by Vanessa Hanna Verrett / POOL TOGETHER