Race Talk

Prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping—whether overt or implicit—are alive and unfortunately well. Sue’s research and observations are included in his most recent publication Race Talk And The Conspiracy of Silence (Wiley, 2015, 2016) in which he challenges us to push through racial dialogue, especially in today’s climate of overt expressions of bias. Do this, he says, even though it can be upsetting.

How races come together

We know from social-psychological research the principles that lead to reduction of prejudice and discrimination. One of them is that we have to have intimate contact with people that we hope to understand. We have to have mutually shared goals. We have to have the ability of what I call equal status relationships between individuals in order to be able to begin to feel again that we’re one another.

What we are experiencing in the United States is a worldwide phenomenon that we’re witnessing in Europe as well. ‘I don’t care about other groups,’ that we have to ‘protect borders,’ and these borders are not just physical but psychological. We need to get people to realize that we are connected to one another and that the ultimate outcome of this splitting and segregation is that our society as a nation will deteriorate.

To Those Who Say, Give It Time, A Chance, And That It Will Be OK.

What we are witnessing now is scary. We aren’t moving in a positive direction.

The people who are quick to normalize it are those people who have power and privilege. They do not understand the social, cultural and psychological significance that people of color and other marginalized groups in our nation experience as [they] are saying that things will be OK.

Well, things aren’t OK with us now and there are whole groups that are suffering. We see this going on with indigenous people at Standing Rock, where Native American people are feeling that their spiritual and sacred lives are at risk. Their physical lives are at risk.

The Black brothers and sisters indicate—you know, with the Black Lives Matter movement—that our society is saying that Black lives don’t matter. It may not say it specifically, but it is operating under the impression that some lives are worth more than others, and it is White lives that are worth more.

You frequently hear this invalidation that goes on when people say “Black lives matter.” You hear our political leaders say, “Well, all lives matter.” What they don’t realize is that they are dismissing, diluting and negating the primary message that is coming out from Black brothers and sisters that the way that our society operates, and how people operate is that our lives are worth less than White brothers and sisters in this nation.

Even when we try to point out to them that Black men are being killed—I mean this deadlocked jury—one juror—[in the trial of North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slagle for killing Walter Scott] indicates that no matter what people of color do the judgment and the decision hurts them.

It’s a false assumption and false attempt to calm people by saying that things will be OK, because the truth is, things aren’t OK. They haven’t been OK for centuries.

Work To Unveil Implicit Bias

That’s why I did all this work on micro-aggressions because well-intentioned White brothers and sisters don’t realize that that are complicit in engaging in actions and behaviors that harm people of color through micro-aggressions. And, as long as it is invisible to them, they can go on with their lives in innocence and naivete’ as though they had nothing to do with it.

How The Struggle Births Strength

As people of color we have always struggled. Racism is a reality in our lives. It’s a constant, omnipresent. What we need to realize is to look at the history of our brothers and sisters of color in terms of how they have struggled and overcome and realize that we have assets, that we are not in the struggle by ourselves. Each and every one of us has to find the motivating factor.

I went through a period in my life when I felt hopeless, like what am I doing if it won’t change? My salvation was that fact that on an individual level I do affect some people. But the thing that makes me continue the struggle, despite my belief that racism will never end, is that I want to do the right thing.

Having ‘The Talk’ With Someone Of Another Race

All racial discussions are clumsy and awkward, and push powerful emotional buttons in people. When you’re having a good racial discussion with people, people are experiencing anger, anxiety, sadness, defensiveness and so forth. So, all of those indicate that you’re moving in the right direction. But you have to get beyond the feelings. Because the feelings, unless you understand them, block actual touching of minds.

Let me give an example of White students who originally did not understand and feel defensive because they feel blamed by students of color when they engage in a racial dialogue. It takes a long time for them to come to the realization that they are privileged; that they are putting up defenses. They don’t really want to see what racism is because ultimately they have to acknowledge to themselves that they have racial biases and behaved in ways that hurt and harmed others.

That is a major obstacle to overcome and it takes long discussions where you continue to provide challenges but support for others to come to the realization. But once they get to that level of realization they are likely to be overwhelmed with feelings of guilt.

What you try to do is tell them, ‘I acknowledge your guilt is legitimate, but guilt doesn’t help the situation.’ ‘But you can deal with that guilt if you become a valuable ally with us in terms of dealing with the disparities that are present in our everyday lives.’

I usually get to that point if I’m allowed to work with the class over an extended period of time. To think that you can have a dialogue for five minutes and achieve the goal is a falsehood. This is a long term soul-searching that many of my White brothers and sisters need to go through.


Author, Columbia University Professor and Researcher Derald Wing Sue

CARMELA MONK-CRAWFORD, editor of Message Magazine, interviewed Derald Wing Sue for this article.

Prayer Vigilance

Self–Examination and Active Participation Bring Healing

I attended a prayer vigil last July at the behest of our mayor, Mike Rawlings, following the tragic police shootings in Dallas, Texas. That a man who believed in the power of prayer was administering the city at a very turbulent time, reassured me, so I felt compelled to join him for prayer.

Conflicting feelings, however, still haunt my mind. I was grateful to be among faith and elected leaders seeking a collective response to the senseless slaying of innocent police officers. I am still anxious regarding the tepid response to the growing necrology of young Black men slain at the hands of a nefarious few who swore to ‘protect and serve.’

Today is a watershed moment in American race relations. As a diverse nation of people we can ill-afford to be passionately sympathetic about Dallas, but passively indifferent towards Falcon Heights, Baton Rouge, Tulsa, Charlotte, El Cajon or any others.

Address Implicit Bias

Collective healing begins when we confront the reality that both casualties deserve to be treated without implicit bias. Both inequities beg for public censure and social redress. Both atrocities were abhorrently evil and morally unconscionable. Both tragedies leave behind wives, children, parents, significant others and friends to mourn the unspeakable loss of loved ones. Healing happens when both protesters and protectors accept the incontrovertible truth that ‘Black Lives’ do matter and ‘Blue Lives’ matter, simply because ‘All Lives’ were created equal by God regardless of complexion, creed, or social context!

Life-saving Collaboration

The Black community and law enforcement in particular must work earnestly towards healing their strained relations. We can rebuild trust by insisting upon the ethical demolition of the ‘blue wall of silence’ in order to give justice a voice. A respectful dialog of mutual understanding regarding each other’s perceptual and actual plight in this country should be initiated. Ongoing collaboration that continuously invents and invests in new initiatives (e.g., police/community sensitivity forums, police de-escalation training, community policing, comprehensive mental health screenings) promotes better relations as a result of engagement.

Stained Glass Voice of Social Responsibility

The church, too, must reconnect with the community before something happens within the community. Historically, the church has always been a prophetic voice for social responsibility. A church that sequesters itself behind the stained glass piety of its internally-focused walls has no altruistic value to its surrounding community and therefore has no legitimate reason to exist. ‘Abel’s blood’ still cries out for justice even in our day, and we by sacred legacy are still ‘our brother’s keeper!’

How ironic that during his historic visit to Dallas in 1963, the late President John F. Kennedy was to conclude a scheduled speech at the Dallas Trade Mart with the following prophetic words until an assassin’s bullet preempted it and claimed his young life:

“We in this country, in this generation, are—by destiny rather than choice—the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago, ‘Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain’” (Psalm 127:1b).

Unless God keeps the city, we will never really achieve uniform justice or lasting peace. No amount of incisive thought or human invention will ever suffice for His divine guidance and intervention.


Eddie C. Polite, coordinates ministerial programs for the Southwest Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Dallas, Texas.

Be Sure. Your Sins. Will. Find You Out.

Pomona, California. 1987

Woodrow Jackson, a black, retired police officer left a gas station in the wee hours of the morning with sleeping grandchildren in the car. Seconds later police stopped him. They stuck a shotgun in his daughter’s face. Ordered him out. Lifted him into the air, and slammed him on his head. Lights and screaming. Someone in boots stood on his head. Jackson, a 65 year-old heart attack survivor felt a void where his recently implanted kidney device forcefully ejected right out of his body.

When the police realized Jackson was not their 25 year-old robbery suspect, they let him go. He called his son, Don, a newly promoted police sergeant in Hawthorne, California.

“He was sobbing. Broken,” Don Jackson said recently. “He was never the same again. Just not the same person. It humiliated him.”

Boldness of Purpose

If his sense of purpose had not yet been solidified, young Don Jackson knew it then. No advocacy or technology, investigation or financial compensation could put Woodrow Jackson back together. Don Jackson—now Diop Kamau—however, would spend the next 30 years trying. With the release of his new mobile application, Policeabuse.com, he has created a new way to enable the public to hold police accountable.

There’s no manual to tell one how to be safe, take on the police, or advocate after an incident has occurred. Only one thing, Kamau said, has seen him through.

“My faith, period. I believe. I’m not just talking. I actually practice what I practice. My answer is that I have confidence that God will back me up if I’m doing the right thing. You always know. If you don’t know, stop what you’re doing, and listen. That’s why I pray and meditate.

“I will take bullies on.”

Good Cop. Bad Cop.

Woodrow Jackson had been a veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, having integrated it in the 1950s. He covered the homeless with blankets, changed tires, took lost kids home, and sent the drunk guy sitting on the stoop back inside with a warning. Integrity and class. Worthy of community respect, Kamau proudly followed in his father’s footsteps.

Kamau attended California Lutheran University, joined the Ventura County (California) Sheriff’s department, and later the Hawthorne (California) Police Department. But what he discovered was a racially charged atmosphere. Images of good cops, the Christ-like principles he admired as a kid, clashed with some of the things he saw every day.

Dispatchers openly used racial epithets. The first report to hit his desk as sergeant complained of a black man passed out in a watermelon patch. Some joke. Others callously quipped that black women enjoyed being raped.

Kamau impeded that kind of “police work” because it was more than just racially insensitive joking. Police force coupled with prejudice led to illegal or cruel or deadly treatment, for African Americans in particular.

Jackson once stopped the illegal search and trashing of a nice apartment owned by a young African American man. He leaked a story to the news of how police officers allowed their police dogs to maul people, one of them having completely severed the breast of a young woman. Soon he left the department, determined to use his policing and investigative skills to help stop police abuse.

Vintage Beating Video

Kamau famously outfitted a car with cameras and found himself pulled over for weaving across lines and speeding, traffic violations proven false by the video. Police ordered him out of the car. Screaming. Lights. Epithets. F-bombs. He asked why he was stopped and within seconds a police officer smashed his head through a storefront window. Abuse continued. Police smashed his head onto the hood of the car and he cried out in pain and shock.

“God protected me. I didn’t have one scratch on me after that.”

That 1989 viral video pushed him to the front of a crusade to end such practices, as he made himself a sitting duck in his own racial profiling tests. He used his videos to support litigants in court—people who would never be believed otherwise. His full service investigative firm, Policeabuse.com employed testers and investigators and their footage made it onto primetime television news magazine shows.

“He’s a hero,” said Daniel Maier-Katkin, former Dean of Criminology at Penn State, and friend of Kamau. “He’s a crusader for justice. This is what I thought the first time I saw him. I admire him as a major figure in trying to seek justice.”

Help Is On The Way

The outspoken, passionate and good-looking crusader with the Isley-brother mustache attracted the attention of a young, beautiful Hollywood starlet with a conscience. Tyra Ferrell, “Jungle Fever”, “White Men Can’t Jump” and most Diop Kamau and Tyra Ferrellrecently “Empire”, clipped a newspaper article with Kamau’s picture on it and posted it on her vision board. While that approach to love may not work for everyone, Ferrell claimed him in her meditations. After a chance meeting at a party, their courtship blossomed until one day they both stood by the bedside of Kamau’s ailing mother. The elder woman declared she could go to her rest knowing that her son was in good hands. They got married in 1992.

A true believer, Ferrell left her career behind. She answered the phones at Policeabuse.com, coordinated testing, and prayed for her husband to return to her in one piece. She became wife, mother and dedicated protector in her own right. Ferrell and their newborn daughter would wait in the family RV parked at the beach while Jackson went into the city hoping to be a target. He changed his name to Diop Kamau a West African name, loosely translated: proud, quiet, warrior.

After a speaking trip to Penn State and recording of the show “Crossfire”, Kamau was invited to stay. Both Ferrell and the dean of the school—Maier-Katkin appealed to him. “You’re gonna get yourself killed out there.” It was time to think of a different approach, and in a few years Kamau’s master’s degree put him back on the streets with a different strategy.

What the data shows

Using his head—instead of offering it up to be beaten—Diop Kamau tracked his data. After 30 years of investigating police interactions gone wrong, still no national database or clearinghouse to track or measure them exists. Data that Kamau collected, however, has formed a respectable sample. He investigated 5,000 cases, 25 of them with news media organizations. His organization filed more than 20,000 police abuse complaints, 4,500 of them in the last two years.

What he found may surprise many people:

• Anybody can be a victim, not just black males.

• Women are almost equally likely to be assaulted by police, tasered, punched out, beaten or shot.

• The single, consistent, defining variable for a violent confrontation with police is to dispute his authority.

• Officers simply lied on police reports, and thus, people are more likely to be framed for crime by police than be shot by them.

• More white people experience abuse and make up the majority of complaints and requests for help on Policeabuse.com.

• Victims may experience further abuse and intimidation to prevent their complaints from being filed.

So, Kamau’s latest iteration in advocacy and investigation revolves around a free mobile app, Police Abuse. At the touch of an icon it records an encounter, simultaneously uploading it to his organization’s servers. An emergency feature alerts loved ones to the location of the stop as well as others who have the app. They can choose, Kamau hopes, to record it from a safe distance. To tackle the problem of intimidation and red tape, Kamau’s organization files the complaint—video attached—electronically, copying the Department of Justice. It’s new. It hasn’t caught on yet, but it’s a patient step in the right direction.

Justice Takes Time

Kamau, Ferrell and their daughter know, firsthand, that justice takes times.

When one of their former employees—an undercover operative with computer expertise—became disgruntled, he dragged them into the court system. Like his father, like most of his clients, “we were not doing anything, but they were throwing my wife in, me in, my employees in,” Kamau said. “Once we got in there, no one cared. You must have done or said something.”

After eight years of legal wrangling, justice finally won. While the former employee sued for copyright infringement for the use of one of his undercover video recordings, he was found guilty of perjury, fraud, witness intimidation and manufacturing evidence. When he filed criminal stalking charges against Ferrell and hacked their email accounts and websites, Kamau and Ferrell were incredulous to see the court system believed him, helped him. Unknown to the court, he was sitting in jail, awaiting his own trial for stalking. Their courage really took a hit as they witnessed that former employee complete law school, pass the bar and practice law, giving him an air of credibility throughout all of this. Credibility, that is, until he was stripped of his license to practice law just last month.

Pursue justice

As his chosen name suggests, thought and strategy goes into any successful fight for justice. From the initial indignity of an unjustified clash with police, victims shrink away in shame.

“First thing, you are not alone. The embarrassment, the pain, the shame that you are feeling is true.” It throws you, putting you in a disoriented, childlike state. Don’t stay there. You can do something.

As horrific as the interaction may be, family, friends and advocates help the most by remaining thoughtful and composed. “Everybody can’t freak out,” said Kamau. “Don’t cower. Don’t break. Don’t do something out of character.”

Yes, you may be viewed with suspicion, and it seems as though many people don’t care about you or your plight. “Toughen yourself up. Work on it mentally.”

Finally, if you are already in the system, especially there innocently, brace for the long fight in front of you. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Kamau. “Fight it out. This got us through slavery, got us through Jim Crow and it will get us through now.”


CARMELA MONK-CRAWFORD, J.D., is the Editor of Message Magazine.

Attunement – How Your Marriage Can Be Transformed By An Attentive Ear


My wife is a difficult woman. We have been married for almost 15 years and instead of getting easier, our relationship is getting more challenging. By now I expected that my wife would have been more in tune with my likes and dislikes, and would have adjusted accordingly. However, every day feels like we are back to square one, and I am getting tired of this silly and very uninspiring routine. It is so much easier to stay at work later and later so I don’t have to deal with her constant negative attitude. I am not sure how much more of this undesirable life I can endure. Please share your advice with me so I can help my wife change and start being a more positive person. I thought that marrying a Christian like me would have made my life easier. However, our marriage is no better than our neighbors who don’t even go to church. Help! —Michael—Overland Park, Kansas

We are very sorry to hear about your marriage predicament. Marriage was instituted by God to be a blessing, and to provide companionship and support to both men and women (Genesis 2:18, 24). However, the opposite tends to occur in this fast-paced society of ours where husbands and wives pass each other every day like ships in the night.

One of the most prominent concerns in every marriage is managing differences that are often overlooked prior to marriage, but become very obvious once a couple gets into the nuts and bolts of married life. What you have described about your marriage relationship is pretty consistent with what happens in most marriages. The key to turning things around, however, is based on the choices one makes in response to whatever one’s spouse is doing or saying.

As a Christian man, you know that the Bible states the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23). This means that the husband should be the leader in the home. Being the leader means the husband carries the principal responsibility of the smooth running of the home. Based on what is happening in your marriage, we encourage you to ask yourself how this applies to you. What can you do to address the situation with your wife based on Christ’s example with the church? Throughout Scripture, the patience, love, kindness, and forgiveness shown by Christ to a church that doesn’t deserve such a response is inescapable, and husbands are commanded to do the same in their homes.

Ephesians 5:25, 28 states: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. . . So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.” Romans 5:8 declares: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us (the church), in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” These pronouncements give clear evidence that Christ’s response to us, as sinners, is forgiveness and love, even while we are still in our state of rebellion. And husbands are called to do the same with their wives.

We find it remarkable that social scientific research is in agreement with the Bible on what a husband can do in his relationship with his wife. John Gottman, currently one of the leading marriage researchers in the world, in one of his recent publications* suggests that women need to feel respected, heard, and connected to the men in their lives, and for this to take place, a man needs to be in tune with his wife, a concept Gottman refers to as attunement. 

Essentially, Gottman suggests, a man’s relationship with his wife would completely change if he did the following:

• Give her his complete attention when she’s talking to him.

• Physically turn toward her when she is speaking to him.

• Show genuine interest in what she is saying by asking questions to make sure he understands what she is saying.

• Listens nondefensively even if he doesn’t agree with what she is saying.

• Shows empathy and compassion for what she said.

By doing what the Bible and social science is suggesting above, we believe your relationship with your wife will be transformed into the marriage you desire. After all 1 John 4:18 says: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. . .” And Mark 10:27 says: “. . .for with God all things are possible.”

Ask God to help you love your wife like He loves the church, and trust Him to keep His promises. You will continue in our prayers.


Ten Muscle-Making Ideas For Folks On The Move

Can’t cram a workout in your crazy schedule? You know you should exercise, but making it happen feels next to impossible some days (even weeks).  You don’t have to go hardcore at the gym an hour every day to benefit your health. You can improve your cardiovascular fitness, balance, and strength outside of the gym. Check with your doctor before making any changes to your fitness plans, and then try these tips to fit more fitness into your life.

Think about what you loved doing as a kid (or always wanted to do), and go for it.

  1. Wear weight. Whether you strap on a weight vest, or just ankle and wrist weights, carrying around more than your body weight helps burn more calories while doing housework, running errands, or exercising. If you’re a new mom trying to shed baby weight, get a baby backpack to carry the baby instead of relying on the stroller. Most babies love it too.
  2. Keep hand weights near your desk or couch. At odd moments of the day, pop off a few sets to keep your metabolism up, and build more strength. The weight should be heavy enough so you can perform 10 to 15 repetitions before losing proper form. That’s one set. Do a couple of sets per muscle group and you’ll be on your way to a fitter body.
  3. Go old school. Calisthenics make your body into your gym. Perform squats, calf raises, push-ups and isometric movements, alternating sets with jumping jacks, running in place, or invisible rope jumping. (For an extra benefit, strap on the weights, or as applicable, hold dumbbells.)
  4. Try to engage all of the muscle groups you can. You can do calf raises while you brush your teeth, or wait in line at the grocery store. Do squats while doing your hair or while talking on the phone. You can even do push-ups against your desk or countertop while on the phone if you use a headset. Perform isometric movements such as pressing your palms together and holding the position for 15-seconds, or attempting to push an immovable object. Perform leg lifts while working at your desk—just skip the ankle weights on this as it can injure your joints.
  5. Move as much as possible. Instead of sitting to talk on the phone, march in place. Go and walk laps around a park. Play actively with your children instead of always resorting to sedentary games. For example, pick Twister over Monopoly. Kick around a soccer ball instead of sitting to play video games. Your children may object initially, but soon they’ll enjoy the active fun. The trend here is to replace sedentary activities with moving ones.
  6. Adopt a moving hobby. If you discover a hobby you love, it’s easy to stick with it because you can hardly wait to do it, whether it’s martial arts, swimming, or whatever. Think about what you loved doing as a kid (or always wanted to do), and go for it.
  7. Learn kickboxing, or an aerobics routine. Follow a video class online until you learn the moves. Then, you can perform a few moves whenever you find a few spare minutes, such as waiting for dinner to cook. You may get funny looks if you start punching the air at the pediatrician’s office, so go easy there, tiger.
  8. Get intense. When you get a little workout time, don’t hold back. Got 15-minutes first thing in the morning? Make them count by strapping on weights and engaging in intense exercise for the time you have. That could include running up and down a flight of stairs, jumping rope or shadowboxing. Don’t wear heavy wrist weights if shadow boxing, because you could damage your joints.
  9. Try burpees. Begin in a standing position. Do a jumping jack. Drop down and do a push-up. Spring up into a standing position and repeat 10 to 15 times. Rest a few moments and perform another set of 10 to 15. Burpees improve the body’s aerobic ability, strength and balance.
  10. Ramp it up. You may need to hold onto a countertop or stable chair while performing calf raises at first, but as you improve your balance and strength, let go. Gradually increase the difficulty of your routine. One-legged calf raises and squats challenge both strength and balance, for example. Use heavier weights to lift. Jump onto a step at the apex of the burpee.

Getting into shape takes time. A random set or two per week won’t make much difference; however, making movement your habit can greatly improve your health.


DEBORAH JEANNE SERGEANT is a second-degree black belt, and instructor in Kuk Sool Won Korean martial arts. She is also author of The Big, Fat Answer, available at www.bn.com.

2017 Jan/Feb

The Social Justice Suite

The justice of God stands as a healing equalizer in hearts, homes and communities.

Evidence is in.

Will it be enough to convict? Police Abuse investigator Diop Kamau on accountability and responsibility. p. 16

11 Twitterverses & Faithbots
Compiled by Debra McKinney Cuardo / Social media sages with wisdom for the ages.

by Eddie Polite / Self-examination and active participation bring healing.

by David Person / Untold story of African American “computers” at NASA continues today with brilliant minds in leadership.

by Carmela Monk-Crawford / Support and accountability for community and police was never this achievable before.

Message interview with author, professor and microaggression expert Derald Wing Sue / Racial dialogue may be more touchy than ever, but it has to happen.

20 Social Justice Suite
Act I / WELTS FROM THE BIBLE BELT / God’s word, though long misapplied and misused, must take its rightful place at the forefront of justice.
Act II / SOCIAL JUSTICE HOLIDAY / At least once a week, Jesus was freeing the oppressed.
Act III / RIGHTEOUS RAGE / Angry? Frustrated? Find the Source of power and healing here.

by Chester Mack / What you need to know about

by Phillip McGuire Wesley / Media That Takes You Higher

by Carmela Monk Crawford /Can’t say you don’t know

6 Eye on the times / Current News & Views

by Donna Green Goodman / New Year Makeover
by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant Fit in Fitness

by Willie and Elaine Oliver Attunement

by Carlton ByrdWatch You Mouth

by Ellen G. White /  First Look

by Rashad Burden Nonsense

29 Myth busters
by Donald L. McPhaull / Being My Brother and Sister’s Keeper


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Being My Brother and Sister’s Keeper

Social safety nets have long been a staple for the poor and underprivileged in this country. Falling on hard times in America used to mean rescue and recovery thanks to welfare from the government, assistance from local churches, and distributions from non-profit organizations. However, with shrinkage in local, state, and federal government dollars, and leaner contributions to non-profit groups, the spotlight now shines on the church.

With so many in need, is the church capable of mounting an offensive in the battle for social justice? Is there a divine imperative for the church to do so?

Among members of some conservative faith communities the answer to either question is a resounding no. There appears to be a growing belief that the church should remain aloof from the issues of social justice in this world. Since this world is not our home, we live with the kingdom in mind. However, in truth, some of us have become so heavenly minded we are no earthly good. So we no longer feel any obligation to be our “brothers’ keeper.” Additionally, an increasing number of the faithful no longer believe the church is a viable solution to social injustice, a belief that stands contrary to the words of Jesus.

In Matthew 26:11, Jesus offers a snapshot of His thoughts on the issues of social justice: “For you have the poor with you always. . .” What we have in His word is evidence of heaven’s awareness of those who are confronted by the daily inability to meet even the most basic needs of life. But, not just in His day; in ours as well.

You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.

Interestingly, the disciples would not have found anything new in what Jesus had to say. He merely offered a restatement of Deuteronomy 15. While the admonitions of the entire chapter are eye opening, we find the words of verse eleven most telling: “For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore, I command you, saying, you shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.”

Jesus virtually cries out for the need of social justice throughout the history of mankind. So, if the poor shall be with us always, what should the church’s response be to the needs of the poor, disenfranchised, hungry, homeless, naked, unemployed, abused, mistreated, or otherwise disadvantaged among us?

Americans are increasingly losing faith in the ability of the church to act in the struggle for social justice. This conclusion is drawn from the results of a July 2016 Pew Research Center study. Fifty-eight percent of respondents told Pew they believe religious institutions contribute some (38%) or a great deal (19%) to solving social ills. At just under 60% the numbers indicate that overall the percentage has declined dramatically in recent years, down from 75% in 2001.

Jeremiah 22:3 counsels, “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”

Additional marching orders are included in Psalm 82:3, 4, “Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked.”

The words of Acts 2:44, 45 would be shocking, and seem down right socialistic to many conservatives in the church: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. . .”

In the struggle for social justice, the question may rightly be raised: What will the church do to alleviate poverty and hardship? As usual, the perfect response is found in the words of Jesus. We read in Matthew 25:34-36, “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.”

The call to discipleship is the call to engage in the struggle for social justice. For those who answer the call there shall be a commendation of “well done.” Their reward, the result of faith, recognizing that to be about the Father’s business is to be their brother’s, and sister’s keeper. 

Can You See?

Miracles are supposed to be unexplainable. It’s like when a family member’s terminal illness suddenly turns into a clean bill of health. It’s when you are behind on the bills and someone randomly decides to repay you, or give you a gift. Or, what about the person who you thought would always oppose you ends up being a great friend? You know miracles, unexplainable, unexpected, undeserved miracles.

That still doesn’t keep me from wanting to ask God when I get to heaven: “how did you give sight to the blind?”

I wonder if He is still restoring sight in 2017? Join me as we explore how a no-name, and a big name received their sight.

Read John 9:1-3

This seems a bit harsh to me. How is it that God can just decide to have someone be blind for a major portion of their life? Then Jesus declared that the reason for the blindness was so that “the works of God might be displayed in him.” Have you ever had to deal with something for an extended amount of time only to see God work through it in the end? If so, share it with us here at Message on social media using #MessageMag.

Read Exodus 2:11

God cares about timing and His plans are divinely time-sensitive. We see here that Moses went out and discovered that his own people were in hard labor only after he had grown up. Do you think that was by happenstance? Have you ever been exposed to something before you think you should have been? What effect did it have? Would you share it with us here at Message on social media using #MessageMag?

Read Romans 5:6

I know many people have been exposed to many things that they think their lives could have done without. Implicit in this verse is the promise that Jesus is right on time. I challenge you to call a friend or family member and let them know how you experienced a powerless moment in your life and Jesus showed up right on time. Go ahead. Make that phone call. Send that text message. It may be right on time.

Read John 9:5-7

Did the reality of this passage hit you? For a moment, close your eyes and imagine only being able to hear. Then imagine hearing a stranger forming spit in their mouth, and you hear them actually spit. Next thing you experience is a moist substance on your face. That would be the end for most of us! This young man decides to stick around long enough to get instructions to walk around in public with mud on his face. My question is this: What are you willing to go through for your deliverance? Share it with us on social media using #MessageMag.

Read Exodus 2:12

What a savage scene. Moses, fresh from the royal presence, empowered by his awareness, connection, and relation to his people decides to murder an Egyptian. How should we respond when we see our fellow brothers and sisters being oppressed? Rather than thinking about whether what Moses did was right or wrong, ask yourself whether you are doing anything right for those that are being wronged around you? Is what’s in front of you disturbing enough to take action? What are you willing to go through for someone else’s deliverance? Share it with us on social media using #MessageMag.

Read John 9:13-34, Exodus 2:13-15

How can experiencing deliverance or seeking to deliver someone cause more persecution? This man’s eyes were opened and those around him didn’t want to believe their eyes because of the how, who, and when of this man’s experience. Moses gets put on front street by the same people he fought for. Is this how it’s supposed to be? Has this ever happened to you? If so, share it with us on social media using #MessageMag.

Read John 9:35-39, Exodus 3:1-4

God had to come back around to both of these men, and I believe He does the same for us. When we think we see, we’re blind. When we’re blind is when it seems like things become clear. Sometimes God has to blot out our eyesight to illuminate our insight. For some of us our deliverance won’t come until we’re willing to look foolish for Jesus. Others of us are called to take a risk so that God can put us on a path of freeing the oppressed in times like these. The question is, can you see?


Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.

First Look

They could not deny the miracle. The blind man was filled with joy and gratitude; he beheld the wondrous things of nature, and was filled with delight at the beauty of earth and sky. He freely related his experience, and again they tried to silence him, saying, “Give God the praise: we know that this Man is a sinner.” That is, Do not say again that this Man gave you sight; it is God who has done this.

The blind man answered, “Whether He be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”

Then they questioned again, “What did He to thee? How opened He thine eyes?” With many words they tried to confuse him, so that he might think himself deluded. Satan and his evil angels were on the side of the Pharisees, and united their energies and subtlety with man’s reasoning in order to counteract the influence of Christ. They blunted the convictions that were deepening in many minds. Angels of God were also on the ground to strengthen the man who had had his sight restored.

The Pharisees did not realize that they had to deal with any other than the uneducated man who had been born blind; they knew not Him with whom they were in controversy. Divine light shone into the chambers of the blind man’s soul. As these hypocrites tried to make him disbelieve, God helped him to show, by the vigor and pointedness of his replies, that he was not to be ensnared. He answered, “I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? Will ye also be His disciples? Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art His disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence He is.”

For the first time the blind man looked upon the face of his Restorer, a delegate of divine power and the revelation He was seeking.

The Lord Jesus knew the ordeal through which the man was passing, and He gave him grace and utterance so that he became a witness for Christ. He answered the Pharisees in words that were a cutting rebuke to his questioners. They claimed to be the expositors of Scripture, the religious guides of the nation; and yet here was One performing miracles, and they were confessedly ignorant as to the source of His power, and as to His character and claims. “Why herein is a marvelous thing,” said the man, “that ye know not from whence He is, and yet He hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshiper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this Man were not of God, He could do nothing.”

The man had met his inquisitors on their own ground. His reasoning was unanswerable. The Pharisees were astonished, and they held their peace, spellbound before his pointed, determined words. For a few moments there was silence. Then the frowning priests and rabbis gathered about them their robes, as though they feared contamination from contact with him; they shook off the dust from their feet, and hurled denunciations against him.

“Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?” And they excommunicated him.

Jesus heard what had been done; and finding him soon after, He said, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?”

For the first time the blind man looked upon the face of his Restorer. Before the council he had seen his parents troubled and perplexed; he had looked upon the frowning faces of the rabbis; now his eyes rested upon the loving, peaceful countenance of Jesus. Already, at great cost to himself, he had acknowledged Him as a delegate of divine power; now a higher revelation was granted him.

To the Saviour’s question, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” The blind man replied by asking, “Who is He, Lord, that I might believe on Him?” And Jesus said, “Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee.” The man cast himself at the Saviour’s feet in worship. Not only had his natural sight been restored, but also the eyes of his understanding had been opened. Christ had been revealed to his soul, and he received Him as the Sent of God..


ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), one of the most published authors in the world, named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Mind Your Mouth

The directive, “Watch your mouth,” has been uttered for many years by parents telling their children to watch what they say. If a child is getting passionate and high-spirited in a discussion with his or her parents, the child will hear, “Watch your mouth!” If a child starts getting sassy and insolent with his or her parents, the parents might retort, “Watch your mouth!”

In the third of His ten “Love Letters” (Exodus 20:3-17) to us, His children, God is telling us, “Watch your mouth.” When you refer to Me or when you speak to Me, there is a certain way you are re supposed to call My name. You are not to be careless. You are not to be reckless. You are not to be funny. You are not to be facetious or flippant. If you love Me, call Me by My right name and use My name in the right way.”

Clearly, God is protective of His name, which is why He told us to proceed with caution in the handling of His name. He specifically said in Exodus 20:7, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”1

To “take in vain” means to use God’s name in an irreverent or irresponsible manner. It means to treat it with no more respect than any other word in the English language.

Our works should testify to our words

But God gave us His name, YAHWEH, which means “I AM that I AM”2 to underscore the importance of His name, and to emphasize that it was not to be used in cavalier fashion. In fact, Hebrew history indicates that in biblical times God’s name was off limits to be pronounced. The only people who were given license to pronounce His name were the high priests. None of the Hebrews or Israelites would ever announce His name because His name was holy.

Holy is defined as “set apart for the service of God; sacred.”3 Because the name of God is holy, it is set aside; set apart. It is not to be played with, used in meaningless banter, or verbalized in crass profanity. If you’re going to love God the way He wants to be loved, He’s saying, “Watch your mouth when it comes to My name!”

Let me add, however, another injunction when it comes to the name of God. Through our actions and behavior, we should also properly reflect God’s name. Put simply, God’s name is not limited to our conversation, but it also encompasses our conduct. Hence, the application of this love letter from God extends beyond our words and also includes our works because the way we live can be an affront to the name of God. Our works should testify to our words. As Christians, we are followers of Christ, and our actions should align with Whom we follow. We are not to be bad advertisement for God, typifying inconsistency between our words and our works. Others should know we are Christians by our love. If we’re going to carry God’s name, let’s carry it proudly!

The power of life and death is in our tongues.4 Let’s speak life and watch our mouths.


CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in
Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

*All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version.

1 Exodus 20:7.

2 Exodus 3:14.

3  www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/holy

4 Proverbs 18:21