Exchanging the Truth for a Lie in These Perilous Times

Black women are growing increasingly skeptical of mainline Christianity

At 13 I innocently became a catalyst for change in the Seventh-day Adventist church when I applied for admission at Mount Vernon Academy, a boarding school in Ohio, 56 miles away from my home in Columbus. The rejection letter came with directions to the historically black Pine Forge Academy in Pennsylvania, 442 miles from my home. Rejection letters from other boarding schools in closer, bordering states, cited policies against accepting students from outside their conference territories, and quota systems that had already been filled for the next ten years.

This led my father Frank W. Hale, Jr, and two friends who were brothers in the faith and fight, Mylas Martin and Burrell Scott to create the Laymen’s Leadership Conference.  That organization became a movement of black Adventists from coast to coast. Its demands for change to the entire church structure, its policies and practices came to a head at the church’s 1962 world session in San Francisco, California.

Though the church conceded—at least on paper during that meeting—my subsequent experience at the two academies I attended  indicated that underlying beliefs and attitudes remained largely unchanged.  The most telling evidence is the fact that I have no high school diploma despite having completed all the requirements in less than three years. That was the “problem,” since no white student had ever done so at that institution.

So later, when I was invited to a meeting of the All African Peoples’ Revolutionary Party, organized by Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) who ignited the Black Power movement, to promote Pan Africanism for the total liberation and unification of Africa under scientific socialism, all I could say is “Where do I sign?”

My favorite bumper sticker reads, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” and with activism being part of my DNA, the disparities and inequities in the church, the nation and the world could neither be ignored or just fodder for discussion.

For some of today’s young, black, Christian women, the discussion has gone on too long, and they’re re-evaluating everything: from assertions that black Christians are stalling black liberation; that spirituality, not religion, is critical to black women’s well-being; that more young black people are trading in church for African spirituality; that Christian redemption for black women is a myth; that black women’s faith and flourishing is rooted in womanist theology, to exploring the proclamations of black witches in Baltimore.

One could easily conclude that the church is in danger of losing the most reliably Christian people in the world – black women.

Back to the Book for Answers?

During the 1960s Malcolm X angrily challenged that “Christianity is the white man’s religion.” However, many black religious movements have urged African American people to, as the late American theologian James H. Cone wrote, “adopt a perspective on God that was derived from their own cultural history.” Black theology, liberation theology, feminist theology, Latin American liberation theology, and womanist theology, to name a few, have answered that call.

Black Theology

According to Cone, “black theology is primarily a theology of and for black people who share the common belief that racism will be destroyed only when black people decide to say in word and deed to the white racist: ‘we ain’t gonna stand any more of this,’” (Black Theology and Black Power, 1969). Further he states that “the task of Black Theology, then, is to analyze the black man’s condition in the light of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ with the purpose of creating a new understanding of black dignity among black people, and providing the necessary soul in that people, to destroy white racism.”

Unfortunately, Cone also declares that “Black Theology knows no authority more binding than the experience of oppression itself. This alone must be the ultimate authority in religious matters.”

Liberation Theology

In his 1977 work Farewell to Innocence: A Socio-Ethical Study on Black Theology and Power, Allen Boesak refined the idea of Liberation Theology. It is one that “reclaims the Christian heritage and reinterprets the gospel to place it within its authentic perspective, namely, that of liberation. In doing so, it questions the historical role of the Christian church, the alliances of the church with ‘the powers that be’ and insists on a true church, i.e., a church that proclaims and lives by the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ. . . Liberation theology seeks a church that ministers to the poor not merely with compassion but with a sense of justice.”

Feminist Theology

Phyllis Trible, professor of Old Testament at Union Theological Seminary and prolific author, states that “the uniqueness of feminist theology is its use of women’s experience to expose male-centered bias of classical theology and articulate a faith that incorporates full humanity” (Trible 1983).

Latin Liberation Theology

Guerrilla/revolutionary theologian Camilo Torres and the book, “Notes for a Theology of Liberation, by Peruvian philosopher and priest Gustavo Gutierrez, immediately comes to mind when the subject of Latin American liberation theology is discussed. This religious movement arose in late 20th century Catholicism and sought to apply religious faith by aiding the poor and oppressed through involvement in political and civic affairs.

Womanist Theology

Black women, then, so long disenfranchised due to race, gender and class, have had to look for affirmation and ways to find identity, meaning and purpose. While feminism and feminist theology are generally understood as relating to the issues and voices of middle-class white women, womanism and womanist theology speak to the unmuting of African American female voices and the empowerment of the underclass.

Unfortunately, the church, not Christ, has often been, and is currently guilty of promoting the antithesis of Christianity in policy and practice. This creates a vulnerability to anything that appears to counter oppression successfully.

In her article, Church Makes Me Sick, Dr. Roni Dean-Burren cites very specific and valid reasons why black people are leaving the church including the manner in which it fails to take a hard enough stance against physical, emotional or sexual abuse and the degree to which it either ignores mental illness or tries to pray it away.

While there is definitely a growing overall distrust for mainline Christianity, there is more specifically an exodus of black women from the Christian Church. While black men are turning to the Hebrew Israelite movement, black women are embracing nature-based, ancestral religions. For example, The Atlantic published a revolutionary piece documenting the transition of young black women into modern-day witchcraft. This article and many others cite how young black women, former Christians, use artifacts and rituals like yoga, crystals, masks, mantras, chanting, and the burning of sage. All of these practices have their roots in Hinduism, Buddhism, and the many variations of West African Yoruba (Cuban Santeria, Brazilian Candomblé, Haitian Vodou), a set of religious traditions focused on reverence for ancestors and worship of deities known as orishas.

Iyawo Orisa Omitola Founder of the Black Witch Convention stated at their 2018 conference in Baltimore, “one thing I know from studying African religions is, I have never seen one subservient goddess. So why are we sitting here thinking we have to be subservient?” Yomi Adegoke in her article “‘Jesus Hasn’t Saved Us’: The Young Black Women Returning to Ancestral Religions” begins her article with the testimony of a young black girl named Michelle Yaa, a former Seventh-day Adventist who believes she did not convert to Comfa but instead “calls it an awakening. It’s just waking up.” These beliefs along with a dissatisfaction with unanswered questions, gender based discrimination, and the silencing of sexual and physical abuse victims has many black women like Yaa resonating with the words of Omitola. But it is womanist theology that holds the greatest appeal for unsuspecting black women.

 

The concept of “womanist” is presented in Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens. Many women in church and society have appropriated it as a way of affirming themselves as black while simultaneously owning their connection with feminism and with the African American community, male and female, according to an article by Mariam Williams called “Being Black, Feminist and Christian: An Ongoing Struggle.” Womanist theology allows women to reclaim their roots in black history, Christianity and culture.

Roots and Fruits

It is essential to critical thinking and mandatory for all who would be not only informed and enlightened, but safe and saved, to examine “roots” and understand “fruits” here.  Womanist theology stems from an author who embraces the belief in the salvation of all souls, which contradicts scripture.  Her revisionist views of God, clearly expressed in her writings, also contradict Old and New Testament representations of Deity.

Despite this conscious decentering of the black church in womanist theology, many black women believe it possible to be a Christian womanist. Void of a Christ-centered interpretation of the Bible however, womanist theology is dangerous and deadly, albeit attractive in its offerings of freedom from theological and ecclesiastical domination.

Thinking black women seeking to be faithful to Christianity that has historically and contemporaneously been, in the words of bell hooks, “imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist and patriarchal” admit to an ongoing struggle.”

Black Women’s Faith in the Midst of Struggle

In recent years, polls, such as the one conducted by The Washington Post continue to show “black women among [the] country’s most religious groups.” Yet, the number of faithful practicing Christians have ebbed among millennial women. The numbers do not indicate the large shift in Christian practice among women who incorporate traditional rites into their Christian walk. (See sidebar) It is true, however, that the future of black Christianity, and women who profess it, will be a recognition of how God has led in the past.

“The gift of black faith was wrought out of the distinctive way God was revealed to pre-colonial Africa and it was shaped, for five hundred years, by the experience of suffering and struggle related to oppression. Its lasting contribution will be its demonstration of what it takes for a people to survive and achieve inner and external liberation under the strange circumstances of being downtrodden under the heel of Christian racists.

The joyous testimony of the men and women whose tortured footsteps we have followed through the history of America has been to “keep on keeping on,” as Fannie Lou Hamer used to say, “down the freedom road” – to continue, in other words, the struggle which refuses to settle for anything less than total liberation for the total creation. That has been black folks’ answer to that mysterious question of Jesus in Luke 18:8 – “Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Wilmore 1989)

Full Circle

I am acutely sensitive to the yearning of African people on the continent and in the diaspora for justice. Aligned with liberation movements around the world, the Party provided the means to study and work in many political contexts towards these ends.  During my time with the Party, I was completely alienated from the church, but eventually I came to realize how pathetic any human attempt to eradicate the fruit of our problems (poverty, racism, sexism, classism, ageism, colonialism, capitalism, colorism, egotism and all the rest) is without the eradication of the root of our problems – sin.

In the meantime – the in-between time before the Parousia when all that is at odds with peace and justice will meets it end – we are benefited from a parable Jesus told His disciples, about how to occupy themselves while He was away, having entrusted them with what was needed.  Luke 19:13 (NASB) reads, “Do business with this until I come back.”  Given the many resources with which Christians are blessed by God to have at our disposal, financial, legislative and practical support of such organizations and movements as “END IT NOW” and the “EQUAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE” are two of many investments to consider.

Enditnow is a global initiative to raise awareness and advocate for the end of violence around the world.  It aims to mobilize Seventh-day Adventists around the world and invites other community groups to join in to resolve this worldwide issue.

The Equal Justice Initiative is a private, nonprofit organization that challenges poverty and racial injustice, advocates for equal treatment in the criminal justice system and creates hope for marginalized communities.

So, today, as an African American female who left but has returned to the church with all its challenges, involvement and participation in the efforts of these two endeavors are ways in which I attempt to be a faithful servant and “do business with this until [Jesus] comes back,” all the while realizing that “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Amen.




Getting to Know the Hebrew Israelites

How the “problem of the color line” spawned today’s black nationalist religious practices.

“The problem of the twentieth century is the color line.” This is the poignant refrain in W. E. B. DuBois’ classic sociological analysis of the United States of America, simply titled, The Souls of Black Folk. Writing at the beginning of the twentieth century, I’m not sure if Dr. DuBois would have imagined that his prophetic challenge was also a chilling prediction for the twenty-first century.

The “color line” problem garnered headline attention earlier this year after a complex racialized incident at the nation’s capital. The incident was initially reported as a confrontation between a Native American elder, Nathan Phillips, and MAGA-cap wearing high school students from the Covington Catholic High school in Kentucky. As the details emerged, it was revealed that the elder had positioned himself as a barrier of peace between the young Trump supporters and a small group of men who identified as Hebrew Israelites.

In the aftermath, journalists rushed to define the Hebrew Israelites to the public. Unfortunately, most have presented a simplistic explanation that tends to view the various groups through a uniform lens. However, while the term “Hebrew Israelites” can be utilized to describe black people who claim genealogical affinity to the biblical Israelites, it should not be used as a catchall category for a specific religious orientation. From an organizational perspective, black people who identify with Israel can be divided into two general categories.

“Traditional” Congregations

The first category includes those groups that are organized along commonly identifiable religious structures. The oldest appears to be Frank Cherry’s Church of the Living God, the Pillar Ground of Truth for All Nations. Purportedly established in 1886, this Chattanooga, Tennessee based collective eventually moved to Philadelphia and apparently dissipated after Cherry’s death in 1963.[i]

Then there is The Church of God and Saints of Christ. Founded in 1896 in Lawrence, Kansas by William Saunders Crowdy, this self-identified “Judaic Christian” denomination currently has churches in North America, Africa and the Caribbean.[ii]

The third “traditional” congregation was founded in Harlem, New York, by Wentworth Arthur Matthew in 1919. Known as The Commandment Keepers Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation, members claim direct lineage to the ancient Israelites and follow a pattern of worship similar to Jewish synagogues. Their sanctuaries are mostly in New York and New Jersey.[iii]

Missionary Movements

The second category of Hebrew Israelites includes movements that are more mission-minded. Their task is to call black people back to their original faith. The first emerged in 1966 at the Abeta Hebrew Israel Cultural Center in Chicago. The leader, who assumed the name, Ben Ami Ben Israel, claimed to have received a vision from the angel Gabriel commanding him to lead the black Children of Israel to the land of promise. By 1970, he and forty-eight families had settled in Israel after a brief stay in Liberia. The Israeli government granted them residency in 1990 and they currently reside in the city of Dimona.[i]

The second movement also encouraged repatriation to Israel, but established its headquarters in Miami, Florida. Founded in 1979 by Yahweh ben Yahweh, The Nation of Yahweh was a philosophical counterpart to The Nation of Islam. The city of Miami publicly commended them for their community service and business initiatives. Following Ben Yahweh’s death, the organizational headquarters was moved to Texas.[ii]

The final “movement” is comprised of several loosely related groups that are collectively referred to as “One West.”[iii] This movement was founded in the late 1960s by Ebner ben Yomin who had been a member of Matthew’s aforementioned Commandment Keepers congregation. Adopting the name Israeli School of Universal Practical Knowledge, the leaders taught that Christ would return in the year 2000. One prominent group operates under the revised name Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge, and another embraces the militant label, Sicarii. Collectively, these teach that all non-European people who reside in the Americas are the true descendants of Israel and see it as their duty to recruit them to the faith.

The Real People of God

While each of these groups has distinct doctrines, people are attracted to them for some of the same reasons. Although an estimated 79% of African Americans identify as Christian, there are some who feel that conventional Christianity has been used as a tool of white supremacy. Most who reject Christianity for racial reasons align themselves with one of the two major black Islamic movements. However, a smaller number have found a home in one of the groups that fall under the Hebrew Israelite banner.

Looking for Liberation

Interestingly, like the Nation of Islam, Hebrew Israelites have not totally severed themselves from the teachings of the Bible but have appropriated its teachings for the sociological empowerment of black people. Jesus plays a central role in their theology and many of their doctrines are based on creative interpretations of New Testament passages. Young people, especially, probably view the movement as a branch of Christianity that has been liberated from imperial oppression.

As long as the dominant narrative in Christianity parrots the Eurocentric distortions that shift the biblical world from the African continent to Europe, black nationalist movements like the Hebrew Israelites will continue to attract African-Americans who are on a quest for a spiritual identity that resonates with their history and culture. If it is to remain relevant, the black church has a responsibility to lead the effort to recover the African roots of scripture.

[i] For an informative documentary on this movement, see Nicholas Philipides and Ben Schuder, directors, Village of Peace (Affinity Vision Entertainment, 2014). Available on Amazon Prime.

[ii] For a critical assessment of Yahweh ben Yahweh and his movement, see Sydney P. Freedberg, Brother Love: Murder, Money and a Messiah (New York, NY: Pantheon, 1994).

[iii] Their name is derived from One West 125th Street in Harlem, New York.

[i] For a brief orientation to Cherry’s group, see Anthony B. Pinn, “Church of the Living God, Pillar of Truth for All Nations,” pp. 166-169 in Anthony B. Pinn, ed., African American Religious Cultures (Santa Barnbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009).

[ii] For a comprehensive study see Elly M. Wynia, The Church of God and Saints of Christ: The Rise of Black Jews (New York, NY: Garland Publishing, 1994).

[iii] See Janice W. Fernheimer, “The Commandment Keepers of Harlem,” pp. 169-174 in Anthony B. Pinn, ed., African American Religious Cultures (Santa Barnbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009).




2019 July / August Issue

CHILD OF AFRICA


What 400 Years Has Done to Our Faith

FEATURES

11 Managing Your Debt
by Ruthven Phillip /
Part four in our series of six to stabilize shaky finances.

12 Exchanging The Truth For A Lie In These Perilous Times
by Ifeoma Kwesi /
Will Womanism and ancestral rites restore the visibility and power of black women?

14 Getting to Know The Hebrew Israelites
by Keith A. Burton /
How the “problem of the color line” spawned today’s black nationalist religious practices.

18 What Good Is A White Privilege Conference?
by Gary Collins /
The truth discovered may surprise you.

20 Round Trip: Going Back to Find Your Destiny
by Anthonye Perkins /
This coming of age program seeks to reconnect urban youth with their destiny.

22 Your Personal PR Toolkit
by Douglas Morgan /
What to do when there’s mud on your name. Prepare for your comeback.

28 The Gold Standard
by Donald L. McPhaull /
Inconsistent application of the law of love finds no place in scripture.

FAVORITES

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

5 EDITORIAL
by Carmela Monk Crawford /
legacy, privilege and the wealth gap

6 EYE ON THE TIMES
by Jackson Doggette /
Politics of Prayer • Reparations; • Religious Bias

8 OPTIMAL HEALTH
by Donna Green Goodman /
But, I’m Allergic!

10 RELATIONSHIP Rx
by Willie and Elaine Oliver /
Keeping up with them

24 FUTURECAST
by Carlton P. Byrd /
Carrying someone else’s curseion

26 THE EXPERIENCE
by Ellen G. White /
Jesus Respected and Responded to People Not in His “Circle”

27 THE EXPERIENCE BIBLE STUDY
by Rashad Burden /
Wrong Place. Wrong Time. Wrong People.

30 POWER PLAY
by Danielle Barnard /
Hagar: The Woman Who “named” God




Wrong Place. Wrong Time. Wrong People.


When I read the gospels, I see Jesus doing the opposite of what the religious of the day thought He should. Join us as we watch Jesus move in the “wrong” place and time, for the “wrong” people.

1) Read Matthew 15:1-2, Matthew 21-22

We see Jesus in two interesting predicaments. In one He’s challenged about what His disciples are doing, and in the other He’s confronted by a woman in whose company He probably should not have been seen. This is Jesus we’re talking about! Why has He allowed himself to be in a place of the appearance of evil? Is it all a misunderstanding? Have your intentions ever been misjudged? Have things ever looked different from how they really were? Tell us about it using #MessageMag

2) Read Matthew 15:23

The disciples and Jesus were Jewish. It was a cultural and traditional taboo for Jews to be seen interacting with women from Syro-Phonecia. On top of her being someone they didn’t want to be seen with, she was loud and belligerent in trying to get Jesus’ attention. The disciples had a traditional response. Jesus was going to use this situation to teach them how nontraditional faith is. Is your faith nontraditional? Tell us how it is, or is not, on social media using #MessageMag

3) Read Matthew 15:16-20

Jesus has offended the Pharisees. He did so by pointing out the vanity in their rules. The fact that they focused more on protocol than people was a gross representation of God. They cared more about whether you washed your hands, than if you took care of your parents. It seems as if the traditions of the day had drained the church people of what it means to be loving. Have you ever encountered a tradition that didn’t seem to help in loving people? Tell us about it using #MessageMag on social media.

4) Matthew 15:16-20, Ephesian 5:1-5

We see that the writers of the Bible took some time to write out some lists. Look at these lists, and notice how all of the acts that children of God are to stay away from are ones that harm other people. Is it possible that traditions go too far when they disregard the people that are to be God’s children? Take some time to evaluate the traditions to which you adhere. Do you know the difference between the Biblical directives and traditions? Pray about it. Study and ask the Spirit for guidance.

5) Read Matthew 15:24-27

Jesus says He “was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” implying He was sent for people just like this woman. He’s in a place He shouldn’t be, and with a person to whom He should not be talking. It is no coincidence that immediately after it’s recorded that Jesus has a dispute about tradition, He does something untraditional. Take some time to meditate on the actions of Jesus.

6) Read Matthew 15:28

Jesus had this woman teach the disciples what faith looks like. He also stepped out of the traditional way of doing things for the sake of a daughter of God. Traditions in and of themselves are not bad, by any means. But the moment the tradition gets in the way of loving someone, that’s when you must evaluate the root of the tradition. Have you ever been inspired to step out of the normal and do something extraordinary for God? Was it uncomfortable? Was it rewarding? Tell us your testimony. #MessageMag

7) Read Romans 8:35-39

Love is what puts tradition in check. God’s love for us made sure that nothing separated us from Him. We should make sure that nothing separates us from sharing God’s love with others. That means that we will find ourselves in non-traditional places, with a non-traditional crowd, doing non-traditional things. It is then that you will find out that some of the things you weren’t “supposed” to do, are exactly what needed to be done for the Kingdom of Heaven.

…......……………………………………………………………….

Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Mount Olive and Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Southern Alabama.


This article is part of our 2019 July / August
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Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.”

And her daughter was instantly healed”

(Matthew 15:21-28, NLT)

How Jesus Respected and Responded to People Who Were Not in His Circle

From Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages, the chapter entitled “Barriers Broken Down.”*

“Jesus longed to unfold the deep mysteries of the truth which had been hid for ages, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs with the Jews, and “partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel” Ephesians 3:6. This truth the disciples were slow to learn, and the divine Teacher gave them lesson upon lesson. In rewarding the faith of the centurion at Capernaum, and preaching the gospel to the inhabitants of Sychar, He had already given evidence that He did not share the intolerance of the Jews. But the Samaritans had some knowledge of God; and the centurion had shown kindness to Israel. Now Jesus brought the disciples in contact with a heathen, whom they regarded as having no reason above any of her people, to expect favor from Him. He would give an example of how such a one should be treated. The disciples had thought that He dispensed too freely the gifts of His grace. He would show that His love was not to be circumscribed to race or nation.

When He said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” He stated the truth, and in His work for the Canaanite woman He was fulfilling His commission. This woman was one of the lost sheep that Israel should have rescued. It was their appointed work, the work which they had neglected, that Christ was doing.

This act opened the minds of the disciples more fully to the labor that lay before them among the Gentiles. They saw a wide field of usefulness outside of Judea. They saw souls bearing sorrows unknown to those more highly favored. Among those whom they had been taught to despise were souls longing for help from the mighty Healer, hungering for the light of truth, which had been so abundantly given to the Jews.…

The spirit which built up the partition wall between Jew and Gentile is still active. Pride and prejudice have built strong walls of separation between different classes of men. Christ and His mission have been misrepresented, and multitudes feel that they are virtually shut away from the ministry of the gospel. But let them not feel that they are shut away from Christ. There are no barriers which man or Satan can erect but that faith can penetrate.”

…......……………………………………………………………………………….


This article is part of our 2019 July / August
Subscribe –>

 

 

 

 

 

 

…......…………………………………………..

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.

_________________

*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.





Get Out of Your Circle of Friends


“Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.”

And her daughter was instantly healed”

(Matthew 15:21-28, NLT).

How Jesus Respected and Responded to People Who Were Not in His Circle

From Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages, the chapter entitled “Barriers Broken Down.”*

“Jesus longed to unfold the deep mysteries of the truth which had been hid for ages, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs with the Jews, and “partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel” Ephesians 3:6. This truth the disciples were slow to learn, and the divine Teacher gave them lesson upon lesson. In rewarding the faith of the centurion at Capernaum, and preaching the gospel to the inhabitants of Sychar, He had already given evidence that He did not share the intolerance of the Jews. But the Samaritans had some knowledge of God; and the centurion had shown kindness to Israel. Now Jesus brought the disciples in contact with a heathen, whom they regarded as having no reason above any of her people, to expect favor from Him. He would give an example of how such a one should be treated. The disciples had thought that He dispensed too freely the gifts of His grace. He would show that His love was not to be circumscribed to race or nation.

When He said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” He stated the truth, and in His work for the Canaanite woman He was fulfilling His commission. This woman was one of the lost sheep that Israel should have rescued. It was their appointed work, the work which they had neglected, that Christ was doing.

This act opened the minds of the disciples more fully to the labor that lay before them among the Gentiles. They saw a wide field of usefulness outside of Judea. They saw souls bearing sorrows unknown to those more highly favored. Among those whom they had been taught to despise were souls longing for help from the mighty Healer, hungering for the light of truth, which had been so abundantly given to the Jews.…

The spirit which built up the partition wall between Jew and Gentile is still active. Pride and prejudice have built strong walls of separation between different classes of men. Christ and His mission have been misrepresented, and multitudes feel that they are virtually shut away from the ministry of the gospel. But let them not feel that they are shut away from Christ. There are no barriers which man or Satan can erect but that faith can penetrate.”

…......…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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.

*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.


This article is part of our 2019 July / August Issue
Subscribe –>

 

 

 

 

 

 

…......…………………………………………..


When I read the gospels, I see Jesus doing the opposite of what the religious of the day thought He should. Join us as we watch Jesus move in the “wrong” place and time, for the “wrong” people.

1) Read Matthew 15:1-2, 21-22

We see Jesus in two interesting predicaments. In one He’s challenged about what His disciples are doing, and in the other He’s confronted by a woman in whose company He probably should not have been seen. This is Jesus we’re talking about! Why has He allowed himself to be in a place of the appearance of evil? Is it all a misunderstanding? Have your intentions ever been misjudged? Have things ever looked different from how they really were? Tell us about it using #MessageMag

2) Read Matthew 15:23

The disciples and Jesus were Jewish. It was a cultural and traditional taboo for Jews to be seen interacting with women from Syro-Phonecia. On top of her being someone they didn’t want to be seen with, she was loud and belligerent in trying to get Jesus’ attention. The disciples had a traditional response. Jesus was going to use this situation to teach them how nontraditional faith is. Is your faith nontraditional? Tell us how it is, or is not, on social media using #MessageMag

3) Read Matthew 15:16-20

Jesus has offended the Pharisees. He did so by pointing out the vanity in their rules. The fact that they focused more on protocol than people was a gross representation of God. They cared more about whether you washed your hands, than if you took care of your parents. It seems as if the traditions of the day had drained the church people of what it means to be loving. Have you ever encountered a tradition that didn’t seem to help in loving people? Tell us about it using #MessageMag on social media.

4) Matthew 15:16-20; Ephesian 5:1-5

We see that the writers of the Bible took some time to write out some lists. Look at these lists, and notice how all of the acts that children of God are to stay away from are ones that harm other people. Is it possible that traditions go too far when they disregard the people that are to be God’s children? Take some time to evaluate the traditions to which you adhere. Do you know the difference between the Biblical directives and traditions? Pray about it. Study and ask the Spirit for guidance.

5) Read Matthew 15:24-27

Jesus says He “was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” implying He was sent for people just like this woman. He’s in a place He shouldn’t be, and with a person to whom He should not be talking. It is no coincidence that immediately after it’s recorded that Jesus has a dispute about tradition, He does something untraditional. Take some time to meditate on the actions of Jesus.

6) Read Matthew 15:28

Jesus had this woman teach the disciples what faith looks like. He also stepped out of the traditional way of doing things for the sake of a daughter of God. Traditions in and of themselves are not bad, by any means. But the moment the tradition gets in the way of loving someone, that’s when you must evaluate the root of the tradition. Have you ever been inspired to step out of the normal and do something extraordinary for God? Was it uncomfortable? Was it rewarding? Tell us your testimony. #MessageMag

7) Read Romans 8:35-39

Love is what puts tradition in check. God’s love for us made sure that nothing separated us from Him. We should make sure that nothing separates us from sharing God’s love with others. That means that we will find ourselves in non-traditional places, with a non-traditional crowd, doing non-traditional things. It is then that you will find out that some of the things you weren’t “supposed” to do, are exactly what needed to be done for the Kingdom of Heaven.

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Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Mount Olive and Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Southern Alabama.


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Carrying Someone Else’s Curse?

Exploring the Hebrew Israelite Interpretation of Deuteronomy 28

If you live in a major city such as New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, then you’ve likely brushed shoulders with a member of any number of Hebrew Israelite groups. In recent years, this religious group has demonstrated tremendous and rapid growth. In one sense, this is positive evidence of the religious freedom that we enjoy in the United States.

Today, the Hebrew Israelites are as diverse in practice and beliefs as any Christian denomination. The spectrum begins with the more mainstream, established, Church of God and Saints of Christ, to the more informal and counter-cultural group, the House of Israel.

Although there appears to be little doctrinal orthodoxy between the various groups, there are a few tenets that are consistent among all of them. Some of these distinct teachings are as follows:

  • Certain African descendants in America represent the lost tribe of Israel, God’s chosen people.
  • Caucasians are descendants of Esau and the Edomites.
  • Caucasians will be enslaved as a just reward for colonization and enslavement of black people on the day of judgment.

Blessings and Curses

One of the most significant beliefs of the Hebrew Israelites relates specifically to the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy functions as a sort of last will and testament to the children of Israel from Moses. They’re like his parting words before he dies, and the transfer of power is passed from him to Joshua. One of the key themes in the book of Deuteronomy is that of blessings and curses. This theme is manifested in several ways throughout the book (see Deuteronomy 11:26, 27:11-26, 30:1). These blessings and curses are representative of the covenant relationship that God was establishing with His chosen people.

Hebrew Israelites consider the blessings and curses (particularly the ones in chapter 28) to be directed toward them. Possessing strong references to slavery, many within the Hebrew Israelite community believe such scriptures are a prophetic foretelling of American chattel slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.

There’s Nothing New under the Sun

While the references to slavery in Deuteronomy 28 should not be taken as a direct reference to chattel slavery in the Americas, there is a deep message that we can gather from the allusion. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Hence, it’s possible that the old adage, “history repeats itself,” stems (at least in part) from this text, which is one reason why when we read Deuteronomy 28, we see significance and meaning for our time.

Additionally, the text speaks about a kind of suffering that members of the African diaspora (especially those in America) can certainly sympathize with. The text describes a kind of disenfranchisement that almost perfectly describes the African American experience.

“You shall beget sons and daughters, but they shall not be yours; for they shall go into captivity…The alien who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower” (Deuteronomy 28:41-43 selected).

These verses are just a snapshot of the issues and concepts mentioned in the text that are especially relevant to the black experience. Yet, there are several considerations that should prompt us to look closer for the contextual meaning of the text.

Prophecy and Fulfilment

Hebrew Israelites assert that Deuteronomy 28 applies directly to certain groups of African-descended people. The challenge is, if we accept this assertion, we would be setting aside a historical record that is universally accepted as a direct application and fulfilment to the prophecy.

Especially significant to the Hebrew Israelite perspective of this chapter is the interpretation of the very last verse in the chapter:

“The Lord will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you” (Deuteronomy 28:68 NIV).

The intimation that the Israelites would be returned to slavery on ships is one part of this that is identified as significant and characteristic of the African American experience. Nevertheless, a few elements in this verse should cause us to question such an interpretation.

First, the reference to Egypt is significant. This would suggest that black people will ultimately be enslaved by black people. Are we to surmise that Egyptians here represent Caucasians rather than Edomites as has been previously asserted? Moreover, the closing phrase, “but no one will buy you” suggests a level of depravity and degradation worse than the initial slave experience. Hebrew Israelites, however, generally believe that vindication of black people comes at the judgment. If this is the case, what ways could a second slave experience be manifested, and when or why, given the expected vindication?

Bible scholars generally agree that this second slave experience, wherein Israelites were transported on ships, is believed to have been fulfilled during several sieges of Jerusalem by emperors like Vespasian, Titus, and Hadrian. According to John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, “this prophecy was literally and exactly fulfilled, and one which is owned by the Jews themselves” in the devastation and ultimate total humiliation of the Jews during this period.1

Real Solace in Suffering

Given the reality that the black experience in America is fraught with hardship, struggle, oppression, and degradation, the parallels of struggle between African Americans and Jews are striking. Nevertheless, this aforementioned realization also makes us aware of the pain of all people. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” Martin Luther King, Jr. famously stated. For this reason, we embrace God’s invitation that all people be welcomed into the diverse, multiracial and multiethnic family of God. And we celebrate that powerful pronouncement that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NIV).

Humanity all over the Earth is joined with Christ in His suffering. Whether in the chattel slavery of the American South or the Jewish Holocaust of Europe, humanity can take solace in the fact that its suffering is known and felt by God. Our greatest hope is that our God in whose suffering we are joined, who experienced torture at the hands of institutions, will come again and we who were joined with Him in suffering will be joined with Him in the glory of Heaven.

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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.

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1 John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, 1746 – 1763.


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The Gold Standard of Judgment

They may well be termed the gold standard for interpersonal relationships. A heaven-sent standard introduced by Jesus in Matthew chapter seven. “Judge not, that you be not judged” (vs 1). And, “…whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (vs. 12) (NKJV). Not surprisingly, both passages are usually embraced wholeheartedly by believers, for themselves, even as they sparingly apply either verse for the benefit of others.

Oh, but we will judge. And, we will heap mistreatment upon others once their sins become known to, or suspected by, us. Nowhere in daily living does this reality display itself quite so prominently than when believers voice rejection and condemnation of the LGBTQ community’s residents and supporters.

Double Standard

What is curious, though, is how tolerant we can be of the sinful practices of those we know and love. For example, suspected robbers and thieves in our midst don’t bother us. You know, those whose financial support of the church’s mission through tithes and offerings, we suspect, is either sparse or nonexistent. Then, we tend to accept those known to take the Lord’s name in vain. Still, more curious, is how comfortable we can be indulging bearers of false witness, dis-respecters of fathers and mother, engagers in idolatry (putting relationships, cars, money, and all the rest ahead of God). Curious, too, how cozy we can be with those who kill the faith of others through gossip and innuendo. And, interestingly, coveters, adulterers and fornicators, are often met with the silence of the lambs. Each of the aforementioned acts are counted as sin by God. Yet, when family or friends, are reported to have engaged in such conduct, our silence becomes a “get out of jail, free” card.

Of Eve and Steve

True, often we don’t have all the facts; but, even when suspicions arise, rarely do we feel the need to investigate. Except, it seems, when there is suspected LGBTQ involvement. Then, suspicion is sufficient for taking action against those we’ve determined to be involved in “the number one sin before God”: same sex relationships.

Meanwhile, supporters of gay rights maintain that God does not view same gender relationships as sinful. In his book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, Matthew Vines offers what he deems to be a valid response to what Christians used to quip: “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

Using Genesis 2:18, Vines admits that “in the beginning…” God created a woman for Adam. However, he says notice that when God said, “it is not good for man to be alone,” God gave Adam a suitable helpmate. Accordingly, Vines suggests, the key to understanding God’s gift to Adam is the word, “suitable.” His theory is that because Adam was a heterosexual man, the only suitable helpmate for him was a woman. The gift of a male helpmate would have been a deviation from the Divine plan to provide “suitable” helpmates. So, adds Vines, “if Adam had been a gay man, a suitable gift would have been a gay helpmate.

Sadly, there is no Biblical support for this teaching.

Two points on that thinking: 1). Human intimacy occurring outside of the sanctity of marriage is unlawful. Furthermore, at the time of the creation, there was no sin on the earth. Thus, there would have been no gay or lesbian candidates for the choosing of a helpmate. 2). Genesis chapter two is an expansion of chapter one. Therefore, it is clear that God’s admonition to Adam and Eve as found in Genesis 1:28, to be, “fruitful and multiply” would have been an impossibility, if He had placed two men or two women in the Garden.

Bible Standard

There is no ambiguity in the Bible concerning the sinfulness of same gender relationships. Genesis 19:5 reminds us that the men of Sodom sealed their own doom with the words, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.”

Attempts to reduce the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah to inhospitality or injustice is wishful thinking, not “thus says the Lord.” Leviticus 18:22 is very explicit: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 concurs: “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.”

God’s view of same gender relationships is consistent in the Old Testament and the New Testament. See: Romans 1:26-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Jude 6. Nonetheless, a professed Christian does not have license from heaven to mistreat or abuse anyone. All are to be loved according to God’s will.

As Christians, our obligation is to demonstrate God’s agape love to every believer, and non-believer, with whom we interact. We’ve not been called to heap condemnation on sinners. 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us of love’s patient and kind qualities. Jesus Himself gave clear instructions throughout the Bible. In Matthew 22:39, His disciples are called to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Heaven’s call for a loving spirit is so comprehensive that in Matthew 5:44 believers are admonished to “love your enemies.” If we are to love our enemies, surely, He expects us to love adherents to the LGBTQ way of life, who are not our enemies.

We are to love and be kind to everyone we meet. Each is a potential citizen of the Kingdom of Glory. Our role is to love as Jesus loves. Undeservedly. Unreservedly. For every child of the King, that’s the gold standard.

 


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Legacy, Privilege, and the Wealth Gap

Jesus told a story of a rich man who wore beautiful clothes, one who lived and ate well (Luke 16:19-31). We have no insight as to the character of this man, not until he dies and ends up in hell! (Not a doctrinal statement, but a story mechanism Jesus is using to make a point.) We find clues regarding the rich man’s character as it is in relationship to the poor man, the beggar Lazarus.

“Poor man” in the original language was an onomatopoeia—that of a spitting sound—and a clever device Jesus used to highlight how marginalized and scorned of society this man truly was. But, in this story of the great reversal of fortune, when the poor man died, he found himself in paradise. When the rich man died, however, he went straight to his torment.

An interesting feature in this story, is that while in hell, the rich man could see Lazarus enjoying himself with Abraham. And, the rich man could see and communicate with Abraham.* When he gets his chance, the rich man asks a question across the dimensions of life and death, heaven and earth and hell. Surely, this moment reveals transformative introspection, right?

“Father Abraham,” the rich man said, “have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame,” (verse 24). But, gentle great-grandad Abraham simply told him, “Oh, son, when you were alive, you had good things. Lazarus had evil, so now he gets good things. Besides, not possible. Do you see this great gulf fixed between us?”

With this story, Jesus sticks a pin right in the sensitive spot of human want and desire. This is a story about meaning and legacy: whether what you did in your lifetime mattered, or whether you will one day wake up to find out your choices, your priorities, your beliefs and practices were all wrong. It would be too late to find that you were tied to the good things of this world, the things that satisfied in the here and now (1 John 2:16); that your biggest concern was how you could create more wealth, more security, more happiness for yourself (Luke 12:20); that you couldn’t see your way past the pressing details of life to capture that which is truly meaningful; that, as you played your role, you played the script, the one written for you by people, not by God (Luke 10:40-42).

They believed their claim to Father Abraham made them the chosen ones.

Then, this is a story about distance. Now is a good time to look into that chasm between these two characters, the “great gulf fixed.” The rich man created that black hole through his benign and daily neglect of the man lying at his gate. That man, his needs, and his helplessness might as well have been lightyears away because the few feet to get to him were just too far. The demand on his time and the social capital lost in bridging this gap was too much. Now, the gap between where he was and where he wanted proved insurmountable. Talk about a wealth gap.

Finally, this story is about privilege. We see the rich man appealing to his privileged lineage—Father Abraham, not Father God. Jesus threw that into the story because to His Jewish hearers, privilege came through Abraham. They believed their claim to Father Abraham made them the chosen ones.

“Send Lazarus who was made to be used, appropriated and controlled by me. Send him from his place in paradise, to me, so he can serve me.” Privilege sure does die hard, does it not?

“The sin of Dives [what tradition has named the rich man] was that he felt that the gulf which existed between him and Lazarus was a proper condition of life,” Martin Luther King, Jr. posited during a 1955 sermon in Montgomery. “Dives felt that this was the way things were to be. He took the “isness” of circumstantial accidents and transformed them into the “oughtness” of a universal structure. He adjusted himself to the patent inequalities of circumstance.”

King’s exposition applied the rich man’s dilemma to the segregationists, the capitalists, and the classists of his time. But, does it stretch the parabolic purpose for us to question the priorities of the religious and privileged today? Who set our priorities for care and concern, international policy, and justice? Through what—or whose—lens do we define these “hills to die on?” How can we claim the need for prayer in schools for children, all while withholding soap and toothpaste from children detained on our borders? How will decades of strategizing to protect the unborn factor on the balance sheet against the lives lost to police shootings, or drive bys, or wrongful convictions and incarcerations? Will we really garner the favor of God by seeking to support one prophetic pro-Israel interpretation, while neglecting the obvious humanitarian needs of, say, Rohingya Muslims in forced migration?

Can we question our priorities now? Can we check our practices now? I just don’t want to wake up wrong.

*(Again, an artistic device Jesus used to make His point. Compare: Ecclesiastes 9:5; Psalms 6:5; 88:10; 115;17 and 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17.)


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