As a woman of color, fight has been part of my DNA. If you are part of America whose candidate lost in the last election, people of color have experienced disenfranchisement before. If you are part of America who recently protested the current administration while wearing pink hats, our story has included assaults with impunity and second-class status. If your loved one is barred from traveling to the United States because of his or her religion or national origin, we experienced both persecution and the severest living and travel restrictions. As a woman of color, fight has been part of my DNA.
As I look back on the history of my people I recall that, miraculously, the breakthrough rays of God’s love and truth managed to reach the hearts of enslaved people. They sustained them physically and intellectually. This cultural filtration, working in the light of these rays of truth help us sort through today’s tumultuous events. They help us recognize good and evil forces at work all around us. They brace the heart and mind for what’s coming just around the corner.
This is not to elevate cultural experience over the Word, but to acknowledge that the history of the African American has been uniquely oppressed and uniquely faith-driven.
An important notion for us is that—as the theology of an old spiritual indicates—everybody talking about heaven “ain’t going there.” Unlearned and enslaved people who bore the brunt of oppression could easily detect the Bible-toting hypocrisy around them. They accepted the Christ of the Bible, but knew something was wrong with how His name and His word were being leveraged.
The Bible testified centuries ago: “Rich people may think they are wise, but a poor person with discernment can see right through them,” Proverbs 28:11 NLT. Social scientists confirm, likewise, that oppressed peoples and groups can, logically, more accurately identify societal patterns of maltreatment than the people who are not oppressed or the ones who are doing the oppressing. Again, logical. (See “Race Talk”, an interview with Derald Wing Sue in this issue.)
Historically, pitted against what appeared to be an invincible foe, African American churches and their pastors preached and reached for truth. “[T]he black churches refused to accept an interpretation of Christianity which is unrelated to social change. They knew that though Christianity is eschatological, it must be related to the suffering of black men now. Though the black preacher looked to the future and spoke of it in heavenly terms, it was because of his vision into the future that he could never reconcile himself to the present evil of slavery. To look toward the future is to grasp the truth of God, and to grasp the truth of God is to become intolerant of untruth.” James H. Cone, excerpted from the book The Black Church in America, Basic Books Inc., New York, 1971.
Ellen G. White, in The Great Controversy, affirms that Bible truth threatens Satan’s plans to oppress and deceive both spiritually and intellectually:
“If that Book [the Bible] is read, the mercy and love of God will be revealed; it will be seen that He lays upon men none of these heavy burdens. All that He asks is a broken and contrite heart, a humble, obedient spirit.
“He has never taught that love and sympathy must be repressed. The Savior’s heart overflowed with love. The nearer man approaches to moral perfection, the keener are his sensibilities, the more acute is his perception of sin, and the deeper his sympathy for the afflicted,” page 570.
Truth goes a long way toward strengthening our spirits. Truth of who we are, where we are in history and whose we are, determines our actions (See “The Social Justice Suite” in this issue). In this confusing time of fake news, alternative facts and rampant revisionism, seek the truth. Find the truth. Hold on to truth and act in truth. You and I have no access to the axis of power on earth. We do not know the secret strings being pulled, or ulterior motives behind powerful messaging platforms, but we still have time to know the truth.