I grew up Seventh-day Adventist. I went to the black church, and attended the school at the Adventist white church on the other side of town. being a kid you never really are aware of things. You simply trust your adults, and live life as a kid.
I grew up Seventh-day Adventist. I can remember every sabbath someone would stand up and speak about out need to by Liberty magazine from the church, for ourselves and others. We needed to get the world to know that religious liberty was and is important. Once a quarter the church would have religious liberty Sabbath. The conference office had religious liberty representatives, etc.
My church's interest in religious liberty is dependent upon our eschatology. Revelation 13:11-18 is a description of a Lamb-like beast who speaks like the dragon of chapter 12. Adventist believe this Lamb-like beast is symbolic of the United States of America. We go on to say that this Lamb-like beast begins to speak draconianly (vs. 11) when it begins to enforce false worship (vs. 12). When an kingdom or government speaks, it does so through its laws, policies, and praxis. Thus we are ever desiring to ensure that religious freedoms are secured, as we do our part to combat this beast and bring the knowledge of God to others. The problem with this interpretation is that it sets the draconian speaking concurrent with the installation of false worship. This is textually untrue. The draconian speaking happens first (vs. 11), false worship happens second (vs. 12). Why do we interpret this passage in this way?
This interpretation implies that speaking like a dragon is only in regards to "spiritual" things. Thus, the dragon should have nothing to say about the how we treat the image of God, care of the poor, economics, etc., since these are not "spiritual" things. He should only speak about "spiritual things", i.e. Sabbath, religious liberty, etc. This is a culturally convenient interpretation. It speaks to a privileged existance in America, one where the draconian laws and policies would either have little effect on you at minimum, would definitely benefit you at medium, or you would absolutely agree with, enforce and promulgate at maximum. If you ask a Native American, they will give story after story of their experiences with the draconian nature of this nation (lies, broken treaties, massacres, land stolen, etc.) . If you ask African Americans, they would give you story after story of their past and current experiences with the draconian nature of this nation (chattel Slavery, peonage, Jim Crow, Redlining, the Preschool-to-prison pipeline and the prison industrial complex, the War on Drugs, police brutality, etc.). If you ask women in general, and they can give example after example of their draconian experiences in this nation (lacking the right to own property, lacking right to vote until early 20th century, the corporate glass ceiling, the religious ordination class ceiling, etc.). If you ask the Japanese American citizens, they will point you to WWII, when they were rounded up and thrown in concentrations camps because of their cultural/ethnic/racial connection to Japan, one of America's WWII enemies.
Zdravko Plantak described our church during the 20th century as "The Silent Church", silent in issues of social justice in relationship to Gender, Class, and Race/Ethnicity. However, such ethnic contradiction within Adventism is not historically isolated to North American Adventists. Adventists in Germany and other European nations sided with Nazis. Adventists in South Africa participated in Apartheid. There was Adventist participation in the massacres in Rwanda. Adventists in North America participated in Segregation (Andrews University, Union College, Southern University, the creation of segregated conferences, etc.). On issues of ethnicity, Adventistism has in its history, and in the current North American Division structure is has vestiges of, a visible demonstration of siding with American draconian policy. Samuel London, in his book "Seventh-day Adventists and the Civil Rights Movement", chronicles this church's official reticence at engaging the civil rights movement. Again, such positioning is due to the fact that unless the ethnic majority feel the sting, the laws are at minimum unfortunate, and at maximum beneficial, as was scene in Germany, Rwanda, S. Africa, and America.
In my post "Social Activism: a Case for Futility" I suggested that RESIGNATION, REFORMATION, AND REVOLUTION are all faulty ways of addressing injustice if they are aimed primarily at macro system change. I believe this is due to the fact that we have a closed system and are limited in knowledge, imagination, resource, methodology, and paradigms. Thus, we will always get what we have always gotten...oppression and injustice...we will just change who is doing it. No Christian should be content with this state of affairs. The Christian must be social active, must engage in the fight for justice. However, it is the Christian's "why" which will inform the Christian "what" and "how" in fighting social injustice.
Most non-Adventist churches engaging in Social Activism engage from an eshcatological understanding that they must create the kingdom of God here, and then God will come and reign...kind of an "if you build it they will come" model. Therefore they protest, they legislate, for the purpose of creating the kingdom of God on earth.
Joh 18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
Luk 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Adventists hold that God must come and destroy all system and governments, for they are all evil, and set up His own kingdom and system, with Himself as King. The rock must strike the image on the feet, and then become a mountain for justice and equity to prevail (Daniel 2). Until then, we are ministering to the kingdom of God inside people, aiming at heart and character change. Have viewed or applied this holistically? Have we many times resigned ourselves to our theological ivory towers and communities, accepting the bigoted status quo as unchangeable and undeserving of theological reflection and praxis, having thus participated in the macro-system evil we should be denouncing? Is our position, that SDA's do not get involved in politics, allow us to be compliant with evil, and thus complicit in evil? Do we need global church reassessment of social activism, so we may become engaged in the work of God in preaching the gospel against evil around the globe. I believe so, and I call this engagement RESISTANCE.
-the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument, armed or violent opposition, a secret organization resisting authority, especially in an occupied country, the ability not to be affected by something, especially adversely, withstand the action or effect of, succeed in ignoring the attraction of (something wrong or unwise), struggle against someone or something.
Resistance is not easy. It is not easy because it must be done is a manner that does not duplicate the evil one is resisting. As such, righteous resistance must also be moral and ethical resistance. Jesus states it quite plainly on this when he pronounces his Beattitudes in Matthew 5. This chapter is full of things which go against the natural human sense and pursuit of justice. It places the acquisition of justice outside of our desire for immanent justice. In place of immanent justice, Jesus calls the children of God to demonstrate the character of God when facing evil. Immanence is replaced with patience and perseverance in the face of evil. They are to resist the methodology of evil for evil, and their resistance is to love those who do evil. True justice is postponed into the hands and to the timeline of God Himself.
Mat 5:39, 44-45a "...I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also...I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven..."
The idea behind turn the other check is not that one is helpless. Walter Wink aptly explains in "Jesus' Third Way", that in the culture of Jesus' day, to smack someone on the right cheek meant you had backhanded them with your right hand. Being backhanded is a sign of disrespect, that you are less than. To turn the other cheek is in essence to say, "Is that all you got? Now hit me like a man!" It demands they address you as an equal, not as an inferior, while keeping you from staining yourself with the evil of violent retaliation. Them having to strike you again was shameful for them, since it publically revealed that they were not actually superior to you. The idea of giving them your coat when they take you cloak was to shame the creditor, who was so greedy that they would rather have you walk down the street naked than leave you some covering. The Apostle Paul agrees with this shaming methodology when he writes the following:
Rom 12:17a, 19-21 Recompense to no man evil for evil...Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
The culture in Jesus' day was an honor-shame culture, where honor was everything. You can still find this shaming technique practiced in places where honor and shame are still valued (Africa, the Middle East, etc.) Martin Luther King, Jr. used shame to reach America's heart when through television America saw what she did not want to see: black children being beaten by cops, sprayed by fire hoses, and bitten by dogs. He shamed America with the 4 little black girls killed in an explosion at church by terrorists. He appealed to America's sense of honor in Selma, Al. The problem is that with the advance of western capitalism and western ideals, honor and shame have been replaced by innocence and guilt. Thus, it is harder to convince those innocent of overt crimes that they bear the shame of the impoverished or oppressed around them if they are not overtly guilty of those evils. It is hard for people to accept that compliance with evil (guilt) is complicity in evil (shame). We are moving toward, possibly even living in, a time where people are shameless, having no honor.
Resistance is designed by Jesus to reach the heart of the oppressor. Resistance assumes a God who will judge and vindicate. Resistance demands love for God and love for fellow man. In the pursuit of love, if one is shamed by that love for the evil he has committed, then shame is a catalyst toward holiness. Sin seeks to take shame and make it honor, without changing the activity for which one should be ashamed. Thus, sin is replacing holiness with evil...
Isa 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Resistance is not Resignation. One is not passive in resistance, justifying one's evil and accepting others' evils. One is active in calling out injustice, to stand for the right, to work for equality. Resistance is not powerlessness. Power in this world is based on violence. The power of resistance is Love and Peace: Blessed are the Merciful...Blessed are the Peacemakers.
Resistance is not system Reform. Resistance knows that to reform something does not mean it is essential different. It has the same basic elements, so reforming it will gain you the same basic systemic problems. Resistance isn't even primarily system focused. Resistance knows that any system mankind invents will be a duplication of systemic failures of the past, even as Solomon has said "There is nothing ne wonder the sun". Resistance know that there is only one kingdom, one system, which is wholly just, and that is God's. Resistance knows that, until God comes to destroy this entire old system and set up His kingdom, it's work is not to topple governments. Resistance's work is in transformation. It seeks the transformation for peoples hearts, for changing people changes systems.
Resistance is not Revolution. Resistance is not interested in turning the wheel backward to where you just left, not forward to the exact same place with different oppressors in power. Resistance knows Revolution will only birth more of the same thing. Resistance is not seeking to repaying evil for evil. Resistance seeks to replace evil, to overcome evil with good. Resistance does not even seek power, since Resistance is already based in power...God's power.
Resistors realize that the system gives positional, powerful, social, political, and financial reward to those who play by its rules. Resistors, however, are ruled by Christ. Therefore they live among the system, as an indictment of said system, of those who are resigned (Resignation) to evil, of those who seek ways to repackage (Reformation) evil, of those who seek to violently redistribute evil (Revolution). Resistors know that they are living demonstrations of Jesus. For many they are the only crucifixion, resurrection, and/or acension people will see and believe in.
Resistors are not gender, class, ethnicity, social status, economic status, or nation specific. Resistors can be organized, but they cannot be organizations. Resistors are not focused on making macro (institutional, organizational) changes except as working toward those changes brings them into relationship with and reveals Jesus to those at the micro level (to individuals). Resistors minister on all stages, macro and micro, to make connections, relationships, and changes at micro level. Resistors have a universal long view, a global view, a human family view...a salvific view.
Resistors stand up against injustice. They work for higher wages, affordable healthcare, to positive policing practices and policies, better and affordable housing, fair judicial policies, not because they believe the system can be fixed, but so that the oppressed know God is still on their side. Resistors work for a drug free neighborhood as well as drug free neighbors, against domestic violence, and against sexual abuse and exploitation. Their work is an invitation for the rich and powerful to gain a conscience, a moral compass, and compassion. Their work is an invitation for the oppressed to become and remain ethically and morally better than their oppressors, to not be resigned to the circumstances and definitions oppressed upon them.
Resistors stand against oppression, realizing that sexism, racism, classism, domestic violence, drug-pushing, human trafficking, etc., afflicts the oppressor as well as the oppressed. When God is made in the male image, the sexist male must now fulfill all that he is compared to. He must be protector, provider, comforter, sustainer, teacher, healer...God. When God was made in the image of white males, of whites period, or any other dominant ethnic or societal group, all of that group are now responsible for meeting up to this divine standard. They must be the best, they must win, they must not fail, they must succeed. They must pull themselves up, they must be the most just, the most democratic, the most industrious, the best speaking, the best thinking, etc.,...they must be God. The Resistor opposes all oppression, seeking to lift to downtrodden out of their vallies, as well as invite all the exalted to come off their mountains. Resistors offer the oppressed and oppressors their humanity back, and this humanity is found in a vibrant relationship with Jesus, who is demonstrably visible in the life of the Resistor.
Isa 40:2-5 "Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together..."
Is the glory of the Lord revealed after things are straightened, exalted, leveled, and plain? Or is it revealed in the actually doing those things?
Resistors know they will be hated. The oppressed and oppressors of all communities, poor or rich, black and white, male and female, want to be able to justify their Resignation to the evils of the system imposed upon/inherited by them, or their Revolution against the system, where they repay evil with evil, redistributing wealth and power while reproducing the same evil. They want to justify the self-deluded belief that all is well, humanity is improving, and thus all is needed is a Reformation of the already established evil system. Resistors exist to as living reminders of our need for something, Someone, outside our sphere and our cycle, to come in a destroy all evil and establish righteousness. Resistors are the Divine's living document, God uneroding living-stone pillars of faith, whose presence in the world offers humanity one more chance to accept Jesus.
Resistors know they will suffer. Resistors know they will die. Resistors know they have no earthly support. They know they stand in protest, not choosing the lesser of 2-3 evils, but against all evil. Thus they protest the liberal left and the conservative right. They protest for peoples freedom to choose, while simultaneously protesting abortion as the choice. They protest the state defining relationships and inhibiting people's freedom to love whom they will, while protesting for people's right to speak against such from a theological position, while also protesting people's choice to relationship (consensual or abusive) which violate God's word and God's design. They protest the systemic abuse and oppression of minorities, at the same time protesting the violence and drug activity in minorities communities. They protest police shootings and gang violence. They protest physical, sexual, spiritual, and emotional abuse in marriage, as they equally protest the adultery following such. Their only earthly supports are other Resistors. They stand with arms outstretched, resisting the pull of evil which would tear humanity apart, their lives earth's final call from God. While the Angels hold back the winds of strife, Resistors are the final earthly damn against evil. Their love for God drives their love for humanity, to such that they are willing to stand and die to demonstrate this love. They would rather be dead than become complicit through compliance.
"Life is not worth living until you have found something worth dying for." Martin Luther king, Jr.
"There is nothing worth living for, unless it is worth dying for." Elizabeth Elliiot
"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it." Jesus Christ (Mar 8:35)
None of the people pictured above is a perfect reflection of a Resistor. They each had their flaws and their failings. It is to us, the next generation, to better demonstrate Divine Resistance. Is the Love of God, our love for God, and God's love though us for people worth standing and dying for?