Justice: A Radical, Prophetic Call to the Academy and the Pew

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The loud voice of a spirit led, Jamaican raised professor filled the small auditorium this evening as Dr. Pedrito Maynard-Reid gave an invigorating and lively call to academia (WWU specifically) and the Pew (the Adventist Church primarily). Dr. Maynard-Reid hearkened back to the old days of the Adventist church and called upon strong messages of both the old and new testament to carry his message: that religious institutions can and should get involved in secular politics for the end result of JUSTICE. 

Dr. Maynard-Reid spent time discussing the justice and reform demanded by the early church and Ellen G. White who, as described by Dr. Maynard-Reid, would have no hesitation in excommunicating a pro-slavery member of the church to show that as a church body, they have no tolerance for anything of that nature. (Video time: 48:48)

“Unless he renounced those political views [slavery], the church should dis-fellowship him… Let it be known that we have no such one in our fellowship.”

In addition, Dr. Maynard-Reid suggested that some scholars have hypothesized that Ellen G. White may have been partially of African descent, and that “her flat nose is not just because a stone hit it, but because she was one of us”.  This paired with the fact that she was a woman and from an impoverished background made her a prime social justice warrior. 

Dr. Maynard-Reid also pointed out the whitewashing of these opinions of Mrs. White and that the only time such issues are brought up it is from literature appealing to the south as some form of a show of unity, circa the 1890’s. An appeal to the south at a time when lynchings were rampant and thus she presents a safe course of action until the Lord shows us a different way. (Video Time: 49:25)

“We fail to realize that she saw this as a temporary solution because of the historical context in this specific region in the 1890’s. Racial bigotry was at its peak, lynching was rampant, and the advance of the Adventist message was in jeopardy, and she felt that the most prudent path was this until the lord shows us a better way.”

According to Dr. Maynard-Reid Mrs. White even went so far as to support repatriation by the federal government for our brothers and sisters of color. 

“Social justice cam to a grinding halt in the early 20th century, Ellen White died, and things changed. The great progressive advent movement was taken over by a reactive fundamentalist movement that was sweeping across America.”

Dr. Maynard-Reid went on to point out that the creation of the “Negro Department of the General Conference” coincided with the creation of the NAACP. Following the death of Ellen White, many prominent black members of the SDA community decided not to join the sharp rightward turn of the church.  It was only in socio-political activism that they were able to combat the ways of the church effectively. 

One of the reoccurring themes of Dr. Maynard-Reid’s speech was in social activism and that we each have to know what we are willing and prepared to do for the sake of social justice. He pointed out that Ellen White called people to harbor runaway slaves and that the church was not to follow the laws condemning them to slavery. In addition, every person in the early Adventist community was called by her to be prepared to face a fine of up to $1,000 (roughly $30,000 of today’s money) and 6 months in prison. 

According to Dr. Maynard-Reid, even the works of Abraham Lincoln were suspect due to the fact that his end goal was to protect the union and not to protect the slaves. Further suggesting that we need to examine the reasons for the actions before we consider anyone a social justice warrior. Nothing except fighting for social justice is fighting for social justice

It is the responsibility of academia and the pew to lead the fight in social justice reform, and anything but furthering the gospel’s message of equality is suspect behavior and should be condemned in the eyes of the church. 

Dr. Maynard-Reid suggests that we need to first examine ourselves, then we must examine our institution and our direct community and lastly we must inspect society. Only by doing this can we be sure we aren’t perpetuating the issue.