“So often we have allowed the material means by which we live to outdistance the spiritual end for which we live. We our mentality to outrun our morality. We have allowed our technology to outrun our theology. And if we are not careful we will end up with guided missiles and misguided men. And that is a necessity now, more than ever before, to keep the means, rather than ends, for which we live, abreast with the means by which we live.” (MLK Speech from Puerto Rico, 1962)
I sometimes hear that we live in a post-racial America. I wish we did. We don’t. That is especially significant in the church, where Sabbath morning is still the most segregated hour in the week. I am eternally optimistic, but I also wish we could have honest conversations instead of just playing nice in front of people and hardball behind the scenes. I wanted to honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, as a pastor from a Hispanic heritage. I wanted on this day, to share my feelings on race and religion (both hot topics, so forgive me in advance).
Here are three perspectives:
As a Hispanic in North America, I do not take lightly the fact that many of the privileges that we enjoy today and take for granted, others paid for with their lives. I am thankful to Dr. King for letting his faith drive his actions, for being not just a voice for justice and freedom, but a person that understood this simple fact: we lose the right to speak to a culture we are unwilling to engage and when merited, challenged.
Have we made progress in the church? Sure. Is it all fixed? No. Here are some specific instances I have personally experienced:
*A pastor asked me if he could baptize someone he called “an illegal”?
*A pastor in a conference in the west that told his Hispanic colleague that he should stand in front of the church and tell every person “that had no papers to go back to Mexico”.
*The question I get asked five times out of ten: “Are you the ministerial guy for ALL or just Hispanics?”
*Do you speak Mexican?
Chance starts with us. Instead of taking our cues from the media and the talking points from the talking heads, why don’t we take the time to get to know someone from another culture?
I have seen many instances of progress. I have seen in the last 10 years many Hispanics being appointed to positions of leadership. I have seen a desire in cities all across the Southern Union to ignore previous silo mentality and start to work along with churches in the other conferences to be more effective in reaching their city. One of the most common questions I hear (literally every week) has to do with the state/regional conference reality. Even today there is a petition to re-examine the present construct. (https://www.change.org/p/north-american-division-of-seventh-day-adventists-let-s-end-ethnically-separate-conferences) While I have issues with the blanket “Let’s do away with regional conferences” (that’s troublesome in itself, think about it) I do hear voices looking for a better way forward. Change is hard. Almost impossible. But I am hopeful. And grateful.
Thank you Dr. Martin Luther King.