Debbonnaire Kovacs, Jan. 14, 2015 Around fifteen years ago, following an epiphany moment at a conference for Sabbath School leaders, I made the decision to be more intentional about moving out of the Adventist “salt shaker” and out of what was then my comfort zone. I began visiting other churches, making more friends that were not Adventist or not Christian at all, and generally broadened my horizons, not to mention my comfort zone. I should add that I was never one of those who “only had Adventist friends.” (Is that really true of anyone?)
During the ongoing adventure that has filled and blessed my life, one of the things I’ve learned is that other Christians don’t think of justice and mercy as opposites. In Adventist circles, I often heard (and still hear) sentences like, “God is merciful, but he is also just!” I didn’t even realize that I had absorbed a concept of justice as equal to punishment. For many Adventists and other conservative-leaning Christians, justice means making things right by giving those who messed up “what they deserve.”
In the Christian and non-Christian spiritual circles where I move, this would be startling and disturbing. The constant call, especially among my more activist friends, is for more justice. Most often, it’s titled “peace with justice.” What they mean by that is that human beings need to heed the call of Christ to bring justice to the marginalized and ignored. Even my non-Christian friends value Jesus’ ways, and are often frustrated by what they see as Christians’ neglect of, or even opposition to his teachings and example on these matters. To these people, justice means making things right by caring for children and elderly, feeding the hungry, and most importantly, by reshaping the social, economic, and political systems in which we live to make possible a world in which all able-bodied people could work and actually have enough thereby, without needing more assistance from government and other agencies.
(A personal example: In my youth, I worked at a minimum-wage job, had my own apartment, paid my own bills, had all I needed, and saved for college. Three summers ago, I worked at a slightly-above-minimum-wage job that paid my mortgage, taxes, house insurance, and gas to get to and from work. I spent the rest of my waking hours trying to make enough for all other needs.)
Adventists, of course, have always been active in caring for all who need care, both in a formal “mission” sense and in local and far-flung ways. However, it seemed to me that we were not as open and visible about trying to actually change systems as I saw others trying to do. I was delighted, therefore, to learn a year or so ago that there was such a thing as the Adventist Peace Fellowship, and I immediately joined it. If we were behind (and perhaps we weren’t; it may have been only my own ignorance of what the church was doing on this front), we are catching up now. Here are some things that are happening within Adventist communities this month.
***This week, from January 12-19, is the first annual Adventist Peace Education Week, being held at Oakwood University (watch for more news of what happens there.) Here is a quote from www.al.com concerning the first meeting, Monday the 12th:
Want to feel less discouraged about the disarray and violence in the world? Then join a protest movement, say Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, a pro-peace group originally organized by mothers against war.
During the evening presentation on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, marking Adventist Peace Education Week at Oakwood University, Kelly and Benjamin took questions from the audience of about 30 about what their protests and demonstrations do. Kelly has just been sentenced and will report on Jan. 23 to a federal prison for a three-month sentence for walking into Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri with a loaf of bread and letters from Afghan teenagers she was trying to deliver to the commander of the base from which drones are controlled that are killing people in Afghanistan.
“You always feel like a fool out there,” said Benjamin, who recently participated in a “die-in” in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office to bring attention to the civilian deaths in Gaza from Israel’s strong-handed response to Hamas. “But that’s how a movement starts. That’s how it gets built up. That’s how it gets talked about.” [To read the rest of this excellent article, as well as seeing links to the various things mentioned, go to https://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2015/01/peace_oakwood_university.html
***The Center for Youth Evangelism, www.cye.org, is holding its annual inSpire weekend at the La Sierra University Church. This conference is free and open to all, but is especially for what the organization calls “Adventist creatives,” that is, artists, musicians, photographers, poets, songwriters, videographers, and writers. The conference theme this year is Peacemakers: Creativity through the Lens of Peace. Learn more at www.visitinspire.org/article/189/news/inspire-2015-la-sierra. Organizers say, “This is an event where we celebrate and explore the creative process, especially within the realm of spirituality, and affirm those who want to use their gifts to share God’s message of hope.”
***Adventist Peace Fellowship has also released its “first wall calendar featuring Adventist pioneers whose lives continue to challenge and provoke as champions of nonviolence, peacemaking, social justice, environmentalism, freedom of conscience, and human rights. The 12″x12″ calendar includes major U.S. holidays and days of significance to socially conscious persons of all faiths or none. Days of particular importance to peacemakers in the Adventist tradition are highlighted in red.” Get yours at www.adventistpeace.org/resources/calendar.
***REACH-NYC is offering a series of local benefit concerts titled Concerts for Peace.” Executive pastor Tony Romeo describes their goal below:
*** You! What are you doing to advance God’s cause of peace and justice in your world?