DIVINO

Here at Andrews, we explore how diverse peoples have enriched the human experience and develop the interpersonal abilities to respect, appreciate and interact with those of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, abilities, experiences and backgrounds. This blog is one method of said exploration.

Managed by Michael T. Nixon, vice president for Diversity & Inclusion, this blog is a place for thoughtful discourse on all issues surrounding these important topics which need to be regularly addressed.

President Luxton: Andrews Stands for Anti-Racism

Posted on June 19, 2020

Juneteenth (also known as June 19th), 2020

Friends,

Over the past few weeks I have been asked many times how the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Armaud Arbery and now Rayshard Brooks, along with the protests that have rapidly spread in response to these killings around the United States and the world, have also impacted us at Andrews University.

On a personal level I have been outraged by the dispassionate and abusive use of authority and power that has resulted in the senseless killings of these three, now four Black lives. And yet strangely the phrase Black Lives Matter continues to cause debate over what this really means or implies. But this is not a time for debate, this is not a time for excuses, prevarications or words that are forged today and forgotten tomorrow. I’m convinced that we, corporately, as a nation and as a community, have a problem. Racism, here in the U.S. and wherever else it rears its head, directly leads to the sad repetition and heartache of such indefensible actions toward Black individuals in our community. As a result, I believe that such systemic racism can only be resolved by corporate and intentional action.

Andrews University stands for anti-racism.

I know we do not get everything right and for that I am sorry. Each one of us, and Andrews University, needs to continue to focus on doing better.

However at the same time, I find myself greatly encouraged by the unparalleled level of instinctive and heartfelt response that I’ve seen from every corner of our campus community to recent events. I believe that these responses speak to Andrews University’s unified and passionate commitment to these issues.

I’d like to share some of those statements and responses at length here.

There were two major statements released just over two weeks ago by Campus Ministries, the Office of Diversity & Inclusion and our Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary.

joint statement released on May 25 by our vice president for Diversity & Inclusion, Michael Nixon, and our University chaplain, José Bourget, was titled “Righteousness, Justice More Powerful Than Hatred.” It was a statement that detailed a response of anger and disappointment to these unnecessary recent deaths. These colleagues noted that we must submit that anger about these deeply unjust deaths to God and actively seek His righteousness and His judgement.

Additionally, a joint statement, “No Excuses,” released by our Seminary dean, Jiri Moskala, and associate dean, Teresa Reeve, was released that same day. That statement grieved and deplored the truly unfair deaths of George Floyd and others. These deaths, our Seminary deans noted, are “evidence (of) the perpetuation of the long and deeply grounded history of racial injustice in North America. Every individual on this earth is created in the image of God and is our neighbor whom we are commanded to treat with love and respect.”

Our Department of Graduate Psychology & Counseling sent a joint letter to each of their students noting that “the Department of Graduate Psychology & Counseling, (wants) to channel our grief, hurt, anger, outrage, and pain into action...we are committed to use our expertise and knowledge within the field to educate individuals and to challenge institutions and society-at-large to dismantle systemic racism and replace it with systems that are equitable and inclusive.”

My colleague, Frances Faehner, our vice president for Campus & Student Life, wrote directly to our students, noting that Andrews University is “very concerned about how our national history of racism and inequality affects our students' emotional and spiritual health. We especially encourage you to take care of your spiritual, mental and emotional health during these troubling times.” She offered students the opportunity to connect with chaplains and counselors by text, in Zoom chats, as well as confidential counseling for those students who need extra support and care at these times of protest, fear and anger.

In an Instagram post from our student chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students, those students wrote: “As architecture students, we learn to create places as solutions to problems that the world faces. We encourage you all to create safe places for people to feel comfort & hope in this time of need. It is our hope & prayer that the places we create, architecture students or not, will draw us all together in fellowship, & not in a war against one another.”

Last week, our physics and other STEM professors paused their research and teaching for a day as part of a national movement of scientists and teachers who were galvanized by recent events and participated in a one-day strike to reflect and respond to continued reports that minority researchers feel marginalized and disrespected, to acknowledge and begin to effectively address and ultimately end racism in the field of science.

Our School of Social Work offered a virtual vigil for Arbery, Taylor and Floyd, which was open to alumni across the country, current students and local partner organizations who gathered together online to remember, discuss action and pray together.

In a formal statement issued by the School of Social Work, the faculty of that school noted that “as Christians, we know God cares deeply for, and calls His people to care for those who are marginalized, oppressed, and mistreated. We look to the life and example of Jesus, who sought to address institutional and social oppression. Christians have a special obligation to identify and work to end violence and oppression in all its forms, even while knowing that the work will continue past our own lifetimes...those with privilege must stand in solidarity with the oppressed and mistreated.”

You may have also heard or read about a Peace Walk held in Berrien Springs a week ago this past Sunday, which was intended to express solidarity with those who are victims of police violence and called for an end to systemic injustices against the Black community. The Peace Walk was organized by Berrien Springs High School teachers and students. More than 1,000 walked together on Sunday, including young families with kids in wagons and strollers, law enforcement officials from across the county, and several hundred Andrews employees and students.

One of our math professors, Anthony Bosman, joined in on the Peace Walk this past Sunday, and I was touched by his social media post a day after the event. He wrote that “there were so many transformative moments...one moment is still lingering with me: in the chanting, we moved from ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘Black Students Matter.’ That hit me hard and has me seriously reflecting on how I can better make my classroom a haven where students of color can feel respected and valued, as all students should be.”

As I’ve read and thought about these statements and actions of our University community, along with many others I’ve not shared here, I realize the next question is a profound, urgent one:

But as we intentionally plan to turn words into action, what does this mean to Andrews University? How can we embrace and pursue truly meaningful action and lasting change in response to these tragic and awful deaths?

The foundation of our response, and an articulation of our overall ethic as an Adventist Christian community, is contained in a video we released last week.

In that video, I talked about the idea of being “World Changers for a changing world.” Here are the words I share at the video’s beginning:

“We can’t deny it. The world we live in will never be the same. But as our world changes, we also change here at Andrews University, because that’s what World Changers do.”

I believe these words are particularly relevant for our urgent and pain-filled current context, a current context where not only has COVID-19 brought a sense of community pain to us all but hatred and systemic racism have continued to seek to exert power and control over our disadvantaged and marginalized neighbors. And so how do we change to embrace and effectively respond to this current chapter of pain when it comes to racism?

First of all, we are taking up the challenge to institute a George Floyd Scholar program, beginning fall semester 2020, which will give a full scholarship to an African American student each year (valid for up to five years of study for each Scholar).

The recipient of this scholarship will be Pell eligible and will show her or his active engagement in creating hope and positive change in the community. At Andrews University, we want to use this investment in our students as a way to honor, seek and support future World Changers. In the next few weeks, we’ll share information on how students can apply for this scholarship, and how those who wish to donate to this new scholarship program can do so.

Also, as World Changers committed to the possibility of a world dedicated to justice and equality, Andrews University makes the following institutional commitments to all of our campus community both here in Berrien Springs and around the world, commitments that are driven by the values of God’s Kingdom.

  1. We will only be satisfied when Andrews University is a safe place for all and we will keep working until we ultimately reach that end.
  2. We commit to educating our Andrews University community on how to recognize their own unconscious bias, and how to listen openly to others.
  3. We will inspire our Andrews University graduates, our World Changers, to passionately model justice and equity in their own dealings and lead others with integrity, using power to uplift and inspire hope.
    In total we are fully committed to becoming a truly anti-racist institution. We are committed to seek a world influenced by God’s kingdom, a world where humility, compassion and care are central.

Once again, these are unfortunately truly heartbreaking times in our world, times that are filled with anger and fear.

But I’m convinced that these can also be times of hope, and I believe that the World Changers who study and are inspired at Andrews University can and will articulate and pursue that hope for our entire world, as defined by our mission and purpose.

May God bless that journey as together we seek to impact a world that so desperately needs God’s answers, power and justice, now more than ever.

Andrea Luxton
President
 

P.S. If you’d like to join Andrews University on this journey of reflection and commitment to anti-racism, my colleague Michael Nixon, along with Tracy-Jean Khonje, Adair Kibble, Joffre St Hilaire, Kendra Arsenault, Brandon Shin,  Adoniah Simon, Lisa Kamilazi, Nikitha Nelapudi and Emerald Norman and several other students, faculty and staff have developed a set of resources for further reading on this topic. I’d like to share a few articles and websites from those recommendations below.

You’ll also find the complete set of anti-racism resources on our Andrews University Diversity website:

Righteousness, Justice More Powerful Than Hatred

Posted on June 12, 2020

Friends,

“Human anger does not produce the righteousness [justice] God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” James 1:20-22, NLT (emphasis ours). 

During the remote learning period of this past spring semester, our team of chaplains led us through a powerful vespers series to end our pandemic-shortened school year called “The Disruption: Finding Joy in the Unknown.” The series took a closer look at the book of James as we wrestled through our ever-growing season of complexity and uncertainty. As a part of that series, I had the privilege of speaking on these verses towards the end of Chapter 1. As I reflected in the Friday night vespers on the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic’s threats to our lives, our communities, and our world, we certainly have a lot to be angry about. In my vespers talk, I wrestled with the assurance that God resonated with our anger as He invites us to channel that anger in a way that would produce the righteousness and justice that God desires. It remains a challenging and complex message for me to digest, and that complexity has only increased in recent weeks.

During this unsettling time, our country has been rocked yet again by the killing of unarmed Black citizens in this country.

First, earlier this month, a video of the February 23 killing of Ahmaud Arbery, in Brunswick, Ga., was leaked on May 5. It was not until two days after this video was released that the father and son involved in Arbery’s killing, Travis & Gregory McMichael, were arrested and subsequently charged with murder and aggravated assault. This past week, the motorist who took the video of the attack was also arrested for his involvement in the murder.

As I was still attempting to process the killing of Ahmaud, we were all also made aware of the killing on March 13, of Breonna Taylor, a former EMT working in Louisville, Ky. The killing occurred when Taylor was asleep in her apartment around 1 a.m. along with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, when three plainclothes police officers reportedly broke down Taylor’s apartment door while attempting to execute a “no-knock” search warrant and shot more than twenty bullets into the apartment. Eight of those bullets hit Taylor, killing her. Walker, who thought they were being robbed, called 911 immediately, grabbed his licensed firearm and shot one of the officers in the leg. Tragically, the warrant the officers were attempting to execute was actually for a house more than ten miles away from Taylor’s apartment, and the man that they were looking for with that warrant was already in custody, as were the drugs and firearms that the police were looking for. Taylor and Walker both had no criminal history.

Walker was arrested that evening and charged with assault and attempted murder of a police officer. In this case, the officers have not been criminally charged with Taylor’s killing, and have instead been reassigned pending the results of the investigation. The Louisville Metro Police Department has not yet commented on Taylor or her killing as that investigation continues.

This week, deep anger and riots have flared in Minneapolis and across our country following the death of George Floyd, who had been detained by police for allegedly attempting to use a $20 counterfeit bill at a grocery store.

It’s another tragic story where the release of a viral video provides tragic details. In this case, the video shows officer Derek M. Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than seven minutes (a technique that is not a part of the Minneapolis Police Department’s training), even as bystanders urged the police to release him as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe, and that he was dying. For the final moments of his life, Floyd was immobilized.

Following the release of the video, all four policemen involved in the arrest were fired by the Minneapolis Police Department. We also learned that Chauvin has had a number of disciplinary issues including 12 previous police brutality complaints (all led to no discipline).

As we’ve all seen in the last 72 hours, anger and even violence has spread across the country in response to these deaths. Protestors have been shot, and in one case, killed during those riots in Minneapolis and elsewhere (seven protestors were shot in Louisville last night in protests related to Breonna Taylor’s death). Additionally, businesses, apartment buildings and a police department office have been destroyed by fires lit during these riots.

I am angry.

As James Baldwin poignantly stated, “to be Black in America is to be in a constant state of rage.”

It would seem biblically accurate to just discount this rage as the human anger that James is describing in the text I shared in that Friday night vespers earlier this year. I would challenge you to read the text more closely. If we keep reading in James, we find this caution against discrimination and prejudice:

“My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, ‘You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor’—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?... Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law… So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. James 2:1-5, 8-9, 12-13, NLT (emphasis mine).

I believe that the Bible makes it clear that God is just as angry about these recent killings as many of us are. Therefore, that anger and frustration cannot just be discounted as the kind of human anger that James cautions us against. In fact, in other translations of James 1:20, the righteousness or justice of God is also phrased as the wrath of God. The question that I have been left to wrestle with, and the one that I will challenge you to consider as well, is are we willing to submit our anger to God and allow His righteousness, justice, and wrath to be manifested according to His perfect will? If I am not - if we are not - willing to do that, then our anger remains in our flesh (human anger) and that anger will motivate us into ungodly actions that would not produce the righteousness, justice, and wrath that God would intend as His will is carried out in our world.

So, if that’s true, what can we do with the anger and the pain that we are feeling? How do we personally ensure that we do not allow our anger to manifest itself in the wrong actions? I believe the last verse of James chapter 1 provides us with the proper blueprint:

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” James 1:27, NLT

I believe in these texts, God is telling each one of us that if we are truly Christ-followers, we will channel our energy into helping those who are the most vulnerable and in need. The example provided by the book of James is to care for orphans and widows - some of the most marginalized and oppressed persons of his time. As a result, I believe that the message for us here is to open our eyes to the plight of those who are similarly marginalized and oppressed right now — here on our campus, in our communities, and in our world. I believe we should actively seek the ways in which we can not just meet the temporal needs of our family, our neighbors, but also stand in solidarity with them and seek justice and liberation from systems and attitudes that devalue the humanity, the rights to freedom, and the dignity of all persons, particularly for the marginalized in our midst. In particular, I believe that if our religion is truly pure and genuine, we will put ourselves on the line for the other - wherever they may be. As my former colleague Chaplain June Price used to say, it means “putting feet to our faith.”

______

In closing, I have been talking passionately and praying deeply about these issues for year now, and especially in these recent and tragic days, with my friend colleague José Bourget, our University Chaplain.

He’s shared his own thoughts on these tragic deaths, and their implications for our community as God’s children seeking to uphold His Kingdom, in a letter which follows immediately below.

In turn, both José and I would like to invite you to join us for “Against the Wall: #runstandbreath4justice” which is intended as a time to gather as a community, a time to lament, contemplation and constructive discussion next Friday, June 5, at 8:30 pm on Andrews University’s Facebook page.

We will seek to understand, honor and uphold God’s wisdom, justice and righteousness, to pray and call upon Him to ultimately prevail in this unjust and troubled world.

Michael Nixon, Vice President
Diversity & Inclusion

_____

Friends,

I’ve thought a lot about this text recently — and it’s a text that is inspiring deep and personal anguish as I consider its implications for God’s kingdom and His children — especially at this urgent moment in our earth’s history.

“Do you think I have come to bring peace to earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other!” Jesus

Wait, what?

Jesus divides us?

Actually, no, I don’t believe that Jesus divides us. However, Christ and His disciples definitely stand apart from the rest of the world.

If that’s true, what could that possibly look like right now in a time of great anger for our country and our world? I think of that amazing text from Micah 6:8

He has told you, O mankind, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God? 

So what do we do now?

What do God’s people do in response to the admonition of Micah 6:8?

In the book “Twelve Prophets,” Bible commentator P.C. Craigie shares this perspective on this text:

No amount of frenzied temple activity could fill the vacuum of justice. While injustice ruled in Israel, every moment of temple worship was a mockery of Israel’s faith. God was just and had always acted in justice with his people; in return he required them to act and live in justice. And, as Micah’s earlier preaching has indicated, justice was notable by its absence in Israel. Yet justice is a paramount virtue, without which human beings cannot live together in the manner that God intended. 

As I reflect on Micah 6:8, I think we have to allow the text to be honest about our present reality with the identities crisis that we struggle with in our larger faith community. And it’s not just about whether we should reopen our churches for worship gatherings.

Instead, I believe we need to be vocally and actively rooting out racism wherever it can be found in our communities and our institutions. I believe that those sorts of acts of justice on our part will help demonstrate to the world that to be a peculiar people, is also to be anti-racist.

As we pursue justice in this tragic and challenging world, sheep will be sheep and goats will be goats.

But I’m convinced that the day is here when our faith community needs to decisively fight, monitor, and act against racism. Our own prophetic voice and spiritual movement that influences our life journey, and our faith, needs to be uncompromising in its efforts to save the lives of people of color in our communities, and around the world.

I’d like to echo Michael’s invitation for you to join us for “Against the Wall: #runstandbreath4justice,” which is intended as a time to gather as a community, a time to lament, contemplation and constructive discussion next Friday, June 5, at 8:30 pm on Andrews University’s Facebook page.

And I want to join with Michael in inviting you to run, stand, breathe in our passionate and profoundly urgent wish for justice in a world where justice is so desperately needed.

José Bourget
University Chaplain

COVID-19: Addressing Economic/Racial Disparities

Posted on April 21, 2020

Dear friends,

I hope this message finds you all doing well during these uncertain times. As has been said many times before, our current state of affairs driven by the COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy, but it is my prayer that we will continue to journey through it together.

I wanted to quickly update you on two important initiatives that our campus will take on over the next two weeks.

Social Consciousness Summit

We will be hosting our 8th Annual Summit on Social Consciousness on Thursday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m. This year’s summit will operate under the theme “COVID-19: Understanding and Breaking the Socio-Economic and Racial Disparities.” As more data has been accumulated about the effects of this disease, it has become clear, both in Michigan and across the country, that minority communities have been hit the hardest.

The Summit is co-sponsored by Spectrum Health Lakeland, the Andrews University Office for Diversity & Inclusion, our Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center, the Office of Research & Creative Scholarship, and the Office of the Provost. Since we are in many different locations this spring semester, our Summit will stream live from the Andrews University Facebook page and will be a part of our Andrews Speaks podcast series (co-curricular credit is available for students).

The issues we’ll cover in this Summit have also been a point of emphasis for the government’s pandemic response team. In Michigan, even though African Americans make up only 14 percent of the population, they account for 40 percent of the state’s coronavirus deaths to date. African Americans account for 67 percent of the deaths in Chicago and 70 percent of the deaths in Louisiana. In New York City, the U.S. epicenter of this pandemic, Latinos represent 34 percent and African Americans represent 28 percent of COVID-19 related deaths—both disproportionate to their percentage of the population.

During the Summit, we will seek to carefully explore some of the core reasons for these disparities and discuss what they reveal to us about the inequities that predated this pandemic; how the pandemic has worsened those inequities; and the policies we can advocate for to begin the process of addressing, even and especially in the heart of this pandemic, with its threats to our communities.

Please join us on April 23 and feel free to bring any questions or comments you have as we seek to create an interactive and productive dialogue during this significant Summit on Social Consciousness.

“BE COUNTED BERRIEN 2020” Census Count

This got somewhat lost in the shuffle of all the pandemic news, but throughout the month of April, the 2020 United States Census count has been happening all across the country. And even with shelter-in-place guidelines in effect, you can still make sure you are counted right from where you are! An accurate count is critical in order for Berrien County to receive our fair share of federal funds. You may not know that the Census count determines how much funding Berrien County will receive over the next 10 years for roads, school lunches, education, housing, transportation, Medicare, Medicaid and much more.

The county’s population also determines how many lawmakers represent us in Washington D.C.

You are counted as a resident in the county you were considered a permanent resident in as of April 1, 2020. For some of you, that is likely to have changed, so be sure to follow the census instructions in the county where you currently reside.

It is also important to note that you do not have to be a U.S. citizen in order to be counted in the Census. The Census counts every person living in the U.S. as of April 1, 2020, including non-citizens, legal residents and temporary or seasonal workers. Also, the information you share on the census is, by federal law, kept private and confidential and can only be used for statistical purposes. Regardless of where you are living right now, you can find all of the information you need to fill out the Census online, via mail or via phone here.

If you currently reside in Berrien County, as of April 1, the online “BE COUNTED BERRIEN 2020” frequently asked questions page can be found here.

I encourage you to make sure that you are counted! It will make a big difference in your community—wherever you live.

Thank you all for engaging in these important initiatives. If there is anything that our Diversity & Inclusion office can do for you during these challenging times, please contact us at diversity@andrews.edu for further assistance.

Grace and peace,

Michael Nixon, Vice President
Diversity & inclusion

Women's History Month 2020

Posted on March 4, 2020

Friends,

It is my distinct privilege to take a few moments to recognize Women’s History Month. It began in 1980 as Women’s History Week through a proclamation by President Jimmy Carter and has been recognized in March ever since 1995. Women’s History Month is an annual opportunity to remember that the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America were, in the words of President Carter, “as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”

The 2020 Women’s History Month theme, selected by the National Women’s History Alliance (NWHA), is Valiant Women of the Vote. The NWHA explained this theme was chosen in order to celebrate "the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women, and for the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others.” This of course brings to mind the powerful Women’s Suffrage movement in the early 1900s, which helped lead to the creation of the 19th Amendment securing women’s right to vote. This also brings to mind the many women who continued to fight in the 1960s for legislation such as the Voting Rights Act which ensured that the voting rights of women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds were secured and protected.

International Women’s Day is Sunday, March 8. This year’s theme is #EachforEqual, which is rooted in the pursuit of a “gender-equal” world. The theme “is drawn from a notion of 'Collective Individualism.' We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society. Collectively, we can make change happen. Collectively, we can each help to create a gender equal world.”

During this time of heightened political activity, it would be fitting to take a moment not simply to reflect on your potential candidate of choice but rather to think about the women who have gone before us to ensure that we all have the right to express our desire for a more perfect union through our ability to vote. We should also thank all of the people who continue to fight to ensure that this right is protected so that more and more citizens are able to participate in the political process.

I would like to invite you to join our campus celebration in the following ways during this upcoming weekend:

  • Friday, March 6, 7:30 p.m., Pioneer Memorial Church: Proximity Vespers, "Empower" (Speaker Rachel Arner). Co-sponsored by the Women’s Empowerment Association of Andrews University (WEAAU) and the Office of Student Activities & Involvement.
  • Saturday, March 7, 7:30–10:30 p.m., Howard Performing Arts Center: Women's History Month Celebration. Co-sponsored by WEAAU and the Office of Student Activities & Involvement.

Also, later in the month:

  • Friday, March 27, 8 p.m., Howard Performing Arts Center: Lighthouse Vespers. Co-sponsored by AUSA and WEAAU.

Many of you will remember our Rise Up Against Abuse Rally, which was held last year during this month. During the last week of the month (March 23–30), our campus will have another opportunity to experience the Solidarity Wall. The goal of this initiative is to raise awareness on issues of abuse that are largely directed toward women and to stand in solidarity with survivors who continue to carry the weight of what they endured. It is our hope that this demonstration of solidarity, empathy and compassion can help to make that load a little bit lighter as we stand alongside one another and walk forward in victory together.

I am excited about this wonderful opportunity to celebrate the many contributions and achievements of all of the amazing women around us. I will leave you with a quote from one of my favorite authors, the incomparable Maya Angelou:

“Seek patience and passion in equal amounts.
Patience alone will not build the temple.
Passion alone will destroy its walls.”

 

Michael Nixon
VP for Diversity & Inclusion
269-471-3241
andrews.edu/diversity

Divino: What Defines Community in Times of Crisis?

Posted on February 11, 2020

Dear Friends,

As you know, our community joins with the world right now as we globally seek to understand and respond to the implications and spread of the new Coronavirus (now officially called “Covid-19”).

At this point in time, the impact of the disease continues to be tragically and largely focused in China and specifically in the city and province where the virus was first identified at the end of last year. Current reports suggest that nearly all of the more than 43,000 cases confirmed worldwide, and all but two of the more than 1,000 reported deaths, have occurred in China and most within that city and province where the virus was first identified.

As you may have read, the virus was first publicly identified by a 34-year-old ophthalmologist Dr. Li Wenliang. Dr. Li, in the face of official reprimands by local authorities for “spreading rumours,” continued to care for those who had the disease, which he later contracted. A few days ago, he was another one of the hundreds who have died from the NCP virus.

Amidst these overwhelming details and statistics, there are also some small measures of hope—as of late Monday, reports indicate that more than 3,300 individuals have recovered from the disease.

However, I’m writing today not simply to provide an update on the medical risks and impact of this newly discovered virus. Instead, I want to reflect directly on the unreasonable fear that sometimes accompanies the ways we perceive, welcome and care for each other within our Andrews University community, especially at challenging moments like these.

In this particular situation with global healthcare risks, we discover that sometimes the most immediate fear is often about the “other” person in our midst. At times we may even perceive those individuals or groups to be a potential and direct risk to our own health or safety, based solely on the individual’s appearance or cultural heritage rather than documented health risk factors.

Over the last several days, I’ve had the privilege of talking about these concerns and realities with several of our Asian students, each of whom comes from a variety of home countries, including China. In addition to those conversations, I’ve received letters from Asian members of our University community, including one on Friday morning which included these disappointing details: 

“… I have been asked on a daily basis if I had the Coronavirus by complete strangers just because I'm Asian. (However)...I have never exhibited any behavior that would indicate that I'm sick. People…either literally slam doors in my face, or visibly avoid being in contact with me by moving their seats away (from me) in class, or make questionable remarks when they catch me wearing a face mask…”

This particular letter and other recent conversations have indicated to me that concerns like these move beyond simply a fear of contracting a disease to having a perspective that’s influenced by xenophobic fears or racist tropes against our Asian community members, on this campus or around the world.

I’m reminded in this context that the Andrews University community is on a complicated, and sometimes challenging journey to understand and achieve the ultimate benefits of a diverse, inclusive and beloved community that reflects the values of God’s kingdom.

This is clearly a moment where we are called to do and be truly different as we respond to and care for each other. I hope that each one of us will commit to serving as understanding allies and friends to the rich diversity of students on our campus—where each one of us is better understood, more valued, and increasingly accepted and included.

In my role as vice president for Diversity & Inclusion, I would also like to take this opportunity to solicit ideas on how we can continue to highlight and affirm the Asian/Asian-American student and employee experience here at Andrews. During the month of February, I think often about how much of a personal privilege it is to take part in celebrating my own culture and heritage (which I am always reminded is a year-round opportunity).

As a result, I can think of no better gift to offer during a month like Black History Month than to also seek and create spaces for our campus community to talk together more thoughtfully and carefully about how we can also celebrate and affirm Asian/Asian-American students. I have also been extremely pleased to see a number of our student groups representing students from outside of the African Diaspora (namely KASA—our Korean American Student Association) who have joined us in celebrating blackness during this month.

I continue to be committed to serving as an ally and advocate on these issues, even amidst these difficult steps in our shared journey, to help ensure that we do better going forward. Please reach out to me (you can email me here) so we can discuss how to consistently do this successfully as we move forward.

May God bless us in these commitments to support each other as we continue to monitor, understand and respond to the actual risks and factors connected with this global disease.

Michael Nixon
VP for Diversity & Inclusion
269-471-3241
andrews.edu/diversity

2020 MLK Weekend: What Makes You Come Alive?

Posted on January 17, 2020

“Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman

Dear Friends,

This weekend, as we once again commemorate the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I wanted to introduce to some, and re-introduce to others, a lesser-known figure who served as one of the spiritual anchors of the civil rights movement. That person is none other than Reverend Howard Thurman. Born in 1899, Thurman, a grandson of former enslaved persons, stressed education as a means of overcoming racial discrimination.

He graduated as valedictorian from Morehouse College with a Bachelor of Arts in economics in 1923 and from Rochester Theological Seminary (now Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School) with a Bachelor of Divinity in 1926. He subsequently served as pastor of a Baptist church in Oberlin, Ohio, and pursued graduate course work in theology at Oberlin College. A meeting in 1934 with Mohandas K. Gandhi instilled within Thurman an appreciation for the value of nonviolent resistance in combating racial inequality.

In 1944 he left Howard to help found the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples (also known as Fellowship Church) in San Francisco, the first congregation in the United States that encouraged participation in its spiritual life regardless of religious or ethnic background. Thurman stayed there until 1953, when he assumed the deanship of Boston University’s Marsh Chapel. This was the first time that an African American had assumed such a deanship at a traditionally white American university.

Thurman, who was a classmate of Dr. King’s father at Morehouse, had MLK Jr. as a student while he served at Boston University. It was there where King was introduced to the powerful tenets of nonviolent resistance in combating racial inequality. Among the many books that Reverend Thurman authored was the seminal “Jesus and the Disinherited” which Dr. King kept in his coat pocket wherever the Civil Rights movement took him. It served as a source of spiritual strength and guiding light to him as he led that movement alongside others.

As we spend some time this weekend reflecting on the writings of Reverend Thurman, I'd also like to invite us to remember Dr. King's legacy as a man who certainly committed himself to that what which made him “come alive”—even to death—as Thurman posited. With that example in mind, I alsoo encourage you to spend some time this weekend asking yourself the same question: what makes me come alive? What was I put on this planet to do? It is my prayer that as we all thoughtfully consider this question, the Spirit of God would reveal to us (or bring back to our memory) our reason for being.

Let us all be a community that commits ourselves to be world changers, not simply by asking what the world needs but instead who the world needs—each and every one of us operating as the fully alive versions of ourselves that God created us to be.

“So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime—the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment.” ~ Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A Holiday Invitation to Honor and Value Diversity

Posted on November 25, 2019

As we near the end of our fall semester here at Andrews University, I wanted to pause and take a moment to give you all this invitation to take the opportunity to think about how everyone in our global community celebrates some of these important moments and days during the upcoming holiday season, both in recent weeks and in the closing weeks of 2019.

These are all times when we as family, friends and fellow community members come together and express gratitude for all God has done throughout the year and look forward to what the upcoming year may have in store. However, it is also a time when we remember all of those around us who are less fortunate than we may be—a remembrance that motivates us into action so we can fill any voids that may exist and be the family and community they so desperately need.

In that spirit of remembering, here are some ways we can honor and value those who are around us during this holiday season:

 

NOVEMBER

  • National Native American Heritage Month: The community of Native Americans incorporates hundreds of different tribes and approximately 250 languages. This observance was launched in 1976 as Native American Awareness Week. In 1990, Congress and President George H.W. Bush expanded this annual observance, designating November as National Native American Heritage Month, which is intended to learn about and celebrate the history and contributions of Native Americans. I also think it is extremely important that we recognize and acknowledge that our Berrien Springs campus sits on land that was once stolen from the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi tribe. As is stated on the Potawatomi website, “Each indigenous nation has its own creation story.” This land seizure was driven by the 1833 Treaty of Chicago, which established the conditions for the removal of the Potawatomi from the Great Lakes area. When Michigan became a state in 1837, more pressure was put on the Potawatomi to move west. The hazardous trip killed one out of every ten people of the approximately 500 Potawatomi involved. As news of the terrible trip spread, some bands, consisting of small groups of families, fled to northern Michigan and Canada. Some also tried to hide in the forests and swamps of southwestern Michigan. The U.S. government sent soldiers to round up any of the Potawatomi they could find and would then move them at gunpoint to reservations in the west. This forced removal is now called the Potawatomi Trail of Death, similar to the more familiar Cherokee Trail of Tears. However, a small group of Neshnabek (meaning “original” or “true people”), with Leopold Pokagon as one of their leaders, earned the right to remain in their original homeland, in part because they had demonstrated a strong attachment to Catholicism. It is the descendants of this small group who constitute the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi. To learn more about the Pokagon tribe, please go here.
  • Movember: Movember is an annual event which involves the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s suicide. By encouraging men to get involved, Movember aims to increase early cancer detection, diagnosis and effective treatments, and ultimately reduce the number of preventable deaths. Besides annual check-ups, the Movember Foundation encourages men to be aware of family history of cancer and to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
  • Veterans Day (November 11): Veterans Day is a U.S. federal holiday honoring military veterans. We commemorated this holiday on campus this year during our Veterans Day Tribute Service on November 12 in Buller Hall’s Newbold Auditorium. This annual service is coordinated by our Office of Veterans. This date is also celebrated as Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day, in other parts of the world and commemorates the ending of World War I in 1918.
  • Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20): Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is observed annually on November 20. This is a day to memorialize those who have been killed during the previous year as a result of anti-transgender violence and to bring attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community around the world. For more information on how our campus seeks to create dialogue and care around this and related issues, please go here.
  • Thanksgiving (November 28): It may appear ironic to some that at the end of a month in which we are called to honor the history and contributions of Native Americans, we end it by celebrating a holiday that has been clouded with controversy and narrative-altering since its inception. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every November and is geared toward giving thanks for the blessings received during the year. I would urge us to remember that while there is good intent behind this goal—to spend time with family and give thanks to God for what He has done—it does not tell the holiday’s whole story. Since 1970, Native Americans have commemorated Thanksgiving by observing it as a National Day of Mourning. Each year, hundreds of Native Americans and allies gather at Cole’s Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to honor Native American ancestors who died due to the European invasion and to expose the awful history behind this November holiday. The National Day of Mourning’s organizers hope to shine a light on modern issues facing Native Americans today, as well as bring more awareness to the real and full story behind Thanksgiving. I invite you to take the opportunity at your Thanksgiving dinner table to reflect a bit more deeply on these difficult truths. Read more about the National Day of Mourning here. If you would like guides on how to discuss these topics with your family or younger children, go here

 

DECEMBER

  • World AIDS Day (December 1): World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first-ever global health day. Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have HIV. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
  • International Day of People With Disabilities (December 3): Since its inception in 1945, the United Nations (UN) has outlined and reiterated its commitment to calling for the creation of inclusive, accessible and sustainable societies and communities—most notably with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Over time, the UN has honed its focus on promoting the wellbeing and welfare of people living with disabilities, and in 1992 it called for an international day of celebration for people living with disabilities to be held on December 3 each year. Learn more about this day of celebration here.
  • International Human Rights Day (December 10): Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10—the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, Human Rights Day marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being—regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It is the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages.
  • Hanukkah (December 22–30): The eight-day Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah or Chanukah commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts.
  • Christmas (December 25): While it would be impossible to list them all, there are so many beautiful Christmas celebrations that take place all around the world celebrating the birth of Christ. For a plethora of examples of how Christmas is celebrated, I encourage you to go here. What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Feel free to leave some feedback in the comments or send us a note (diversity@andrews.edu).
  • Kwanzaa (December 26–January 1): Maulana Karenga, professor and chair of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa in 1966. After the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Karenga searched for ways to bring African-Americans together as a community. He founded US, a cultural organization, and started to research African “first fruit” (harvest) celebrations. Karenga combined aspects of several different harvest celebrations, such as those of the Ashanti and Zulu, to form the basis of Kwanzaa. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the seven principles is discussed. The principles, called the Nguzo Saba (“seven principles” in Swahili) are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans. Kwanzaa also has seven basic symbols which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.

___

As we enter this holiday season, I hope this invitation and these reminders of our shared history and journeys—some of them heartbreaking and against God’s plans for His children—have inspired you to perhaps approach the way that you celebrate and understand these weeks and the holidays they contain a bit differently.

While it is important to have fun and to unwind, I again invite you to take the opportunity, both individually and collectively, to reflect on the history that is at the foundation of these holidays we love and celebrate. They are all important opportunities for us to lean into the stories that make us all unique and valuable as we seek to understand the collective journeys that have led us all to this beloved community.

Grace, peace and love to you all during this holiday season of remembrance.

Michael Nixon, Vice President
Diversity & Inclusion

October Invitation to Honor and Value Diversity

Posted on October 16, 2019

As we reflect on Hispanic Heritage Month which came to an end yesterday (October 15), I wanted to provide an invitation to some other ways that we can remember, value and honor our diverse community this month. Before doing so, I would like to thank AULA, Adelante and Makarios for their leadership in putting together a wonderful month of activities, events and experiences for our community. I also hope that you will continue to engage with the rest of this month’s Filipino American History Month events that have been planned by AFIA.

 

In addition to these two important celebrations, October has some other important reminders to value and see others in our community as we learn more about their journey both in life and on our campus. Those vital opportunities include (but are not limited to):

 

  • Global Diversity Awareness Month: This observance was created in 1999 in order to highlight the importance of expanding your reach beyond your own race, culture or ethnicity. It is meant to serve as a reminder that promotes open mindedness and valuing of differences. This includes intentional engagement with the international members of our community.
  • National Disability Employment Awareness Month (“NDEAM”): This observance was launched in 1945 when Congress declared the first week in October as “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” This movement was largely spurred by the return of physically disabled service members who returned from serving in World War II. Over time, the celebration and movement has grown to be inclusive of those with mental health challenges and other less visible disabilities. The annual event draws attention to employment barriers that still need to be addressed.
  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month (“BCAM”): This observance was founded in 1985 by a coalition headed by the American Cancer Society. It is an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.
  • LGBT History Month: This observance started in 1994 to recognize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history and the history of the gay rights movement. One of the ways that we try to care for members of our community who identify as LGBT+ is via our Haven care group. More information on Haven can be found here.
  • National Indigenous Peoples Day & Canadian Thanksgiving (October 14): This year marked the first time that the State of Michigan observed October 14 as “National Indigenous Peoples Day.” In commemorating her declaration of this holiday, Governor Whitmer declared that the purpose of the celebration is “to uplift our country's indigenous roots, history and contributions.” Michigan is now one of 13 states who observe this holiday. There are an additional 60 American cities who recognize it. This date also corresponds with Canadian Thanksgiving, which is celebrated by Canadians around the world on the second Monday of October.
  • Reformation Day (October 31): Celebrated by Protestants around the world to commemorate the spark of the Protestant Reformation movement over 500 years ago.

It is our hope that this invitation to recognize and honor the various members of our campus community in these specific ways gives all of you the opportunity to deepen your connection with and commitment to one another. While it is true that we are all on this journey together, we are all carrying different experiences with us along the way. Being seen and affirmed by our fellow community members goes a long way in helping us all to remember that we are not alone. It is our prayer that those who connect to any one of these observances on a personal level feel that Andrews is a place where their particular life experiences are seen, valued and respected by those around them.

 

We thank you in advance for taking the opportunity to engage with each other respectfully in each of these areas.

New Divino Blog: Weaponize Love

Posted on November 1, 2018

It is certainly hardly ever encouraging these days to go online or turn on our televisions to watch the news.

Much of what we encounter in this news is a raw, awful evidence that this world is far too often affected by the pervasive force of evil in our society and our lives.

Of course, that’s hardly a new reality.

The dark force of evil is a specific story that weaves through every book of the Bible, just as it seems to now mark nearly every chapter of our contemporary lives.

And over the last week in particular, news stories that came from around the United States offered a relentless and particularly heartrending reminder of evil’s bleak impact.

The week began with the ongoing story of pipe bombs mailed to former presidents, politicians, media companies and businesspeople. When the person believed to be behind the construction and mailings of those bombs was arrested, he was driving a van that was festooned with a variety of stickers that proclaimed angry rhetoric against those with whom he disagreed. And when investigators and news organizations turned to this man’s social media posts, they discovered that he foreshadowed his evil deeds, referring to some of his targets as “piece slime trash” (sic) and threatening them with death.

Later in the week, in Kentucky, a man tried to break into the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown, a predominantly black church, and after finding it locked (there was a prayer meeting going on at the time), he turned to the Kroger grocery store next door and shot and killed two black shoppers. He allegedly told a bystander that “whites don’t shoot whites” before he was captured by police.

And last Sabbath (and I use that phrase intentionally), a man stormed the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By the time he was done shooting, 11 worshippers were dead and six policemen and worshippers injured.

It was the worst single day of violence against Jewish believers in U.S. history. When investigators and the media turned to the suspect’s social media account, once again they found speech filled with hatred and threats, including conspiracy theories that argued that Jewish people were the enemy. Minutes before he went to the synagogue, the shooter posted a message on a social media channel called Gab (an alternative Twitter-like social media channel since shut down), where he wrote that “HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered…I’m going in.”

For those who seek to live in a world marked by hope, each of these criminal and terrorist acts, these hate crimes, had their own unique and awful form of evil specifics.

However, at the same time, it seemed that each of these acts also reflected on the tragic reality of our times. Hate itself has become part of conversations that are no longer analog—person-to-person and out loud—but spread globally throughout the internet and social media channels. The term increasingly used for this sort of social media anger and hatred is the phrase “weaponized.”

“Weaponize” is an old word. Traditionally, it simply means “to adapt for use as a weapon of war,” with the idea that physical weapons were used. Most people believe it was a phrase first used in a book about conflict in India and first published in 1938. In the 1950s, the term meant “to provide (a nuclear or other explosive device) with a mechanism for being launched and propelled toward a target.”

Now, increasingly, weaponize often has little do with bombs. The current definition—as set out in the Guardian newspaper last year—is that “weaponized narrative seeks to undermine an opponent’s civilisation, identity and will by generating complexity, confusion and political and social schisms.”

As the three criminal, and even terrorist, acts of the last week unfolded, there was an unsurprising array not only of social media comments by these individuals, but also a trail of truly fake news and demonstrably untrue conspiracy theories that inspired the thoughts and actions of these individuals. Another phrase that’s sometimes used as these acts become a part of our lives is that these individuals become “radicalized” through their online media habits—a term that in the past we would use for terrorists that lived somewhere else.

As we face a world that listens to, and then amplifies, this kind of hate, what might or should we do as a community of God’s children who are committed to inspiring and caring for our world?

As Christians, believers in Jesus Christ, individuals who seek to live by His teachings, to be inspired by His life, what do we do in a world of weaponized hate?

The answer is a small but powerful word—love—and it’s a small but powerful, and truly central commitment, to Christ’s radical and transforming mission and mercy.

So, then, to try to recapture this military term—weaponize—is there a way that we can “weaponize love?”

Christ’s life consistently suggested and demonstrated that love was indeed not simply an attitude of stubborn response to the evil in the world, love was also an active and proactive force to confront and bring about real change in response to evil.  

In turn, that kind of world-shaking, transforming love must inspire our response as a community filled with heartache and horror, as we speak out against and strongly condemn these awful attitudes and acts. The real question for us, as followers of Christ, is how might we meaningfully/powerfully/unabashedly call out those things and stand for truth—how do our lives and voices become a tool to simply and powerfully weaponize love?

I believe that’s one of the core elements of Christ’s example and life, as he daily sought to counter and meaningfully transform a society so often aligned against those who are lesser than.

1 John 4:15–21 (NLT, emphasis mine) gives us this poignant reminder:

"All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love. We love each other because He loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And He has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers."

In these dark and trying times with seemingly few answers or effective responses to this evil world, I’m convinced that we can be confident in the fact that if we decide to live out God’s perfect love, and use that as our weapon of choice to combat the manifestations of evil that we see in the world, God will drive out all fear—not only for our own lives but for the lives of our brothers and sisters, our neighbors.

So, while it will never be easy or as immediate as we might sometimes wish, the story of our lives and this world itself is that God’s perfect love will expel the hatred from the hearts of those who are truly willing to experience it. And for each one of us, it’s important to remember that we cannot declare that we love God while harboring hatred for those around us.

I don’t mean to be casual or glib when I say we must weaponize love—God’s love. I say it because I believe that God-fueled love will move us beyond just our mere thoughts and prayers and into tangible action. It’s the sort of action that seeks to stand alongside the oppressed in our communities and our world as we strive to meet our neighbors’ immediate needs, while also committing to the long-term effort of seeking restorative justice on their behalf.

Further, we talk a lot about World Changers here at Andrews. I believe that the first step to becoming a world changer is to allow the perfect love of God to transform us—to renew our minds, to purify our thoughts and to break our hearts for what breaks His.

That perfect love, inspired and energized by God’s Spirit in our lives, will allow us to see those around us the way that God sees them, and it’s a simple perspective: A son or daughter who has been created in God’s image.

Once we have been transformed by that love, we can then use it as a weapon that’s not a weapon at all but a Holy Force, an Ultimate Love, that seeks to truly change the world.

These heartbreaking days remind us that yes, world changers can be made here at Andrews University and wherever God’s children are found...and we can and will change the world only and ultimately through the power of God’s perfect love.

One of the ways we can seek to live out the Love we talk about here is reflected in a local Interfaith Prayer Vigil when we will gather with our neighbors to honor and pray for the victims of the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue shooting—as well as other victims of hate crimes. This prayer vigil will be held on Monday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. in the Oak Room at The Citadel, 91 Hinkley Street in Benton Harbor, Michigan. I invite you to attend as part of being a force for transforming love in a world so often marked by evil.

Statement on Child Detention & Family Separation

Posted on June 19, 2018

“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:17–19

We join the chorus of voices including the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists (NAD) and the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (PUC) who have spoken out against the inhumane cruelty being inflicted upon immigrants and refugees— including their children—due to the new “zero tolerance” policy that has was approved by the Executive Branch of the United States and implemented by the Department of Justice.

The implementation of this policy has led to young children being separated from their parents who, in the majority of cases, are political asylum-seekers from countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras among others. Rather than processing those claims, it has been reported that they have been taken into custody immediately while having their children taken away from them and detained in chain link enclosures in the McAllen Central Processing Station in Texas.

We have also been deeply troubled by the practice of using Scripture to justify this policy that many have engaged in. There are several examples in Scripture of God commanding us to treat those who are not native to our land in the exact same manner that we would treat a family member.

The book of Ezekiel puts it this way:

“Divide the land within these boundaries among the tribes of Israel. Distribute the land as an allotment for yourselves and for the foreigners who have joined you and are raising their families among you. They will be like native-born Israelites to you and will receive an allotment among the tribes. These foreigners are to be given land within the territory of the tribe with whom they now live. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!” Ezekiel 47:21–23

God calls His people to take an active part in not only welcoming in the foreigner or stranger that is within our gates, but also to make provision for them—treating them as if they are members of our own families.

Our ancestors were brought to this country by way of divergent and varying paths. Some migrated to America and forcibly claimed these lands, which were not native to them, as their own. Others were brought to these shores by force and the foundations of this country were built on the backs of their free labor. Still others sought the dream of a better life in this country fleeing war-torn and impoverished communities in their countries of origin.

Throughout America’s history, it has indeed been the contributions of our global community that has given it the potential to be a great country. If we ignore and invalidate those contributions and allow close-mindedness to close ourselves off from the rest of the world, America as we know it will cease to exist. We cannot and must not turn a blind eye to the needs of those seeking refuge in our country. As their applications for entry are considered, the very least we can do is treat them humanely.

America has always prided itself on being the land of the free and the home of the brave. This is a country where people from all different walks of life are endowed with certain inalienable rights—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While this ideal has only been true for some, we believe that as people of faith we are called to stand in the prophetic tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. by speaking truth to power and demanding that this country truly live up to the meaning of its creed for all of its inhabitants, as well as for those seeking refuge here.  

Ultimately, we are called to treat everyone around us with the love of Christ. That love should motivate us to tangible action. Hebrews implores us to:

“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.” Hebrews 13:1–3.

I am reminded of a monumental event that occurred on this date—June 19—in 1865. More than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas and announced that the 250,000 remaining enslaved people in the state of Texas were free. Since then, June 19 has been celebrated as “Juneteenth” around the country as a symbol of true emancipation and freedom.

I am also reminded of a boldly prophetic passage that Ellen G. White released around 1855 in “Testimonies for the Church,” Volume One. At the time, slavery was still alive and well in this country and many had questions about how we as Christians should respond in the face of immoral laws and policies. In the face of such questions, particularly as it pertained to the “Fugitive Slave Act of 1850,” Sister White penned the following passage:

“We have men placed over us for rulers, and laws to govern the people. Were it not for these laws, the condition of the world would be worse than it is now. Some of these laws are good, others are bad. The bad have been increasing, and we are yet to be brought into strait places. But God will sustain His people in being firm and living up to the principles of His word. When the laws of men conflict with the word and law of God, we are to obey the latter, whatever the consequences may be. The law of our land requiring us to deliver a slave to his master, we are not to obey; and we must abide the consequences of violating this law. The slave is not the property of any man. God is his rightful master, and man has no right to take God's workmanship into his hands, and claim him as his own.” Testimonies for the Church, Chapter 37 (201.2).

Andrews University fully denounces the practice of separating families and detaining immigrants and their children in chain-link enclosures. This practice goes against everything that we stand for as a diverse and welcoming community that seeks to help every member of our institution find their voice and value.

As Pacific Union Conference President Ricardo Graham said in their statement “our thoughts and prayers must turn into actions and deeds.” If you’d like to read more about those who are working to support and aid these immigrant families, you can find out more here.

A Commitment to Our International Andrews Family

Posted on January 17, 2018

Friends,


As we finished our Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations in Newbold Auditorium, I was reminded of one of Dr. King’s powerful statements about his dream for a more just society: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”


Those words, more than five decades old, are urgently and painfully relevant to the society we now live in. As recently as last week, an immediate national and international uproar unfolded after news reports indicated that our nation's president, Donald Trump, had disparaged the quality, character and potential of immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and Africa.


Those reported remarks are racist, painful and destructive. More importantly, those crude sentiments and perspectives do not reflect the values of our Andrews University community. We would like to make it clear that racist remarks of any kind, from our students, staff, faculty or administration, will not be tolerated, encouraged, accepted or overlooked.


I and we believe that Andrews University is consistently enriched and improved by our students who come from literally everywhere in the world—an international family of students, faculty, staff and administration that helps us daily understand the pain, reality and potential of God’s kingdom.


As a result, we deplore any beliefs and attitudes that run counter to our God-centered call to create and nurture a beloved community whose neighbors are not defined by geography. These neighbors of ours are instead defined simply by their status as children of God—children who make their home everywhere in the world, including here in Berrien Springs and in all the other institutions and homes around the world where our students study.


For those who can attend Andrews on our Berrien Springs campus, we are humbled and honored to welcome every student, including those from Haiti, El Salvador or the countries of Africa which were the targets of last week’s racist remarks. In fact, we seek to welcome students from every corner of this earth to be educated and inspired to help ultimately Change the World for God.


To do anything less at Andrews University would be to deny the call and purpose God has given our beloved community.


I welcome your reflection, prayer and productive action in helping to assure that this Kingdom Value—a God-centered and unwavering commitment to the equity and strength of each human—ultimately infuses and transforms our world, our societies and those who are leaders, both political and spiritual.

Holiday Statement on Slavery and Displacement

Posted on December 5, 2017

At this time of the year, we are reminded of the Bible stories of families, even entire people groups, who were forced from their homes and pursued new lives for God’s promise and promised lands. Current news echoes the Biblical stories, as hundreds of thousands are forced to leave their homes because of race, ethnicity or religion.

CNN reports on Ethiopian refugees being sold into slavery in Libya, tens of thousands of Haitians displaced by the 2010 earthquake returning to an uncertain home 18 months from now, hundreds of thousands of Rohingyans driven from their home country because of their beliefs, and years of ongoing challenges experienced by Syrian refugees.

As a global university committed to viewing the world through God’s eyes, we are heartbroken by these realities. We call on the countries of the world, as well as the members of our campus community, to fulfill our essential responsibilities as God’s children, to meaningfully respond to our neighbors, wherever they live, and to continue to condemn the actions of those who restrict the freedoms and destroy the homes and lives of our neighbors.

The issue of slavery and human trafficking continues to be a staggering injustice. A conservative estimate from recent studies, as reported by the International Labour Organization, shows that 40 million people are currently enslaved worldwide through either forced labor or forced marriages. Additionally, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that more than 65 million are currently considered refugees worldwide.

As we finish the semester and look forward to our celebrations with family and friends this holiday season, let’s remember those who will not be afforded the same opportunity. May we work and pray together as we strive to help the displaced and marginalized find a home—with us. Let those prayers be geared towards asking God to lead us as we consider how we can lift our voices as well as commit our efforts to finding tangible solutions to these sobering and difficult injustices.

“Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:33–34
 

(image source: https://www.diyatvusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/human-trafficking-fact.jpg) 

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Andrews' Statement on the Rescinding of DACA

Posted on September 6, 2017

We are profoundly saddened by the Trump Administration’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Our institution remains committed to providing a safe and inclusive learning environment for every student who is enrolled at Andrews. Andrews University does not discriminate against our enrolled students on the basis of national origin or citizenship status.

The Association of Governing Boards (AGB) of Universities & Colleges (of which we are a member) released a poignant statement which said in part, “the roughly 800,000 individuals who have registered under [DACA] have passed rigorous tests and are already working and serving the communities in which they live...these are hard working, bright, young people—embodying traditional American values.”

The Association of American Colleges & Universities (“AAC&U”) reaffirmed the “deep and abiding commitment” of its 1,400 members (of which we are one), “to the values of diversity, inclusion and equity as critical to the wellbeing of our democratic society and as the cornerstones of excellence in liberal education.”

If you or someone you know would like to discuss the implications of this decision, please feel free to reach out to me via email: michaeln@andrews.edu. The days ahead for the DACA program and the students who have studied within the guidelines of this program are uncertain, but at Andrews University we will face them together as a unified community of people that are committed to treating one another with respect, dignity and honor.


(You can read the full AGB statement here).

(You can read the full AAC&U statement, which includes more links and resources, here).

A Response to Events in Charlottesville, Virginia

Posted on August 17, 2017

I am deeply saddened and outraged by the events that transpired over this past weekend in Virginia where demonstrators at a white nationalist rally descended upon Charlottesville with the express intent to spread hate, bigotry, and violence. These senseless acts were inspired and informed by the hateful messages of the white supremacy movement and its roots in the KKK, neo-nazism, the alt-right, and other like-minded domestic terrorist groups.

As you’ve doubtless heard or read, demonstrations by those groups this last weekend, sadly culminated in the death of Heather Heyer, and injuries for nearly 20 others when a car was intentionally driven into a crowd of counter protesters.

A thirty-two-year-old life has been snuffed out by intentional, hate-infused violence by a domestic terrorist who believes that his life is more valuable than others due to the color of his skin. Two others died in the line of duty protecting those in attendance at the event. Our country has been forced, once again, to face the fact that this kind of bigotry, hatred and violence has been, and continues to be, a part of who we are as a country. The question we must now ask ourselves as a community is are we willing to face and confront that reality? What steps are we willing to take to change our collective trajectory going forward?

Though it is comforting that so many have denounced the senseless acts of violence promulgated by the alt-right, KKK, neo-Nazis, and other like-minded domestic terrorist groups, we should be careful not to simply reject and discount these acts as from a few people on the fringe.

And, for Andrews University, as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian institution, we cannot be silent in the wake of these events. I would like to speak in a clear and direct way about where we stand on these issues and what we intend to do moving forward.

In particular, as we prepare to welcome students from all around our country and the world to our campus for this new school year, I want to make it clear that Andrews denounces hate, bigotry, and racism in all of its forms and reject the false ideas of white supremacy & white nationalism. Discriminatory hate speech on the basis of race, national origin, religion, gender (identity or expression) or sexual orientation will not be tolerated on our campus.

We reject hateful groups such as the KKK, the alt-right, neo-Nazis, and other domestic terrorist groups as well as the beliefs they subscribe to. We also reject the notion that one can subscribe to the belief that their race alone should be allowed to have life, liberty, and the right to pursue happiness in this country while also claiming to be a Christian.

The book of First John makes this clear, “If anyone says ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20).

Here at Andrews, we are committed to modeling the commandment that finishes up the book of First John:

“And this commandment we have from Him, that one who loves God should also unselfishly love his brother and seek the best for him" (1 John 4:21).

Ultimately, the true value of our response will be found in our actions as we go forward as a campus community.

We will double down on our commitment to create a more equitable and inclusive environment for the faculty, staff, students and administrators on our globally and ethnically diverse campus. We are encouraged by the public statements made by the leadership of the North American Division of Seventh-Day Adventists, Oakwood University, as well local church leaders in our denomination who have come together to speak directly and firmly against the hate and bigotry they have witnessed and experienced in their own lives.

I call on all of those in leadership in our church: Pastors, Local Conferences, Unions, Divisions, the General Conference, our sister higher education institutions, and medical facilities, to take—and continue to take—affirmative steps to denounce the violent hatred and bigotry that was embodied over the weekend in Charlottesville by the alt-right, KKK, neo-Nazis, and other like-minded domestic terrorist groups.

These views are a danger to the future not just of our country, but also for our Church. We must proactively address any ways that these racist and bigoted views may have influenced or even infected the way that we operate here in our own Andrews community. If found, we must root those views out immediately.

“God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27).

At Andrews University, we fully believe that we have all been created in the image of God, equally. We are against any notion of racial, cultural, religious, or national superiority.
We all have eternal value and should keep in mind that when we interact with one another, we are interacting with the image of God that can be discovered and seen in one another.

As a Seventh-day Adventist Christian institution, we are committed to modeling the life and teachings of Christ in every aspect of what we say and do. We invite you to join us on this crucial and world changing journey.