I'm Angry. Therefore I Disrupt The Church

This past March 22- 23rd, there was a meeting in Indianapolis called Zeal 19.  It was sponsored by a group called AdventistRevolution, whose executive director is Michael Polite, a black Andrews University chaplain with a history of racial grievances and activism.

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Advertised as a “collective of transformational trend-setters and change agents” AdventistRevolution has a goal to change, nay revolutionize, Adventism.  And what changes are they seeking, you ask?  The answer can be found in two entities, The Zeal Rally and a blog called Disruptive Adventism.

The Zeal Rally in Indianapolis had 16 speakers, some of whom were Michael Polite, Tiffany Llewelyn, Baron Sovory, Tacyana Nixon, and others.   

Michael Polite

Michael Polite gave the first presentation on Friday with “The Need for Zeal.”  He said that zeal is a synonym for anger, and talked about the anger of Jesus we see in the gospel but are uncomfortable talking about.  “We’re not taught about the angry Jesus,” said Polite. “We’re taught about the pacifist Jesus, the safe Jesus, the Adventist Jesus.” The Bible says be angry and sin not, it doesn’t say don’t be angry.”

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Judit Manchay shared how women need safe spaces in the Church.

Pastor Baron Sovory spoke on the need for “non-compliance.”  “Who knows what God is going to do with this non-compliance stuff?” he stated, implying that God is the author and sustainer of non-compliant rebellion in the Church.

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Tiffany Llewellyn (founder of Adventists for Social Justice) described social justice warriors as deviants and disrupters who dismantle power structures.  She then characterized Jesus as a deviant for social justice.  She also said that Adventist eschatology was in tension (or conflict) with social justice, making a distinction between denominational theology and biblical theology.  She called for bravery to implement social justice in spite of Adventist reservations.

Mindfulness

The Zeal Rally had many break-out sessions for “mindfulness.”

Mindfulness is highly popular in hospitals, schools, therapy offices, Silicon Valley, and in meetings of global leaders.  Mindfulness has five basic principles:

1)     Meditation

2)     Observe the present moment

3)     Let your judgments roll by

4)     Return to the present moment

5)     Be kind to your wandering mind

The same basic principles are found in mystical practices such as  Centering Prayer, and Labyrinth walking.  In summary, it is a pagan way of finding wisdom.  Christians should be aware of the vast difference between a meditation on God’s revelation (Psalm 118:148) and meditation based on inner mystical sensations, and “non-thoughts” (Ephesians 4:18-24).


Disruptive Adventism Interview

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Disruptive Adventism has a goal to disrupt the fabric of Adventism, as stated on their podcast page.  At the Zeal19 Rally, they interviewed Jackie Dohna.  She is the “people relations” director for Zeal19, the meeting for Adventist Revolutionaries.  This interview was conducted in Indianapolis by Jose Briones.
[Editor Clarification. The author originally stated that Bryant Rodriguez conducted the Disruptive podcast interview. Although Rodriguez was interviewing people at the meeting, this interview was conducted by Briones]

 The Interview

BR — Everytime I see your (Jackie Dohna) Instagram feed, I see you dancing and I see you saying “Down with the Patriarchy.” Please explain what that is.

“I’ve always been a person that is aware of what’s going on around me.  Recently I’ve developed this passion for women’s empowerment.  I’ve been able to identify the patriarchical society that we live in—how it affects me personally.  As a woman in the Seminary of Adventism (Andrews Seminary), recently, I interacted with a male, and I realized the many layers that the patriarchy is made up of.  Each layer has an impact on my life.  It made me zealous about women empowerment.  Especially black women. 

We want to burn down the tower of patriarchy, so there’s nothing that exists.  Then we can co-exist with equality.

“So equality is the goal?”
Yes, absolutely.

Through enlightenment I begin to see things that I hadn’t seen before.  I realized “Oh snap, women are really oppressed.  I started to really see things, especially being in the Seminary, and hearing certain comments by men in the Seminary, by some professors.  I started to fight against it, in the process becoming too militant.  I think being militant is fine! 

Everyday when I woke up I was angry.  The hardest thing for me right now is remaining balanced.  I have to remind myself every day that the effects of the patriarchy—they don’t have to consume me.

It [patriarchy] is something that I want to fight against with every fiber of my being, but it doesn’t have to consume me.  (How can you oppose something with every fiber of your being and not be consumed?)

One thing that triggers me (makes me angry) is when a male holds open the door for me.  Because of that experience I had with a male, little things trigger me.  When a man opens the door for me I am triggered “Does he think I can’t hold the door open for myself?”  But after reflection I can still walk through that door, no matter what his intentions are.

“What do you say to people who say that the Bible is a patriarchal model?”

It’s been working for those who it benefits.  It’s been working for males.  Just because it works for you, doesn’t mean it works for everyone!  Just because it may have historically worked (which I can argue that it hasn’t) that doesn’t mean that there couldn’t come a time where it’s not fine now.  Because things are changing.  Once we open up our minds to realize that we could be wrong about things, that’s where we enter a space where we can begin dialoguing and sharing stories and hearing the hurts and the pain that patriarchy has caused.

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Women in the Adventist Church don’t have a safe space to be affirmed, especially after many conversations and votes (GC Session etc..) have taken place.”  How can we create those safe spaces for women and create equality?"

Those of us who are aware of the problem [of patriarchy] need to come together and brainstorm ways to make it happen.  AdventistRevolution could advance us to the point where women’s ordination is accepted in the Adventist Church.  AdventistRevolution isn’t just about WO, but it is widely accepted here. We’re gonna make noise about it.

People talk about masculinity and femininity, but a lot of those things have been constructed by society.  So things that are seen as masculine don’t have to be masculine.  They have just been called masculine because society has created this patriarchal structure.  The phrase “man up” is typically said when a male is crying or emotional—I think that is absolutely toxic.  We need to push back at what society has told us about masculinity and femininity.  There are some differences, but I think we need to start pushing back against that.  The idea that a man (straw man) can’t show emotions is created by patriarchy.  You are seen as feminine and femininity is weak, and I will ABSOLUTELY push against that.  There is nothing about femininity that’s weak!

I’m starting to change the way I view God, I try not to call God male or female.  I just call God, God.  We are both equal because we are both part of who God is.

In the Old testament you see God as paternal, but there is also maternal “As the hen gathers her chicks..”  I like that you paint the full picture, males cannot fully represent the image of God by themselves.  Females cannot fully represent the image of God, it has to be together.  When you are met with resistance, what are the normal arguments that you hear, how do you move past those arguments?

A lot of my insecurities come from society.  At times I wanna quit the Seminary, I have considered that.  Almost every day of this semester I have battled between staying and leaving.  At the end of the day what keeps me going is knowing that God has called me.  And the fact that I’m doing what I’m doing, continuously trying to push back against what I’ve been taught and what society has conditioned me to believe that other people can benefit from it.  This is what I’m called to do.  Love people and fight against injustice.  When I am upset about what a guy may have said, I have a support group of women that affirms me; I also have some male friends that are super-aware and super-intentional about also doing what I am doing [fighting patriarchy].  Some of my male friends have confessed that they have thoughts that are very patriarchal and very toxic.  And we have to sit there and wrestle through it.

Adventist revolution has helped me walk in this liberation that I have been feeling for a while.  I have been feeling liberated in how I identify with God.  I identify as a woman, as a black woman, I identify as a Christian, as an Adventist.  I’m on this liberation journey and I think Adventists.  Adventist Revolution helps me keep progressing and join others.  I can’t explain how crazy-amazing Zeal19 has been on this AdventistRevolution journey.

 Any final words?
Down with the patriarchy!


Observations

A contingent of (mostly young) Adventists want to rebrand the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They want to fundamentally change it through revolution and “disruption.” As the gap between the culture (the world) and the bride of Christ widens, some are uncomfortable with that gap and seek to import culture into the Church to make them feel more comfortable.

They are receiving these impulses from two sources, from social justice ideology, and from cultivated personal & generational resentments. In varying degrees, our Adventist campuses have become incubators of this social justice ideology.

Increasing numbers of persons think of themselves as Adventists by heritage or tradition rather than by conviction.  Hence they feel free to shop cafeteria-style among the beliefs & practices of the church, assembling for them a suitable selection. True to postmodern values they find that their demand to be regarded as equivalent as anyone else is reinforced in the currents of the wider society.  The result is the development of a pluralistic social justice value system. I note this not with any attempt to condemn, but to observe what has become now fully apparent. Such break-away from Seventh-day Church scriptural identity minimizes the virtue of doctrine, extolling in its place “social justice.”

What we are seeing is an amalgamation of liberal white Adventism, black grievance theology, social justice, women’s ordination, and to a large degree LGBTQ activism uniting under the rubric of social justice.

So committed are a majority of our black churches to social justice, that regional Conference leaders demanded that Ted Wilson issue an apology at Fall Council 2018. What did they think he should apologize for? His reminder in his October 13 Sabbath sermon that social issues must never supersede the Everlasting Gospel.

A group of black justice Adventists, trying to intimidate Elder Ted Wilson at Pioneer Memorial Church on March 2, 2019.

Patriarchy is men loving and leading their families in a God God-glorifying direction. Blaming patriarchy for society’s ills is like blaming the 1889 Johnstown Flood on a leaky faucet in Altoona. A pattern of fatherlessness is creating immeasurable pain, anger and confusion in a roiling subculture of African American young people. Biblical patriarchy would significantly help this milieu of pain, by restoring safety, leadership and order to these broken families. My heart goes out to them.

Where does the tendency to scapegoat God’s patriarchal familial order come from? Ultimately it comes from the resentful ambitions of the enemy of all souls, who desires to replace the beauty and harmony of the family unit with chaos. Feminism was the original vanguard of patriarchal enmity, and has been joined by the homosexual movement, and more recently social justice. They all see patriarchy as an enemy to liberal conquest—and rightly so, for it is. This thinking is coming into Adventist Universities through psychology departments (like Andrews) and liberal-minded teachers and leaders—of which we have a heavy infestation.

It is true that Adventist eschatology IS in conflict with social justice ideations in their current liberal political incarnation. They are incompatible blood types.

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“Those who feel called out to join the movement in favor of woman’s rights and the so-called dress reform might as well sever all connection with the third angel’s message. The spirit which attends the one cannot be in harmony with the other” {1T 457.3}.