Close Your Eyes So You Can See

"Close Your Eyes So You Can See," was the title of a sermon given by Pastor Ty Gibson at the Collegedale Seventh-day Adventist Church on December 1, 2018.

At the beginning of his sermon, Pastor Gibson warned that during his message that day everyone would be uncomfortable, because on this occasion that is his job. He was there to share the message and mission of Against the Wall.

He explained how he and co-creator Michael Nixon began the Against the Wall movement to speak with passionate clarity against walls of racial separation and injustice across the globe — both inside and outside of the Adventist church.

Pastor Gibson asked the congregation to engage in a series of thought experiments with him. In the first he asked everyone to close their eyes and think of Jesus, to imagine Jesus, whatever that image of Jesus was for them. He then made the statement that Jesus was a black man — historically, accurately, factually a person of color.

“We worship a God who chose to come into our world at the underbelly of power. As a person of color in the most disadvantaged position imaginable,” said Pastor Gibson.

He shared his belief that all human beings are racist, not born that way, but inculcated or taught to be that way. Pastor Gibson defined the roots of racism as three things: subconscious enmity toward oneself vented on others, a mask worn over shame, or inferiority masquerading as superiority. He spoke of the psychology of racism and how at its core, sin is pro-self and anti-other. Racism is a manifestation of deep insecurity and self-hatred.

During the message Pastor Gibson spent time discussing the interconnectedness of the human race, stating, “If you are white, you are benefiting from injustices committed by others. Black humans were used to produce an economic situation you as a white person benefit from.”

Pastor Gibson concluded his message by bringing the congregation back to God’s love. The answer is forgiveness and the transcendent love of God. We have a Savior who became one with us, who entered into solidarity with the human race, he said. “God loves you and the person sitting next to you.”

WATCH: Pastor Ty Gibson: "Close Your Eyes So You Can See" (Sermon begins at 25:50)

This video was originally published by the Collegedale SDA Church.

Image: Video still, courtesy of Collegedale SDA Church.

Fonda Seifert is associate editor for

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Hmmmmmm. Weeelll. I don’t know. So I am a racist, and i don’t know it. Very sobering thought. Of course, the knee-jerk reaction is to deny it. No I have many friends from different races…No, I regard all people equal…

So racism is only nasty when I’m at the receiving end. When I benefit from it, I’m wondering why the fuss. I’m like, these people make a mountain out of a molehill…

Quite the opposite. Racism is a manifestation of identitarian perception of one’s superiority or one’s entitlement solely based on one’s skin color… which makes parts of this article rather ironic.

For example…

I’m sorry, but I have to point out the absurdity of projecting the present-day identitarian context on Middle East of 1st century.

Being a “person of color” in a place where majority of people are “of color” doesn’t put one in a “disatvantageous position”. It’s extremely saddening to see this identitarian approach to humanity infecting religious narrative that supposed to make this approach inconspicuously absurd.

A white people in the region would be a “person of color”, and likely would be at disadvantage in terms of how these cultures dealt with outsiders.

Again, we allow these kinds of ignorance to be uttered from the pulpit under guise of “wisdom from God” and respect that pastoral position demands, but with that position comes responsibility of having insight that is slightly broader than tropes of identity politics.

Again, another trope of the recent identitarian narrative that seems to infect everything, from media to academics, and now religion.

I am a white-Russian immigrant. And the reason I immigrated to US is not gain economic advantage of past slavery, which is inconsequential compared to the economic advantage of US surviving WWII unscathed, and exploiting the Breton Woods agreement by deciding to print dollar and make currency to be it’s top export… Inflating the value of labor at home and creating competitive market abroad where everyone in developing world is in race to the bottom in trading their labor at enormous discount for benefit of a economic chain that ends at the top in the US.

But, the problem with the context painted in the article is precisely the reductionism applied to race on one end, and prejudiced generalisation applied on the other. You can’t paint “white” into some oppressive color, and “black” to be the default color of the victim. From broader perspective , if you are a black who is shopping at “made in China/Indonesia sweatshops” products that you benefit from… you are benefiting from displaced economic context slanted your way.

My grandparents were Russian Jews, and their parents got their land and possessions confiscated and forcefully moved to develop a desert into inhabitable land. But whatever they went through… I’m thankful for it. Their complex history, and history of my parents and now mine set me on a path of experience of understanding the complexity of I justice as it relates to our collective circumstances. It likewise shown me that complaining about our condition solves nothing. What resolves the issue is structure of supporting community that has agreed upon moral boundaries and overlapping ideals.

The way forward isn’t about looking back and pointing fingers at “opprossor race” that benefits from injustice of the past. The way forward is building communities that doesn’t allow elitist excess at expense of suffering of other… And such communities turn into cities and cultures that can spread and turn the world on proper path.

Identitarian narratives are generally there to make sure you place the correct checkbox to indicate systematic compliance of delegating authority to people who don’t have your best interest in their plans for the future. They are using that narrative to exploit you anger and angst by using these culture tropes that have little to no coherence when examined closely.


When does the statue of limitations end on injustices?

Ask yourself—How do you treat Young men of Latter Day Saints at your door. Or any cult. A drink of cold water? or thank you but I Churched have a nice day. Think of Adventist book sellers and their tough job but maybe that is only years ago. I get a little of Uncle Arthur in most doctors waiting rooms.

I heard about the sermon from very upset members who were there. So, decided to hear it for myself. In spite of Pastor Gibson’s effort to “educate” and “sensitize” the listeners to a truly serious and painful reality in our society and in the larger human condition, the tone of his voice on the radio came across as unnecessarily accusatory and condescending to the older generation (I’m a member) and illuminating and thrilling (I am told) to the younger generation. As much as one might agree with his main thesis, it would have been–in my opinion–far more persuasive if clothed in a very different homiletical suit .


You missed the main root which is the absence of empathy either through failure of parenting or loss of empathy through adherence to rigid religious beliefs, among many.


Years ago in another century when Andrews was called Emanuel Missionary College. A Mr. Ford and I were hoeing corn on seemingly endless rows. he was Black and I Was White. We both sweat the same. The conversation came around why we were doing this. We came to the same conclusion —To get an education and get the hell out of this Corn field. He went on to Loma Linda. I following helping Mac get back to Luzon then on I to the University Of Illinois And a Dental career and academic career. So I bought a six acre farm for horses for the children and raise sweet corn, tomatoes. Peas and green beans. Oh yes potatoes. Now I just raise cane.


What a wise and brave sermon. As a follower of Christ for well over 6 decades, I have watched how our fellow sheep and our Christian faith have been cynically manipulated and used to both justify and normalize extraordinary cruelties and flagrant injustices to “the least of these”. Now I am saddened to observe the degree of defensiveness and politicization displayed already in these comments, many of which only demonstrate how fearful we are to examine our own biases by the light of Christ. Yet the Light remains, thanks to Ty and other courageous leaders who dare to risk the wrath and ostracization that will doubtless follow. Thank you, Ty. This message needed to be said, and we would all do well to take it to heart.

When they are repented and made right.

Here is one issue: Transatlantic slavery was illegal at the time. The legality of enslavement was restricted to captivity in just wars and in all legal systems, those enslaved retained some rights—right to life and right from protection from gross abuse. European states, private entities, and individuals over time enslaved, murdered, and robbed African and indigenous people around the globe.

Second, consider the fear of African American women in the context of having to submit to white male law enforcement in the US in the last century. This brings up the point that African American males are perceived as a threat just by going about their every day lives. This is a structural injustice that we must recognize.


Unknowingly, Ty Gibson was used by Michael Nixon to vent his anger towards the Collegedale Church over Michael’s percieved injustice toward his father, a former pastor of the Collegedale Church. Unfortunately Ty left town as quickly as he rode in and left the current pastor with a very disgruntled membership. I have listened to the sermon online 4 times to make sure I understood what I was hearing. I have not attended the Collegedale Church since. I need a safe nonpolitical space to worship. The inaccuracies within the sermon could be the source for a dissertation.

Fascinating title… but I was disappointed in the contents of the article.

I am Native American so I’ve experienced PLENTY of racism; and it happens even from well meaning Seventh-day Adventist people at church on Sabbath. I forgive them, they are blind, they don’t know what they are doing.

Perhaps closing our eyes helps because we take away our physical eye’s vision and then can see with the mind’s eye. It is easier to focus on a topic and shut out distractions. Very nice tool. I’m sure it was a powerful experience for those who attended the service and could see and hear the sermon in person. I am happy for those who gained a blessing, and feel thankful for a God who blessed his people.

I am not in my home town today, so I don’t have the non-Sabbath delight to arrive at an intersection where if I turn to the right, I could attend an SDA church in a Black conference, or if I turn to the left, I could attend an SDA church in a White conference. Both churches are on the SAME street, one mile apart in distance, and miles apart in unity. Another church sister and I wrote to the presidents of both conferences by email and USPS mail about resolving the terrible witness to the community, and never received a response.
When I visit the city I am in today, I face another Sabbath non-delight. About six months ago, some of my family members began attending a diversifed SDA church. I visited the church with them about three months ago, and one outwardly identifiable sector was missing. At dinner, we had a discussion about how and why that continues to occur in Adventism. The lovers of Adventism shared their thoughts; those who see Adventism as community and not identity, shared their thoughts; those who have left Adventism completely, shared their thoughts. It was insane!
Many of the members in the area where I am today, are leaving their churches and conference to attend that church because of the current pastor.
Certain pastors are being enticed to leave their conferences, and pastor in conferences where the membership is dwindling, to build up the membership, and draining the membership where those pastors have built up churches. In many cases, the replacement pastors for the enticed pastors are totally different, so, no ridicule.
At this point in time, history is repeating itself in our church, but the present is our launching pad to blast off into oneness.We are way behind! There is a passing lane to get ahead of religious structure and re-cycled Sabbath School Quartelies on unity.
Today, I will listen again to Pastor David Perez’s series, “Christianity For Thinking People,” meet friends for lunch, take a nature ride, and call the Sabbath a delight.

No, perhaps some folk are just so much better than mere commoners…

I posit that this sad reality plays out in our various diverse LGBTQ/feminism/masculinism/denominationalisn/atheism/fundamentalism/liberalism etc et ad nauseum battlefronts within our own church.

Lack of empathy is failure of love-both in the giving, and the receiving.
As such, it is in inimical to the very simple royal command summation.

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The problem with this sermon isn’t about the concept of being kind towards your neighbor, but rather political ideology that undercuts any religious narrative that such ideology is being dressed up with by sparsely grabbing some “matching” verses and quotes from EGW.

Ty completely ignores that the central message of Christian narrative is that of transcending one’s own heritage or cultural context… by adopting a different mindset. That’s the “way out”.

Part of my growing up was in NW Miami, where I was a minority white, and the context for black inner-city problems today isn’t due to structural issues, but to me as a young Russian immigrant it was obvious even then… it’s a problem of inbred mindset that sets the culture back and maintains poverty largely for the purpose of political exploitation of hope. And the context for that “hope” becomes that overarching group identity affiliation, and subsequent stories of oppression that are promoted as explanations for personal set backs. It’s the same political excuse that structured and maintained Soviet states, with all of its drunken inadequacies that lead to its collapse.

I don’t know much about Ty, if you really want to help and alleviate structural issues… then simply override the structure. I mentor two black youth now (I try to make it a point as time permits), given my sports background. I set them up with internships at my company. And I have them sign a contract … not with me, but with themselves… for a period of time, with primary precondition is abstinence from pop music, news… and instead fulfilling specific curriculum of reading, film, art and music and learning about great movers that pushed our history along for our collective benefit. And I tell them to find at least 3 other mentors in the area of their interest that they would spend at least 1hr/week with. I don’t force Christianity on them, but I do point to where I personally get my structure from.

The point being is that the way out of these things isn’t by emphasizing differences to the point that the differences or similarities is all that we go by when it comes to having relationships. The point is to show that these differences are minimal, and that road to productive and successful human context is escaping detrimental elements of culture which are perpetuated through damaging mindsets. While we similar in biology, our mindsets may vary substantially. And if one is to identify with something… mindset should be it, and not the color of the skin.

And that’s the concept that Ty is either ignorant of, or willfully blind to, because the “West Coast” politics overrides it. Giving money to the poor is not a solution to poverty. It actually formalizes poverty. I’m not saying we shouldn’t, but if you really want to help someone, spend time educating them on how not to be poor, or contribute to organizations that do.

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