Liberation and Reconciliation

In 1995, in the aftermath of the successful struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the new government installed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The fledging government believed that true healing of the racial divisions in the nation depended on providing an opportunity for people to freely share their pain, their suffering, and the opportunity for perpetrators to seek forgiveness. While any public discussion of the TRC tends to focus on the work of the Amnesty Committee, which gave perpetrators (both pro-apartheid and anti-apartheid) the chance to be absolved if they fully recounted their crimes, the commission actually had two other important goals.[1] The TRC also established the Human Rights Violations Committee to investigate potential violations, and the Reparation and Rehabilitation Committee, tasked with attempting to compensate victims for their suffering. It was not without its critics at the time, but history looks back on the TRC as a largely positive element of early post-apartheid South Africa. The head of this committee was the now retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the work of the TRC reveals the fingerprint of his unique theology.

The Archbishop’s theology blends elements of Black theology with elements of African theology. While a full examination is not possible in this space, there are two aspects of these theological traditions that are worthy of note. First, Archbishop Tutu’s theology contains elements of Black Liberation Theology. The modern iteration of Black Liberation Theology began in the mid to late 1960s, asking a central question – Whose side should God be on? The oppressors or the oppressed? Examining the biblical text through this lens it became clear to these theologians (James Cone most prominent among them) that the God of the Bible is the God of the oppressed. From Moses and the children of Israel in the Old Testament to Jesus in the New, Black Liberation theologians saw that God is always seeking to lift the downtrodden and oppressed and free them from their oppressors. This liberation was not only spiritual and metaphysical but physical and tangible as well. As such, these theologians focused on an alternate construction of God[2] that desired the empowerment of the oppressed through self-definition, self-affirmation, and self-determination. In short – to seek justice and liberation for Black people and other oppressed groups was to be on God’s side.

Second, Archbishop Tutu married this idea of liberation to the African theological concept of Ubuntu. While it is difficult to provide a precise translation, the principle of Ubuntu is related to concepts of hospitality, friendliness, caring, and compassion. There is a realization that we are all interconnected. That interconnectedness leads to the conclusion that the greatest good is social harmony. From a spiritual perspective, there is the belief that God’s creation is one family. As such, we then have a responsibility to each other to help alleviate our pain. The mantra of Ubuntu is “I am because we are,” encapsulating how the community leads to the individual instead of the other way around. The TRC looks like a marriage of these two concepts, with the strong sense of justice coming from Black liberation theology together with the sense of community that comes from the principle of Ubuntu.

We are at a moment in our society and in our church where truth and reconciliation on the subject of race is much needed.[3] Donald Trump is making it more difficult by the day to argue that he is not a racist. Even in its most charitable construction, Trump can be described as a demagogue who foments and uses racial tension for his own purposes. His problematic history and statements on the issue of race cast a pall over whatever good he has done, and he has not shown the wherewithal to understand the complexities of the subject or consider the impact of his words. The fact that his support can grow while his already racist and bigoted rhetoric worsens is a testament to the need for all Americans to more fully wrestle with our racist past and present. Racism is a cancer that continues to eat away at our social structure in ways both large and small. At the same time even those among us who are interested in discussing race often speak from ignorance, substituting uninformed personal narrative for reasoned analysis and vulnerable, humble discussion. What a beautiful counterbalance it would be to engage in the process of truth and reconciliation – to see people taking responsibility for their actions and the actions of our institutions in a way that heals, not harms.

Similarly, Trump has cast a shadow over the church, although the effect is attenuated. Because of Trump’s unwavering support amongst Evangelical Christians, American Christians of all stripes are now called to account for Trump’s racist rhetoric. Adventism is not exempt from this and neither should we be, considering the fact that members of our church count themselves among Trump’s supporters. To be fair, Trump is not the cause of the church’s race problem. Support for him amongst Adventists who are willing to overlook his racist rhetoric (or who more appallingly attempt to fashion an argument that Trump is not a racist or does not use racist rhetoric) is simply a modern endpoint to a long history of turning a blind eye to the detrimental effect of racism within our church body. It would be wonderful if this church could find the collective will to have open and honest dialogue on how the racism in our spiritual body harms us and how our healing can help us move forward, closer to the standard to which God calls us. A truth and reconciliation project would be a good vehicle to facilitate this process.

One of the sayings adopted by the TRC was, “The truth may hurt but silence kills.” If we are really interested in healing the wounds of racism in this country and in our church, we can no longer be silent about it. We must be willing to have difficult conversations, make vulnerable admissions, and purpose to look each other in the eye and take responsibility for our own actions and the injustices that institutions in this church perpetuated. This conversation cannot be a singular incident, no matter how prominent. There must be the will to bring ourselves to this sore spot again and again until we have helped to alleviate the pain expressed by those effected by the callous ignorance that racism breeds. But it is not enough to have the conversations and express forgiveness and mercy. Along with that there must be a mechanism by which judgment is fair and we seek to balance the scales for those who have been harmed. Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Truth and reconciliation is a combination of justice and mercy, and it is this combination that will allow each of us to walk in humility before God.

[1] Interestingly, the vast majority of amnesty applications were rejected for one reason or another. Out of 7,111 applications, the committee only granted 849.

[2] Alternate of course, to the construction presented to them by their White oppressors.

[3] I am only speaking of America here. I cannot say with any level of confidence what the Adventist Church may need on the issue of race from an international perspective. This argument also applies to American Christianity writ large.

Jason Hines is a former attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at AdventHealth University. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at

Previous Spectrum columns by Jason Hines can be found at:

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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A good follow up to this article would be the presentation of some case studies or stories where effective admissions have been made, responsibilities taken, and restorations paid. I’m sure there are many with the will to proceed out of their silence, but aren’t confident on how to do it.

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I know it is likely fruitless to discuss this with you because it has been your mantra since Trump ran for POTUS and you threw multiple accusations against Him not much unlike Hillary’s rant.; but, I don’t personally see “racist” comments by Trump using “traditional” meanings. Today in the political sphere everyone who disagrees with a certain element of people’s views automatically becomes a “racist” including Pelosi. :slight_smile: Terminology and methodology become paramount with the same principles needing to be applied to all.

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pat, unless you’re a FOX or Breitbart junkie - and please tell me you’re not - you’ll be able to see that trump exhibits indications of racism on a fairly regular basis if you look at what he’s said and is saying objectively. …people who’ve been close to him all say he’s a racist…

as for the problem of racism generally, i think part of the solution may require people of color to cultivate a thicker skin…from what i’ve seen, over and over again, there are instances perceived to be racist that really aren’t…but even if perceived racism really is racism, it’s probably better to learn to live above it, and move on, rather than be affected by it…racism seems to be a worldwide, universal phenomenon, exacerbated by the fact that racists seldom recognize that they’re racist…

of course a church-sponsored truth and reconciliation commission could be a very good thing, if for no other reason than to identify what racism is…but i don’t think it makes sense to put one’s life on hold until things improve…

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Please give specifics and context of your “racist” assertions towards Trump. Are the young Turks racist to compare Israel to Hitler?
Was Pelosi racist to “people of color” as accused by the new foursome friends?
Exactly what is a “racist” in the new terminology…of sliding subjective scales?
I know what was a racist in the 50-70’s. I dont see those prevailing “conditions” anymore in the US. Are there racist of all colors? You bet! Do we all likely discriminate in some ways? Likely.
As I mentioned to Jason we need exact, not subjective definitions and methodology in the present.
Trump is often judged by some actions of his dad. I say we all need to be judged on what we are doing today with the Hope we all are a product of redeeming growth.
We simply have to learn to observe what people presently do.


Such perspective should probably include consideration of your “news” sources relative to your other info sources you deem inferior…

“i’m saying it’s (the bible) almost pathetic and obsolete when we stack it up against the thousands upon thousands of incredibly valuable pages penned by egw and her literary team…just in terms of the amount of information, let alone the scope, not to mention immediate relevance, there’s no comparison”


What is the point being made in picture?
So Randall, what is the demographic in the states shown? How many ran for office of other race/ethnicity in those states in the Rep. Party?

LISTEN UP, EVERYBODY! The odds are high that Patrick is playing his own cruel game by pretending not to see Trump’s cruel game. Trump, in turn wants followers who revel in seeing him bully victims whose skin isn’t as white as his.

The game of “What about…” is a shell game. Be warned, there’s no pea under any of the shells. The only way to win is not to play.


Harry, all I ask for is specific examples in context since Trump ran for office in 2016.
Care to “play that game”?
Afraid of genuine conversation based on facts?
Where’s the money?
What I have seen is tons of accusations. Kavanaugh, Mueller. What I see is the accusers may be more guilty than the accused.


actually, paul, egw isn’t a mere news or info source…she’s an inspired source, and certainly the most prolific and valuable inspired source who has ever lived…not even one of the biblical prophets or apostles has written so widely and extensively as she has - even all together and combined, the bible writers fall far short…egw’s pinpoint accuracy on all things spiritual is nothing short of stunning…her descriptions of doubt, temptation, sin, our fallen human nature, our born again nature, and most notably the general thoughts and feelings of individuals and societies throughout time, are remarkable…this is especially true when you consider that she had practically no formal education, and was hampered by serious, life-threatening illness for a good deal of the time…after several decades of studying her closely, i still find something new and awe-inspiring practically every time i open one of her books, which is generally every day…i really think our church needs to wake up to the value of egw…well at least TW seems to get it…

well, probably the most iconic racist incidents - although there are many more, including first-hand accounts - would have to be trump’s birtherism rant, his mexicans are rapists rant, his charlottesville rant, and his stoking of the “send her back” chant…these are examples of undeniable racism in tone and substance, and will definitely be part of the sad trump legacy that all serious historians will review…

it’s a sad fact that all white nationalists in america, and even around the world, identify with trump…and while all trumpians can’t be said to be racists, it is the case that all racists are trumpians…it’s also a sad fact that many of the russian efforts in 2016 focused on racial themes - perhaps manafort alerted the russians that this was part of trump’s election strategy, assuming they couldn’t see this obvious theme for themselves…

trump’s racism is out in the open…it isn’t even pretending to not be racist, which is what we almost expect to see…and because trump has such a bully pulpit with twitter and the news networks, his racism is incalculably harmful…

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Thank you Paul. As you know talk and accusations are cheap. Facts costly. The problem is in a political charged environment ones own “truth” is considered fact.
Most of Trumps “lies and racism” is political interpretation.
All hat no cattle.

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the point is that the dems are diverse, whereas the GOP isn’t…it’s actually quite a stunning reality when you see it laid out like this…

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Jeremy if you dont push back against foolishness then foolishness reigns. If foolishness doesnt suffer it grows.That’s what the " bully pulpit" is in secular life. Every one of your illustrations has an alternate interpretation.
You also were convinced by “your sources” of Kavanaughs guilt and Trumps sure impeachment after Muellar. Possibly listening to the wrong myopic sources?

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Agree! You said it well!
Those who refuse to acknowledge Trump’s many racist comments may just agree with him…


Well, as I asked the presenter, what is the demographic? How many ran for Rep. Office of other races/ethnicity in those areas. Does ability have anything to do with it or is it all about quotas?

Ditto!!! You said it all!


And, those who agree with the Dem. Bull may just be the same. Oh sorry George, your not speaking to or inferring me. :slight_smile:
We dont t like each other. Let’s leave it at that. Dont shadow me and I wont respond to you.

Did you see Jeremy’s reply to me above George? You agree? The guy that thinks the bible is pathetic and obsolete compared to EGW is your choir boy when it comes to his views on American politics, as a Canadian. Got it.


I just love Canadians ranting about American politics. They appear much too bored of their own. Your rantings are blatant blasphemy of the bible (which even George agreed) and as stated previously, your ignorance of the authority of the completed biblical canon should be the red flag rejection of anything else coming from your perspective. Why would anyone read what you write with any sober consideration after trashing the bible for so many years? And yet, people do. Most here have no conscientious agreement with you until you go on one of your Trumpisthedevil rants.

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This is a poem I coined last year


I cannot have a son alone,
I cannot savor a meal in solitude,
I cannot hoard everything with no need to buy,
I cannot live alone amongst animals wild and tame,
I cannot plough, cook and feed the chickens one time, for

It takes a man and woman to bear a son,
To raise him and guide him through life.
Never in your rage imagine that,
You can run a family alone.

I may have all the food I desire,
A nice couch and a pet besides the fire,
I may have beef, chicken, pork and cooks to hire,
I still need you to enjoy the good life, for

I may own a grocer and a bank,

A huge office, a secretary and a guard to thank,
I may deal in food, diamonds, and airtime at the rank,
I still need you because I cannot sell all, for

My house may be built on an estate,
With thirty rooms and three kilometers to the gate,
I may work the land and stay till late,
I will still have lions, snakes and pirates to hate,
So come closer, for

So come closer, do not go far,
Let’s share a laugh and a drink at the bar,
From henceforth I’ll keep my doors ajar, for