>Home >Social Justice and God's Plan For Helping The Downtrodden

Social Justice and God's Plan For Helping The Downtrodden

"The black man’s name is written in the book of life beside the white man’s. All are one in Christ. Birth, station, nationality, or color cannot elevate or degrade men. The character makes the man."

Ellen White

Introduction

Some of the early pioneers of the Adventist Church were strong abolitionists. Joseph Bates, was particularly noteworthy in this regard, seen in his joining another individual in a potentially life-threatening mission to slaves in the state of Maryland. Ellen and James White were also strong abolitionists, the former eventually encouraging her son Edson to found a mission to reach the colored people of the south in spite of the extreme prejudice at the time, her ongoing financial support for this endeavor, her calls for people to go as missionaries in the South, and her efforts and financial support to establish Oakwood College. 

To study what she said on the subject, one should read The Southern Work, a compilation of her writings on the subject from the years 1891 to 1899. She wrote more on the subject after this time, and those statements should also be considered in having a balanced view of what she said on the subject.

One cannot understand what Ellen White wrote on the subject if one is unaware of the extreme prejudice that existed in some locations at the time—particularly in the South. She accordingly called for workers to carefully avoid offending those with prejudice—particularly white people in the South—lest these prejudiced individuals were so offended that they would refuse to ever listen to what Adventist might have to say to them. Accordingly, though she clearly said that (1) that there was no caste and that all were equal in the sight of God, (2) that the names of black and white people would also be written side by side in the book of life, and (3) that all could attend the same services and hold membership together, yet in some locations she advocated separate but equal services—those are my words not hers, to minimize inflaming the extreme prejudices that existed in some quarters, to say nothing of protecting life. She also called for training of Black individuals so that they could work with their own people. Note the following:

"Whatever may be the nationality or color, whatever may be the social condition, the missionary for God will look upon all men as the purchase of the blood of Christ, and will understand that there is no caste with God. No one is to be looked upon with indifference, or to be regarded as unimportant; for every soul has been purchased with an infinite price." Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, December 3, 1895, par. 1

"The black man’s name is written in the book of life beside the white man’s. All are one in Christ. Birth, station, nationality, or color cannot elevate or degrade men. The character makes the man." Ellen G. White, The Southern Work, 12.2

"You have no license from God to exclude the colored people from your places of worship. Treat them as Christ’s property, which they are, just as much as yourselves. They should hold membership in the church with the white brethren" Ellen G. White, The Southern Work, 15.2 [She advocated separate services in her time where there were situations of extreme prejudice, however said God would give solutions for late times.]

She also strongly believed in promoting peace, warning against dwelling upon inequities and past failures as the way to bring healing. In fact she specifically warned against inflaming the smoldering enmity and hatred that lay under the surface. Note the following:

"There is not to be one word uttered which would stir up the slumbering enmity and hatred of the slaves against discipline and order, or to present before them the injustice which has been done them." Ellen G. White, Spaulding Magan Collection, 27.4

She also believed that those highly favored were under obligation to help those who had been downtrodden in the past. "

He [God] requires far more of His people than they have given Him in missionary work among the people of the South of all classes, and especially among the colored race. Are we not under even greater obligation to labor for the colored people than for those who have been more highly favored? Who is it that held these people in servitude? Who kept them in ignorance, and pursued a course to debase and brutalize them, forcing them to disregard the law of marriage, breaking up the family relation, tearing wife from husband, and husband from wife? If the race is degraded, if they are repulsive in habits and manners, who made them so? Is there not much due to them from the white people? After so great a wrong has been done them, should not an earnest effort be made to lift them up? The truth must be carried to them. They have souls to save as well as we." Ellen White, The Southern Work, 14.4

In doing the reading, it helps to also remember that she was personally encouraging her son Edson in his work, financially supporting him, advocating on his behalf to leaders of the church, and calling for church members to work in the South. 

At the time she was writing, apparently the word "colored" was the descriptive word used, and accordingly must be used in seeking out what she wrote out on the subject in statements made later than 1899. Accordingly, the following words and phrases will assist you in your quest: "colored," "colored work," "color line," "colored people," "caste," 

Though the heading starts with "Social Justice," that is a modern term and is never found in any of her writings. I use the term to help individuals searching for resources on this subject on the internet find this page.

I share this information because misleading and partial information is sometimes shared that is unfair and poorly represents the messages that God provided through her on this important subject.—Dan

 

Some Key Statements From Mrs. White

"The God of the white man is the God of the black man, and the Lord declares that His love for the least of His children exceeds that of a mother for her beloved child." Ellen White, Southern Work, 11.3

"The black man’s name is written in the book of life beside the white man’s. All are one in Christ. Birth, station, nationality, or color cannot elevate or degrade men. The character makes the man." Ellen White, The Southern Work, 12.2

"Who is it that held these people in servitude? Who kept them in ignorance, and pursued a course to debase and brutalize them, forcing them to disregard the law of marriage, breaking up the family relation, tearing wife from husband, and husband from wife? If the race is degraded, if they are repulsive in habits and manners, who made them so? Is there not much due to them from the white people? After so great a wrong has been done them, should not an earnest effort be made to lift them up? The truth must be carried to them. They have souls to save as well as we." Ellen White, The Southern Work, 14.4

"At the General Conference of 1889, resolutions were presented in regard to the color line. Such action is not called for. Let not men take the place of God, but stand aside in awe, and let God work upon human hearts, both white and black, in His own way. He will adjust all these perplexing questions. We need not prescribe a definite plan of working. Leave an opportunity for God to do something." Ellen White, The Southern Work, 15.1

"We should be careful not to strengthen prejudices that ought to have died just as soon as Christ redeemed the soul from the bondage of sin." Ellen White, The Southern Work, 15.1}

"You have no license from God to exclude the colored people from your places of worship. Treat them as Christ’s property, which they are, just as much as yourselves. They should hold membership in the church with the white brethren." Ellen White, The Southern Work, 15.2

"There are able colored ministers who have embraced the truth. Some of these feel unwilling to devote themselves to work for their own race; they wish to preach to the white people. These men are making a great mistake. They should seek most earnestly to save their own race, and they will not by any means be excluded from the gatherings of the white people." Ellen White, The Southern Work, 5.4

"Is it not time for us to live so fully in the light of God’s countenance that we who receive so many favors and blessings from Him may know how to treat those less favored, not working from the world’s standpoint, but from the Bible standpoint? ... Should it not be the work of the white people to elevate the standard of character among the colored race, to teach them how Christians should live, by exemplifying the Spirit of Christ, showing that we are one brotherhood?" Ellen White, The Southern Work, 16.2

"Not all who labor in this line should depend upon the conferences for support. Let those who can do so give their time and what ability they have, let them be messengers of God’s grace, their hearts throbbing in unison with Christ’s great heart of love, their ears open to hear the macedonian cry." Ellen White, Southern Work, 16.4

"Christians will manifest the self-sacrificing spirit of Christ in their work, in connection with every branch of the cause. They will do this heartily, not by halves. They will not study their own aggrandizement nor manifest respect of persons. They will not, cannot, live in luxury and self-indulgence while there are suffering ones around them. They cannot by their practice sanction any phase of oppression or injustice to the least child of humanity. They are to be like Christ, to relinquish all selfish delights, all unholy passions, all that love of applause which is the food of the world. They will be willing to be humble and unknown, and to sacrifice even life itself for Christ’s sake. By a well-ordered life and Godly conversation they will condemn the folly, the impenitence, the idolatry, the iniquitous practices of the world." Ellen White, The Southern Work, 17.2

 

Some Key Documents On The Work With Black People

Our Duty To Colored People

This is one of the most important documents on the subject of the equality of races and how to work with the downtrodden—in this case Black people, and appears as the first chapter in The Southern Work compilation. In one of the early paragraphs she explains that the Bible offers principles to govern our work. Accordingly, this should be "must read" material on the subject of race relations in the Adventist Church. Granted it is written in the context of the conditions of her time and the prejudice that existed in the South at the time, but the principles are still relevant to our day. However!!!! read the rest of the compilation when you can and other writings of hers on the subject. (Read "Our Duty To Colored People")