You’re sitting around the kitchen table for a family meeting. Something has happened that caused one of the family members pain—pain perhaps inflicted by another member of the family. I’ve been involved in such meetings. They are hard. It is tempting to simply pretend the harm never happened, in order to avoid the difficult conversation.
The thing about difficult conversations is just that—they are difficult. These conversations touch cherished values and threaten to derail worldviews. At times it may feel as though the very fabric of our reality may unravel if we even consider certain thoughts, let alone engage in an exchange with someone who sees things differently. Yet these conversations are some of the most important. They cut through any pretense and address themselves to what matters most to us.
For some readers the focus of this issue represents a difficult conversation. Questions have been brewing, particularly among those who have inherited the negative effects of colonialism, about the role of the church in that enterprise.
Some question the veracity and viability of Adventist doctrine given the time during which Adventism arose and spread. Does the fact that the spread of Christianity has been linked with the colonial enterprise disqualify its teachings? Additionally, Adventists’ prophetic understanding developed during the colonial era. Is our traditional interpretation of Daniel and Revelation so tainted by a colonial mindset that it is wholly unreliable?
In order to begin to address these questions and others like them, we must take a look at some uncomfortable facts from our history. The articles in this issue are by no means exhaustive. Think of them as guiding a conversation in which much more could and should be said. The goal is not to be condemnatory, but to be candid. It is only when we honestly face our past that we can properly move forward in the present.
Back at that kitchen table, it may become apparent, as the family listens to each other, that some of the hurt was misconstrued. What may have felt like deliberate malevolence might be softened in interpretation. Reactions are impacted by a humble, open, and honest consideration of different perspectives. Even when the issue is not resolved, engaging in the discussion brings us closer together as the family of God. If nothing else, we will better understand each other, which will help us to better love each other.
Let us sit together around the proverbial kitchen table and address ourselves to a topic that may be challenging to discuss. With the empathy, compassion, and kindness of Christ, speaking the truth in love, we can forge a more authentic Christian unity.