In March, I attended a Hispanic Weekend Spiritual Retreat for ladies and girls, ages 10 years and up, in my local church conference. The retreat was held in Cohutta Springs, Georgia. I traveled there with my mother, sisters, and other women from my parents’ church.
I enjoyed the event. However, throughout the weekend there was a constant stream of topics to which I could not relate. The irony is that it was supposed to be a retreat for women of all ages. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
The first night’s meeting made me feel like an outsider. It focused on married women with children and single mothers. There was a separate program for girls ages 10 through 17.
Once the speaker began to speak about her intimate relationship with her husband, I felt awkward. Other women nodded their heads in agreement as she openly talked about healthy, loving marriages and ways to love and treat your husband, but I could not agree or relate.
My mom noticed a shift in my body language. “If you don’t feel comfortable being here, then how about you join the youth group,” she said.
I looked at her with an irritated facial expression.
I told my mom I am 21 years old and an adult. Simply not married and childless. For a retreat the marketed to all women, it just so happened that they forgot about my age group. When I expressed those sentiments to my mother and twin sister, they told me to take the information as advice for when I marry in the future.
According to the 2018 North American Adventist Demographics Report, a study conducted by the Center for Creative Ministry and Commissioned by the NAD Office of Education, nearly four out of five adults in the Adventist population are married. But surveys of single adults among Adventists have reported that they often feel that congregations are dominated by married people and not very welcoming for singles.
“Over the last decade since the 2008 survey, the Adventist population has shifted even further away from single adults toward married individuals,” according to the study. “The percentage of divorced singles has not changed, but the percentages of primarily younger never-married singles and primarily older widowed singles have each dropped by roughly half. “
The demographic study suggests it could be an indication that Adventist congregations in North America are not improving their ability to connect with single adults and make them feel at home. It clearly states that there needs to be attention given to developing a more effective single’s ministries in the NAD.
I hope for the next Hispanic women’s retreat won’t overlook us single ladies; because although we are not in relationships or have children, we can still bring our flavor to the world.
Last November, the Latin American Club of Southern Adventist University (SAU) invited Willy Ramos, better known as the “Ghetto Preacher,” to share his testimony during some of SAU’s worship services. I remember sitting that Friday evening in the pews and seeing Ramos walk on stage.
He wore a black leather vest and some dark shades. There were chains attached to his clothing and a big silver cross pendant pinned to his shirt. To me, he looked like a wannabe-rapper, and the first thing that popped into my mind was, why is he here?
I did not think someone with a “gangsta” look could help my spiritual life in any way. Within a few seconds, however, I realized how wrong those thoughts were. I realized that judging someone like that is not correct. And even though I reprimanded myself within a short time, where did those thoughts come from?
I realized that judging someone like that is not correct. And even though I reprimanded myself within a short time, where did those thoughts come from?
Unconscious bias, also referred to as implicit bias, is an involuntary response towards a situation or person based on previous experiences, cultures, attitudes and background. We put individuals in boxes and act accordingly based on their gender, age, race, as well as what they do for a living, what they wear and many other characteristics.
According to an article byForbes, there are over 150 forms of unconscious bias. Three of the most common ones are affinity bias, performance bias and confirmation bias. The first one refers to the phenomenon that happens when individuals tend to like or favor people who are most like them. The second means that “we judge the ‘ingroup’ based on potential, and the ‘outgroup’ based on performance.” Finally, confirmation bias means that one is actively seeking proof and easily accepting evidence that might back up that already-made assumption.
Many people may feel that they have escaped this way of thinking, but the truth is that unconscious bias is simply repressed prejudice – and most people are guilty of it, according to experts. Everyone has his or her own culture, background and experiences that lead them to think, even if it is for just a moment, a certain kind of way. The question that remains now is: How can this implicit bias affect a church? To answer this question I will go back to my first illustration and compare it with the three most common forms of unconscious bias.
Many people may feel that they have escaped this way of thinking, but the truth is that unconscious bias is simply repressed prejudice – and most people are guilty of it.
Ramos had never done anything to me. He had never offended me; he had never hurt me; we had never even spoken. Yet, the moment I saw him walk on stage my mind was clouded with prejudice. Why? Because he did not look like me and did not look the way most people in the church looked. I was overcomed by affinity bias. He was not wearing a suit or dress shoes. He did not have a tie or a white collar shirt. His look was like that of someone off the street, not someone on the pulpit. He simply did not fit in.
I think this is a common problem with the church. We speak of preaching the message and loving our neighbor but we judge when our neighbor comes from a different “neighborhood.” Maybe we do not discriminate directly based on race, but we discriminate about makeup, tattoos, marriage status, political views, etc. We do not like it when others do not act the way we act or look the way we look. On the outside, we are smiling and shaking hands. But on the inside, we are examining from head to toe.
When Ramos walked on stage, it was obvious that he was not your usual preacher. He did not look the role; and unless he proved himself, I was not going to give him the part. Yet, there have been times when other well-dressed-holding-Bible-in-hand pastors have appeared on the platform and I got ready to hang them the oscar even before they had gotten the chance to act. This is performance bias. Those who fit the “ideal preacher” image received my full attention, but those who did not show those “characteristics” only received partial listening until I could decide they could “play the role” too.
How many times have you observed that same phenomenon in the church? How many times have you found yourself guilty of the same reasoning? Sometimes people in the church categorize others based on in-groups and out-groups; those who fit the role and those who don’t.
“She is the pastor’s wife?! Why does she wear so much makeup?”
“I do not know about her, she was baptized two months ago but still wears her skirts so short.”
Too often in the church, if someone does not fit the stereotype then we mentally require them to prove their worthiness.
Sometimes people in the church categorize others based on in-groups and out-groups; those who fit the role and those who don’t.
The hard thing about unconscious bias is that we do not realize it is there until it reveals itself (note that you cannot unhide it, you just recognize it after it comes out). Sometimes rather than addressing this bias problem, we try to make it seem “less problematic.”
If we can find “actual proof” for that repressed prejudice that just popped into our minds, then it means we had a legit reason to feel the way we did. It means that we are not such horrible human beings after all. As I realized the error in my thoughts, I found myself paying close attention to Ramos’ vocabulary and expressions. In a way I wanted him to say a word I knew was wrong or make a connotation I knew was inappropriate for a church setting because then my unconscious bias could have been justified. I was turning from affinity bias and performance bias towards confirmation bias.
However, no bias is acceptable. All biases cause the same level of harm. If the church is free from affinity or performance bias but is still chained to confirmation bias, then we we are still slaves to prejudice. If we are looking at the actions of our neighbors, watching their vocabulary, appearance, friendships, etc., expecting to find faults, then we are but captives to hatred, discrimination and injustice seen everywhere in the world.
Humans are all guilty of unconscious bias. It is a poison in everyone’s mind and this poison has even intoxicated the church. Just because it is there, however, does not mean that we have to welcome it.
When I realized how wrong my thoughts towards the Ghetto Preacher were, then I knew I had to clean up of my mind. The church needs to do the same thing. It is not always easy but it is necessary if we are trying to live a life like Jesus. It is time we get rid of this poison called unconscious bias and clear the cloud of prejudice.
Just because it is there… does not mean that we have to welcome it.
Florida is the state with the second highest number of Seventh-day Adventist churches in the United States. With 471 SDA Churches dispersed across the state, I was intrigued by the numbers and decided to research the topic.
When taking on this project, I decided to focus on Orlando, specifically Seventh-day Adventist churches within a 15-mile radius of the city. The majority of the churches that were in the 15-mile radius were located in Orange County. There were two remaining churches that were a part of Brevard County.
Below is the Interactive Map that I created to show the 52 SDA Churches in the 15-mile radius. The churches are mapped out by language.
Map to Key:
The population of Greater Orlando Area is an estimated 1,348,975 as of 2017. Since this estimate, Central Florida has seen an increase of citizens from Venezuela and Puerto Rico seeking refuge after a natural disaster and political turmoil.
There are 26 English speaking Seventh-day Adventist churches within the 15-mile radius of Orlando. Under this category, there are many churches that are diverse and large in numbers. Examples of this would be Forest Lake SDA or Spring Meadows churches. It is also important to point out that some of these churches could be predominantly black, Asian, or white. However, since the focus of this map is on the language, researching that information was unnecessary.
There are 14 Spanish-speaking churches on the interactive map. When conducting the research, I was expecting there to be more Spanish speaking churches in the area. I’m sure if I expanded the mile radius, more churches would pop up. Hispanics made up approximately 26.9 percent of the Greater Orlando Area in the 2010 census. In the upcoming census (2020), this number is most likely to increase due to the diaspora of Venezuelans and Puerto Ricans.
Greater Orlando Area’s SDA Population:
According to research done by the Glenmary Research Center in 1990, Orange County (Greater Orlando Area) was in the Top 25 U.S. Counties with Largest Seventh-day Adventist Communities.
In the 1990s, there were an estimated 6,526 Seventh-day Adventists in Orange County. Fifty out of the 52 of the churches on the interactive map are in Orange County.
To see the amount of growth Orlando has had, I added up all the members of the 52 churches. If the numbers are correct and none of these members have left the area, we have an estimated 22,052 Seventh-day Adventists in the Greater Orlando Area (within the 15-mile radius).
The growing SDA population in the Greater Orlando Area is most likely caused by two factors. The first reason is people leaving their countries due to political or disaster refuge and immigrating to this area. These large groups of people moving to this area are usually already Adventists. Although our church works hard to reach a lot of people, these individuals are not necessarily brought to the church from evangelism since they are already apart of the church.
Orlando is known for being the home of the massive AdventHealth Hospitals, previously known as Florida Hospital. Just in the Greater Orlando Area, there are 10 AdventHealth facilities. These huge hospitals must attract a lot of SDA’s to the area, and also in a way teach those unfamiliar with the faith about Adventism.
In a span of almost 30 years, the numbers of Adventists has skyrocketed in my hometown. I can’t wait to see where we will be another 30 years from now.
In the video above, Madeline Mace, junior fine arts major, describes her journey with art and shares insight into the inspiration behind her pieces.
By Natalia Perez
This week, I interviewed four Southern students on their backstories as creators, and how their religious affiliation or cultural/societal gender roles have affected — or not affected — their creative process and expression.
Barry Daly, senior religious studies major, is an imaginative and detailed artist. He has been creating as a photographer for seven years.
Tell me a bit about you as an artist.
B: “For the majority of my life, I’ve tried my best to create from my imagination through writing, storytelling, and filmmaking. When I was starting out I would draw [inspiration] from everywhere, and as a result, I was able to draw emotion from my subjects that many other photographers could not. At this point in my creative journey, I draw from minor details in conversations, certain body language, details in movies, music, or other forms of entertainment.”
Audrey Fankhanel, junior international studies major, has been especially flourishing as an artist during her year abroad in Italy. She creates through writing, photography, painting, and designing.
A: “It is hard to become an artist. It’s something that is innately within you. I have been creating since before I can remember. I have a portfolio for every year of my life, each filled with short stories and paintings. However, I still struggle with calling myself an artist because by claiming the title I feel a huge responsibility and pressure to create.
I am most inspired by nature, but my works are not directly about nature. I’m fascinated by the rhythms and patterns found in every aspect of the natural world, from the orbit of an electron to the ever-expanding universe. This life is so unpredictable, but these natural laws are perfect and never changing, and if that isn’t evidence of a God then I don’t know what is.”
Kristen Vonnoh, senior journalism-publishing major, has a special flair in her writing that matches her personality. Her writing interests include faith, fashion, and music among other things.
K: “I guess my writer’s journey began when I made a blog in fifth grade documenting horribly written short stories. I never really considered calling myself a writer until college, and even now I typically call myself a journalist. But I suppose “writer” is all-encompassing, which I like.
I definitely tend to be the overly dramatic, overly romantic type, so I draw creativity from pretty much everything honestly. Whether it’s a super mediocre cup of coffee or a TED talk I just heard, my mind is constantly absorbing ideas for my writing. That and my journalism professors have given me the wonderful advice to always, always, always be looking out for interesting stories.”
Jordan Putt, Southern alum, is a soulful and heartfelt creative. On April 21, 2018, he released an EP called “Honest to God,” available on Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, and all music online-streaming sites. His album is a meditation of God, humanity, imperfection, and faith; and it’s the culmination of almost four years of sporadic writing. His music reads like a love letter to a best friend.
J: “I’ve been interested in music for as long as I can remember. Since I was old enough to pull myself up onto the piano bench, I would pretend to play music on it. I got my first guitar when I was 10, and it’s been a love affair ever since. I draw inspiration from my own experiences and feelings, as well as whatever I happen to be listening to at the moment. I think one of the things that has helped me become a better musician is listening to music from as wide a variety of musical genres and eras as I possibly can. I get a lot of inspiration from hearing what other people have done and trying to assimilate that into my own playing and writing.”
Here’s more of what the four artists had to say on this topic:
Do you feel limited by our religion or do you feel it enhances your creativity?
B: “When I was younger, I really believed that anything was possible within the confines of the church. As I have gotten older, I’ve consistently encountered judgment and opportunism. For the longest time, I had no idea why so many made the decision to leave the church. Often times, church-goers don’t take the time to really show love and support artists. Ultimately, I don’t believe that religion and belief limit me, but the people who “control” them do their best to shame creatives into fitting in the box they’ve built.”
A: “Growing up surrounded by the Adventist culture in Loma Linda, California, I absolutely have felt limited creatively. My spiritual beliefs enhance my art more than anything else, but the religious culture in which my beliefs reside creates a bubble of “appropriateness” that SDA’s are expected to operate within.”
K: “I 100% believe my relationship with God fuels my creativity. Understanding the gospel and my freedom in Christ has only allowed my creativity to flourish. And I think the key in all of that is a relationship with God—the ultimate Creator.”
J: “I feel less limited by my beliefs than by what I think my audience will tolerate. My beliefs go hand in hand with my experiences and who I am as a person, so as long as I stay true to myself in my art (which has always been my goal), I won’t even think about creating something that goes against my beliefs. However, I do think that there are a lot of taboos in Adventist culture as it relates to doubts, struggles, and questioning. I have felt like there’s a lot of pressure to put on a good face and appear secure and content all the time, even when that may not be the case. This can be especially true for people who have been raised in the church.
For me, the anxiety that comes from being vulnerable and open about those questions or struggles can sometimes cause me to feel limited in what I feel comfortable talking about because of how I think it may cause my audience, especially the more conservative segment, to perceive me as a person.”
What do you think differentiates traditional feminine art from masculine art?
B: “I believe that the biggest difference is that most often it’s much easier for women to show emotion, and they are most often more willing to be vulnerable because for them art is healing.”
A: “Traditionally, masculine art has dominated feminine art, and this is mainly at the fault of the consumer. Male artists are given unwritten permission to be provocative and enticing. Their works tackle big ideas and complex emotions. Meanwhile, females are associated with creating “pretty” paintings or fun business logos. There are many female artists creating just as great works as males, but you will never hear about them. This goes for the Christian church as well, especially if you look at preaching as an art form. How many mega churches do you see being spearheaded by women? How often do you hear of a great female theologian outside of the context of an “inclusion” seminar?”
K: “I’ve always found this idea interesting because while there are universal feminine and masculine characteristics, much of it is also determined by culture. As a woman going into the field of journalism, I definitely recognize the “masculine” aspects of the craft (i.e. analyzing, collecting data and documents, etc.) and honestly I love it because it pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to engage with a different aspect of my mind.”
J: “I think art that we perceive as feminine usually tends to deal with softer, more traditionally feminine themes — love, family, etc. What is generally perceived to be masculine art usually deals with things that are traditionally male themes or traits, such as aggression, strength, security, etc.”
The interactive map and slideshow below feature the population of Southern’s Latino students whose citizenship is outside of the U.S., along with stories from students who are second-generation immigrants.
Last semester, I and a team of ladies from the Southern’s School of Journalism designed and assembled the content for the Latin American Club’s first magazine, “Unidad Latina” (Latino Unity). The purpose of the magazine is to both celebrate the Latin American students of Southern and connect them with Southern’s alumni and the surrounding community. Although LAC has traditionally celebrated Latino culture through LAC events and especially on LAC night, this year we’ve opened a new avenue of expression through the written word.
Throughout this first issue, as well as the map above, you’ll find that many stories hold prominent themes of strength, family, and remembering home. In light of the various struggles Latinos face in the U.S., we find joy in celebrating our cultures together, and we’d love to celebrate them with you.
Southern Adventist University’s very own Samir Khalil talks about how he grew up in various countries and how that allowed him to see different cultures and learn more about them. He has interesting thoughts on diversity and speaks about them.
Southern is notorious for its large population of international students. The photos below help paint a picture of just how diverse our campus is, providing information on all of the cultures represented at our school and a list of the top 5 most common ethnicity’s on campus.