You will find more good people in the Adventist church than bad. Earnest people who read the Bible and what to follow it. Few, if any, spray-tanned mega-church shysters defrauding the elderly. And there are a lot of elderly Adventists. PBS did a special on Adventists and talked about Adventist longevity. They live a long time. They tend to be the kind of people to shelter those in need. Feed them too, though the food is likely to be foreign to non-Adventists.
Gluten steaks. Need I say more?
But they are also really out of touch. It has been a while since I was immersed, but in my day, we talked about how secular humanism was of the devil. Whitney Houston made devil music because “I believe the children are our future” is a secular humanist sentiment. Christian rock was suspect. Real rock was played backwards to illuminate the satanic messages contained within. It wasn’t terribly uncommon for there to be no TVs in an Adventist home. 1950’s wholesomeness all the way.
Not to say all of that is bad. I am deeply suspicious of the TV’s benefit. For different reasons, but still.
Part of the problem with such an insular community is the lack of measures to judge belief and behavior against. Weirdness is tolerated in that community, but not “oh, look at Sue and her peculiar fashion sense.” There is that too, but I’m talking about teachers that shouldn’t have been anywhere near kids. They went unchecked, inappropriate behavior and all, because critical thinking didn’t apply when it came to questioning someone in a leadership position. Okay, you could feel free to gossip endlessly about who got their ears pierced, but a teacher asking a class of virginal 15 year olds if they thought anal sex was acceptable? Well, that went uncontested. As was a poster of a bikini-clad, dark-haired whore of Babylon hanging on the walls. (True story). And which was weirder? The anal sex question in a room full of kids who had never heard those two words put together in the same sentence? Or looking for subliminal sperm in Budweiser advertisements and bad words in Disney films.
It is impossible to overstate the role the end times and Revelation play in Adventist culture and thinking. Or of how afraid they are. Afraid of the outside world. Afraid of their children becoming secularized (like me). Afraid of change. Afraid of questioning their own beliefs.
Like many other structures, when something goes wrong, they would rather look away than confront the issue of rot within the ranks. Yes, Adventists have child molesters and creeps too. Anyone (of any faith) who wants to be a youth pastor, is suspect as far as I’m concerned.
They also believe only Adventists will go to heaven, so that means they believe that, in the end times, everyone will convert. Or at least everyone who goes to heaven will have converted first. That means baptism and honoring the Jewish Sabbath: sundown to sundown, Friday to Saturday.
So aside from the Saturday thing, and the vegetarianism thing, and the pacifism thing, and the humility is serious business thing… how are Adventists different than born agains or evangelicals? In the essence, probably not that much. It is a culture of introverts. Not a lot of crying in the aisles. Probably overall more concerned with substance. Less inclined to want to tell non-Adventists what to do. Reserved. They walk the walk when it comes to doctrine that can be traced directly back to the Bible. Which I respect. Rapture isn’t directly Biblical, so while we watched the Left Behind series in high school, we were appropriately forewarned that the evangelical parts were to be ignored.
They do share the Evangelical mistrust of bodies like the UN, because of the promised new world order of Revelation. IT is a little funny: they all want God to come back, but the things that would have to be in place for that to happen, according to Revelation, at least, they are totally against. So for evangelicals who like the idea of an evangelical in the White House, Dr. Carson is a reasonable choice.
For those of us who aren’t so evangelical… Do we want a President who believes that international governance is a part of the Devil’s plan for the earth and likely to bring about the return of Christ? Do we want someone in the Presidency who has a deep-seated mistrust of anyone who follows a different religion than him?
The Presidency is a 7-day-a-week kind of gig. What is he going to do from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, in the middle of a crisis where the Bible forbids working on the Sabbath? Service professionals get special dispensation to carry on being Doctors and Nurses, but for everyone else, no TV, no shopping, no work. This is a church that, at least in my memory, had serious discussions as to whether swimming is an acceptable Sabbath activity. How does that work for the President?
I said before that the Adventists are huge supporters of the separation between church and state. Primarily because they know that they aren’t mainstream and, were some branch of religion come to be merged with the state, their right to practice, to worship on Saturday, to eat gluten stakes, is at risk. I don’t suspect that Ben Carson wants to write Adventist doctrine into the Constitution, but that many of the positions he takes and policies he must inevitably support are based in his conservative Christianity, not reason and not what is best for a nation that is made up of everyone, not just conservative Christians. They must, because he’s coming from such a strong position of secular suspicion and reason-until-it-conflicts-with-the-Bible thinking.
How can you defend separation of church and state when you merge belief and policy?