dedicated to sharing alternative news and views from around the world
Clearly, these are very interesting times for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. At a rally in Florida, Donald Trump assured his audience of his mainstream religious affiliations with the Presbyterian denomination. Alluding to Ben Carson, he added, “I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about.” Well, neither does much of the rest of the world. But that is now changing under unexpected circumstances. All the media attention surrounding Ben Carson has catapulted his beliefs, along with his church, to public scrutiny.
Though I am not a Ben Carson supporter (or any other candidate), the fact is that one man suddenly became the most prominent public representative of a movement I deeply identify with. That’s enough to make me uncomfortable. The unfortunate reality is that whatever Carson says and the positions he takes will be associated with Adventists at large. Frankly, that freaks me out. A few weeks ago when the Carson frenzy was really buzzing, my Twitter feed was bombarded with links to articles from The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Associated Press, and others, about Ben Carson’s Adventist beliefs.
One article in particular, published on October 31 by The Daily Beast, caught my attention. The title itself is calculated to raise eyebrows: “Ben Carson’s Church Believes the U.S. Government Will Team Up With the Antichrist.” Wasting no time, the author quickly gets to this statement:
“According to mainstream Seventh-day Adventist doctrine, the second coming of Christ will occur after the U.S. government teams up with the Catholic Church—which Adventists believe is the “Babylon” of the Book of Revelation, with the pope being the Antichrist—to compel Adventists and others to worship on Sunday, rather than Saturday.
“That may seem like a small hook on which to hang the fate of the world, but for Adventists, it is a core belief, taught at ‘prophecy seminars’ and elaborated in excruciating geopolitical detail by key Adventist leaders.”1
For obvious reasons, being confronted with these ideas from a popular news network would be shocking to most readers. As expected, the media does not always provide important context to serious claims. The article suggests that Adventist eschatology “is a small hook on which to hang the fate of the world.” But is it really a “small hook”? Well, if the issue really centers on a battle over two days—Sunday or Saturday—then it may very well be a small hook. That would suggest that Adventist apocalyptic beliefs are quite trivial.
But what if the central issue is actually much deeper?
The truth is that Sunday and Saturday are symbols of a much greater issue—liberty of conscience. Failing to distinguish the symbol from the issue it represents is tantamount to trivializing much of history. Speaking of symbols representing greater issues, one well-known example is the act of defiance that took place on December 16, 1773, when a group of Americans at Boston’s harbor challenged the British Empire and pushed the colonies one step closer to all-out war. And what was their issue?
They were furious about tea taxed by the British.
But was tea worth the risk of a small group of colonies lunging into a perilous war with one of the world’s greatest empires? Wasn’t that simply a good time to start getting used to hot chocolate instead? Sounds like a “small hook” to hang the fate of their world on. Yet most Americans view the revolt over tea during the “Boston Tea Party” as symbolic of the greater issue of freedom.