There are a lot of people who look at Seventh-Day Adventists as complete lunatics. At one point I know Adventists were listed on the US governments official registry of cults. I remember when the DEA surrounded David Koresh and the Branch Dividian compound in Waco, Texas. At the time I was the only Adventist attending a non-denominational Christian high school. As we watched the news live in school and Dan Rather mentioned that they were former Seventh-Day Adventists, the entire class turned and looked at me. I’m not sure what they expected, but I definitely had some explaining to do. From having our own prophet and keeping the Jewish Sabbath to vegetarianism as a requirement for membership (it’s not by the way), Seventh-Day Adventists are unique among other protestant faiths. Most people just get us confused with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Combine the craziness with some of the seemingly antiquated dogma many won’t give up from the 19th century, it’s no wonder fewer and fewer people in North America find Adventism attractive. It’s even pushing our own young people out at a rate faster than any other denomination (I’ll save that for the next post).
So why should I even be an Adventist?
Why should I stick with a denomination that seems a bit crazy and a lot old-fashioned? If you had asked me that question a year or two ago I wouldn’t have been able to answer you. Even after spending my entire life growing up in the church, going through the school system (except high school), marrying an Adventist wife I met at an Adventist university, and working for an Adventist employer, I couldn’t have really put my finger on it. It’s taken years of searching not only my Adventistness, but my faith, personal beliefs, and Christianity all the way down to the existence of God. What I found by throwing it all out and seeking to find what belief system was at harmony with my own beliefs, I found myself coming back to Adventism. And for me it didn’t boil down to 28 fundamental beliefs. It came down to just a few things that I couldn’t turn away from.
1. God – God is infinite. Incomprehensible. Indescribable. And for many, terrifying. We like our buddy Jesus, but his dad we want nothing to do with. As I stepped outside of Christianity to sort out God, I began to see the Bible differently and for what it was meant to be. The story of a creator God desperately trying to reconcile humanity to Himself through Israel, culminating in the life of his son, Jesus. When I started breaking down Adventism, I found it shared the same belief. The Bible isn’t two different gods (old vs. new testament). It’s not a mean, unapproachable God who likes to smite people. It’s a loving, gracious, merciful God who just wants to make everything right again. But doing so takes more than the snap of his fingers.
2. Good & Evil - All the best stories have good and evil. Whether it’s mythology with Zeus and Hades or comic books with Superman and Lex Luther, mankind understands the world to be at odds. It makes sense to us. And there’s a reason for that. When looking at God and trying to understand concepts like grace, justice, and mercy you can’t get too far down that path before you ask that infinitely complicated question “Why do bad things happen to good people”. And what so many people do with a watered down gospel is ignore what the Bible spells out as a battle outside of our scope of vision. They blame God because they have not been privy to the whole story. Within that construct is what Adventists call “The Great Controversy”. By pulling all the hints dropped throughout the Bible, Adventists have pieced together a story that is far more complicated and heartbreaking than most realize. For me, understanding good and evil cleared the way for a world view through which I can address right and wrong, good and evil. Adventists don’t feel we’re at odds with God or pleading for salvation from Him when providing healthcare or disaster relief. We understand our place in a cosmic struggle for dominance for which we look forward to the conclusion.
3. Common Sense Truth – I’m not going to get into a debate here about “who has the truth” and “what is the truth”. Frankly YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH (sorry, I had to do it). But seriously, from the early founders of Adventism to many who walk through the doors today, they discovered Adventism not by attending a Revelation Seminar, but by studying their Bible. The beliefs and the church are backed up by scripture that any person can read and say “Oh, that makes sense”. It doesn’t require additional interpretation, hidden codexes, or historical documentation from the Constantine empire to explain. We go to church on Saturday. Why? Because the bible says so (Ex. 20:8). Done. Whether it’s God, prophecy, death, or the second coming the basic beliefs of the denomination at the end of the day just make sense.
4. Health – I care about my health. I work in healthcare and know the benefits of taking care of your body even though I’m not a patient giver. There’s no faith system on the planet that emphasizes a healthy lifestyle like Adventists. They are consistently mentioned in articles and research about health and longevity. And those reports aren’t people who were employed by the church. They were independent researchers who found this group of crazy people eating plenty of veggies and getting plenty of rest who happened to live longer than other people. I’m good with a system of beliefs that encourages me not just to come to church and give them my money, but to live a long and healthy life.
5. Lifestyle – How many articles have you read about trying to be content? I see more and more blogs and books coming out from people who have discovered new joy in life by living simply, finding work/life balance, and giving back; all things that Adventists excel in. Don’t believe me? Have you ever seen an Adventist mowing their yard on a Saturday? Adventists have this built in excuse to say “NO” to anything and everything one day a week. It’s time to worship, relax, and spend time with friends and family. Everyone looks forward to the weekend, but not the way Adventists do. There’s nothing more therapeutic to end your week than getting together at a friend’s home for haystacks. Then there’s giving back and taking care of others; sharing our blessings and taking care of God’s creation. You name it and there’s probably an Adventist organization that does it. Mission trips, community service, education, etc. Seventh-day Adventists look beyond their own little world to impact their community and world. All of this comes together in a faith focusing on mind, body, and spirit through faith and living.
Many people both inside and out of the church focus on all the negatives of Adventism. They see a rules oriented denomination that requires tithing and not eating lobster. They get discouraged by church politics and intergenerational conflict. I can tell you from looking at other denominations that politics will follow you and disillusion you in any church. They will all have some older, conservative group arguing with a young, progressive group over the direction of worship services. But my faith is bigger than those things. And it’s not defined by any constituent group of people. There’s a fine line between crazy and genius. And when I broke it down, trying to prove the crazy I found the genius. Sure, we’re not without a few nuts. But every family has a few quacks. But in a world filled with distractions and quick fixes Adventism isn’t just a set of beliefs about what will happen after your dead, but a holistic view of living life well, both here and for eternity. I love it. I’m proud of it. No other Christian denomination comes close. And that’s why I should, and am, a Seventh-Day Adventist.