Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Adventist Vote

I'd promised myself not to do any blogging until I had handed in my research paper on the International Criminal Court (due 2 June). However, after reading this editorial in the official Adventist magazine Adventist Review, my head is full of thoughts.

Roy Adams, associate editor of the Review, is using his position and editorship to encourage Adventists to vote against in a referendum to allow slot machines in the US state of Maryland. Roy Adams is far from being my hero, he is, after all, the author of this piece in the Adventist Review in 2003. Adams is nevertheless an influential figure in the Adventist church, both as associate editor of the Review but also through his authorship of several books.(1) Furthermore, according the this news story from Adventist News Network, the President of the General Conference of the Adventist church, Jan Paulsen, calls the suggestions "timely" and "appropriate."

The problem I have is not that Adams and Paulsen are speaking out against gambling, the church has made several statements concerning this issue over the years. Gambling does ruin lives and it saddens me every time I walk past the bookmaker that is located less than 100 meters from my front door. Neither do I object to Adventists, laypersons as well as ministers, advocating for or against certain political propositions, although I'm not certain I agree with Adams that gambling should be illegal.

What I object to is the church, or officials acting on behalf of the church, advocating specific political positions. The church can and should speak up on political issues concerning freedom of conscience and religion, but should not engage in, or become part of, the political discourse. Church members can and should be politically active, but not the church.

I have for a long time considered whether I should be a member of the Adventist church, now I think I should resign my membership. I maintain my belief in the core Adventist beliefs and seek the 'faith of Jesus,' but the church is becoming more like other evangelical churches that seek political influence and see themselves as moral guardians of society. I, however, cannot feel at home in a church that engages in politics.

- 24.05.2008, Update -
I've regretted writing the last paragraph since posting this entry late last night (at 03.00 AM). I'm not going to resign my membership of the Adventist church, and I shouldn't have suggested that disagreement with the church is a good reason to do so. The church is a fellowship of believers and what connects us is a belief in Jesus, not agreement over politics. I'll keep advocating that the church shouldn't engage in politics, but they are going to have to throw me out for me to leave.

(1) Including being the principle contributor to this quarter's bible studies guides.


At 24 May, 2008 03:34, Blogger Charles said...

Torsten, I will have to read into this further. I do find it interesting that the SDA church is so adamant about separation of church and state, but deem it necessary to step in here. Seems hypocritical, especially in light of our positions on Religious Liberty.

However, I do wonder what movement you will join. I would stay away, then, from the emergent church movement. They are HIGHLY political. Oh my goodness are they political - and usually via lambasting and eviscerating the political right and the conservative establishment, which ironically, the SDA church tends to do.

In closing - I sorta feel the same way as you. I confessed to my head elder the other day that I no longer believe in the SDA church, though I believe in many of the doctrines. You and I seem to be on similar journeys spiritually.

Now! :-) Again, nice to see you blogging again.


At 24 May, 2008 07:23, Blogger Johnny said...

In Remnant and Republic by Charles Teel (and also the books by Doug Morgan and Edwin Hernandez) you can read about Adventist involvement on specific political propositions counselling the entire church to vote a certain way on bills and part of the political discourse. An example would be our contributing significantly to the defeat of a California law which sought to ban alcohol sales on the Sabbath. We even all but explicitly endorsed President Harding in the Review actually. And Paulsen has spoken out pretty strongly against Iraq in reminding Adventists that it's against our faith to bear arms in his call for peacemaking. So this isn't something new, no.

At 24 May, 2008 07:26, Blogger Johnny said...

correcting any possible misunderstanding, Sabbath as in sunday not saturday as the law was written by sunday church folk to protect the sabbath hours (sunday). It was a "sabbath" law even though it banned alcohol sales on sunday.

At 24 May, 2008 10:33, Blogger Johnny Workentine said...

Torsten, The Adventists just don't want the competition.

Last Christmas, they had their blowout at Cadillac Jack's:

So how can they be against gambling?

At 24 May, 2008 11:28, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Johnny, thanks for your comment.

It is true that the Adventist church has in the past been involved in political issues. In the editorial Roy Adams refers, for example, to Adventist support for the temperance movement. I do not, however, consider these episodes as high points in the church's history. The semi-support for Harding being particularly misguided.

I accept that there is no clear distinction between the political and apolitical. To have a belief in not bearing arms, as you say Paulsen has expressed, is also to some extent a political belief. However, when the church starts espousing certain political viewpoints its looses sight of its calling to testify about jesus.

The California example you mention is interesting, because it illustrates the problem of religious politics. Sunday trading of alcohol was an important issue for the temperance movement, but Adventist, in spite of being supporters of temperance, saw this as religious legislation they could not support.

P.S. This comment was not meant as a counter-argument to to your comment. You were, after all, merely pointing out that Adams' editorial was not without precedent in Adventist history. Point well taken.

I guess I was just expanding my argument... :-).

At 24 May, 2008 11:55, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Johnny Workintine,

Sorry, I'm not certain I understood your blog entry on Adventist at Cadilac Jacks.

Are you saying that an Adventist christmas party was held at a resort with a casino? If so, that may be somewhat inappropriate.

My viewpoint about gambling is that it should regulated, but its wrong to make it illegal.

At 25 May, 2008 02:20, Blogger Jonas Raabjerg said...

Glad to hear you're still with us :) (as part of the fellowship, that is)


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