As we come to the close of another year, I am willing to admit that this year has been a tough one for me in Adventism. From both a personal and institutional perspective, things happened this year that troubled me with regard to how this church treats the least of us. These things trouble me because I have a long history with the Adventist Church. I was born into the church and baptized at eight years old. While I was in college, I took some time to explore other religions and denominations but stayed with Adventism.
In the movie Men in Black, Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) tells Agent Jay (Will Smith), “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals, and you know it.” When I add the concept of empathy to this quote, I find that it helps me to understand how our country could elect an open and unabashed racist, misogynistic, homophobic xenophobe as president just over two weeks ago.
This week I found myself fascinated by the reviews written by Tom De Bruin and Clifford Goldstein on Reinder Bruinsma’s Facing Doubt: A Book for Adventist Believers ‘On the Margins.’ The content of the reviews themselves is not what ultimately drew me to extended thought on these pieces. Instead, I marveled at the ability of two people to see one thing in such drastically different ways. My enthrallment was dulled somewhat when I thought about the current state of our society on so many subjects, particularly with regards to racism and sexism.
Some of the weird, angering, funny things that have happened to me religiously have led me to ask the question, “Why do people even have a church?” It seems I am not the only one asking this question. A relatively recent survey found that Millenials are leaving the church at rate greater than their similarly situated generations in the past. 26% of Millennials claim no religious affiliation. This is six percent more than my generation at that time and 13% more than the generation before mine.
Even before my daughter was born, one of my favorite things to do was to come home at the end of the day and read her a Bible story. Now I will admit it was probably a little strange to start that tradition before my daughter was born, but story time was and continues to be one of the more nonnegotiable parts of my day. I found a Bible story app on my phone and we have been telling her the common Bible stories that Christian children come to know when they’re young.
Every now and again I become fascinated with what feel to me to be the elements of religious experience that are taken for granted. When these moods come, I try to get to the bottom of why religious experience (and I guess particularly of the Adventist variety) expresses itself in the way that it does. In short – I ask “Why?” a lot.
Prior to 1990, the Supreme Court’s standard in determining whether a law violated a citizen’s free exercise of religion was intimately tied to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. An Adventist, Adele Sherbert, sued to receive unemployment benefits after she was fired from her job because she refused to work on the Sabbath. In the case that now bears her name, Sherbert v.