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Coming from the west coast of the United States, the Adventism that I have grown up with has been of a more liberal brand, in perceptions of the Bible and the world in general. For various reasons, my idea of a very conservative Adventist with a strict literalistic view of the Bible has come to be nearly synonymous with the terms judgmental and closed-minded; this has been a stereotype that I have struggled with for much of the last few years.
When I made the decision to study a year in Argentina through Adventist Colleges Abroad, I imagined a very close minded, conservative Adventism, in which I would not feel comfortable sharing my beliefs.
Yesterday, in an afternoon program for college students, a theme was presented entitled, "I Know What I Believe. How About You?" During the program we were asked to split into groups, and explore distinct Biblical beliefs of Adventism. The topics ranged from the the creation story and the keeping of the Sabbath to the apocalyptic message and the state of the dead. After discussing the matters, each group presented their findings. Some things I agreed with, some I did not.
However, that which struck me most, was a statement made at the end of the presentation. In a society known for its conservative religious beliefs, an Argentine woman in her mid 60's stood before the group and reminded a room full of college students that although there exist those that believe differently, both within Adventism and without, our place is not to judge, nor self-segregate. It is to discuss and to learn.
I appreciated the conversation and hope that as a community comprised of those with different understandings of religion and the world, that we can continue to find space not to evangelize and convert, but to examine and grow.
The same lesson goes for me as I communicate with those within and without my own culture and religion.