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A deadly tornado ripped through communities in Southern Oklahoma leaving rubble in its wake. Ardmore Adventist Academy was among the numerous structures destroyed. The school served twenty-five students from grades 1-10. In addition to the loss of the school building and gymnasium, the tornado also flattened a pecan orchard leading up to the school's proprty.
Unseasonably warm weather helped to create the tornadoes, which are uncommon during the month of February in Oklahoma.
Charrie Shockey posted these photos of the Ardmore tornado's aftermath at the C. Shockey Photography blog.
More pictures here.
According to its website, the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for their "God hates fags" campaign, has targeted funeral services in Ardmore as a venue for staging a demonstration. The announcement on the church's website states:
There have not been any Adventists among the reported fatalities from the tornadoes in Ardmore and Lone Grove.
Introduction by Bonnie Dwyer / 1970 Spectrum article by Roy Branson and Herold D. Weiss
In the second volume of Spectrum, one sees the writers and editors responding in a significant way to the life of the church over issues ranging from missions to race relations and regional conferences to Ellen White. Conversations, scholarship, and articles about Ellen White have filled our pages ever since. While there are several significant articles about her in volume two, Roy Branson and Herold D. Weiss significantly set out an agenda for Adventist scholarship about her.
“Most Seventh-day Adventists know that for some time we have been able to make Ellen G. White say almost anything we want,” they wrote. “Her authority is universally recognized in the church, but what we make her say with authority often depends on who of us is quoting her. In the life of the church, therefore, she speaks with many accents. Sometimes on a single topic we make her voice blare out arguments on both sides of a debate. . . . The result of having so many Ellen Whites is that the Adventist church may soon have no Ellen White at all.”
They suggested that the church needed to make it a top priority to establish a more objective way of understanding what she said. Then they laid out four steps on how to go about that process. But rather than summarize their work, it follows in its entirety my comments here. Your comments would be most welcome following that.
But before I turn you over to Drs. Branson and Weiss, I also want to draw your attention to the first Forum symposium that appeared in Volume Two. While not on Ellen White, it did deal with revelation and centered on a presentation by Baptist scholar Bernard Ramm with responses from Wilber Alexander, Edward Heppenstall, and Jack W. Provonsha. You can read it here: http://spectrummagazine.org/files/archive/archive01-05/2-1ramm.pdf.
And now over to Branson and Weiss.
by ROY BRANSON and HEROLD D. WEISS
Most Seventh-day Adventists know that for some time we have been able to make Ellen G. White say almost anything we want. Her authority is universally recognized in the church, but what we make her say with authority often depends on who of us is quoting her. In the life of the church, therefore, she speaks with many accents. Sometimes on a single topic we make her voice blare out arguments on both sides of a debate.
Take the subject of health reform. One Ellen White talks reasonably about the advantages of temperate living. Another Ellen White fanatically demands that we eat only foods grown according to certain rigidly defined methods. Which is the real Ellen White ?
Sometimes we make her march determinedly in opposite directions - as in our discussions of justification by faith versus perfection, or God's sovereignty versus man's free will. As important a topic as the universality of salvation throws us into a dilemma when quotations extracted from her writings are simply strung together end-to-end. She appears on both the banner of those who say that the heathen who never hear the name of Christ will be as if they never were, and the banner of those who insist that every man is given light sufficient for a choice determining his eternal destiny.
The result of having so many Ellen Whites is that the Adventist church may soon have no Ellen White at all. Conceivably all that may be left will be a few members shouting at each other in her name; the great majority, having already despaired of understanding her, will only wonder what all the commotion is about.
It should be clear by now that among the top priorities of the church ought to be the establishment of more objective ways of understanding what Ellen White said. The church needs to see a coherent whole in her wide-ranging writings. To find a consistent method of interpretation for these writings should not be thought of as merely an intriguing academic possibility; it is an essential and immediate task for the church.
Up to now, two main ways - both of them wanting - have been used to understand Mrs. White's thinking. One way has been to compile quotations taken at random from all her works, and then to group these quotations simply by topic. The other way has been to consider as more authoritative those statements that start with the words "I was shown," or some similar expression.
Both of these ways have sometimes proved useful, but they remain inadequate. A collection of quotations by topic often exaggerates the seeming contradictions among them. As a result, the consistent viewpoints Ellen White actually had are obscured, and her persuasiveness is diminished. On the other hand, to take as authoritative only the statements that cite a specific vision depreciates the value of the many things God "showed" her through the guidance of the Holy Spirit pervading her life. She was led by God even when she could not refer to a particular vision for a specific admonition.
The church has not sufficiently perceived the full significance of Ellen White's message by using these means. New methods are needed. What follows is a set of proposals to make possible a more consistent interpretation of these inspired writings.
The first step should be to discover the nature of Mrs. White's relationship to other authors. We know that she borrowed terms, phrases, and historical accounts from others. To find the real Ellen White we must undertake the vast, but absolutely necessary, task of learning exactly what kind of use she made of the work of these other writers. Sample cores have been taken, but the vital information - the nature, selection, and use of the abundant material available to her and integrated by her in her writing - is still a mystery. Until we know more precisely which authors she respected sufficiently to rely on, we will not really know Ellen White or her ideas.
The second step should be to recover the social and intellectual milieu in which she lived and wrote. How can her testimony be understood until the economic, political, religious, and educational issues that were the context of her words are recognized ? Unless we know what meaning specific words had in the culture of her day, how can we know her meaning in using them ? Either Ellen White lives for us first in her own cultural situation or she does not live for us at all. Of course, if we hear her speak within a definite cultural milieu, we do not thereby confine the significance of her words to that context. Understanding her in terms of the nineteenth century does not mean that what she said is irrelevant to the twentieth century. Actually, finding how her words pertained to the past century is a necessary step in establishing their relevance to our own. Like most things in nature, words do not live in a vacuum.
The third step should be to give close attention to the development of Ellen White's writings within her own lifetime, and also to the development of the church. What was first written as a small series of books grew through the years into the rather voluminous Conflict of the Ages series. Personal letters became articles in church papers, only thereafter to be transformed into parts of books. Events in Mrs. White's life and currents in the church are relevant to understanding why her writings took the shape they did. Compilations of her writings published since her death should be examined in terms of the issues that confronted the church when the editors did their compiling.
By taking the three foregoing steps we can know with more assurance what the real Ellen White said. By making certain that our investigations follow clearly defined guidelines, we can more completely free our interpretations of conflicting personal biases. When we compare what she took from her sources with what she ignored in them, we can see more clearly a trend in her thinking. By knowing the streams of thinking in which these sources fall, and by being aware of what other alternatives existed for her, we can see for the first time the significance of her choice of sources. By putting ourselves in the crosscurrents of her day, we can see why she used one argument on a topic at one time and another argument on the same topic at another time. Anything we learn about her and the church at every stage in the preparation of her writings can only help draw us further into her mind.
Our final step should then be to apply in our day the words she spoke in her day. We may never be able fully to recapture Ellen White's original intentions or the absolute truth of what she meant. But if the methods proposed here, or similar ones, were implemented, the church would be much closer to her ideas than it is now. Setting up objective criteria for interpretation would restrain individual prejudice and decrease confusion. With relatively greater consensus on what she said, we would increasingly agree on what she would say today. Her influence, instead of waning, would then become more pervasive.
Using such methods would put the church in touch with a more vital and interesting Ellen White, with nuances and enthusiasms we do not recognize now. This more vibrant Ellen White would not always agree with her modern readers (any more than she did with her original readers), but she would be a more believable person. She would be seen as God's human spokesman - perhaps less magical and less awesome, but also less obscure and less ignored, and therefore actually more influential than she is now. And if she were more vital and effective, she would thereby be actually more authoritative also. Rather than being an impersonal voice subject to our manipulation, she would become again the living, breathing person who drew men to God.
Following methods like those outlined here would open up far-reaching scholarly enterprises. No one Adventist during his entire life could accomplish the tasks that would emerge. Indeed, no single discipline has adequate tools to do the job alone. It is imperative, therefore, that Adventist scholars from various disciplines bring their different perspectives and insights and equipment to the challenge of understanding Ellen G. White.
This kind of interdisciplinary effort by the Adventist academic community could help more clearly to distinguish the essence of Adventism.
1 An example is William S. Peterson's article in this issue: A Textual and Historical Study of Ellen White's Account of the French Revolution.
2 In an unpublished study, Ellen G. White and Fiction, John O. Waller examines the meaning of the word fiction in Mrs. White's time and relates his findings to her use of the term.
Richard Rice's article, Adventists and Welfare Work: A Comparative Study (Spectrum 2, 52-63, winter 1970), recounts some of the attitudes and endeavors of social welfare activists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and thus gives an idea of the issues that concerned Mrs. White when she commented on social welfare.
The task of recreating the milieu in which Mrs. White and other early Adventists discussed interracial relations is attempted by Branson in Ellen G. White: Racist
Or Champion of Equality? Review and Herald, April 9, 16, and 23, 1970.
3 In his recent book, Ellen G. White and Church Race Relations (Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association 1970), Ronald D. Graybill has established the setting, in Mrs. White's life and in the work of the church, of her comments on race in Testimonies for the Church, volume nine (Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association 1970), pp. 199-226.
Jonathan Butler, in Ellen G. White and the Chicago Mission (Spectrum 2, 41-51, winter 1970), shows that a knowledge of the church's controversy with John Harvey Kellogg is essential to an understanding of Mrs. White's seemingly contradictory statements on inner-city mission work.
As far I know, not a single Seventh-day Adventist college or university is a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Several schools have nascent environmental initiatives - Green La Sierra and Pacific Union College's Angwin Ecovillage - unlike in the rest of American education. But the green wave has not really affected Adventist institutional priorities in significant ways yet - despite student interest.
In July, 2008, Jan Paulsen, the General Conference President, recently devoted an entire article to the need for Adventists around the world to take our beliefs and practices of stewardship beyond just the monetary and care for God's creation.
There is another aspect to environmental stewardship that speaks strongly to Adventist values. When we choose a simple lifestyle and exercise restraint in our wants, when we emphasize the spiritual above the material and choose relationships before “things,” we are following in the footsteps of our Lord.
I see a certain circle in this. Seventh-day Adventists have always preached a spiritual message of freedom—freedom from the power of sin, freedom from fear, freedom of conscience and religious expression. Even our work of healing, educating, and providing humanitarian care is driven by a desire to free people from poverty, ignorance, pain, and injustice. And so that same concern for freedom takes us into care for the world in which we live. Being mindful of what I drink, eat, wear, use, how I travel and spend my time—these all yield certain consequences for the environment and, in turn, for each one of God’s children and His created beings. It’s not about living a somber, colorless existence. On the contrary, pulling free from relentless consumerism, focusing more on people and less on acquisitions, building a life that is focused on Christ’s priorities, not the world’s priorities—these are choices that deliver a wonderful sense of freedom, an indescribable feeling of liberation! And these are choices that yield a quality of life that is second to none.
Let's take this stuff seriously.
Idea: should the NAD, or for that matter, the GC, offer an biennial award for the greenest Adventist campus?
For as long as I've been a pastor (and that's longer than you think) pastors have been saddled with images and metaphors drawn from the world of business and capitalism to describe pastoral vocation. Some of us have nearly given up, declaring, "If I'm being asked to be the religious version of a used car salesman, then forget it!" There have been a few voices that have helped pastors recover the ancient pastoral art. Among these voices are well-known pastors and theologians like Eugene Peterson, William Willimon, Walter Brueggemann... and M. Craig Barnes.
The current issue of The Christian Century has an incredible article by Barnes, entitled "Poet in Residence: Listening for the Sacred Subtext," which is essentially chapter 2 of Barnes' new book, Pastor as Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts in Ministerial Life (Eerdmans). Here's an excerpt:
Poets are devoted more to truth than to reality; they are not unaware of reality, but they never accept it at face value. The value of reality is found only by peeling back its appearance to discover the underlying truth. This is why poets care about the text, what is said or done, but only in order to reveal subtext, which reveals what it means. They value the reality they see primarily as a portal that invites them into a more mysterious encounter with truth. This is what distinguishes poets from those whose contributions to society are focused simply on following a particular text. Engineers, for example, follow their textbooks in constructing bridges that lead across deep ravines. And one hopes that they have been very, very devoted to those texts. By contrast, a poet who crosses the engineer's bridge will go home and spend all day constructing verse that reveals the longing of the soul to find such an overpass when we stand on the banks of a disaster and peer down into the valley of death.
The last thing anyone sitting in a church pew needs is for the preacher to give advice on following the necessary algorithms for engineering better bridges. Or lessons in economics, politics or how to raise children. This doesn't mean that any of these topics are out of bounds for the pastor-poet. But to be faithful to our particular calling, we need to get beneath the reality of what is being said and done to explore the often mysterious truth of what this means. In making interpretations of this mystery, the pastor is not a free agent but a faithful devotee to his or her biblical and theological tradition of interpretation. This tradition is filled with poetic insights that guide the contemporary pastor into a particular way of uncovering reality to expose eternal truth. Both the realist and the truth teller are necessary, but they are seldom found in the same office of leadership.
This should be required reading for every pastor. If you are feeling burdened by expectations, whether from the outside or (worse yet) those you place on yourself, then this article will be salve for your soul.
I'm not sure who thought of it first, but I learned these thoughts first from Walter Brueggemann in his incredible and lesser known book, Finally Comes the Poet: Daring Speech for Proclamation. Brueggemann is writing more about preaching, but the sense is the same. He makes an urgent call for "Poetry in a Prose-Flattened World."
Poetic speech is the only proclamation worth doing in a situation of reductionism, the only proclamation, I submit, that is worthy of the name preaching. Such preaching is not moral instruction or problem solving or doctrinal clarification. It is not good advice, nor is it romantic caressing, nor is it a soothing good humor.
It is, rather, the ready, steady, surprising proposal that the real world in which God invites us to live is not the one made available by the rulers of this age. The preacher has an awesome opportunity to offer an evangelical world: an existence shaped by the news of the gospel.
Here's to being Pastor-Poets!
As he continues, in Chapter 4, his analysis of the basis of Christian hope in the New Testament witness to the resurrection of Jesus, N.T. Wright makes a point that came as a surprise to me: one of the features that the varying accounts of the resurrection found in the four gospels have in common is that they never mention the future Christian hope. They do not connect the resurrection of Jesus with the believer's hope of resurrection when Jesus returns, though this connection is indeed made elsewhere, particularly by Paul. But in the gospels:
Insofar as the event is interpreted, Easter has a very this-worldly, present-age meaning: Jesus is raised, so God's new creation has begun - and we, his followers, have a job to do! Jesus is raised, so we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world, making his kingdom come on earth as in heaven! (56)
The last phrase just quoted may raise suspicions that Wright goes too far in emphasizing the human role in establishing the kingdom, though elsewhere in the book he will make clear that God alone will bring about the culmination. None of that, though, should be used to avoid the penetrating claim made by each of the four evangelists in their distinct ways: the resurrection means that Jesus is the Messiah and therefore our Sovereign as citizens and agents of the new kingdom, living in the midst of the present age with its rulers and authorities.
This is why Surprised by Hope - a book about resurrection and eschatology - is a powerful text for Christian social thought and for the interests of Adventist Peace Fellowship. The resurrection demonstrates that the movement started by the teacher from Nazareth did not, like that of other would-be messiahs of second Temple Judaism, end in failure with his execution, but that instead his universal reign has been inaugurated. His teaching and way thus become authoritative over all other standards and norms for matters of peace, war and violence, and for all of our interaction with society.
But, then, why should we believe it? Wright devotes much of this chapter to the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. "Historical argument alone cannot force anyone to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, but historical argument is remarkably good at clearing away the undergrowth behind which skepticism of various sorts have been hiding," he writes (64).
Dismissing the Christian resurrection hope as yet one more manifestation of the longing for afterlife that runs through the literature of many human civilizations, or attributing the disciples' reports about an empty tomb and encounters with the risen Lord as the product of some sort of collective but inward spiritual experience, simply avoids rather that refutes the New Testament witness that something happened in history.
As for the temptation to Christians to soften claims about the physical reality of the resurrection or make them more compatible with the canons of modern scientific thinking, the verses Wright quotes from the late John Updike's "Seven Stanzas at Easter" hit home:
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
Let us not make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
less, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
In seminary, I learned from Dr. Jon Paulien the difference between exegesis and eisegesis. It’s hard to believe that these were new words to me just over 10 years ago. The difference between these two words is vitally important for anyone who wants to read and interpret the Bible (I’ll just say here without defending it that you can’t read the Bible without interpreting it. Perhaps this is a subject for a separate post). But it is especially important for pastors who read the sacred text week-by-week and lead their congregations in the interpretive exercise of preaching.
Wikipedia says that eisegesis is
the process of misinterpreting a text in such a way that it introduces one's own ideas, reading into the text. This is best understood when contrasted with exegesis. While exegesis draws out the meaning from the text, eisegesis occurs when a reader reads his/her interpretation into the text. As a result, exegesis tends to be objective when employed effectively while eisegesis is regarded as highly subjective.(1)
Eisegesis can be a trap for pastors. Faced with having to preach a good sermon every week (and not every-so-often), we can sometimes get the process turned around backwards. I have fallen into this trap many times. I know my congregation well – better than anyone else – and I know what I want/need to say to them. But I know that the worship service is a time to open God’s Word with people, not just give my opinions, so I need scriptural authority. We can find ourselves looking for the right text to support what we want to say. The text might be a good fit, or not. But the process is fraught with danger. Dr. Paulien taught us that to get beyond our own defense mechanisms regarding the text – the ways we psychologically shield ourselves from what we don’t want to hear – we needed to take a more objective view. Read in the original languages. Understand the author’s original intent, not just what “I think” it means to me as a self-actualizing, self-referential individual. I learned these lessons well and my sermons (I think) have been consistently better since that time.
I have learned, however, the process of interpretation is infinitely more challenging than this. Interpreting scripture is never a matter of simply discovering the meaning of the text and giving it to a modern group of people. This became so much clearer to me in a recent staff meeting. We are attempting to build what we call a “community of interpreters” at the Hollywood Adventist Church. This means that I am not the only one who preaches. The preacher doesn’t own the text or control the text. If we believe our own rhetoric, the scripture lives in the community. So, we’re helping each other be better interpreters.
In a recent staff meeting we were talking about building contextual bridges in a sermon. We cannot afford to say, “this text speaks directly to our time” (neglecting the original context), nor “this context is completely different than our time” (neglecting the way the text speaks into our contemporary lives). The challenge is rather to build narrative and contextual bridges between worlds. One of our staff members said, “I don’t think I know how to do that very well.” That was the most honest thing he could have said, and he spoke for all of us.
This is an impossible challenge and the stakes are very high. The greatest risk is that the scripture that was meant to subvert our imagination and sow the seeds of God’s reign in the world get used in service of the status quo. This happened, tragically, to the majority of churches in Europe in the 1940s. It happened before that in the United States as “good Christians” bought and sold other human beings as slaves. It has happened countless times before and since. It happens every time the “meaning” of the text is reduced to a bit of self-help advice. If the “powers that be” could co-opt the sacred text in service of their own ends, this would be the ultimate subversion.
This is where I have come to the philosophical limits of what we call exegesis. The very assumptions underlying the process of exegesis – that the text has one meaning and that the interpreter can find a privileged, objective vantage point – are deeply modern. If postmodern philosophy has taught us anything it is that there is no view from nowhere. There is no place to stand and see the world “as it really is.” Many Adventist interpreters have rightly challenged the notion that the Bible is merely an object, to be taken apart by unfaithful interpreters who care nothing for its message. But those same interpreters have often then taken up the tools of the modern Biblical scholars to “prove” that their one interpretation of the text is the right one. Methinks we can’t have it both ways.
What we need is neither a sloppy, careless, idolatrous eisegesis that sets up individuals as their own source of authority and finally tames the native wildness in the text. Nor do we need a captive, idolatrous exegesis, bound by modernistic, rational positivist categories that keep the text in service to the reigning ideology and my individual needs and consumerist desires.
Somehow the text must be freed from both of these snares that it might truly live among a community of people who seek to live in the way of Jesus for the sake of the world. We need what I am calling “faithful eisegesis.” We need Biblical interpreters, pastors, non-professionals who have acquired skill with the text from long practice who will risk alternative readings of the text. How can this be done? How can we avoid the Scylla and Charybdis of Bible interpretation?
I will only offer a few suggestions and then throw the question back to you because we are just learning this ourselves. No clear answers seem apparent. And we will not do our best on every try, but try we must.
First, I suggest that the native home of the Bible is in community. To attempt to remove the text from the community or order to interpret is impossible. It would be like taken an animal out of its habitat and observing it in a laboratory. The scripture was written by a community, for communities. To take the text off to the sterile environment of the academy and subject it to the scalpel of experts does great violence to the text. We need experts – those who have committed their whole lives to understanding ancient languages, history, culture, philosophy. But we need those voices to live in the community with other voices – the voices of the poor, the marginalized, the enslaved, the homeless, the aged, the young, women and men. The text must live along side joblessness and militarism, homelessness and extravagance.
Secondly, we need to ask different questions of the text. Instead of asking the modernist question, “What does this text mean?” we need to ask, “What is this text doing? What kind of mischief would Isaiah/Jeremiah/Mark/Luke/Paul like to do amongst us? Asking this performative question of the text changes the whole conversation. Try it sometime.
Thirdly, we need to revisit some ancient practices of scripture interpretation. For millennia the Jewish people have practiced midrash, resulting in some creative translations known as Targums. The rabbis are not afraid of interpretation as I sense Christians are most of the time. Modern Christian scholars have carried a huge burden of accuracy and precision. If you open your mouth or begin to tap out sentences on your keyboard you must be certain that you are right. But midrash is more creative; even playful. What if an artist worried each time she took up her brush whether her next brush strokes would be “right.” The words almost don’t make sense.
Fourth, the church needs to recover the ancient practice of Bible reading called lectio divina. In our community we refer to this as “dwelling with scripture.” What this means, in our congregation, is that the scripture accompanies us everywhere. When we have a meeting of any kind there is usually a time of “dwelling in scripture.” This is different than a devotional where the purpose is to give a lesson from scripture that can be applied to people’s lives. Dwelling in scripture is about just that – allowing the text to live in our community in imaginative and formative ways that shape a particular kind of life that we are seeking together in a place.
Finally, pastors need to understand better their role as local, contextual theologians.(2) Not only this, but they can learn to see themselves as abbots in a community of interpreters where they are helping their members be contextual theologians in their own right.
Shortly after the staff meeting that I referred to above I was reviewing Peter Rollins’ incredible book, How (Not) to Speak of God and I ran across this statement.
Jesus showed that we must read [the law] with a prejudice towards love. This does not mean that we re-interpret our traditions in any way we want, but rather that we must be committed to living in the tension between exegesis (by which we extract meaning from the text) and eisegesis (by which we read meaning into the text). By acknowledging that all our readings are located in a cultural context and have certain prejudiced, we understand that engaging with the Bible can never mean that we simply extract meaning from it, but also that we read meaning into it. In being faithful to the text we must move away from the naïve attempt to read it from some neutral, heavenly height and we must attempt to read it as one who has been born of God and thus born of love: for that is the prejudice of God. Here the ideal of scripture reading as a type of scientific objectivity is replaced by an approach that creatively interprets with love.(3)
I would simply add that beyond extracting and inserting, reading out of and reading into that the deepest calling of scripture is for the community of interpreters to live into the text. This is faithful eisegesis.
(2) Essential reading on local, contextual theology are Clemens Sedmak, Doing Local Theology: A Guide for Artisans of a New Humanity (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002) and Robert J. Schreiter, Constructing Local Theologies (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1985).
(3) Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2006), 59-60.
While surfing instead of studying - on my lazy Sunday afternoon - I saw a clip of Road to Wellville (1994) over at Andrew Sullivan's Atlantic blog and was reminded of what Dr. John Harvey Kellogg means to Seventh-day Adventists.
Born in Michigan in 1852, Dr. Kellogg came of age along with the Seventh-day Adventist flock. He was our first international star - part Dr. Leonard L. Bailey, part Danny Shelton.
Beyond the individual, like what Kellogg embodied, our institutional makeup is a mix of deep dedication to spiritual, mental, and physical well-being; concentrations of Adventism like Loma Linda University Medical Center and Andrews University (ol' Battle Creek College) can both be traced back to the sanitarium he dominated.
As Malcolm Bull and Keith Lockhart write in Seeking a Sanctuary (2007) "Kellogg's Adventism revolved around an almost fanatical devotion to health reform." This evangelistic hope in physical culture springs among us: Weimar Institute, that eternal font of hydrotherapy now restarted as Amazing Fact's College of Evangelism and Dr. Hans Diehl's CHIP (Coronary Health Improvement Project) programs sweeping through churches around North America.
Like many an Adventist, Kellogg was a writer. In fact, consumers of the world wide web of blogs would find a kindred spirit in his penchant for stringing together quotes from other people to support his strong opinion. On that note, gentle reader, have you read Plain Facts for Old and Young (1881)? One of my favorite passages:
If a child is begotten in lust, its lower passions will as certainly be abnormally developed as peas will produce peas, or potatoes produce potatoes. If the child does not become a rake or a prostitute, it will be because of uncommonly fortunate surroundings, or a miracle of divine grace. But even then, what terrible struggles with sin and vice, with foul thoughts and lewd imaginations--the product of a naturally abnormal mind--must such an individual suffer!
Well, that explains a lot.
Dr. Kellogg's obsession with sex (he preached abstinence), while rarely echoed today - beyond Adventist college dorm policies - can still be heard in many a sermon in which "sexual temptation" and "masturbation" could be substituted each time the preacher says "sin." Even his break with General Conference President A. G. Daniels and Ellen White over theological ideas has been repeated thousands of times, notably around Desmond Ford, as individuals struggle to thread new ideas between church administration and the power of testimony with a capital "T". He, like many others, slid more forward.
Although they reject the new "pantheistic" theology that caused the trouble, the entrepreneurial brio of independent Adventist ministry leaders often mimics the inventive doctor. A walk through any Adventist Services and Layman's Industries (ASI) convention or exhibits at General Conference sessions show that free associative salesman spirit reincarnated in thousands of hawkers of remedies, gizmos, and healthy foods.
But even beyond the zany, but sometimes brilliant emphasis on the physical - he did live to almost 92 - Kellogg's social goals continue to live on as well. As Bull and Lockhart note, "In 1897 he declared, much to the consternation of the Adventist leaders, that the work of the sanitarium was 'of an undenominational, unsectarian, humanitarian and philanthropic nature'" (303).
About 110 years later when Dr. Richard Hart, MD, DrPH, became president of Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center, the subtitle for the Adventist News Network story identified him as an "academician, humanitarian" and continued:
Hart is largely responsible for launching many of Loma Linda's humanitarian efforts around the world. He has consulted for the World Health Organization in Zimbabwe and Nigeria and served as a maternal and child health advisor to the Tanzanian government. He is also founder and president of Social Action Community Health System, a low-cost primary health care network serving Southern California.
That probably had Dr. John Harvey Kellogg doing jumping jacks in his grave.
After a week of the most stimulating input imaginable, I woke up on the morning of our departure with--surprise--poetry just pouring out of me! The first one woke me up at 5:00 am with a pounding heart--I think it was saying "Let me out!"--and by 5:05 am my first poem had written itself. As we drove home and shared the wheel, I spent my "off" time writing and writing, and it hasn't stopped yet. Apparently poetry is a highly contagious virus. You can catch it in Elko!
Looking at our first blogs, I laugh—the cold weather we packed for and expected turned into a banana belt heat wave, and expect for some very cold overnight temperatures that required our heaviest jackets and gloves, we mostly just dressed like we do at home. After lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Truckee, where we stopped for a photo in front of a picturesque old gas station sign, we made good time over the Sierras, and stopped for a final photo shoot at the same scenic overlook where we’d shot photos last Monday on the way up. The snow was gone, the day sunny and bright.
Max met us at the turnoff to Anne’s ranch, we unloaded luggage from her truck to our jeep, then we headed south towards home, stopping for a bite to eat and a long, glowing overview of our week’s adventures.
Follow-up, Tuesday morning 3 February 2009: The poetry that began in Elko is still just popping up—hard to say where it’s coming from, but I seem to have received some kind of gift to be sensitive to and recognize moments of crystal clarity around me, and to put them down in layers of meaning. I hope and pray this gift stays with me. Who knows? Anyway, here, to wrap up our Cowboy Poetry adventure, are some of my own poems, and the best mementos I have brought home from this fabulous experience:
I heard this term, Catch and Release (yes, the fishing term) used to describe modern dating…but I also thought it apropos to the overwhelming whirl of performances, culture, experiences, and moments of and friendships experienced during this week’s Gathering:
Catch and Release
Oh! A sudden tug,
Then this spinning
Between two living souls
In my hands
Such gleaming perfection
Silver and turquoise
Purple, grey and blue
In my hands
Held for a moment
But I cannot keep it
And I cannot kill it
I let it go
One shouldn’t go shopping in Elko—
Though temptations aplenty abound:
Buy this book, or this jacket, this music—
I’m not looking, but look what I found!
One shouldn’t go shopping in Elko—
No matter what treasures you see:
For the Gathering brings you such choices
Like the friendships—the friendships are free!
Wakes me early
Sends me words
to get out
Too dark to
Flick a light on
Can’t wake Anne
So the poems just
Grab a scrap of
Sitting in the
When the Hats Come into Town
When the hats come into town
strange birds perch on peoples’
heads, their wings, unflapping
fly around town.
Flocks swirl from here to there
they congregate awhile
then off they go again,
the hats come into town.
Let me tell you, these poets and performers can really lead you around by the nose—or ears!
Don’t need no bridle…
You can flick ‘em
Just tell a good, long story—
Something poignant and deep—
follow with a good joke then
hit ‘em quick with a real sad ballad.
Won’t need no bridle
to get ‘em where you
want to go.
And if they won’t go, pull
on their ears some more.
Home again, home again
Has it been days?
Or lifetimes and worlds away—
I am dazed.
Exhausted, refreshed and
Renewed and reborn
Home again, home again
Ran into Kathy
at the market just now—she
and Bob used to cowboy
near Elko 30 years ago or more.
Said they’d planned to go
to the Gathering
21 years ago but
their daughter called, said
she was getting
Kids got divorced, what,
15 years ago now?
Said she thought
maybe they shoulda gone