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Those of us who write about others usually reveal much about ourselves. I believe that Milton Hook does this in Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist (Riverside, Calif.: Adventist Today Foundation, 2008). Among other things, he tells us that he is not happy with the Wesleyan heritage that we Seventh-day Adventists share.
First, I hate the word unchurched. Just as I hate hearing a book called a “good read.” Or “impact” used as a verb. Or the word literally tossed in to strengthen an assertion. Or starting sentences with “thus.” Or this, the winner of the most annoying word award: “anyways.” As in “So anyways, that was a marvelous read that will literally impact the world.”
I’m probably just too easily annoyed. But who thought up such a horrid thing to call people who don’t go to church?
I suggest that we think less often about God intervening in our lives and think less highly of it. It is better to think of God as participating. It doesn’t hurt to think about divine intervention now and then, perhaps when we are thinking about the Big Bang and other very unusual things. But we should probably limit it to that.
Every day, I check Google news with the search phrase “Seventh-day Adventist.” Most hits are local newspaper announcements about a cooking school, a church school concert, or a Pathfinder club’s Halloween food drive.
Recently, a piece from Grand Forks, North Dakota, caught my eye.
The Grand Forks Seventh-day Adventist Church is where, thirty years ago, I served my internship year before going to seminary. It was a good year: there were quite a few young couples in the church, and I had a senior pastor I liked.
Sometimes I awaken in the middle of the night, for whatever middle-aged guy reason, and can’t get back to sleep. So I’ll put my earbuds in and listen to the radio. Apart from popular music (which I don’t care for) the choices are limited: a couple of shrill political shills, a station that takes calls from eerily impassioned sports fans who stay up all night critiquing athletic feats they themselves could never do, and (where I usually land) Coast to Coast AM with George Noory.
Those who have studied the writings of Ellen White know that she said some things about the physical consequences of “solitary vice,” a term that many take to be a euphemism for masturbation, which the majority of medical specialists today do not confirm. In An Appeal to Mothers, one of her early publications, she attributes a number of maladies to its practice.
Congregational life is, it seems to me, a sort of concentration of family life. Events that would be separated by months or years in a biological family get concentrated into hours or days. And the pastor gets a front row seat.
For example, last Wednesday my secretary told me that a young couple in the congregation had just had twins. I went to the hospital to see Alex and Nathan: so tiny, so beautiful. I felt clumsy holding them, just five pounds each, feeling their squirming, whimpering fragility.
When eight-year-old L.H. arrived at the hospital, “a laceration to the left wall of the vagina had separated her cervix from the back of her vagina, causing her rectum to protrude into the vaginal structure. Her entire perineum was torn from the posterior fourchette to the anus,” wrote Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy in [Patrick] Kennedy v. Louisiana, which was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 16 and decided on June 25 of this year.
A few years ago, I called a friend (one to whom I talk seldom, but always happily) who had moved to a small midwestern U.S. city. Among other questions, I asked, “How’s the church there?”
“We don’t attend the Adventist church here anymore,” he said.
“Why not?” I asked.
In this column I hope to elaborate an idea that surfaced in Alex Carpenter’s recent blog on “Sabbathing” and in the excellent comments that followed it. This is that celebrating Sabbath can be a powerful and much needed Christian affirmation of Judaism, on the one hand, and disaffirmation of religious coercion, on the other. Chuck Scriven, Monte Sahlin and probably others expressed themselves along these lines. I would like to join them without implying that all of us agree about everything.
To my way of thinking the true significance of the ruling of the California Supreme Court on Thursday, May 15, in re Marriage Cases is not that it legitimates homosexual relationships that are akin to heterosexual marriages. It is that in our laws we Californians must use the same term(s) for both because our legal requirements already guarantee them substantially the same thing.
If we take the words literally, the doctrine of “sola scriptura” is problematic. The Latin word “sola” means “only,” “scriptura” means “scripture,” and so together they mean “only scripture.” In some circles this expression has come to mean that we Christians should consider nothing but the Old and New Testaments when determining what to believe and how to behave. This is not helpful. Neither is it what the Protestant Reformers who promoted this doctrine in sixteenth century Europe had in mind.
In San Angelo on Monday morning, June 2, Texas District Judge Barbara Walther signed an order that allowed more than 400 children from Yearning for Zion Ranch to go home. They had been in the care of the state’s Department of Child and Protective Services since early April.
Her order complied with earlier rulings from the court of appeals that were upheld by the Texas Supreme Court on May 29. Later in the day, she issued an additional emergency order that kept one child from returning to the ranch because the youngster “is an identified victim of sexual abuse.”
“When I die, I may not go to heaven, I don't know if they let cowboys in,” sang Tanya Tucker. “If they don't just let me go to Texas, Texas is as close as I've been.”
For the more than four hundred children that officials removed from their mothers at Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado, Texas, the Lone Star State is as close to hell—not heaven—as they’ve been. Or probably ever hope to be!
“Would someone please explain what is meant by the ‘Christian lifestyle?’” Elaine made this reasonable request many comments ago in our discussion of “We Ministers Have Professional Standards Too!” “Is it different from an Islamic, Buddhist, Mormon, or atheist lifestyle in a way that is apparent to all around? Is a Christian kinder, more loving, generous, thoughtful and forgiving than others?”
“My church's last evangelistic effort in 2006 baptized 79 people,” wrote Al on April 26 in response to Alex Carpenter’s blog on this Web site titled “Southern California Conference to Spend 1 Million to Televangelize LA.” “My pastor and bible worker received conference prizes as top soul winners that year. (They got cruise trips). BUT as things worked out, of the 79, less than 5 remain!!
On April 16, 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Commonwealth of Kentucky may continue using three drugs when executing criminals by lethal injection. Chief Justice John G. Roberts announced the judgment and offered the opinion that carried the day. Six of the associate justices concurred, sometimes also writing their own opinions. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg dissented in a written opinion that Associate Justice David Hackett Souter joined.
Ernest J. Bursey has written the best short essay on the Sermon on the Mount that you will ever read.
Okay, I’m out on a limb now. I dare you to saw it off.
I might have finally figured out why I experienced such mixed feelings while watching on television the authorities take into protective custody 416 or so children of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who lived on the Yearning for Zion ranch in west Texas. Once again, we may have done more harm than good by treating a chronic problem as though it were an acute crisis.