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.
I cannot write a column about bioethics, Adventism, and Adventist healthcare this week without referring to the massacre in Orlando, Florida. I have often said I can find an ethics issue behind every bush. It is not hard to find one here. Fear and hatred appear to have taken hold in my United States in ways that I do not recall as a youngster. The demonization of Others is so prevalent and acceptable that national leaders gain followers by appealing to it. The embrace of violence in American culture combines with a supposed liberty to own any gun we wish, to deadly effect.
Johan Cruyff, “In Memoriam” (1947-2016)
Johan Cruyff, the worldwide prophet of modern soccer, died some weeks ago leaving behind a particular ludic and anthropological legacy. Applying Max Weber’s sociological ideal-type classification, he showed persuasively that discipline and tactics are blind without beauty and elegance, as much as pleasure and creativity are empty without rigour and hard work.
Last month I spoke on a panel of psychotherapists at a workshop about mental health, hosted by one of the nearby Adventist churches. It was a worthy topic that was perfect for Mental Health Awareness Month. As the program drew near the close, someone asked "how do you find a good psychotherapist?" The psychiatrist, the clinical counselor, and I, all offered suggestions. Then a sister from the audience came to the microphone.
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.
Lately independent Adventist media has been abuzz with stories of a church leader in the Southern African and Indian Ocean Division office whose academic degrees turned out to be unsubstantiable. The responses to this revelation have been, it seems to me, unnecessarily scathing, as though the church has been irreparably damaged by this one man claiming degrees he didn’t have.
In a Europe struggling with the rise of Islamophobia, torn by debates about the refuge flood and on edge over religious, ethnic and cultural disputes, London has elected its first Muslim mayor – Sadiq Khan. Such a move is, arguably, confirmation that Britain’s capital is one of the most liberal and secular cities in the world – even as the country contends with unprecedented immigration and rising radicalization.
I couldn’t be the only one investing in the relationship. But I did try hard. I called and she would cut the conversation short. I’d ask her to hang out and she was always too busy. I would offer to come over and it was always “a bad time”. Fine. I could take a hint. That was the end of our friendship. After I moved away, I found other friends. Over time she had truly faded from my regular thoughts. But one day I got a call from a vaguely familiar number. “Can we talk?” To say I was surprised would be an understatement! But I obliged her.
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.
In my initial Spectrum Column I asserted that there is no Seventh-day Adventist ethic. But there are certainly Seventh-day Adventist ethicists and, more specific yet, Adventist bioethicists exist in disproportionately high numbers. This fact is surely due to our traditional emphasis on healthcare as an essential element of the ministry of Jesus Christ.