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Essential Reading

Monte Sahlin's blog on religion, values, and contemporary issues gives readers a quick digest of information relevent to the Adventist context.

His quick summary on how the Da Vinci Code functions within postmodern religious discourse gets well beyond the usual platitudes.

Monte writes:

"The idea that the largest religious establishments in the world today
are corrupt and have engaged in massive cover-up over the years is
entirely believable to the average person. It has already been proved
to them in contemporary headlines. If you must teach your children that
they most not entirely trust the youth pastor or parish priest, then
why should it seem strange to wonder if basic doctrines are somehow
untrustworthy?"

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Art: Spring 2006 Cover

By: Sharon
Fujimoto-Johnson

 

When we took on a complete redesign of Spectrum around eight years ago,
Bonnie Dwyer, editor, and I were intent on incorporating more visual art into the
magazine, beginning with full-color artwork on each cover. Clearly I'm biased,
but I happen to think that Spectrum continues to be a visually-attractive
magazine. It will be a pleasure to post here from time to time on art-related
topics, such as the art in each new issue of Spectrum, Adventist artists, and
the broader world of Christian art.The cover art for the Spring 2006 issue is
an old photograph taken by Arthur Maxwell, who is best known as "Uncle Arthur" of the classic children's
book series, The Bible Story and Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories:

This photo of Arthur Maxwell's sons,
Malcom and Graham, was originally used on the cover of an early edition of
Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories. (Incidentally, storytelling continues in the Maxwell
family. Several other
Maxwells
, including Graham, are now writers as well.)

For many of us who grew up in Adventist
homes, Maxwell's books are familiar icons of an Adventist childhood, much like Fri-Chik or Pathfinders. In this issue of Spectrum,
Lynn Neumann McDowell writes that "Uncle Arthur may well rival Ellen White as
the most influential author in Adventism."
 
And speaking of Ellen, an article by artist John Hoyt in the current issue
features James and Ellen as the American Gothic couple:

Adventist Media Finds Bizarre Bedfellow for Ten Commandments Day

By: Alexander Carpenter

On May 6 and 7, Adventist media—including 3ABN, Hope Channel, and Amazing Facts—teamed up with Ron Wexler and a group of right-wing religious broadcasters such as Pat Robertson to restore
the Ten Commandments’ role in American public life.

More than 3.2 million dollars were spent just by 3ABN and ASI, hundreds of thousands of books were printed, and more than seventeen hours were broadcast during the weekend. What was behind all this and who is Ron Wexler?

In late 2005, Ron Wexler (a developer of Israeli real estate for right-wing Christians) and Pastor Myles Munroe (Bahamas Faith Ministry International—a Pentecostal organization) organized the Ten
Commandments Commission. Their stated objective was to elevate the importance of the Ten Commandments by placing monuments, plaques, and symbols throughout North America. Originally, the commission had settled on February 5 as Ten Commandments Day.

Something happened and Munroe was removed from the leadership. Blackie Gonzales (Son Broadcasting, a couple of VHF stations in New Mexico) replaced him as chairman of the Ten Commandments Commission board of directors. The main focus of the Ten Commandments Day is the promotion of little fake gold pins in the shape of the Decalogue that allow people to show their commitment to God’s law. See several videos on the Ten Commandments Web site that encourage people to purchase these pins for $14.99 each, plus $6.95 shipping.

According to Wexler, an orthodox Jew, as interest grew, the Ten Commandments Day was moved back three months to Sunday, May 7, 2006. Wexler says:
"We literally have not been able to keep up with the incredible response we’ve gotten over the last few weeks for our Ten Commandments Pins.

Some folks at Daily Kos think the whole thing is an attempt to make money. As Tatarize points out:
It is worth $14.95 right? Wait, at the bottom of the page there is a
distributers link for the wholesale price…$5.50. That’s a 270% markup. Then they want $6.95 for shipping USPS Media Mail which actually costs $2 for a package that size.
Didn’t Moses smash the Ten Commandments? What was that over? Oh yeah, religious leaders and people celebrating a golden religious icon.

And some folks in the world of Adventist media jumped on this bandwagon. View the proclamation
here.
And see Pacific Press and Signs of the Times’ book here;
3ABN’s book here; Amazing Facts’ book here;
Ten Commandments bookmark here; Hope Channel’s book here; and Mark Finely’s book here. Finally, North American Religious Liberty Association offers a Ten Commandments CD here.

During the three-hour special program
on the denomination’s Hope Channel, Pastor Brad Thorp and Gary Gibbs, president and vice-president, hosted Ron Wexler and Blackie Gonzales. During the interview, Wexler shares the usual restorationist
shibboleths about how weather and homosexuals are running amuck because the Ten Commandments aren’t in certain courthouses. Be sure to see the thousands of petitions that Hope collected from Adventist churches.

Wexler provides further "reason" to restore the Ten Commandments (and buy his pin).As the fury of hurricane Rita is about to hit the shores of Texas just 3 weeks after the disaster left Katrina, people of faith must be wondering…it was revealed to me that in numerology, the numerical value of the Hebrew letters that make up the name Rita + God is equal to 620. The number of all the Hebrew letters that make up the Ten Commandments is.…620! Is there a onnection?

What? Why is the Adventist Church advertising this guy’s wacky agenda?

Well, what became of all this? According to the Washington Post, many Adventist are wondering, as well. Apparently, there are a lot of books left over.

And here is a chat room
where conservative Adventists dutifully wonder where the "first day"
folks were when it was time to spread the word about the Ten Commandments.

Or was it all about making a buck?

Here
Alan Reinach, head of the North America Religious Liberty Association—West, admits that it all "turned out to be largely a non-event."

Were we used by Ron Wexler? Who spearheaded the Church’s coordinated jump onto this bizarre bandwagon? Was the Ten Commandments Commission just an attempt to make money off of pin sales?

The gnats and camels of May

By: Nathan Brown, editor, Signs of the Times Australia/NZ edition

I am a semi-professional observer of our church community. Sometimes the way it conducts its business and mission raise questions for me.

And sometimes a conjunction of “events” brings these questions into stark focus. Such was the case last month. And someone needs to ask the hard questions about what this says about us and what we can learn along the way.

The first event was the self-proclaimed Ten Commandments day. The Adventist focus on this event began with the television stations associated with the church. They highlighted this event, interviewed the experts, drove the “Adventist” alternative and focused their broadcasting for that weekend on this issue.

And where the television stations go, other voices of the church are expected to follow. Our publishing houses scrambled to produce resources—“as seen on TV.” Millions of Ten Commandment-focused booklets were printed and promoted to viewers and church members to arm them with the ammunition to counter the “attack” on the decalogue.

And among some within the church, the level of focus on this upcoming event almost seemed commensurate with one’s measure of orthodoxy. Working with a church news magazine—even on the other side of the world—questions were asked as to why the Ten Commandments day was not a priority in our reporting.

And then the day came and went, the special broadcasts were broadcast, the books were distributed—or perhaps many of them are still sitting in a warehouse or churches’ backrooms somewhere—and the statements were made. But no-one noticed.

Searches by myself and others could find barely a mention of this “event” in major news services. Even Christian news services gave it little attention. For all our frantic attentions, in terms of its relevance to mainstream culture, the Ten Commandments day was a non-event—and our Adventist “responses” even more so.

Two weeks later, The Da Vinci Code became one of the biggest movies of the year. This story—based on Dan Brown’s mega best-seller—questions the divinity of Jesus, alleges that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, re-imagines church history and challenges the origins of the Bible. And by its best-seller/box office hit status, The Da Vinci Code is launching these claims into the hearts and minds of mainstream society.

And the Adventist response? Apart from a few magazine articles and a couple of hurried publishing ventures, it was somewhere between ignoring it completely to limited, especially when compared with the Ten Commandments hype. At a time when Jesus—who must ever be the centre of our faith and lives—is again a topic of legitimate but too often misguided conversations in the movie theatres, the bookstores, the mainstream and Christian media, the educated forums, the workplaces and the social gatherings, for whatever reason, it seems we have chosen largely to be non-participants.

In a scathing criticism of the religiosity of His day, Jesus said to the religious leaders, “You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat; then you swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24, NLT). In May, it seems we got the gnat—and, proverbially at least, beat it to death with a sledgehammer—but the Da Vinci camel roams free and unhindered.

Yes, we have a sensitivity and special regard for the Ten Commandments, but without Jesus the commandments are of little consequence, to us or anyone else. We should be prepared to stand up for our specific beliefs in the Christian community and beyond, but we must not allow our preoccupations or paranoia—or our associated television stations—to misdirect our priorities in such a way.

After the millions of dollars have been spent and all that evangelistic fervour misdirected, someone somewhere—or perhaps all of us everywhere—should pause to consider what we have to say to our culture, how we go about it and how the agendas are set for what occupies our primary attention. Until then, we will probably go on answering the questions we think our society should be asking, while continuing to ignore the challenging but exciting possibilities of answering real questions and being the link between the real Jesus and our communities that he loves.

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