To a large and growing sector within Seventh-day Adventism, Ellen White is yawningly irrelevant, hopelessly Victorian, totally ancient, and well, so 1800s. That large corps of grown male scholars that continue to study her are seen as an odd species indeed. Why are they so interested in Ellen White? The every-so-often uncovering of vignettes which supposedly display White’s humor (I personally have never found them even remotely funny) are not the least bit compelling to generations younger.
But here, on a very postmodern medium known as a “blog,” in no-holds-barred fashion, I present the remixed Ellen White, a superwoman of a bygone era with relevance for 2012 and beyond.
Addict: White struggled to jettison flesh from her diet at one stage of her life. She also had a thing for oysters that just wouldn’t quit.
Adopter: White took in scores of children throughout her life.
Americanist: White was big on her home country, believing God had called it into existence and bestowed on it His highest blessing.
Animal-Friendly: To a man abusive of his pet, White had nothing but invective.
Anti-War: White was a fierce critic of American wars, most vocally the Civil War.
Career Woman: White neglected the rearing of her children to build an organization.
Cocky: White disclosed that she should not be called a “prophet” because she was so much more.
Cosmopolitan: Crisscrossing the United States several times, White lived in Europe and Australia.
Cutting Edge: White experimented with the latest psychological innovations of her day, at one time taking her sons to see a mesmerist.
Cynical: White distrusted human nature and had no confidence in politicians.
Debt-Ridden: In truly American fashion, White was always chased by debtors and died with her affairs in arrears.
Disfellowshipped: White and family were booted out of their local Methodist church.
Eclectic: White’s extensive library boasted more non-Adventist books than Adventist books.
Facebooker: White practiced extensive social networking.
Fashionable: White rocked a broach like nobody’s business. At one time she told women to shorten their dresses.
Fight the Power: White bravely attacked the oppressors of her day: the US government, Catholicism, etc.
Focused: White was nearly myopic in spreading Adventism.
Green: In her writings White encouraged environmental responsibility.
Hated: Throughout her entire life—and even after she died—White was hated on by haters.
Healthy: White promoted exercise before Jack LaLanne and the fitness gym explosion of the 1980s.
In Love: Ellen White called James the love of her youth.
Individualist: White did her own thing, moved to the beat of her own drummer. She in turn advised others to not be “mere reflectors of other men’s thoughts.”
Media Savvy: Masterfully utilizing the media of her day (books, magazines, tracts and pamphlets), you might say that White’s writings went viral.
Mentally Ill: Unarguably, White had severe clinical depression, and probably Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Paranoia, and Munchausen syndrome. If she was around today she would see a therapist and be on meds.
Mixed: Many believe White was, well, Black.
Motivational: White’s writings have inspired countless people to get up and go get it.
On the Grind: White was, by all accounts, a tireless worker.
Ordained: Ellen White was ordained to the ministry by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists on four separate occasions.
Outspoken: White was outspoken in an age when women were confined to the home performing domestic science.
Overweight: As she got older, White struggled with her weight.
Philosopher: White grappled with existential questions.
Photographed: In an age when photographs were hard to come by, White was not averse to saying “cheese.”
Plagiarist: Like countless youngsters today, White utilized Wikipedia-like sources in novel ways.
Politician: A veteran politician, White easily manipulated hapless men and curried favor with an adoring public.
Racially Inclusive: Despite what many think, Ellen White encouraged racial integration in places where church workers would not be murdered over it.
Self-Promoting: White encouraged the church to distribute her books on a massive scale. A century and change later 180,000,000 copies of The Great Controversy are being distributed.
Separated: James and Ellen White separated over power issues.
Sexual: Ellen was pregnant four times.
Single: White was widowed in her early 50s, starting all over again. She declined a marriage proposal from Stephen Haskell.
Spiritual, Not Religious: White promoted heart spirituality and decried dry, formalized religion.
Street Poet: Ellen noted the rise of ghettos and bemoaned city life, urging people to exit the hoods.
Sued: Not only with the Israel Dammon Trial, White was sued on numerous occasions and had to obtain lawyers and broker settlements.
Transparent: White exposed the sins of church leaders in a way that was downright embarrassing.
Tweeter: Oftentimes in the Adventist Review, White did 19th century tweeting, keeping her followers abreast of her comings and goings.
Uneducated: White only had a third grade education. Today she would probably get her GED but would be excluded and discounted in many circles because of her dearth of degrees.
Wayward Child: Ellen White’s son, James Edson, was decidedly untoward, for many years leaving Adventism and sowing his wild oats.
—Jeremy Brandeis is a pseudonym.