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Who’s Afraid of Adventist Wolves?

In the last year and a half, I have begun to observe a strange trend in Adventism. To be completely frank: I’m worried. We have become insecure in our ability to raise and educate our children in our own homes. We have abdicated our responsibility to train our children and instead depend our our Seventh-day Adventist educational institutions to do the job the family should be doing.

This is not just a response to Walla Walla University’s budding controversy over internet censorship. It’s also the pedagogy of origins debate that is raging at La Sierra University. It’s also a response to one of the votes that came up at the Northern California Conference constituency meeting. (Yes, I attended just to listen since I was not an official delegate.)

Adventism is very afraid right now. We are afraid for very little reason. We have become afraid of that which we have constructed to be dangerous to our faith. In our post-colonial world we have become the moral colonists. We continue to assert our logical positivism. This on the whole is not the problem or the issue that I am observing. It is good to be firm in our belief system. However, it is the point that this has lead us to.

Just like the western colonists of not so long ago, we have found an irrational fear of losing what little bit of control we have. Hatred arises in the middle classes when they fear losing what they had. The good people of our church are terrified of losing what little control we have over our children. They are terrified that their children will lose their way when distracted by the ways of the world. Parents are terrified about their children and the internet addictions they struggle with. Parents are afraid that their students might have to grapple with concepts like “atheism,” “LGBT,” and “evolution.” However, this does not stem from a true firmness in our beliefs, but rather from a developed insecurity about our beliefs and more importantly in the way we have raised our own children.

The role of the family is to teach our children about God and Jesus and to give them a basis for our faith system. The role of our elementary schools should be to reinforce this while beginning to educate our children how to function in society. This should continue through high school. By the time our children graduate from high school and are ready for college, if they have been raised well, we as parents should have nothing to fear.

The Bible says, “Raise up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) Do not leave the job of raising up your children to our colleges and universities. It is not their job. (They must have been given the basis long before reaching the college level.) The job of our colleges and universities should be to challenge and push our students to academic, spiritual, and personal excellence. To push our students to the next level, to learn to love as Christ loved. To teach us this, our colleges must treat us, the students, with the same level of respect we hold for our professors.

Our universities provides the unique environment where we can be challenged and pushed but it also provide us with a support structure for when we do fall into crisis. This is how I see our higher education system, and to be honest it’s the reason I decided to come back to Pacific Union College instead of going to UC Davis or UC Santa Cruz where I had been accepted as a transfer student.

Adventist higher education should function as a nurturing support system that challenges students to figure out their own faith. A student’s faith is much stronger when they have gone through a crisis of faith and come out the other side. It gives us the chance to construct our faith from the ground up, not just using our parents’ or our pastors’ pre-made faith. Our colleges and universities should have the goal of challenging us, but should also help to provide the mentors to help us come out of it. This is how I have come to see many of professors here at PUC. This faith-based learning community does not exist outside of our Adventist system. I cannot stress enough about the importance of having the ability to investigate and figure out these things now rather than later in life when we do not live in a supportive community that can help us through the individuation process. Without the process now, they will fall into crisis later in life, when they will not have the support network they have now. Would we rather our children face these things for the first time when they are thirty-five years old and find themselves unable to enter the conversation? At least here the professors continually care about our emotional, spiritual and personal development and can help us find ourselves.

The goal for me, if/when I have children will be to raise them with the basis but allow them to find their own path. This is how we should be treated at the collegiate level. We do not need the good people of our church to be breathing down our backs making sure we go in the way they would have us go. The only reason that they feel that we need stems from the fear and the insecurity in how they have raised us in the first place. Let your children become thinking adults. Give us that level of equality.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that we want to protect our children and make sure they stay in the faith. I have been raised in this church my entire life, and my dad is an Adventist minister. I understand the importance of the values of our church. That being said, I would not be at PUC without the freedom to create my own place in Adventism. I think my parents did a great job with me. I have to give them a lot of credit. I am about to graduate college this next weekend and I feel great about the times and the experience I have had here. My parents have taught me to be open-minded, but also to have a basis in the history and doctrine of our church. This is what I know: If a student (including me) has been trained and taught to continue the search for “truth,” it does not matter what challenge or concept they are faced with. If we truly believe in the message of our church we do not have to be afraid of that. It’s really as simple as that. I hope and pray that we learn to live, love, let go, and continually seek what we understand to be “progressive revelation.”


Timothy Widmer is graduating from Pacific Union College with a

B.A. in English, with a Theater emphasis.

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