Adventism and White Supremacy

I was seven-years-old the first and only time I've had a gun shoved in my face. The man wielding it was Marc. He was my Sabbath School teacher.

I remember the vastness of the basement in Lamson Hall on the campus of Andrews University where Pioneer Memorial Church's Primary Sabbath School classes met at that time (before the expansion that brought us all under the PMC roof).

I remember the room was filled with circular tables to accommodate the many kids, spanning several grade levels. My group's table was off to the right. Each table got its own SS teacher, just to ourselves.

I remember Marc was new that Sabbath. With the seminary literally in the shadows of PMC, children's SS meant being subjected to an endless revolving door of seminary students eager to mold young minds for Adventism.

There were a lot of problematic SS teachers over the years, but Marc is the most memorable, for obvious reasons.

I remember he strayed off course from the SS lesson. He didn't care about our memory verses or lesson plan, which disappointed me because I had studied! He wanted to talk about the end times. And he did.

Then he pulled out the gun.

I remember the gun being matte grey with a black rubber grip, and I remember my fear. My parents, in the tradition of the Adventist pioneers, are staunch pacifists. Guns are bad, my seven-year-old mind was screaming.

I remember Marc pointing the gun at us, telling us it was unloaded, but that very soon we'd have loaded ones in our faces and we'd be forced to choose — die for our faith or renounce God.

But, said Marc, that didn't mean we should go out without a fight! He proceeded to teach this merry band of seven-year olds the proper technique for loading the gun, with the real ammo he'd brought.

He passed the gun around our circle and encouraged us to hold it. Get a feel for the weight of it, the grip. A boy next to me grabbed it eagerly. His parents had guns at home. He'd held one before. "Good," said Marc, nodding encouragingly.

It was my turn. But I refused. I didn't want touch a gun. I didn't want to shoot anyone. I couldn't even conceive of such an idea. My face burned with embarrassment as Marc shook his head, clearly disappointed.

Some of the kids held the gun, some touched it with one finger, others were just as eager as that first boy. I was still just trying to figure out how preparing for the end times with guns jibed with the pacifism my parents believed in.

I don't know how many of our group went home that afternoon and told our parents in varying levels of excitement and dread about Marc and the gun. My guess would be all of us. I can only speak to my parents' reaction, which was horror.

I don't know which parents called campus safety (quite possibly mine). And I don't know if it was campus safety, armed with their pepper spray, or the Berrien Springs police, with their very real guns, who raided Marc's car.

But I do know that my parents, both Andrews employees, learned the details later. His trunk was filled with an entire arsenal of guns and ammunition. He was prepared for the end time battle he'd described to us in SS class.

He was prepared to die and take as many people out with him as possible.

Instead, his weapons were seized, he was kicked out of seminary, and banned from campus for life.

I don't know what happened to Marc after that. For all I know, he's holed up in a remote cabin on a mountaintop, hoarding his weapons and cans of veggie meat, still ready to kill for Christ.

What I do know is that radicalized Adventism is real, and it's scary, and it's all around us whether we recognize it for what it is or not.

Maybe this is why the Adventist Church has such a hard time denouncing white supremacy: because same recognizes same.

Radicalized Adventism stems from the same ideology as white supremacy: fear of the "other" and feelings of superiority toward those we've marked as different.

Marc was so terrified by the "other" that is preached against from Adventist pulpits that he couldn't see them as human beings anymore.

They were, in his mind, coming after him and his people and therefore his job was to take them out first. To take out as many as he could.

Sound familiar? It should.

Because that is the exact same type of radicalized ideology the white supremacist who killed almost two dozen people in El Paso subscribed to.

Our "other" looks different: Radicalized Adventism is terrified of the pope, the Catholics who live next door, politicians who might one day usher in Sunday laws.

We demonize and dehumanize those "others" through our preaching, our seminars, our pamphlets.

But not ALL Adventism, you might be thinking. To which I'd respond, no one is saying ALL Adventism, just like no one is saying ALL white people are white supremacists.

But that doesn't stop this radicalized thinking from infecting the entire church.

And we're quite comfortable as a church living with this infection. Because these fear-based tactics bring people in. It fills them with a burning passion that we falsely equate with faith.

We've so perfected an 1800s-style fire-and-brimstone message of fear and trembling, that when we hear the message of Jesus' love, that's what sounds radical to our ears. That's what sounds false.

And here's the thing, because we evangelize through fear, the people who are attracted to our message are often those who have already been radicalized in other ways.

Let me put this plainly: Our fear-based evangelism attracts white supremacists.

The overlap in the Venn diagram of white supremacy and Adventism is larger than we'd like to admit, and it all stems from that same place of radicalized ideology against those who are somehow different from us.

This is why the Adventist Church is so uncomfortable denouncing the cancer that is white supremacy. It's our cancer, too. We can't denounce it without admitting the infection is in us as well.

These are my thoughts, these are the questions on my mind as time after time our church is complicit with its silence.

But there is an answer and it's pretty simple. We must denounce white supremacy, from our pulpits and our pews, whether you're an Adventist with a huge platform or none at all.

And in the process of denouncing this evil, maybe we'll also be better equipped to recognize the ways our own religion has radicalized us toward hate and fear.

Only then can we move toward the radical love of Jesus instead.

Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

Photo by Melany Rochester on Unsplash

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9821
4 Likes

As we denounce white supremacy and its world leader Donald Trump, we must attempt to convert his supporters who are in our faith community and perhaps rebaptize them. Some notorious members of our faith community, such as Ben Carson, should be disfellowshipped from the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

This week Trump in a retweet claimed to be the “king of Israel” and the “second coming of God.” In other remarks this week, he referred to himself as “the chosen one.” The offensiveness of his claims cannot be exaggerated, according to Christians. His claims literally define himself as an anti-Christ. His claims are consistent with what self-identified white supremacist admirers call him, which is God Emperor. And his claims are consistent with the idolatrous devotion lavished on him by his white evangelical supporters, including some Seventh-day Adventists.

It is impossible for a Christian to be a supporter of an anti-Christ such as Donald Trump. And I have been saying this for a very long time. Thank you for this important essay.

14 Likes

Let’s add to your quote, “Radicalized Adventism is terrified of the pope, the Catholics who live next door, politicians who might one day usher in Sunday laws.”

Radicalized Adventism is terrified of non-radicalized Adventists.

12 Likes

Hi Alisha,
Did he end up at WACO? Totally inappropriate behavior what Marc did.

5 Likes

As usual Phil you have a difficult time with details and context.
Trump said no such thing in context of similar but alternate remarks.
I already explained to Lindy…but doubt it will help your hatred against Trump. These comments must be on similar media sources to discredit the President.
@Lindy

1 Like

The cynicism prevalent in our time has given a boost to conspiracy theories, and the Adventist depiction of Catholicism was formed in the nineteenth century when Catholics were beginning to immigrate into the USA in significant numbers, specially from Italy. When I arrived to this country in 1954, Italians were still looked upon as outsiders and pizzas were unknown outside of New York City. Hispanics were seen as “wetbacks” and ignored. Most people of Italian or Latino descent I met had an unhealthy sense of inferiority and a need to keep a low profile, with some few exceptions. Since people of Italian, Hispanic and other national origins are now fully integrated into the governing structure of the Adventist Church, it is disturbing to notice that the identification of Catholicism, the Pope and his army of politically important surrogates, who are eager to inflict suffering on those who oppose them and to impose their anti-Christ as supreme, keeps showing up not only in outlandish evangelistic poorly-conceived shows but also in Sabbath worship service sermons in prominent pulpits. Fear and conspiracy theories die hard. The only cure, of course, is to let the Gospel be the guide in life.

4 Likes

Mr. Travis: Trump clearly believes he is deserving of the praise. I’ll let you find for yourself video footage of him looking upward while proclaiming “I am the chosen one” to engage China in a trade war.

3 Likes

So, what was the context? The question also by the press was related to the “squads” comment the context of the exchange is not sinister but simply the democratic party gives the Mike and silent support to the squad that detest Israel.
Trump is illustrating how much Israelis appreciate him…and it is valid.
These women dont want Israel to exist. They support as a group BDS . This is the setting and context of the remarks.

1 Like

Mr. Travis, the context for the King and God remarks was a tweet, not an interview (with a mic) regarding the “Squad.” Trump could easily have tweeted, “thank you for the kind words, but I’m not the King of Israel or the second coming of God.”

If someone proclaimed you were the most intelligent human on the planet, would you share that without correction? Or are you like him? Or should I say Him?

The context for the “chosen one” remark was a live response to a question about China.

5 Likes

Well, he is more intelligent and good for Israel than the squad . I guess it’s just the hypercritical that cant understand the context. If he had corrected that then that would be the media focus for a week that not only did he correct he should have denounced the comment. Get a life.

1 Like

Thats not Phil’s. As to China, I did hear him Say he guessed he was crazy to engage China. But, it was what others failed to do for multiple previous presidencies. China Trade and IT theft.
Why would Israel be the context of a China question? Could you enlighten me?

Mr. Weiss: Yes, the anti-Catholicism expressed from our pulpits has been excessive. As Ben Carson himself proclaimed, in a video preserved on YouTube (not sure it’s still there), it’s the conservatives in America–the evangelicals (“our side,” in his words)–that will bring about the end of this world. Call that another conspiracy theory if you wish, but it’s the more pertinent EGW-derived SDA message that gets lost with the anti-Catholic rhetoric.

4 Likes

Mr. Travis: The China comment (live on TV) and Israel remarks (Twitter feed) were independent events. They had nothing in common, other than deriving from the same dark mind.

3 Likes

Donald Trump’s retweet and comments are well-documented and clear. Your sophistry will not be helpful to you as you stand before the throne of judgment. You cannot gaslight God as you are trying to gaslight others.

Sophistry has its origins in ancient Greece in the 5th Century BC. Sophistry is foreign to the mindset of God’s people. You should not think that we find your fallacious arguments, spin, psychological denial, rationalization, and the refusal to acknowledge factual reality clever or cute.

Anti-Christs are masters of deception. And you, Patrick, have been deceived.

8 Likes

How was his tweet that he was forwarding in anyway related to a China question?
I simply am not following the line of thought.

You realize on those in the way to the helicopter comments there is a barrage of questions and often retracements. Context of meaning is essential.
Therefore, there is no context between China and the Israel tweet… at least he did not mean it to be. Disinformation.

Phil,
Glad to see you are God and would disfellowship Ben Carson. Pure arrogant foolishness that is indeed an anti-christian comment. Of course that is where your have relegated me also . We both have been deceived…wooooo! Continue your blind hatred…however it discredits any truthful past history concerning racism in the US that is true!

2 Likes

Or, the dark over critical mind that was evaluating.He is correct about China and…he is correct to help Israel and they do appreciate it . The rest of this is flak.

1 Like

I don’t hate you. I am trying to encourage you to repent. You cannot be a disciple of Christ and a supporter of an anti-Christ. Black is not white, up is not down, good is not bad. This is not a political discussion. We are not engaged in a partisan political disagreement. You can still be a conservative. You can still be a Republican. But you cannot be a Christian and a supporter of Donald Trump, because he is an anti-Christ.

10 Likes

Alisha, is it possible there is an extreme radical left in the SDA church as exhibited by some on this blog? Just asking.
@Carmen

2 Likes

Well, I dont hate you and just wish the scales of hate in your own eyes might be removed.