Badventists a boon?


(system) #1

By Alexander Carpenter

Spectrum magazine editor Bonnie Dwyer sent this over with a comment about the parallel between Lockhart and Bull's sociological reasons for Adventist success and what NYTimes columnist David Brooks notes about The Catholic Boom in the last fifty years. In addition to the situational irony, the similarity proves stark and elucidates that phenomena some call Badventism.

Brooks writes: In fact, if you really wanted to supercharge the nation, you’d fill it with college students who constantly attend church, but who are skeptical of everything they hear there. For there are at least two things we know about flourishing in a modern society.

First, college students who attend religious services regularly do better than those that don’t. As Margarita Mooney, a Princeton sociologist, has demonstrated in her research, they work harder and are more engaged with campus life. Second, students who come from denominations that encourage dissent are more successful, on average, than students from denominations that don’t.

This embodies the social gospel annex to the quasi-religious creed: Always try to be the least believing member of one of the more observant sects. Participate in organized religion, but be a friendly dissident inside. Ensconce yourself in traditional moral practice, but champion piecemeal modernization. Submit to the wisdom of the ages, but with one eye open.

The problem is nobody is ever going to write a book sketching out the full quasi-religious recipe for life. The message “God is Great” appeals to billions. Hitchens rides the best-seller list with “God is Not Great.” Nobody wants to read a book called “God is Right Most of the Time.”I once heard LLU psychology professor (and blogger) Johnny Ramírez-Johnson define an Adventist as someone who calls him or herself an Adventist and pays tithe. While at Andrews I had a caring professor lower his voice and say to me and a group of students that whatever we end up believing, we should never stop going to church. Thus, to professor Ramírez-Johnson's definition I would add that an Adventist attends church regularly on Sabbath.

The point Brooks makes about mixing healthy Catholic doubt with commitment to community seems to apply to the story of Adventist success as well. What Brooks calls the quasi religious, in our context I would call Badventism, the phenomena of thousands of persons who identify with Adventist culture - and even mission - while harboring serious doubts about this or that belief. They are pastors, doctors, mothers, professors, students, homosexuals, and administrators. They often read Spectrum. Most are graduates of our school system - too well-read to buy it all, too committed to Adventism to fit in anywhere else. They are the least believing members of a very observant sect which means that they take it all pretty seriously.

Is paying tithe to the denomination, attending church on Sabbath, and calling oneself an Adventist enough to define a person as a Seventh-day Adventist?


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4245