Several weeks ago for colloquy Lizeth Hernandez spoke about her missionary trip to Africa. She showed pictures of the roads, the people and the churches she visited. Small buildings without the conveniences we take for granted here—lights, pews, etc. But that isn’t what struck me the most, what stood out to me was a simple phrase written in an African language: Seventh Day Adventist Church of _______. It was written above the door in a curve, and it made me feel warm and fuzzy.
I am not a hard-core Adventist. I have never read an Ellen G. White book in its entirety. I couldn’t tell you the 27 fundamental beliefs (or is it 28 now?) I’m not vegetarian. I drink coffee. I wear jewelry. I eat out on the Sabbath. I go to the movies.
I also know what “Big Franks” are. I call taco salads haystacks. I consider Special K Loaf food, as well as a highly foreign substance (I had no idea what it was before my freshmen year at PUC). I know the basic tenets of vegetarianism, the Advent and Sabbath keeping. I have debated with various people on the issues of women’s ordination, homosexuality and jewelry. I love Veggie Tales. I am Adventist.
I went to an Adventist Academy for elementary, jr. high and high school. I go to an Adventist College and church. I’ve gotten jobs through this community, as well as scholarships, friendship, and encouragement. I proudly fill in "Seventh-day Adventist" on surveys in the religion area. I read Spectrum. Flip through The Recorder each month and know what Adventist Today is. I am a hard-core Adventist. Not what you’d expect a hard-core Adventist to look like, more neo-bohemian than SNL church lady, but still, I am. I love Adventism, which is pretty unusual for a 21-year old literary hippie to say. I also say things like I love long dashes, double chocolate milano cookies, and the Adventist bubble. People usually only agree with the cookie part.
What is the Adventist Bubble? The Adventist Bubble is the network of Adventists that follow you wherever you go. Africa, San Francisco. The supermarket, the dry cleaner. It is the woman behind you in the supermarket check out line saying, “Oh I love those tofutti ice creams. Are you vegan?” and then drawing you into a conversation where you discover that not only are you both Adventist, but your best friend’s cousin is her sister in laws co-worker. It is browsing at Borders and running into your mother’s friend’s husband’s son who you went to Pathfinder meetings with when you were twelve. It is going to a job interview and somehow stumbling upon the fact that you both know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows each other.
Welcome to your Adventist Community. It is worldwide, ever present and, contrary to popular belief, not out to get you.
Pretty regularly at a potluck, dinner, or having coffee with friends the complaints pop up about the Adventist Bubble:
I can’t get away from it.
All I want is to go shopping without running into someone I know. Is that too much to ask for?
People see Adventism as a bubble, a small, confining, oppressive bubble. After all Adventism makes us feel guilty--it is too legalistic, is limiting, is clique-ish. Adventism, people complain, is about always being right, about us having the truth about the Sabbath and the Advent. They’re sick of it. Sick of always running into someone who is Adventist at the supermarket, at the gym, at the movies, on vacation.
They can’t escape Adventism. It’s there following them around a bookstore in San Francisco. It’s there waiting in line at the DMV. It’s there on the airplane sitting next to you, someone who went to your academy. They remember your team mascot (go Glendale cougars!) They remember the rules –no jewelry and required worship. They know about Odyssey cartoons, The Recorder and Ellen White. They know all about it, and you are just trying to escape, just trying to enjoy your vacation to Hawaii where you are not planning on looking up the local Adventist church, but now this person has just told you were it is and invited you to come. There is, of course, a potluck. You wanted to sit by the beach and stare at the water, but now…
You still can sit by the beach and stare at the water. You are not obligated to go to a Hawaiian Adventist Church. You are not even obligated to keep talking to that person sitting next to you, or standing in line behind you. You are not obligated in any way to talk about your Adventism. You could when asked if you are Adventist simply stare blankly and pretend to speak another language. You could pretend to get a phone call, flip open your cell phone and have an imaginary conversation with your mother. You could say I am, but not continue the conversation.
Adventism is in many ways a bubble. There is a definite shared culture. The word Haystacks means something very different to most people. Odyssey is an epic, not a cartoon, and Special K is eaten only in its original cereal format. There is a high chance that wherever you go you will run into someone who knows a friend of a friend of a friend. And yes this can be annoying when you’re dashing into the supermarket to get some milk, but other times it can save your life.
Think about it, wherever you go, no matter where in the world you can probably find an Adventist. No matter what you’re doing or who you’re with you could look up the local Adventist church and instantly tap into a group of people who share something with you. Maybe not Odyssey, but other things. The Sabbath, belief in the Advent and a creativity for coming up with vegetarian dishes. You are never alone.
In a world that continues to become more and more fragmented, Adventism remains solidly constant. Families break-up. People move way, change their names, and disappear into the great, vast ever- evolving world. Countries change their name, institutions cease to exist, even the ice caps are melting! Still Adventism remains. Adventism is still there chastising you about not knowing your fundamental beliefs and inviting you to potluck. Yeah you will keep running into that lady who frowns at your earrings or the rap music you’re listening to, but you’ll also keep running into old friends, people you once went to church with or new friends, people offering you jobs, helping you get an apartment or just listening to you when you are lost in a foreign country, everything unfamiliar except for your shared Adventism.
Adventism is the big family I never had. It is loving and annoying. It can be a huge pain in the neck, but also the big hug I need after a bad day. Even though I don’t agree with everything that Adventism is, even though I rebel against some of the “rules” and don’t always do what is expected, I still consider myself an Adventist and my Adventism a protective bubble. It is friendly, fluid and ever expanding. It is constant, ever-present and there when I need it. Things are going to continue to change. Soon a new president will be in office. Soon I’ll leave college, grow up, become an adult. The ice caps will probably keep melting. People will keep moving and dying and not returning calls and falling out of each other’s lives. There will be new technologies, new countries even, new everything, but Adventism will remain, constant and patient ready to take me and you into its arms whenever and wherever we need it.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/455