Monkey See, Monkey Do

I recently saw a cute video of a group of calves crossing the road. On their short trek from one field to another, they went across the street. When the first calf encountered the painted dividing line, it leapt over it. All the other calfs followed suit making for a sweet video of baby cows playing follow the leader. Humans aren’t much different though. A social experiment carried out a few years ago demonstrated that a group of strangers in the street would be willing to do inexplicably odd things for no reason other than the fact that others were doing it. Monkey see, monkey do.

Sometimes this tendency has far more harmful ramifications. Many have likely heard about the racist wedding venue owner that wouldn’t let an interracial couple use her establishment. She turned the couple away citing her “Christian belief”. The groom’s sister returned some time later confronting the owner and made a video recording of the encounter. The owner stood firmly by her convictions, staunchly insisting that her objections were religiously based. When the videographer challenged her to defend her stance from the Bible, the owner replied that she wasn’t interested in debating her faith. The video of the encounter went viral. The owner subsequently shut down all of the venue’s social media accounts following public backlash. But before deactivating their Facebook account, she posted an excuse for her discrimination. In her post, she admitted her had been wrong but been led to believe that an unbiblical discriminatory practice was actually based in the Word. She admitted that no one explicitly taught her this. Yet she was influenced by the behaviors of those around her and unquestioningly accepted it as literal Gospel truth. It wasn’t until this incident that it had ever occurred to her to search the Scriptures herself. And to her surprise her beliefs were unfounded by the Bible. She had been engaged in a lifelong game of monkey see, monkey do.

I have mixed reactions about her “apology” post. On the one hand, everyone is sorry after they get caught and called out. I find it interesting that she never thought to check her beliefs before turning this couple away. And even afterward she still didn’t check her stance against the Bible and adamantly made a declaration to the groom’s sister (who came up later and made the video) that it was “based on her faith”. And yet again, she didn’t even check her stance after the sister asked her where the Bible said that. The owner had ample opportunity to test her assumptions. But it never become important until the story went viral. Then all of a sudden she has time for a Bible study!

On the other hand, I can (unfortunately) believe her account, given the lack of Bible literacy that abounds today. This woman is of an undisclosed evangelical background. But she isn’t Adventist. And with our reputation as “People of the Book”, it’s easy to lull ourselves into the false belief that we would never make such an egregious error. But Adventists play monkey see monkey do all the time too.

Despite Sabbath School Quarterlies and Daniel/Revelation seminars, our constituents aren’t as well versed in the Bible as we would love to believe. Many Adventists will vehemently argue that jewelry is prohibited in the Bible, ignoring the abundant amount of texts where jewelry is shown as a part of adornment for godly celebration. Many hang their disdain on the caution that women’s beauty ought not only come from outward appearance – taking this to be an outright ban rather than a call to prudence.

We have Adventists – even preachers – declare that God’s pronouncement of having cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) is a text about blessing the Children of God. That’s not the context at all! We glean our ideas about theology and Christianity from songs, friends, and popular preachers. Unlike the Bereans (Act 17:11), few search the Scriptures for themselves to ensure the veracity of claims made.

My point is not to advocate for jewelry or suggest that God isn’t a Provider. These are just examples. I simply want to encourage us to be more willing to challenge our long-held assumptions. We rest on the laurels of our collective denominational scholastic reputation. But Adventists are just as prone to Biblical error as other Christians. Besides arrogance in our theological superiority, we also hesitate to do a deep dive into our tenets because there is often a fear that delving into our beliefs will lead to a crisis of faith. If the things we’re standing on are so shaky that they can’t stand up to scrutiny, then they aren’t the truth anyway! Truth remains constant and firm even under examination. Instead of being wary of testing our beliefs against the Word, we should welcome it! After all, we profess to be followers of Christ. Let’s stop merely following those around us. Instead of resting on the certainty that we have The Truth as the Remnant, lets continue to always search for Truth in the Word, even if it means breaking away from the herd.

Courtney Ray, MDiv, PhD is a clinical psychologist and ordained minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Previous Spectrum columns by Courtney Ray can be found at:

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The Adventist culture has several beliefs that are based on traditions that are passed on from generation to generation without proper verification of their “biblicity.”


“Truth” does not remain constant in our church. As a matter of fact there are “two” distinct truths in the Adventist Church and it depends on who pays your salary and how far an employee is from Silver Springs.


Crisis in faith? The more I read the Bible alone the more I began to question what I had learned and lived for many years. Although my faith in God and the Gospel was never doubted, my growing distrust in EGW’s writings brought great crisis in family and friend relationships. It was not easy to begin to question the things that I had so strongly believed and taught to so many others. Without sincere independant Bible study one risks becoming an EGW parrot and living the monkey see monkey do SDA life. There’s no greater thing than to be free in Jesus Christ and His way, truth and life. Who needs the confusion? Glad that’s over.


Sounds like your experience is quite similar to mine, Caddy. Such a freeing thing to come to see Him in an unfiltered light, right?

I would say that the crisis of faith mentioned in the article references faith placed in “unique doctrine” rather than faith in Christ and Him crucified. Can’t let the house of cards be disturbed.


Adventism like many cultish systems is a theological line dancing…


Thank you for the article! I wonder what makes other people “waking up”?
@cadge22 and @Elizabeth-Bennet: What was the cause for your spiritual journey of freedom in Christ? Was it a special text or what someone said that started your Bible reading without EGW filter? Many thanks for sharing!


Thanks for your question, Kate. It was a lengthy process for me, after 50 years of feeling spiritually under the water. To articulate the impetus succinctly enough for this space would take me awhile, haha, not sure I can pinpoint a specific moment.

What I can say for sure is that I started to seriously doubt the depth and quality of my personal relationship with Christ. When I examined the reason, it seemed that the Church was in fact hindering me in my efforts, especially considering what I saw as duplicitous pronouncements from “on high.” After stepping out for what I assumed would be a temporary experiment, the scales fell from my eyes, as it were. That might make no sense to someone else, but is what I am still experiencing. I’m just a person in the pews, or at least I was, and am surely far from the most intelligent, learned person here. But finding Jesus without a filter imposed by a system is pretty exciting.


Fantastic! So glad and happy for you!

… made me smile and think. I can so so so connect to your whole answer and especially to this sentence.
The church hindered you in deepening your relationship. Just beyond wow. It should support one in the relationship, not restrain.
How does this deepened relationship with Jesus looks like for you personally? I am so excited, wanted to go to bed, now I can’t.


Caddy, sometimes I have seen the opposite happening: Monkeys do, Monkeys see…

Those are the cases when someone dares to become a little independent and does/says/teaches/preaches/writes something a little different from the status quo or traditional. Oh, the Monkeys upstairs immediately see it, and from then on just keep an eye on the person, checking if they can “see more”… :wink:


We may not often realize it, but it makes a big difference being a Sola Scriptura SDA instead of a Whiteist SDA. And the two conditions are mutually exclusive.


Yes, and not just a difference on a theological level, but a very practical and everyday level.


Oh honey, don’t lose sleep over it!:wink:

The comments here over the past few years have been quite educational for me. After lurking, ahem, reading here for a long time, my eyes became opened to more and more and I saw the lemming that I was. That’s not how I will spend whatever remains of my life, trying to do mental gymnastics in vain attempts to fully accept all the FBs, assuming it was all maybe a little too deep for me and I just needed to trust.

Frank has educated me a lot, and Steve in Georgia has inspired me with his open minded faith walk with “outsiders” who actually walk the talk, and the mental health professionals have unwittingly provided me a little therapy, and now I need to quit babbling. Jesus needs to be my all, and that’s it.


Jesus our all. And that’s it.
And isn’t it awesome to see how God provided you with the right people even over such a thing like the internet? And BTW, funny, in the not even three months that I comment here, I have read two books suggested by Frank and one by Steve (and am currently reading the one Bryan reviewed). People here (writers, commenters) don’t realize the impact they have. And you don’t realize yours, my dear. Good night!


I simply want to encourage us to be more willing to challenge our long-held assumptions. We rest on the laurels of our collective denominational scholastic reputation.

You have no idea! :astonished:


I wonder what would happen to our theology if more believers studied the Bible for themselves, especially in relation to distinctive positions. It’s time SDAs stopped acting like lemmings and took discipleship more seriously.


"and took discipleship more seriously."

Yes, David.

I have found that Adventism doesn’t really teach “discipleship”…it teaches how to become a good Seventh Day Adventist. This really is a huge issue and I have seen that having this as the church’s focus can, and does, take away from developing spirituality. Without true spirituality there can be no growth in discipleship. The two, go hand in hand…and cannot be parted.


I’ve been there and what happened to me was: I still like SDAs but I left the denomination.


@cadge22 & @Elizabeth-Bennet
Same thing with me: The more I studied the more I began questioning. But I never let go of Jesus and His Word. It’s freeing!

… think of the MANY restrictions in the SOP-corpus, many of which are “human precepts and teachings” and “have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body…” 2 Col. 2:23! No more bad conscience for drinking a cup of coffee or eating a bit of bacon for the sake of being courteous, … The Bible is freeing indeed!

Ok, well, here are a few topics I studied where I found SDA interpretation less than convincing:

  • Sanctuary doctrine incl. 1844
  • eschatology - SDA interpretation on Revelation, mark of the beast etc.
  • clean and unclean foods
  • SDA stance on alcohol, caffeine
  • Spirit of Prophecy
  • Sabbath as God’s eternal sign and obligation for mankind
  • SDA as THE remnant

On the following I have mixed observations - not done making up my mind but reservations about SDA interpretation:

  • state of the dead
  • Great Controversy view

I have benefited from the historical insights shared in this forum. It’s been very interesting. I also appreciate the reasoning shown in the different posts. Some I can relate to, some I can’t.


I left the Denomination 40 years ago, but not the local church.