I guess it was my review of a recent biography of William Miller--predictor of the end of the world on October 22, 1844--that has made it clear to me that it is time that I "come clean" on my journey through Seventh-day Adventism. It wasn't just a little "foray"-- though I rarely mention it to anyone. Nope. I was an elder in the church and was employed as a teacher (as was Irene) in SDA church schools. As a (at that point former) preacher, I was often drafted to preach from SDA pulpits, and most of my "audience" considered my "visiting preaching" a treat. All told, we (the whole family) were Adventists for about ten years.
So... Why don't I talk much about it? I guess it is just too hard to explain. I was in "no man's land." What fundamentalism had provided for me was a community. It provided a close group of like-minded folks. When I gave up on fundamentalism, I kept looking for that same community without the political conservatism, the forbidding of the asking of questions, and the cocksureness about everything. I guess I kind of drifted into Adventism because 1.) They were conscientious objectors; 2.) They very much supported the separation of church and state; 3.) They seemed to offer that "sectarian" closeness that I so much wanted-- the relationships it hurt not to have any more.
You might ask, Weren't they just another variety of fundamentalist? That is a sticky question. Since the early 1980's, SDA's have been in flux. Some are pretty cultish and unorthodox, but usually, they live on the fringes of the church. A second group, seems to me to be pretty conservative evangelicals in many ways. A third group, which I call the progressives, would be somewhere on the conservative-liberal theological spectrum where one might find the likes of Tony Campolo or Brian McClaren-- minus the social justice emphasis. This group tends to be middle-aged and younger folks and are represented by Spectrum Magazine. A final group are actually quite liberal and free thinking. These folks are also "fringers." I would say the SDA Church is mostly made up of a mixture of groups 2 and 3. Though they don't ever say it, most SDA's could likely subscribe to the Apostle's Creed.
Why did I leave several years back? I guess I saw that the "we've got all the right answers folks" had all of the "real" power. Though it was a different kind of fundamentalism than I knew among the Jesus Freaks, the absolute truth claims (held to by most, certainly not all) still had me in a strangle hold. I had left all of that and I couldn't go back again. ______ James Alexander is an education professor at a small liberal arts college. He is also a minister.
To read the story of his abandonment of fundamentalism and why he finds it intellectually and morally bankrupt, visit his book web site: www.therecoveringfundamentalist.com. Another post on why he liked Adventists is coming. -AC
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/1319