Recently I was talking to a former foster son who is a young adult now. At one time, this young man was deeply committed to Adventism, even aspiring to the ministry. He got sideways with the church, but eventually started down a long and difficult path of reconciliation. Along that path he experienced harshness and lack of grace from church leaders who should have known better. Eventually he walked away from the church. And from God.
As we talked, I described some of the hostility I have experienced since I started writing for Spectrum. He said, “Every time I talk to you I am so glad I am out of the church.” My first thought was that maybe I should stop talking about the church, or at least my writing and the problems I see in the church. Then I found myself thinking that maybe he had a point.
This morning I received a heads up from a Spectrum editor that the owner of another website posted a mean-spirited rant based on my then most recent Spectrum article. The most disturbing part of the writer's diatribe was this, . . .we’ve been assured that Elder Steve is being monitored. Some say Elder Steve loves to preach and teach, but since March he has not been put on the preaching schedule and there is no plan to have him on the schedule 'in the near future.' Developing...
This open, blatant attack really was a body blow. Not so much because of the words; the web site owner is known for dishonestly attacking people who write for Spectrum and does not follow Biblical principals regarding disputes among believers. He has never once contacted me directly.
Frankly, I am personally not much bothered by him and his website. All indications are that it is not widely read and so has very little impact on the church as a whole. The reason I was hit so hard by this article is that it infers that he has had conversations with someone in my local church or conference and then published them online.
I have become friends with a group of young, agnostic high school students who help me feed the homeless every Sunday morning. If they read that website, what picture of God, of Jesus and of Adventism would this paint?
I work with a young mother of three, and we enjoy some deep spiritual conversations. If she stumbled across that website, why would she want to have anything to do with my faith, my church or God?
Young adults who were so passionate for Jesus in my high school youth group are trying, on their own, to find their lifetime relationship with Jesus. If they were to see this sort of personal attack, why would they want to stay Seventh-day Adventists?
The politics of personal destruction on this and other websites have never been about personal theology. They have never been about the way I live out my Adventist life. They have always been inspired by the fact that I am sympathetic to those who have a different interpretation of Scripture. I and others are being viciously attacked by a few who, without saying it, claim to be better Adventists and better Christians. Why? Because I do not fear those who they fear.
There is a big difference between disagreeing over behavior or theology and attacking each others' character, local church roles, Adventist and Christian legitimacy.
We have a church that faces some serious challenges ahead. While the numbers are growing in many parts of the world, the survival of the church as we know it today is completely dependent on the checkbooks of North American Division members. These members are aging and they are not being replaced. Faced with looming changes, there is an element in the church that goes on the attack. It is much easier to attack than to look at oneself, to look to God, to Jesus to help this church that is in so much trouble. I am not the only one being attacked; many others are as well. Their words are twisted and used out of context. We are accused of tearing down, of destroying the church. In reality, it is these individuals who are behind these websites, who post on these websites that are doing the most damage to the church. They are the people of fear. And love is the opposite of that (1 John 4:18).
It is no wonder that my foster son says, “I am so glad I am out of the church.” What he and many, many others are saying is, “If this is what it means to be an Adventist Christian increasingly, I want no part of it.” The question I have is, why would anyone want to marginalize their fellow church members?
Authors note: I did contact the author of the attack against me and offered to take input on this article or to have further dialog. __ Steve Moran works in Silicon Valley. He is the head elder of his church and a member of the Central California Conference Executive Committee.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/2649