Is a story ever too good not to be true? Seventh-day Adventists pride themselves on believing the truth. However, good beliefs require support. In some far quarters of conservative Adventism, the anecdotes used to build up faith are so faith-affirming that it’s almost heartless to ask too many questions. But perhaps the real harm lies in not probing these popular mysteries carefully.
This type of behavior isn’t limited to preachers and teachers, alas. In company with a denominationally mixed group of Christians, we were recently discussing Jesus’s concern for the poor and needy of the world. Of course the old story was recited about beggars in front of Wal-Mart going home each night to their comfortable homes in suburbia and making $70,000 a year. Or the other, equally tantalizing story of a beggar-pimp who drops off beggars all around town daily, then picks them up at night and splits the profits. I questioned if any of those present have followed these poor people at night to find out if the stories are true, or just urban legends to entice us to give to ADRA or the Red Cross and absolve us from any personal contact with the beggar class. Why are we so gullible in attaching ourselves to fanciful stories which (coincidentally) fit our preconceived notions?
Gullibleness (sp?) among believers is troubling. I knew Sang Lee when I was a student at Weimar. He is a kind, charismatic, talented, and highly intelligent man. He had so much wisdom to give, but at times he would veer into the weird. I heard him make statements that stretched the truth it seemed to me a young SDA then, and while I was there (82-85) at school controversy began to swirl around him. He left largely due to those concerns as I recall. But the others mentioned in this article truly reveal an awful truth too often experienced in the church, the telling and the believing of false tales and outright lies. And I have experienced the same as the author when pushing these folk for “proof” and suddenly silence, avoidance. I am sad about Mr. Lee. While I resonate that so many in Adventism have not assurance of salvation, gaining that assurance doesn’t cure all physical ills or produce miracles cures from cancer, etc. This is a blight on the faith in Christ. Believers all need more wisdom and discernment that many seem to lack.
In recent years, the distance between the sane and the brainwashed in Seventh-day Adventism has shrunk to a short mile or so that separates Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University from the Village SDA Church in Berrien Springs.
In Ron Kelly’s defense, he is not the worst kook pastor in the Michigan Conference. The loony conspiracy theorist who was transferred to the Michigan Conference from the Northwest part of the country some years ago still reigns supreme and is in a class all by himself. And then there is the guy who regularly posts on Facebook beatific images of Donald Trump glowing in heavenly light with the Lord looking down approvingly.
We should be mindful that there are worse things than being a kook. As I listened to Kelly in his sermon on abortion rail against George Soros, the thought naturally arose in my mind that this pastor is an antisemite. But we can be charitable. We can give Kelly the benefit of the doubt. We can graciously surmise that he is not necessarily an antisemite but a highly confused and hopefully mostly-benign kook.
The whole spectacle that is the Village SDA Church in Berrien Springs can be fun and entertaining, I suppose. If you want to laugh so hard that tears will flow down your cheeks, make a visit there. You can be an anthropologist. You can become like the great Clifford Geertz, who wrote Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight. The study of a different culture can be highly educational.
I have sat through two sermons in different Adventist churches by different speakers telling the same crazy story of how some NASA scientists had determined that there were a couple of hours missing in earth’s history that couldn’t be accounted for. And they were able to solve this mystery because God had held the sun back for 2 or 3 hours so Joshua could finish a battle. I had a scientist friend at Cal-Tec in Pasadena that I asked about this after the second time I heard this ridiculous story. I asked him if this could possibly be true. He laughed at me and said it had been debunked a number of times and that some crack-pot preacher had concocted the story and put it on the internet. I then went on the internet myself and found that this was a widely spread story concocted by some preacher that wanted to prove the biblical story of holding the sun back. Science knows that the sun couldn’t have been held back because it isn’t what moves, it is the earth rotating. Something biblical writers wouldn’t have known. If God had stopped the earth from rotating for a couple of hours our ancestors would all have been crushed because the centrifugal force of the rotation is what counterbalances the force of gravity. What’s sad is that two different Adventist preachers were perfectly willing to forgo any research in order to spread this ridiculous story. Scientists do not have any idea about missing or unaccounted for time in the past. If it doesn’t seem reasonable, it probably isn’t.
I have had the privilege of helping many Adventist evangelists over the decades with their visual media. Many are household names to most in our church. But many do succumb to that most human of traits: we believe what we want to believe, and we are in bondage to our subjective minds. We see what we want to see. And like partisan politicians, it’s irresistible at times to play fast and loose with the facts. Especially if it delights our audience. These embellished stories are theological red meat for the audiences.
So I asked myself, “do I really want to start this cookfight”? Apparently - I’m here.
I’ve never been to the Berrien Springs Village church; but I’ve heard a lot about it - mostly from the erudite faction of the Berrien Springs family - you know, the ones who follow the science with five covid shots, and plans to buy an electric car as soon as the price comes down low enough so a normal, non-government worker, can afford one.
Yes, this group would be the ones to believe the pep-rally exaggerations listed in this article, but there’s no need for the condescending call for “charity” and a “benefit of doubt about” the man’s antisemitism, as folk are counting down the minutes for the Jewish Sabbath to end. The last people to be anti-semites, it would be “seventh-day” anything.
Look, I’m assuming the folk in the village church are older, and not faculty at the grandeur across the road. I would guess they can’t quite handle the downward creep of society they have lived long enough to witness. They don’t trust much of anything any more; and may question the wisdom of covering acres of green fields with plastic solar panels in the push for the “green new deal”; and they know enough to figure out that the electricity to run those expensive electric cars doesn’t just come from out of the thin polluted air around us, but has to be produced from some environmentally dirty source. They’re not as naive as we might think. They just want to be left alone with their two, mandated covid shots, their land-lines, and enough gas to get to church.
I guess you are not aware that the Seventh-day Adventist church in Germany was a strong supporter of Adolf Hitler, that many SDAs joined the Nazi Party, and that Jewish members were expelled from SDA congregations. Or you don’t care. It’s usually a combination of both. I am sorry if these facts of history may be too erudite or condescending for you.
Oh, I am aware. It was all about Hitler being a vegetarian and a health nut. That was then, this is now - a diferent kettle of fish.
Are you aware that in mid -20th century the SDA church had some deal going with the Soviets where the church “allowed” SDA military service and SDA children attend school on Sabbath - in return SDA church was permitted publishing rights in the Soviet Union. The “True and Free” SDA church, dating back to the 30’s was on the outs with the official SDA church because they wouldn’t cooperate with the deals made in the 60’s etc.
That makes no sense whatsoever. You’re just emotionally lashing out. But true to form, when some folk can’t argue with facts, they get personal.
@philllip Brantley, it is more than just vegetrianism and nonsmoking and teetotaller and country life and Wagner instead of jazz -
oh, those cute little girls , blondes, with their long brides - here and there !! Soooo much common !!!
SDAs with their “lifestle” just were in the petites bourgeois class and the values cherished there . And they followed the same deception - as Catholics : Carl Amery “Die Kapitulation oder deutscher Katholizismus heute” , Reinbeck bei Hamburg 1963 (Reprint in the Nineties !) - -The author lining out the fascination of secondary virtues" cherished here and there as having been the trap - -