First, a confession. When people ask me what my religion is I'm never quite sure what to say. My preferred reply of late has been: "I'm a follower of the way"--the most opaque but also, I hope, tantalizing way of saying I'm a Christian. When people ask me what church I belong to, I often find myself engaging in still more evasive tactical maneuvers. "Well, according to a test I took on beliefnet.com," I've informed more than one quizzical interlocutor, "I'm 100% Quaker." I rarely directly announce to anyone: "I'm a Seventh-day Adventist". It takes some prying to get me to say something even as mealy-mouthed as this: "I'm a Christian who was raised in the Adventist tradition and that is where I continue to find community... although I'm open to truth where ever I can find it."
I'm not sure why I'm so reticent to identify myself as an Adventist. Part of the reason may be that theologically, I've come to realize, I perhaps AM more Quaker or Mennonite than Adventist--at least as Adventism is broadly understood and currently practiced in the United States. Part of the reason may also be that I find it it increasingly hard to identify with Adventism as a cultural phenomenon or to embrace its institutional forms and goals--this despite my pedigree as a fourth generation Adventist on both sides of my family. But a large part of my unease, I've come to realize, also stems from something far more elemental: cowardice. To identify oneself with any community is to be implicated in a great deal of historical messiness. For a highly complex and, frankly, strange community such as the Adventist church, the risks of misunderstanding and embarrassment associated with open identification may be particularly high. Far easier, then, to equivocate and mince words... or to simply remain silent.
I'm no longer at ease with my unease though. This is a church that matters to me, and it matters to me because--for all of its faults and oddities--there are still things about Adventism I am proud of and want to share with others:
1) I’m proud to be part of a movement that keeps the Sabbath, calling me back to the deep Jewish roots of the Christian faith and to a profound theology of caring for creation and for matters of economic justice.
2) I’m proud to be part of a church that has fought alongside the ACLU and other civil libertarians to maintain religious liberty and to resist conservative Christian alliances with nefarious theocratic designs.
3) I’m proud to be part of a religious tradition that had an early (and not entirely lost) commitment to the ethics of nonviolence and that emerged as an outspoken and prophetic voice against U.S. imperialism and militarism during the Spanish-American war.
4) I’m pround to be part of a movement that has a wholistic view of the relationship between mind, body, and spirit, that doesn’t disparage material existence, and that emphasizes the importance of alleviating bodily pain and suffering around the world.
5) I’m proud to be part of a community that emphasizes the value of education and learning.
6) I’m proud to be part of a tradition that teaches the importance of human free will and so sees suffering and evil as the result of human choices or natural causes rather than the predestined designs of an all powerful but inscrutable deity.
7) I’m proud to be part of a movement that teaches that a loving God would not inflict endless suffering and torment on those who reject Him, no matter how wicked they may be.
Although seven is obviously a perfect number for any Adventist list (!), I'm hoping others will add their own reasons below for continuing to "keep faith" with their Adventist heritage.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/870