Pure Nostalgia?

Battle Creek 2018

I watched the Battle Creek debate on compliance from afar. What I witnessed was a grand exercise in nostalgia. The beards and the period dress made that clear enough. The choice of location was plainly meant to evoke significant time past. Other details made it evident that nostalgia was heavy in the air.

You might object to the play-acting on the grounds of the cost of hire. You might object that the whole scenario was a political maneuver designed to manipulate participants. I really cannot say. But there was something more serious. When religion and nostalgia are mixed the result is likely to be toxic.

Let me say immediately that I believe in the importance of remaining attached to our roots. It concerns me that rising generations of Adventists do, by neglect, consign our pioneering sisters and brothers to the scrap-heap of history. That way lies confusion.

The dangers of nostalgia

Nostalgia literally is a form of homesickness, a wistfulness. It wants a return home. It is sentimental about home. It yearns for a return to a time or state in the past which is remembered very warmly. Anything wrong with that?

Yes, it misleads us. Nostalgia falsifies or misrepresents the past. The idea that there was some golden age in the life of the Adventist Church is manifestly false. The main contender for the label “golden age” is probably the period when Ellen White was alive and at the peak of her powers. But it does not qualify. It is no secret that there was a great deal of infighting in the Adventist Church in this, or any, allegedly “golden age.”

The idealization of a past golden age leads inevitably to comparison with the present, and the present always comes off worst. The flaws of the present remain vivid in our minds while those of the past pale in the memory. Nostalgia falsifies the present.

Just as seriously, the idealization of the past falsifies or misrepresents the future. It distorts the formulations of plans. It fails to get to grips with a fast-changing world. Nostalgia cannot keep up.

Refurbishing the Church

If asked to refurbish a house with a rich history, an architect would try to do two things. She would be obliged to retain the original character of the house. Then she would make it a comfortable and efficient place to occupy today — a contemporary home. It is not so easy, and if she achieves it, people will call it a “sympathetic conversion.”


So…what kind of church do I want to call home? One with a rich past and one which is able to welcome my friends, my children’s friends, and any who wander across my path. The church on show in Battle Creek recently is sadly not fit for that purpose. It had a musty smell. Even a scent of death. Autumn Council 2018 lost sight of the present and the future in a fog of nostalgia.

I want to see Adventist “architects” with an aptitude for “sympathetic conversion.” What I saw in Battle Creek is what architects call “brutalism” — monolithic, unyielding, intimidating.

Pure nostalgia? There is nothing pure about nostalgia. It flatters to deceive. It stifles.

There is only one antidote — the freshness of God. Surprising, bracing not stifling. New every morning.

Michael Pearson is a retired ethicist living in the UK. He and his wife, Helen, run the website Pearsons’ Perspectives.

Photo taken in the Historic Adventist Village, Battle Creek, Michigan. Image Credit: Flickr.com / ANN / Brent Hardinge

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9134
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YES!!! Great advice!!!

Nobody should go into a nostalgic, depressed mood!* Not now!

Now it’s the time to take a deep breath, and move strongly forward. This is especially needed now from the UNIONS around the world - according to each one’s culture.

*If anyone is feeling too discouraged or depressed, call our always on call “par excellence” Psychiatrist, Dr Cupino @elmer_cupino. He will gladly take care of you and restore your energy and hope! :+1: :+1:


I think the Battle Creek location, the beards and clothing, etc was meant to have a far deeper meaning and impact than just nostalgia. I think it was meant to convey that the pioneer were correct and anything outside of their views is wrong. This is where we need to return, and let no other views or ideas knock us off the course set by EGW and crew.


… corner people in an environment that would, hopefully, scare, INTIMIDATE and threat everyone psychologically, forcing them into a nostalgic mode, and incapacitating them from thinking clearly. Thus, making them vote according to the directives of the GC.

@cincerity would say, “failed hypnosis,” and
@elmer_cupino would say, “wrong drugs”…
and a psychologist would say, “failed Machiavellian manipulation”

I wonder what a neurologist would say…


Agreed George,

Yes, Control…Manipulate…Intimidate


Cincerity :wink: would also say…the visual impacts the subconscious as astute marketing and advertisers know. The eye immediately see the “pioneer” garb and beards, etc., and the subconscious connects the faces to represent the glorious Adventist past. It is the same reason that Doug B’s mug is usually with a Bible or Adventist symbology…or even both. The subconscious connects the two visuals so they represent the same thing. Clever, no? This is why hypnosis works (if the individual desires it to)…subconscious and imagery. :slight_smile:


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When I think of the unnecessary expenditure to hold Annual Council in Battle Creek it makes me more convinced that I don’t want my giving going to the GC.

  1. It cost more for anyone’s transportation to Battle Creek than it would have to Baltimore! I thought the GC was located purposely where it would be close to international travel hubs. Even the GC and NAD delegates to annual council had to have transportation to Battle Creek and hotels when they got there. Both which would have been unnecessary had the meeting been held in Silver Spring, MD. That alone wasted thousands of dollars.

  2. It cost more to rent space for the meeting in Battle Creek than it would have to use the GC building!

Don’t say “sacrificial giving” anymore, Ted!


If the Battle Creek fiasco was to convey the pioneer spirit, where were the coats with layers and layers of patches. Where were the original meeting places, homes, school rooms, tents land barns? Someone didn’t do their homework.


Ted should do what the Whites did. they burned the place down. Maybe it is time to repeat home base, at least a scorched earth policy of Compliance Committees.


Another laugh out loud moment! :rofl:


This is true, Peter.

The expenses are really mind boggling when you stop to think about it. So very unnecessary and foolish. I’m sure TW feels wholly (or holy?) justified in the necessity of bringing everyone back to “true Adventism”, and his need to recalibrate the direction of the church to that vision.


Thank you. I see what you did there. It did not go unnoticed.


Thank you for this incisive commentary, Michael! Among the many gems is the one above. Selective memory and defective memory distort what we rely on to move forward, so the easiest thing to do is to paint the past in golden light. . . and for the present—paint it black. This is how we lose our perspective for the present and our vision for the future. The antidote you offer—the freshness of God—requires that we turn around and face forward, without forgetting where we came from.


Oh…they didn’t want to look THAT authentic! :wink:

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I wonder if it could be said of God that he rarely, if ever, refurbishes or rehabs and old religious form, but rather, he sets the old thing down and creates something new. His faithfulness to those who are willing to follow wherever He leads is the only constant.


Friday morning, April 3, 1903, Mrs. White gave a talk. It was printed on April 6, 1903 as “Our Duty to Leave Battle Creek”.

I have not quoted Ellen White for many decades, but in the spirit of pure nostalgia, I will share this one quote:

"The Lord is not very well pleased with Battle Creek. Not all that has been done in Battle Creek is well pleasing to Him."

Out of context? Maybe not. If you read the entire “talk”, you will realize that she is talking about the concentration of power in Battle Creek. Hmmm, was it was a prophetic declaration? There was a bit of power concentrated in Battle Creek recently.



Red Livingstone, #11,16
You have an observant eye and a perceptive mind.

The photo is exquisite! It doesn’t take an interior designer
to spot the anachronistic placing of the desk and chair.

Does that remind you of anything?


Poignant. Sometimes the antidote needs to be administered from somewhere other than within an organization turned toxic.


Nostalgia is just “going back to the GOOD OL’ DAYS” in one’s mind.
However, NOBODY attending this BC meeting week-end were born in that time
period, and probably few even had any idea of HOW life was back in the 1800’s
in that little town.
YES! A Good Politician would make GOOD USE of the false nostalgia produced
with props and with props of clothes, beards, and hair styles.
PLAY becomes a serious problem when it causes the participants to act in ways
that are inappropriate.

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The past is there to be used, as has been said many times already. In itself, I think, nostalgia is somewhat ambiguous about the past. We also know the dictum that those who ignore the past are condemn to repeat it.
The past can be the basis for visions of the future, not just a distorter of the present. It can give the present the strength to move forward. Visions of the future that ignore the past are unrealistic daydreams. All considerations of the past, of course, are selective and the selection is based on what we want to use the past for. There is no doubt that the way TW went to the past in order to enforce “unity” only served to make fools of those with rented outfits sporting modern bears. Any wishful return to the past ends as a misguided adventure. It is only when the past serves to inform visions of the future that it serves a legitimate role. Respect for tradition does not mean the fossilization of the past. Respect for tradition includes the responsibility to make the tradition relevant to the present as a step toward the future. Traditio semper reformanda.