Ronald Lawson Presents: Adventism and Governments

In October and November 2019 Dr. Lawson made five presentations to the Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School (RBLSS) class at Loma Linda University. The first video, on Adventism and Social Issues, can be found here.

Adventism and Governments: A Preference for Dictators?

This next video explores how Adventist relations with governments have evolved over time, and the patterns that have emerged between Adventism and different kinds of governments. Early Adventism expressed strongly negative expectations of the U.S. Government, which befitted the tensions with society that might be expected of a religious “sect.” However, as Adventism moved towards the “denomination” pole of the sect-denomination continuum (see the previous video), its church-state relationships became increasingly comfortable, even though rumors that the U.S. Congress was secretly preparing a “Sunday Law” remained current within certain coteries of church members.

This presentation by Dr. Ronald Lawson to the Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School class at Loma Linda University was recorded on November 2, 2019.

WATCH “Adventism and Governments: A Preference for Dictators?” with Ronald Lawson:

This presentation is also available to watch on Dr. Lawson’s website here.

Author Bio:

Ronald Lawson was born and educated in Australia. He earned a BA with Honours in History and a Ph.D. in both Sociology and History from the University of Queensland in 1970. In 1971 he traveled to Columbia University in New York City on a Fulbright Travel Grant for postdoctoral studies in the Sociology Department and the Bureau of Applied Social Research. He taught at the City University of New York from 1971 through 2009, with six years at Hunter College and thirty-three years at Queens College. He became a tenured Full Professor in 1983. His books include Brisbane in the 1890s: An Australian Urban Society (University of Queensland Press, 1973) and The Tenant Movement in New York, 1904–1984 (Rutgers University Press, 1986). Since 1984 his research has focused on globalizing American-born religious groups, especially Seventh-day Adventism, and he is currently preparing a series of four book manuscripts based on research in sixty countries of the World Church. He has published a slew of articles on protest movements, tenant-landlord conflict, Adventists, and American-born religious groups in academic journals and edited books. He has made those related to Adventism available on his website ( As of the end of January 2020 there are 77 papers there, and a new one is added each week.

Ron Lawson was one of the founders of QUSDAS (the Queensland University Seventh-day Adventist Society) in 1962 and its president from 1963-65. He was an active member of the Metro New York Adventist Forum, a chapter that met every week, from 1971-2015, and its president for 41 years. He formed the Asheville Adventist Forum in 2016, and continues to organize its meetings. Along the way he was instrumental in forming several other Forum chapters, including those in Sydney, San Diego, Toronto, and Orlando. He now lives in Loma Linda, California, where he is working towards completing his planned books on global Adventism.

Image: Video still.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

It’s a very sobering presentation. Nationalism prevails in almost every instance, and those who choose to be faithful are ostracized as “extremists.” At the last SDA Historians meeting there was a presentation about the (Federal) Bureau of Investigation approaching Adventist Church leaders in WW1, leading to the closure of a German seminary, and the withdrawal and editing of books by Carlyle B. Haynes and A. G. Daniells presenting the historic position of the Adventist Church on the US in prophecy. The position was toned down, and drawings of a rapacious beast (dubbed a “two horned hog” by SDA opponents) were replaced by a bison or a cuddly lamb. They consciously did not want to share the fate of the JW leadership and go to prison. Carlyle Haynes in the decades that followed went out of his way to show Adventists to be super-patriots, “Conscientious Cooperators” (a phrase he took from a Ft. Worth reporter writing about a MCC camp in Keene). In this light, Haynes doesn’t seem all that different from Ludwig Conradi, who wanted to make the same impact on the German government at the same time.


Thank-you for this presentation, it is both fascinating and appalling.

It goes without saying that Institutions and Organizations view their first duty to protect/promulgate itself. It appears that the Adventist Church has sometimes done this at the expense of ethics…very sad.

I was told by a Romanian expat that there were even SDA Pastors that were informers during the horrifying regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. The Romanian expat still retained his spirituality despite this horrible betrayal but it could have easily gone the other direction.

P.S. Love your spiffy jacket, Dr. Lawson! :wink:

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