The Immorality of Silence: Adventist Leadership in Times of Conflict

In an address to the British House of Commons in 1948, Winston Churchill famously contended that “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” This was the tweaking of a George Santayana conclusion which begins: “Those who cannot remember the past.” While Santayana emphasized the lack of remembrance, Churchill pointed to the failure to learn as the cause of repeating past mistakes. In both instances the immediate contexts lament fallout from unlearned lessons of human conflicts. In Santayana, the idea reinforces his aphoristic antiwar position that “Only the dead have seen the end of war,” while Churchill’s is informed by the horrors of World War II. In either phrasing, the message is clear: we ignore the lessons of history, especially in the context of conflict, to the peril of repetition.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thank-you for so much history…very sad overall. One can only hope and pray that the Adventist Church learns to do better.


Sad but not surprising, religions and churches are human constructs to preserve social or theological purity, they have always functioned in their self interest. True Christology is something different.


Perfect time for such in the US.
I was just thinking again about the Evangelicals’ support for Trump. Then I figured it out: it’s a sign of the end times. If they only read 2 Tim 3:1-5. It’s all there, the instruction on what should Christian do in circumstances as we have now in the US.

I bet it applies to the SDAs as well, uh?


There are Christian Adventists and then there are Worldly Adventists. Since there are 7000 waking minutes each week…one’s spiritual/devotional life shows which group most are in…Worldly…
contaminated by culture, media or prejudice.
“They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them.” 1 JN 4:5

If you go to potlucks…listen to the conversations about politics or celebrities…etc.

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Great insights Matthew. As a black Adventist living in South Africa, I can confirm that the Adventist Church never really processed the Apartheid past and its sins of omission. I guess one of the challenges is that in a 140 000 Adventist population, maybe there are only 15 -20% whites. The leadership is predominantly black. The black leadership has the power to initiate programs to process the past, but of course the perpetrators of racial segregation are now such a minority. Unlike in the USA where the white majority was segregating the black minority. Be as it may, the South African church is still suffering from its unprocessed past.


Have you found a group of “Christian” SDA’s…if so, where are they and what church is it?


If it applies to one group of Christians…it applies to them all.

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It is quite incongruous that while in the Adventist ecclesiastical structure internal politics are the rule the ecclesiastical leadership insists that the laity should not participate in the politics of governments that regulate their educational, social and economic life


Matthew Quartey:

I am a white South African ( for the past fifty years an American )
who grew up in the Apartheid era.

I was a medical intern in the 2000 bed Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg, in 1960. My surgical unit admitted hundreds of Africans, shot by white police in the Sharpeville massacre, the police claiming that the Africans had attacked them —- but forensic evidence found that the bullet entrance wounds were all in the backs of the victims, proving they were fleeing the police not attacking them.

This massacre was an epiphany for me, viewing it first hand in my hospital ward, and prompted my eventual emigration to the United States. South Africa was in essence a “police state “ in the ruling white minority’s treatment of the black majority .

My black fellow intern, with identical medical degree to mine was paid one third of my salary and my Asian fellow intern two thirds of my salary —very disconcerting.

I revere both Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu —statesmen rivaling the best in history.— the Truth and Réconciliation Commission a landmark legacy, not only delineating the horrors of Apartheid, but the “reconciliation “ —a magnanimous forgiveness of those atrocities.

Meanwhile, the white South African regime, in the 1930’s admitted tens of thousands of European Jews, desperate to flee pre Nazi Europe.
—- not because the South African regime was pro Semitic, but just to boost the white population versus the black population.

Consequently, my public high school class and my medical school class were both sixty per cent Jewish, and to this day, my best friends are Jewish.

So the Holocaust poignantly resonates with me.

It is in unconscionable how the church hierarchy kowtowed to both the Nazi and the Apartheid regimes.— currying favor with despicable despots and sullying Adventism forever.

Thank you for delineating this appalling, abysmal, atrocious legacy — we should all hang our heads in shame !


I would suggest that instead of talking about the ‘lack of leadership’, perhaps we should discuss how to bring back a ‘Christ centered’ system instead of a ‘human centered’ one. I believe it begins at the local level, in the churches we attend and with the members we associate, our everyday lives. Instead of looking to .orgs for guidance, we are in touch with Christ on a daily basis and follow His way, as outlined in the Bible, with the intersession of the Holy Spirit. I don’t have answers, but I believe a change is needed at the grass roots level, the community of like believers. Time to stop talking and start doing!


No system can be Christ centered. By the time a group becomes a “system” the focus and loyalties get switched to the “system”.

The world isn’t saved through a system, but individually. A group of individuals are tied together only by their common focus. As soon as that focus is self-preservation, that focus has shifted to maintaining the status quo and everything else, inlcluding the personal spiritual commitments get sidelined.

We have the end-game spelled out in the Bible. The bad guys win - for the moment. Why are we expecting to make a difference in this world through another system… That’s not to say that individually we don’t do all we can - even within whatever system, but don’t expect to win on a global level. Case in point- Bonhoffer.

How willing are we to put our own boots on the ground…


Thank you Matthew for a well researched and thoughtful analysis of recent history. What is troubling to many of us in the church is the details you mention in paragraph 18 where you mention the current situation in the USA regarding minorities. Reading the OT it appears that God expects His people to look out for the welfare of the alien, the orphan, the widow, the disadvantaged, the marginalized, little children, and the minorities. The life and ministry of Jesus outlined in the NT continued that theme in which He took great care to show care and concern for the same groups mentioned above. May we be not keep silent in such a time as this.


Nope. They are hiding in a exclusive, rural, secret LGT, anti LGBT, anti WO commune


These failures brought out in this article is a result of Christians losing their identity in Christ alone. They came to identify more closely with their nation, their political ethnicity and or tribe than with Christ. The German Adventists by in large welcomed Hitler (they didn’t concede as they embraced the political that gave German and German culture reemergence), their nationalism was of more importance than their Christianity. Hutus were more tribal than sacrificial in life.

Yes, the same danger exists today and we see it played out all too often.

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That’s what I always suspected…:rofl::joy::rofl:

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Take into consideration the era in which this all happened. Adventists had been advised not to get involved in politics, based on “Render unto Caesar…”. Also, the European nations (cultures) are much older than anything in North America. Their roots run deep with designations like “Motherland” and “Fatherland”. The North American church should have been more involved at that point. Then there was that Hitler was a health nut and a vegetarian - man after the SDA heart. How bad could he have been… No one, not even the US or the UK imagined where this all ended up - in extermination camps. Who would imagine something like that.

The problem is that even today, there are those who carry those biases with them - even after seeing the soldiers entering those camps.


I am not talking about a self focused system, that would be the human approach. When i use the word Christ centered system, I am talking about Him being the focus of everything in our lives. When I read of His work in the OT, it was a centered approach, on God and His desire for all human kind. It is not about expecting a ‘win’, but about doing the Christ thing.


What you’re talking about is a theocracy. That is not what Jesus was looking for. Even God agreed reluctantly to a national identity for the Israelites in the OT. Jesus was not promoting a new religious system. He was speaking to “the human approach” - which is doing the Christ thing. If we’re relying on any organization, including churches, to do the “Christ thing”, we haven’t been getting a clear picture of what’s ahead.

If we are to believe the future picture painted in the NT, God and His “people” are not in for a good time by the time this experiment comes to an end here on earth. The best we can hope for is that individuals (that includes ourselves) have the faith and the courage to stand up for the Christ thing. It’s not going come from a board room.


Thank you, Matthew. This represents your best work: It’s passionate and profound, detailed and expansive, historical and prescient, humbling and heartening.

May our church leaders and congregations find the moral clarity and courage to stand for the right, as Jesus did and does, though the heavens fall.