Hi Clare…i appreciate your honesty and your journey. Each of ours is unique.
Regarding food and it’s relationship to our relationship with God, Paul said in Romans 14:17, “The kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking, but about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Whatever the particular issues back then, the principle is timeless.
Much of the Adventist pre occupation with diet, spiritual life and salvation seems to stem from Ellen White’s. Unfortunately, it has damaged many sensitive, conscientious people. And it just isn’t in line with the NT. Her entire output produces an inward focused, how am I doing type of spiritual striving, while the NT continually points us to look outwards… to God and to and for one another. Over time, the leaving off of her writings in favor of the bible itself has been freeing and brought me peace… and feeling that God isn’t blotting my name out of his book over eating pizza.
You will get to that level whether you like it or not because tolerance is not a function of progressive Adventists but a result of mental maturity. The natural tendency is to progress from egocentric to altruistic thinking. It’s part of our DNA, a gift from our Creator. Unless, and it is a BIG unless, your worldview forces you to retain intolerance. As individuals progress from infancy to adulthood, they go through stages that may be identified as fundamental and/or progressive. In reality all are a function of mental maturity and brain growth.
Clare, I appreciate your courtesy in taking the time to respond with a more detailed picture of the sobering circumstances of your friends from your academy years. For my part, I agree that my use of the word “same” in comparing how we were raised was carelessly inaccurate. Of course our experience was not the same and couldn’t have been. No two people could ever have the same experience, even if time, place, and conditions were all the same. “Similar” would have been a better word—if what I assumed from you attending “academy” was correct.
Reviewing your opening up to where I had stopped, I saw again that the academy you attended was “conservative” and “self-supporting.” So was mine. My academy was Adventist. Putting that together with this being an Adventist forum, I would say assuming that your academy was Adventist wasn’t unreasonable. That’s why I felt our experience ought to have been similar (as I should have phrased it).
It’s also why I had trouble accepting your statement that most of your friends from your academy years have ended up on drugs or had children out of wedlock. Honestly, that jolted me. It seemed so unlikely beside my own academy experience that I hoped you might respond that you were taking rhetorical liberties to serve your larger purpose in writing this piece. I could understand that and would be glad if it were the case. Again, thank you for taking the time to explain in more detail.
One of the greatest experiences in human life is the maturation of the intellect and mental maturity. Tolerance is certainly a gift developed as maturation happens in those two aspects. We can certainly add spiritual maturity to it.
This is a very complex issue, as you very well know being a mental health professional. What is, in your opinion,
The main deterrent of spiritual maturity, and
The main cause of religious intolerance.
This article by Claire Harrison is superb, and I congratulate her for the courage of sharing such intimate feelings with us. It demonstrates that she has reached a high level of emotional maturity and her “self” is well founded.
As we already read in other posts above, her experience is not unique. The destruction that fanaticism and ultra conservatism cause to people’s emotional structure is just preposterous. And always in the name of God… I am glad many people have been able to get out of the emotional prison they were convinced to believe in, and actually lived in.
I see the secular counterpart of this issue in my clinic among dependent children who refuse to grow up mentally for fear of losing their parents’ love who have consciously or unconsciously psychologically crippled their children. I would suppose in the spiritual world the “main deterrent of spiritual maturity” is influenced by what attributes we confer to our God and thus fear losing his love. Same psychodynamics.
This is an easy one. The “main cause of religious intolerance” is the absence or loss of empathy, the root of all evil. The issue of WO is fraught with issues of empathy.
I will start by saying that I appreciate your honesty that you displayed in the article in the article. I also do not know what it is like to be raised in an ultra conservative setting either. I was raised in an adventist home and I spent the majority of my life as that person that was using drugs and alcohol and having children when unmarried. I don’t believe that that lifestyle is just limited to ultra conservatives. Anyone can go down that path regardless of where we are in life.
I do believe that there is a lot of fanaticism that plagues our church and it isn’t limited to the conservative side either. There is a devil that doesn’t care if you are too tight or too loose as long as he gets you, and as human being we have to strive for God’s guidance more than anything else because for us when we have gone to an extreme in anything because of our nature we will push the pendulum the other way too far. That is why reliance on God is paramount.
An interesting quote that was made here I just have to weigh in on. I think that in the times that we live in every person has a responsibility to uphold the truth in the church, Paul in his letter to Timothy speaks about people departing from the faith and Jesus in Matthew 24 the first words to his disciples was “let no man deceive you.” So does the truth need to be upheld in the church with so many different versions of the truth today? I would say that it needs to be. If I didn’t read my bible for myself I would honestly have to say I wouldn’t know what to believe, there is so much different ideas out there. Is the church backslidden? If you read about the church of Laodicea I would have to say yes, and is it sinful I would have to say yes. But I would have to say that those who defend the truth are the greatest of sinners, but are thankful for what Jesus has done for them. Paul said he was “the chief of all sinners” and If one compares themselves to christ I think one should see themselves that way too.
Not all adventists that are on the liberal side are tolerant, not all adventists on the conservative side are intolerant. I don’t really even like the word tolerant period. It implies that one is tolerating others and I would much rather be loved than tolerated, (Think most would agree with me on that part) I believe that we should love others and treat them kindly even though we don’t agree with them. Jesus treated every person that he came in contact with, with love. I don’t much like the label liberal or conservative for that matter. As for the term fundamentalist it really isn’t a bad thing. If one believes in a literal 6 day creation, that Jesus died on the cross and that he was bodily resurrected and is coming again to earth then one can be deemed a fundamentalist. If believing those things makes me a fundamentalist then so be it.
One last thing what does a “traditional” and “mainstream” adventist look like to you? I also admire that you have answered the call to serve in evangelism in a very difficult part of the world to work. I pray that the Lord will bless the work of you and those that you are working with.
I think a lot of us former Adventists didn’t leave because people were unkind, but as a matter of integrity. It’s a difficult process to leave because so many social connections are based in particular assumptions about the world. For me, I came to realization that what I believed didn’t deliver on what it promised, and in many cases made things worse. The insidious aspect of some of the harmful things I was taught to believe, was they were seen as healing ideas and weren’t being taught maliciously, but came from a sincere desire to do good. I was also exposed to ways of being in the world that worked significantly better than what I was taught from reading Ellen White and in the study of the Bible. As I studied to try and understand Ellen White and the Bible, with the assumption they were the highest spiritual teachings available didn’t prove themselves to be true in practice. In fact much of Christianity is based in fear and a fair amount of ignorance, which causes good people to do and teach harmful things. When authority is followed without being accountable to reality and good evidence, people often believe they are doing the right thing even when the evidence before their eyes proves otherwise. The fear of disobeying god often drives people to do some pretty horrendous things to themselves and others. I find it encouraging that the current generation has access to more information and is discovering that the things many of us were taught to believe as true aren’t able to stand up to scrutiny and have chosen to learn to reason from better information. Wisdom will come with time, just like it develops in every generation. This idea that people who have learned to think will be coming back to the church if it presents its message in a the right format is not going to happen. If the message changed to something they could support in good conscience, it would no longer be able to be defined as a Seventh Day Adventist message.