Time to Start Over: Is There Dawn After Decadence?

All who bear responsibility for Christ, I salute. Fundamentalists who look after the lonely or abandoned; pastors, administrators, musicians who tend to congregational life; all who raise and educate children, who think hard and write scholarly papers, who run hospitals, schools and other institutions; whoever feels betrayed and disappointed but does not give up; agnostics who sit with their spouses in church, come to the potluck, bestir themselves against indifference. I am grateful to all, of whatever stripe or occupation, who care for the world and its people—grateful to all of you.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11301

“Starting over” implies leaving behind what was (because it doesn’t work) and - starting - over. It does depend on what didn’t work and how deep do you want to go to make changes. This essay wants to reserve Adventism with a different emphasis, perhaps. Too much “naval gazing” has made the denomination self-satisfied and, dare I say, lazy - Laodicean. We can dissect and analyze various aspects of Adventism until the cows come home (like women’s ordination) and accomplish nothing (like women’s ordination); or, we an actually go back to the beginning and “start over”. That takes courage and resolve. We need to go back, not to the roots of Adventism, but to the seedlings that produced it. When we do that we find all kinds issues popping up - cultural biases; long standing distrust of Catholicism; hysteria about the “end times”; even some superstitions and spiritualism, a new phenomenon at the time.

If we want to preserve Adventism in any form we have to decide what to keep and what to discard. This essay is asking for more compassion and social involvement, a legacy born out of the sixties when we became socially aware and dedicated to making a change in the world. Combining it with our church experience come naturally for those for whom both were important. It seems we’re still working on that over 50 years later, and the cows are far from “coming home”.

Our church does not relate to God, or the social ills of the day, “en mass”. Just as we’re not saved through membership to the church, neither are we “made-over” - born again - by shifting some statements in a newly-worded declaration of faith. My recollection is that I made that declaration over fifty years ago - and it was a personal declaration and still is - and it’s made to my God and my Redeemer. Change has to come one member at a time, and combined, we form a statement to the greater world we occupy. The caveat to all this, is a disconnect between our beliefs (Jesus will come at any moment) vs our re-worked message to the world (we need to get busy and solve the worlds’ problems).

How do we reach the heart of Adventism is a serious and daunting question. The truth is, we don’t. We can only reach people by example - not by design, but by heart - meaning, change begins with us. Personally, I believe we need to go back to very beginning, when we were gathered at the cross together, where the eye salve" is applied, and go forth from there.

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The concept of Adventist reboot is admirable, but you haven’t really addressed the broader disconnect in cultural semantics that most fundamentalist movements simply ignored, and chalked it up to “the end is near” and “the youth is evil now, rejecting God”.

There are much much broader problems that are inescapable if one is to go on claiming to be committed to “THE TRUTH”.

  1. Orthodox chronology of young earth and young life doesn’t work and can’t be reconciled with honest understanding of our reality.

  2. Metaphysical semantics of sin as taught right now doesn’t translate to any coherent understanding in contemporary concepts. It’s an appeal to magical force with no underlying mechanism ever described.

  3. Adventism became a rent-seeking landlord that lets the property run down with all of the leaky pipes and roof, yet not worried too much, because the rent revenue keeps flowing in.

  4. Adventism doesn’t utilize its pragmatic Christian constructs which would be beneficial in broader scope of generating positive image and trust. For example, NBA playoffs in “the bubble” were played in the Advent Arena in Disney. Yes, that Advent Arena. So, there’s this paradoxical separation from culture to save internal theological face, while there are enormous opportunities becoming a third degree of separation that few people connect.

  5. Adventism simply failed to reinvest and involve younger generation, as they gripped the leadership position and structured seniority structures that simply pushed younger generations to be occupied with something other than sitting and listening to recycled sermons, while struggling to make sure their kids are not crying out of boredom.

  6. MOST IMPORTANTLY, Adventist leadership is a self-oriented echo-chamber when it comes to understanding the needs beyond its walls. There’s a naive assumption that people want what it has to offer, and it’s just a matter of bringing friends and family to the wonderful experience of same songs and same lectures repeated perpetually. That’s now diminishingly the case.

Any reboot must incorporate new and younger leadership, otherwise no reboot is possible.

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Very well put post. But, I think it’s more simple than that. Adventism was born because of the young and enthusiastic people refused to give up on concepts that resulted in major disappointment, and who worked through new semantics to integrate their beliefs with their culture.

Same issue today. If Adventism is to be saved, it won’t be saved by ultraorthodox people in their 60s and 70s. Hand it over to people in their 30s and put more people in their 20s in charge if procedural scope.

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Like me - in the 70’s. :woozy_face: That’s OK, I don’t mind- except don’t be surprised at how many over 60 have given up said good bye.

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IMO, SAD-ism gave up its right to be counted among the “chosen ones” when, instead of disavowing EGW for having saddled the fledgling denomination with what would be something like today’s equivalent of a million dollars in debt, the organization doubled down on her play by granting her virtual sainthood and then started printing unending and dizzying variations of her decidedly unloving recriminations and hypercritical writings for no reason other than to pay for the piper she had hired.

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If you have read Israel’s own story, and absorbed the Gospel message of forgiveness, you know that your comment is just a mistake. In my series I have been nearly brutal in my assessment of contemporary Adventist doctrine. But I have also held on to the idea that God always gives us second chances. You must believe in that idea, too.

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Your implication is that I intentionally added a comment knowing it was a mistake?

The only way I can think to respond to that is to say that I’m convinced you are mistaken.

Further, I’ll double down on my previous comment.

SAD-ism as an organization should have disassociated itself from EGW after the GC session in 1888 rather than forcing the poor old woman to exile in Australia, given that her stance on Faith vs. Works was so starkly divergent from what the institution pressed forward as essential SDA Dogma.

In this act, and based on the church’s persistent actions, the demonation committed, and continues to commit, an ongoing presumptive sin and is most likely beyond redemption as it blasphemes the Holy Spirit.

But hey. That’s just my opinion.

If you think I’m absolutely wrong, that’s just yours.

Either way, and staying with the betting theme, I’d predict that the odds of you seeing me in church next Saturday are very slim.

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Utopian dreams of equity draw all sorts to the dream. Charles Scriven being the latest. They are the naïve who feel that a new “dawn” if at last done right just this once, can really, really create church-wide equity and inclusion. Many of the sympathetic assume they will be exempt from the tough medicine that follows from their own guilt or sense of communal duty. Some are opportunistic and parasitical careerists piggy-backing on the ensuing chaos. Others are social and psychological zealots who find meaning and relevance as wannabe soldiers marching to utopia. But inherent in such 21th-century SDA hubris there has to be the concession that there will be lots of collateral damage in reordering church. When imposing abstract, but uncompromising theories onto the otherwise unenlightened people, eggs will have to be broken to bake the new omelet. The progressive toll will become every bit as excruciating as our new wannabe custodians are indifferent to it.

As a general rule, anytime anyone anywhere announces that he/she has a master plan to reorder the church from the left or right and “fundamentally transform” or “reset” it by creating better rules, and an elite “informed” church hierarchy to oversee, just run. You can rest assured ultimately the architect will change the language, demonize and marginalize new/or old opponents, given that the omelet always needs more eggs. They will subvert institutions, and, if need be, resort to verbal violence to ensure change.

Progressive SDA debauchery will not usher in a new dawn.

Very true, Sirje.

My husband has 6 siblings, all raised in the SDA bubble. So, of the 7 total, only 3 are still in the church. The ages range from early 60’s to mid 70’s. I’m late 60’s and I know quite a few who have left the SDA church. Also, many of the formers who post on line are middle to older ages. I haven’t been to an SDA church in about 17 years, but even at that time, the number of people in churches was about 1/3 - 1/4 the number of people on the books. Yes, many more older folks attending, but I would think that quite a few of the non-attending members were older as well. My daughter is almost 40. Most of the kids that she went to Academy with are no longer SDA either.

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