Unequally Yoked: Bad Adventist Theology Is Burdening a Generation of Single Women

This is my first Sabbath as a married woman in my own home. It’s no small feat—and I'm not talking about the home-owning part. Growing up in a British-Caribbean Adventist culture that promoted marriage as an essential requirement for every woman, I have now officially fulfilled my obligations (albeit two years later than the stipulated age of 30) and joined the Fellowship of the Ring.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/views/2023/unequally-yoked-bad-adventist-theology-burdening-generation-single-women

Dating and marriage is difficult in a small marginal eccentric culture like Adventism. Adventism is designed to isolate adherents from the wider culture. Since most social events involve food, drink and weekends, by inventing restrictions on these aspects of life, SDAs are made to feel awkward socialising with non-SDAs. If the SDA feels uncomfortable around non-SDAs they are drawn deeper into the subculture.

In many parts of the world, the SDA community is small, with a very limited number of potential dating partners. Young SDAs then often have little experience with relationships before jumping into engagement and marriage, often to a person with whom one has nothing in common other than having been brought up SDA. Many of these marriages are ill-advised.

That said, if a young single person wishes to live his or her life in the SDA subculture, marrying outside of SDAism would be difficult. Again, since most social interactions involve food, drink and weekends, the couple that doesn’t agree on these points may have challenges attending events as a couple. And this is not to mention the pernicious pressure the SDA community puts on the SDA partner - referring to non-SDA influences as heathen, evil, “worldly”, etc - especially with the SDA world-view that non-SDA christians are “wrong” and with the silly view that the ‘sabbath’ is the most important issue ever having faced mankind.

I suppose this is why SDA parents and young people spend ridiculous amounts of money on substandard SDA college tuition and board for degrees of limited benefit - all in the hopes of finding a SDA mate.


The idea of sda’s marrying other Christians is an interesting one. I don’t believe that a Baptist should be considered as an unbeliever as the Bible verse mentions. But in practical reasons if a practicing sda member married a practicing baptist, something would have to give. Will they attend church both sabbath and Sunday? Would they be active in both churches? What would they teach their kids? So although I don’t think this marriage falls into the unbeliever category, it’s not realistic or practical. This of course assumes they are practicing…the less active the less hurdles.

But to a larger issue, when Israel was going into the promised land God explicitly warned them, don’t marry them and don’t let them marry your kids. They will lead you away from God. I’ve seen this so many times it’s scary…a young sda persons starts dating or marries someone who’s not sda, and they leave the church. Almost without fail.

I would argue many young sda’s don’t find an sda partner because they’re looking for the wrong thing. They approach dating like a non believer would. They don’t value spirituality or simplicity nearly as much as they should. They’re attracted (like most of us were) to beauty, humor, excitement, etc. which is understandable but not wise in the long run .

I think that is a bit harsh. Relationships in this day and age should hinge on trust and openness before erecting the barrier of “only if you are or will become an Adventist”. It’s hard enough even when you both believe similarly. Though, that is a rarity even when both partners are SDA. I would venture that 90% of Adventist couples do not believe the exact same beliefs. God rarely asks the same thing from each of us. It is more important that each allow the other to practice their beliefs. Never marry someone who doesn’t respect your convictions. Most important is laying the groundwork before rushing to the alter.


God’s plan and the corollary instructions to ancient Israel are not relevant or applicable to the modern-day Christian church. The SDA church is NOT modern-day Israel and I, for one, am tired of people conflating the two.

And those of us who married SDA partners and then had to face their serial promiscuity, along with financial ruin, have no sympathy for your position, which sounds as if it is entirely theoretical, rather than based on personal experience. Absent that experience, people should leave the commentary to those who have it and can speak with veracity.


One of the big barriers to happiness among young SDAs is elevating religion to something bigger than it really is. There’s more to life than the church and remaining SDA isn’t the be all and end all of life. If one finds a suitable mate outside of SDAism it’s possible to live a happy and fulfilling life outside of the strictures of the church.


I agree that the key is prior to the altar. And I also agree there’s no way we’re all going to believe the same thing even as sda’s. Marriage isn’t easy for anyone because we’re so flawed.

But I really do think Disney and romantic movies etc set an unrealistic expectation and influences young single people to look for the wrong things in their potential spouse. As Christians we should consider their spirituality, commitment to Jesus, moral character, work ethic, temper, ego, etc. this doesn’t mean we’ll find any perfect person of course that doesn’t exist.

But, if both individuals are committed to the marriage and demonstrate maturity in looking for the right things and are committed to working thru issues, I would say that just about any marriage can work. If they have the right priorities then any Christian marriage should be solid.

I know this is easier said than done but I see a lot of our teenagers and early 20’s sda’s looking for the wrong things in a boyfriend/girlfriend and that dooms too many marriages before they even started.

Hello Linda,

I was referring to the advice that was given to Israel because the New Testament says that those stories are there to teach us lessons.

And I’m sorry your partner hurt you that’s inexcusable…but unfortunately not limited to sda’s.

I’ve been married for 20 years and by now I’ve seen many marriages start and end in my church. I would say the biggest mistake we make is not thinking marriage through before we marry. Many many of our friends and church members are divorced because they ignored all the fed flags while dating.

This isn’t unique to sda’s it’s in general for society. Unfortunately I’ve also seen way too many of our youth that grew up in church start dating or marry an non believer and almost without fail, they either leave the church themselves or struggle a lifetime trying to balance an unbelieving spouse with their own commitment to God. The 2 become 1, so we really can’t just have separate lives.

Marriage isn’t easy for anyone believer or not, so being sda guarantees nothing. But overall, finding someone that genuinely shares your faith is a big step in the right direction for a king happy marriage.

So what’s your point?

Particularly when you admit that reading the Bible, being SDA and going to church, etc., doesn’t make any difference.

Besides, isn’t being “unequally yoked” axiomatic, in that no two people in any relationship are the exact same person?

So isn’t this just one more piece of useless advice from Paul whom, as I understand it, was never married and therefore had no idea what it takes to have a long term relationship with another human being, and instead found it easier to deal with mysterious creatures like his supposedly resurrected Christ?



Thank you for sharing your viewpoint. I am a 38-year-old woman who married an Adventist, only to discover after marriage that he wasn’t even really a Christian. He began to resent my church involvement, and eventually, he left me after 10 years. “Equally yoking” did not work at all in my case. After experiencing divorce (another circumstance that the church shames), I began evaluating where I went wrong with my first attempt at choosing a partner. I realized that I placed way too much pressure on finding someone with the Adventist label rather than looking for someone with the heart of Jesus. Many non-Adventists and even non-Christians are living a more truly Christian life than a lot of people who choose the label of Adventist or Christian. In contrast to my failed and “equally yoked” marriage, I have observed several good friends who married someone outside of our faith and are happily married to this day. Now that I am ready to date again, I’m so relieved to open myself to a larger dating pool than Adventists.


I find it very odd and not informative to refer to the education obtained from Adventist institutions as substandard.I have seen people who graduated from these institutions as outstanding individuals in their careers.To regard the education they have acquired as substandard is a mere fallacy and without basis.

Furthermore I strongly object to an uniformed view that parents sending their children to Adventist Colleges do so for their children to find suitable partners.Such argument lack cogency as it borders on unwarranted attack on Adventist values.I believe parents send their children to such schools to insill in their children christian values.

To obtain Christian education that will also prepare them to be all rounded citizens.Getting an Adventist partner while pursuing education will be a cherry on top.


We need to ask who qualify as “believers?” Adventists only? Other Christians only? The Bible has a vastly expanded view of “believers,” namely those who respect God evidenced by their actions. Jesus’ reference to Elijah’s encounter with the woman of Zarephath furnishes one example of a godly woman. In addition, I quote one text in support, although there are many more: Romans 2:12-15 which talks about believers who may neither be Jews or Christians.

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Right…………. :joy::joy::joy: ……………………….

Being “equally yoked” is about more than labels, it is about attitudes and mindsets, which are deeper and harder to change. Whose career will ‘dominate’, when?

I put my career on hold for 12 years to let my wife run a business. When that finished, I stepped into mine. We shared child rearing, house work etc. Faith has waxed and waned at times, and we have allowed each other to grow as they have wanted. It is not a perfect union by any means

“Equally yoked” actually means having equal value in the relationship. This is where many relationships fail.


I don’t (which is why I made the comment). I’m not familiar with US or other foreign universities, but in Canada for example, Burman University (the only SDA post-secondary school in Canada) doesn’t appear on any national rankings at all. Of the 14 accredited post-secondary institutions in the province of Alberta, Burman usually ranks 13th or 14th.

By way of contrast, my alma mater, McGill University is routinely ranked 1st, 2nd or 3rd in all of Canada on most criteria (along with U of Toronto and UBC - these three rotate the top three rankings), with Waterloo excelling in the STEM subjects. Tuition for Quebec residents attending McGill University is under CAD$100 per credit. Burman charges over CAD$500 per credit.

McGill routinely ranks in the mid-20s to mid-30s worldwide. (QS 2023 rankings put McGill at 31st worldwide), and the school is well-known nationally and internationally, while even in its home province of Alberta, Burman is essentially unknown outside of SDA circles. This is why I consider it to be premium prices for mediocre to substandard product.

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Well, maybe look into it some more? Our colleges are mostly small, some barely credentialed, and they’re often woefully underfunded. Degrees are basically limited to things the church doesn’t object to.

For example, which Adventist college should a student interested in a degree in Evolutionary Biology go to? Note that Evolutionary Biology it the basic science behind most medical research and knowledge; modern medicine would not exist without it. The care our hospitals offer is based on it; the methods our Doctors use to treat patients is depends on it. And yet, we don’t have a world class program that teaches it.

One of my daughters earned double major in four years at two different colleges of Chapman University - one in Business Administration at the Argyros School of Business & Economics and the other a B.A Theater at the College of Performing Arts. After a break, she went on to get her masters in Leadership for Creative Enterprises from Northwestern’s School of Communication.

Where should I have sent her to get these degrees at an Adventist college? Nowhere - that’s where. They’re not offered, except for a Business Administration - but not at any school that teaches both degrees she wanted.

One of her friends was interested in a world class degree in Mathematics, having completed much of a college degree worth of math while in high school (smart kid). She went to Harvey Mudd, one of the Claremont Colleges. Which Adventist college should she have gone to instead? Nowhere - that’s where.

That statement expresses a fundamental problem with Adventist colleges - both within their administrations and with Adventist parents. Adventist colleges try to merge religion and education. They restrict what they teach based on religious teachings, which ruins both the education and the religion.

Expectations that education should be informed by religion are flawed (unless you’re getting a degree in religion). If children do not have a firm basis in their faith by their college years, sending them to an Adventist college isn’t going to fit that - the ship has long sailed. If a person wants to get an education, they should go to the best college for them to get that education. If they want religion, they can go to church. There is no reason to mix the two up - and many reasons not to.


With all due respect I beg to differ … and yes, I am biased, working at an Adventist insitution of higher education.

  1. There is a great variety of Adventist educational insitutions - some indeed substandard, some not. This would be true for educational institutions in general… At our (very small) university we do regular outcome studies with our alumni and receive positive feedback (of course - with exceptions) that the degree provided a) work and b) well prepared for the profession chosen. And no, most of our alumni are not Adventists that could be accused of an inner church bias.

  2. Obviously our schools offer programmes in areas they might be good at. Thus you find excellent schools in the health professions and in social sciences. Evolutionary biology or maths (your examples) probably are not special areas of interest for our church… :slight_smile: That doesn’t say anything about the programmes we DO offer.

I can hear you - especially in describing “a fundamental problem with Adventist colleges” (though some of what you describe is more an issue of the Adventist Accrediting Association, rather than the college). However, to not integrate religion / spirituality into education would reduce education to the transfer of knowledge/information. My understanding of education is much broader here. No I am not a friend of including Adventist Bible studies into the core curriculum of social sciences (my field), but I would hope that social workers, counselors, music therapists, etc. are not only competent in dealing with issues of religion and spirituality in their work, but are well reflected, mature human beings in a wholistic sense.

Thank you, Shade Henry-Thompson, for your deeply personal and important essay.

May I add that there is empirical evidence to support your personal experience. Spirituality is extremely important for a marriage relationship. Statistically, if both partners share a belief in God and have some common practice of spirituality they will also show better values in all areas of their marriage than if they do not (incidentally … contrary to common myths … that’s even true for sexuality).

Sharing the same hymn book does have an effect as well. Common traditions and life style behaviours do bond (especially within the Adventist context). However - the “advantage” of same-faith couples over interdenominational couples is so minute, it can be ignored for all practical purposes, if only spirituality is high. Simply put: A spiritual SDA married to a not very spiritually interested SDA has far lesser chances for a successful and happy marriage than two highly spiritual Christians of two different denominations. That was the empirical side.

As for theology … I think you absolutely nailed it. To take 2 Corinthians 6:14–18 is an insult to brothers and sisters for who Christ died just the same as he died for me (as well as an insult to exegetical rigor). While I can understand the historic development of such position in our church, I find it difficult to uphold for many reasons.

For a personal testimony … I do live in an interdenominational marriage. It is enriching (yes, at times challenging) both of us in our resepctive spirituality and faith. It also has offered us plenty of oportunity to minister to others in rather unusual ways. But I readily concede that this is not a model for everyone to emulate.

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The goal of SDA schools is not a science-based education, well-rounded citizens, nor self-actualized, critical thinkers. These things are taught only to the extent as required to avoid being considered a laughingstock and in order to obtain legal certifications. Otherwise, EGW and her elementary school writings would be the text book for every course.

Instead, the institution is an indoctrination system whose objective is producing life-long, tithe-paying, EGW-believing Adventists.

Doesn’t work every time, but even a coin-toss, 50/50 bet pays out big time benefits over the next 50-80 years in the form of residual income for the pyramid scheme and as the indoctrinated provide a steady stream of potential new recruits. And if, as an aside, those who do survive the program with degrees and training which allows them to excel in their fields, so much the better as this means more tithes and offerings are brought into the warehouse.

Okay, this admission is acceptable for college students.

But elementary and high school students can’t handle the truth that their education isn’t really an education, nor well rounded, and is, instead, merely an incessant repetition of SDA dogma, jammed into as many topics as possible then force-fed to them on a daily basis?

I’ll never forget when one of my wife’s middle school teachers asked, apologetically and only after he had retired, “Did I sufficiently warp you?”



Well, that’s the issue! The schools are limited to what is interesting for the church. And, in most cases, what doesn’t disagree with their teachings.

Is that what you think is the reality at non-church based schools? Even if so, isn’t that the point of education - to transfer knowledge? And, if you did “integrate religion / spirituality into education”, wouldn’t you then be adding religion to the “transferring knowledge” process?

Generally, I think what you’re describing as positive, I see as negative. I earned a business degree from Pacific Union College in the 1980’s, when the business department was one of the biggest at the school. (Today PUC is basically a nursing school.) I was interested in learning about the topics in the curriculum of that degree. I was not interested in having those topics be conflated with religion.

Instead of being left alone to get a business degree, I was forced to spend time going to religion classes (that were supposed to be neutral but where attempts at indoctrination into the SDA church and denigration of all other faiths were obvious), forced to go to a certain number of worship services, forced to show up at the dorm every night by 10pm or so and ‘check in’ (and then was a prisoner there until morning), policed by deans who treated us like high-school kids instead of adults, and so on and so forth.

Everyone in my friend group at PUC, all Adventist and most who grew up in the SDA school system, hated all of it. We just wanted to get a college degree, not to spend our years there fighting a system that treated us like children and threatened us with dire consequences if we didn’t act like good little Adventists. Most of us have left the church, and I wonder if our experience at PUC contributed to that.

My kids went to the schools I mentioned in my previous post, and also Lewis & Clark College, where they had none of that. They were not required to take religion classes - though they could as electives. They were not required to go to religeous services - though they could if they wanted to. They were not required to be in the dorm at night - though they could if they wanted to. They lived in co-ed dorms - and it was fine. They were not required to even live in the dorms after their first year - and that was fine. They could have TV’s in their dorm rooms (imagine!?) - and that was fine. They were, in short, treated like adults instead of like children. And somehow they managed to get their homework done anyway. They received an education that did not try to indoctrinate them into a church - but instead sought to teach them the state-of-the-art in each class they took without regard to religeous doctrine - which was better than fine!