Why You're Not a Cultural Adventist (or, "It Was Never About the Fri-Chick")

If you hang around churches long enough, you'll hear the term thrown around. It shows up around Nominating Committee time: "Person X isn't interested in doing anything in church. She's really just a cultural Adventist." It happens more often when there's a controversy involved: "Those people who want to ordain women/change the worship service/serve coffee in the lobby ought to just move on. They're just cultural Adventists." Maybe you've heard it. Maybe you've said it. Maybe someone's said it about you.

The idea, the accusation, is that your faith isn't real, or it isn't important to you. If you're a cultural Adventist, you're not here because you love God and the church, you're just in it for the Fri Chick. You grew up in the church, and you come to see your friends and because it's comfortable and familiar here. And it's kind of nuts, when you think about it.

It's nuts, because it's used invariably for someone who is progressive, liberal. It is the traditional hashtag slapped on these "other" Adventist homes. The irony, of course, is that these are the people who usually want to change something. They're the ones who don't fit in, the square pegs in the round holes of the church. If someone stays in church, even when it doesn't suit their personal tastes, how can one accuse them of being there for the culture?

Actually, I am tempted to say it goes the other way. The people who find nothing to challenge or disturb them on Sabbath morning, the ones who speak the language and match the dress code – they are in the greater danger of staying for the culture.

I am tempted, but I have to do better than that. If I can't do any better than turn the finger to point the other way, I might as well turn in my tofu-and-cheese cookbook and go home. Because the church isn't a bone for us to fight over. It's a gift of God, and it belongs to him.

Perhaps it will help to start by admitting that Adventism is both a faith and a culture. We believe certain things in common (and sometimes we assume more things in common than that), and we're used to doing things certain ways. The doing might come from the believing, or it might be habit. Culture is okay, and so is changing it.

I want you to believe that last sentence is more profound that it appears, so I'll write it again. Culture is okay, and so is changing it.*

Habit is not evil, even when I find it annoying. It's okay for my friend to have a hymnal Velcro’d to their hip, and a red-book quote for every occasion. As long as I also have the freedom to make a point without a quote to back me up.

Likewise, it's okay for me to put mustard and pepper on my vege-burger. I don't have to resent the person in the potluck line beside me if they have to look away as I do. And when I preach Sabbath morning, and an older saint shakes my hand, I won't take it personally when she thanks me for my "little talk." She has a paradigm, and she's trying to conform her experience to it. She's doing it politely. I am guessing she goes through similar reasoning to make allowances for me.

Of course I think I'm right, and she's wrong on this one. I'm not saying all opinions are equal. The reason I'm a progressive is that I want to make progress. I'm saying none of these things are grounds for us to question one another's faith, or exclude them from being Adventists. It's lazy and irresponsible to try to solve our problems by disowning the other side of the pew.

We are all believers. Everyone's reason for showing up Sabbath morning is their own, and it's really not the point anyway. The point is, we're all here. If we want to change the culture, we should skip the pointing fingers part, and talk to one another.

*Note my clever tact in not using the word Tradition – since that's a bad word in Adventist culture.

Laura Ochs Wibberding has two degrees in Religion and 18 years of experience married to a pastor. She blogs, writes dramas, and picks up after her kids in Silverlake, Washington.

Image Credit: Laura Ochs Wibberding

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8026
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Isn’t a large share of the problem that we may disagree not simply on things like women’s ordination or the Bible’s relation to science (very significant disagreements), but on the very basis for why we (or “they”) hold the position we/they do? Such as how to understand biblical and Spirit of Prophecy authority? If you are willing to provide some examples of how this might work in truly “fundamental” disagreements, that would be helpful to me.

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Orthodoxy lost its case when they booed a past president of the G C.


As with most errors this one is based on a flawed premise. For example.
“Important to you” is nothing. Meaningless. People who invent their own religions find their faith important to them. The fact that they picked and chose what their religions tenets are is immaterial to them. Are you really gonna tell God at the final judgement that doing it wrong was no big deal because it was important to you? Is that a winning perspective in any construct?
As to ones faith being “real” that is definable and knowable based on the daylight between the standards that you agreed to when you joined the church and were baptised and a persons actions.
Paul addresses this quite thoughly as well as in 1 Samuel.

1 Corinthians 5:2 records well meaning christians making what they thought was progress. We see the same dynamic playing out and becoming more so in the future.

This is a significant if common flaw in most of leftist thought. This is why. A.There are things that affect you and no one else. B.There are also things that do affect others. Its doesnt require a 180 IQ to realize that your statement falls under B, hence you are purposely placing your desires in opposition to others. Why? Because your views are so much more enlightened than others?


Sadly, I can’t say I know how to change the fact that we disagree, sometimes fundamentally, as you say. Until a topic spirals out of control, and gets used to play church politics with (such as WO), we are usually able to worship together and love one another in local congregations. That’s all I was working on in this blog.


So, when I was baptized a million years ago, the 28 fundamental beliefs hadn’t been written down yet and maybe the pastor didn’t cover all the questions either, so even if I don’t believe some of them the ways other’s do, I figure I’m grandfathered in. I love Sabbath, and I certainly need the rest, but I don’t believe, for instance, that the exact 7 day week has survived in traditional Sunday through Saturday order from time and eternity (there is a two millennia blank space between “God rested” and the “no manna” falling on the 7th day in the wilderness) - heresy?. When I expressed this in our very small rural church one Sabbath, a kind lady asked “if you don’t believe that today is the REAL 7th day Sabbath, then why are you here?” Well, like Jesus, as was HIS custom, I fellowship with others on Sabbath. And eat Fri-chik at potluck. Good customs, I think, so I guess I’m a cultural Adventist, which doesn’t prevent me from being Episcopalian on Sunday and being active inside and out of both groups.Any day is a good day to worship and fellowship.


We are all believers. Everyone’s reason for showing up Sabbath morning is their own, and it’s really not the point anyway. The point is, we’re all here. If we want to change the culture, we should skip the pointing fingers part, and talk to one another.


so why do some insist on doing things inside sanctuary and pulpit -

What does EGW SAY

My point is
28 fundamentals are a there
When it comes to WO look at this chapter . Church’s and apostles got together and made a Key word 'DECREE’
and some murmurs started against it .

The 10 commandments tell us that the 7th day is the Sabbath, We are to remember the 7th day and keep it holy. To me that does not say any day is a good day to worship and fellowship. We come together for spiritual growth and stimulation on Sabbath and to visit with our Lord and Savior in His house. We can fellowship with each other any day of the week as we can also fellowship with our Lord in our prayers and Bible study during the week, but the Sabbath is a special day, set aside by God for us to worship, rest and contemplate the blessings that God has given us.

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As Ellen White said, if a Sabbath was needed in Eden, we need it even more now. This idea that time has been lost and that there are gaps, is utter nonsense. Jesus knew which day the Sabbath was (it was He who proclaimed it from Sinai, and I’m sure His Father would have made sure He wasn’t attending Synagogue on the wrong day), as did the Jews who hated Him for doing good works (yikes, a naughty word) on that day. And there is no evidence that time has been lost since then. No one claims that we can’t know when Sunday is.

What would be your solution for the Adventists in Samoa?


When I was in the Navy I received orders to go to Guam for a year.
I left SanFrancisco on Friday.
When I arrived in Guam, the next day, it was SUNDAY.
When I crossed over the Date Line, the plane did a Time Warp, and voila, it was Sunday.

Not only do aircraft do Time Warps going west, do so going east.
But imagine doing so a slight slower on a ship of some sort, either as a passenger, or as the ship’s crew.
Or in a place where one does business on both sides of the Date Line. [As you brought up].


Agree! Similar situation here. I went from California on a Tuesday to arrive in Okinawa on a Monday, There can be no set, particular day while living on a rotating, spinning round habitat bsuc h as planet earth. And what about polar regions where there is no regular sunrise or sunset? God is not hooked on humans’ perpetual praise to commemmoralise his earthly creation works forever and aye!. The sabbath was made for man not man for the sabbath a wise saying holds! Sabbath was instituted to emphasise that man needed time at least on a weekly basis to rest from labour and/or to concentrate on development of his moral/ethical and therefore spiritual awareness. This rest period was given as a divine command to ensure compliance. Adventists should stick to their choice of Saturday rest and siritual renewal, otherwise the church will split and a very valuable resource to the world in education, health , and moral awareness will be lost. Others can just as viably stick to their day of rest.


For the umpteenth time - there was no Sunday or Saturday in Eden, or at Sinai, or when Jesus kept the Sabbath. The days were numbered 1 through 7. Day #1 was the New Moon Festival and day #7 was the Sabbath. The Romans gave the weekdays the names we use today; and they made the Jews observe a Saturday Sabbath. This is the one we proclaim to Sunday keepers and the world. If you want to keep the Sabbath kept at creation, you’ll have to go somewhere else. The counter that the weekly cycle never changed is a myth. the original weekly cycle began with the “new moon” by which everyone told time - (the moon and the sun).


What I really want to know, did Ellen microwave her fri-chik?

If she did not, perhaps, to avoid being labeled mere a cultural adventist, perhaps I ought not microwave mine, either… (they are somewhat more palatable pan fried in fatback, but thats another kettle of nuggets)


I follow the reasoning of this article and agree with its conclusion. I’d like to propose an alternative way in which the word “Cultural Adventist” rightly applies.

I agree that “Cultural Adventist” is an ineffective term for distinguishing between believers of the liberal and conservative bent. However, in my view, cultural Adventists do clearly exist, though they often go unrecognized. I refer to people who were raised Adventist, believed (or tried to), were active in the church, and then, for whatever reason, stopped believing in the doctrines of Adventism. At whatever point in life this happens, the ex-believer will go on from there with a historical part of him or herself still and forever Adventist (since the past cannot be altered). Depending on the individual, the person may well still practice much of the food, music, moral beliefs and other traditions of Adventists. If so, I think the term “Cultural Adventist” would fit.

Even the Sabbath may still be a meaningful feature of life for this cultural Adventist. A day of rest can be a good idea whether God requires it or not and regardless of whether the current seventh day of the week has always been the seventh day of the week.

Perhaps most important, ex-believers will, if they desire, continue to have as treasured friends those Adventists who refuse to reject them because they are no longer part of the consensus treasured by all church communities. Such ex-believers will always have inside themselves the Adventist believer they once were and also the traditions and cultural habits that proved comfortable to them. Since the belief no longer serves any useful purpose, what is left is the culture. Obviously, the term “Cultural Adventist” would not apply to ex-believers who also reject the culture.

So, in accepting the premise of this article, I propose that the words “Cultural Adventist,” so deftly untethered from any useful meaning within the church, be reassigned to describe ex-believers who still like the vegeburgers, the musc, kicking back on the Sabbath, and spending time with their Adventist friends who were not threatened by their withdrawal from consensus and who reject the other rationales tempting them to turn their backs on a friend. Just as there are cultural or “secular” Jews, cultural Adventists are out there. They may be anathema to some believers, but they exist, they are people with whom practicing Adventists still have much in common, and there might be some value in Adventists making room for them in their minds and hearts.