I don't think I've spent much time discussing religion in this here blog & that's because it would either put me to sleep or rile me up. I have no problem sleeping on my own & I try to avoid riling so I stepped back. But last week I kept seeing a link to this article that apparently us Seventh Day Adventists are the fastest growing church in America. Every person who posted in on Facebook & the people being interviewed in said article seem to have the same reaction as me, basically "Really?"
It's good news, just a bit surprising as we tend to consider ourselves the underdogs of religion. Is there ever a wacko in the news that didn't attend an SDA school (Lee Boyd Malvo), grow up Adventist (that dude with dreads that stocked up a bunch of caskets in his house then killed his family) or yeah, get kicked out of the church & start his own cult (David Koresh)? Like crazy moths to a flame!
Anyhoo, I think it's fairly common to have doubts about God & especially religion as you grow up. I know I've had my doubts. I consider myself an intelligent person - not quick enough to love a debate but I certainly turn into an evil overlord of all Trivial Pursuit games I can squirrel my way into. To be fair, I will share that in 8th grade us "gifted" class kids were all scheduled to take IQ tests & when I showed up for my group's time the auditorium was empty. I got the time wrong. For my IQ test. I have kept that one close to the chest until now but there you go.
Right, back to my point. With my self-diagnosed intelligence comes the fact that I am a cynical, sarcastic & snide girl. I don't always like that trait in myself & am doing my best to raise Ben as a positive enthusiastic young man but I am who I am. With that cynicism, it's natural that I would have my doubts about God & the psycho crazy nutballs that do terrible things in his name. This isn't the forum to go into my doubts & where I stand in my relationship with God - I'm dealing with it & those of you good folks who live a lovely life & don't knock anyone down in your quest for godliness shine very brightly to me & I thank you for your influence whether you recognize it or not.
But the fact is that even when I've had doubts in the big picture & I'd like to clonk the heads of so many Christians I have always had faith in Adventism. This article is fine but it doesn't capture the essence of our church. Yeah, its basic & very clear faith is fantastic - I can't remember if the article actually mentions the 27 Fundamentals (which Marcel informs me is now 28 fundamentals?)(Did they finally make haystack-eating official?) but I love that you can go to an SDA church, ask what they believe & be handed a list of exactly what defines us. No mystery, no pandering, no guessing what people want to hear from us.
Again, that's fantastic but what I find most important about Adventism is our place in the world or the very fact that we make a place in the world. ADRA (Adventist Development & Relief Agency) is the single greatest thing to come of our church in my humble opinion. I know that big churches have their own disaster relief groups & that is awesome but being that we are such a small organization in the scheme of things yet manage to make such an impact on the ground wherever development or disaster relief is needed speaks volumes about us. And from what I understand ADRA does it without shoving literature down anyone's throat - that may be a legal thing but I still respect it. I think that the lives they save, the communities they help build or rebuild and the health message that they teach is the best example that we can show to the world. Any Adventist that doesn't support ADRA should seriously be ashamed - it is putting the messages that we learn into action and if a church doesn't have helpful action and just depends on the weekly sermon, we are in trouble.
Speaking of the health message, that is the other key to my love for Adventism. I felt like a crazy person growing up eating weird veggie meats & explaining to non-Adventist friends about vegetarianism (note: I am no longer veggie but still tend to not eat much meat) way before it was cool. And don't start me on the evils of caffeine or not having pepper on the table blah blah blah. All things I hated hearing about as a young'un but now to see constant news reports about how how to eat more healthfully & so much of it is what I've grown up with (& again, often ignored!) is very interesting.
And don't get me started on the Adventist health system. Loma Linda University Medical Center, people. What haven't they revolutionized? Ben Carson, anyone? Yeah, he is still the king of separating conjoined twins & still attending church regularly. Even here in Australia, the Sydney Adventist Hospital is extremely popular & highly regarded. Add all the other medical centers around the world & the various Adventist-owned health food companies & you've got yourself a mighty impressive tiny church. And yes, Australia, those Weetbix you adore & all the other wonders of Sanitarium? Adventist owned, my friends.
Sorry I wrote this in a rush while very tired & with a non-napping toddler so I know I'll re-read it & it's going to say "Pepper is bad. SDA church good." or something almost as brilliant. But my heart is in it - I'm not trying to recruit anyone to our church, just want to brag for probably the first time ever because we have earned a little victory dance. Oh wait, we aren't supposed to dance. Well, I think we all know that is one thing that Adventists have gotten very wrong! So dance away my friends & recognize the footprints we're putting all over the world that (hopefully) aren't stomping anyone in the process.