I’m a Seventh Day Adventist… kind of. At least, I have always been a Seventh Day Adventist. Somewhere around 1985, my mother was given a set of cassette tapes by a friend at work that were recordings of an evangelist named Oscar Lane. They were a seminar on the Book of Revelations from the Adventist point of view. Something somewhere within his messages convicted my parents’ hearts and they started attending an Adventist church. When I was two years old, they and a group of their friends and their children, some thirty plus individuals, all officially joined the denomination together. My parents have been the very definition of Adventist dedication every day since.
My parents are unparalleled. They have always been the type of Christians… the type of humans I hoped to become. They have flaws, like anyone else, but even in their flaws, they are wonderful models of Grace, Love, and Service. If you asked them what the catalyst was for fashioning their characters, I believe they would give large credit to the Jesus they found in the biblical teachings the denomination is so committed to, so from a very young age, I committed too.
I learned to read using the King James Version of the Bible. I’d recite my memory verses, holding the Bible upside down at three years old, all tucked in for bed at night. Sabbath school, pathfinders, bible studies I was too young for. I couldn’t wait to join the youth choir, become an usher, pianist, deacon, and elder. I longed for and prayed for “the call to ministry;” even gave a couple youth sermons in my day, but no calling ever came. My parents were not dragging me along. It wasn’t their religion. It was mine. I was all in.
In fact, I was baptized into the Seventh-Day Adventist church on two separate occasions for two separate reasons (something the church really doesn’t do.) I was baptized once as an overly zealous, sabbath-keeping 6-year-old child soldier accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. I was taught to understand my sinful nature and brokenness and the imperative need for salvation before time ran out. I was turning from my prepubescent sinful nature and introversion to go forward, witness, and finish the work. I was baptized again as a seasoned Adventist soon-to-be-wed postgraduate with several nagging spots and wrinkles, not having left the faith or struggling with it, but fully re-surrendering, not simply for myself considering my individual shortcomings, but as a renewed commitment in starting and heading a traditional Adventist family.
Seventh Day Adventism is not simply my denomination of origin – not simply my preferred flavor of Christianity. It is a fully saturating physical force integral to my existence. Adventism is gravitational. It is an underlying essence that seems to tie all other things together. It affects you and the direction of your movements whether you are thinking about it or not. Whether you are committed to it or not.
Seventh Day Adventism is not just about the day you go to church. “Keeping the Biblical Sabbath” is a big part of it, but Adventism is also how you dress, what you eat, what you listen to, what you celebrate, what you watch, read, and what you shouldn’t. It’s how you think, approach and evaluate relationships, and ultimately the mold you use to form your mental image of God’s character. It is how you come to measure and define yourself and others, even the church itself, at large, and in your individual communities.
Much more than a biblical interpretation, Adventism bills itself and its fundamental beliefs as the natural outcome of the correct biblical interpretation.The question posed within the Adventist community is not whether or not you “believe” in Adventist dogma; it is “have you grown to accept God’s Word and the pleading of the Holy Spirit or have you chosen yourself?” Seventh Day Adventism presents an unabridged worldview from prehistory through The End and back again. It is the worldview I was raised in. It is not what I found; it is what I am founded upon. It is the only worldview I’ve ever known, trusted, or considered being close to true, and True with a capital T. I don’t know how to be anything else.
Yet today, I find myself a Seventh Day Adventist who no longer believes that the Bible can nor should be broken up into a hierarchy of truths that one climbs by way of increasing knowledge, commitment, and Spirit. I do not see a cypher to be decoded to assure my place in an afterlife, but a window into a mystery I will wrestle with throughout this one. I’m an Adventist that believes Scripture has the ability to speak to humanity today, but not one that thinks the letters within were written with the intention to do so. I believe the wisdom of Scripture, even prophetic scripture, is timeless, but not necessarily time specific or dependent. While prophesy remains continually relevant societally, it is now hard to accept that major portions of it should be contextually or temporally detached from the times in which they were written, just to fit whatever current circumstance I see myself in.
I am an Adventist who thinks prophetic math pointing toward our modern day is too exclusive a lens for viewing Books like Daniel and Revelations and greatly diminishes, not only the expansiveness of their applicational wisdom today, but their importance to the original communities that produced and promulgated them. I am one who doesn’t think Inspiration needed to wait for a European king to translate some Greek and Latin into English in the 1600s for the full truth to become discoverable by Americans in the 1800s. I know the marks of colonization when I see them.
I’m an Adventist that understands that every generation of Christian has expressed some belief that they were in the “last days,” and the warnings they left behind were to the people immediately around them. Just like Adventism’s founders weren’t considering their words needing to exist into 2021, the words of Daniel and John the revelator weren’t meant for me directly. So, I’m not looking forward to a grand biblical conspiracy to unfold as I believe “the beast power” is a timeless political commentary that is and always has been applicable at any place or point where the spiritual is coopted by those in power, for power. It’s not coming. It has been here. It exists anywhere Gospel, government, and greed become intertwined – not just a singular future worldwide climactic event, yet to occur. I am an Adventist who has grown tired of sitting back hypocritically waiting on Papal Rome to be ‘re-awakened’ while our own government evokes religion for its own selfish purposes and has behaved exceedingly beastly toward so many images of God for quite some time now – always in fact. That we see our current America in these biblical warnings should be a sign to truly urge the nation to pivot not proof that we few are a remnant on a proper path. The parallels aren’t so much prophetic as evidence of human patterns. Same misconceptions, different millennia.
I’m a Seventh Day Adventist…kind of, though I currently find myself in habitual fellowship with a FULLY affirming, egalitarian, “first day” community that was born in a pub. A community pastored by an eclectic group including a minister of charismatic Pentecostal lineage, a RHEMA Bible Church grad, a couple of true – boots on the ground – warriors for justice, and a recent doctoral recipient who performs at the occasional drag show. A community where there are more females in leadership than males, and no one received an official reprimand from some organizing body for allowing that to happen. There’s coffee and donuts in the foyer and communion every week with real wine and bread with yeast in the recipe. There are also grape juice and gluten free options as well as no baptismal requirement. We are considerate and child and guest friendly. Since going fully virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic, we use whatever communion elements we have available in our homes. I started off making ‘unleavened’ bread from scratch with some Welch’s grape, but I’ve also used a Cheez-It and a tequila sunrise. It is all sacred at the table.
The community does not exist around any visions, any dates, wars, physical structures, days, times, types, or the end. It exists in the ever-present now and the simple concept that the Table of Christ is open to all. Regardless of background or individual specifics, dogma, baggage, interpretative choices, prophetesses, or compunctions who are any of us to determine the guest list to Someone else’s table? It is a community where all are defined by a collective “usness” in direct opposition to the very idea of a “themness.” There is no required “system of beliefs” or even a stated set outside of the apostle’s creed, which honestly, I don’t always fully ascribe to. That’s ok. There’s no claim to being “right” or “the remnant” or anything special outside of being a community that isn’t trying to be special. It isn’t trying to be anything other than organic Grace, Love, and Service.
It feels familiar.
It feels a little like home.