Sunday, April 26, 2009

What Other Christians Think About Adventists

After we left the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Arthur became a travel nurse and we visited churches of many denominations all over the United States, from Texas to Florida to New England to California to Washington state.  When we would tell people that we had been Seventh-day Adventists, we were greeted in several fashions. 

About 8 out of every 10 people claimed to had heard of Adventists though some of them mixed you up with Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses. Very often they would say something like, "Yeah, you guys would come to my door--always dressed in blue suits." They would immediately jump in with, "oh I am sure that Adventists are good people" in a similar tone as one would say, "oh I think we should love homosexuals." They insisted you were sincere people, even if they didn't really know you. 

More than half of those who did recognize the name had a friend or colleague who were Adventist. They usually had a favorable word to say as well as a criticism. Most often we heard about how nice you all were, but many complained that you would continue to try and get them to go to church on Saturday. One dentist in Ann Arbor, Michigan said he LOVED you because your teeth tended to be much worse than other patients' teeth, giving him lots of business. That seems really weird because of the health message. But I thought I would pass that along.....

The Episcopalians, Anglicans and some of the Evangelical Lutherans lumped you in with the fringe Fundamentalists who they tended to make fun of as a group. They smiled at your your legalism as many of them teased that the Ten Commandments were really the Ten Suggestions. But, because of their generous spirit and extreme ecumenicalism and tolerance, they loved you from a distance. I did encounter some pastors who were a little concerned about your doctrines of extreme Sabbatarianism and being the exclusive remnant. But they all have the motto of live and let live, "It's America, people can believe the way they want to believe." I got the feeling, especially with the older group, that their generosity was rather superficial and that they only spoke with tolerance but deep down thought Adventists were a bunch of kooks. However, they also whispered jokes about Charismatics. 

American Catholics harbor so much guilt about the bad publicity their church has gotten over the last----TWO thousand years, that they hand-wring and apologize if they ever offended you in any way. Some get kind of ticked off that your televangelist Doug Batchelor twists their doctrines, but they are used to that--most fundamentalists do (and after all, they recognize they are in White Anglo-Saxon Protestant territory), so they have pretty much given up on defending themselves.  However, many of them want you to quit bashing their church as the harboring the antichrist. But all in all, Catholics feel guilty over  the whole Protestant thing and want you to know they accept you..... sincerely..... and invite you to RCIA.

The Pentecostals and Charismatics just want to welcome you and wish you'd come to church with them. They, of course, wouldn't say a word against you, and bless your little hearts. But then they also say that you need to have a talking in tongues experience to be sure you're saved. They believe deep down, you really don't know Jesus unless you've had that charismatic experience, similarly to the way Adventist believe you really aren't worshipping God in full truth unless you do it on Saturday. They also believe you are a bit legalistic about the fourth commandment because Sunday was made the new Sabbath.  Pentecostals love you and don't think doctrines are quite as important as you do, its the spirit and the love that counts. Even though they don't get Adventists, they just beam when they speak of how they love them.

Then their is the in-betweens--the Church of Christ, Methodists, Presbyterians  (and interestingly Mennonites and Quakers) who frankly don't seem to care one way or the other. They vacantly stare, smiling, when we talked about Adventism. Then they asked us to pot-luck after church. I have spoken to a very prominent Presbyterian evangelist who is very impressed with your evangelism techniques even though he vehemently disagrees with your doctrines. Again, this group just doesn't seem to have an opinion--or wants to think about it long enough to develop one.

The only group that consistently had a poor opinion of Adventism was the Baptists. We were told that if we wanted join their church--at least by one pastor--that we would have to be re-baptized because SDA baptism wasn't considered valid. Most of the Southern, Independent, Freewill Baptists we spoke to strongly  felt that you needed to be witnessed to with the authentic gospel because you were not saved. They tended to feel you were a cult. Even though Arthur and I had left the church, Baptists hesitated in skepticism about our conversion and three times I submitted to the Sinner's Prayer so they could relax.  I have to admit Baptists came across the most authentic in their assessment. I think they had to guts to say what a lot of the other churches were to politically correct to admit. 

In the end, I frankly was surprised by what I learned from mainstream Chrisitans.  People really didn't know much at all about your church. I had always felt as an Adventist that we were more known on the outside. My mother always said  that other denominations thought well of us--for all the charitable work we did and our hospitals. But I had also been taught that other Apostate Protestants and Catholics would one day hate us, so I figured since the time of the end was so near, somebody would be harboring deep prejudices against us. 

Really nothing of that is true. Adventists are seen as strange and legalistic, but nice enough. Actually, everyone out there is living their lives and blissfully unaware of Adventists at all.  So if you are among the few Adventists we know who are paranoid about mainstream Christian conspiracies against you, relax. If anything is going to happen it won't be happening soon. This group is just way too occupied with their own lives and don't even know who you are.  And that's okay, because you really don't know who they are either. Now that you know that ..... maybe we could all just be friends?