It’s funny.... yes, funny haa haa AND funny strange when Adventists attempt to explain my departure from the church of my childhood and youth and adult and almost middle age. They believe I left because something or someone hurt me. Something (they grasp at anything as to why I would leave “truth”) made me bitter, perhaps I was abused by a legalistic Adventist. I just have to smile when I read or hear those things.
My childhood was almost idyllic. I had an older brother and three younger sisters and a younger brother. Our lives were chaotic, noisy, and full of fun. We screamed and made up, we put together plays. We sang together. My sisters and I often slept in the same bed and sneaked snacks and would keep each other up till late talking and giggling.
Our family was very active in the Dallas First Seventh-day Adventist Church right off Central Expressway. The church was full of gracious, sweet, completely wonderful people. The Cunninghams, Rices, Leatherwoods, Collums, Gilleys (Of the Adventist Broadcast Network ABN), Mary Zeline Winsett (the piano teacher for generations of people who went through the Adventist Elementary school associated with the church), the Hollons.... these are the creme de la creme of kindness. I remember little or nothing from these friends about Ellen White or any of the distinctive Adventist doctrines.
Our family sang in church, we taught in the Sabbath Schools, we went to the Adventist Elementary school.... We were thoroughly Dallas Adventists. Many would characterize us as “progressive” Adventists for we didn’t believe it was wrong to eat meat or drink wine, Ellen was for inspiration not translation of scriptures. My father taught righteousness by faith and we felt extreme mercy.
My picture of God, thanks to these wonderful people, was truly loving and merciful. I grew up thinking those who actually believed Ellen White to be a prophetess and the Sanctuary Message and all the rules of Adventism were a bit fanatical and naive. Our family belonged to the SDA intelligentsia. We were among those erudite collegiate Adventists who smiled condescendingly towards those “old fashioned” Adventists who actually read Ellen White.
Church and Adventist school were like episodes of “Leave it to Beaver.” Everything was simple, sweet and black and white. It was cozy to be Adventist, secure, it was my personal warm, fuzzy religion. It felt good. I loved Sabbath. In my prayers, I remember thanking the Lord for a special day. It really did feel special and my heart felt pleasingly gooey and emotional as we entered the sacred hours as the sun set on Friday evenings. Our family treated the day with joy, not legalism.
For me, finding out that my sweet, happy little religion was not Biblical was like being coldcocked. Up until that point in my life, nothing had been so devastating, shocking.... painful! It took me years of studying and restudying, asking questions and seeking answers with all my heart and soul before I had to sit down in a devastating daze and admit my beloved church was based on misinformation and error. My pretty picture of life was nothing but a huge lie. Adventism and their precious Sabbath, their Sanctuary doctrines, their remnanthood status were all a figure of the SDA pioneers' imaginations. Adventist doctrines blew away like sand in a storm. Ellen White as a heroine, standing there in the pictures holding up the Bible with her angelic smile, was nothing but illusion, make-believe.
I pleaded with God to somehow make it true, to somehow make it okay to be part of this group. The people were nice, sincere! They did a lot of really good things. For months I rationalized and tried to figure a way to remain. But in the end, I couldn’t. To be a part of a church that preached falsehood and indoctrinated children into the most heretical beliefs, that terrorized people about wacko last-day prophecies. I just couldn’t. It was against my conscience to be associated with lies no matter how nice the people who told them.
It would be impossible to be angry with my dear Adventist family and friends. Bitter? Ah! No. They are so wonderful. But it is extremely important not to confuse the demonic doctrines of Adventism with the people. The people are truly brainwashed. They are utterly sincere. But once the little fake picture shatters and you have recovered from the horrifying blow, you see that the little “lies” of Adventism are not so very benign after all.
The warm fuzzy feeling, the sweet comforting poison is from Satan. Jesus is not okay with lies. No amount of good feelings can cover up deception and falsification of the true gospel of Jesus. No amount of good works and being “nice” can justify repeating spiritual and historical fiction as truth. Adventism’s sugary siren song may sound very inviting, but it is white-washed death. It’s doctrines and culture have a very sincere smile, but the people are carefully conditioned to see only what the church wants them to see. They are educated into seeing all scripture through the eyes of Ellen White.
So, as hard as it is for Adventists to accept, God came in and painfully pulled off the glasses of deception that had been placed upon me since childhood. I didn’t leave because of any hurt, leaving was the only thing about Adventism--my warm fuzzy Adventism--that really did hurt.
Now, the pain of leaving is gone and I live in the blessed joy of reality. Any Adventists want to join me?