Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Last Sentence of "It's Okay NOT to be a Seventh-day Adventist

The last sentence of my book was going to read, "If you love the Lord and know the authentic gospel then it's okay to be a Seventh-day Adventists but it is also okay not to be a Seventh-day Adventist." 

Christian publishers, editors and friends all told me to take that out. No, they firmly insisted, it is not okay to be a Seventh-day Adventist. I finally caved on that one and now it reads only that it's okay not to be a Seventh-day Adventist. 

But that is the only place I caved. 

Sometimes I want to laugh to keep from crying with ironic laughter. 

When publishing our book, I had to hold firm to my convictions and for that I ended up not being published by some pretty big Christian publishing firms. 

The top American Christian Literary Agent took on my book. He didn't think it had a prayer of being picked up because it was too accommodating of Adventist doctrine.

He pitched the book to many top publishers and I repeatedly was turned down because I was being too politically correct or "nice." Those who were willing to publish it wanted it to be much more controversial. 

All of them said the book was unbelievably sweet and generous in tone. (And that was the problem.) It's weird to hear so many Adventists call the book bitter and mean-spirited. Goes to show you that you will hear it read in your mind the way you think the author wrote it. Adventists assume I am upset so they read it with Cruella DeVille evilness.  (Ahhhhaaahaaahaa!! I throw back my head and think about puppy fur coats!)

Christian publishers read it as if I was Joel Olsteen when they wanted a Dr. James White! (Rrrrrrr....)

One of the largest Christian Publishers wanted me to adjust the book to their "cult" section model so that the book could easily fit into their religious sect sections along with Mormonism, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witness, etc. 

A cult? Don't know. Cult isn't a good word even if it is true because it means something so different to whoever hears it. People get faint when you use it because often they think "occult." I wasn't comfortable calling Adventism a cult.

So, two publishing agencies responded, "no thanks" because I was unwilling to re-write it with a more direct criticism against Adventism. I thought the book hit just right. Some Adventists need to know the gospel, and some are saved and have an authentic relationship with God.

You know, I have gotten in some huge trouble with pastors and associate pastors and Sunday School leaders for saying that. Many American Christians really believe Adventism is a dangerous cult and no one inside it's belief system is saved. And if you argue with them, you will be suspect and it will be assumed you don't know Jesus and the authentic gospel either. 

I find myself in a peculiar situation. Adventists are, understandably, angry at me for writing the book, former Adventists and fundamentalist Christians thinking I have caved on the gospel message for not writing the book stronger. 

Some formers just want me to be angry. I'm not. Never was. But I do understand their anger because I have heard the stories of many, many former Adventists and many of them have a great reason to be angry. I'd be angry too if I had to go through their lives. 

As many churches as I attended once I left Adventism, most of them treated me like I had a contagious disease when I told them I had been an Adventist. They wanted me to go through all kinds of theological purging: studies, re-baptism, laying on of hands. I even went to one Southern Baptist Church for years and I was treated with a polite distancing the whole time--because I had been, ya know... an (whispered) Seventh-day Adventist. 

One pastor even asked me if I had been part of the Waco incident with the Branch Dividians (I was from Keene, Texas--and David Koresh was an Adventists).

And the other Christians: the non-fundamentalists such as Anglicans, Lutherans, etc--Adventism doesn't even cause a blip on their radar and they don't care. Adventists? What's that?

If Adventists could only see how strongly I stand up for them when they are accused of silly things (mostly when they are confused with other sects). 

Most former Adventist need a clear line of who the bad guy and who the good guy is. Since I won't draw a line, neither team sees me on their side. 

I want unity among Christians, not division. Interaction will help bring truth to light. We need to keep talking, keep being respectful even if we don't agree doctrinally with each other. God's truth will win out with those of goodwill. 

I still think it's okay to be an SDA if you know Christ and the authentic gospel. God has us each on a journey of faith and perhaps He has Adventists in a pit stop at the moment. I trust His will for each of us who love to obey Him.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Reality Is Better....

Life was always frustrating for me on one level when I was Seventh-Day Adventist. Don't misunderstand, I had a very happy childhood and many things in the SDA were great. But certain things just didn't make sense growing up.

It's not that, as a youth reading my Bible, I was mature enough to compared it to my beliefs and think, "Hum, something is wrong here." That would come much later. No, it was more like a subtle realization that Adventism didn't connect with reality.

Adventism was like those little felts we would put up on the big blue board in school and Sabbath school as a kid. You remember, the dad and mother and sister and brother all going to church in nice clothes--the ladies in hats and gloves--everyone beaming with happiness. Adventism was trying so hard to be that little felt family. But it never got past the felt stage into reality.

I think back on all those Adventist pioneer stories--all the sunny, warm, miraculous stories--like of Ellen White holding up a Bible with the rays of the Lord shining down upon her. It was a world I longed to be in, so sweet and simple. That was God's world. Good, kind, merciful. The Aunt Sue and Uncle Dan world of happy endings around every corner.

Oh, how I wanted life to be that happy little model the SDA church placed in front of us. And I am sure the church tried--truly tried to be that little family! They disciplined themselves to be, they prayed and read EGW's writings of Adventist Home and didn't drink Coke and went to church because they wanted so much to be happy and sweet. They shunned the horrible world. They wanted to isolate themselves, so they wouldn't be stained with drugs, rock and roll, premarital sex and Sunday worship. 

What I saw growing up as an Adventist in the 1960's and 1970's in Texas was that a few adults did a pretty good job of that sweet facade. The Dallas First SDA Church was really full of wonderful people. But SDA teenagers and young adults and some adults themselves? That was different. I saw unhappy, confused, drug-addicted, sexually and religiously abused and suicidal--in a word, "wounded"--kids. 

(There was great relief among the leaders that, even though, their kids fell to the culture with drugs, rock and roll and premarital sex--thank GOD that they were spared attending church on Sunday. Whew! Their lives might be catastrophic failures, but they were sabbatarians. That comforted them.)

Scratch just below that surface of SDA piety and you find failing people who had no idea why their lives weren't sweet and simple, like the SDA model they were taught. They were desperately doing everything right and the more they tried the less they could maintain that appearance. It was so hard to watch, very painful. That is why I write so much about the situation. Because I know how hard Adventists try and how they suffer when they fail.

I can't address everything here, but I would like to make three points:

Wrong Premise

Nagging your spouse or kids to dress for church and showing up looking the part isn't really what you wanted deep down. You wanted the happiness you saw in the little felt-family promise.

Know this: You can never get to where you desire to go by using the wrong road. Adventists may have a legitimate map (the Bible) but they use the Ellen White GPS to listen to instead of looking at the map.

Or another way of putting it: It's like trying to loose weight by not eating. The Adventist diet may work temporarily, but it starves you of the truth you need to be spiritually healthy and eventually you will break and run for the refrigerator. You need to eat of truth and you will be satisfied.

Adventists have constructed a false reality. They live in a world of their own fake history. They don't go to the "deceptive" real history to learn that Sabbath was never changed to Sunday. Constantine wasn't the bad guy they portray--neither were the Catholics for that matter. They carefully cut little snippets of history from their context and strew them together to make a history where they are the stars. That is what I felt intuitively growing up--that Adventists reality was not--real. I'm not just talking about hypocrisy, but unreality. Adventists have carefully constructed their own reality.

When Adventism fails and Adventists actually see that it fails, they blame themselves.

As if Adventism was a math formula. The algebraic equation is good, but you get a bunch of stupid people in there who aren't good at math--of course they never come up with the right answer. They just need to be better educated, practice more. Yet the formula itself is wrong. No matter how genius the mathematician you can't get a right answer with a wrong formula.

Adventists today still struggle using a false premise:

The SDA system of beliefs were and still are  being followed by lots of people unsuccessfully. The most sincere and wonderful orthodox Adventists were and are the most wounded by the system. The liberal Adventists who ignored the SDA doctrines were and are the most well adjusted and happy. The system is a failure, not the people.

They have been so deeply wired to believe everyone out there is going to one day persecute them, they are so entrenched in a paranoid future, that they cannot see through the dark to even know how to get to the light. Or they have been taught the darkness is light.

Getting to the Felt-Family Promise

If it is possible, and I think it is to a point, to get to the warm and sweet happy family, you have to take the right road. And you have to put away error and go towards the truth.

Adventists need to quit isolating themselves from truth. Read mainstream Christian (and secular) writings without the filter of prejudice. Don't assume the authors are deceived or trying to deceive you. Trust other Christians and humble yourself to listen and learn from them. Cling to the clear promises of faith that God will not allow His children to be deceived. He is a good shepherd and will come after His children if they stray. Find the affirming texts of Jesus words and step out in faith.

Engage the world. While Jesus tells us not to be like the world, we are to be a light to it. Take responsibility for the world and don't isolate yourself from it. Don't be consumed with pride and fear of others. 

Listen to non-SDA sermons and find out what Christians have always believed the gospel to be. Read early Christian literature. (It's easy, type in "church fathers" in your search engine online.) Search for the kingdom above anything else in your life. Keep searching until it makes sense. Really. That the gospel you believe fits into reality.

Sainthood isn't going to look exactly like what you were taught

Life is messy. Life doesn't come in a nice little package. Because of sin, our earthly experience will always be fraught with struggles with temptation, relationship struggles, physical and emotional struggles. Jesus didn't say to pick up our Bibles and follow Him to church to sit on a comfy pew and listen to an inspiring sermon. He said, "take up your cross and follow me." Where did Christ's cross lead Him? Well, that's where you're going. He is asking us to do the same. We are to die to self and live for Him. That is a miracle He is asking but He must do it and He will. We must get on our knees and ask Him, over and over--daily.

We can become like Christ. Our life can be full of sweet and warm wonders, but we must be willing to go through mystery and cold shadows we do not recognize first--when we follow Him. Not everything He asks us to do is comfortable. Some things are shocking and hard. Picking up a book and reading about the early church and how they did not believe in soul sleep or keeping Sabbath--now that was truly scary for me. It did't feel comfortable or warm and sweet. It felt like a loud siren of "deception, deception, deception... step away from the book!" But all those studies I did eventually made reality and my beliefs align.

Sometimes God calls us to even re-educate our conscience. (It's not infallible, you know.) Sometimes our consciences need to learn and grow in the Lord. That is hard to believe when we have always been told our conscience is God. (Jiminy Cricket told us so: "And always let your conscience be your guide.) Have the courage to follow what you know to be true, even if it scares you to death. And that may mean taking a sip of Dr. Pepper or even.... (wait for it).... wine. Or even dancing with your spouse or going to a Friday night baseball game or neighborhood cook out. 

There are sins. However, Adventists often don't know what they are! Find out. And don't be muzzled into slavishly following rules that have nothing to do with sin--like not eating out on Saturday.

Walk in faith is a walk sometimes in the dark, but always with God holding your hand.

Seek Christ outside the Ellen White GPS. Follow Christ through that messy, uncomfortable world of reality and truth.

I did. Now reality matches my beliefs. It has given me enormous relief. No more cognitive dissonance. Now I truly see my family becoming that warm, sweet family promised by the little felts. The picture is a little different though. Now, with Christ, that family is a family of spiritual warriors, saints in the making. Wise. Strong. Courageous. Overcomers. Not from shunning the world, but by receiving the grace of courage to confront the world with loving, merciful truth. 


That truth is Christ. I am no longer being disappointed. I quit living inside a world that could only bring disillusionment. I see reality and it may not be what I expected, but it is.... wonderful!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Be Careful What You Adjust To

Humans have this uncanny ability to adjust to life’s changes whether it is tragedy or good fortune. We quickly make this situation our new normal. We need to aware of how we, personally, adapt to these new situations.

This is not only true in our personal life, but our cultural life too.

Think about it. How quickly do you normalize in a move to a new city? That church or restaurant or park quickly feels comfortable after a couple times going. We start watching something on television that seems a little racy and after a while we tell ourselves it doesn’t really affect us and then we watch it week after week and we get used to its vulgarity.

Optimists are the worst or best at normalizing during bad situations. We call it: bouncing back. But sometimes that means they adjust to things that they shouldn’t be adjusting to.

We normalize. It’s what humans do. Be aware of what you are normalizing to.