Tuesday, December 22, 2009

From Our Family to Yours

Journey to Christmas

by Andrew Hanson

This is the time of year that Christians celebrate the miracle of Christ’s birth. Of course all births are miraculous events, when you think about it. All children are miracles! Not counting the mind boggling biology involved in our conception, all of us exist because of a sequence of past events that is so highly improbable, it makes winning the lottery next to a sure thing! And I think that’s worth thinking about, as we travel our own, individual journeys to Christmas. The following is the story of my family.

It was one of the longest, most frustrating journeys of his life. Alfred was 37, and the year was 1938. He had worn out two pairs of shoes walking the streets of Los Angeles, looking for a job, and when he found one at a refrigerator company, he was sure it was a miracle. When he showed up for work the next day, along with some other guys, a mob of strikers ambushed them. When the others ran, he hesitated for just a moment, and they trapped him against a fence. They had clubs, and it wasn’t until they knocked him down, that he realized that they were going to kill him.

Pauline was playing way up on the hay wagon with her older sister that afternoon. It was the first time that her father had let her ride up there twelve feet off the ground. The year was 1905. She had just turned 5, and it was the longest journey she had ever taken without her mother. Her father had driven the horses almost to Flagstaff to get the hay, and was coming back with as much hay as the big wagon could hold. They were turning into the dirt road to their ranch. She stood up to look for the barn when the wagon lurched, and she fell. It happened so quickly that she didn’t even cry out. The next thing she knew, she was on the ground and the huge iron edged wagon wheel was inches from her face. And then she felt the cold rim touch her forehead.

Alfred decided not to die against the fence. He started crawling as they beat him, and he managed to wedge himself between two parked cars. It wasn’t so easy to hit him there. He was loosing consciousness when the police arrived. They saved his life. His mother and father were Danish immigrants. He grew up on an Iowa farm, the third of 12 children. He was plowing behind a horse at seven and running the farm at seventeen when he came down with pneumonia. The doctor saved his life on the kitchen table by removing fluid from one lung by puncturing his left side under the arm and draining the fluid from his lung into a bowl. He had a scar, a kind of hole in his side, the size of a quarter. He and his wife had been married in 1931 and had been trying to have children for seven years. He was sure it was hopeless and wanted to adopt. His wife insisted that they keep trying to have children of their own.

A mud puddle saved Pauline. The wheel rolled right across her forehead and pushed her head into the ground. Amazingly, she didn’t even lose consciousness, and the accident left her with only a faint scar, a line across her forehead. That was the same year the Adventist evangelist, preaching the end of the world, converted her mother and scared her so badly that her mother had to get her out from under the bed with a broom handle. She was a middle daughter, and too bright for her own good, they said. Her ancestry was English and Heinz 57. That’s what she said when asked. Her father traced his ancestors back to the Revolutionary War, but her mother wasn’t quite sure how, where, or when her relations came to America. Her father’s ranch was between Flagstaff and Prescott, Arizona. He sent Polly away to San Fernando Academy for her high school education because he didn’t want her falling in love with a cowboy. Her mother sent her barbecued quail in care packages. She road a buckboard up the hill from St. Helena to Angwin in 1917 to attend Pacific Union College.

She finished college and began teaching at Glendale Academy in the early 20’s and ended up teaching preachers how to speak properly at La Sierra College, a brand new school out in a Southern California desert. She was brilliant, cultured, a writer, and she had the misfortune to marry a man whom she didn’t really love, a good looking Adventist farm boy who should have had sense enough not to court an independent professional woman. He lost his job as the Dean of Men at La Sierra because of his lack of sophistication and hot temper, and in those days, if you fired the husband, you fired the wife, too. She lost her job the next year. So in 1933, in the middle of the depression, she and her husband found themselves teaching in a two-room school outside San Antonio, Texas. Later, she taught school in Los Angeles and her husband found work where he could before they moved to Glendale, California, in 1940.

I am here today because Pauline, my mother, held out for children of her own. I was born in 1942 when she was 43. My brother was born three years later. My father, Alfred, had long since given up hope. My children are “here” because I survived a near drowning in the Merced River when I was five and a car wreck that involved hitting an oak tree broadside at something over sixty miles an hour when I was 18.

One of her friends told Opal that John was the crazy guy who worked in the hydrotherapy department. He had recognized one of his female psychiatric patients running naked down the street as he was coming to work that day. So he tackled her, threw her over his shoulder, and carried her, kicking and screaming through downtown Oakland and back to the hospital. Imagine doing that in 1931! Her friend said he was good looking. Opal wasn’t interested. She was 21 and had her life pretty well worked out. She was practically engaged to a nice guy down in Glendale where she had completed her nurses training. Anyway, what kind of guy would just grab some naked loony? They said she grabbed every awning and light post along the way. They said he had to hold on to her with one hand, and peal her off the light posts with the other. He must have really strong hands . . . like her father. Of course, it wasn’t much of a journey to just walk by the hydrotherapy department when she went off work. . .

As a kid, John hunted skunks after school on Friday. He did everything possible to get them home alive and caged without getting blasted because if the skunks were shot anywhere except through the eyes, the pelts were almost worthless. And, if he wanted to attend school, he had to do the killing and skinning on the weekend, so he could bury his clothes to get the smell off so he could attend school. A good, mostly black skunk pelt was worth as much as 2 dollars.

His dog had flushed the skunks out of the Oklahoma brush; he had taken their spray on a gunnysack held in front of him and grabbed first one and then the other by the tail. He didn’t do it for sport. His family needed the money. There was a depression on and his family was so poor that John’s mother sewed any new shirt that she made inside the old one. It added warmth. He managed to get his horse over by a log so that he could mount him, and he headed home. When he was thrown from the horse, one of his brothers heard his cries for help, ran across a field, grabbed one of the skunks, and led him home. He had never tried to bring two home at once before. He never tried it again!

He was three when he and his family cleared immigration at Ellis Island in 1913. They were Dutch people that had immigrated to Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great. His father was a butcher and a successful businessman in their little village 50 miles south of Moscow. In 1913 here was a revolution brewing. There was poverty and starvation everywhere. Refugees asked if they could die on the sunny side of his father’s barn.

An angel appeared to John’s father in a dream and told him to sell everything he owned, take the money and book passage to America for as many relatives as wanted to go. He did. There was enough money to take all of his immediate family. His half brother missed the boat, and as a consequence had to escape from exile in Siberia. In New York, John’s father bought train tickets to a little farming town in Oklahoma where his uncle lived. When they got there, there was enough money left over to buy a cow. Through a series of chance events and misadventures, he found himself working in the hydrotherapy department of an Oakland hospital.

It was 1931. Opal had just graduated from the nursing program at Glendale Sanitarium and Hospital. She was a Swede, the daughter of a Seventh-day Adventist Swedish evangelist. It turned out she liked the looks of John, the young man in the hydrotherapy department. It turned out he was a Seventh-day Adventist, too. It turned out to be pretty much love at first sight.

John and Opal were Claudia’s parents. Not only did our children risk nonexistence when I almost drown and hit that oak tree, Claudia had to survive an automobile accident when she was fifteen in which an entire big rig’s load of lumber sailed miraculously over their family’s Volvo.

George was eight and was walking to school when the German anti-aircraft guns protecting one of the Paris rail yards began firing. The American bombers were back. Suddenly, shrapnel from the spent anti-aircraft shells was falling all around him. He started running. He had to get off the bridge over the rail line. He could hear bombs exploding. He ran so fast that he thought his heart would come out of his mouth.

No one had answered the phone. She had let the ringing go on forever. She didn’t have enough money to try again. She was sure that she had put the correct amount of money in the phone and dialed the numbers correctly, but it was a strange country. What did she know? Her English wasn’t that good. Her parents and two sisters were still down on the dock guarding the little they had been able to bring with them from Jerusalem. It was December 24, 1956, a cold, snowy day on the New York docks. Hosanna was a fifteen-year-old Armenian girl. She and her family had just completed their journey to America from Jerusalem. Ellis Island was behind them, and because she was the oldest child, she had been sent ahead to a pay phone to call the strangers who were supposed to help them. Now, in addition to being cold, exhausted, and hungry, she was terrified. She began sobbing.

It was almost midnight on the night of May 15, 1980. It was pitch black below deck. David, Elena, and their three children, a girl and two boys, were on a boat, somewhere between Havana and Miami along with eighty-five other sea sick Cubans who were squashed together like sardines on a boat that had room for only twenty. Fifty of the passengers were convicted criminals, two were insane, one man was in a wheel chair, and the rest were religious undesirables. They had boarded the boat at 6 o’clock that morning, but didn’t leave the harbor. The captain didn’t want to make the trip. The sea was very rough, and he was afraid that the boat would sink. The Cuban authorities told him that if he didn’t leave the harbor, he would have to return to Miami empty. The captain finally decided to risk the trip, and the boat left the harbor at ten o’clock that night. Just before boarding the boat, the family had to give away everything they owned. As they huddled together, they were penniless. They owned nothing but the clothes they were wearing. David and Elena held on to each other and the children and tried not to, by action or conversation, communicate their fears to Elena Margarita, David Jr., and Gonzalo.

George escaped injury crossing the bridge, and he found refuge in the doorway of tobacco shop. He was an Armenian boy living in Paris because his parents had immigrated to France from the Middle East. They had survived the 1913-14 attempts of the Turks to kill or drive out all the Armenians living in “their” country. A million Armenians died. George immigrated to the US by himself in 1949 and lived with his uncle in Los Angeles until his parents were able to follow him.

A lady, who wasn’t really sure why she had ventured out on such a miserable day, noticed Hosanna sobbing in the phone booth. When she asked what was wrong, she discovered that they had something in common. She and Hosanna were both Armenians. Hosanna and her family spent their first Christmas in America in the home of this kindly woman and her family. Hosanna’s parents were also survivors of the Turkish genocide. They emigrated from Jerusalem to escape Israel’s war of liberation. George and Hosanna, through an utterly impossible and improbable series of events, eventually met in Los Angeles, fell in love, and married. They are the parents of our daughter-in-law, Lisa, Jonathan’s wife.

David (a Cuban of Italian ancestry), Elena (a Cuban of Spanish ancestry), Elena Margarita, David Jr., and Gonzalo came to the United States along with thousands of others during the Jimmy Carter presidency. It was called the Muriel Boatlift. The Casanova family left Cuba because they were Seventh-day Adventists and Elena’s father was not allowed to hold a job because he refused to work on Saturday, because David and Elena did not want their sons to be sent to fight in Angola or some other Russian backed revolution when they reached the age of 18, and because there was pressure on the family to send Elena Margarita to Russia for further piano instruction. At the end of their 13-hour trip, they were dumped on a dock in Miami, and became the wards of the American immigration authorities. Elena and David are the parents of Elena Margarita, my son Brian’s wife.

My daughter, Elizabeth, is a very special Christmas story. She was born on Christmas Day in a suburb of Dallas Texas. Claudia and I lived in the San Fernando Valley at the time, and there wasn’t a chance in a million that we could even have known about her, much less have had the opportunity to adopt her, but we did and did! Her ancestors include survivors of the Cherokee Trail of Tears.

She became our daughter when she was four days old and a nurse placed her in Claudia’s arms in a “public” room in a Dallas hospital. She cost us every cent we could scrape up plus $1000 loan from my Dad. When my father picked up the three of us from LAX, Claudia and I didn’t have a dollar between us. We were the richest people in the world.

And now there are seven grandchildren. What an intriguing mixture the next generation of Hansoms and Penner’s and Casanovas and Penossians will be. Danish and Swedish and Armenian and Spanish and Italian and Cherokee and English and Welsh, spiced with a generous amount of Heinz 57. I really look forward to accompanying that bunch on their journeys to Christmas in the years ahead.

And don’t think that you people out there without biological children aren’t invited along. They’re your children, too. All my children and grandchildren are up for adoption. Adopt them! They need your Christian example, your stories of faith and courage, your inherited common sense, your love, and your instruction on their individual journeys to Christmas.

For those of you journeying to this Christmas who find themselves beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow, do some kindness to a child. I guarantee that the golden hours of Christmas will come swiftly on the wing. You will find rest beside the weary road. You will hear the angels sing.

I just briefly outlined our family’s journey to Christmas. Your families’ journeys are just as amazing and interesting as ours. What better time than Christmas to tell your stories. Every child needs to know that he or she is the end result of a million miracles and that their lives are the priceless legacy of infinite possibilities.

Of course its also time to tell again “the” Christmas story, of two young people in love, foolish enough to take their long journey to the first Christmas when she was so close to “her time”. Maybe Mary risked her life because she couldn’t face the self-righteous condemnation of religious folks in her village. Maybe she just knew, with a woman’s intuition, that Joseph could take care of her. Maybe she didn’t want to share the birth of her child with those that had tried to shame her. Maybe she couldn’t stand the thought that her neighbors would call her precious child a bastard. Maybe with the innocence of the young, she trusted the protection of angels.

The Bible doesn’t say whether or not Mary was attended by a mid-wife, but the circumstances of the birth must have been dicey, to say the least. Born in a stable, a first child, the pain, the bleeding, the birth, the wait for the first cry, the flies, the bloody rags. But she and Joseph managed it somehow, as the poorest of the poor have had to manage down through the centuries, and apparently, the place was pretty well cleaned up before the first visitors arrived. By all accounts, the baby Jesus didn’t fuss.

The Christmas hymn has is right. All children, and especially the Christ Child, embody all the hopes and fear of all our years. They are the future; they are our half remembered innocence; they are our second chance, our test of character. They are what Christmas is all about. They personify what we journey to Christmas to discover: hope, joy, wondering love, compassion, gentleness, trust, peace, good will—what God imparts to human hearts, the blessings of His Heaven.

Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Dedication Prayer

Our children need no introduction
You knew and loved them before the creation of the world.
It is we who have just been introduced.
It is they who are the solution to the mystery
It is they who are the miracle
It is they whose beginning
Signals anew the mystery of life

It is not in our power to dedicate them
Dedication to something or someone
Is a rational act that will take place
As it did with Samuel
When they are able
When and where the choice becomes
Theirs to make

It is, however, in our power to dedicate ourselves
This Christmas
To work to create a loving family
A community of believers
A country
A world
That will enable them
Prompted by the Holy Spirit
To make choices
With reason unclouded
By foolishness or impulse
Ignorance or revenge
Bigotry or hatred

As followers of Christ Jesus
We believe that the Gospel is
The Way Things Really Are
The Truth
The Light
And the Way

And if we are successful
In surrounding them with a community
In which love and reason prevail
We will assist them
In choosing a life
And a life’s work
That will honor your gift of life to them
And Christ’s gift of life to all of us.



Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

December 2009
Vol. 5, No. 12

Adventist World is free online. For that reason, I only review or comment on articles and editorials that I believe to be of special interest.

ADVENTISTS ADD 1 MILLION NEW MEMBERS, AGAIN. This increase marks sixth year of seven-figure church growth. “An average of 2,818 people joined the church daily, bringing the world membership total to 16,049,101 baptized believers. Church leaders initially projected a world church membership of 17 million by 2009. However, partially because of corrected membership reports from several church regions, the membership total stayed around 16 million.”

CONSERVATIVE INVESTING HELPS ADVENTISTS WEATHER DOWNTURN. “Mission offerings have held steady since dropping early in the year, but tithe returns from North America—which account for 45 percent of the world church’s budget—continue to decrease, reflecting rising unemployment figures.

“Because church financial officers are uncertain when tithes and offering rates might rise in United States dollar terms, the budget delegates approved for 2010 does not factor in assumed increases in tithes and offerings. . .It reflects a US$1.6 million decrease in tithes and offerings when compared to the 2009 budget.

Church officers also voted to use $2.79 million from the church’s working capital to balance the 2010 appropriations budget.

ONE-DAY CHURCH PRODUCTION RISES TO MEET DEMAND. Requests for more than 100,000 structures are pending.

Jan Paulsen argues that there are 5 THINGS WE CAN’T AFFORD TO IGNORE as church members contemplate the future of the Adventist Church. It’s a MUST READ in its entirety. The following is Paulsen’s summary statement.

“How should we face the coming year? I hope we’ll live deliberately—choosing our path with integrity and with an eye to the passing of time. I hope we’ll choose community over individualism, affirming what each of us brings to the body of Christ. Above all, I hope, as individuals and as a church, we’ll refuse to be satisfied with the status quo.”

80 IS NOT ENOUGH is Bill Knott’s interview with Adventist World Radio President, Ben Schoun. He explains why AWR’s work has just begun

“We have programs available in nearly 80 languages, but 80 is not enough! There are about 6,000 languages in the world. Many of them are very small, isolated languages, and most of those people know other languages besides. But there are generally considered to be about 200 critically-important languages spoken in the world. So you can see that our work has just begun.

“Of course, we have a Christian orientation, so there is a different type of music. We use a magazine format, which is made up of a health segment, often a family life segment, and then a Bible study or spiritual segment. And those topics deal with better living and improving community life—things that catch people’s attention. Some of our studios even give training in agricultural principles, or they may have some children’s stories or educational programming.”

HELPING THE HELPLESS by Sandra Blackmer reports the North American Divisions’ efforts to construct a school and feed and educate orphans in Maluti, a city in the small African country of Lesotho, surrounded by the Republic of South Africa.

Check out the pictures of the editors and staff of Adventist World! They pose for the camera in a two-page spread titled, A TEAM EFFORT.

A BETTER WORLD IN BOLIVIA AND BEYOND by Crystal D. Steeves is a MUST READ if you have any questions about the importance of ADRA.

In the midst of a world in which one-third of the world’s children go to bed hungry, and thousands of them die every day of starvation, Angel Manuel Rodriguez answers the question, Was Daniel a Vegetarian? TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT is a Rodriguez tour de force.

Letters shared in THE PLACE OF PRAYER continue to break my heart.

Reviewing the Adventist Review

December 17, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 35

This issue is information, inspirational, and well-edited. It is also an important issue because it contains two MUST READ editorials and one MUST READ local mission report.

In AN OPEN LETTER TO AN ADVENTIST LEADER, Carlos Medley calls for greater transparency in ministry and explains why it is important and how it can happen.

“I want to see greater transparency in how we conduct God’s business. Too often church members are clueless about the progress, the challenges, or even the status of our conferences, union conferences, and division.

Through the Internet our leaders could make available audited financial statements, baptismal and membership reports, and strategic plans for members. I believe church members want to know how offerings are being used to build up the kingdom of God.”

Fredrick Russell that God raises leaders who are people of their times.

“Next summer our corporate church will be deeply engaged in the selection process of leaders who will take the helm in leading this denomination at a pivotal period in both the world and our church. Now, more than ever, there is need for leaders of the Issachar variety, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do (see 1 Chron. 12:32).

“There should be concern when any growing organization settles for comfort, status quo, and familiarity, especially in the critical area of leadership. While most of us have a penchant toward the familiar, the familiar is not always necessarily what’s best. And may I quickly add that that’s not to say there is no value in the familiar, because there is. But it spells death to any organization where that is the sole criterion.

“There comes a moment in leadership selection for any organization where familiarity and inbreeding can present a challenge. In any organization (church, corporate, academic, etc.) that plays out when people are in a leadership context so long that everything and everybody has a sameness to it. Fresh perspectives are absent. New approaches are rarely considered. Different thinking can sometimes even be threatening.”

A LIGHT FROM ARTICHOKE LAKE by Wendell Pearson recounts how a church of 28 members could enter the mission field.

“As Inspiration would have it, in the early summer
of 2005 Grams moved to Appleton just as the Artichoke church was receiving a letter from an inmate at the 1,500-man medium security prison. ‘Would your church,’ the inmate asked, ‘bring a Seventh-day Adventist meeting to the men at Prairie Correctional Facility?’ And just like that, the Lord answered. The proper arrangements were made, and within weeks the church had penetrated prison walls. It had found its mission field.

“For a denomination that may lack the name recognition of Catholic, Lutheran, or Baptist, the Adventists have made their presence known at Prairie Correctional Facility. Through their efforts approximately two dozen men have joined the church, having been baptized or joining by profession of faith. 3ABN is now available on TV in every cell. More than 100 VHS tapes and DVDs are available for viewing in the chapel library. And books by Ellen White and other Adventists are widely read. The most recent addition to the prison’s chapel library: the 10-volume Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, a gift from Charles and Pam Hanson.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Last Day Event

Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

December 10, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 34

The INBOX was particularly interesting: there was thoughtful discussion, a mistake in reporting was corrected, and there was even a letter from a Jehovah’s Witness.

In his editorial, STANDING UP FOR US, Mark A. Kellner directed readers to www.sdaforme.com, a website created to answer “many [Adventist] dissenters’ claims”, and in GOD WITH US, Stephen Chavez reminded readers that “the great tragedy of the Christmas season is that it doesn’t last longer than it takes to take down the tree and put away the ornaments”.

Tragedy is ever-present. Kirsten Wolcott, a student missionary was murdered, and mudslides killed thirty Adventists in El Salvador and dozens of church members in Northern Tanzania. 25 YEARS LALTER, LLUMC SURGEON BAILEY REFLECTS ON THE “BABY FAE” CASE, and every Atlantic Union College nursing student passed the 2009 nurses’ licensing exam, earning the RN program a ranking of NUMBER ONE.

NAD VOTES on procedural and technical issues at its year-end session, and the REVIEW STAFF has scholars in residence.

The cover feature, NOT JUSTANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL by Gerald A. Klingbeil, discussed Christian theology in an essay chronicling the history of church architecture and its reflection of Christian theology.

In THE EUTYCHUS SYNDROME, Ken Hall challenges worship service participants to listen actively, and provides a strategy for doing it. Dr. Wes Youngberg provides his first installment of strategies for SURVIVING THE HOLIDAYS, and Carolyn Huffstickler, author of THE BOXES, managed to get “five China barrels full of coats, long underwear, and socks” to needy folks in Eastern Europe, thanks to persistence, prayer, and the generosity of Northwestern and KLM Airlines.

WITH by Valerie N. Phillips is a gentle piece that celebrates friendship and community, and A BETTER OFFER by Gina Wahlen is a reminder that even prayerful wishes do not always come true. God may have something better in mind.

Clifford Goldstein’s THIS IS THE END, MY FRIEND, provides information about the Second Law of Thermodynamics and scientific theorizing about the end of the universe. However, when Cliff criticizes scientific theorizing as proceeding “from an apparent a priori commitment to atheistic materialism”, he has muddled up science with religion and scientific theory with religious certainty. This is something that Ben Clausen from the Geoscience Institute refuses to do. (1)

GOD’S END-TIME REMNANT: WHAT ARE THE PRACTICAL IMPLICAITONS OF THIS THEOLOGICAL CONCEPT? Angel Manuel Rodriguez provides a chart that answers that question clearly and definitely. He also provides the following commentary.

“God has a people in figurative Babylon, and it is our mission to call them out to be part of God’s end-time eschatological remnant (Rev.18:4). These are sincere Christians who serve the Lord in different Christian denominations and even among world religions. They are part of the church of Christ. At the present time they are not a visible group; that is to say, they do not possess the characteristics of the remnant, but it is God’s plan to bring them out of their invisibility through the mission of His remnant people. We can, then, suggest that the fullness of the church of Christ is constituted by a visible, historical remnant people who have specific characteristics, and also by loyal believers who are still in Babylon, in exile. They need to hear the message of the remnant in order to reaffirm their commitment to biblical truth and not be deceived by the dragon and its allies.”

According to Rodriguez, while today “there is salvation outside the remnant”, the final remnant will all be Seventh-day Adventists. (This man is Director of the Biblical Research Institute of MY CHURCH?) Angel, what about Mathew 25: 31-36?

December 2009
Ron Numbers Lectures at LLU on the Adventist Origins of Scientific Creationism
Reported by Matthew Burdette

I tried to take down some notes from Ben Clausen, but was sitting in the back of the auditorium, and he was really difficult to hear (and follow) because his mic was not close enough to his mouth, and the speakers weren't loud enough. He prepared a short response with four main points, which are as follows:

1. What can we learn about scientific research?
2. What can we learn about revelation?
3. Apologetics and attitudes
4. How the above three relate.

I was truly impressed with his willingness to admit ignorance. He said, in essence, that the biblical and scientific evidence are at odds with one another, and that the best he could do was to acknowledge both and hope for some reconciliation down the road.

Planning for Failure (Identities have been fictionalized to protect everybody!)

Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams
(click to enlarge)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reviewing the Adventist Review

November 26, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 33

This issue had some stuff that really “twisted my knickers” as they say in the UK. So I’m going to tackle the really bothersome stuff first.


The Marriage, Homosexuality, and the Church Conference held at Andrews University on October 15-17 was a joke. There was no reported “discussion” of the issues with any other than church officials and guests who preached “reparative therapy” who supported the official SDA Position Statement on Homosexuality, even though it was reported that representatives of the pro-gay group Adventist Kinship were in attendance. That’s probably because no one in attendance wanted to debate what the Adventist Church considers a “sexual perversion”, (1) consider the findings of the American Psychiatric Association, (2) or look into the means that are employed in “reparative therapy. (3) What seemed to be important was preserving the ability of SDA’s to discriminate against gays. (4)

The Adventist Church’s position on homosexuality has been and will continue to be challenged not only by gay and progressive Adventists, but members of other faith groups that find our position inconsistent, and not just with our professed Christian values. Kim Ranger, A Quaker, quotes the Seventh-day Adventist Church's Fundamental Belief No. 13, "Unity in the Body of Christ".

“In Christ we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us. We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation.”

GOD-GIVEN NATURE, Kim Ranger’s scriptural argument that gays are entitled to unrestricted membership in the Adventist community follows this review.

Kirsten Elisabeth Wolcott, 20, originally from Virginia in the United States, had reportedly gone jogging by herself on Nov. 18 before morning classes. She was found stabbed to death. Wolcott had taken a year off of school at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, where she was a junior education major.

Brennon Kirstein, a chaplain at Southern, who served as a missionary in Yap when he was a student, said the combination of short tempers and alcoholism among the Yapese people make it a dangerous place to live.

Yap SDA School opened in 1987 as an elementary school and subsequently expanded to a kindergarten through 12th-grade school. The school is run mostly by Adventist college students volunteering as teachers. About 10 student missionaries are serving this year in Yap. Teachers live in apartments on campus. (5)

G. Alexander Bryant reported that ADVENTIST CHURCH GROWTH RATE TRENDS HIGHER IN USA, CANADA, BERMUDA. As of September 30, there are 1,097,217 church members in the North American Division for a net increase of 12,379. This number will increase when more of the expected 50,000 baptisms are counted in the 2009 evangelistic Year of Evangelism. (This is an increase of approximately 10,000 baptisms over the previous year and half of the 100,000 Year of Evangelism goal.) I hope these numbers will be taken into consideration when NAD plans future administratively ill conceived, traditionally organized, and massively over funded evangelistic strategies.

HIGH COURT RULING SUPPORTS ADVENTISTS’ right to reorganize the Southern Africa Union Conference. (Inexplicably, he article did not reveal why reorganizing was desirable.)

Roy Adams asks, how can we give thanks for the Lord’s protection WITHOUT GLOATING when random events kill innocent people? “ A wheel that somehow fell off a truck being towed Wednesday on the Capital Beltway’s outer loop bounced wildly, crossed the median, struck the grill of a tractor-trailer, and ricocheted back across two shoulders and three travel lanes before landing on Channing M. Quinichett’s Honda Civic. . .God was the only one who could have anticipated the tragedy, so why didn’t He?

ANOTHER LOOK A SOLOMON’S POOLS by Randall W. Younker, Constance E. Gane, and Paul Z. Gregor is an archaeology MUST READ. Are the Pools of Jalul the ones to which Solomon refers? Do they go back to Solomon’s time (tenth century B.C.)? The Andrews team is still working on this question.

LOAVES AND HAYSTACKS by Wilona Karimabadi is all about good old Adventist food and why we eat it. Here are cottage cheese loaf and haystack websites that my wife recommends. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/cottage-cheese-loaf-i/Detail.aspx

IN RESPONSE TO DAWKINS, Norman L. Mitchell focuses on the question of origin. “The big bang theory begs the question as to what came before it. For people who ridicule the idea of miracles, to believe something as incredible as the big bang theory—outside of it being miraculous—is puzzling. In my humble opinion the astronomical claims for the big bang and its role in the creation of the universe constitute the best confirmation (outside Scripture) of the Bible’s claim about God’s action in the Creation.”

Doctors Handysides and Landless offer their usual understandable information regarding DIVERTICULAR DISEASE and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Like Roy Adams, Stephen Chavez’s IN HIS HANDS reminds us that life is a tentative thing. ‘It doesn’t come with a guarantee. Every day people leave their homes never to return. We had no control over when and where we were born, and most of us have no control over the circumstances of our deaths. Death is a reminder that our lives are not our own; they’re gifts we enjoy day by day. And length of life is no indication of God’s favor.”

(1) Reasons For Which [Seventh-day Adventist] Members Shall be Disciplined
Church Manual Amendment Actions of the General Conference
Adventist Review
July 14-28, 2005, page 83.

#4. Such violations as fornication, promiscuity, incest, homosexual practice, sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults, and other sexual perversions, and the remarriage of a divorced person, except of the spouse who has remained faithful to the marriage vow in a divorce for adultery or for sexual perversions.


"Contrary to claims of sexual orientation change advocates and practitioners, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation," said Judith M. Glassgold, PsyD, chair of the task force. "Scientifically rigorous older studies in this area found that sexual orientation was unlikely to change due to efforts designed for this purpose. Contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates, recent research studies do not provide evidence of sexual orientation change as the research methods are inadequate to determine the effectiveness of these interventions." Glassgold added: "At most, certain studies suggested that some individuals learned how to ignore or not act on their homosexual attractions. Yet, these studies did not indicate for whom this was possible, how long it lasted or its long-term mental health effects. Also, this result was much less likely to be true for people who started out only attracted to people of the same sex."

“Based on this review, the task force recommended that mental health professionals avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts when providing assistance to people distressed about their own or others' sexual orientation.”

(3) I also suggest checking out Mark Benjamin’s Turning Off Gays in which he discovered that “a loose network of Christian ministries and social workers, with the blessing of the political right, are putting gays and lesbians on the couch, determined to ‘cure’ them”.

By Mark Benjamin

Turning off Gays is a four-part investigation into "reparative therapy", the Christian right's chosen way to convert gays and lesbians into heterosexuals. The following is an excerpt from the first of the four-part investigation.

“Claims about [reparative therapy ministries] are, according to virtually all mental health professions, wrong, bizarre and potentially dangerous. "I can give you a short answer of where reparative therapy fits in with the modern mental health profession: It does not," says Dr. Douglas Haldeman, president of the Association of Practicing Psychologists, a group affiliated with the American Psychological Association. ‘These theories have been discredited for years.’

“Despite their dubious scientific and therapeutic standing, reparative therapy ministries, some of which accept kids and operate like a cross between churches and boot camps, largely function without oversight and licenses.”

(4) “Several Adventist attorneys--including James Standish (GC PARL): Barry Bussey (GC PARL); Gerald Chipeur, a partner with the Canadian law firm Miller Thomson; and Alan Reinach, executive director of the Church State Council that supported California Proposition 8 against gay marriage--addressed the challenges to education and health-care hiring practices posed by gay marriage legislation enacted in Canada and being considered in several American states.”

(5) I have a friend who has been a student missionary in Micronesia. While teaching in Palau, he was beaten so viciously by two of his students what he had to be flown to the Adventist hospital in Guam for a splenectomy. When informed of the Wolcott murder, I asked him to comment on the Church’s student missionary program.

“You have no idea, Andy. Imagine a school where everyone but the principal is new each year. New and untrained. They have two years of college and a week of "orientation" before they arrive. The experienced ones are those who were summer-camp counselors the year before. Oh, and the principal? He got the job because he believes that his beliefs are better than those of the ignorant backwards people he's been sent to improve.

“It's stupid. It's ineffective. But events like this will not end the existing Student Missionary Program. Believers in it see only what they want to.”

God-Given Nature

by Kim Ranger

Kim Ranger is a Quaker and member of Grand Rapids Michigan Meeting. She has recently completed a two-year sojourn with Seventh-day Adventists. She is a senior librarian of Arts and Humanities at Grand Valley State University.

This statement is written for my SDA friends specifically, but also applicable to other denominations including branches of Friends--I addressed the Biblical texts as best I could.

The official statement from Adventist.org entitled "Seventh-day Adventist Position Statement on Homosexuality" asserts that “sexual intimacy belongs only within the marital relationship of a man and a woman. This was the design established by God at creation. The Scriptures declare: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh’ (Gen. 2:24, NIV).” Yet sex is a god-given impulse, not evil in and of itself. This verse isn’t prescriptive, meaning that all men must leave their families and be married, nor does it rule out other reasons to leave one’s parents’ home. It tries to describe why men and women are drawn together joyfully—as helpers, interdependent companions. It doesn’t say that other types of partnerships are prohibited!

However, the SDA official statement does go on to say that “Sexual acts outside the circle of a heterosexual marriage are forbidden (Lev. 20:7-21; Rom. 1:24-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11).”

Within the cited Leviticus passage, verse 20:9 says that “All who curse father or mother shall be put to death” (NRSV). There are those who would argue that we cannot pick and choose which laws in Leviticus we obey and disobey, yet certainly we would not execute children who curse their parents. If we were to pick and choose which laws to obey/disobey, then this particular Levitical injunction, as with the wearing of mixed-fiber clothing, is no longer relevant to our society. However, the more compelling argument comes from Christ having superseded the Torah laws and ordinances. Rom. 10:6 “For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Eph 2:15, “He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances….” Paul’s letter to the Galatians also speaks to blind obedience to the ordinances, especially 5:4, “You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from Grace.” Hebrews 10:1 states that “the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities….”

Romans 1:24-27 refers to those who do not honor or thank God and who make images of creatures to worship instead of worshipping the one God—and thus they do not love God or neighbor but express toward their fellow humans “acts of exploitative dominance or lust, not love” (Marston). That “God gave them up to degrading passions” (Rom. 1:26) concerns God’s abandonment of idolaters, and should not be read as His cursing those who love and are committed to each other and God.

1 Cor. 6:9 addresses male prostitutes and sodomites—which indicates sexual abuse of children, the forcible rape of those who were foreigners or guests, and/or sex outside of committed relationships. Sodomy was also used to indicate copulation with animals. Forcible anal or oral-genital violation of an unconsenting person (be they child, woman, man, or animal) is wrong and is thus defined as illegal, as well as immoral.

Regarding 1 Cor. 6:9-11, reflect also on 1 Cor. 2:11-16. 1 Cor. 2:11 says, “For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.” I was challenged sharply once when I stated that the nature of being gay or lesbian is “God-given.” The nature of lesbian/gay/bisexual (LGB) people isn’t yet truly understood by any of us; nevertheless, our spirituality is of God and I don’t doubt that sexual orientation also comes from God, just as one’s spiritual nature does. My orientation seems to be a basic part of who I am, just as my contemplative disposition is.

As humans who can understand only a small part of what God is, who are we to decree that certain groups of people must not live out their connection to God and each other? 1 Cor. 2:15-16: “Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’” Who would be so bold as to tell God that LGB people are not His? 1 Cor. 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” Yes, even those of us who are not heterosexual! Read 1 Cor. 4:5 on not judging others; “God will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.” Each person can choose how to act based on his/her character and temperament, yet integrity requires acting in accord with one’s deepest self.

1 Cor. 3:17, “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” This seems to me to be an exhortation to those who disfellowship and shun lesbians and gays who have entered into relationships, and try to nullify and change the basic integrity of LGB people! 1 Cor. 4:7 “What do you have that you did not receive?” Sexual orientation is a gift of God.

1 Cor. 5:9-11 exhorts us not to associate with immoral persons—yet if we don’t allow same-sex marriages, then we define immorality, instead of God. We judge and condemn, and thus will be condemned. Romans 10:11 “The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame,’” i.e., God accepts all, and who are we to judge, shame and destroy our neighbors?

The SDA official statement also contains as justification: “Jesus Christ reaffirmed the divine creation intent: ‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one’ (Matt. 19:4-6, NIV).”

In this passage Jesus defines remarriage after divorce as being adultery—why is it taken out of context and interpreted as addressing same-sex relationships? As previously stated, it is neither prescriptive (meaning that each and every man will marry a woman) nor, since it addresses remarriage, should it be read as proscriptive regarding same-sex matrimony. More relevant is Heb 13:4, which says, “Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.”

Same-sex marriages should be held to the same standards regarding adultery, letting God be the judge. Not only “heterosexual” marriage should be honored by all. If we limit marriage to “one man and one woman” then marriage certainly cannot be revered by all, since all do not honor those who respect and wish to enter into the covenant.

The SDA definition of same-sex relationships as sinful forces people to behave in ways that deny their own integrity. But the real question is about how and why we fall in love with another person—and the answer seems to be derived from a mixture of elements including biochemistry, environment, and God. Authentic integrity can include living a life of deep commitment to another person. Same-sex relationships do include the healthy, consensual, physical expression of ongoing care and interest (i.e., sex).

At their best, romantic relationships are founded on spiritual connection—the two people connected with each other and with God. Sin is essentially about separation from God, self, and others. Marriage is about the union of two people caring for each other in relationship to God. With this understanding, why would the marriage of gay or lesbian couples be sinful? That would be a contradiction in terms.

The way we see God is the basis for our response to others. If we understand God to be threatening, domineering, condemning, controlling, abusive, then we carry out these beliefs in our actions toward others. If we are faithful to a loving God, we will practice fidelity in caring not only for our neighbors but also in faithfully uniting with another person in a devoted, healthy relationship. Heb 13:1 “Let mutual love continue.”

Redemption is through faith alone, not works (which includes acts). But as David Glenn pointed out in his sermon on July 9, 2005, faith in our salvation frees us up to do good works. We are instructed time and again to answer when called by God. When two people feel called together by God, an essential part of answering faithfully consists of defining a loving relationship. It would be sinful to ignore that calling, denying the truth of God’s vision for us and the strength of His will.

Most LGBT people I know are very spiritual, very cognizant of “that of God” within their lives. It is God who calls souls into community with Him. However, it is people who decide who may and may not be part of a particular religious community or take part in specific rites. Religion is the form in which groups define the way they reach out to God. It is also a way of codifying human behavior. As humans who can understand only a small part of what God is, who are we to decree that certain groups of people must not live out their connection to God and each other, in healthy, consensual relationships?

Our predecessors denied the right of marriage to African-Americans because they were considered less than human. Until recently, our laws restricted marriage between people of different races. Our predecessors also believed that left-handedness was sinful and persecuted those who insisted on using their dominant hand. Should we follow in the same direction? Again, let God judge, and let us not set ourselves above Him.

Ellen G. White wrote compassionate arguments for racial equality; many of them could easily be applied to equality for LGB people. “Caste is hateful to God. He ignores everything of this character. In His sight the souls of all men are of equal value….without distinction…” (White, Desire of Ages, 403). "You will always find Satan on the side of the oppressor. God does not oppress" (White, Manuscript 5, 47). Why not read her texts in The Southern Work on equal love, reward, salvation, destination, relations, responsibility, and priority?

The standard for Seventh-day Adventist Christian behavior is stated in the church's Fundamental Belief No. 13, "Unity in the Body of Christ:"

In Christ we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us. We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation.

Meister Eckhart said that, “When God laughs at the soul and the soul laughs at God, the persons of the trinity are begotten. When the Father laughs at the Son and the Son laughs back at the Father, that laughter gives pleasure, that pleasure gives joy, that joy gives love, and that love is the Holy Spirit.” One soul laughing with God—no matter the sex, gender, or sexual orientation—or two souls laughing with each other and God—is that not also part of the Holy Spirit and Trinity?

Works Cited

Coogan, Michael David, Marc Zvi Brettler, Carol A. Newsom, and Pheme Perkins. The New Oxford Annotated Bible: with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. New Revised Standard Version, 3rd Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Glenn, David. "Why Are We Missing Out?" Central Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Grand Rapids, MI. 9 July 2005.

Marston, Walt. Unpublished Letter to the Editor. 25 March 2005.

White, Ellen Gould Harmon. The Desire of Ages: The Conflict of the Ages Illustrated in the Life of Christ. Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Association, 1940.

White, Ellen Gould Harmon. Manuscript releases: From the Files of the Letters and Manuscripts. Washington, D.C.: E. G. White Estate, [1981?]

White, Ellen Gould Harmon. The Southern Work. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Association, 1966.

[For additional, extensive exegesis of the Biblical passages cited by the SDA statements, see the Seventh-Day Adventist Kinship site and Someone to talk to...for families of gays and lesbians.]


Dear Lord,
Thank you for fishing
For the memories
For the moments of my life
That are so necessary
For my spiritual
And emotional survival
In a world of chaos
That seems
At every turn to be
A jungle out there

My prayer is
That every reader
Will make the time
To go fishing

The fishing I’m talking about
Doesn’t require a pole
Or hand line
Books or cooking work fine
Or skiing or golf,
Yoga or bird watching,
Gardening or teaching,
Swimming or story telling
Riding or meditating
Praying or skipping rope
Or anything that resets the mind,
That nourishes the soul,
That makes it possible for us
Members of the Christian community,
To be, as Christ commanded,
Spiritually whole
Fishers of human kind.
In a worried world
Of disorder and confusion.


Reviewing the Adventist Review

November 19, 2009
Vol. 186, No, 32

This Adventist Review, with the exception of an important, MUST READ essay by Fredrick A. Russell, is pretty standard fare. WORLD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES chronicles the good news, 2,200 Women Gather in Dallas to Celebrate Christian Freedom, and in Inter-America, 1,000,000 meals were distributed to the poor in a collaborative effort between regional churches and ADRA offices; and the bad, an Adventist volunteer was stabbed as he tried to prevent a street fight outside a church sponsored youth event in London, and an ADRA worker was killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Evangelist Lawton Lowe, 83, has died and Griggs University is at a “financial crossroads”.

I particularly enjoyed the following articles: SEEING THE SPARROW FALL, by Dixil Rodriguez tells the story a former student who was killed in an unnamed war. WHAT’S WRONG WITH FREE? by our own Moscow reporter, Andrew McChesney, has written a real life parable about free metro tickets. And BAD HAIR DAY by Kathryn Lay describes the misery of chemotherapy and what it meant when a friend’s gift allowed her to purchase an attractive wig.

Bill Knott’s editorial, THIS IS THEIR FIRST WORMING, is a sad commentary on the fate of many newly baptized Adventists. I’ll have more to say about evangelism and membership in my next review of the Review, but for now, Knott’s words should inspire some thoughtful consideration.

“Each year nearly 40,000 new believers join the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. Statistics tell us that a startlingly large number of them—sometimes 30 percent or more—drift away in the first 18 months of membership because they don’t find the warmth and security the young of every species need to survive. Though the water may have been warm on the day they were baptized, they found the temperature of their churches lukewarm at best, or positively cool.”

The answer to Fredrick A Russell’s question, IS THERE A BETTER WAY? should be a resounding YES! His courage in asking the Adventist Church “to rethink this system we have of having large numbers of pastors removed from frontline churches and placed into executive positions” should be celebrated by every church member.

“We might at some point, given the massive mission before us and the brief time to do it, have to take a new top-to-bottom look at how we’re organized for ministry—not just a reduction in force at executive levels, but a healthy, comprehensive look at our entire structure. Is having a permanent executive class of leaders the most effective structure for ministry? Is there a better way to use our people resources, or as the corporate world puts it, our human capital?”

These are particularly timely questions in light of the following: “In 1995 there were 13,787 evangelistic and pastoral workers in the field worldwide and 13,742 administrative personnel in the office. In 2007 there were 18,060 evangelistic and pastoral workers in the field and 22,228 administrative personnel in the office. In those 12 years, workers in the field paid out of tithe have increased by 37.5%, while workers in the office paid out of tithe have increased by 61.75%. . .For the first time, we have more people in the office than in the field.” (Tithe—Sacrificing the Sacred Cow, by J. David Newman, Adventist Today, Fall, 2009.)

Heavenly Motivation

From Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click image to enlarge)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Earl Rodriquez

I owe a great deal to Earl Rodriquez. He was a kid I went to school with fifty years ago. He played a part of one of the most important learning experiences of my life.

When I was fourteen, I was so skinny that I was sure that if a girl saw me without a shirt, she would throw up. If I were lucky, she would only giggle, point, and never speak seriously to me again. There came a time, however, when I just had to know if I had to give up hope of a girlfriend and a married life.

So, one day, when the guys and girls were both scheduled to have PE together, I left my shirt in my locker. It was the first time I had ever done it, and needless to say, I was scared and terribly self-conscious when I walked into the gym. You can imagine how I felt when Earl Rodriquez, a kid in my class who was almost as skinny as I was, began to stare at me. I didn’t know whether to punch him in the nose or race back to the locker for my shirt before the girls arrived.

I decided to retreat. In fact, I was headed for my locker when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Earl doing something. I turned my head for a better look, and then I stopped. He pulled his shirt over his head and threw it into a corner. He flashed me a lopsided grin. I found the courage to remain shirtless.

The girls didn’t point or giggle. I decided to rethink some of my notions about being the only one that looked funny, the only one that was afraid to be laughed at, the only one who was “different”. I even discovered that there were some girls who were as unsure of themselves as I was. It gave us something to talk about on dates.

Today, I’m as unsure about a lot of things as I was then. Help me out. Comment. I’ve taken my shirt off first.

Just for Fun

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

November 2009
Vol. 5, No. 11

Note: Adventist World is free online. For that reason, I don’t feel obligated to review or comment on every article or editorial. Obviously, I consider it important to read official church publications. I want to keep abreast of what’s happening in my name, worldwide! And our administrators, editors, theologians, and inspirational writers need to know that what they write is important enough to be taken seriously. So, let them know what you like and what you don’t!

THE ADRA insert is a masterpiece of information, and makes a gift to that brilliant organization in the form of a check or a gift to “one of the least of these”, mandatory!

BEATING THE FLUE by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless can be counted on for excellent information and straight talk. “We have seen a proliferation in the emotional rhetoric of the antivaccine lobby, even one paper suggesting the WHO was going to make the vaccine mandatory in 194 countries at ‘gunpoint’. Such talk is ridiculous.”

ONE FAMILY, TWO LEGACIES reported by Mark A. Kellner, is the developing story of Babcock University in Nigeria. It currently has an enrollment of over 6,000 students. The General Conference and the Nigerian government are working together to establish a school of health sciences that will include a school of medicine.

THE STORY OF ANNIE SMITH by Erica Richards chronicles the life of a young woman who died at twenty-seven. But before her death, she wrote hymns that fortify faith and nourish heavenly hope. I was particularly drawn to her story because she wrote the words of my favorite Advent hymn.

Not far from home! O blessed thought!
The traveler’s lonely heart to cheer;
Which oft a healing balm has brought,
And dried the mourner’s tear.
Then weep no more, since we shall meet
Where weary footsteps never roam—
Our trials past, our joys complete,
Safe in our Father’s home.

Number 12, CHURCH ANYONE? By Chantal J. Klingbeil is the best-written and most understandable explanation of any Adventist Fundamental Belief in the ongoing series.

READING ELLEN WHITE IN THE 21st CENTURY by George R. Knight is a MUST READ. His Ten Important Principles to Keep in Mind not only make sense when reading Ellen White, they also make sense of many troubling biblical passages.

ASIAN ADVENTIST THEOLOGIANS COME TOGETHER FOR THE FIRST TIME IN KOREA. “The conference was cosponsored by the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference, evidenced by the presence of three members of that team, including its director, Angel Rodríguez, and two associate directors, Kwabena Donkor and Clinton Wahlen.”

“One of the important actions of the conference was the unanimous request to recommend to the NSD executive committee the establishment of a regional biblical research committee that could begin to systematically discuss emerging theological questions and prepare helpful theological material for the growing church in that part of Asia.”

What the world needs is more parsing of literalist theology, NOT!

AMBASSADORS OF THE GOSPEL was an October 10 sermon by Jan Paulsen delivered to a congregation of church leaders from around the world attending Annual Council meetings at the Adventist world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, in which he urged the ordination of women and downplayed the academic fuss surrounding teaching college and university students about evolution. Church members will sorely miss his ability to keep the disparate elements of the Adventist Church from flying apart.

“How does your reconciled community use the gifts of its women and its young people? Are we entrusting them with leadership responsibilities? I appeal to you as leaders to look at this again. We have large segments of our spiritual family that need to be ‘brought in from the cold.’ I am sensitive to the fact that culture and local conventions must be respected, and there are great differences in this around the world, but do we have it right? I think not.

“How does your reconciled community relate to the scholars in our institutions of higher learning? They teach and counsel our youth. They seek to discover and clarify truth, and in their quest for truth they will sometimes articulate positions and findings that as a church we think are misguided; and we will address that. But we will not walk away from them, nor do I want them to walk away from the church. If there are aspects of our identity that should be adjusted—fine; we’ll talk about that. We will test them by Scripture and the writings of our prophet. But we must talk—openly, respectfully, and caringly. Then we must journey forward together, bonded by the ministry of reconciliation in which we share.”

I have no idea why Adventist World chose to print the following request from Donald Casebolt. However, it’s an indication of the fear generated when readers are exposed to irresponsible editorializing. As a result, Paulsen is forced to continually reassure the “faithful” that the Devil isn’t loose in the halls of Adventist academia. Unfortunately, fear mongering makes it impossible to have an informed discussion about anything!

“In view of Angel Rodriguez’s response in the July Bible Questions and Jan Paulsen’s statement in “Paulsen Speaks on Issue of Origins” (Adventist Review, July 9), is it not possible for folk in the General Conference or North American Division departments of education to determine which, if any, of our colleges are not teaching the literal six 24-hour days of creation? Would it not be fair to see that this information is printed in the Adventist World that goes to every church member?”

Right then, Eve decided that fig leaves were not enough!

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dream With Me

Major James Nesmeth dreamed of improving his golf game. To fulfill his dream, he developed a unique method for improving his score during a seven year period when he was unable to even touch a club or step on a fairway. Until he devised this method, he was just an average weekend golfer who shot in the nineties.

During his seven-year absence from golf, Nesmeth was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. During most of his captivity he saw no one and talked to no one. It was during the first few months of his captivity that he realized that he must find some way to occupy his mind or he’d lose his sanity and probably his life. That’s when he learned to visualize.

Every day he played a round of golf at the country club of his dreams. Major Nesmeth smelled the fragrance of freshly trimmed grass and the feel of his clubs. He practiced his swing on an imaginary driving range. When he visualized playing a game, he took every step on his way to the ball, just as he would if he had actually been on the course. He didn’t omit a detail. Not once did he hook or slice a shot. He never missed a putt.

Seven days a week, four hours a day, Major Nesmeth played 18 holes of golf in his imagination. After his release, Nesmeth shot a 74 the first time he stepped on a golf course, 20 strokes off his previous average!

My dream for the Adventist church is written in the right-hand column, just under the Adventist Perspective banner headline. I visualize that dream every time I post, and when I do, once in a while I find myself humming the refrain from the musical, South Pacific: “If you don’t have a dream, If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?” Hum the melody and visualize your dream.

Are we worth more dead than alive? That is the ultimate question.

Comic from Over the Hedge: Stuffed Animals by Michael Fry and T. Lewis
(click to enlarge)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Reviewing the Adventist Review

November 12, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 31

WORLD NEWS AND PERSPCECTIVES is an invaluable source for keeping up with church news. (Unfortunately, this section of the Review is not available to online users.) Of particular interest in this section is information regarding the issues confronting the committee revising the Church Manual and their struggle to determine whether or not to recommend the ordination of women. Official church policy has already been ignored in China.*

Gerald A. Klingbeil and family acquired an African Gray parrot who “settled down nicely” and a “rescue” mutt, Amelia, who has yet to learn not to be afraid. P.O. BOX 1844 by Dan Serns is a story in which that number proved to have modern significance. In TIMES OF TRANSITION by Richard A Sabuin, the author tells the inside story of what happened during the four days John the Baptist spent in the company of Jesus. The husband and wife team, Ethan and Mardene Fowler are authors of the book, BRUSHED BACK: THE TREVOR BULLOCK STORY, the life-changing account of a minor league baseball player.

STUDENT AID by Brenda Kornblum describes what happens when Christian students confront the world’s harsh realities in Uganda. Valerie N. Phillips learned an important lesson in real estate and life when she decided THIS HOME IS NOT MY WORLD. And Chandler Riley discovered that SUNDAY MORNING blues could be defeated by a prayer request.

IN UNCLE CAIAPHAS’ EYES, Clifford Goldstein produces a letter written to his niece, Judith. Part of Caiaphas’ explanation for turning Jesus over to Pilate are these words. “But leadership is never easy, and so before the God of our fathers I took my stand in defense of the traditions and teachings of the holy prophets and Moses. I could do nothing else.” Cliff, is this some sort of weird Freudian admission that Caiaphas’ decision might well have been yours?

The Cover Feature, CHARTING A DIFFERENT FUTURE by Richard Hart, offers no new or creative solutions to the problems that face Adventist higher education. (The portraits of people portrayed on the cover and scattered around in the article are crude, unattractive, and distracting.)

Finally, Bill Knott’s editorial, THE HIGH AND MIDDLE GROUND, should not have been written. Editorials like this one make me crazy. Here are the words that had me pulling my hair out.

“In another time and place, I sat with a group of Adventist professionals as we waited for a meeting to begin. The conversation was light and cheerful, full of the gentle teasing and good-natured wit familiar to a group of colleagues who are comfortable with each other.

“One group member, arriving slightly after the others, smilingly offered that he was thinking of applying for membership in an Adventist professional organization to which none of his colleagues belonged.

“The merriment became intense. “But doesn’t belonging to that organization mean that you have to sign a statement that you accept and believe the church’s Statement of Fundamental Beliefs?” one colleague asked incredulously, to the delight of the others present. The laughter rolled around the room, and the latecomer clearly wished he had not volunteered the embarrassing information about his plans. The conversation that had seemed playful took on a decidedly scornful edge, as if to ask, ‘How in the world could any of us do that?’

“What makes the story poignant is that all of those Adventist professionals were then teaching theology at some Adventist college or university.”

In his misguided attempt to protect a “professional organization” and the names of “colleagues”, Knott has managed to deflect his critique of a theological trend he finds alarming and instead, focus readers’ attention on the alleged disloyalty and scornful behavior of “those Adventist professionals [who] were then teaching theology at some Adventist college or university.”

Knott assumes that a question that “produced laughter that rolled around the room”, meant that everyone present “clearly considered it implausible that a trained and intelligent educator could embrace what the church has repeatedly embraced. To them, and to a small but highly vocal group of critics intent on revising even our recent history, Adventism’s Statement of Fundamental Beliefs is somehow a document of extreme conservatism, a mechanism by which theological reactionaries are supposed to have captured control of the doctrinal life of the denomination.”

Who is included in the “small but highly vocal group of critics” and what “recent history” is this group attempting to “revise”? These questions are not answered, and it’s left to the reader to name the “colleagues”, the “historical revision”, and “professional organization”. This is a dangerous game of Fill in the Blanks!

Have you considered that there might have been other reasons for laughter than the one you assumed to be true?

Aren’t you obligated to name “the Adventist professional organization” and name the place and time in which this incident occurred so that “colleagues” could have the opportunity to challenge your allegations?**

Are you aware that your words make rational conversation and debate more difficult at a time when institutions of Adventist higher learning are facing a difficult future?

Have you spoken to the people you accuse? If you haven’t, how can you truthfully report their supposed disloyalty and cynicism? Isn’t that your Christian responsibility before you make blanket accusations, particularly when your “evidence” is not words but laughter?

Do you understand that your vague accusations have slandered every Adventist theologian and Bible teacher in every Adventist college and university?

As Editor of the “Flagship Publication of the Seventh-day Adventist Church”, did it cross your mind that your credibility and the objectivity of the editorial policy of the Adventist Review would be severely damaged by this editorial?

Has it occurred to you to offer your resignation with apologies?

* “North America and Australia have periodically voiced their hope that a plan may emerge that would allow their regions to move forward with ordaining women to ministry. Only in China, where ordination is a function of both the regional Adventist authority and the government–led Three-Self Patriotic Movement, have female Adventist pastors been officially ordained.”

** There was a time in not-so-distant Adventist history when to mention that an Adventist theologian was required to sign a statement that he accepted and believed a Statement of Fundamental Beliefs would qualify that Statement as a creed. This demand would have elicited righteous anger rather than laughter.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

You can’t say I didn’t warn you!

Comic modified from Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis.
(click to enlarge)

Explain This

Once in a while, I plan to challenge to Adventist scientists and theologians of every stripe, to explain how a certain biological phenomena came to be.

For one nematode parasite, the goal is not to escape, but to be eaten. When it hijacks an ant, it turns its host’s back end as red and prominent as a ripe fruit. “This dupes a bird into feeding on it and getting a mouthful of nematode eggs,” says ecologist Steve Yanoviak. The bird spreads the eggs via its feces, which the ants eat, continuing the cycle. (Pages 86-87, The Art of Deception, National Geographic Magazine, August 2009)

Comfort At All Costs?

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Just for Fun!

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Friday, November 13, 2009

No Laughing Matter!

From Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click image to enlarge)

Reviewing Adventist Today

Fall 2009
Vol. 17, No. 4

Ervin Taylor and J. David Newman are to be congratulated! This edition of Adventist Today is a step in the right direction. The graphics are excellent, as is the layout. My only complaint is that there is too little space devoted to LETTERS. Reader response is the lifeblood of a magazine promoting change. And nothing motivates like responses publicly validated and valued.

J. David Newman quotes Ellen White in answer to his editorial question, WHY MUST WE CHANGE?

"Today have many in the church consider being conservative a good thing. Not Ellen White. . .' when God raises up men to do his work. . .He will prepare men for the times. They will be humble, God-fearing men, not conservative, not policy men; but men who have moral independence and will move forward in the fear of the Lord. They will be kind, noble, courteous, yet they will not be swayed from the right path, but will proclaim the truth and righteousness whether man will hear or whether they will forbear.'"

Dorothy Patchett opines in LETTERS, “I could not believe someone could get into my mind and express my thoughts so well. I have been deeply distressed over the very things he mentioned" in THE END OF MINISTRY AS WE KNOW IT by Loren Seibold (Summer 2009).

ADVENTIST TODAY WORKS! By Edwin A. Schwisow is convinced that independent Adventist publications promote editorial honesty. "Adventist Today has helped the church press become more forthcoming. Traditionally church executives have exerted absolute power over the denomination's publications. Bad news about the church is normally discouraged-- and for decades was not permitted in Adventist publications. But now editors of the Adventist Review and other publications are often told to 'go ahead and write the story; better we tell it then Adventist today.'"

THE PIVOTAL DESIGN by Ron Gladden provides a detailed blueprint for church growth. He calls it The Pivotal Design for a Prevailing Church. Gladden describes a church led by a strategically assembled team of pastors and staff that share specific gifts and characteristics. These team members hold [common beliefs] about ministry, life, and God. In general, the culture of the prevailing church, its ‘pivotal design’, must be Christ centered and inclusive.

TITHE—SACRIFICING THE SACRED COW by J. David Newman is MUST READ. He argues that "Church structure, organization, and policies are for the sake of the Gospel, not the other way around”. When funds, including tithe, generated by local churches in North America are used to support a top-heavy church bureaucracy, rather than locally supported programs, the best outcome, in terms of church growth, is negligible. “[Adventists] have five levels to support in our system: local church, conference, union division, and General Conference. The Roman Catholic Church, which is also worldwide, has only three levels: local parish, and Vatican.”

Desmond Ford provides a devastating scholarly critique of George Knight’s THE APOCALYPTIC VISION AND THE NEUTERING OF ADVENTISM. My September review of NEUTERING in the Summer 2009 Adventist Today is less genteel.

LETTER TO A CHURCH LEADER by Kevin Ferris, an elder at the Springwood Adventist Church in Brisbane, Australia, protests the Church’s “scandalous treatment” of Desmond Ford and, by proxy, loyal church members of like mind in Australia and North America. For Ferris, “The silencing of Ford was code for ‘Righteousness by faith is finished.”

HOW DO WE DEAL WITH PIERCINGS by Joe Okimi is a plea for acceptance. “Should some of the younger generation change their appearance? Sure. But some of the older generation should change their mindset. . .In the grand scheme of god’s amazing grace, physical appearance is somewhere near the absolute bottom. Colored hair and body piercings don’t make us saved or condemned.”

Alden Thompson asks the question, IS THE TIME RIGHT? for three kinds of Adventists to learn to live together instead of quarreling. Whether you belong to the Perfectionist Peter Crowd, Paul’s Jesus Does It For Us Crowd, or the Do Your Best Apollos Crowd, Thompson believes that “all three kinds of Adventists will revel together before God’s throne, singing his praises through all eternity.” Maybe in Heaven.

LESS THAN ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY is David A. Pendleton’s review of Help My Unbelief by William J. O’Malley. According to Pendleton, “Help My Unbelief reminds us that while the nature of God does not change, our conception of God does change over time. The universal laws of physics did not change when science transitioned from Newtonian physics to Einstein’s theory of relativity to the uncertainty principle and quantum mechanics. Only our comprehension of those laws changed. In other words, the presence of ‘truths that don’t (yet) fit snugly [don’t necessarily] negate the whole—any more than quantum physics destroyed the usefulness of Newtonian physics in the everyday world.’”

According to Pendleton, “O’Malley proposes that doubt, rightly conceived, can be a virtue. A Christian in the 21st century should exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, for life is (alas) often less than black-and-white, and meaningful patterns must be discerned from shades of gray.”

In SEVEN QUESTIONS FOR DOUG BATCHELOR, Marcel Schwantes interviewed a man with an international media ministry. In addition to Amazing Facts, he hosts another weekly television program, Central Study Hour. He is a featured speaker on two radio programs: Bible Answers Live and Wonders of the World, and his organization has created “multiple evangelism websites”.

He is a biblical literalist and preaches a traditional Adventist “end time” message. His support for “last days” evangelism is buttressed by his belief that “Bible history [is] divided into three epochs: 2,000 years from Adam to Abraham, the age of the prophets; 2,000 years from Abraham to Christ, the age of the Hebrews; and we anticipate that the pattern will continue with approximately 2,000 years from Christ’s coming to second coming.”

ADVENTIST MAN, AT’s “agony aunt”, tackles the following readers’ questions concerning: the role of talking animals in literature, what to do with rich Adventists, the outcome of the ASI convention, whether angels can survive in movie theaters, and what to do about drums in churches.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Literalist Dilemma

Comic from Pickles, by Brian Crane
(click image to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

October 22, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 30

This issue, with two exceptions (three if you count the lead story in KidsView) was worthy of publication. The IN BOX provided a range of thoughtful responses from readers; Roy Adam’s editorial, FOOT WASHING: REMOVING THE EMBARRASSMENT, was generous and inclusive; AFTER by Kimberly Luste Maran was a cautionary tale of needless worry; WORLD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES included the amazing humanitarian work of ADRA and an appeal from Jan Paulsen for young adults to push their agenda, politically and theologically; Reinder Bruinsma wrote a lovely ode to foot washing.

FOCUS ON THE REAL ISSUES, is a timely admonition by Ellen White “not to engage in controversy” with enemies lest we “be diverted and hindered from our work”. HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY by Handysides and Landless is a MUST READ. Jimmy Phillips asks readers to “adopt the Jesus model by taking healing action before we challenge people’s appearance, lifestyle, and theology”.

A HOLY SPELL by Michael W. Campbell is a carefully researched account of Adventist worship practices before the Adventist Church was formally organized in 1863. It’s a MUST READ.

Monte Salin does his usual excellent job of recommending Christian reading. IN This issue the common theme is evangelism. In WAITING FOR THE KING, Elfriede Volke reflects on her glimpse of the motorcade of Belgium’s King Leopold. She was a girl of six in a crowd of “cast-offs of society” waiting to see a king who never noticed her. It broke her heart.

There are three pieces in this Review that are poorly written, but they frustrate and sadden me for additional and more important reasons. The first and most egregiously upsetting is the cover story, JUST 144,000? REALY? by Ganoune Diop. The cover promised to untangle “the secret behind the mysterious number”. It didn’t! This was in spite the editorial “help” of Wilona Karimabadi, author of 144K IN CYBERSPACE, the article’s sidebar that equated the 144,000 with other “tough” theological concepts.

First of all, The 144,000 isn’t “a favorite topic of ‘parlor conversation’—particularly on Sabbath afternoons—among Adventists”. It’s only a popular topic for traditional Adventist literalists, thankfully a diminishing minority, who have to reinterpret the number of the “saved”, a very big number in 1863, to mean a much bigger number today—15,000,000 and counting!

As to the attempt to “untangle the secret behind the mysterious number” we have first to “untangle” words such as “stand” and “standing”.

“The 144,000 are able to stand because they worship the Lamb. Notwithstanding the angels who stand in the book of Revelation, humans are able to stand because the Lamb is standing. Revelation 5 tells us that the Lamb was slain but is standing. This refers to Christ’s death and resurrection in apocalyptic language. The concept of victory is central to the entire message of chapter 5. Without the Lamb’s victory, there is no other victory.

“It is no accident that Revelation 14, in referring to the 144,000, describes them as standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion and that they follow the Lamb wherever He goes (Rev. 14:1-5).”

Finally, Diop, concludes, “The number 144,000 is a symbolic number.” Words fail me once again.

A MESSAGE FOR REVELATION’S SAINTS by Hyveith Williams claims her interpretation of Revelation provides a “comfort, encouragement, incentive to believers facing persecution and possible death! What hope for these uncertain times”. Maybe it’s just me, but her preceding paragraphs describing the fiery liqueur “served undiluted into the cup of divine judgment” to those “tormented” souls who have “the mark of the beast”, left me uncomfortable and uncomforted.

Why KISVIEW features the story Jenny, THE LITTLE MILLERITE, who “wasn’t sure about her relationship with Jesus because her experience had been scary”, i.e. Jesus didn’t return on October 22, 1844, is puzzling. Even though she decided to join “a church” when she was 11 and went on “to study her Bible, and to not follow without first asking questions and studying for herself”, the author fails to make explicit the historical significance of story, the lesson to be learned, or the relevance of the story to the kids reading it.

Geoscience Institute, it hasn’t been 400 years, but it’s been long enough!

Comic from Frazz, by Jef Mallett
(click image to enlarge)

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Modified from the comic Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click to enlarge)