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Adventist Politics and Dr. Carson - Am I a Sinner If I Put Up a Yard Sign?
Ben Carson Throws His Hat in the Ring
I'm an Adventist and I'm Not Ashamed!
With the entry of Dr. Ben Carson, a world-reknowned Seventh-day Adventist neurosurgeon, into the U.S. Presidential race this week, the light has been turned on our church and the villification and distortions have begun. We all knew this would happen. In the past few days, more lies have been told about what I and my fellow Adventists believe, than I've seen in a 48 hour period in my life. It will get worse. We all know this as well.
Now, apparently, the Adventist General Conference, the governing body of the SDA church has felt the need to state its position clearly with regard to this matter. In an official statement released yesterday, the church has advised its members not to get too "political" over Dr. Carson's candidacy. Apparently getting too political is against church policy and it was felt we members needed reminding. Too late for me I suppose.
To be fair, the IRS also says churches aren't allowed ot make political statements or endorse candidates, despite the fact that our own Revolutionary War was in part fomented from the pulpits of the American colonies. Apparently, the IRS is afraid THAT might happen again. Probably their fears are well grounded.
I can see the rationale for asking pastors not to support political candidates from the pulpit. The pulpit is for spiritual subjects and nothing is more devisive in a church than politics (except for perhaps religion itself). I even understand why the church might want to limit any show of political bias in one direction or another in any public forum by pastors, even speaking ex cathedra. The church has instructed pastors not to comment on Dr. Carson's candidacy, but to refer reporters to the North American Division's public relations department.
Fortunately, I'm not a preacher, teacher or in any way an employee of the denomination and I will continue in my writing to speak "truth to power", as the young people say. I don't believe the church can or should ask me as a church member to be silent on the subject of politics.
I do believe I'm on solid ground in this. Virtually every prophet from Samuel to Nathan to Malachi had something to say to those in the governments of their day. Daniel actually worked for several governments as a high public official and even then, he wasn't terribly quiet when it came to his religion. Jesus called the government of Israel a bunch of "whited sepulchres" (not very politically correct of Him you have to admit) and John the Baptist lost his head for criticizing King Herod's behavior.
Eleven of the twelve apostles were killed by the government for being subversives. The only one to die in his bed was banished, imprisoned on an island and they even tried to boil him in oil once, so obviously he wasn't exactly apolitical either.Not only that, but our church publishes "Liberty" magazine which has a lot to say about religious freedom and the separation of church and state. I'm pretty sure, given all that, that I would be in much trouble with the Lord if I put up a Carson for President sign in the yard.
I firmly believe that, as we live in a nation which God has ordained should be governed of the people, by the people and for the people, and that we are obligated to participate in that governance. It is our Christian duty to do so, otherwise we abandon the governance of our nation to people who have no such scruples about interfering with the rights of others. Adventists very strongly believe in separation of church and state and have been known to lobby officially as a church to prevent laws that restrict the right to worship freely. We even publish a magazine called "Liberty" that lobbies on issues related to religious liberty and separation of church and state. So, we're not exactly quiet about issues that are political.
And we shouldn't be!
I believe, we absolutely must participate in the voting process available to us when it is possible to do so in good conscience and should share the responsibility of building our communities by electing honest, moral and upstanding men and women to public office.
The church, more than a decade ago, further warned that "Adventists should not, however, become preoccupied with politics, or utilize the pulpit or our publications to advance political theories.”*
My only criticism of the official church position is that, without coming right out and forbidding us to do so, it has discouraged Adventists from entering the political arena, despite the fact that we believe that government will eventually fall into the hands of the forces of evil at the end of time. I wonder if the church will have anything to say about "politics" when that happens.
Or will it once again be left to wild-haired prophets to pronounce judgments on those who would abuse, enslave and lead astray the children of God. You know, if you look back at why those old prophets in the Old Testament were talking about the wrath of God, it was pretty much all about abuse of power by authority, whether religious or governmental. God always got mad when the people were doing things like sacrificing tens of thousands of children to perverse gods like Molech every year (Oh, and don't forget the virgins - for some reason those priests and kings really loved torturing young virgins for some reason.) If I were God I'd have smitten the perverts too and with a whole lot less mercy.
So while the church may silence its ministers, I don't believe it has any duty to silence its members with regard to political speech. I remember one famous SDA church founder publicly commented that the Union was losing the Civil War because it wasn't seeking to free the slaves and until they did, God wouldn't bless the Union Army's efforts. Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and the South immediately began losing, so it turns out, like prophets of old, she was right about that.
I hope Dr. Carson stirst things up, I really do. He seems to be unafraid to speak the truth. I fear for him, while standing solidly behind him.............and I say that as an Adventist.
© 2015 by Tom King
*From an official Seventh-day Adventist Church statement, adopted by the Council of Interchurch/Interfaith Relations of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in March 2002.
Seventh-day Adventist Official Statement
As the 2016 United States election cycle begins, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is aware of the increased interest in the presidential candidacy of Dr. Ben Carson.
Dr. Carson’s story is well known to most Adventists, and he is a well-respected physician.
The Adventist Church has a longstanding position of not supporting or opposing any candidate for elected office. This position is based both on our historical position of separation of church and state and the applicable federal law relating to the church’s tax-exempt status.
While individual church members are free to support or oppose any candidate for office as they see fit, it is crucial that the church as an institution remain neutral on all candidates for office. Care should be taken that the pulpit and all church property remain a neutral space when it comes to elections. Church employees must also exercise extreme care not to express views in their denominational capacity about any candidate for office, including Dr. Carson.
We also want to remind our church members, pastors, and administrators of the church’s official position on the separation of church and state. The church has worked diligently to protect the religious rights of all people of faith, no matter what their denominational affiliation.
“We should therefore work to establish robust religious liberty for all and should not use our influence with political and civil leaders to either advance our faith or inhibit the faith of others. Adventists should take civic responsibilities seriously. We should participate in the voting process available to us when it is possible to do so in good conscience and should share the responsibility of building our communities. Adventists should not, however, become preoccupied with politics, or utilize the pulpit or our publications to advance political theories.” (From an official Seventh-day Adventist Church statement, adopted by the Council of Interchurch/Interfaith Relations of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in March 2002.)
As church leaders, you may be approached by your local or national media outlets to make comments on Dr. Carson’s candidacy, in particular as it relates to his membership in the church. Given the national implications of this issue, questions from the media are best handled at the level of the North American Division. Thus, please direct all reporters or inquiries regarding Dr. Carson or the 2016 presidential election to the division’scommunications director, Dan Weber, or associate director Julio Munoz.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church values Dr. Carson as we do all members. However, it is important for the church to maintain its long-standing historical support for the separation of church and state by not endorsing or opposing any candidate.