January 11, 2006

Why Do They Ignore Us?

1501 page5 capany things come to me in my private reflections that never see the light of day--and probably never should. But let me mention one of them here, as an exception: Why are Seventh-day Adventists so often ignored in respect to the important issues and conversations of our times? Or on matters where one would think we?d naturally come in for recognition?

What I have in mind here is not every issue under the sun, but rather those on which I think Adventists have a high degree of competence--either because of who we are or because of the well-known contributions we?ve made in certain key areas of public life over the years.

Three examples:

1. Several months ago I read an article on the Sabbath in Discipleship Journal--a beautiful piece entitled: ?A Day Without a ?To Do? List? by Lynne M. Baab.* The author told how she and her husband had stumbled upon this beautiful institution during an 18-month stay in Tel Aviv, where everything had come to a halt in observance of this sacred time. Completely sold on the idea, the couple continued the practice upon their return to Seattle. In her description of the blessings she?s found in the observance of Sabbath, Baab mentioned a variety of people through whom she has since come to learn more about Sabbath practice and custom. Would Seventh-day Adventists come in for mention? I wondered as I read along. We didn?t. The 1 million of us in North America who keep the Sabbath never crossed Baab?s radar screen.

1501 page52. As Adventists we fall all over ourselves quoting the (James) Dobsons, the (Rick) Warrens, the (Chuck) Swindols, and the endless others. But you can listen to these same people for eons without encountering a single reference to any Adventist source, however eloquent or competent. A prominent Adventist evangelist, now deceased, used to talk about how Billy Graham owns and reads The Desire of Ages and other devotional books by Ellen G. White. If that?s the case, Graham probably takes special precautions to never let slip in public a single morsel of the precious gems he?s gleaned from her.

3. For 150 years and counting, Adventists have affirmed the idea that the universe came into existence by the hand of a personal, all-powerful Creator--?intelligent design,? if you please. For us, each returning Sabbath proclaims this message. And for decades we?ve taken the heat on this issue.

In the United States at the moment a virtual tempest is raging over the issue of ?intelligent design,? a controversy that has spilled out beyond the public schools into the arena of state and national politics. Major newspapers and national television broadcasts carry the story, in both news and editorials, with people on all sides of the issue being interviewed and quoted--from scientists at prestigious universities to ordinary people on the street. But not a single quote from us, not a single reference to us. They?ve never heard of us!

Now, before some reader begins sending me newspaper and other clippings to disprove my point, let me explain that I?m not saying Adventists are never ever mentioned, quoted, or interviewed. Last November, for example, National Geographic ran a major cover story on longevity, prominently featuring Seventh-day Adventists. And ABC News picked up the report. That felt good!

But my editorial is more tightly focused. And my point would be that if we deserve the National Geographic mention, we deserve a whole lot of other mentions, so to speak, in all kinds of other areas of contemporary life. Who talks to us about stress and the Sabbath, for example? About stem cell research, gay marriage, vegetarianism, smoking, alcohol abuse? I?m referring to the United States where I live, and I?m talking national coverage here--coverage my neighbor down the street can run into on the evening news or other national media. It?s as if we don?t exist.

And the question is, Why? Why this universal snub? Is there some deep-seated prejudice out there--some conspiracy to block us out? Or might the problem be partly with us--a lack of conviction on our part, a fear of conflict, a kind of inferiority complex that keeps us from raising our hands and asking for ?the floor,? a feeling we have nothing significant to say?

I don?t have the answer. But in my private reflections I wonder about these things.

* Discipleship Journal, July/August 2005, pp. 28-31.