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Why Adventist’s Need To Be More Politically Involved

Why Adventist’s Need to Be More Politically Involved

The key evangelistic message for many Seventh Day Adventists is Revelation 14.[1] It is a message that will be heard by every tribe, tongue, language, and people. It is a message that must include both justice and mercy. It includes both political and religious involvement. Adventists like the religious part, but many are skeptical that we should be involved on a political level. While there is a necessary separation between church and state they are not mutually exclusive.[2]

The deep principles of life come from an ancient well. Christianity properly understood draws from this well and offers this wisdom to a thirsty world. Some people however feel Christians should stay away from politics. But how then are we to engage the world?

Was it politics when Jesus boldly said to Pilate, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Right after this Pilate handed him over to be hung. Was it politics when William Wilberforce worked from 1789-1833 to abolish slavery?[3]

Was it politics when Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood up to Hitler in defense of the Jews. Was it politics when he utilized the “Confessing Church” to preach authentic Christianity in response to the state run apostate churches?[4] Was it the lack of political engagement that allowed an estimated 83% of Seventh Day Adventists to vote for Hitler at that time?[5]

Was it politics when Gandhi challenged the corruption of the British empire through principles of non-violence he learned by studying the Sermon on the Mount?[6]

Was it politics when Martin Luther King dug deep from the biblical well to articulate “redemptive suffering”[7] to his oppressed church. His church became a movement, King stirred the pot…and was ultimately shot. But he is celebrated by Black and White alike to this day.

Is it politics for the Seventh Day Adventist church to stand for the religious liberty of all people?[8] Is it politics to engage a world that is suffering or to stand up for the oppressed, or to speak truth to power?

I have seen this quote going around. Some people use it to rationalize an isolationist perspective. Here is the quote, “The government under which Jesus lived was corrupt and oppressive; on every hand were crying abuses,—extortion, intolerance, and grinding cruelty. Yet the Saviour attempted no civil reforms. He attacked no national abuses, nor condemned the national enemies. He did not interfere with the authority or administration of those in power. He who was our example kept aloof from earthly governments. Not because He was indifferent to the woes of men, but because the remedy did not lie in merely human and external measures. To be efficient, the cure must reach men individually, and must regenerate the heart.”[9]

The key phrase in the quote above is the word merely “the remedy did not lie in MERELY human and external measures.” As I read about the early Advent movement I see a progressive movement that interacted with important social movements of the day. Ellen White said, “A Seventh Day Adventist who held to beliefs in slavery should be disfellowshipped from the church.”[10]

When the fugitive slave law was passed in 1850. Ellen white advocated civil disobedience. She said, “The law requiring you to return a slave to his master you are not to obey[11]”

Joseph Bates founded an abolitionist society in his home town, John Byington, “1st President of GC” had operated a station on the Underground Railroad.[12] Early Adventism was very involved in the issues of inequality.

The point isn’t about being Democrat or Republican. The point is to live out the life of Jesus as honestly as we can. All human systems are flawed because all humans are flawed, but that is not an excuse to become distant. We live in the tension of being in but not of the world.

As Christians we live by following the example of Christ. Jesus was engaged with the world, but He didn’t think mere human effort was the final solution. But to ignore human engagement, to ignore speaking up for and working with the oppressed, would be to misrepresent Christianity. True Christianity relies on a deeper hope but it continually works for that hope by being light in a dark world.

The people who lived with Jesus knew He wasn’t indifferent, because he spoke up for and he mingled with the oppressed. Ultimately He was put to death because He was willing to engage on behalf of the brokenhearted.

He died because he came to seek and to save the lost and to give liberty to the oppressed. His mission was a deeply political one. To overthrow an earthly kingdom, and set up a new kingdom that was based on the principal of peace. By all worldly measures his mission was a failure. He died by being hung on a tree.

But the story does not end there… “Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”[13] The question is what role are you going to play?


[1] James Nix speaking for the White Estate says “Seventh-day Adventists believe that we have a message for the world found in Revelation 14:6-12.”
[2] Thomas Jefferson promoted separation of church and state while not devaluing religion
[3]Wilberforce found out the fruit of his labor to abolish slavery at his death bed
[5] Spectrum Magazine, Volume 8, Number 3, March 1977
[6]Gandhi reportedly spent two hours in meditation each day, reading from the Sermon on the Mount
[7] Redemptive suffering was the way that King framed meaning into the movement of non-violence
[8] Official statement by Adventist church. This is one of the primary reasons why I am glad to be an Adventist
[9] Ellen White. Desire of Ages, p. 509.3
[10] Testimonies Vol 1 p. 359-360
[13] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001), p. 45.


The Haystack is awesome. Nuff said.

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