October 28, 2015


Ben Carson Puts Spotlight on Seventh-Day Adventists (ALAN RAPPEPORT, OCT. 27, 2015, NY Times)

Unlike members of other Christian denominations, Adventists honor the Sabbath on Saturdays instead of Sundays. They tend to be vegetarians, and they continue to wait patiently for the Second Coming and the end of the world.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church counts more than 18 million members globally and 1.2 million in North America, but some skeptics see it as a sect out of touch with mainstream Christianity. While the church avoids involvement in politics, Mr. Carson's emergence as a prominent political figure has presented an opportunity for it to gain credibility.

"We do not endorse any candidates, and we do not use our church for political reasons," Alex Bryant, the secretary of the North American division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said of Mr. Carson's candidacy. "But we do look at it as an opportunity to tell the world, tell this country about Seventh-day Adventism, our beliefs and our desire to lift up Jesus Christ."

A twice-baptized Adventist, Mr. Carson has become one of the church's biggest stars. In his autobiography, "Gifted Hands," he recounts his mother's conversion, which began in the ward of a mental hospital.

It was not until he was 14 that Mr. Carson became truly captured by his faith. Known for having a temper back then, the young Mr. Carson let a petty dispute turn into a tantrum that ended with his knifing a friend. The episode could have been deadly had it not been for a belt buckle that blocked his blade. From that time on, Mr. Carson prayed away his anger.

"My temper will never control me again," Mr. Carson wrote in his book. "Never again. I'm free." [...]

For theological reasons, Adventism has faced tensions with the Roman Catholic and Baptist Churches over the years. Last spring, Mr. Carson was invited to speak at a Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference in Ohio, but he faced opposition because of his beliefs and eventually backed out.

"Dr. Carson is a Seventh-day Adventist," a group of pastors from the Baptist organization B21 wrote in protest of his visit. "Their official theology denies the doctrine of hell in favor of annihilation," they wrote, "and believes that those who worship on Sunday will bear the 'mark of the beast.' "

The church has also had a strongly anti-Catholic strain, and when Mr. Carson decided to attend Pope Francis' visit to Congress last month, Adventist message boards lit up with questions about his presence with the pontiff. Some questioned his referring to the pope as the "Holy Leader" and wondered, "How do such words come from the mouth of a Seventh-day Adventist?"

On the other hand, some Adventists have been disappointed in a perceived lack of tolerance regarding Islam from Mr. Carson, who said recently that he did not think a Muslim should be able to be president. His fierce opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which he has compared to slavery, has also rankled some in the community who say the law is in keeping with the religion's focus on promoting health.

"It was certainly disappointing for me," Sam Geli, a retired Adventist chaplain who considers himself an independent, said of Mr. Carson's remarks about Muslims. "It was very sad."

Posted by at October 28, 2015 5:42 PM

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