I’ll admit, this week’s video is long. But I hope you have seven-plus minutes to watch it, because there’s a lot in there. And, of course, there could be a lot more. If you want to see something long, take a look at the text of this actual SDA belief, #22:
We are called to be a godly people who think, feel, and act in harmony with the principles of heaven. For the Spirit to recreate in us the character of our Lord we involve ourselves only in those things which will produce Christlike purity, health, and joy in our lives. This means that our amusement and entertainment should meet the highest standards of Christian taste and beauty. While recognizing cultural differences, our dress is to be simple, modest, and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit. It also means that because our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, we are to care for them intelligently. Along with adequate exercise and rest, we are to adopt the most healthful diet possible and abstain from the unclean foods identified in the Scriptures. Since alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and the irresponsible use of drugs and narcotics are harmful to our bodies, we are to abstain from them as well. Instead, we are to engage in whatever brings our thoughts and bodies into the discipline of Christ, who desires our wholesomeness, joy, and goodness.
For a surprising number of Seventh-day Adventists, and even more former Adventists, this doctrine IS Seventh-day Adventism. Forget the 21 statements that led up to it and the 6 to come; for some people, their entire experience of being a Seventh-day Adventist has centred around being expected to live up to a fairly rigid code of behavior. And for many former Adventists, this code — or the way in which it was applied, or the way in which they were judged for not keeping it — was the reason they left. We are not entirely innocent of the accusation that though we teach righteousness by faith, we often act as if we’re saved by works — and often a collection of works that are quite obscure even among conservative Christians, such as not piercing your ears or not eating meat.
Adventist and ex-Adventist subculture is dominated by discussions over these things, and there’s a lot more I could have said here, so that even getting it down to 7+ minutes was a challenge. I’ve tried to hit on two key points in the video: 1) all of these rules sprang originally from deeply-felt and very worthy principles developed by our Adventist pioneers, but turning a principle into a rule and handing it down to the next generation is a tricky business, and 2) I do believe that as a Christian, while our works do not save us, how we live matters … but I’m sorry that our focus here is so much on personal purity and so little on our behavior as it relates to social issues. (This is true to such a great extent that the one traditionally Adventist position that advocates social justice — our pacifism and refusal to serve in combat positions in the military, is not even mentioned in this statement of belief or in the book Seventh-day Adventists Believe…, and I think that omission, and the general disregard of that traditional teaching, is a terrible thing … but again, that’s something I didn’t have time to touch on in the video).
There is so much more that could be said here in terms of the specific teachings about behavior, the principles underlying them, and how we interpret them — but as usual I think I’ll leave this open to comments and see if anyone is interested in discussing it further. I hope so!