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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Common misconceptions

There are many common misconceptions that Adventists have toward non-Adventists or former Adventists. I used to believe them myself. I don't remember being taught them specifically, but I obviously learned them somewhere. And now that I'm on the outside looking in, I've come to realize that the mentality I had is common in many Adventists. It's almost amusing, and yet disturbing, to hear the same words come out of the mouths of so many of my SDA friends or relatives during a discussion. The responses are quite predictable now. I'm sure you've experienced some of these, but here are a few examples.

(And let me preface this by saying that the tone may come across a bit harsh. I don't mean it to. I tried thinking of a better way to write it, but it comes across as "us" vs. "them". As I said before, I used to believe these myself. I'm not trying to attack people who believe this way - I just want to point out that these are misconceptions).

  • When I tell people I no longer believe Ellen White was a true prophet, I'm asked things such as, "So why don't you like Mrs. White?" That is not the issue. My belief that she wasn't speaking for God has absolutely nothing to do my "liking" or "disliking" her. They'll bring up things like, "You have to take what she said in context - don't read compilations," as though that were a cure-all for every one of her odd or contradictory statements. And it assumes that we've heard random bad or strange things about her without checking it out - basically believing "all that garbage on the internet."
  • When I say that I don't believe the 10 Commandments apply to Christians the assumption is made that all morality is thrown out the window. "So you believe it's ok to kill and commit adultery? And steal? And lie?" Really? Why is that the logical conclusion? And even when I point out examples of morality outside of the 10 Commandments, it doesn't seem to change the mentality at all.
  • When I say that I don't believe the Sabbath applies to Christians - "So you keep Sunday? But that's the mark of the beast! God never changed the day from Sabbath to Sunday! The Pope did!" There's so much to say on this one, but I'll keep it brief. In their question, they completely miss the point. I don't believe a day is holy at all. Sunday isn't holy. Saturday isn't holy (it was to the Jews, as were the other feast days - but they were all just a shadow of Jesus). It is incomprehensible to most Adventists that we could believe no day is holy. Their focus (because of Ellen White) is on Sunday vs. Sabbath, but for the majority of former Adventists the day is a non-issue! We are told to worship God TODAY! When I point out that I don't "keep" any day, the conversation usually goes silent. They know exactly how to argue against Sunday vs. Sabbath, but I never once heard in an SDA Bible study or sermon about people who didn't keep any day holy. The "right" day was always the issue in Adventism!

I think that is one reason that as an Adventist we felt so sure we were right. We had seen the arguments - what we thought to be the issues - and Adventists made a much stronger case. What we didn't know then - and what Adventists don't know now - is that those aren't the issues at all. To make their doctrines seem air-tight they build up a straw man and then tear it down with their arguments. They present this picture of what people who leave Adventism are like, but the reality is much different. In my 28 years as an Adventist, I never heard an Adventist say another Adventist left the church for doctrinal reasons. It was always presented as the person was backsliding, going into the world, leaving God, they were hurt by someone in the church, abandoning "the truth", or something along those lines. And yet I would wager that a huge percentage of those who leave Adventism today are leaving for doctrinal reasons.

This is a huge stumbling block when you try to have a conversation with an Adventist. They think they know what you believe and so - no matter what you say- they hear what they think you are saying, not what you are really saying. It's really frustrating. And it's so hard to get the other person to understand that you don't believe that way, because they are taught that is what non-Adventists believe.

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