Ben Carson’s faith (and mine) has already touched your life (COMMENTARY)

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Ellen White, the founder of Seventh-day Adventism, was viewed by outsiders as delusional yet the church she started is now one of the world's fastest-growing. RNS file photo

Ellen White, the founder of Seventh-day Adventism, was viewed by outsiders as delusional yet the church she started is now one of the world's fastest-growing. RNS file photo

Delegates, their families, special guests and visitors to the 60th General Conference Session begin filling the seats for the much-anticipated discussion on women's ordination taking place during the morning business session on July 8, 2015. Photo courtesy of James Bokovoy/NAD

Delegates, their families, special guests and visitors to the 60th General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church begin filling the seats for the much-anticipated discussion on women’s ordination taking place during the morning business session on July 8, 2015. Photo courtesy of James Bokovoy/NAD

In what might well be a “dog whistle” statement aimed at alienating evangelical Christian voters in Iowa who like Dr. Ben Carson, real estate magnate Donald Trump last Saturday (Oct. 24) delivered a oblique judgment of the neurosurgeon’s faith:

“I’m Presbyterian, boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.”

In painting a religion as unknown, Trump seemed to suggest there must be something amiss about Carson’s faith. Carson has credited his Christian faith, and Adventism in particular, for shaping his worldview and contributing to his success in life.

Trump probably isn’t alone in not knowing much, or anything, about the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a Christian movement organized 152 years ago in Battle Creek, Mich., which claims 19 million members around the world, of which a little more than one million live in the U.S.

But the church of Carson’s choice — and, since 1999, mine — has already touched the lives of multiple millions, even if they don’t realize it.

Did you have cereal for breakfast? Thank W.K. Kellogg, who along with his brother, physician John Harvey Kellogg, adopted health principles promoted by Ellen G. White, a pioneering co-founder of the Adventist movement. White advocated for a vegetarian diet, and it was the Kelloggs who pressed corn into flakes that could be served with (preferably soy) milk for breakfast. (Until he entered the presidential race, Carson was a director of the Kellogg company.)

Loma Linda University Medical Center also led out in proton therapy for prostate cancer, saving an untold number of lives. Its graduates include Gillian Seton, a physician who served on the front lines of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia. Another alum was the late Frank Jobe, the orthopedist who invented the “Tommy John surgery” to repair baseball pitcher’s damaged arms.

The Adventist lifestyle, which encourages abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and meat, is credited with extending lifespan. On average, studies including the famous “Blue Zone” project reveal, Seventh-day Adventists who follow the guidelines live seven years longer than the general population.

Beyond medicine, Adventists maintain a large education system, from kindergarten through postgraduate training with 1.8 million students enrolled around the world. In developing nations especially, low-cost, high-quality Adventist education is often a way up to escape poverty.

The church and its members also respect and take counsel from the writings of Ellen White, who we believe exercised the biblical gift of prophecy during her decades of public ministry. But we don’t worship White or her writings, nor do they substitute for the Bible. “Brethren and sisters, I commend unto you this Book,” were White’s final public words, referring to the Bible she held in her hands, at a 1909 meeting of Adventist leaders. (She died six years later.)

Not only do Adventists rely on the Bible as the final word on issues of doctrine, but we also work diligently to protect religious liberty. We’ve been to court on behalf of Sabbath-keepers, and filed a brief supporting Samantha Elauf, the Muslim woman refused a sales job by retailer Aberchrombie & Fitch because she wore a hijab. Adventists believe religious liberty belongs to all people, everywhere.

Mark A. Kellner, a writer in Salt Lake City, worked at the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s world headquarters from 2003 to 2014, including seven years as news editor for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines. This commentary first appeared in USA Today. Photo courtesy of Mark Kellner

Mark A. Kellner, a writer in Salt Lake City, worked at the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s world headquarters from 2003 to 2014, including seven years as news editor for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines. This commentary first appeared in USA Today. Photo by Tor Tjeransen, courtesy of Mark Kellner

What Donald Trump doesn’t know about Seventh-day Adventism could perhaps fill a book or two. But the one million Adventists in the U.S. would be happy to tell him — or anyone else — the full story.

(Mark A. Kellner, a writer in Salt Lake City, worked at the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s world headquarters from 2003 to 2014, including seven years as news editor for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines. This commentary first appeared in USA Today.)

 

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  • Andrew P Boydston

    When people read for themselves what Dr Carson core values are, they will be surprised to learn those values matches what constitutes being a Christian. The “cult” designated-reference only centers on the SDA obsession of Christ Our Savior, and refers to having a health and better living message for complimenting Christian lives, which is apart from the “anything goes world’, hence it is viewed as an apart Christian, therefore a cult label is applied by those who don’t bother to even learn of its Christianity, as Donald Trump has noted.

  • Paul Spence

    OK, so you guys have done some good things in medicine. However, if people like Ben Carson deny the fact of evolution (a fact that does not require any supernatural help) how can we think you are rational?

  • Bernardo

    Added details about the Adventists:

    “Seventh-day Adventists (SDAs) follow most of the beliefs of conventional conservative Christianity: creation in six days, the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, original sin; the virgin birth; the divinity of Christ; the nature of the Trinity; belief in Satan as a rebellious created being; God’s inspiration of the authors of the Bible, the inerrancy of Scriptures as they were written by their authors; the resurrection of Jesus, salvation by the atonement of Christ, considering all same-gender sexual behavior as sinful, regardless of the nature of the relationship; rejection of same-sex marriage, civil unions, etc”

    i.e. Same old, outdated Christian beliefs!!!

  • Bernardo

    And the Adventists are not immune to scandals:

    One example:

    “The Seventh-Day Adventist Church is facing a $13.5 million lawsuit for allegedly appointing a known pedophile to a youth group leader position. Two men have said they were sexually abused by the youth leader while involved with the “Pathfinder” group in the 1970s.”

  • Dr. Benjamin Carson: God’s man for such a time as this. http://bit.ly/1HuLs0k

  • Jack

    Mmmmm…corn flakes.

  • Larry

    Should Carson make it out of the primaries, I will laugh so hard when the conservative Catholic organizations endorse him. The SDA is extremely anti-catholic. They set themselves up as the enemy of that sect (sort of trying to punch above one’s weight class to look tough).

    Btw by all accounts J.H. Kellogg, was a nutcase. He is considered the godfather of modern alternative medicine quackery. (Thanks for nothing)

  • Good job Mark! Cheers! (Shalom too). Steve Wohlberg

  • Debbo

    I agree that SDA is a version of Christianity. I’ve heard SDA members describe their faith as “sort of Old Testament based.” From what I’ve seen and learned, including here, that seems “sort of” true.

    What I find odd is that out of all the things in the bible, they chose to hang their hats on a specific day for their official sabbath.

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  • Kathy

    Correction. Seventh-day Adventists believe in the whole Bible, both old and new testament. Jesus kept the seventh day Sabbath. I don’t think religion should be used against anyone running for president. Our country exists because we wanted a place where each person can worship according to the dictates of their conscience. We should be more freightened of any candidate who would not abide by our constitution.

  • Ryan

    Amen! I concur Kathy. And Adventists are not anti-catholic. We oppose the erroneous doctrines held by the Roman Catholic system.

  • Larry

    Which usually involves calling the RCC,”The Wh0re of Babylon” and its leader “The Anti-Christ”. Nothing hostile about that whatsoever. 🙂

  • It’s always the ones who don’t believe as you do that are the nuts. One of Dr. Carson’s most appealing traits is that he’s not willing to get down into the mud that’s typical of politicians in these campaigns. As soon as the poll numbers start slipping, the attacks begin. It’s a plus for the doctor that Trump couldn’t find anything else to attack.

  • Yvette Rock

    And so have the Catholics religion on a regular basis. There are bad elements in all groups of people. It doesn’t make the religion bad. Your reasoning on this subject holds no ground by the fact most likely there are these bad elements in every religion, race, sex, or gender. I am a proud Seventh – Day Adventist, born and raised. Every day I pray for all that’s in this world. Good and bad. People that do the things you are suggesting should by all means be punished, yet, I pray for them as well. The Bible tells us to love one another and that God is Love. The sooner our country/world gets back to this the better off we will be.

  • Bernice Baker

    Adventists have a long history as conscientious objectors and pacifists. Dr. Carson promotes guns, violence and has many views that are offensive. He does not represent
    Adventist faith but is free to hold his own views.

  • Noelle Lamberton Gaskill

    Bernice Lamberton Baker…you are one smart cookie. Some Adventists believe in science. It’s more of a culture founded on higher education, thinking critically and promoting public health. I find that most educated Adventists are against the fundamentalist Christian, anti-gay, anti-science, blend of anti tolerance than old school fear of Catholicism. This was a long time ago and not part of the current dogma. Get with modern philosophy. The anti-catholic dogma is archaic and the views of most intellectual, highly educated, cultural Adventists have evolved. The view against Catholics was based on fear of being forced to have their Sabbath taken away and not being able to worship or follow the Sabbath as the seventh day of rest. I know no intelligent Adventist cultured person who believes the earth is 6,000 years old or that Catholics are to be feared the new pope is more in sync with what the Adventist church is supposed to be founded on. Humility, care for the poor.

  • Bernardo

    “As a concept, the Golden Rule has a history that long predates the term “Golden Rule”, or “Golden law”, as it was called from the 1670s.[1][6] As a concept of “the ethic of reciprocity,” it has its roots in a wide range of world cultures, and is a standard way that different cultures use to resolve conflicts.[1][5] It has a long history, and a great number of prominent religious figures and philosophers have restated its reciprocal, “two-way” nature in various ways (not limited to the above forms).[1]

    Rushworth Kidder discusses the early contributions of Confucius (551–479 BCE) (See a version in Confucianism below). Kidder notes that this concept’s framework appears prominently in many religions, including “Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and the rest of the world’s major religions”.

    Did the historical Jesus utter a version of the Golden Rule? Luke 6:31 = Matt 7:12- no he did not according to the findings of many contemporary NT scholars.