The christian church has a long history of shooting itself in the foot. From the way the western christian church forced itself upon the eastern church through the early medieval and Middle Ages through to the way christian nationalism and fundamentalism have forced supposed Christian values/morals upon American society. The use of religion as a tool for oppression of ‘other’ has been a part of humanity every since the first murder took place in Genesis 3 and 4. The call to be our brothers keeper is one that we have shoved into a self first mentality that masquerades as righteous religion.
Society has quickly become a hyper polarised experience where one must take an extreme view on one side or risk being labelled as a hypocrite or someone without morals. The latest trend to place people in a box has been the use of the word “Woke/Wokism” to evoke a feeling of shame for positions that care for others. Another word that has become a dog whistle for people to attack over is nuance. It would seem that humanity has once again fallen into the trap of painting each other into a corner and hoping that those that shout the loudest get the right to decide the rules, ethics and morals that everyone should abide by. My point with all of this is that we have become a hyper polarised society where attempting to take a balanced perspective is seen as weak amongst constant jostling for attention that ultimately drives us further from each other than ever before.
The world is not black and white, we live in a world of brokenness where we simply cannot with a broad brushstroke apply bible verses devoid of their context to every situation. Those that may identify as fundamentalist on either side of the spectrum of politics/religion wish to simplify the complexities of the world and humanity to a one size fits all approach. The big problem being that in my view a simplification of the grand problems humanity faces denies a foundational characteristic of God, this is that God is Love.
When God being love is placed at the centre of our religious theological beliefs it becomes very difficult to paint any group as an evil that must be removed entirely or punished. The call to be our brothers keeper or to fulfil the commandments (Matthew 19:16-30) is to love God first and then to love others. Loving others never looks like force, Loving others does not boast in victory, loving others doesn’t celebrate freedom being removed from people. God doesn’t force his moral law on humanity, therefore why should Christianity force its interpretation of God’s moral law upon people? As Adventists we strongly believe in and advocate for the separation of Church and State “At the heart of the Adventist message is our abiding belief that freedom of conscience must be guaranteed to all. Freedom of conscience includes the freedom to believe and fully practice the religious faith of choice, the freedom not to believe or practice religious faith, freedom to change faiths, and the freedom to establish and operate religious institutions in accordance with religious beliefs.” (https://www.adventist.org/documents/church-state-relations/#footnote_9_1614) Therefore, as Seventh-day Adventists we should be deeply alarmed at the sudden move towards enforcing religious ideas moral assertions upon society. To do this would be to deny the very freedoms that we claim to uphold. If we believe that God is Love and that God allows for freedom of Choice then we should ensure that we are consistent in all areas that we advocate in, this specifically meaning that freedom of mind, body, speech and choice is something that all humans are deserving of no matter the beliefs of the individual. Romans 14:10–12 (NRSV) says “10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.”12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.”
We are all ultimately individually accountable to God and therefore this should lead to us operating from a position of love and respect for every individual rather than placing our own beliefs, assumptions and moral conclusions before others. We are to share the Gospel (Jesus’ act of Love for all humanity through his sacrifice on the cross) with all humanity. The gospel isn’t imposed on people, rather people choose life through the gospel through freedom.
Seventh-day Adventists view the book of Revelation as an essential part of our message to the world. We often get sidetracked with all the signs, wonders and beasts in the second half of the book. All of these symbols are present to answer the key question Revelation asks. This key question in Revelation who/what do you give true worship? This driving question has existed throughout the entirety of cosmic history since Lucifer fell, God didn’t force himself upon humanity, nor did he force himself upon Lucifer. Rather the true revelation of love is to offer himself up as a sacrifice, to provide a way for humanity to choose freedom freely. Lets stick true to our roots and to who we are today as Adventists and advocate for freedom of conscience even when we disagree with the choices others are making (we don’t have to agree with all choices.) The past couple of years have shown that when we impose our position on others it only results in divided communities. The fact our God is love should be the ultimate driver for unity despite our often vast differences.