The new year has started well for me. After a pleasant Christmas and a few relaxing days around New Year’s Eve en New Year’s Day, with a few good books and a visit to the museum for Dutch literature in the Hague (where I had never been before), I am ready to face the future again.
In the last few days I received quite a few reactions to an article that appeared in the December issue of Ministry Magazine. In this article I made a plea for having a more relaxed attitude towards doctrinal developments than we currently tend to see in the Adventist Church. Many expressed their heartfelt agreement. One of the bloggers in Adventist Today wrote that, if it were within his power, he would require all Adventist church administrators to put this article on the door of their fridge and read it daily.
At the beginning of a new year I hope that many, in the Adventist Church and elsewhere, will have the courage to voice their opinions—even if that would cause resistance in certain quarters. If I have any plans for the new year, it is this: To address things that I feel need attention and must change. I see many things in my church that fall in this category. These are things that must be part of a continuous dialogue. Let me just mention two examples of recent events that ought to occupy us.
Firstly, there is the terrible shoot-out on December 14 in a school in Newton, a small town in the state of Connecticut (USA), which left 27 (mostly very young) people dead. Inevitably this fuels the debate in American society about the right to possess and use arms. It is good to see that many Americans realize that there should be fewer weapons among the citizens. But not all agree. The powerful NRA-lobby advanced the crazy idea to have armed guards in every school. The motto is that the only answer to a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun!
In the earlier phase of its existence the Adventist Church was vehemently opposed to the use of arms. Adventists were noncombatants. The commandment “Thou shall not kill” was very broadly applied. However, in many countries this principle has been set aside. Whereas in the past American Adventists did all they could to avoid the bearing of arms, today many consider it an honor to fight for their country (preferably in far-away countries!). Moreover, many Adventists today defend the possession of firearms and are keen to receive training in their use. After the tragedy in Newton, Spectrum published an article about the position of Roscoe Bartlett regarding the right to have a gun. Until a few days ago he was a member of Congress for the Republicans. Of all Adventists to serve in Congress he was the longest-running member (1993-January 2013). Bartlett studied at what is now called Washington Adventist University. He is not only a very wealthy man but also is a member of the Adventist Church. That latter fact has not prevented him from voting against every proposal to limit the distribution of firearms. He called such initiatives ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘illogical’. It makes me sad when I read something like this. The more so, since he says what many of my American fellow-believers also think.
Then there is the incident that concerns pastor Blasius Ruguri, the president of the Adventist Church of the East-Central African Division. According to press reports he has stated that he fully agrees with a proposal that have been submitted to the Ugandan parliament about punishments for homosexuals. The death penalty should be a possibility for practicing homos. When considerable commotion resulted, Ruguri stated, that he never actually said what he was supposed to have said. He had only referred to the official view of the Adventist Church and had then been quoted out of context. It must be feared that, at the very least, Ruguri made some very awkward remarks and may need some media training. But, unfortunately, it is a sad fact that many of our African fellow-believers would fully agree with the plans that are discussed in the parliament of Uganda. This became quite clear to me when a few years ago I spent a month in Uganda at the Adventist University in that country. And this state of affairs continues to weigh heavily on my heart.
These are just two examples. There are plenty of other important issues. So, let us, in this new year, not be afraid to call a spade a spade, and to raise our voices when we see things that we cannot in good conscience accept and that need to be addressed. I, for one, will try to do so in my humble way via this blog-channel.