As Adventists we are (most certainly in the Netherlands) only a tiny minority of the population. That is no doubt the reason why we immediately pay attention when the media say something about Adventists.
In October the new Mel Gibson film Hacksaw Ridge premiered in the United States. It is now also on the schedule of numerous Dutch cinemas. The film is about Desmond T. Doss, who in the Second World War risked his life to save 75 US soldiers in a fierce battle near a dangerous cliff on the Japanese island of Okinawa. The story is so special for Adventists, because Doss, as a Seventh-day Adventists, was a conscientious objector who refused to bear arms. He accompanied the troops as a medic. His courage was so extraordinary that he subsequently received the Medal of Honor from President Truman. I am not yet sure whether I want to see this movie. I have read that the film contains a lot of violence and I am not very keen on bloody war movies. However, I must admit that I am pleased that a Seventh-day Adventist is portrayed in such a positive manner. (At the same I deeply regret that today in many countries Doss’ example of not bearing arms is not followed by the majority of young Adventists.)
Another Seventh-day Adventist, whose name is brought back from the almost forgotten past, is that of the Dutch-Swiss businessman Jean Henri Weidner. He was the son of a teacher in classical languages at ‘Collonges’, the educational center of the Adventist Church at the French-Swiss border, near Geneva. Weidner became the initiator and leader of the Dutch-Paris escape route, which saved some 1.500 lives: Jews, resistance people and pilots whose plane had been downed. The route ran from Belgium, via Paris and Toulouse, to the French-Swiss border near Collonges, or via a difficult path over the Pyrenees to Spain. Some 300 people were involved in this network, of whom more than forty were eventually arrested by the Germans. Many of them did not survive the war.
An American historian, Dr. Megan Koreman, wrote a book about Weidner and his escape route, after three years of painstaking research. The book is entitled Ordinary Heroes and is published by the Dutch publisher Boom. An English edition will shortly be published in Oxford (UK). The mini-symposium held on November 10 in the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel—at the occasion of the publication of Koreman’s book, was attended by scores of children and grandchildren of men and women who owed their lives to the Dutch-Paris route. Since I have been involved with the project in a modest way, I was invited for this event. I was especially touched by the emphasis several of the speakers at the symposium placed on the faith of Weidner, which motivated him to put his life on the line to save others.
And, yes, thirdly, there is also Ben Carson, the (contemporary) Adventist who has become even more well known than he already was as a gifted surgeon and author of books about his life. He entered the American electoral race for the Republican nomination. He was eliminated quite soon, but then he decided to get behind Donald Trump. I happened to see him again yesterday on CNN, when he was mentioned as one of the Trump-supporters who may well be rewarded with a cabinet post. However, while I proudly tell others about Desmond Doss and Jean Weidner, I keep silent about the fact that Carson is a fellow-Adventist. How he could decide as a Christian (as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian!) to join such an amoral leader as Donald J. Trump baffles me. I hope that, if he were to become the Surgeon General in the Trump government, he will never speak of his denominational affiliation. Well, we will wait and see what happens . .