Another woman died because she wore her hijab incorrectly.

I saw that in the news this week. It’s outrageous. It’s insane. It’s utterly evil.

This is not a statement against God or the many people who practice Islam. It’s a statement about the people who have stopped seeing God and instead are protecting their own comfort and hiding their own spiritual and moral insecurities.

We could make that same statement about any established religious group. This was just the most recent example of that reality at the time I wrote this.

Let me state this less clearly. I have no problem with Islam. And, I have every problem with Islam. Also, I have no problem with Christianity. And, I have every problem with Christianity.

By extension, I have no problem with Adventism. And, I have every problem with Adventism.

What do I mean by any of that? It sounds like a paradox that can’t possibly be true.

Maybe. Or maybe, to quote Obi Wan Kenobi “What I told you was true, from a certain point of view.”

Let’s try it this way. There is the Adventist-based faith and practice of a single believer. And then there is the corporate mandate of the Adventist organization. One is a person whose faith was informed by Adventism, who then went on and grew and found connection with God and became something more beyond that which sparked the journey. The other is a group that not only refuses to move beyond that beginning but punishes those who try to grow and become more than Adventism was designed to contain.

“So, Tony, I’m not sure that was less unclear.”

Ok, fine.

Jesus picked food to eat on the Sabbath. Acts 15 created a clear path for a completely alternate set of beliefs for different “Christians”. Paul later altered it even more when he told one group to do a thing and another group to not do the same thing. Everything about the New Testament grinds the idea of uniform belief AND practice into dust.

And yet, people in Adventism are still excommunicated for not practicing the Sabbath the way someone else decided they should. Others are removed from fellowship for eating or drinking the wrong thing. People are chastised and punished for wearing the wrong thing, or listening to the wrong thing, or watching the wrong thing.

And that’s just in THIS country. No, it’s not universal. But it IS still allowed to happen. And THAT is a failure. The fact that if you were born with your genitals on the inside instead of the outside means you’re considered less than in Adventism, which suggests Adventism has failed. If the color of your skin dictates your place and value in your Adventist faith community, and it still does in some places, Adventism has failed.

“But Tony, sometimes things happen locally that the organization doesn’t condone.”

True. And, they also haven’t taken the steps to stop it, AND some of it they do condone.

“But Tony, if someone is going to be part of a group, shouldn’t they obey the rules of the group?”

That’s a fair point. Now, ask me what the purpose of the group was supposed to be? Is the purpose of the group to defend the group? Or was it supposed to launch people on their way to a connection with God that leads them down a path of God’s choosing?

When I was told the theme of articles, we were all asked to write about, I liked it. It’s the correct question: Reimagining/Redefining Adventism and what that looks like.

And the very fact that we are asking that question means we’ve failed. It’s the correct question AND it’s the wrong question. We are asking that question because we all know things have gone off the rails. It’s the wrong question because we shouldn’t have to be asking it.

The moment we start saying things like “That’s not the Adventist way” or “Adventism believes…” or “How do we fix Adventism…” we’ve ignored a very important point.

It’s not about Adventism. It illustrates that we have made Adventism the point and the goal, and no matter how we say it and justify it, we are trying to defend a group and its beliefs.

But if we are growing with the spirit, that will be a moving target. We will be ever changing as our understanding is ever changing and we will never need to, or want to, defend a static system of practice.

If we are doing it right, we will never care about what Adventism is or what it needs to be because we will be so focused on God and being part of that connection, it simply won’t matter. We only defend the basic set of practices and thoughts because it’s warm and comfy there. There is no need to stretch and grow. It’s the soft recliner we sit in while we watch our favorite show.

Safe, entertaining (maybe), and tells us exactly what we want to hear to ensure we never strive beyond our chair. It validates our worldview, but never forces us to reexamine it and change it.

Jesus challenged everything. Adventism challenges nothing. Adventism is focused on maintaining Adventism. Jesus was focused on changing lives, empowering those lives, and setting them free from the borders other people want to place them in.

Christ didn’t make Christianity. People did. Christ wanted to show people a better way. Therefore, its first followers were called Wayists. Followers of The Way. But then people codified it, stamped it into law, and here we are wondering why no one gets along.

The only way for Adventism to succeed, is for Adventism to die.

Or, at least, die to what it is. Just like the followers of Jesus, Adventism must die and be reborn. We must stop trying to make it look like something and stop trying to keep it looking like it used to. For Adventism to succeed, it must become a place that has nothing to do with Adventism, and everything to do with supporting people as they seek God and follow God’s lead WHEREVER it takes them, even when it results in that person’s life looking very different than old Adventism would have allowed for.

Because it isn’t about Adventism.

It’s about God leading a person and people regardless of if anyone else likes it.

Because if it isn’t about that, we should just pack up and go home. Otherwise, we will do nothing more than argue about Hijabs and food and Sabbath “rules”.

There is a quote from 2013’s “Man of Steel”. “What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?”

Or said this way…

What if God led a person to become something other than what Adventism had intended? What if that person could become something greater?

We need to stop placing limits on what God can do and what people can be. We don’t know what we are doing, and Adventism needs to accept that.

We need to get out of the way and let God show us what can really be done.

Tony Hunter is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and a hospice chaplain working for Gateway Hospice in Northern Colorado. Tony, his wife Nirma, and daughter Amryn live in Firestone, Colorado. Email him at: [email protected]