Sunday, October 4, 2009

Catholicism, Adventism and the Great Gulf of Thought

My father just visited me from across the country. He is a Seventh-day Adventist. Our visit was wonderful because he is wonderful. He taught me about God's mercy and grace as a child. He was a very good example of a loving God and if God is anything resembling my father, we have very little to worry about as far as justice and mercy.

As an Adventist, though, I wonder how difficult his visit was with us. Adventists have a very anti-Catholic set of prophecies including one that has Catholics leading a civic witch-hunt against them in the last days. We, especially we who have left Adventism, will persecute them with ever more degrees of severity beginning with the dreaded Sunday law. We will insist that they worship on Sunday instead of Saturday "Sabbath." Then we will ratchet up the persecution until, in the very end, many will be martyred at our hands. I grew up hearing this scary stuff in Adventist churches and schools--including their universities.

Most people outside Adventism don't understand that I wasn't raised in a particularly strange sect within Adventism, because they don't see this side of the doctrines with their Adventist colleagues and friends. But it is there, under the surface. Their prophetess, Ellen White, predicted these events with visions that have been recorded in her book entitled, The Great Controversy.

What part of these prophecies were lurking in my dad's subconscious as we took him all around Seattle, to our magnificent St. James Cathedral and Pike's Place Market and Mount Rainier? I do know that he is concerned about us spiritually. It was all over some of his comments, like the worried, "Just promise you won't give up spiritually searching...." He even laughingly joked that one of his best friends think we are crazy for becoming Catholic. But his was a nervous laugh.

It pains me deeply to know there is such a gulf in our beliefs and yet we worship the same God. How is it possible that prejudices within the Body of Christ can leave people so paranoid of each other? I wanted to spend some time defending my faith, yet I know that there are no words that can pierce through the cloud of so deeply ingrained misunderstanding. So I prayed and I leave it up to God as to when is the right time, if ever, for a discussion. I am hoping that love will bridge the gap when words fail. Love, perhaps, will reach into places where prejudices have a stronghold and soften their nasty grip.