by Heather Gutman


More evidence of how early Adventists were involved in social justice issues:

Dr. Daniel Kress and Dr. Lauretta Kress (husband and wife, both physicians) were close associates of Ellen White, handpicked to be the founding directors of the Washington Sanitarium, today Washington Adventist Hospital, in Takoma Park, two miles from the General Conference offices. In fact, their personal collection of original letters from Ellen White–the Kress Collection–is one of the major sources for Ellen White materials.

Their daughter, Dr. Ora Kress, married Dr. Will Mason in 1917. They were both devout Adventists, both physicians, and she moved to Kentucky to join his practice there. They served both white and black patients, sponsored black young people to get a college education and even attend medical school. Historians David and Linda Beito have documented the extent of their involvement in social action.

Both Doctors Mason were Republicans in a time when it was the progressive party in the South and the racist establishment was staunchly Democrat. In fact, "he was chair of the county Republican Party and a delegate to the 1916 national convention." Dr. Ora Mason, the daughter of the couple who were close associates of Ellen White, was also involved in politics. "She was a delegate to the 1924 Republican National Convention and two years later ran a credible campaign for Congress but lost in the solidly Democratic district."

So here is an instance of key players in "medical missionary evangelism," as it was labeled at the time, closely connected to Ellen White–who has only positive things to say about the family–involved in social justice issues as political activists. A woman physician in the south, attending to both black and white patients, and then running for the United States Congress. Anyone who thinks early Adventists did not get involved in social justice issues is simply blind to the facts.

These facts are embedded in a book about an African American Adventist physician, a young man they encouraged and sponsored at Oakwood and Loma Linda, who became a major activist in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. It is entitled Black Maverick: T. R. M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power by D. T. and L. R. Beito (2009, University of Illinois Press) p. 10. The original sources are noted on page 234.

Social action and concern for social justice are key threads in the Adventist heritage. All you have to do is read the first volume of Testimonies for the Church by Ellen White to discover this reality. (Or, look at the Table of Contents in her book, The Ministry of Healing. Or, look at the collection of early Bible studies, Bible Handbook by S. N. Haskell, a close associate of White's.) The idea of removing this thread comes into the picture in the 1920s when the Seventh-day Adventist Church was greatly influenced by the Christian Fundamentalist movement. In other words, the idea that Adventists don't get involved in social justice does not come from the wellsprings of the movement, but from later, polluted sources. There is abundant evidence of this fact. This is just one, newly-published tidbit.

Later generations taught this deformed version of the Adventist faith and if you want to see the horrible outcome, then I recommend another new book, Implantation and Growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Rwanda: 1919-2000 by Jerome N. Birikunzira. (2010, Lap Lambert Academic Publishing) Chapter 4 has the key material, covering the period from 1933 to 1994 during which the Adventist Church became the largest Protestant denomination in Rwanda. It ends with the embarrassing role of Adventists in the 1994 genocide which resulted in a conference president being convicted by an international war crimes tribunal.

We cannot afford to ignore this important thread in the Adventist faith as it was understood and developed by the founders. I would never argue that social justice is more important than the "way marks and high heaps" described as core doctrines by Ellen White, but it is an essential part of the whole. Contemporary Adventists who want to ignore it are taking a dangerous position for a world church with a dominate share of some nations and they are simply not in touch with the reality of their faith.


Re: Adventists and Social Justice—More Historical …
On January 26th, 2011 RonCorson says:
Another fine post on Social Justice that fails to define what Social Justice is. Perhaps it is to be inferred since there is not even an implied meaning in the above article that social justice is charity. But then why not just say charity which is defined as :
1.generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless: to devote one's life to charity. 2. something given to a person or persons in need; alms: She asked for work, not charity. 3. a charitable act or work. 4. a charitable fund, foundation, or institution: He left his estate to a charity. 5. benevolent feeling, esp. toward those in need or in disfavor: She looked so poor that we fed her out of charity. 6. leniency in judging others; forbearance: She was inclined to view our selfish behavior with charity. 7. Christian love; agape. Van Jones an Advisor to President Obama defines social justice by saying that true social justice is achieved when everyone’s lives are essentially the same. He is a self admited Marxist. So which social justice should we believe in? Is charity and socialism the thing? Why so much attention to social justice and the need to redefine Christian charity?

Re: Adventists and Social Justice—More Historical …
On January 27th, 2011 David C. Read says:
Put me down as being opposed to genocide and ethnic cleansing. There, now, that was easy.

Seriously, though, "social justice" has a bad reputation among conservative Adventists firstly because it too often becomes a substitute for doctrinal orthodoxy instead of an addition to it. What has tended to happen, as illustrated in the history of the liberal churches, is that once people lose faith in things like the supernatural, God, Jesus, the inspiration of Scripture, etc., they transfer their religious enthusiasm to doing (what, in their opinion, are) good works in the social sphere.

The second problem is that what constitutes social justice differs from person to person. Some people get excited about environmentalism, others about Left-wing economic policy, some about protectionism, others about free trade, etc. It can be divisive, and usually is, along traditional Left-Right fault lines.

Re: Adventists and Social Justice—More Historical …
On January 27th, 2011 Hansen says:
Vain Glory loved religion so much when it paraded down the boulevard in silver slippers while the people applauded. Upward moving young ministers use social justice to grab some headlines as they plan their moves into administration. I didn't see many Adventists stepping up to the plate before the US government launched a tank assault on dozens of its brethren. Instead of stepping into the gap, the denomination unleashed its PR people to effectively distance the church from the very people who desperately needed the church's help. Much easier to kick erring family members to the curb than tarnish the SDA name brand, right?

There was an opportunity for some real social justice, the kind which might have put the church at cross purposes with government. Meaningful social justice often turns out like that. Adventists have no stomach for it. Better use its legal resources filing trademark infringement cases than interfere with government agenices unleashing deadly force against its brethren.

Nearly every person in that inferno had an Adventist background. They were there because of the abuse of Scripture and EGW. To say that they were not Adventists is about as close to a lie as one can get without actually telling it. Their entire theological paradigm was derived from or based upon Adventist eschatology and apocalypticism.

Had Adventists in Rwanda stepped up in defense of their brethren instead of hacking them to death with machetes, there might have been no genocide in Rwanda.

Adventists might like to talk about Social Justice, but when it comes to action, a parade and silver slippers are preferred.

Re: Adventists and Social Justice—More Historical …
On January 31st, 2011 markham says:

Thre is no doubt in my mind individul responsibility is the key to anything related to whatever one may define as social justice. Even its meaning is unclear. One man's social justice may be another man's politics.

The libs seem to hang on to this theme and Monte seems to make the case that because EGW was friends with certain people then she must naturally have approved of their course of action.

I ask the libs — when was the last time you visited a Nursing Home? When was the last time you brought food to an unemployed couple? When is the last time you offered to shovel snow for an elderly couple? Etc?

It's not about theory it's about action such as feeding the hungry, etc. Not the corporate body's responsibility but your responsibility and mine.

Truth Seeker

Re: Adventists and Social Justice—More Historical …
On March 2nd, 2011 Chris Blake says:

David C. Read,

Put me down as being in favor of the supernatural, God, Jesus, and the inspiration of Scripture. There, now, that was easy.

Naturally, what constitutes all of these fundamentals "differs from person to person" and have been twisted and truncated, but that doesn't mean we ignore them.

What we can be indubitably sure of these days is that some people will continually use the conservative/liberal and right/left labels on believers to brand, divide, and dismiss. That way the labelers don't have to wrestle with hard "social justice" passages of Scripture such as Micah 6:8 and Matthew 5-7 and Matthew 25 and a hundred others. That was really easy.

On that count, count me out.

Re: Adventists and Social Justice—More Historical …
On March 22nd, 2011 Nathan Schilt says:

Sorry Chris, what translation was that with the term "social justice"? Those hundreds of Bible references become particularly difficult when you try to read "social justice" into them. Communist literature, on the other hand, is full of "social justice" and "peace" rhetoric. You'll also find, if you care to pay attention, that nowhere does the Bible equate justice with political redistribution of wealth. In fact the Israelites were admonished not to pervert justice by showing partiality to the poor. Leviticus 19:15; also see Exodus 23:3. It would appear from these verses that "social justice", as envisioned by political activists is often an oxymoron.