By Pastor Mark A. McCleary, December 29, 2015: Webster defines peculiar as “odd or strange; queer; distinguishing trait” (The New International Webster’s Pocket Dictionary, rev., 1997). Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable describes peculiar as “The chosen people” (Jews); a London sect (Plumsteaders) who refused medical treatment by relying on the efficacy of prayer and anointing oil by church elders (14th ed., 1989, p. 834). On the other hand, prophetic means “predictive,” “divine foresight,” or “historical events with Biblical significance.” Both concepts are embraced by historic and mainstream Seventh-day Adventists. In fact, they have been synthesized by some in their retelling of the history of the Seventh-day Adventist church’s development from amid the religious fervor of the Second Great Religious Awakening (early to mid-1800’s), particularly in the northeastern United States.
This commentary is a lead-in to who and what I want to discuss, Dr. Benjamin Carson, Republican Presidential candidate and a Seventh-day Adventist church member. According to two publications, The Washington Post and Mother Jones, Dr. Carson is viewed by some as peculiar and politically incorrect. Keep reading and then decide. The Post article, “Good Doctor: Bad Thinker,” was written by Eugene Robinson (Oct. 19, 2015), and the Mother Jones article, “Ben Carson and the Satanic Sabbath Persecution Conspiracy,” was written by David Corn (Oct. 2, 2015). Are such observations and opinions peculiar and or prophetic?
Robinson’s article was written when Trump was in the lead early in the GOP presidential nomination contest. Robinson asserts that Dr. Carson “seems to have lost his mind” and might have proved to be a crackpot and the scariest of all the GOP candidates. He also applauded Carson for his medical resume and for having escaped “a childhood of poverty in Detroit.” He then blasted Dr. Carson for “spouting utter nonsense” during his address to the National Press Club the first week of October 2015. He listed several of Dr. Carson’s faux paus—“his [Carson’s] blather over gun control in the wake of the Oregon massacre”; his assertion on “Face the Nation” (October 11, 2015) that the Holocaust might have been diminished if Jews had had possession of firearms; his claims that he had a gun put to his ribs in a Popeyes “is suspect because Dr. Carson is a vegetarian who says he went to Popeye’s to get french fries”; and he has in the past compared the Affordable Care Act to slavery and called President Obama a psychopath. Robinson’s listings seem to picture Dr. Carson as more peculiar than prophetic.
David Corn’s article for Mother Jones, a cutting edge independent news organization, moved me to say, “Wow!” Corn describes some of Dr. Carson’s beliefs as “unusual.” Such as “Satan is behind the Big Bang theory” and that “Marxists have infiltrated every echelon of American society for decades.” According to Corn, Carson’s most “unusual” belief is one that he suggests is peculiar, while I know it is familiar Seventh-day Adventist discourse. Corn summarizes its salient features as an end-time prediction of Seventh-day Adventists’ being imprisoned by the government or martyred for observing Sabbath (Saturday) and not worshipping on the universally enforced Sunday or Mark of the Beast. His summary is on point for reciting a century-old Seventh-day Adventist prophecy, but rings peculiar in light of Dr. Carson’s potential for winning the GOP presidential nomination. If Dr. Carson should actually win the presidential election, wouldn’t it be peculiar that after he swears to uphold the Constitution of the United States, he would assume “chairmanship” of the very nation that he and other Seventh-day Adventists promulgate will abort its constitution of religious freedom and support a national and universal law against all heretics who refuse to kowtow to this end-time political and social initiative?
“I don’t know what role the Lord has for me in all of this. I do know, in looking at prophecy, that the United States will play a big role” (“Ben Carson and the Satanic Sabbath Persecution Conspiracy,” by David Corn, Mother Jones, Oct. 2, 2015)
Corn’s article mentioned that Dr. Carson confessed how impressed he was when a former Seventh-day Adventist minister who then had an independent ministry, Jan Marcussen, cut and pasted newspaper clippings and used Bible prophecy to declare end-time events and the imminent return of Jesus Christ. According to Dr. Carson, that was over 19 years ago. I agree with Corn that whether such beliefs are “unusual” or peculiar, they should be shared with voters who are interested in real time politics of a major party candidate.
A scripture often cited to promote Seventh-day Adventist peculiarity is 1 Peter 2:9, 10:
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
How can an organization coopt this passage by applying it to themselves when it was written 1,800 years before a Millerite or Seventh-day Adventist existed? Besides, Peter’s use of “peculiar” means “His own special people” and not a particular denominational appellation. They were special or peculiar because they had “come out of” [ekklesia] the darkness of the world’s beliefs into God’s light. In fact, this passage reflects Peter’s ideal for what God was trying to do through Israel, cited in Exodus 19:5, 6 (emphasis added):
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
Another passage that describes a similar description of God’s people is Hebrews 11:13 (emphasis added):
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
Paul’s terms, “strangers” and “pilgrims,” have affinity with Peter’s “peculiar.” Colloquially speaking, “stranger” means foreign or alien and sometimes odd or peculiar, as defined by Webster. However, Paul’s use of the term is closer to Peter’s use of peculiar, which indicates people who have and are transitioning away from former beliefs and behaviors to another (Christlikeness). Thus, Paul attaches “stranger” with “pilgrim,” which signals not only immigrants seeking a new residence, but people who are heading somewhere—godliness and God’s kingdom. In light of Dr. Carson’s rhetoric on guns and prophecy, I think he is more peculiar than prophetic.
Another Washington Post article speaks of Dr. Carson’s peculiarity. It was “Ben Carson’s pitch is off-key next to his singing wife,” by Lacena O’Neal. O’Neal discusses Dr. Carson’s wife’s off-key singing of the national anthem at a campaign event in Iowa (Style Section, Nov. 3, 2015). The article begins with some observations about Dr. Carson’s platform and past history. The latter has been documented in diverse publications about the GOP candidate, such as his being raised by a single mother and his receiving public assistance in the form of a jobs program, eyeglasses, and food stamps, but that he now trumpets against “entitlement” and government welfare programs, which is a major plank in the Republican party discourse in general and Tea Partiers in particular. O’Neal’s article prompted me to think that Dr. Carson is not only peculiar, but prophetic too.
All of my religious life has been in affiliation with the Seventh-day Adventist church. During some of that same period, I lived in public housing, ate government cheese, and survived with food stamps. I am still a member of the church, and for the last 38 years served as one of its ordained pastors. I have not needed government assistance in over 32 years. Nevertheless, both journeys converge in me and make me view Dr. Carson’s rhetoric and political trek as peculiar and prophetic.
The Seventh-day Adventist church developed out of the 19th-century Second Great Awakening and its eschatological fervor. Since its early trappings, it has embraced an end-time prophetic perspective that is rooted in “us” versus “them.” Dr. Carson’s comments to a group of Seventh-day Adventists (above) support this view. This is ironic, in light of many Seventh-day Adventist voices prior to the recent Papal visit to the United States. Some unsanctioned Seventh-day Adventists flooded the Philadelphia metro area with the book written by Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, which promulgates the bloody history of the Roman Catholic Church and predicts that the same church will play a major persecuting role in end-time events. This is what Dr. Carson’s comments to the group of Seventh-day Adventists alludes to and the Corn Mother Jones article describes. Is that peculiar or prophetic? I am almost finished, and you can decide then if you have not already.
For many, it is both peculiar and prophetic that a Black GOP candidate might become president, swear to uphold the United States Constitution, and then either acquiesce or actively work with USA Catholics and others to persecute himself, his family, and other loyal Seventh-day Adventists because of a century-old prophecy by a deceased “prophetess” and pioneer of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. If that is not peculiar, I do not know what else could be. I admit, I am not certain whether it is prophetic or not, but time will tell.
O’Neal’s article aptly concluded that Mrs. Carson, even though she cannot sing by good musical standards (O’Neal’s opinion), would not be singing if her last name were not Carson, and that Dr. Carson would not be pitching his peculiar rhetoric if he had not received government subsidies. The peculiarity of these conclusions might be debatable, but they definitely are prophetic, and I suggest you use common sense and your holy book in determining your faith and practice and in deciding if any of this applies to Dr. Carson, his campaign and your daily struggle to survive.