by Mark Witas—
In this week’s episode:
—Local Church Food Banks Help Communities—
With social distancing the new normal, Carmichael Seventh-day Adventist church is lending a helping hand with a drive-thru food bank. Good Day Sacramento visited the Carmichael church on March 18 and talked with Pastor Keith Jacobsen.
Watch the interview: https://gooddaysacramento.cbslocal.com/video/4485464-drive-thru-food-bank/?fbclid=IwAR2IwlTsAYOlafnpKNY9c8jqQR5OqgO2kMMf-JwZgWK6u04b7yxNsdo2J5U
About 400 miles south of Carmichael, Mario Melendez, the community services director at the Spanish American church in the heart of East Los Angeles, with his team of volunteers, served giant bags and boxes of groceries to those in need in their community on March 18. The number of volunteers and the amount of donated food was incredible. 100-150 families depend on Spanish American to meet their needs.
Learn more: https://www.dropbox.com/s/b8eu06c6w4w0063/Servico%20a%20la%20Comunidad.mp4?dl=0
Note: At the time both of these stories took place, California was not under the mandatory “stay at home” order it is today. We’re sure local churches will continue to find ways to serve the essential needs of their communities while staying within the state guidelines!
—A Message from Executive Secretary Bradford Newton—
This week, Pacific Union Executive Secretary Bradford Newton shares how we can serve Jesus during times of difficulty. Watch this week’s episode of All God’s People to hear his timely and encouraging message.
—Women’s History Month: Julia Ann White’s Story—
In 1905 Julia White traveled from Battle Creek to join the staff of the newly founded Loma Linda Sanitarium. Dr. White was the first woman physician on the Sanitarium staff. Seeing the need for more nursing staff in 1905, she initiated a nurses’ training program that became the first school of the College of Medical Evangelists.
Serving as the Superintendent of Lady Nurses, Dr. White taught physiology, obstetrics, and gynecology to the nurses. When the School of Medicine was founded in 1909, she taught medical students.
On the occasion of Dr. Julia’s arrival at Loma Linda, Ellen White predicted, “I think she will do well here.” She was certainly right.
Learn more about Dr. Julia White: https://medicine.llu.edu/research/department-basic-sciences/division-physiology/faculty/john-h-zhang-md-phd/zhang-lab/heritage
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“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” –Hebrews 6:10
Sign up for news and stories from around the Pacific Southwest: https://adventistfaith.com/subscribe/
by Becky De Oliveira—
Shutterfly reminded me yesterday that this past week, 10 years ago, I was on spring break with my children and parents in Kentucky, at Mammoth Cave National Park and Dinosaur World. My kids were ten and six. My parents couldn’t join us for the cave tour since my mother has Parkinson’s disease and would have been unable to manage the rough terrain, tight spaces, and stairs. Later, when we met up with them to stroll around the surface of the park, my six-year-old began enthusiastically explaining to Grandpa everything we had seen and done. When we passed the entrance to the cave tour, where the operator had spent perhaps 20 minutes orienting us to the realities and rules of the experience (he was particularly concerned that we understand just how tight the section called “Fat Man’s Misery” really was so we wouldn’t freak out underground), my son said. “And Grandpa, this is where a man said a lot of words.”
That boy is now 16, and his enduring ability to distill almost anything he sees to its basic and most essential quality occasionally astonishes me. Watching a reality TV show about couples, he will say something like, “This relationship is 99 percent her and only one percent him.” Since we’ve all been in a de facto shelter-in-place for the past week here in Colorado—going out only to take walks and make the occasional dart to the grocery store, or, on Monday, to McDonald’s for St. Patrick’s Day shamrock shakes obtained through the drive-thru—he has had more opportunity than usual to share his insights. “Dad is more religious than you are,” he said.
“How do you figure?” I asked, resisting the urge to demand an operationalized definition of the construct religious. I don’t disagree with my son; my husband is more religious than I am. But I’m not sure why. And I really wanted to know how the difference between us appears to a 16-year-old who has spent his entire life watching us, quietly amassing data.
“Dad reads only religious books,” he offered as his first piece of evidence. “You read things like Fifty Shades of Grey.” (For the record, I have never read a single word of the Fifty Shades franchise. He is thinking of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, a book I embarrassed him by bringing to school when I substitute-taught his seventh-grade class, thinking I could read it during lunch and gym class, my free periods. I assumed the kids would associate the name with the county in England. This was a grave misjudgment on my part.) He went on to explain that Dad also prays more often than I do, that he encourages prayer as a solution to problems, something I never do, and that he thinks and talks about religion all the time. “If I have a problem,” my son said, “you offer a solution. Dad tells me to pray.”
On the one hand, being the person that I am, I found this assessment quite flattering. I am a rational being—one who offers solutions rather than magical thinking. But in the midst of the crisis in which we find ourselves, I’m not, to be honest, finding solace in much of anything. People are saying a lot of words. Some of them are what I would describe as religious platitudes. (“Let go and let God.” “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”) Others are based on data or reason or common sense or any of a thousand other epistemological models, and they pretty much add up to…a lot of words. I’m adding to those words right here, on this page, as I type. Words are the only thing I know how to do, the only skill I have, and here, right now, they begin to fail me.
We are facing the kind of uncertainty none of us ever expected. I have friends who have lost jobs, lost their salaries for the foreseeable future. Schools and universities closed. If we’re lucky, we are working from home—and wondering how long that will last. Worrying about how many will get sick, about what happens if food runs out. Most of us have lost investments. Some have to put off retirement, like what happened in 2008. One of my clients told me this week he lost just under a million dollars, but he was pretty sanguine about it. He has lost more than money in his life—his wife died suddenly nearly 20 years ago when his daughters were teenagers. “Don’t worry, Becky,” he said. “We are people of faith and we have to believe that God has us, through everything that happens.”
Well, no. We don’t have to believe that. Or anything. We can be skeptical, can let our thoughts go to dark places, thinking of all the people who have had faith that went unrewarded. Anne Frank and her family. The Tutsis in Rwanda. Everyone you’ve ever known who died of cancer. But maybe this is a good time to experiment more with faith—not just words but faith. That feeling of peace that can suddenly wash over you, unbidden, that makes you quite certain that no matter how cliché it might sound, you really do believe that God has us, through everything that happens.
Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral student in research methods working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado.
In this week’s All God’s People—
From the Pacific Union Conference: Coronavirus Update and Resources
We have watched together as the coronavirus crisis has caused the leaders in our nation and community to call for the virtual suspension of public life. Our church leaders have prayerfully decided to cancel worship services in most of the churches across the Pacific Southwest, and activities and instruction have been suspended in the majority of our schools. Almost all of the church business meetings and events are canceled or postponed well into April.
General Conference, North American Division, and Pacific Union Conference personnel are all working remotely, and the office buildings are closed. This is true for several of our conferences as well. La Sierra University and Pacific Union College—as well as Loma Linda University and many of the other Adventist Colleges across the country—have moved to online instruction for the Spring Quarter.
—Connecting Despite Distance—
The leaders of our churches, schools, and hospitals are carefully following the recommendations and requirements of civil authorities—recognizing that public health and safety are paramount during this time.
As new terms like social distancing and self-quarantine have become commonplace, our understanding of how we relate to one another has been challenged and changed. The handshakes must now become phone calls and text messages. While we may be constrained from embracing, we can still be warm and appreciative in our conversations with one another—verbal and virtual.
The fiscal viability and health of our ministries and churches is very much at risk because of the impact of the coronavirus crisis. We are thinking quite specifically about the tithe and the support of the church and congregation that you are a part of. God will be faithful to us in helping us meet every situation, of this we have no doubt. And each of us is given the opportunity to be a part of how His mission is fulfilled.
Please continue to pray for our pastors, teachers, and leaders. Special prayer is needed for those who are serving in our hospitals and clinics—and for the thousands of dedicated women and men serving in healthcare throughout our nation and the world. Pray for the health and safety of all those who are personally impacted by this virus.
Join us in praying that the crisis will end soon and that our communities will be spared further losses. Thank you for your faithfulness in the support of our shared faith. May you sense God’s blessing and grace during this time.
—Churches Go Online—
Our churches have responded so wonderfully to the extraordinary task of keeping our members informed and engaged during this time. Many churches are live-streaming their worship services and are using online tools and social media to bring our churches together virtually.
Bryant Taylor, media pastor at Azure Hills church, recently shared tips on streaming sermons. He covers prerecording as well as live stream options.
Streaming your Sermon: https://vimeo.com/398403274?fbclid=IwAR1vJy1t4pYpyuI-gQxSVMR8L6Xfi2mydPsPW4tb6WXVGCeEre2S6s5RGmA
—Continuing Support of the Gospel Ministry During COVID-19—
Orville Ortiz, treasurer and CFO of the Southern California Conference recently responded to frequently asked questions about the online tool for supporting ministry—Adventist Giving. Watch the video on YouTube via the links below.
—World Church Executive Committee Votes to Postpone General Conference Session to Spring of 2021—
Read the statement—
Our thoughts and prayers are with all of our students, both in and out of the country, who are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. This is a time for us to do all we can to stay healthy and keep from spreading this terrible disease. To help check the advance of this virus, institutions and organizations are taking steps to suspend meetings, increase social distancing, and limit in-person gatherings. Your school may be one of those currently limiting coursework to online classes. It is important to follow whatever guidelines your college or university is imposing—not so much to prevent the spread of the virus but to slow it down so health workers and hospital staff will be able to keep up with the growing number of those contracting it. At this point, we are all just trying to stay ahead of what President Trump is now declaring an official state of emergency.
The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, emphasized the important role each of us plays in curbing the spread of the coronavirus with these words:
“Changing our actions for a short period of time may save the life of one or more people you know. That’s the choice before us. Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease. Not holding that concert or community event can have cascading effects—saving dozens of lives and preserving critical health care resources that your family may need a month from now. The people in our lives who are most at risk—seniors and those with underlying health conditions—are depending on all of us to make the right choice.”
Let’s make sure we are doing all we can to limit the spread of COVID-19. We have been instructed to wash our hands after touching anything, keep our hands away from our face as much as possible, keep a healthy 3- to 6-foot distance from others, and isolate ourselves from large gatherings. We may not be able to stop it, but hopefully we can slow it down by carefully following these simple guidelines.
Every day we are learning more about this virus and how to manage our lives as it spreads. It is important to remember that God has not forgotten us. He is a good, good Father and knows us all by name. God’s promise to Israel during their captivity in Babylon is a great comfort:
“When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
Do not be afraid, for I am with you…
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made”
(Isaiah 43:2, 3, 5, 7, NIV).
For more information concerning COVID-19 and updated information from the North American Division, click on: https://www.nadadventist.org/news/nad-administration-shares-information-regarding-covid-19-and-division-response
Here’s a great site recently shared by Northern California Conference Ministerial Director Jim Lorenz on the seriousness of this disease and whether churches should close to help stop its spread: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/march-web-only/seattle-churches-stop-meeting-to-slow-covid-19-coronavirus.html
If you are stuck in your room this Sabbath and need to connect with an online worship experience, here’s a link to the Loma Linda University church live site for church and Sabbath School: https://www.lluc.org/live
Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to your campus minister, youth pastor, local church pastor, or even to me, firstname.lastname@example.org, with your thoughts, concerns, hopes, and fears. You may also call me at 510-847-0605. We will make it through this time by keeping in touch and building new ways to connect with one another, even though gathering together may be limited. May God be near and dear to each of you, especially in these uncertain times.
All for Christ and campus,
Adventist Christian Fellowship Coordinator
Pacific Union Conference
by Becky De Oliveira—
Who doesn’t have thoughts on toilet paper these days? I grew up hiking with my dad, and he always said, “Toilet paper is mountain currency.” Who knew it would someday be currency off the mountain as well? The United States—along with much of the rest of the world—seems neatly divided into two camps: those who hoard toilet paper and those who make snarky remarks about those who hoard toilet paper. I have staked my claim firmly in the latter camp but mostly with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. I’m not yet particularly angry about the toilet paper hoarding. People want to feel a sense of safety and control. As a former anorexic, I can’t hate anyone for that. I well know the feeling, the heady sense of euphoria that comes with having your ducks in a row.
Perhaps it’s more accurate to say I won’t hate them for that. Or for anything. To paraphrase Chief Joseph, “From where the sun now stands, I will hate no one else forever.” Last week in Connect Group (what our church calls Sabbath School) my husband tells me they discussed the character of God and a few people argued about it. I was resting from a hard week and Mohs surgery for skin cancer on my face, and it’s just as well I wasn’t there. I would have raised this question: Why are we worried about the character of God? What we need to ask right now is what is the character of me? Because things are not really bad yet—and they don’t ever have to be. They will only be bad if we start to turn on each other, bitter, snarling, taking chunks of flesh.
In the last 48 hours, my oldest son’s university—currently on spring break—asked its students not to return until April 13 at the earliest. They will conduct classes online. My son is on a school trip to Death Valley National Park and has to return to campus before flying home. There was much online discussion over whether the students would be allowed in the dorms at all, with everyone posting different theories, opinions, or reports of what they’d heard. He emailed the rector and asked whether he could spend the night and the rector said yes. Whew.
A few hour later, my university announced it would go online after we return from spring break, starting today. We will not return to campus until April 6 at the earliest. My high school-aged son is out for three weeks. My niece, in Washington State, is out until the end of April. My husband is working from home. So is my brother. My parents, both well over 70, are self-quarantined.
People are stockpiling water, cleaning supplies, tissues, paper towels, rice, beans. My friends are posting photos of empty shelves. One friend had the last packet of toilet paper snatched from her hands by another shopper in Holland, Michigan, which used to be called the happiest place in America. I went to the grocery store last night myself in preparation for having a houseful of males (two of them growing) rifling the cupboards for sustenance, and I found what I needed with a minimum of difficulty. A huge bag of dog food had spilled on the floor and the poor checkout clerk swept some of it out of the way and stepped aside to let me pass. We smiled at each other. “That sucks,” I said. We laughed. This whole situation sucks.
All of you know exactly what I’m talking about. You are living your own versions of the same story: closures, cancellations, shortages, uncertainty. For some of us, the situation is much more serious than for others. If my major problem right now is less toilet paper than I might ideally like, I think I can say I am truly blessed.
When one of my classes met earlier this week to discuss our contingency plans should the university go online for the rest of the semester, the professor said, “Now I don’t want to hear anyone talking about whether or not people should be hoarding toilet paper. I don’t want you to say whether you think it’s right or wrong. Some of you are talking about it (was she looking at me?) while others of you have bought a lot of toilet paper. No one needs to feel bad. It doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong.”
I take her point but also feel the urge to question it a little. What is a crisis for if not to learn, to clarify your own beliefs, to determine which lines you will not cross? Here’s a line I will not cross: I will never snatch a package of toilet paper from another person’s hands. But if you did do this, dear reader, you and I can still be friends. I have probably crossed lines that you would never cross, done things you would find disgusting, beyond the pale. We can be judgmental—maybe even occasionally snarky—without becoming enemies. We can learn from each other. Can’t we?
Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral student in research methods working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado.
As our understanding and awareness of the COVID-19 situation grows, so does our conviction that our churches and members are an important part of a healthy community response. As we gather and greet each other, we can demonstrate our awareness and consideration for the health of those around us. Please continue to pray for our health and safety—and for all those who are personally impacted by this virus. Your prayerful support is a critical factor in the overall health of our churches and the communities we serve.
Adventist entities in the Pacific Southwest have been closely monitoring the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. A summary of recent updates and resources is linked below. For ongoing updates, please visit the website of the entities pertinent to you.
North American Division
NAD administration recently shared information regarding COVID-19 and the division’s response. Learn more via the link below.
Conferences in the Pacific Union
In keeping with the request of the governor of the State of California that all public gatherings of 250 or more be canceled or postponed, several conferences in the Pacific Union have suspended in-person worship services and meetings and moved to online worship and meetings. Please check the website of your local conference to stay informed about decisions to cancel worship services.
Pacific Union College
Pacific Union College has been closely monitoring the growing novel coronavirus (nCoV2019) situation. The campus M. D. and Director of Health Services are in regular contact with Napa County Public Health and their Communicable Disease Unit, and the current risk to PUC and surrounding community is low. Click below for updates and resources, made easily accessible as they are able.
La Sierra University
Toward maintaining the health and safety of our campus and regional community, and in keeping with widespread efforts to reduce potential exposure and spread of COVID-19, La Sierra University has made a number of operational decisions in its ongoing response. Read more via the link below.
Adventist Risk Management
With the continued spread for the novel (new) coronavirus COVID-19 causing concern around the world, Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) is committed to providing relevant information for our clients regarding best-practices for prevention and mitigation of this serious disease. Learn more via the link below.
Adventist Health hospitals and clinics are emphasizing fundamental infection prevention measures such as hand washing for associates and visitors, isolating infectious patients as appropriate, and providing personal protective equipment (such as masks, gloves, gowns, and eye protection) for associates and visitors if needed. They also follow new or additional prevention measures, issued by the CDC. Adventist Health has managed infectious disease on a regular basis and wants to reassure the public that their hospitals and clinics are safe. Read their suggestions for coronavirus preparedness via the link below.
Adventist Colleges Abroad
Adventist Colleges Abroad received news that the governments of Austria, France, and Spain will be closing all their schools for an extended period of time. ACA Program Directors have been requested to inform their students to change their flight itineraries for a departure as soon as possible—and students can remain safely on campus until the time of their imminent departure. ACA notes that the 30-day travel ban only applies to foreign nationals trying to enter the U. S., and not U. S. citizens seeking reentry. Learn more via the link below.
Theodore R. Benson was born on April 22, 1948, to Frank and Mary Benson in Riverside, California, the oldest of five children, with two brothers and two sisters.
Ted attended Adventist schools from first grade through college. He attended San Pasqual Academy his freshman and sophomore years and La Sierra Academy his junior and senior years. For college, he studied at the La Sierra campus of Loma Linda University, majoring in accounting.
While attending La Sierra, Ted began working in information systems at Loma Linda University Medical Center, and this changed his career path. He got interested in the computer field and was invited to spend a year with IBM in their systems engineering program.
Ted met Beverly Kay Wood at La Sierra Academy, and he and Bev were married during semester break at Christmastime in 1967. Because of his relative youth, he had to get permission from his parents and the faculty to be married. Ted, Jr. was born in 1970.
Ted received a call to go to Glendale Adventist Medical Center in 1971 as assistant director of operations for the computer center. In 1976, he was invited to join the Pacific Union Conference as a system analyst and trust auditor. He helped move the Union into the era of computer processing, and when a computer department was formed, Ted served as the director.
Ted served the Pacific Union Conference as the associate treasurer from 1981 through 2001, the undertreasurer from 2002 through 2005, and as treasurer from 2006 through March 31, 2019.
Ted filled many roles in the local church. In the 5th grade he began helping with all audio-visual aspects of his Riverside church. That early training led to opportunities to help with everything from the local church level to assisting with AV needs for the General Conference sessions in New Orleans and Indianapolis. Across a long life of service, he was also a deacon, elder, Pathfinder director, assistant church treasurer, and church treasurer.
The word Pathfinder is synonymous with Ted, beginning with the mentoring he received from his father during his childhood. Ted and Bev got involved with the La Sierra Pathfinder club shortly after they married. When they moved to Glendale, they helped with the Vallejo Drive Pathfinders, and the club grew from 15 to 75 members during their five-year stay. A highlight of their experience with the Camarillo Pathfinder club was taking 50 young people to the first NAD camporee in Camp Hale, Colorado, in 1985.
For many years, Ted and Bev served as Pathfinder coordinators for the Southern California Conference. Recognized for his leadership in the Pathfinder movement, Ted served on the International Camporee Executive Advisory Committee and, along with Bev, attended the International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in August 2019.
Reflecting on his long friendship and professional association with Ted, Elder Ricardo Graham, President of the Pacific Union Conference, wrote, “Ted Benson was a committed, dedicated Seventh-day Adventist who worked untiringly for the cause of God in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Pacific Union. Warm, personable, and friendly, Ted always sought ways to improve the work of the office, making it more beneficial and efficient to the union staff in their service to the seven local conferences in the Pacific Union. He was the type of treasurer who would always find a way to help. Ever a Pathfinder, Ted, along with his wife Beverly, touched a countless number of young Adventists in the Southern California Conference, throughout the Union territory, and beyond. He and Bev were always highly supportive of our cadre of Pathfinders at the International Oshkosh Camporee. Ted Benson was loved and appreciated. He will be sorely missed.”
Ted Benson died Sunday evening, March 8, 2020, after a long battle with cancer. He was 71 years old.
The memorial service that was announced for Benson has been postponed because of health and safety concerns. The new date for the memorial service is yet to be determined. The family has asked that, instead of flowers, memorial donations be made to Holbrook Indian School in Ted’s name.
In this week’s episode of All God’s People—
—Former Pacific Union Conference Treasurer Passes Away — Theodore R. “Ted” Benson April 22, 1948 – March 8, 2020—
Theodore R. “Ted” Benson died Sunday evening, March 8, 2020, after a long battle with cancer. He was 71 years old. Benson graduated from La Sierra Academy and was a graduate of Loma Linda University/La Sierra Campus, where he studied business administration and accounting. He began his long career with the Pacific Union in 1976 as a systems analyst, and he helped establish the computer operations department in the newly-constructed offices of the Pacific Union in Westlake Village, California. He served as associate treasurer from 1981 through 2001, as undertreasurer from 2002 through 2005, and as treasurer from 2006 until his retirement on March 31, 2019. Benson is survived by his wife of 52 years, Beverly (nee Wood), and their son, Ted, Jr. A memorial service has been set for Saturday, March 28, 2020 at 4 p.m. in the Camarillo Seventh-day Adventist church. The family has asked that, instead of flowers, memorial donations be made to Holbrook SDA Indian School in Ted’s name.
—Pacific Union College Named Among Top 25 Best Colleges for Nursing—
Recently, GradReports released their list of the Top 25 Best Colleges that offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing—and Pacific Union College made the grade. The nationwide list compiled by GradReports is based on the median salary for graduates one year after graduation, so PUC’s Nursing students have a lot to look forward to when they make the jump from classroom to career. Nursing is consistently one of the college’s most popular programs and PUC graduates are serving in medical facilities throughout Northern Calif., across the west and the country, and around the world.
Learn more about PUC’s nursing program: https://www.puc.edu/academics/departments/nursing-health-sciences
Read GradReports Best Colleges for Nursing list: https://www.gradreports.com/best-colleges/nursing
—Love. Serve. Lead. – March 2020 Recorder Magazine—
We hope you’re enjoying your March Recorder. Mailed to approximately 70,000 homes each month, the Recorder continues to bring news and inspiration from around the Pacific Union. How does God lead the church? As part of our “Love. Serve. Lead.” focus for ministry in 2020, this month we begin a journey to better understand the Christian leadership that will equip and engage the church in ministry and mission. Read “First Principles of Kingdom Leadership”, “Lessons from Moses on Leadership” and “Behold the Lion!” as well as all the news from around our union. As always, you can read the Recorder online via the link below. Next month look for our annual Education issue.
Read the Recorder online: https://adventistfaith.com/recorder/
—Women’s History Month: Anna Knight’s Story—
March is Women’s History Month – commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. For the remaining 3 weeks in the month, in recognition of Women’s History month, we’ll be highlighting some extraordinary women in Adventist History. Our first profile is a very special woman named Anna Knight. Watch this week’s episode of All God’s People to learn more about Anna’s story.
Learn more about Anna Knight:
Learn about Women’s History Month: https://womenshistorymonth.gov/
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In Ephesians 4, Paul writes: “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church; the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” –Ephesians 4:11-12, NLT
by Becky De Oliveira—
As a child, I was routinely taught that scientists were most just “guessing” about their theories. “They have to have faith just as much as we do,” teachers and other adults said. These adults made scientific-sounding arguments for a young earth, evolution being the primary scientific theory they were eager to debunk. When my children were in elementary school, they came home telling me they’d been informed that dinosaur bones had been placed in the earth by Satan himself, to trick us and cause us to lose our faith.
“Interesting,” I said. “That certainly is a theory.”
My oldest son has gone on to study environmental earth science at university—basically, geology. This sits uncomfortably with certain Adventist church members, who raise their eyebrows and cluck about the “dangers” involved in studying earth science.
What are those dangers?
I suppose the primary danger is that increased knowledge would lead to a corresponding and highly correlated decrease in faith. That is possible. But as many a wise person before me has pointed out, faith that is untested is not faith at all. Faith based on ignorance is…what, exactly?
Skepticism toward the scientific community has led to some foolish and destructive behavior by individuals and leaders, in this country and many others. How many outbreaks of measles have resulted from an insistence—against overwhelming consensus to the contrary from the medical community—that the MMR vaccine is responsible for autism? It is interesting that so many people are convinced of the likelihood that doctors, medical researchers, and other experts are conspiring to cause harm to millions of people (for profit perhaps)—but that the sources they trust that call these experts’ claims into question are blameless and trustworthy with no ulterior agendas whatsoever. Why would that be the case?
Sometimes it is easy enough to see why people reject evidence they don’t like. Certain discoveries may “touch on people’s lifestyle or worldviews, or impinge on corporate interests” (Lewandowsky & Oberaur, 2016). Other times rejection of science appears to be an identity-based decision, a sort of tribal impulse. Perhaps alignment against a much-hated political party?
One interesting factor with climate change denial is its association with low tolerance for ambiguity (Jessani & Harris, 2018). The science surrounding climate change is complicated and messy and contains a high level of complexity. People with low tolerance for ambiguity like familiar explanations and black-and-white conclusions. I am reminded of a person who wrote to me about a year ago complaining that I raise unsettling questions in my writing and, at that time, on the podcast I co-hosted. She did not want to think about hard or uncomfortable things. And fair enough. It’s a free world. But it’s also a complicated world, which won’t get any easier from our collective refusal to see problems. If we truly have faith, perhaps it’s time to stop being so afraid of what we may see if we look. “Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel” (Proverbs 20:15, NIV).
Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral student in research methods working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado. This blog will also appear in the spring issue of Mountain Views, the quarterly magazine of the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Jessani, Z., & Harris, P. B. (2018). Personality, politics, and denial: Tolerance of ambiguity, political orientation and disbelief in climate change. Personality and Individual Differences, 131, 121-123.
Lewandowsky, S., & Oberauer, K. (2016). Motivated rejection of science. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(4), 217–222.