Carson puts new spotlight on Seventh-day Adventist Church

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Ben Carson Talks About Religion.

As his surge in heavily evangelical Iowa puts a spotlight on his faith, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is opening up about his membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The nation’s population is growing more racially and ethnically diverse – and so are many of its religious groups, both at the congregational level and among broader Christian traditions.

As Ben Carson seeks the Republican nomination for president, he’s also drawing notice to the church that has counted him as a member since he was a child. But a new analysis of data from the 2014 Religious Landscape Study also finds that these levels of diversity vary widely within U.S. religious groups. In an interview with The Associated Press, days after GOP rival Donald Trump criticized Carson’s church, the retired neurosurgeon said his relationship with God was “the most important aspect.

We looked at 29 groups – including Protestant denominations, other religious groups and three subsets of people who are religiously unaffiliated – based on a methodology used in our 2014 Pew Research Center report on global religious diversity. This analysis includes five racial and ethnic groups: Hispanics, as well as non-Hispanic whites, blacks, Asians and an umbrella category of other races and mixed-race Americans. And in his own criticism, he said it was a “huge mistake” that the top Adventist policymaking body recently voted against ordaining women. “I don’t see any reason why women can’t be ordained,” he said. Voters have come to know him for his faith-infused policy stands, including his opposition to abortion and gay marriage, without hearing much from him about his Adventism.

The denomination was established in 1863 in Battle Creek, Michigan, and now claims 18.7 million members worldwide, including 1.2 million in North America. Seventh-day Adventists top the list with a score of 9.1: 37% of adults who identify as Seventh-day Adventists are white, while 32% are black, 15% are Hispanic, 8% are Asian and another 8% are another race or mixed race.

Muslims (8.7) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (8.6) are close behind in terms of diversity, as no racial or ethnic group makes up more than 40% of either group. Let’s interpret it this way.’ ” Trump has appeared to be trying to paint Carson as part of a faith outside the mainstream, not a religious conservative who shares the values of Iowa’s evangelicals.

Ellen White is considered a prophet, but her extensive religious writings, while deeply influential in shaping the church, are not given the same weight as Scripture. In 2012, Mitt Romney, a Mormon, won just 14 percent of Iowans who described themselves as born again or evangelical Christian, according to Iowa caucus exit polls, amid deep skepticism about his church and his politics. “Donald Trump is Donald Trump. Adventists also have a heavy emphasis on education and many go into the medical field, due in part to the spiritual discipline within the church of staying healthy.

But this group may be less diverse because Asian-American Buddhists may have been underrepresented since the survey was conducted in only English and Spanish, and not in any Asian languages. Catholics and members of the Pentecostal denominations Assemblies of God and Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) both rank between 6.0 and 7.0 on the scale – comparable to U.S. adults overall – largely because of sizable Hispanic minorities. Many of these disheartened faithful, called Adventists for their belief in Christ’s imminent return, continued studying the Bible together and set Saturday as their Sabbath day of worship. Adventist officials, like Southern Baptist leaders, eschew the formal interreligious dialogues that are part of American Christian life and also don’t join the major ecumenical alliances and associations that try to unite Christians. However, Johnny Ramirez-Johnson, an Adventist who is also a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, a prominent evangelical school in Pasadena, California, said Adventist and evangelical theologians have increasingly collaborated in recent years, signaling that at least on a scholarly level, common ground is being found.

Among people with no religious affiliation, those whose religion is “nothing in particular” (score of 6.9 on the index) are more diverse than atheists (4.7) and agnostics (4.5). Along with their focus on health, Adventists are known for making religious freedom a very high priority, not just for the church, but for all faith groups. Over the years, the church has developed a broad religious freedom focus that includes collaboration with a wide array of other religious organizations. While the reasons for the objections were mixed, some cited the religious weight given to White’s opinions, even though Adventists, like other conservative Christians, consider only the Bible authoritative.

This past May, Seventh-day Adventist officials issued a letter in light of Carson’s candidacy urging members to preserve the separation of church and state during the 2016 election season and keep politics out of the pulpit. His mother was an Adventist, and he was baptized into the church twice at his own request, because he felt he was too young the first time to grasp the significance. Jews (90% white) and Hindus (91% Asian) are not very diverse, especially compared with Americans overall, the five least diverse groups in the index are all Protestant denominations.

Videos are plentiful online of Carson debating atheists, upholding Adventist teaching that God created the Earth in six days, and giving personal testimonies at churches. Meanwhile, two of the largest historically black Protestant denominations, the National Baptist Convention and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, have almost exclusively black members. Topics: Christians and Christianity, Hindus and Hinduism, Jews and Judaism, Muslims and Islam, Race and Ethnicity, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation

In the interview, Carson revealed he went through a brief period of questioning as a Yale University student about whether Adventism was right for him. The denomination filed a brief in support of the Muslim woman who won a Supreme Court case this year against Abercrombie & Fitch, which refused to hire her because she wore a headscarf. Given the denomination’s traditional concern for religious freedom, some Adventists have been upset by Carson’s recent comments that the U.S. should not elect a Muslim president.

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