Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bracing myself for 2014

While many will be ringing the new year with partying and celebration, I myself am not particularly looking forward to 2014. From my point of view, 2014 summons old routines as well as new and unforeseen challenges and situations. Not only will my holidays and vacation end, and the routine and rhythm of work begin, but new unseen challenges, experiences and tests await me.

At least with 2013, I can look back at what I passed through, reflect on lessons learned, mistakes made and give thanks for the worst that did not happen. However, for 2014, I know not what will happen nor whether my life will go according to plans or deviate from them. And considering the global problems in 2013, I approach 2014 with trepidation and an expectation that things might get worse.

For 2014, I wonder what difficult decisions will I have to make? What challenges will arise? How will my character be tested in 2014? These are the questions that loom in my mind as 2014 approaches.

With these question, I begin to appreciate the secular traditions of wishing people a happy or prosperous new year. (I prefer the term prosperous 2014, as both 'happy' and 'new' are temporary and come with expiry dates). Yet 2014 is a secular year, and not really one that is embedded in God's biblical calendar. The real new year is in April (Spring), when the Passover season begins. Hence for me, while the secular new year has begun, the spiritual new year hasn't. So I await God's spiritual renewal to face the unknown that is ahead.

God bless you and a prosperous 2014 to you!

Friday, December 27, 2013

My emerging views on abortion Part 1

I recently received some news that the Seventh-day Adventist church hospitals have been performing operations (The Third Angels Message, 2012). Whether or not the news is true, it has made me reflect deeply on my own experiences and emerging views on the subject matter. In this post, I share some of my reflections and emergent perspectives, especially seeing that we have just exited the season where many Western Christians reflect on the nativity and story of the birth of Jesus.

My ideas about abortion have been emerging from my interaction with a number of persons including young females that have been molested or raped, as well as a non-profit organization that is pro-life (and one feminist to a lesser extent). However, most deeply, my own views on abortion come from my personal experience as a parent of three girls and also as a father that experienced the early miscarriage of my second child.

Further, when I reflect on the story of the birth of Jesus in light of all those experiences, I can empathise with what Mary and Joseph went through. A child out of wedlock in a strict religious society? In my generation, we have been subjected to the propaganda of family planning videos that told us and our parents that two children are better than too many ("A history of government family planning", 2008). We have also been fed by various agencies the idea that poverty is caused by the number of children that we have. We have also been told that we must not have children until we have the resources to care for them. These successful propaganda has so affected our world today that there are developed countries that are bribing families to have children or even more children (Smith, 2011).

But back to me and my own lived experience. It is only now that I realise how the early miscarriage of my second child has affected my views on abortion. At the time when my wife missed her period in that season, our first born was barely a year and a half. I was worried and so was my wife. We had just gone through the experience of pregnancy and everything was still fresh in our minds. It was scary and frightening.

But then the child died naturally within the womb after less than three months. At the time, I felt relieved. Yes... it was bad, but I felt relieved. However, now as the father of three girls, I wonder if my second child was actually the son that we so badly wanted and prayed for. Today, that experience has lead me to embrace the viewpoint that life begins at conception and not at birth.

If I am to define when does a person become a person today, I would argue that a person becomes a person when a document is created about that person's existence. Such a document thereby provides evidence that such a person existed or exists. For governmental purposes, this is usually done through a birth certificate. However, for the parent who wants to keep that child or being, documents are created from the day that woman discovers that she is pregnant. (For example, a photography of the positive result on the pregnancy test).

Medically, records are created to document that a potential human being is about to enter the world. Yet doctors, rather than treat the blob of cells and matter within the woman's uterus or womb as an individual or person with a name and life ahead of him/her, use language and semantics to de-emphasize the person as an "it".

However, in the past, language and semantics were used to rationalise the ill-treatment of Negroes as slaves. Negroes were denied personhood and considered as chattel and property similar to cattle. Similarly today, economists and business managers do the same, denying  workers personhood and individuality, by labelling us as 'human capital', 'labour', 'human resources' or as 'a factor of production'. Hence dehumanization allows us to have 'labour substitution', which reduces the employment opportunities for people in favour of technology.

Hence, I am not a fan of these word and language games. I believe that we should call the foetus what "it" is, a helpless and dependent bundle of potentiality and promise. When I check the dictionary, it says that a fetus is either an unborn mammal or especially an unborn human "more than eight weeks after conception" ("fetus", 2005). For me, it is very technical that the dictionary writers had to say that the fetus is only a human after eight weeks from conception. This disclaimer suggests that we need the dimension of time in order to define when a fetus becomes human. (Time by itself is another artificial construct and language or symbolic manipulation of our reality).

My argument is simply this, that a person becomes human after conception, when documents are being created about him or her. No date and time is required to elapse after conception before we consider the fetus human. Once a fetus is conceived in a woman, we known that the fetus is not going to be anything except human if giving the chance to live (unless the DNA has been tampered with, which is another story).

However, that brings us the other problem of whether or not we must legislate against abortion, which is something that I am still meditating on, as I do consider the argument that one cannot use his or her own moral conviction of God's laws and Biblical principles and impose it on unbelievers. This goes against the principle of free will. Which is why I still find myself keeping silent on these issues.


A history of government family planning efforts in Jamaica [blog post] (2008, October 28). Retrieved from http://stanford.edu/group/womenscourage/cgi-bin/blogs/familyplanning/2008/10/24/a-history-of-government-family-planning-efforts-in-jamaica/

Fetus. (2005). Pocket Oxford English dictionary. 10th ed. Oxford: Oxford University P.

Smith, R. (2011, November 3). When governments pay people to have babies. NPR Planet Money Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/11/03/141943008/when-governments-pay-people-to-have-babies

The Third Angels Message (2012). An open letter to Ted Wilson on abortion in our hospitals the Trademark and recent imprisonment of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved from http://www.thethirdangelsmessage.com/open_letter_ted_wilson

Sunday, December 8, 2013

'Pentecostal' experiences in Seventh-day Adventism?

While I generally embrace a largely Christian identity, I label myself as Judeo-Christian, in recognition that the roots of Christianity is Jewish. Further, as a Protestant, I find that if I am to be consistent with an identity that challenges the worldwide influence and domination of Roman Christianity, then I must start to uncover what the Christian faith looked like before the domination of Roman Christians.

This journey has lead me to become more tolerant of Christian diversity as I realise that all of us have got it wrong, and no one group has the full 'truth' or authentic 'Christian' traditions. I appreciate from my reading of Jenkins (2010) that Roman and Western Christians' violent domination and subjugation of Eastern Christians also contributed to the rise of Islam. In this regard, I recognise that Islam's rise was partially a reaction against Western Christians violently imposing their own theology on Eastern Christians with different theologies and practices.

In the task of trying to understand more about my spiritual roots I have been reading a number of books, especially those about groups that I am personally acquainted with. I am currently reading a book written about Seventh-day Adventists by some sociologists, which to me is an objective look at the denomination's development. For me, this reading is important because of my path and spiritual journey with God, which found me becoming a member of the church back in my early university days. I feel obligated as a result to thoroughly understand objectively how Seventh-day Adventism developed separate and apart from what the denomination's gate keepers wants the congregants to know. I also want to get the information from a source that is not biased like the ex-Seventh-day Adventists that spew venom in their analysis and research or even other denominational researchers with an agenda.

That said, I find Bull and Lockhart's (2007) an excellent scholarly resource from which to view the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) denomination objectively, without the indoctrination. Bull and Lockhart's (2007) book is indeed a good read objectively covering how outsiders viewed the church (including the popular media) as well examine the insiders' experiences, literature and views.

In this post in particular, I want to highlight in particular the 'Pentecostal' experiences in the SDA denomination as presented by Bull and Lockhart's (2007) research.

Those today who visit a Seventh-day Adventist Church will know it as a quiet church. There is no shouting, people falling on the floor or expressing themselves emotionally in worship. Well, I have news for you. In Adventist early history, the church people were more noisy than they are today. In Chapter four in particular of Bull and Lockhart, it is mentioned that the Adventists were once confused with the Shakers and spiritualists. In addition, both Ellen and James White report experiences of praying and falling to the floor or feeling the Holy Spirit come over them. Adventist believers engaged in house prayer sometimes found themselves 'slain in the spirit' according to several accounts documented by Bull and Lockhart (2007). According to Bull and Lockhart (2007), James White in a letter to his wife relates

how, when visiting some believers, "I fell upon my face, and cried and groaned under the power of God. Brethren Sanborn and Ingraham felt about the same. We all lay on the floor under the power of God." (p.77)
 This was not just a one off situation either. Bull and Lockhart (2007) also reports Ellen White describing another situation:

While the larger family of Brother P. were engaged in prayer at their own house, the Spirit of God swept through the room and prostrated the kneeling suppliants. My father came in soon after and found them all both parents and children, helpless under the power of the Lord
I also find a similar typical occurrence in White's (2000) documentation of her experience in Early Writings (p. 12):

That said, it is interesting given this history that in my experience, Jamaican Adventism draws almost hostile lines of distinctions and demarcations from Pentecostals and that Jamaican Pentecostals do the same with Adventists. For me, the evidence points out that we are all coming from the same tree. In fact, Adventism is likely to have 'quenched' the spirit, which is why Pentecostals seem more advanced in the manifestations of Bible miracles and signs.


Bull, M., & Lockhart, K. (2007). Seeking a sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventism and the American dream. 2nd ed. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Jenkins, P. (2010). Jesus wars: How four patriarchs, three queens, and two emperors decided what Christians would believe for the next 1,500 years. NY: HarperCollins.

White, E. G. H. (2000). Early writings. Washington, D.C: Review and Herald Pub Assoc.