This is a rebuttal of Kevin Burton’s article in the Adventist Review, which claims that basically everything the early SDA pioneers stood for, was intertwined with a stance against American “systemic racism”.
The original article can be found here:
Kevin Burton is a Ph.D. Candidate (Florida State University), who teaches in the History and Political Studies Department at Southern Adventist University and is writing his doctoral dissertation on Millerite and Seventh-day Adventist involvement in the abolition movement.
So it should be obvious that he is trying to tie the core of SDA beliefs to his specialty. And it is no wonder that right now his thoughts on the matter of race in the SDA Church are in high demand.
It appears that he is very well read in early Adventist history, as may be imagined. And while he doesn’t appear to be quite as far removed from true SDA belief like George Knight is, he seems to have some similar biases, as he has reviewed a book titled “Adventist Maverick: Celebrating the work of George R. Knight” in which he writes: “Eve sinned before eating the forbidden fruit” and says of this book about Knight that one: “can now drink in the wisdom of Adventism’s most influential author within the last 35 years”.
After George Knight had disparaged Bible writers by calling them “goat herders” at a meeting of his I attended at Southern Adventist University in 2010, I told him directly that all the words in the Bible were from God. He laughed at me. With “wisdom” like that, you can get a pretty good idea whose side Kevin Burton is on.
Anyway, regarding his most recent article in the Adventist Review. He makes quite a bold statement in the first paragraph: “The second advent movement was inseparable from the abolitionist call for the immediate and total destruction of slavery and the demand for equal rights for the oppressed.” Well, it’s odd that no one had that idea until over 160 years after it happened! It is true that many of the early pioneers were abolitionists, but they were first and foremost Seventh-day Adventists who grew out of the Millerite Movement of 1844.
“they made protest against racial injustice inseparable from their Adventist faith.” No they didn’t. This is revisionist history. Mr. Burton seems to have forgotten that not all Adventists were Americans, and that this is not true even of all American Adventists. Some, like Joseph Bates, did so. Many did not. Some Adventists were even Southern sympathizers.
“Adventists were inspired by their Christian faith to fight against systemic racism in America.” Now this term “systemic racism” was not even used back in the 19th century. It has a very specific construct in 2020, as it means police brutality against blacks. Never, ever did “racism” mean that among the Adventists of 160 years ago. Some black Adventists were NOT involved in “black protest”. Painting broad brushstrokes is, in fact, being racist himself.
He speaks favorably of the Bates’ family working against the law prohibiting interracial marriage in Massachusetts, but fails to mention the times that Ellen White, inspired, wrote that “there should be no intermarriage between the white and the colored race.” –Manuscript 7, 1896.
Then Mr. Burton gets in earnest about trying to twist the facts to support his political views: “in the 1850s and 1860s, Sabbath-keeping Adventists petitioned against more issues, like the death penalty (believing that both slavery and capital punishment “represented systems of brutality that coerced individuals””. Well, it’s very possible that a few did write against the death penalty, but, as in the example above of interracial marriages, that certainly was not God’s position! God mandated the death penalty, and to attempt to make us SDA believe in 2020 that our spiritual Adventist forefathers were against what God instituted, is reprehensible.
“The second angel warned that Babylon was fallen, and Millerites came out of the Protestant churches (Babylon) because those churches supported slavery. Ellen White specified that any Seventh-day Adventist holding pro-slavery sympathies must be immediately disfellowshipped.” Now he is just making up history as he goes along. This is completely in error. I’ve read plenty of Ellen White material, and unless he has access to some secret vault articles that the public has no access to, he is not being truthful here. Tellingly, he has not given a reference for this bald- faced untruth. Ellen White makes it clear that the Adventists left the fallen churches because those churches rejected William Miller’s message, showing to all that they weren’t interested in seeing Jesus come back at all. That’s why the Millerites left the fallen churches.
*Reference Advent Movement Illustrated
“Finally, Seventh-day Adventists connected the third angel’s message against worshipping the beast with the antislavery cause. Revelation 13:1-18 reveals that the two-horned beast enforces idolatry, and Adventists identified America as this beast because it professed to uphold religious and civil liberty (the two horns) but, in reality, denied those privileges to religious and racial minorities.6” I have checked out his Ellen White references supposedly supporting this statement. They do nothing of the kind. Check Testimonies Vol. 1 p. 259, 358, & 360. His other reference is to a sermon by Charles Fitch, who died just before October 22, 1844, so never could have even known what the Third Angel’s Message was, as no one understood it until AFTER October 22, 1844.
“By incorporating antislavery arguments into their presentation of the three angels’ messages, Seventh-day Adventists made a protest against systemic racism an important part of their fundamental beliefs. They challenged their spiritual descendants to carry on this faith.” Since we’ve already debunked his claim regarding this earlier, there is no need to do it again. He is just reiterating his falsehood in order to make it stay in your brain, make you feel guilty, and to make you leave the firm platform of truth that God has founded for His renmant church.
Of course we should be against racism. At the same time, we shouldn’t jump on the media’s bandwagon just because this is a hot topic now.
Why do I feel deja-vu all over again, just like what happened after 9/11, and our Adventist “scholars” and “leaders” fell all over themselves trying to make us feel bad for having supposedly anti-Islamic views? When are we SDAs going to wake up, and throw off the chains of Sadducees and Pharisees who are working together to destroy Jesus in the person of his saints?
Let’s be good Bereans, and follow our perfect example, the one altogether pure and lovely – Jesus Christ.