Documentary Looks at Operation Whitecoat

Kimberly Luste Maran interviewed Colonel Randall Larsen, USAF (Ret.) about his documentary Operation Whitecoat (Filmmaker talks about documentary on Adventist volunteers in Army's "Operation Whitecoat", NADAdventist.org, 21 June 2016). The article begins:

"Operation Whitecoat" is a documentary that tells the story of more than 2,300 Adventist, noncombatant conscientious objectors who volunteered for biodefense research studies from 1954-1973. These patriots are described as showing extraordinary commitment to their religious principles and great courage to participate in tests that produced outcomes reaching far beyond Army biodefense.
 
Through 151 medical studies during 19 years, a vast amount of data was gathered on naturally-occurring diseases. Thought the project is not without some controversy, thirteen important vaccines still used around the world were developed and tested for safety and efficacy during Operation Whitecoat. Vaccines still in use today include Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, Plague, Tularemia, Typhus, Rift Valley Fever, Q Fever, Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Chikungunya, and Adenovirus.

Maran and Larsen wrap-up the interview with the following two exchanges:

Who do you hope watches this, and why?
 
I made the film as a tribute to the commitment, courage, and contributions of the Whitecoats. The Whitecoats and their families are the primary audience. We also hope that the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church will learn more about these extraordinary men, and hope that the church will use the film as a teaching tool to facilitate discussion on non-combatant conscientious objectors, ethics, and service to one's community and country. We eventually hope to take this inspiring story to a broad audience who have not yet heard about Whitecoats, and who have little knowledge of the Adventist Church.
 
How can people watch the documentary film?
 
This film is available for purchase; for more information and to watch a trailer, go to: http://operationwhitecoatmovie.com.

To read the complete interview, visit NADAdventist.org.

Ohio Congregation Cares for Refugees, Promotes Reconciliation

The Adventist Review posted a story recently about the Centerville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dayton, Ohio, United States. The congregation is a church plant focusing on the needs of refugees from Africa. Excerpts:

Most of the refugees come from Rwanda, with some from Burundi and Congo. The majority do not yet know English but are making efforts to learn.

“Many in the group have never lived in a setting like the one they are experiencing [in the US], because many of them have spent 20 years in refugee camps, living only in tents,” [senior pastor Winston Baldwin] said.

“As you can imagine, the physical needs of these refugees are great,” said Baldwin. “They need everything from clothing and household goods to washers and dryers.” Many Centerville members have donated clothing, appliances and even provided plumbing repairs.

The complete article is available online: "US Africa Refugee Church Plant Brings Reconciliation, Growth" (Heidi Shoemaker, Adventist Review, 27 July 2017).

TEDNews: Watford Peace Garden a Living Tribute to Those Who 'Stand for Right Though the Heavens Fall’

We should have reported this story months ago. The TED News Network posted a story about the Watford Peace Garden on September 21, 2016. Excerpt:

Officially opened in a moving and thought provoking ceremony on Wednesday, 21 September, the International Day of Peace, the idea for the garden arose out of a recognition that 130 Adventist men, many of them based around Stanborough Park, the Church headquarters office in Watford, went to prison and suffered severely for their non-combatant values during World War I. Even in World War II, where the government had a much better understanding of Adventist principles, Adventist men had to appear before a tribunal and were then assigned to work of ‘national importance’.

Read the entire article here (Richard Daly/tedNEWS).

Adventists Reflect on “Hacksaw Ridge”

In connection with the release of the Desmond Doss biopic film Hacksaw Ridge, Ronald Osborn—friend and former Director of the Adventist Peace Fellowship—briefly explains the shifting history of Adventists and war.

Hacksaw Ridge: A Reflection (N. Brown)

Nathan Brown originally published this reflection on the Avondale News website (reprinted with permission). Nathan is Book Editor at Signs Publishing. He is a former magazine editor, a published writer and an author or editor of a dozen books. He is also a co-convener of Manifest, a community exploring, encouraging and celebrating faithful creativity.

IS IT MORE CONSCIENTIOUS TO BE AN “OBJECTOR” OF THAN A “COOPERATOR” IN WAR?

Watching Hacksaw Ridge is an ordeal—and probably should be. War is hell. Any storytelling painting the picture otherwise is disingenuous. Even more so when the central character is a United States Army medic, charged with patching up his wounded and shattered comrades. But the portrayal of the battlefield horrors in this new biographical film render the heroism and the faithfulness of conscientious objector and Seventh-day Adventist Desmond Doss more troubling than inspiring.

After an arresting opening glimpse of the carnage to come but with a Bible verse that also hints at the story of faith, we get to know Doss, who grows up in an abusive home with a father damaged by past war. Faith and love play increasing roles in the story, coinciding with Doss enlisting to serve in the army as World War II takes grip of the world.

As we see more of Doss’ faith—portrayed in a way that shows rather than tells—the Bible is depicted as central. Doss is committed to Sabbath-keeping and his refusal to even touch a gun in training is the dominant tension. Doss always argued against his classification as a “conscientious objector”—he preferred “conscientious cooperator.” His stand is admirable. His determination to serve his country and fellow men in even the worst of circumstances is heroic. But the ordeal of the battlefield tests the assumptions we might prefer, the image of the American hero director Mel Gibson seeks to portray and how we as Adventists might respond to this film.

The graphic rendering of the battle for Hacksaw Ridge—regarded as one of the bloodiest of the war—emphasises the absurdity of going into such an environment unarmed. Undoubtedly, Doss served faithfully and it seems God worked with his faithfulness to save both Doss and many of his men.

But this large-scale retelling of Doss’ story also raises questions about the conscientious role he played, whether cooperator or objector. On a number of occasions, Doss is depicted being rescued from an attacking soldier by a bullet fired by one of his fellow soldiers (it’s hardly a spoiler to report Doss survives the battle). As viewers, we’re expected to applaud these deaths at the same time as honouring Doss’ commitment not to kill.

And this is the tension. In his survey of different Christian stances in relation to war, John Howard Yoder singled out the traditional Seventh-day Adventist position as one of the most fraught: “The obligation is absolute, but it is also arbitrary. One can, like the Seventh Day Adventists [sic], refuse to kill and yet be willing to participate in the military enterprise, since it is only the act of doing the killing oneself which is forbidden.” (Nevertheless: The Varieties and Shortcomings of Religious Pacifism, Second Edition, Herald Press, 1976, page 96). Perhaps this “immature vision”—as Yoder describes it—has laid the groundwork for the growing abandonment of it by Adventist members of the military in some parts of the world.

But would Doss have been more faithful if he’d simply chosen to stay home, safely away from the war, as he had the option to do? Would he have been any less a beneficiary of those who were killing on behalf of his nation? And is this similar to the situation many of us find ourselves in as beneficiaries of the violence committed to ensure our freedom and lifestyles?

These questions are not answered simply. Doss’ story does little to help us with them, except to remind us our highest call is always to faithful service, to “conquer evil by doing good” (Romans 12:20, NLT), whenever and whatever our circumstances. While we might examine the theology of his stance, we cannot question the faithfulness and trust with which he did what he felt he was called to do.

But Hacksaw Ridge’s graphic depiction of the horrors and futility of war should also remind us of the Bible’s call to faithful peacemaking in the larger and the smaller contexts of our lives. When it comes to war and peace, the Bible offers stark alternatives: “Those who use the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52, NLT); or “those who work for peace . . . will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9, NLT), although this is certainly not a formula for everything to go smoothly, easily or safely.

Hacksaw Ridge should prompt us to ask whether it is more conscientious to be an “objector” than a “cooperator” with the tragic business of war. In a violent and conflicted world, we must continue to applaud faithfulness and service. But we must also find ways to champion faithful, courageous and creative peacemaking wherever it can be found and fostered.

 

Yi Shen Ma: The Word for Today

By: Jeff Boyd

Long-time APF supporter Pastor Yi Shen Ma has continued his YouTube series The Word for Today. We highlighted this series back in July. 

A number of the videos would be of interest to Adventist Peacemakers, including episodes on immigration and poverty. However, I want to especially note a series of videos Yi Shen made with APF co-founder and former director Ron Osborn.

Dr. Ron Osborn Interview Part 1: Christianity and Social Justice

Follow the complete vlog series here.

Adventists for Racial Justice [Updated]

Adventists are responding to the recent killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling as well as the five police officers in Dallas, Texas (not yet named). The Adventist Peace Fellowship is preparing a statement and a plan of action that coordinates with efforts of others, but before that is released, we want to share what Adventists are already thinking, planning, and doing.

Pastor Dan Jackson and Pastor Alexander Bryant, leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in North America, released the following statement:

Statement on Shooting Deaths in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas

Daniel R. Jackson and G. Alexander Bryant, the president and executive secretary of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, issued the following joint statement on July 8, 2016. The statement is in response to this week’s shooting deaths in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and Dallas, Texas:

“We are heartbroken and disturbed by the tragic and brutal shooting deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers.* We extend our deepest condolences and prayers for the seven people killed this week, the seven officers and two civilians wounded in Dallas, their families, loved ones, and friends. We also pray for the communities of Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas, and the heartache they are experiencing as a result of this tragedy.

“This week has been an extremely difficult week as we wrestle with the senseless loss of life. It is past time for our society to engage in open, honest, civil, and constructive conversation about the rights and equality of every member of our community. Having an open discussion means talking about difficult topics in a productive manner. However, we must move beyond the talking stage and begin to actually develop practical ways of dealing with racial intolerance in all of its forms — whether subtle or overt.

“This week we continue the struggle with what it means to fear for your life because of the color of your skin. We struggle with the pain that the African-American community feels. Last night we struggled seeing a hate so evil, so intense, that it led to the murder of those who were attempting to protect the right of American citizens to peacefully protest.

“We were deeply troubled by the shooting deaths of two African-American men by police officers this week. This brings the total number of blacks shot to death by police in the United States to 123 so far in 2016, according to press reports. We are equally troubled that five Dallas police officers were killed by a gunman filled with hate who, in his words, wanted to “kill white people and especially white police.”

“Let us be clear: the violent death of any human being is wrong. The deaths of these seven people in these three events are equally tragic and agonizing for God. While so many in our country are angry and frightened, hate and revenge are never the answer.

“We find wisdom and comfort in the life of Jesus. Human experience illustrates that hatred breeds more hatred. Jesus lived a life that demonstrated love in the face of hatred, and peace in the place of anger. Evil cannot be eliminated with evil; it must be overwhelmed with peace, love, and goodness. We know that there is growing anger, frustration, and alienation throughout our division. These emotions are accompanied by a growing distrust and fear.

“How will we personally and corporately respond? We believe that . . .

• Now is the time to listen, to hear, and to understand the cry of those living in fear.
• Now is the time for the men and women of the North American Division to stand up and link arms together, in peace and love, to say “NO” to racial inequality; and demonstrate that love is stronger than hate.
• Now is the time for our local congregations, for our state and regional conferences, for our educational and medical institutions to pray together, to engage in creative thinking together, and then to work together to strengthen what we have in common and bring the hope and healing compassion of Jesus to our communities.

“We pray for peace and compassion to guide our way forward as we acknowledge and seek to heal the hurt and fear that pervades this country. We pray, once again, for the day when all of God’s children, of all races, treat each other with love and respect rather than bias and hate.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, NIV).

* NOTE: At the time of this release the names of all of the officers had not been released.
http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=84ac041b8b705798057dab6f2&id=513e5c0847

Chaplain Michael Polite, who works in Campus Ministries at Andrews University offered this analysis on Facebook — CLICK HERE.

Pastor David Franklin, who leads the Miracle City Church in Baltimore, MD, used his Instagram account to promote a gathering at the Lincoln Memorial today, July 9, 2016.

Pastor Franklin was back on Instagram this morning highlighting the day’s upcoming events.

Attorney Michael Nixon posted on Facebook:

I’m encouraged.

I participated in a conference call that Oakwood University put together this morning along with 200+ other minority attorneys.

There is an SDAs for Social Justice group that went from 200 to 1500+ members in 24 hours – there is a conference call to discuss action plans and organizing this evening at 8pm.

I was reached out to by an Adventist publication to write a piece on how we as a church can get engaged & involved.

This time it’s going to be different. We are in this for the long haul. We will not be silent. We will not be shaken. We will not wait for another hashtag. We have the one we need: ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬.

Pastor Moses Eli of the New Beginnings Seventh-day Adventist Church distributed an email yesterday highlighting a 4-point action plan that “hundreds of black clergy” created in a conference call moderated by Rev. Dr. Emanuel Cleaver III:

Adventist Peace Fellowship Board member and pastor of Liberty Seventh-day Adventist Church in Baltimore, MD, Dr. Mark McCleary wrote to the APF leadership team:

These recent tragedies have jettisoned Adventists into public speaking like I have never seen in my SDA lifetime. I believe it’s part of the national (millennial rising) within the Black Lives Matter Movement, but also a unique prophetic energy long waiting to express itself in light of War and Baby Boomer generational social justice lethargy and alienation.

APF is needed and others like it. Lord, help us keep shouting, blowing the trumpet and searching for peace everywhere and for everyone until Jesus comes.

UPDATE: Fellow APF Board member and professor at Washington Adventist University, Dr. Olive Hemmings shared on Saturday evening:

Today we had church in DC with top officers in the NAD office – Dan Jackson, Alex Bryant, Dave Gemmell,  and many black pastors in the DC metro area and Baltimore present giving speeches and offering prayers at the MLK memorial. About 500 Adventists marched from the Lincoln memorial arms locked to the MLK memorial where WE HAD CHURCH!  We began our march at 6:30 pm singing “we shall overcome” and ended our vigil with the same at sunset.

Two APF Board members shared this list of actions we can take to work for positive change — 30 Things Your Church Can DO to Affect CHANGE! (Christopher Thompson, PELC, 9 July 2016). I appreciate the various areas for action.

There are surely other actions, groups, and preparations, but these are the ones I’m aware of at this point. May unity and peace guide our prayers and actions for a more just world. May God’s will be done on Earth as in Heaven, so that we will be unified in the reality that we are one humanity formed of one blood (Matt. 6:10; Act 17:26).

Adventist History Podcast: Civil War, Part 1

Matthew Lucio, host of the Adventist History Podcast, recently posted an episode on the American Civil War (episode linkFacebook link).

Episode 19: The War Between the States

In this episode, we learn about how the new Seventh-day Adventist Church coped with the American Civil War.

An important part of the early story was an editorial James White wrote about the draft. I was glad to hear Lucio cover this aspect of the church’s struggle. One meaningful reaction against White’s argument — which was to follow the state’s orders because the moral blame lies on the government that commanded it — was someone who pointed out this was the exact logic the church was arguing against in the context of Sunday laws. Clearly, there were good reasons to oppose James’ early views on the topic.

The amount of debate demonstrates that there were mixed views in the early group about how Adventists should respond to war and the draft. However, the denomination’s official stance became clear:

May 17, 1865… While we thus cheerfully render to Caesar the things which the Scriptures show to be his, we are compelled to decline all participation in acts of war and bloodshed as being inconsistent with the duties enjoined upon us by our divine Master toward our enemies and toward all mankind.

(GC declaration quoted from Douglas Morgan, “The Beginnings of a Peace Church: Eschatology, Ethics, and Expedience in Seventh‐day Adventist Responses to the Civil War,”Andrews University Seminary Studies 45, no. 1 [Spring 2007]: 36.)

That this pronouncement was prescriptive and not entirely descriptive is most certainly true.

For more on Adventists and the Civil War, see these resources.