Kevin Burton describes a recent conference on military participation hosted by the General Conference.Read More
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.
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.
Reinder Bruinsma originally posted this essay on his blog (30 October 2014, link). Dr. Bruinsma was one of the presenters at the WWI symposium APF reported about this summer (link), and he is contributing two chapters to a book on Adventist mission and social ethics that will be published by the Andrews University Press in 2015. See his full (translated) bio below.
It was some twenty years ago that I first realized how terrible the First World War had been. In far away Australia I visited the War Memorial—a museum that pays a lot of attention to the Australian contribution to the Allied cause in the Great War (as WW I is referred to in many countries). During that visit I understood better than ever before that nations from all over the world were involved in this world-wide dispute. A few years ago I was, quite unexpectedly, also confronted with this same fact, as I was travelling with a group in Turkey. Our guide told us that near the Dardanelles more than one million soldiers lost their lives in Word War I.
There are, however, few places that are so moving, as far as the Great War is concerned, as Ieper in Belgium. In a part of southwestern Belgium and the North-West of France one finds dozens of war cemeteries, where hundreds of thousands of men and women from dozens of different nations have found their last resting place. The remains of the trenches in which the opposing armies were involved in an inhuman process of cruelty and senseless violence, still tell their macabre story. But it is, in particular, the Flanders Field Museum in Ieper that is unforgettable in its sadness. It is truly a fitting monument for the millions who lost their lives between 1914 and 1918. And, why and for what, in fact, did they die? Its subject matter would make the visitor even more downhearted, were it not for the magnificent medieval building, the famous Lakenhal, in which this museum is housed.
I have always loathed everything that has to do with war. As a boy I never liked books about war and I did not go to war movies. I was fortunate enough that I could escape the obligatory military service, since I studied theology—which at the time in the Netherlands provided a possibility to stay out of the army. But, had I been conscripted, I would have refused to bear arms. It always made me proud to belong to a church that was opposed to war and that advocated a non-combatant position.
To my deep regret, in many countries this Adventist tradition of non-violence has been watered down, or even changed into the opposite. This is especially true for Adventists in the United States, where so-called patriotic feelings have ‘inspired’ ever more men and women to serve their country by opting for a career in the military. A visit to Flanders Fields should be required for all fellow-believers who consider joining the army!
Yes, I know there are weighty arguments against radical pacifism. I must admit that I am happy that people are currently fighting the IS, and I would not want to live in a place where there is no police. But there are at least as solid arguments for resurrecting the Adventist tradition of non-violence. After all, in our world there are plenty of men and women who are prepared to take up arms. But there are always too few people who want to do everything to promote and model peace. Remember: Blessed are the peace makers. Real happiness is for those who pursue reconciliation and peace. They will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). My visit to the Flanders Field Museum reinforced in me that long-held conviction.
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Reinder Bruinsma Bio (partially translated by Google Translate; original): "I live with my wife Aafje in Zeewolde (Flevopolder, Netherlands). I have over forty years of experience working within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in various capacities and in various countries. I have written twenty books and hundreds of articles in both Dutch and English. Writing is now one of my main activities. Since September 2011, I also temporarily held the position of president of the denomination in Belgium and Luxembourg. Fortunately, there still remains some time for travel and other fun things.
Featured Image Credit--Flanders Field: By King, W. L. (William Lester) (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2007663169/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
The Adventist Review continues the recent focus on the anniversary of World War I with the story, "14 Soldiers in God’s Army" (Victor Hulbert, 28 Oct 2014).
The article begins with a brief description of the abuse the Adventists experienced:
Fourteen Adventist soldiers laid down their tools at 4:00 p.m. on Friday to prepare for Sabbath. But the sergeants were ready, armed with sticks, revolvers, and boots. Severe beatings followed. The bruised British conscripts then were roughly thrust into prison cells, irons tightly clamped on their wrists, digging into their flesh, their hands behind their backs.
After relating the staggering statistics relating to WWI, Hulbert shares,
Adventist soldiers found a different kind of horror. Determined to keep the Sabbath and not carry weapons, they were beaten, starved, forced to clean toilets to a shine without equipment, and punished with the dreaded “crucifixion,” which saw soldiers shackled in irons and painfully strapped to a gun wheel or some other object for hours in the hot sun.
Hulbert describes the difference between the ways leaders in Great Britain and Germany responded to the war. Adventists in Germany predominantly supported fighting for the nation, though some did resist, which led to the Reform Movement.
Adventists in Britain took a different stance. They followed the Adventist example of noncombatance adopted during the American Civil War in 1861 to 1865. This was not an easy choice, and British Adventists were widely scorned as belonging to an odd, working-class church exported from the U.S.
Things went smoothly, more-or-less, for the first 18 months for the Adventists who were conscripted.
But a new young officer took charge in November 1917, and he declared that Sabbath duty was mandatory. When the Adventists refused to work, they were placed under court martial and sentenced to six months of hard labor at Military Prison No. 3 in Le Havre.
The lengthy article addresses how the Adventists were treated in prison and the steps to their eventual release. Special focus is given to their first Sabbath in prison.
The complete article can be read here.
Additional APF stories about WWI:
- WWI and the Adventist Church (30 Sept 2014)
- Viewpoints #15: Dr. Idel Suarez Jr, Reform Movement President (5 Sept 2014)
- Love Your Enemy? (27 Aug 2014)
- Symposium on the Impact of WWI on Adventism (2 June 2014)
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the United Kingdom has compiled information regarding how Adventists in the region responded to World War One--WWI and the Adventist Church. "There were roughly 2,500 Seventh-day Adventist members in the UK in 1914. Some 130 of them were conscripted." The men who chose to be noncombatants experienced "scorn, humiliation, arrest, beating, and even threat of death." Furthermore, "a number spent time in Dartmoor, Wakefield or Knutsford prisons. A particular group of 14 were sent to France and following a court martial in November 1917 were sentenced to six months hard labour at Military Prison #3 in Le Harve."
In addition to four PDF documents--WWI Brian Phillips, Adventist Heroes Devotional Talk, Armstrong Letter 1957, The Tribunal 4-04-1918--the website also lists a number of primary sources and links for further study.
The site also has a devotional video from the 2014 SEC camp meeting. The speaker in the video is "Victor Hulbert, great-nephew of Willie Till, one of the 14 who were court martialled and imprisoned in Le Harve."
Finally, a trailer for the film, A Matter of Conscience, is provided. The complete film is now available: