In the last 14 posts, I nuanced differences between servant (godly) leadership and beastly (satanic) leadership. The last 2 posts extended that contrast to America and Adventists. I used Revelation 10-14 and Ellen White’s Great Controversy to show how Adventists see a potential showdown between themselves and America over issues of servant leadership (especially religious freedom).
The disturbing question that lingers: how do individuals and groups fight the temptation toward beastly leadership? How do they stay servants?
Today, I continue to explore ways America could be pulled from service to beastly leadership.
I use “could” because I believe nations, like individuals, can respond to God’s warnings, the warnings of others and repent and change. However, I fear America is drifting to the “lord it over others” approach to leadership. We see tendencies of that in our current president, Donald Trump. Can “he” or can “we” fight that tendency and stay servants in the world?
His point is that the core greatness of America is seen in the founding values evident in Pennsylvania that fostered religious freedom as well as republican and representative governmental structures. This was a change from the church-state and kingly systems of Europe. Representativeness creates a place for voices to be heard. It created a culture and structures that protected freedoms. That is the secret of greatness.
The design of America is great, but we have to support that design by ongoing processes that reform and extend that ideal of liberty and justice for all to more and more people. This is why we are a nation of immigrants. Peoples have wanted to come and be part of such a system of freedoms.
And there is no better way to extend that freedom that through creating services to take care of immigrants, refugees, the poor, the homeless, the orphan, the drug addict, the sex addict, etc. It shows we are servants to other’s needs, just like God has been to us.
Adventists believe America and got behind this ideal of justice and liberty for all.
But our patriotism is not expressed in blind support of all that America has done or is doing. We stand for its ideals. But we have stood against slavery and other injustices tolerated in this country.
Patriotism is evident when a person or group muscles behind the best ideals of that country to help that country be better. I believe Adventism has done that by fostering a high moral road of generosity and good will to all (see Daniel 4, where it suggests the head of nations should also have such a generosity). Corruption and abuse and the hording of resources look like beastly leadership. We have tried instead to foster true moral greatness–a combination of justice and care, right and righteousness–in our nation.
I believe most American Adventists support America ideals expressed in the “Declaration of Independence” which fought for and fostered representative government and justice and liberty for all. We have resisted Catholic tendencies and European penchants for monarchy and hierarchy that squelches human brotherhood and the priesthood of all believers and denies speech and votes from all people. We believe this freedom has been fostered by the Protestant Reformation. That Protestant spirit was sown in the heart of the Declaration and the Constitution.
We believe the more America stays close to its founding ideals, extending justice and liberty to all, especially the marginalized, the better America will be. When she abandons that generous spirit, she will start becoming beastly.
As noted last time, Ellen White, one of Adventist central and founding leaders, was big on America’s ideals. She felt that “the great truth that “all men are created equal” was central to the fabric of America and Adventist’s could support that.
She and we value the U.S. Constitution that guarantees “the right of self-government” and “freedom of religious faith” that allows individuals to have freedoms, the greatest being the right to “worship God according to the dictates of his conscience.” Central to American greatness is “Republicanism and Protestantism…. fundamental principles of the nation. These principles are the secret of its power and prosperity” (White, Great Controversy, pp. 440-441, added emphasis].
That is why American Adventist have built hundreds of schools, colleges and hospitals in America to support the shared dream of more freedom: freedom from ignorance, freedom from illness. We love the American desire to support freedoms that liberate the human person.
Freedom requires love and service and a healthy understanding of the laws that make for liberty.
By abandoning God’s principles we believe America sets itself up for diminishing freedoms. We must challenge “bad” laws. We want laws for human flourishing not that support America “lording it over” others or that support licentiousness, the worse prison against true freedom.
Adventists were against the practice of slavery. And we are against America’s long oppression of blacks. We are trying to free ourselves from this racism (and we have that disease) so we can be in a better position to help our country free itself from racism.
We have also fought against “false freedoms” that were invitations to bondage. For example, we supported the U.S. Constitutional prohibition against alcohol. We don’t believe people can be free when they are drunk and widespread abuses of alcohol have hurt families and cause wide-spread crime and disease. We have had to change our strategy, but our goal is still the same….bring liberty through health, knowledge and liberating law and principles.
So we have been a people searching for ways to support America’s as a place of law and liberty, order and prosperity. We support laws that support human flourishing and family and child development, liberty, and health and knowledge.
In the next blog, we identify three laws that we believe America will be most tempted to enact that we believe violate not only the American ideal but also God’s “law of liberty” and fulfill the temptation to become just another beastly nation.