No one has asked me this question before. Why would they? I was raised in an Adventist home, enrolled in Adventist schools, and spent Sabbath mornings at Adventist churches. It would be hard to think of me as anything else.
- I am an Adventist because I believe the Sabbath is on Saturday, the seventh day of the week.
- I am an Adventist because I believe in the Advent message: Jesus is coming again soon.
- I am an Adventist because I believe when I die, I’m really dead. And I will be dead until Jesus comes back.
- I am an Adventist because I believe that despite disagreements in the denomination, we are still stronger than we would be apart.
For those reasons (and many more), on days when being an Adventist is more frustrating than fun, I choose to be one.
But I’m lucky. In the United States, religious liberty has granted me the freedom to worship how and when I want. The consequence of my choice is “simply” personal, not political.
In May 2019, 12 Chinese Adventists were sentenced to prison. They were accused of illegal business operations for printing sermons and other faith-related materials and distributing them to the congregation.
Coincidentally, I was in China during this time. Union College’s Honors Program takes a study tour every other year, led by Dr. Malcolm Russell, who has been coordinating these trips since 2018. We visited the excavated pit holding the Terracotta Warriors and sailed through the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River. However, the most rewarding experience for me wasn’t any of these sites.
On the last Sabbath of our trip, we walked into an Adventist church in Shanghai, found the balcony, and watched the worship service take place below us. I don’t know Chinese, but somehow, sitting in my wooden chair listening to what could have been anything, I felt like I understood.
Being an Adventist in Communist China comes with incredible consequence; I can only imagine the choice they face to live out their faith where a government monitors their every religious move. As Dr. Russell explains, “In China there are two groups of Adventist churches. The official church is linked with the government and the other is the home church, or independent.”
Though the official church doesn’t face the degree of persecution that the independent does, they are not allowed to have their own buildings and instead use other denominations’ churches on Sabbath. I don’t know what made me resonate with this congregation. This service was held in a Methodist church with crosses and ornate chandeliers instead of a typical Adventist church. But what I realized through this experience is that a powerful assurance accompanies surrounding yourself with a like-minded group of people that surpasses culture, dialect and politics. And that makes my choice even easier.
Author Flannery O’Connor states, “A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way.”
I choose to be an Adventist, not only because of my Adventist upbringing, but also because I believe that even in China—a world away—it would be hard to think of myself as anything else.
Juliet Bromme is a sophomore communication major from Orlando, Florida.