Dear Mr. Trump,
Greetings from Walla Walla, Wash., a small Pacific Northwest town some 2,800 miles from Jacksonville, Fla., where on Saturday, Oct. 24 you made the following comments in a campaign stump speech:
“I love Iowa. And, look, I don’t have to say it, I’m Presbyterian,” said Trump. “Can you believe it? “Nobody believes I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. “Boy, that’s down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.”
I am a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, and since you seem sincerely curious about my religion I would like to offer a brief sketch.
First, perhaps it goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: We Adventists are thoroughly human. Like all religious and nonreligious people what we have in common with the whole of the human family far outweighs our differences: we love, we laugh, we work, we dream, we do good, and sometimes we don’t.
There are moments when we get life right, and other moments when, due to ignorance or arrogance, or just being human, we get it wrong. Adventist people are, pretty much, profoundly and simply human, like you, and like me. And by the way, we are Democrats and Republicans and neither, and I know of Adventists supporting a wide array of presidential candidates this year, including you.
Second, Seventh-day Adventism is a Christian denomination. We are Christians. Presbyterians (your tribe) and Adventists share about 98 percent of the same beliefs and values. What we have in common, you and I, as Christian brothers, far outstrips our differences. Together, we believe in the Deity described by Jesus Christ, a God who created the world, a God who is deeply involved in the affairs of our globe, a God who sets the highest possible moral standard for how we earthlings should live, and particularly how we should speak and act toward one another.
And this, of course, is best articulated in Christ’s paramount commitment: love. Seventh-day Adventists have a long tradition of investing in such love, in meaningful humanitarian concern. We have built one of the largest and most well respected health-care systems in the world — we wish to care for those who are sick. W
e have built the largest Protestant educational system in the world — we wish to provide a quality education for the world’s children.
We have built one of the most successful global relief agencies in the world — we wish to bring hope and healing amid chaos and tragedy.
Seventh-day Adventists are Christians who work (imperfectly, of course) to fulfill the commandment of Jesus to love the world as he did (John 3:16).
Third, and finally, Seventh-day Adventists are (drum roll) Seventh-day Adventists. The “Seventh-day” part means we enjoy the biblical (Genesis 2:1-3) rhythm of six days of work followed by one day of rest. Adventists are known to be hard workers (an attribute I know you admire), folks who then also know how to worship, rest and play (also an attribute I know you admire).
The “Adventist” part of our name recognizes hope in the return of Jesus Christ to this Earth (a Christian belief). This future event — announced by Jesus himself — will bring about the end of suffering and death, a dawn of immeasurable joy and limitless life. This year I have conducted far too many funerals: a teenage boy, a twenty-something mother, and numerous other beloved mom and dads, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Each (Adventist) memorial service is not only marked by bereavement of death and celebration of life, but also by grounded faith in the power of Jesus’s resurrection as a forecast of a glorious resurrection to come. You will see her, you will see him, again.
How are Adventists unique? I suppose, mostly, in our stubborn habit of preaching ultimate hope.
Mr. Trump, I would love to talk — and I’m happy to fly whenever and wherever to chat life, religion, or whatever else is on your mind (your agenda, my dime). I’d give you my phone number but I’m fully aware of your propensity to tweet those things more broadly (by the way, moment of confession, I thought that was hilarious). I also thought about giving you my buddy’s phone number as my own in hopes of the ultimate practical joke on him. Alas, I chickened out.
Here’s my email: email@example.com.Let’s talk.
All the best in your campaign.
Pastor Alex Bryan, D.Min. is the senior pastor of the Walla Walla University Church.