I’ve been re-reading Doug Morgan’s book, Adventism and the American Republic: The Public Involvement of a Major Apocalyptic Movement (2001). It really should be near the top of the reading list for every “Adventist Activist.”
In chapter 2, “An Activist Remnant,” Morgan traces Adventism’s relationship with the Civil War. At one point, James White called Adventists to pray for a quick end to the war.
Accordingly, he, with the other members of the General Conference Committee, issued a call to Seventh-day Adventists to spend four days, 1-4 March , fasting and praying for an end to the war…. By their prayer and fasting, Adventists believed themselves to be fulfilling a divinely forecast role in shaping the course of history. And they regarded General Lee’s surrender the following month as an answer to their prayers…. The Christian, wrote James White, ‘has really as much interest in this old world as any man.’ And despite the world’s downward spiral into sin and its curses, ‘here he must stay and act his part until the Prince of Peace shall come and reign.” (p. 34)
In May of 2009, I participated in a Christian Peace Witness vigil in Washington DC. At the time I believed that “praying and acting” for peace in Iraq was important; however, I did not know the history of the Adventist movement well enough to realize that this action was quite in harmony with our earliest leaders. Although attending the event could not be considered “radical activism” (except for the few who decided to get arrested in an attempt to draw political attention to the on-going wars), it was certainly not mainstream Adventist behavior. For example, an Adventist friend who met me there didn’t want to be in pictures in case her Adventist employer might see her and disapprove. How different were the values and actions of church leaders in that earlier era, calling for the same things that “activists” now organize.