Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Seventh-Day Adventist Church in a Nutshell

A Brief History of the Seventh Day Adventist Church for Lay people.

I write this blog as we commemorate the 167th Anniversary of the Great Disappointment of 1844. Before I get into the details of the Disappointment, it becomes necessary to understand who are Adventists? Christian Principles and doctrines may seem very simple on the face of it but is very complex when you begin to study it.

Many people ask me, who are Adventists? Are they Christians, Jews or is Seventh Day Adventism a religion by itself? To begin with, the Seventh Day Adventist community is an offspring of the Millerite movement.

Our story begins around the nineteenth century when William Miller a Baptist preacher in the United States began to study and decipher the hidden truths and prophesies in the Bible. For those unaware of this fact, a common Christian belief is that the Bible apart from being the book of Fundamental principles of leading a Good Christian Life, also contains certain prophecies dealing with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus Christ will come the Second time and the righteous will be saved.

William Miller continued to study the Bible and it was then that he tried to decipher the meaning of the book of Daniel. (Also considered as one of the difficult books to understand). William Miller continued to study the Bible and as he did he was moved by the Spirit of God along with fellow followers of Christ. It was around this time that Daniel 8: 14 picked up significance.

The verse reads: “And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”

Steeped in significance, it became a matter of concern to Miller who interpreted this verse to be '2300 years' calculating the same according to the ‘day- year principle’. Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day-year_principle

According to Miller the 2300 year period was to end in the year 1844. Miller interpreted it to be the year of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming and this stirred up the faith of many Christian believers. It is said that it was around this time, many people sold off their lands and began a sort of penance in order that they might be saved.

The Great Disappointment:

So what happened? Why are we still on earth? Although Miller never acknowledged a particular date of Christ’s Second Coming, he did narrow the time frame of the same to be between March 1843 and March 1844. Later, it was Samuel Snow a skeptic turned Preacher who announced that 22nd October, 1844 would indeed be the closest accurate date for the Second Coming.

Now, if there is one prophesy that has consistently been hidden by the Scripture is the actual date of the Lord’s arrival. In Matthew 24: 36-39 it clearly states on the Lord’s Arrival, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

This is why perhaps the presumption of Samuel Snow that October 22nd, 1844 would indeed be the Judgment Day failed.

These events gave rise to three kinds of Believers. The first of these believers are those who were not Disappointed at all. These were believers whose sole basis was Fear. The fact that the Lord had not come, gave them reason to go back to their wayward ways. The second type of Believers was those who had truly believed that the Lord would come but the fact that He had not only disappointed but left them embittered. The third and perhaps the strongest in their faith returned to the Scriptures for a better study of the Bible. This included the Adventist founder Mrs. Ellen G White. Most leaders and believers like Miller and Mrs. White began to study the Bible more intently.

The Most Holy Place & The Great Advocate

It was in these testing times that it was propounded vehemently that 1844 was indeed a year of significance, not solely because of the Great Disappointment. It was a year of significance as it was the year when Christ was elevated from the Holy Place to the Most Holy Place. It was also stated that the Judgement process had begun with Jesus mediating as the Advocate on behalf of each living person so that maximum people would be saved.

Adventist Mission founded:

It is on this background that the Seventh Day Adventist Church was founded on 21st May, 1863. It was an offshoot of the same Millerite Movement.

The Aims of the Seventh Day Adventist Church may be best summarised in three words: Preaching Teaching and Healing.

The Seventh Day Adventist Church is the largest of the Adventist groups in the world.

Important Principles:

· Saturday is the Sabbath. The most important of all the Teachings of the Seventh Day Adventists is their belief that Saturday is the Sabbath.

Ref: Genesis 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

· No Papal hierarchy.

· Important Health Principles : Special emphasis on natural remedies, vegetarianism and simple and plain foods and fruits.

· Abstention from Meat and Alcohol.

· Connection between Health principles and Christian duty

· Strict adherence to the Principles (especially asbtention from certain types of foods) as laid down in Leviticus 11.

In totality, the Seventh Day Adventist Church has left an indelible mark on world society especially in the field of Medical Sciences and Preaching with A- grade hospitals and excellent Universities like St. Andrews that impart knowledge and faith. It is the faith and the undying desire to come Face to Face with the Saviour that keeps the Adventists to lead lives that are different from their counterparts.

All we can hope is that at the time of the Second Coming we are found worthy enough to be saved!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How far can I go?

The role of women in an ever changing world.

The strength of a woman can carry the weight of the world.

These famous lines by Sarah Pezdek Smith has helped me believe that every woman has the potent to ignite the candle of enlightenment and prove to the world her insignia of Faith, Honesty, Selflessness and Integrity.

ROLE OF WOMEN: AN HISTORICAL ESTIMATE

A few decades ago the inclusion and participation of women in various fields was under terrible scrutiny. To put an end to this misery, feminist movements were undertaken the world over. They were questioned and met with rigorous opposition. In the last few centuries women around the world have gone on a war footing to empower themselves to match the needs of modern day society.

An old political tactic that many liberals employ when talking of such issues could kindle a very strong debate. However, a debate is not the one stop solution for all problems. In order to understand the need for women’s emancipation it is essential to rewind a few centuries in the past.

The mentality of the people around the world at the time can be described aptly in terms of Early Roman law which described women as children, forever inferior to men.

If I must begin with the past I find it necessary to start with my own homeland India. In the 16th century India, Gender discrimination was at its peak. Prior to the foreign invasions the worth of women was described in the words of Manu, the great Law- giver who said, 'where women are honored there reside the gods'. No religious rites could be performed without the participation of women. Men were considered incomplete without their better halves accompanying them. Slowly however this phase climaxed and the condition of women took a 360 degree turn when the country was taken over by an alien rule. The Islamic rule began in the country and the status of women was in a ‘see- saw’ state. During this period women were reduced to mere puppets in the hands of men. They were virtually reduced to the position of slaves and compelled to stay within the four walls of their homes. They were deprived of their basic rights. They had no say in their own family matters. Sati, Child marriage, tonsure of widows, female infanticide and forbiddance of widow re- marriage were some of the Social evils existing in the society. As a matter of fact, apart from the women from the higher castes, women were literally forbidden from education. It was considered a waste. Although we cannot blame any 'One' period of history or community for the deplorable condition of women, it is a fact that the women of today enjoy greater liberty as compared to their ancestors.

The arrival of the British in India and the spread of western education among Indian thinkers slowly and steadily tried to reform the scenario. It must be noted that the Empire did not immediately do anything concrete for fear of the wrath and rebellion of the natives. Soon however, a welcome change arrived at India’s doorstep in the form of leaders like Raja Ram Mohun Roy a western educated Indian and scholars like Veershlingam Pantalu, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar etc. Thinkers like Swami Vivekananda, provided for an evolution of thoughts. The rigid mindset of the orthodox Hindus was transformed radically.

We’ve come a long way since then. Today, The Hindu Code Bill which once did not include the daughter, today asserts that a daughter is as much a ‘heir’ as is a son and she is entitled to an equal share of the property and The Marriage Act no longer regards a woman as the property of man. Indian women have made considerable progress in the fields of Arts, Science, Humanities, Law, Sports and Entertainment. Our ‘Famous Firsts’ include Dr Kiran Bedi the first lady to join the Indian Police Services in 1972, Mrs Indira Gandhi, the first lady Prime Minister and Dr Pratibha Patil, currently serving as the First Lady of the country.

Surprisingly, India was not the only country were the women led a constricted life. In fact the country that gave the world the principle of ‘Democracy’ (Greece) did not regard women as a part of society. Women were not allowed to vote nor were they accepted as an equal.

Moving on, in the American Society, women were a significantly oppressed section of the society in the 17th and 18th centuries with no voting rights for them and they were kept out of armed forces and other businesses. Running on lines parallel to the Indian society, American women also were suffering with an inferior social and economic status. During the early history of the United States, a man virtually owned his wife and children as he did his material possessions. The status of the women in the United Kingdom can be described through 'My Last Duchess' a dramatic monologue by Robert Browning. The character of the Duke of Ferrara shows the mentality of the British aristocrats symbolizing dominance and arrogance of the men. However, today the British and American societies have accepted women and their contribution to the society with open arms. Surprisingly although the Muslim world has been accused of promoting the sub- ordination of women, it must not be forgotten that Turkey played an important role in promoting the development of women. In the 1930s, Turkey became one of the first countries in the world to give full political rights to women, including the right to elect and be elected locally (in 1930) and nation wide (in 1934). They were indeed the first to recognize that “The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world!”

WOMEN AND EDUCATION

Today the fairer sex has not only succeeded but in some cases superseded their male counterpart. The role of women has shown phenomenal progress in the field of Education. It is surprising, that the role of women has changed drastically in this field. In a recent study, it was observed that 4,587 of the 17,357 primary schools in England do not have a single male teacher. However at the University level men outnumber the women. It holds true the words of a famous man who once said, ‘Educate a man, educate only a man, Educate a woman and you will educate a family.’

Sadly, much is left to be done in the field of Education.The educational system especially in many middle east countries have not developed fully and are still reluctant to give in to the fact that women can be effective instruments in the field of education.

ROLE OF WOMEN IN POLITICS

Cleopatra may well be branded as a woman who enticed two great rulers, but none can deny the fact that she was a capable ruler, perhaps one of the finest of her time. Her political progeny has only increased down the years in the garb of women who have taken up the political reins in different countries. In a poll conducted Hilary Clinton is said to have outbeaten President Barack Obama at one point. Indian History cannot be complete without the mention of Mrs. Indira Gandhi who was titled (and rightly so) as the ‘Only Man in the Cabinet.’ She once stated, ‘You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose.’ She lived up to her words when she took the courageous decision of declaring a National Emergency in the country, a decision not many of her fellow politicians were comfortable with. However, this remark is not meant to demean the consistent efforts of her fellow – members. It is a subtle reminder that a woman’s determination can if need be change the face of the political system. Angela Merkel the Chancellor of Germany proved her mettle in the political field becoming only the second after another important lady politician Margaret Thatcher (former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) to chair the G8 summit in 2007. Christine Lagarde too made her mark becoming the first woman to head the IMF. No description of International politics is complete without the mention of one of the longest surviving female rulers the ruling monarch of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth who has effectively ruled her country for the past few decades. COuntless others have left an impression in different fields.

WOMEN AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Another outstanding contribution from the now ‘stronger’ sex is seen in the world of business. Women Entrepreneurs are fast picking up pace. Although women face a lot of constraints in terms of lack of family support or at times battling the male ego, a sense of awareness has led them to make the right decisions. A lot of women today are taking over the businesses of their families in India especially. Roshni Nadar, the daughter of the leading business tycoon and the current director of HCL Corporation in India is probably the best example of young women taking over the business world. Many have begun small scale industries. Being the more fashionable of the sexes, the leading ladies today find it easier to attract a lot of potential customers with their knowledge of style thus benefiting the World of Fashion. In fact it is even said that introduction of more women in the world of business could lead to a rapid growth in the economic health of the country. V. Cheryl Womack heads ‘Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World’ a non profit organization established to identify and encourage talented women entrepreneurs in the world. Till now they have successfully aided many such entrepreneurs to start their individual businesses.

SOCIAL STATUS: CHANGING TIMES

The social domain can never be complete without the presence of the fairer sex. Diane Mariechild described a woman’s presence in just one sentence, ‘A woman is the full circle, within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.’

Society has agonized women and healed injured hearts. Society has been responsible for the downfall and the upliftment of women. The reason is, that this Society is made of people who have been oppressed and people who bear this oppression. In the past women were toyed around with. Their status was designated as one of child bearing and child rearing. It was quite effectively forgotten that the same woman who nurtured the child was ultimately reduced to a footstool. What is shocking is that, inspite of being the first teachers to their children the very same mothers were treated as mere unpaid baby- sitters. Women were considered too dumb to write and were forced to assume pen- names that were pre-dominantly male; George Eliot being the most famous of them all. Although these harsh realities may seem unpleasant to the readers, truth is always a bitter pill. Does a woman do nothing but submit, then?

We must be grateful that despite the grievous errors committed, it was this very society which gave a chance for women to get a fair chance to prove their mettle.

From the sorry and pathetic lives of unpaid house- maids, society now recognized these women for the talent that they exhibited. Society gave those willing to challenge this male- dominated world the opportunity to assert their individuality. This is the basic and most pre- dominant reason that Feminist movements sprung up in various parts of the world. Be it Literature or arts, women fiercely propagated their need to rise out of the ashes of sub- ordinance and inferiority. All those passionate about this cause began to stand up for their right forcing philosophers, thinkers, scholars and above all the common man to reason out for themselves if it was in fact the right thing to do. Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ was one of the plays that showcased a woman’s need to be independent. A woman was not to be thought of as a co- dependent but an active participant in all life’s struggles. A literary awakening not only enlightened the rich upper class but also dismissed the wanton fears regarding a woman’s integrity being at stake. The upcoming bourgeoise or the neo- rich class thought it right for their daughters and wives to share in their burdens equally. Today, we have stable families where both spouses are bread- earners and the family is running smoothly.

SHOULD WOMEN WORK?

A common cause for concern that has always arisen is regarding working mothers. Many orthodox countries around the world believe that the essence of a woman is reflected in the upbringing of the children. The question posed is that if a lady spends the most of her day working, when will she get the time to even have a relaxed conversation with her children or for that matter will her children ever grow up to be responsible individuals? Whom then should a woman choose?

Choices are but limitations. It is not mandatory that in life we can only choose to fulfill certain tasks and in the bargain lose your identity. It does take a little soul- searching on one’s part to make the right decisions. For this purpose it is important that a woman must understand her own priorities in life before stepping out to work. Many women today take a break from work till their children attain an age of understanding. Similarly there are women today who also operate from their homes. Some mothers schedule their lives so wonderfully that their children do not feel aloof or left out. Family dinners and lunches help in family bonding. Vacations from time to time allow the parent- child relationship to further develop thus giving the entire family to understand each other and develop. Virginia Satir inspires all mothers to carry their burden with a smile with the words, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival, we need 8 hugs a day for maintenance and we need 12 hugs a day for growth!”

How wonderful to be a mother and feel complete as an individual.

WOMEN TODAY

If you read the book ‘Let Me Be a Woman’ by Elisabeth Eliot, one can understand exactly what it is to be a woman, to think like a sensible woman and to execute decisions in life as a smart woman. A few days ago, we were discussing about employing a young girl who is suffering with cerebral palsy at my new workplace. Despite her handicap she has successfully completed her graduation. Though her feat is commendable the fact remains that she is bright but jobless. My employer decided that she would give her the job and make her feel that her education and her hardwork are paying her. The benevolence that my boss showed while deciding to employ the girl indeed touched me and I feel proud of working at the institute.

Women have reached the zenith of success today in the fields of Science, Medicine, Space Research, Law, Defense and Civil Services and so on. Women are even given free primary education and financial aid in terms of scholarships, fellowships and easy access loans are also being provided to them.

ORGANISATIONS AIDING WOMEN

Various institutions like the National women’s Business Council, the International Alliance for women and Centre for Women and Information technology have been set up in the United States of America for promoting business women. Self- employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is an important organization in India for the same. The motto of these institutions is, ‘Empowering women in an insecure world.’

Other institutions that champion women’s rights to be liberated from domestic violence include Stree Mukti Sanghatna, Association for women’s right in development, the MADRE, etc. These organizations have freed thousands of women from mental harassment, physical and domestic violence and have also ensured that the affected are recuperating so that they are fit for turning a new leaf in their lives. The United Nations formed its Commission on the Status of Women in 1946 in order to monitor the treatment of women and promote women’s rights on a global level.

CONCLUSION

Ensuring women’s empowerment is today a global issue. It must not be taken lightly. Gender inequality or gender bias must be actively discouraged. There are no superiors or inferiors in this world of ours. It must be considered a privilege to be able to work with different people from different caste, creed, race or sex. We must accept the fact that in many areas of life men will remain ahead , but there exist domains where women have proved that they can withstand the test of time equally well.

As I started with a quote, so will I end in the words of Washington Irving the famous American writer: “There is in every true woman's heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.

REFERENCES:

Indian Society and Social Institutions by H.R. Mukhi

Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Eliot

http://www.soros.org/initiatives/women

http://www.enterweb.org/women.htm