I would like to draw attention to the Seventh Day Adventist church please for discussion.
A previous thread existed that discussed whether SDAism was a cult. The moderator here determined it started as a cult, but grew out of it. I would like to suggest that this is perhaps generally true, but that the mainstream church is split into two halves; "liberal" and "conservative". The mainstream liberal church is mostly harmless. The mainstream conservative church has strong cult tendancies, but not all. I would argue is has the following cult tendancies:
- It is exclusive. Adventists are heavily discouraged (through social shunning, rumors, snide comments, theologies etc) to avoid associating with non-adventists in any meaningful way. You can do business with non-adventists, and be friendly, but friendships are strongly discouraged ("why would light mix with darkness?") and it is made very easy for adventists to move in only adventist circles. Born from adventist parents, go to adventist school, go to adventist university, get job in adventist institution, have a adventist spouse ('real' adventist pastors will only marry two adventists or two non-adventists, they will not mix them), go to an adventist retirement home and then be burried in an adventist graveyard.
- Big restrictions on your life that are hard to follow. Sabbath laws, health laws, all of which are put in a way in their theology that separates them off from everyone ("only we have the truth" "we are the chosen remnant"). If you break them, you are socially shunned.
- Dangerous, aggressive theologies. Their attitudes towards non-adventist denominations, especially catholicism, is sickening.
- They quote E G White more than the Bible in very conservative circles. They have a prophet, a charismatic leader... she just isn't alive.
- If you break these rules, you will be severely judged and socially shunned. Family "interventions" take place if one is suspected to be dissenting. They take the dissenter, put them in a chair, then surround them with their family and/or friends and aggressively ask if they are still adventists or not. They watch each other, they keep each other in check.
- To discourage members leaving further, great effort is done to emphasize how terrible it is to leave - not just that you are going to 'hell' (by adventist standards) but that you would crush your adventist friends/families hearts. They create a lot of literature explaining why adventists leave - none of it is true (they never mention that adventists might leave because they don't think its true - they always come up with variations of 'this person wanted to be sin and be worldly').
- They keep their members busy and invested in the church. Prophecy meetings (up to 4 times a week during prophecy outreaches), prayer groups, sabbath programs, sunday social groups... your social/free time is taken up with adventism (and this is in the mainstream conservative church).
- They hide themselves. The mainstream LIBERAL church even does this. They will have meetings and present themselves almost as non-denominational. They hold them in places that aren't their churches; public places. They call them all sorts of things. Common ones include "archeology seminars" and "health seminars". Sanitarium has done some dispicably deceptive things, which is scary as in Australia and New Zealand they are a huge figure and they used their products to promote unbranded adventist events.
All of this is made much worse when you get into conservative offshoots of adventism - [forum.culteducation.com
However, if you choose to leave, while family members/friends may try to hunt you down and shame you, the church leadership will not in most cases.
I feel that adventism is on the verge. You can leave, but in conservative circles you face severe shunning. What sets adventism apart, is that people do not need to be "rescued" from adventism, hence it would be expected that very few would need to be "rescued". They are leading happy, fulfilling lives. The problem becomes when they want to leave.
This is made substantially worse for people who have been born into the church. Consider the mental pressure on them; their lives revolve around adventism. Their family's social circle is made up completely of adventists, who, while they'll be friend/cordial to non-adventists, will in adventist company shun them and call them "the world". The dissenter faces a huge delimna; their entire social support is adventism. Their job, education... all adventist. Often, family is completely adventist. Friends are all adventist. It only gets worse the older you get, the more engrained you become.
When you break away from the adventist universe and join "the world", it is like starting life almost completely a-new.
You can leave. But you face immense pyschological pressure if you do, for obvious reasons. All of this teaching, all of this engraining, makes it very hard to even bring yourself to question it in the first place.
I thought I would share this information in case it stimulated discussion, and to share my thoughts with adventists who have decided to leave.