Discernibly Proactive
Balancing National Temperance Reform with
Opposition to Sunday Law Legislation

By Kevin R. James & Gregory W. Hamilton
Published in the June 2004 edition of Liberty Express Journal

The Seventh-day Adventist Church was not neutral when it came to national reform. The church involved itself in many reform movements such as 1) abolition of slavery, 2) prohibition of alcohol, 3) dress reform, 4) dietary reform, 5) health and sanitation reform, and other reforms. In Light Bearers to the Remnant, Adventist historian R.W. Schwarz provides a revealing hint regarding our Church's position during this confusing and somewhat turbulent time in our nation's history: "Many Americans saw Sunday laws as as an infringement upon their civil liberties. Frequently these same people took a similar stand regarding legislation limiting liquor consumption by restricting saloons and the sale of alcoholic beverages. As the America public divided into two camps, Adventists-having switched in California from the Repubican Party to the Democratic Party in opposition to state Sunday law proposals, and with their firm commitment to temperance-found themselves the uncomfortable allies of liquor interests in the fight to preserve individual liberties (i.e., opposition to Sunday law legislation)." (See page 251.)
There is a real need for the Seventh-day Adventist Church to work with other organizations in advocating certain moral reforms that address man's relationship to man. We should work with them in "their good work as far as [we] can do so without compromising any principle of truth." Our dialogue with carefully selected organizations can be a vital link in helping them "to become acquainted with the reasons of our faith" and bringing them to the correct "understanding of the claims of the fourth commandment." Somehow, like Mrs. White, the leaders of the Church need to place a much higher priority on being involved in the public sphere, finding ways to be discernibly proactive while keeping the larger constitutional and prophetic pictures ever in focus. There are times to remain neutral, but we also need to be a serious player, not isolationists or sideliners.
Click here to read the full article at the Northwest Religious Liberty Association website.Kevin R. James is the Associate Director of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) Department of the Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists located in Decatur, Georgia. Gregory W. Hamilton is President of the Northwest Religious Liberty Association (NRLA) and works for the North Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists located in Ridgefield, Washington. This article was a collaborative effort in research, writing, and editing. 

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