Dr. Ciro Sepulveda, chair of the History department at Oakwood College, wrote an article entitled “Reinventing Adventist History.” You can find the abridged version of the article at Adventist Today. The full article can be found at the Oakwod College Website.
Lamb Horned Beast to Lamb Like Beast
In this article Dr. Sepulveda traces the develoment of Adventist understanding of the American power. In this article we see the early Adventists “…considered the United States to be a two-horned beast of Revelation 13, a demonic power in collusion with forces of evil.”
Joseph Bates stated that “Then I suppose we shall begin to think (if not before) that the third woe has come upon this nation, this boasted land of liberty, this heaven-daring, soul destroying, slave holding, murdering country.”
Over time Sepulveda notes, the Adventist understanding of the United States changed from a beast with lamblike horns to a lamblike beast. In his final paragraph he states:
In summary, the historiography of the Adventist church helped create a new identity for the modern Adventist, no longer burdened by the troublesome baggage or worldview of the early founders, and no longer seeing the government as an evil beast in collusion with satanic powers. They no longer pressed to proclaim the second coming of Jesus because the world, after all, is not that bad. Unlike the Adventists of the middle nineteenth century who saw the nation as a warmongering two-horned beast, the modern Adventist feels very comfortable embracing the values and culture of the nation and its never-ending search for power and dominance.
Liberals and Conservatives disagree with the Pioneers
As I think about this work it hits me how many Adventists “conservative” and “liberal” would have problems with this characterization of the United States as an unredeemable beast bent on savagery. We have conservatives among us who seek to defend the policies and practices of the United States at all costs even to the point of taking up arms and dieing in the wars of this nation. Some of these may say that in the future America will be a beast, but would argue that today the United States is the best hope for humanity’s good.
In addition, we have liberals who work for peace and justice in the United States believing that their work can make the United States a better place. They might say that the United States acts beastly, but acting beastly is not necessarily the obvious outcome of all its actions. In other words our work can make the beast less of a beast.
Beast or Lamb?
Is the United States a Beast or a Lamb in its heart? Should we support it when desception is used to rationalize wars? Should we resign in the belief that it is unredeemable? Whatever one’s beleifs on that question we must admit that there have been reforms in the United States throughout history that have made the world a better place.
As an African American I am happy that people did not just assume that America was a beast that could not be reformed. Those in the Civil Rights, peace, and other movements acted in the belief that some good can come from their work. Is it a beast or a lamb? Whatever it is, our calling as Christians is to demonstrate the principles of God in this world. Such a demonstration will place us at odds with the powers of this world. But, our witness to the principles of Christ will be a blessing to others in the world.