Closer look at U.S. Republican candidate Ben Carson’s Seventh-day Adventist beliefs

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To the Editor:

“I’m Presbyterian,” said Donald Trump. “Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about.”

But who are Seventh-day Adventists, and who is Trump’s rival, Dr. Ben Carson?

In American politics, religion matters. Particularly when a New York Times/CBS poll showed Carson leading Trump nationally.

So who are these people who mystify Trump? According to Christianity Today, Adventists are the fifth-largest Christian denomination in the world. That a Seventh-day Adventist is leading the Republican field has come as a surprise to many Americans, as it has to many Adventists around the globe. The church has traditionally emphasized healthcare, education and, of course, theology, rather than careers in public life.

So what are the essentials of the faith? Seventh-day Adventists believe in the absolute truth of the Bible and view it as revealing God’s will for them. They believe it holds the key to salvation and clearly spells out how they should live and act toward others.

They dedicate their lives to glorifying God and believe their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. To that end, Seventh-day Adventists believe in the importance of eating a healthy diet and in abstaining from using tobacco, illegal drugs and from drinking alcohol.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a Protestant Christian denomination. They believe Jesus is the Creator. He is the Son of God who died for us, was resurrected, and through Him humanity can be reconciled to God. However, Adventists have a few unique characteristics. Here are the basics.

As the name indicates, Seventh-day Adventists go to church on the seventh day of the week: Saturday, the biblical Sabbath. With approximately 19 million members around the world, it is the largest Sabbath-keeping church in the world.

During the Sabbath, sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, Adventists hit the pause button on the frantic modern life and spend the time connecting to God, nature, family and community. They continue to provide essential services, like health care, following Christ’s admonition that it is “lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Adventists believe in a holistic faith that incorporates mind, body and spirit. This boils down to staying healthy, keeping a close walk with God and reaching out to others.

They believe Christ will return. This comes out of the Adventist understanding of Biblical prophecy, which leads them to believe that Christ’s second coming, will be soon. How soon? No one can say.

As their investment in schools, health care, aged care and a variety of other endeavours indicates, Adventists are focused on helping the world they live in even as they look forward to a world free of pain, suffering, injustice and exploitation.

They also run approximately 8,000 schools worldwide, making it the largest Protestant school system in the world and have about 500 hospitals and medical centers, including the renowned Loma Linda University Medical center in Loma Linda, Calif.

Carson was a pediatric neurosurgeon who performed the world’s first separation of brain-conjoined twins.

One thing that you will not hear is an endorsement of his candidacy from the church: the Adventist church avoids partisan politics. Which is just as well, as individual members’ preferences range across the political spectrum; the chaplain of the U.S. senate is Dr. Barry Black, a Seventh-day Adventist, and there are two Adventists currently serving in the U.S. Congress, both Democrats.

Pastor Ian and Averil Cotton