The Australian Union Conference (AUC) has released a movie entitled: ‘Tell the World,’ in which the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is dramatized. I’ve watched all of the lenghty two and a half hour motion pictures on Wednesday evening. Thanks to modern technology, I could view the entire thing through YouTube on my TV screen, and have my ‘poor man’s surround system’ give me somewhat of an imitation of cinema sound. I have to say, that I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, from the beginning to the end. It is definitely worth the watch and I will most likely tell the world to watch it too. There are at least two lessons we as Adventists can learn from the directors of this movie.
Let me start the first lesson by first stating that I like the way our church beginnings are portrayed in the movie, though there are significant scenes missing. Also, some issues are stepped over as if they have never happened. Things like the controversy over the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath between Joseph Bates and the White’s, and also the controversy over the eating of swine flesh. James White’s fierce character is not even close to being brought forward through the actor playing him, nor through his script. James White was anything but a sweet and soft preacher of the Christian Connection brotherhood. He was more likely very hot tempered, and very straight forward in his approach. However, to be honest, I am very happy that the movie left most of the controversies out of the motion picture. Herein lies the first lesson of the two I mentioned earlier for all of us: why focus on controversy, if you can focus on the movement’s core achievements itself? I, for one, did not miss the controversies among our pioneers as it was not important for the main idea the filmmakers wanted to bring our attention to: God’s guiding of His church to proclaim His Second Coming, the Sabbath truth, and perhaps more important in our day: unity in diversity.
This ‘unity in diversity’ that the directors so forcefully put into view give me the strong impression that it’s intentional. The different movie scenes underscore the fact that the pioneers all came from different denominations and traditions. Almost every scene, the viewer is reminded that the ones speaking are either a Methodist, part of the Christian Connection, or even Seventh-day Baptist as in the case of Rachel Oaks (she would later be married to elder Preston). There are many scenes in which, again the character speaking, is telling the viewer that one or more congregations are of ‘mixed’ denominations. This is a very strong emphasis based on solid church history. It is also a very strong underscoring of the fact that there were different traditions circulating among the pioneers. And also a strong statement that these differences did not block the movement.
Whereas we are so keen to think that we should all belief the same way, apply all the fundamentals in the same way, the pioneers couldn’t care less what the members of this movement did privately in terms of application. The focus was on discovering more, and more Biblical truths, by studying together, despite the differences of tradtions or denominational membership. For some strange and complex reason, both these spirits of the pioneers are completely lost: the zeal to study the Bible to see if we can learn more truths, and the acceptance that there will be different traditions, understandings and application of the principles. Mind you, I did not say that they didn’t care about differences in principles, because they did. What they didn’t care about, in the sense that they didn’t make a fuss about it, was the manner how people applied those principles agreed upon. Again: there was room for diversity in terms of application of the principles. This, I believe, together with the zeal to study the Bible more are two of the most precious values of our pioneers we should consider resurrecting. Thank you, AUC.