Seventh-day Adventism in popular culture

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This article describes representations of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in popular culture.

One author wrote, "popular culture hasn’t often been very kind to Adventists."[1]

Representations in television[edit]

In the American series Gilmore Girls, one of the recurring characters, Mrs. Kim is a very strict, caricatured Seventh-day Adventist.[2][3]

In the House episode "Here Kitty", Dr. Gregory House refers to the events surrounding William Miller and the "Great Disappointment" of 1844. He remarks about Miller, "every time he was irrefutably proved wrong, it redoubled everyone's belief." Towards the end of the episode the patient rebuts House by saying "his followers never faded out, they became the Seventh-day Adventists – a major religion".[4]

All in the Family, a very popular American situational comedy which ran during the 1970s and early 80s, alludes briefly to Adventists. In the sixth season episode "The Little Atheist", the comical bigoted main character Archie Bunker says, speaking of his unborn grandson, "Raise him a Luferan if you want, raise him a Norman with seven wives, a holy roller, a Seventh-day Adventurer".[3] (These refer to Lutherans, Mormons – more accurately only fundamentalist Mormons; "Holy Roller" was a critical name used of Pentecostals; and Seventh-day Adventists).

The Simpsons makes several indirect allusions to Adventism. The sixteenth season episode "Thank God, It's Doomsday" contains a number of eery similarities to the story of William Miller's Great Disappointment: although, whereas Miller came up with dates in 1843-44 via specific time periods mentioned in Biblical prophecy, Homer predicts the rapture by calculating random numbers in the Bible. Later on Homer's followers are seen to suffer financial hardship after giving away all their belongings in anticipation of Judgment Day, and Homer, like Miller, eventually concludes he miscalculated and announces a new date for the rapture. A couple episodes also refer to the Little Debbie snacks produced by McKee Foods, a company owned by Seventh-day Adventist businessmen. The eighteenth season episode "Marge Gamer" makes light of Little Debbie's religious connections when Homer says, "Marge, you have to get on the Net. It's where all the best conspiracy theories are. Did you know Hezbollah owns Little Debbie Food Snacks? This stuff will rock your world."[5]

The Family Guy tenth season episode "Livin' on a Prayer" makes light of some people's skepticism towards Adventists. The fictional character Lois Griffin, the mother from the main family in the series, states,

"I don't know who's crazier, these people or those Seventh-day Adventists."

(In context, this statement follows a conversation with a Christian Science family who resist modern medical treatment for their son with cancer.) The view cuts to a scene with two ordinary-looking men:

Man 1: "I'm a Methodist. We believe that the Lord is our Saviour, and we remember Him by going to church and praising him every Sunday."
Man 2: "I'm a Seventh-day Adventist. We believe all the same things that you believe, but we go to church on Saturdays."
Man 1: "What!!??..." (with a greatly exaggerated or hyperbolic, comical reaction).

Representations in literature[edit]

The popular website Adherents.com comments on literary science fiction or fantasy references as:

"This is a surprisingly short list. Seventh-day Adventists form one of the ten largest international churches in the world. They have distinctive history, culture, doctrine and literature which could certainly provide subject matter for fiction. Seventh-day Adventists are often well-educated as well as devoutly and alternatively religious. They would make interesting characters in any form of fiction. Yet the SDA Church and its members are rarely mentioned in science fiction, fantasy, or any other genre."[6]

It also speculates reasons why the cultural references are so few. According to the website there are no known science fiction or fantasy authors who are themselves Seventh-day Adventists.[6]

In Black Boy (1945) by Richard Wright, "Granny" is said to be a Seventh-day Adventist.

In Alas, Babylon (1959) by Pat Frank,

"He said, 'Jim, maybe I could be persuaded to trade for honey.'"
"'I'm sorry, Randy. We're Adventists. We don't drink whisky or trade in it.'"[7]

In The Stand (1978) by Stephen King,

"...biked out to north Boulder... Boulder's 'old' residents. Stan Nogotny said it was as if the Catholics, Baptist, and Seventh-day Adventists had gotten together with the Democrats and the Moonies to create a religious-political Disneyland."[8]

The Brothers K (1992) by David James Duncan includes Adventist characters.[9]

In Towing Jehovah (1994) by James Morrow,

"'The Lord was lookin' out for him.' The freckled sailor slipped a tiny gold chain from beneath his polo shirt, glancing at the attached cross like the White Rabbit consulting his pocket watch.
Neil winced. This wasn't the first time he'd encountered a Jesus aficionado. As a rule, he didn't mind them. Once at sea, they were usually diligent as hell, cleaning toilets and chipping rust without a whimper, but their agenda made him nervous. Often as not, the conversation got around to the precarious position of Neil's immortal soul. On the Stella, for example, a Seventh Day Adventist [sic] had somberly told Neil that he could spare himself the "trouble of Armageddon" by accepting Jesus then and there."[10] (see: Seventh-day Adventist eschatology)

In The Terminal Experiment (1995) by Robert J. Sawyer,

"'But isn't immortality boring?'"
"...'Forgive me... but that's one of the silliest ideas I've ever heard... I want to read all the great books, and all the trashy ones, too. I want to learn about Buddhism and Judaism and Seventh Day Adventists. [sic] I want to visit Australia and Japan...'"[11]

In the award-winning Tree of Smoke (2007) by Denis Johnson, a fictional character Kathy Jones, a Seventh-day Adventist aid worker, is included.[12]

Horror novelist Ray Garton was raised Adventist, as was fellow novelist Steven Spruill. They claim to be the only Adventist novelists they know of.[13]

Other media[edit]

Postage stamps have portrayed Adventist subjects.[14] For instance, in July 2001 the Russian Post issued a stamp portraying the Adventist church in Ryazan, as part of a series on religious buildings. This was the first depiction of an Adventist church on a Russian stamp.[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gary B. Swanson, "The Adventists: Coming to a Screen Near You". Adventist Review (March 25, 2010), p18–
  2. ^ "Adventism according to Gilmore Girls" by Julius Nam. Paper presented at the Adventist Society for Religious Studies 2007 meeting (meeting version)
  3. ^ a b Adventism According to Gilmore Girls: A Prime Time Commentary | Spectrum
  4. ^ Peter Blake (2009-03-16). "Here Kitty". House. Season 5. Episode 18.
  5. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0988495/quotes
  6. ^ a b According to Seventh-day Adventists in Science Fiction on adherents.com. Retrieved 2007-10-16
  7. ^ Pat Frank. Alas, Babylon. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co. (1959), p.160 (as quoted on adherents.com)
  8. ^ Stephen King. The Stand. Garden City, NY: Doubleday (1978), p.529 (as quoted on adherents.com)
  9. ^ Cited in "Joy" editorial by Nathan Brown. Record 114:27 (July 18, 2009), p2
  10. ^ James Morrow. Towing Jehovah. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co. (1994), p.41 (as quoted on adherents.com)
  11. ^ Robert J. Sawyer. The Terminal Experiment. New York: HarperCollins (1995), p.197 (as quoted on adherents.com)
  12. ^ Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson. As cited in Dwyer, Bonnie (Fall 2007). "Kathy Jones". Spectrum (Roseville, California: Adventist Forums) 35 (4): 2. ISSN 0890-0264. 
  13. ^ Spectrum 35:4 (Fall 2007)
  14. ^ College and University Dialogue 13:2
  15. ^ "Russian stamp portrays Adventist church", letter by Valerie Ivanov. Dialogue 13:3 (2001), p4

External links[edit]