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]

Adventists and Adventism have been featured in film, television, literature, postage stamps and have been discussed in the media for their longevity. Adventists have impacted world eating habits in the the breakfast and health food areas.

Representation in cinema[edit]

The movie Evil Angels (released as A Cry in the Dark outside of Australia and New Zealand) portrays the events surrounding the death of Azaria Chamberlain, the daughter of Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor Michael Chamberlain and his wife Lindy. Lindy is falsely accused and convicted of killing the nine-week-old baby, and the public's unfamiliarity with of the practices of the religion are shown as one of the causes of public opinion turning against the Chamberlains.

Another Australian film, The Nostradamus Kid, depicts a coming-of-age story in which a Seventh-day Adventist young man grows up in the 1950s.

Hacksaw Ridge depicts the story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh-Day Adventist medic who exhibited extraordinary bravory in the WWII Pacific Theatre[2] including single handedly saving the lives of at least 75 wounded American soldiers in one night under heavy enemy fire on Maeda Escarpment Okinawa, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Doss saw himself as a conscientious cooperator and voluntary enlisted in the US Army to be a medic during WWII.[3] He suffered significant abuse and was court martialed for his personal beliefs.[4]

The 2004 film Hotel Rwanda focuses on the actions of Paul Rusesabagina who was internationally honored for saving 1,268 civilians during the Rwandan genocide. Rusesabagina was educated in Adventist elementary and secondary schools[5] and describes himself as a "lapsed Adventist" in his autobiography.[6]

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.[7][8]

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".[9]

The 1970s situational comedy, All in the Family 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".[8]

The Family Guy tenth season episode "Livin' on a Prayer" makes light of some people's skepticism towards Adventists. 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).

Girls' Season 4 episode "Tad & Loreen & Avi & Shanaz" complains about the bothersome persistence of door-to-door evangelist Adventists, confusing Jehovah's Witnesses with Seventh-day Adventists. The fictional character Avi Mensusen, states, "Shanaz, do we get Watch Tower? It's those annoying Seventh-day Adventists, again."

Representations in literature[edit]

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.'"[10]

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."[11]

The Brothers K (1992) by David James Duncan includes Adventist characters.[12]

The Road to Wellville is a heavily fictionalized story of John Harvey Kellogg the Adventist doctor who invented cornflakes. The Road to Wellville (film is based on the book.

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."[13] (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...'"[14]

In the award-winning Tree of Smoke (2007) by Denis Johnson, a fictional character Kathy Jones, a Seventh-day Adventist aid worker, is included.[15]

Horror novelist Ray Garton was raised Adventist, as was fellow novelist Steven Spruill. They claim to be the only Adventist novelists they know of.[16]

Representations on postage stamps[edit]

Postage stamps are used by countries to celebrate their culture and important people, places and events. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is the sixth-largest highly international religious body and operates in over 200 countries and territories so a number of postage stamps issues by various countries have portrayed the Seventh-day Adventist Church and other Adventist subjects.[17][18] This list is organized by the first date a postal authority issued a Seventh-day Adventist themed stamp.


In 1967, the first depiction specifically of an Adventist subject on a postage stamp occurred in the Malagasy Republic (which as since achieved independence as Madagascar) when Paositra Malagasy issued a stamp showing the Adventist mission headquarters and church building in Tamatave. The "Temple Adventist", a mosque and a Catholic Cathedral were each shown on a stamp in the three stamp set.[18](Image of 1967 stamp)[19]

Norfolk Island[edit]

In 1967-1968, Norfolk Island Postal Service issued a series of definitive stamps depicting historic ships, including a 1968 20c depicting the Seventh-day Adventist owned mission schooner the 'Pitcairn'. In 1856 Pitcairn Island was completely evacuated to than deserted Norfolk Island, so the Pitcairners become the first non-convict residents of Norfolk.[20][21] The Pitcairn ship brought the first Adventist missionaries and three Pitcairn islander converts to Norfolk in 1891. They shared the Adventist message with their relatives, quickly establishing an Adventist Church in part of the old prison. The Pitcairn would visit several more times over the years.[22] The same ship was later depicted on several Pitcairn Island stamps discussed below.

In 1981 Norfolk Island issued a 24c Christmas stamp depicting the island's Seventh-day Adventist Church with its sign and the printed words SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH in all caps.[23]


Samoa (Western Samoa until 1997) has made three Seventh-day Adventist related issues to date.

The first stamp issued in 1970 shows the Seventh-Adventist Sanatorium (hospital) building in Apia which served from 1896-1906.[24][25].

The 1979 Christmas miniature sheet included 4 stamps showing different churches and an additional five churches surrounding the actual stamps. A Seventh-day Adventist Church is shown in the lower left of the sheet.(image)[26]

A 2007 stamp featured the Fusi Saoluafata church, on Upolu Island with the heading "SDA Church".[24]. It came in a pane of 12 stamps showing various church buildings on the islands.[27]There are 6,500 members in 35 Adventist Churches serving the 196,000 people in the Samoa/Tokelau mission territory.[28]

Pitcairn Island[edit]

Tiny extremely isolated UK colony Pitcairn Island has issued the most stamps with a Seventh-day Adventist connection of any postal authority, which is not surprising since the church has had a strong connection to the island ever since Pitcairn Island residents responded to the 1886 arrival of missionary John Tay by all converting to become Seventh-day Adventist members. The only church, school, and medical center have all ever been Adventist operated. Pitcairn started printing stamps in 1940[29] and although there is little demand for postage from the less than 50 people in the local population, postal releases by Pitcairn are highly collected around the world and represent a significant part of the isolated island's revenue.[30]

Seventh-day Adventist connected issues include:

  • 1958:The church school and teachers house stamps[31][32] (only school) on the tiny island.[18]
  • 1975: The Pitcairn (schooner) owned by the Adventist church.[24]
  • 1977: The island church, the Seventh-day Adventist church being the only one on the island.
  • 1986: A series of four stamps to celebrate 100 years of Adventism on the island. The stamps show the four sucessive Adventist Churches built on the top of each stamp with the lower portions showing John Tay, the Pitcairn mission schooner (again), a baptism and members singing hymns to a departing ship.[24]
  • 1997: series of four health care stamps depicted the Adventist operated Island Health Center[33]
  • 1997: the island church again[34],
  • 2012: Roy Clark (1893-1980) shown with his wife May. Clark served as the island postmaster, schoolmaster, Adventist church elder and historian.
  • At least three more Adventist individuals have been featured


In 1978 Malawi issued a series of stamps showing churches including a 4P Christmas stamp picturing the Malamulo Mission[35] "an ultra-modern Seventh-day Adventist place of worship of which the denomination and apparently the Malawi Government are justly proud" according to one contemporary report.[36]


A 1979 Tonga stamp included the Nuku'alofa Seventh-day Adventist church in the lower right of the 22s stamp bearing the text TONGA The Friendly Islands Decade of Progress 1969 to 1979.[37] A 1981 Tonga stamp shows an Adventist campmeeting.

Papua New Guinea[edit]

In 1981 Papua New Guinea issued a stamp that said "Mission Aviation SDA 1964" with an image of an Adventist plane[38] used to provide medical and other aid to remote villages inaccessable by road. The Adventist Church has operated mission planes in the country since 1964.[39]


In a 1982 Christmas 12c issue the Bahamas issued it's first Adventist themed stamp depicting the Centerville Church in Nassau, [40] the Bahamas first Adventist congragation organized in 1911. From that beginning the church has become the fourth largest denomination on the islands. [41] A 2009 postage stamp depicted Grant's Town Adventist Church on New Providence Island.[42]

United States[edit]

An February 1986 US Postal Service stamp commemorated Sojourner Truth (born approx 1797- died 1893) who was a famous advocate for abolition of slavery and women's rights. Truth was pictured on the Black History series stamp[43]with an unusual double portrait to emphasize her two focused fights against slavery and for women's rights.[44][45].The subject of numerous honors, in 2014, Truth was included in Smithsonian Magazine's list of the "100 Most Significant Americans of All Time".[46]. She is expected to be pictured on the back of a new US $10 bill by 2020.[47][48][dead link]</ref> Truth was a Millerite Adventist (forerunner to the Seventh-day Adventists)[49] but left after 1844. Late in her life, while traveling extensively to speak, she based herself in Battle Creek, then headquarters for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and until her death there she was closely associated with many early Adventist leaders. Over 3,000 people attended her funeral in the Battle Creek Tabernacle, then the largest Adventist Church in the world. A funeral attendee said "she was a good SDA"[50] but some sources conflict on if she actually become a baptized Seventh-day Adventist or not.[51][52]

A November 11, 2013 stamp issue by the US Post Office commemorating Medal of Honor winners included reference on the backing sheet to Seventh-day Adventist US Army medic Desmond Doss who was the only winner of the American's highest decoration for bravery who refused to kill or carry any weapon, beliefs that were informed by his Adventist faith.[53][54][55] The stamp was also available as a cover with Doss's story and image of Doss receiving the Metal of Honor from President Truman.[56] Doss was the subject of the award winning 2017 Mel Gibson produced film Hacksaw Ridge.

While not mentioning the church or a high profile member, the October 1998 "Giving and Sharing an Anerican Tradition" USPS stamp has a deep Adventist connection. The first class letter rate 32c stamp was the product of 27 years of advocating by Milton Murray for the release of a philanthropy themed stamp. Murray wanted to see recognion for all the small charities that would never get their own stamp, so he wrote polititions and the Postmaster General suffering rejection after rejection until finally in 1998 the stamp was approved and issued. Murray devoted his life to raising money for the church amd charitable activities. He founded the Adventist Church operated 'Philanthropic Service for Institutions (PSI) in the 1970s and served as the PSI director for 20 years. As an advocate for organized giving he helped found many charities. Murray received several independent awards for his leadership in the philanthropic field.[57][58]

Cook Islands[edit]

In 1990, the Cook Islands issued a block of four stamps featuring individuals representative of the four main religions in the territory[59]. Dr. Joseph E. Caldwell, an Adventist missionary who arrived on the Pitcairn (schooner) and did much to develop the church in the Cook Islands in the face of significant persecution.[60] He also established a hospital in the Cook Islands during his eight years there. Dr Caldwell was featured in the highest value $1.60 stamp while the independent Cook Islands Church, Roman Catholic and Mormon Churches were the subject of the other stamps in the series.[61][62]Although there are only about 11,700 people resident in the Cook Islands[63] over 900 Adventist members meet in 15 churches there.[64]


In 1996 Uruguay issued a $3.50 stamp to celebrate "100 Anos Inglasia Adventista del 7th dia en Uruguay" that features a stain glass style three angels of Revelation 14 with trumpets over the earth. This imagery is particularly relevant to Adventists who place great emphasis on taking the three angels message to the whole world.[24]


A 1996 Vanuatu postal stamp showed the Port Vila Seventh-day Adventist Church in the upper left of the stamp. Two individuals are also depicted.[65]

British Virgin Islands[edit]

In 1999 the Seventh-day Adventist Church at Fat Hogs Bay in the British Virgin Islands was shown on a 35c stamp.[66]


In July 2000, Canada Post marked the 57th worldwide General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists meetings held in Toronto, Canada with a single domestic-rate (46 cent) commemorative stamp. First day cancelations were issued in Toronto at the start of the GC Session.[67]


Right 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.[68][69]


In 2002 Fiji issued four stamps to celebrate Operation Open Heart. The mission to do open heart surgeries amd train doctors in heart surgey techiques was launched by Russell Lee and two others at Sydney Adventist Hospital in 1986 with a mission to Tonga. Supported by Sydney Adventist Hospital and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) using volunteer staff, Operation Open Heart expanded internationally to Tonga, Nepal, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, China, Mongolia, Solomon Islands, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Rwanda, Philippines and Tanzania. The range of surgey types expanded to From Cardiac surgery, the projects have expanded to include cleft lip and palate reconstruction, burns surgery, uterine prolapse surgery, women's health, orthopaedic reconstruction surgery and primary health care. Team members have been honoured by medals and awards from various countries for their service. In anway Operation Open Heart represents the worldwide medical missions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[70]


In 2003 Kiribati issued a stamp depicting the London (Port Camp) Seventh-day Adventist Church on Kiritimati or Christmas Island.[71]


In February 2005, the Philippine Postal Corporation issued a 6p stamp (domestic letter rate) commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the Seventh-day Adventist Church entering the Philippines. The stamp is based on a 1967 painting "God watches over Manila" by O.T. Navarra that hung in an Adventist hospital and depicts Jesus with his arms stretched out over the cityscape. In addition to the painting the stamp includes elements super imposed over the painting including the denomination, church name and logo, a church building located in the North of the country, the years 1905-2005.[72][73] The stamp was designed by long time Philippines post office employee Alfonso Divina who is also an Adventist member. Leomer Batulayan managed the process of getting the stamp approved and issued. Belatulayan was the former director of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in the Philippines, [18]


In 2005 Brazil overprinted stamps to recognize a country-wide Adventist Pathfinder Camporee.[74] A 2009 stamp issued in Brazil featured the Central Adventist Church of Curitiba. The 2200 seat structure was recognized for its innovative architecture and design.[75]


In 2006, the Chilean Postal Corporation issued a three stamp set (images)[76][77][78] that commemorated the 100th anniversary of Universidad Adventista de Chile also known as Chile Adventist University. Each shows buildings in the history of the school. The stamps marked one of the first times any South American national government has officially recognized the Adventist Church.[79]

Cayman Islands[edit]

The 2007 Cayman Islands Christmas stamps featured stain glass windows of six island churches. The 80c stamp is the window from the East End Seventh-day Adventist Church.[80]


A 2011 Christmas release by Montserrat featured the refurbished New Enenezer Seventh-day Adventist Church building. The 1997 volcanic eruption destroyed this building[81] and 5 other of the 7 Adventist churches on the island[82] while the remaining Adventist structures were used as temporary housing for evacuees.[83]. Adventists celebrated 100 years in Motserrat in 2015.[84]

Health food[edit]

Seventh-day Adventists invented corn flakes and launched the worldwide breakfast cereal business in 1894. Working in a Adventist Church owned hospital in Battle Creek Michigan, two brothers launched what would become Kelloggs,[85] a business that was quickly copied by others, notably C. W. Post. The church directly owns or has owned many food factories manufacturing cereals, meat analogues, dairy alternatives, and other health oriented products. The Seventh-day Adventist Church owned Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing Company continues to be a major producer of breakfast cereals and dairy alternatives like So Good (soy beverage) based in Australia and New Zealand with international sales and subsidiaries.[86][87][88]

Longevity research[edit]

The Adventist dominated community of Loma Linda California was identified as a "Blue Zone" when research showed that members of the church live on average as much as 10 years longer then the typical American. The extraordinary longevity of Seventh-day Adventists has been linked to a combination of factors. Adventists encourage abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs, encourage regular exercise and a vegetarian plant based diet, and practice regular fellowship with like minded Christians and a strong faith in God.[89][90][91][92] Longevity and health amoung Adventists has been scientifically studied since the 1950s[93] with some of these studies collectively referred to as Adventist Health Studies.

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ "Hacksaw Ridge: the extraordinary true story of Desmond Doss, the war hero who refused to kill". Retrieved 30 July 2017. 
  3. ^ "Desmond Doss: The Real Story". Retrieved 30 July 2017. 
  4. ^ "Desmond Doss". 16 November 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2017. 
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  8. ^ a b "Adventism According to Gilmore Girls: A Prime Time Commentary". Retrieved 30 July 2017. 
  9. ^ Peter Blake (2009-03-16). "Here Kitty". House. Season 5. Episode 18. 
  10. ^ Pat Frank. Alas, Babylon. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co. (1959), p.160 (as quoted on
  11. ^ Stephen King. The Stand. Garden City, NY: Doubleday (1978), p.529 (as quoted on
  12. ^ Cited in "Joy" editorial by Nathan Brown. Record 114:27 (July 18, 2009), p2
  13. ^ James Morrow. Towing Jehovah. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co. (1994), p.41 (as quoted on
  14. ^ Robert J. Sawyer. The Terminal Experiment. New York: HarperCollins (1995), p.197 (as quoted on
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ Spectrum 35:4 (Fall 2007)
  17. ^ College and University Dialogue, 13:2
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  46. ^ Frail, T.A. "Meet the 100 Most Significant Americans of All Time". Retrieved 31 July 2017. 
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  49. ^ "Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)". Retrieved 2017-07-31. 
  50. ^ "Columbia Union Visitor" (PDF). 1989. 
  51. ^ "The religion of Sojourner Truth, abolitionist, black activist". Retrieved 31 July 2017. 
  52. ^ "What About Sojourner Truth - Ellen G. White Estate". Retrieved 31 July 2017. 
  53. ^ "Adventist Review Online - Adventist Doss Honored on Back of U.S. Stamp Issue". Retrieved 30 July 2017. 
  54. ^ "Badass - Desmond Doss". Retrieved 30 July 2017. 
  55. ^ Goldstein, Richard. "Desmond T. Doss, 87, Heroic War Objector, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 July 2017. 
  56. ^ "Desmond Doss". 16 November 2016. Retrieved 31 July 2017. 
  57. ^ "Adventist philanthropy pioneer Murray dies at 87". 4 October 2016. Retrieved 31 July 2017. 
  58. ^ "Postage Stamp: Giving & Sharing,". Retrieved 31 July 2017. 
  59. ^ "Religion in the Cook Islands : Cook Islands : Customs". Retrieved 31 July 2017. 
  60. ^ Milton Hook. "TUATUA MOU : EARLY ADVENTISM IN THE COOK ISLANDS" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-07-31. 
  61. ^ "Record" (PDF). ISSN 0819-5633. Retrieved 2017-07-30. 
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  83. ^ "ADRA provides relief assistance to Montserrat Volcano survivors". 11 July 1997. Retrieved 31 July 2017. 
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External links[edit]