SDARM, Education & Child Abuse

Keep the Peasants Illiterate: The General Ignorance of the SDARM

The Reformists of the SDARM generally BELIEVE and TEACH:
- The SDARM have very few church schools, where most Reformist children attend public schools.  For the SDARM elite, many of their children in fact attend mainstream SDA church schools, despite the usual refrain about how the SDA Church is apostate and part of Babylon!
- In practice do not promote or actively oppose higher education, such as university degrees.  Supposedly going to university leaves little time for Bible study.
The Reformists are WRONG because:
- Education was very important to Ellen White.  In no small part due to her leadership, the SDA Church has the world’s largest Protestant (and second largest overall after the Roman Catholic Church) education system.
- Neither the Bible nor Ellen White opposed higher education.  Moses, Joseph, Daniel and Paul were all highly educated people – in most cases schooled in the ‘Babylonian’ systems of their day.  Godly young people can attend secular universities, as these biblical heroes did before them.  Moreover, the mainstream SDA Church has its own higher educational facilities – the SDARM has little or nothing to offer education wise.
- The true underlying reason for the SDARM opposition to education seems to have more to do with control and power, and perhaps echoes the authoritarian origins of the SDARM.  More educated people have the tools to challenge SDARM authority, which is only built upon route-learned proof texts.  
- The practical consequences of the SDARM opposition to education is that they lose many of their young people, and many of their young people find it difficult to find good jobs in employment.  

The SDARM position on education
The SDARM attitude to education is best summed up by Helmut Kramer in SDA Reform Movement at page 20:
‘Ellen White speaks much about the importance of proper education. As a result, Adventists in general are more highly educated than the general population. The case with the Reform Movement is exactly the opposite. Until recent years they have discouraged their young people from obtaining an education, especially a college education. In one country in Central America, I found that the leader had advised even those in elementary school to quit since, according to him, education could be harmful to their spiritual life. For many years the Reform Movement (IMS) had only a school for missionary workers in Germany. To attend this school the student had to be proficient in German. In South America there were a few elementary schools.
The American Union established its first elementary school in the United States about 1979. It has since fallen apart due to lack of interest from the Union committee members and jealousy on the part of members in other areas where there are no schools. Reformers will seldom send their children to Adventist schools since they believe that these pose a danger to Reform children. This is probably the truth; the children would be able to see that many of the accusations made against the Adventist Church by their parents and leaders are false.
Most Reformers simply give no priority to the education of their children with respect to a Christian setting. This forms no part of their thinking. When they are confronted with the clear statements from the Spirit of Prophecy regarding the importance of Christian education, they simply answer that we are too close to the end of time to establish such schools. As a result, their children are subjected to the non-Christian influences of the public schools.’
And as similarly observed by Vance Ferrel in The Truth About the Adventist Reform Church at page 21:
‘And Education! Even worse in the Reform Church! There is no system of education whatsoever anywhere in the Reform Church! Ninety-nine percent of the children of both Reform Churches go to public schools. The irony is that, in Sacramento, some of the leaders send their children to Adventist schools instead of to regular public schools—and then, in the pulpits, they regularly denounce Adventism!’

The rotten fruit of the SDARM view
Forced to attend public school, but taught that any contact whatsoever with non-Reformists is evil, SDARM children are cast into very lonely and confusing childhoods.  As also acknowledged by Helmut Kramer in SDA Reform Movement at page 23:
‘Since our church had no schools of its own, I attended public school, along with my brother and three sisters. We were not permitted to participate in any outside activities. Nor did we engage in the physical education programs within the school. The latter involved competition which my father firmly believed was sinful and forbidden by the Lord.
Consequently I remember feeling myself a stranger among my peers. I had no close friends at any time, even through high school years. I was afraid to associate with others because, after all, it was "us and them" “the people of God in opposition to the children of the devil." The watchword was always, "be ye separate," in the manner in which the Jewish people kept themselves aloof from the "heathen" around them.’

An attitude of anti-intellectualism
Quite distinct from the mainstream SDA Church, the SDARM has a strong streak of anti-intellectualism running through it.  In this way, the Sevy-Taliban is much like its Islamic counterpart – the Taliban in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia.  As proudly admitted by 'independent historic' Reformists in “God’s Way of Education”, in Sabbath Sermons, in open opposition to higher education:
‘It is not always wrong to go to university. I suppose it depends on which course and how intense it is. Waldensian youth went to university.
…[However] degrees develop class distinction, aristocracy and imperialism. In heaven will be the true graduation which we should be aiming for.
When EA Sutherland came to Battle Creek he opposed the system of granting degrees and all that went with it, (the cap and gown) the graduation, the show, the pride, because he knew that it was part of the papal system, which was then current in the USA. He called it making an image to the beast.’
The interesting thing is that like many extreme fundamentalists, many Reformists talk about matters for which they have no understanding.  For example, a primary reason for opposing higher education, according to  “God’s Way of Education” is as follows:
‘Another downfall of university courses today, is that so much time must be given to study which can often leave little time for bible study or attendance of church meetings.’
For anyone who has been to university, as this author has, the above statement makes no sense.  Firstly, contrary to the Reformist’s assertion, many university courses leave plenty of spare time – in fact often too much spare time!  Secondly, would not a course that did not leave a young person too much idol time be a good thing, as it would give much less opportunity to get up to mischief?
Thus, whereas the mainstream SDA Church now operates the world’s biggest Protestant education system, the SDARM has in effect virtually no education system to speak of.  Even more than that, the Reformists go further and activity promote a spirit of anti-intellectualism. Is it simple jealousy at the mainstream SDA’s success in fulfilling biblical and SOP injunctions to establish a world-class educational system, or is there something deeper in play here?

The Christian support for higher education
Compare the SDARM’s fear of higher education with the counsel of Ellen White herself in Education at page 47, talking of the School of the Prophets, those great Jewish universities of ancient Israel, where she observes:
‘These schools proved to be one of the means most effective in promoting that righteousness which "exalteth a nation." Proverbs 14:34. In no small degree they aided in laying the foundation of that marvelous prosperity which distinguished the reigns of David and Solomon.’
Sister White then goes onto to note that the greatest men of God in the Bible were men of great education:
‘Sacred history presents many illustrations of the results of true education. It presents many noble examples of men whose characters were formed under divine direction, men whose lives were a blessing to their fellow men and who stood in the world as representatives of God. Among these are Joseph and Daniel, Moses, Elisha, and Paul—the greatest statesmen, the wisest legislator, one of the most faithful of reformers, and, except Him who spoke as never man spake, the most illustrious teacher that this world has known.’
The Bible tells us these men were subject to both the world’s greatest secular education, as well as true spiritual education.  There was of course the wise men who came to visit Jesus.  Then we read of Daniel and his friends in Dan 1:5,17, often portrayed as foreshadows of God’s last people on earth:
…three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king… As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.’
Even the disciples, who we wrongly think of as ‘rustic’, were probably relatively well educated (in a society with massive illiteracy). In Mark 1:20 we read the father of James and John had servants, and in John 1:40-50 it seems Nathaniel and Phillip are well versed in the Law of Moses.  Given the Jews are the world’s most educated people (winning the most Nobel prizes per capita than any other group on earth), and have been highly regarded as scholars (from pre-historical Joseph, to ancient Daniel, to Medieval Maimonides, to modern Einstein) the Bible hardly promotes the sort of anti-intellectualism advocated by the SDARM.
Whilst Ellen White was concerned about negative worldly influences from higher education on secular campuses, she still acknowledged the need for it, and even encouraged it as an important mission field.  As noted by William Cork in Ellen White and Secular Campuses:
‘I have been reading since I spoke here last, the warnings given to some who went to receive a medical education. They might receive that education without losing their spirituality if they were every day under the converting influence of the Spirit of God…
Now, shall professed Christians refuse to associate with the unconverted, and seek to have no communication with them? No, they are to be with them, in the world and not of the world, but not to partake of their ways, not to be impressed by them, not to have a heart open to their customs and practices. Their associations are to be for the purpose of drawing others to Christ.’ (Spalding and Magan's Unpublished Manuscript Testimonies of Ellen G.White. 1915-1916 (Payson, AZ: Leaves-Of-Autumn Books, 1985), pp. 19-25.)
Ellen White also acknowledged the Waldensians were able to obtain university educations without compromising their beliefs.  Moreover, she again reflected on Joseph, Daniel and Paul, who in effect attended the great secular academies of their day and yet remained faithful to God:
‘These things I tried to present at Harbor Heights [sic]. These who have the Spirit of God, who have the truth wrought into their very being, prudent men, wise in their methods of reaching others, should be encouraged to enter colleges, as students live the truth, as did Joseph in Egypt, and Daniel, and Paul.’
Thus, typical in Reformist style with their fortress mentality and Sadduceean purity, they throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater when it comes to higher education.

Case example: Illiterate SDARM children
Many Reformists deal with this irrational fear of worldly contamination by simply home-schooling their children.  However, in many cases that arguably only leads to even further isolation for the child, and adversely impacts their academic and social development in childhood. 

Regardless of the schooling situation, the Reformist childhood is inevitably a very lonely one, as Helmut Kramer goes on to reminisce at page 23:
‘We children were forbidden to associate with other youngsters lest they, as children of the evil one, should contaminate us.’

Papal authority and general ignorance
What could be the real reason for the SDARM stance against education?  One may never completely know – it may simply be jealousy of the mainstream SDA Church, with its tertiary educated leaders.
However, like most cults, the leadership are probably fearful of higher education because it teaches young people how to question and critically think for themselves.  This is little different from the Dark Ages, where the Roman Catholic Church aimed to keep the peasantry dumb, uneducated and unable to read the Bible for themselves.  History showed that as soon as ordinary people became educated enough to read and ask questions, the Papal monopoly on power and knowledge was broken. 
How different is the SDARM approach from Jesus Himself, who went out of His way to challenge His listeners – often in hyperbolic and controversial style?  Moreover, we should remember often Jesus would tell quite inflammatory parables, but not explain their meaning to the crowds.  Why did He do this? Was it perhaps because Jesus was more interested in getting people to start to think for themselves critically, rather than spoon-feeding them a host of detailed rules, as the Pharisees did?

The terrible consequences

So what are the consequences of a childhood under the SDARM education system – or rather their lack of an education system?  The 'independent historic' Reformists rightly claimed in their article “God’s Way of Education”, in Sabbath Sermons:
‘The school system was initially designed by God to prepare the pupil for eternal life. Schooling is necessary not only to find employment one day, but also to prepare for eternal life.’
Yet the spiritual life of SDARM children seems all but destroyed by their puritanical upbringing.  As observed by Vance Ferrel in The Truth About the Adventist Reform Church at page 16:
‘They lose most of their young people. I know; for I have observed them for years and am well acquainted with many in the Reform Church and many who have left it.’
As for employment opportunities, or rather their lack thereof, Vance Ferrel goes on to note SDARM young people:
‘can never obtain a full education for high-paid employment.’
Although it may sound like a hyperbolic statement, the SDARM way of raising children might be considered by some as a form of emotional, spiritual and material child abuse.  At best, it is absolute neglect, which does not prepare the child to either find employment nor prepared them for eternal life.

A plea to Reformist parents and parents thinking of joining the SDARM
In conclusion, no doubt many Adventists leave the mainstream SDA Church, fearful it is not giving their children the proper sort of godly education they desire for their children.  Sure, the mainstream SDA education system has many, many flaws; however, at least the mainstream Church has an education system – the world’s second biggest behind the Roman Catholic Church.
By contrast, far from an improvement, many have in fact destroyed their children’s lives by joining a cult-like group like the SDARM.  Not only do Reformists destroy their children’s chances of gainful employment but they actively (if only naively through neglect) drive their children away from the gates of heaven.  There is perhaps no sadder and more powerful argument against the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement.

1 comment:

  1. Boy, are you out of date, mate. Your facts are like one or two generations behind the times.

    I'm an ordained minister in the SDARM in Australia. Wife has a degree in accounting. I have a Grad Cert in Management. We educated our children through a combination of home school (government and Christian curriculums) and private day schools (one Adventist, another Independent Baptist).

    One son graduated two years ago from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Bachelors Degree in Industrial Design. My second son is halfway through his nursing degree with QUT (works as a shift manager of a McDonalds store to get by financially) and daughter will probably follow suite into some tertiary course.

    Most of the SDARM youth who are my children's age, are following a similar course in their education.

    Helmut Kramer is actually writing about IMS not SDARM (There is a difference). And he is writing about the 50s, 60s and 70s. I think you'd be better off doing some original research before you sprout off with comments like:

    "the SDARM way of raising children might be considered by some as a form of emotional, spiritual and material child abuse.  At best, it is absolute neglect, which does not prepare the child to either find employment nor prepared them for eternal life."



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