Picture of Dr. Ben Carson


Now there’s a thought! Ben Carson, the Seventh-day Adventist pediatric neurosurgeon of Johns Hopkins fame, announced to the world on Monday that he is running for the office of President of the United States (POTUS). At a carefully choreographed campaign kickoff rally in Detroit, Dr. Carson returned to his boyhood home for the media event. His book, Gifted Hands, describes his inner city boyhood providentially turned around by a praying single-parent mother (with a third grade education)—a mother who challenged her son to aspire to his God-given potential. It was the impetus he needed. Carson eventually was graduated from Yale University and the University of Michigan and went on to become globally renowned for his surgical separation of twins conjoined at the head. His political catapult came at the February 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, where—with President Obama sitting beside him on the dais—Carson publicly challenged the President’s health care bill. Heralding his political hutzpah, the movement to elect Ben Carson as POTUS launched with a flourish. And the rest is political history. So what are the political prospects for this Seventh-day Adventist one time local church elder and Sabbath School teacher? Google his name and you’ll find a plethora of prognostications to choose from. While it isn’t the purpose of this blog to handicap Ben Carson’s chances of becoming President of the United States, his announcement this week does provide our community of faith the opportunity to reflect on two realities. First, it will be intriguing to observe the reaction of the press to an active Seventh-day Adventist in personal quest for the nation’s highest office. Huffington Post immediately wrote, “5 Faith Facts about Presidential Candidate Ben Carson,” in which fact #1 states: “He is a twice-baptized Seventh-day Adventist” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/04/ben-carson-faith_n_7206050.html). (Turns out young Ben requested a rebaptism at the age of 12.) Huffington’s other four facts include his practice of praying before surgeries. However, it doesn’t take a degree in political science to anticipate the media and press treatment of Carson’s publicly stated moral stances, including his position on LGBT issues facing the nation. And how will his faith practice be defined and depicted in the press once familiarity breeds its usual “contempt?” Will Ben Carson’s brand of Adventism become a portrait or caricature of the rest of us? We will see soon enough. A second reflection from his candidacy is the matter of Seventh-day Adventists in political public office. The often heralded stories of Joseph, Esther and Daniel (and perhaps even Moses)—whose belief in God remained firm in spite of their political offices—are commendable examples of believers in “high places.” What is often overlooked, however, is that none of these campaigned or ran for high office—all were appointed by a monarch. Does that preclude Adventists running for political office? Should the Seventh-day Adventist Church align its support with a particular candidate, especially an Adventist one? Anticipating Ben Carson’s run for the presidency, the North American Division of S.D.A. this week released a statement of guidelines that includes the following: “While individual church members are free to support or oppose any candidate for office as they see fit, it is crucial that the Church as an institution remain neutral on all candidates for office.  Care should be taken that the pulpit and all church property remain a neutral space when it comes to elections. Church employees must also exercise extreme care not to express views in their denominational capacity about any candidate for office, including Dr. Carson” (NAD/Michigan Conference email 5-4-15). Perhaps the most proactive stance for our community of faith is the practice enjoined by the Apostle: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Then let us pray for the POTUS Barack Obama and for all our political leaders, along with those who campaign to replace him one day, including our own Dr. Ben Carson.