I'm not sure why but it seems that people I meet often feel comfortable to share their nutty beliefs with me. It started when I went into see this one patient who from the very beginning upon my entrance into the exam room was eyeing my yarmulkah. This happens from time to time and nothing usually comes of it. Sometimes things do, obviously, but generally the patients don't seem to care much. Anyway, that was the way this interaction seemed to be heading since nothing came of it throughout the standard history and physical that I do for every patient. But as things were wrapping up, he gave me a strange little look and asks, "You Jewish?"
"That I am." I respond, entirely unsuspicious. For some people it's rare for them to have extended interaction with a Jew of any stripe and so they'll often ask me an innocuous question or two.
"Ah," he says, "I thought so."
So I answer dry as a bone, "Oh, what gave it away?"
He laughs, tells me I'm a funny guy - and then the conversation turns weird.
After confirming that I observe the Sabbath on Saturdays he reveals that he's a Seventh Day Adventist and asks me if I'm worried about that. Worried about observing Shabbos? Not really, I answer. He goes on to tell me that I should be because the Pope is planning on enforcing a one-day Sabbath observance and that it'll be on Sunday. Now I'm not exactly an expert on Papal policy, nor do I closely follow Vatican movements, but that didn't sound like something high on the Pope's agenda - and in any event, I didn't care much about the Pope's efforts on that issue. I tell him that the Saturday/Sunday divide has been an issue between Christians and Jews for some time now and I wasn't expecting the Pope to start religious coercion over the Sabbath in modern day.
Not so, he responds, the day is coming soon for when we'll all have to *run to the mountains* to escape this coming religious persecution or otherwise suffer martyrdom! He directs me to read Revelations and the Book of Daniel, where he insists that this whole course of events is clearly written.
That's some wacky stuff. Eschatological beliefs in general tend to approximate different forms of nuttiness, but as the beliefs become more specific and the timeline more acute it becomes only more obvious. I was willing to chalk this one up to one man's weird understanding of religion or Papal conspiracy paranoia since I had some affinity to Seventh-day Adventists, but it turns out that this is basic ideology of the original Adventist Church!
So sayeth Wiki, "The pioneers of the church taught that the Seventh-day Sabbath will be a test, leading to the sealing of God's people during the end times. Ellen G. White interpreted Daniel 7:25, Revelation 13:15, Revelation 7, Ezekiel 20: 12, 20 and Exodus 31:13 this way. Where the subject of persecution appeared in prophecy, it was thought to be about the Sabbath commandment. Some early Adventists were jailed for working on Sunday, in violation of various local "Sunday laws" or blue laws which legislated Sundays as a day of rest. It was expected that a universal Sunday law would soon be enforced, as a sign of the end times."
An interesting aside is that the Adventists were early critics of the Blue Laws, which were designed in the early part of the last century to protect the so-believed Christian heritage of the nation by enforcing certain aspects of Sunday. Some of the Blue Laws still persist today throughout the country, including limitations on liquor stores to not operate on Sunday mornings and the fact that the United States Postal Service does not deliver on Sunday. In this manner, the Adventists have been suspicious of government intrusion into religious life - an orientation that benefited all minority faiths in this country.
See, it's strange how rational-appearing people can have truly way-out-there understandings of the world laying right below the surface. Though, on retrospect, that should not have been so shocking from the Adventists, given that it is a religion founded on the *thrice-failed* predictions of William Miller and Samuel Snow regarding Jesus' immanent return in 1843/1844. As a religion focused on eschatology (hence the "advent" part of Adventist), I wonder whether there is anything to be concerned about over this rapidly expanding religion.