Yes, technically, if Ben Carson wins the American presidency he would be the first, openly admitted, Seventh Day Adventist in the White House. But there have been others that the Adventists could claim as their own and with good reason. Warren G. Harding comes to mind. The 29th president’s mother, sisters, brother and many friends were Adventists. Some of those friends and relatives were appointed to prominent positions of power.
There were widespread rumors – believed among Adventists – that Harding was only publicly a Baptist “for political reasons.” The embarrassing truth about Harding’s lusty lifestyle would not become widely known until his death and is even still unraveling thanks to recent DNA tests confirming that he was indeed the father of the illegitimate child he always denied.
Our current president, Barack Obama, has Adventist roots. His ancestors trace their spiritual lineage to Adventist missionaries in Africa. As the 2009 inauguration of Obama was planned in Washington, D.C. journalists descended on the Obama family in Kenya where they found two, rather evenly divided groups. Adventists and Muslims. The international press ignored the Obama Adventists and spent their time pursuing stories on the Islamic side of the family. Nevertheless, the Obama family roots in this faith are well established.
Now, leading in the polls in Iowa, GOP presidential candidate and neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, is getting a closer look and his religion is becoming bit of an item. Former Iowa front runner, Donald Trump, made a point to talk about it. “I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh Day Adventist? I don’t know about that.” Trump’s apparent reckless and politically incorrect comments are usually much more calculated and nuanced than meets the eye. Here he is trying to make a point to born again Christians in Iowa. This guy is suspect. That group is a cult.
Nowadays, the beleaguered Evangelical Movement has no problem with a fellow Christian who calls himself a Seventh Day Adventist. As we learned at Columbine and Umpqua Community College, Christians are lined up and shot for their faith in this country. The killers don’t ask if you worship on Saturday, as the Seventh Day Adventists believe, or on Sunday, as most other Christians do.
Seventh Day Adventist, George Vandeman, who for years hosted the popular Christian television program, It Is Written, was widely loved and respected. The show was consistently ranked by the Nielsen Company as one of the top three most watched Christian television programs in America. Vandeman had a wide following of Catholics and Protestants.
In 1879, Warren G. Harding was at Ohio Central College, a Baptist institution, when his mother and aunt joined the Seventh Day Adventist Church. By some accounts all of his siblings were raised in the new faith. And while Harding clung to the his independent and more “worldly” lifestyle as a Baptist he was at times drawn to the doctrines and health practices of his mother’s religion of choice. Once suffering from depression a young Harding visited a sanatorium in Battle Creek, Michigan. It was run by the famous Adventist medical doctor, John Harvey Kellogg, who practiced holistic medicine and won fame for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes cereal.
When Harding became president the door to power opened wide to Adventists. The president brought his own homeopathic doctor, Charles Sawyer, back to Washington. The presidents’ sister ran a program for unwed mothers. Her husband, Herber Votaw, a minister in the church, was appointed Director of the Federal Prison System.
Ironically, the Harding administration was one of the most scandal ridden presidencies in history. While the Adventist publications praised Harding during his time in power, they grew silent when after his death the skeletons began tumbling out of the White House closets. Harding, who kept a mistress, ran for office touting prohibition. Meanwhile, he privately loved his whiskey, which he served to guests in the White House in spite of the law.
Eventually, the scandals threatened to touch the church itself. Harding’s brother in law, Herber Votaw was accused of allowing a drug ring to operate freely in the Atlanta Penitentiary. The charges were unproven and Votaw left public life, returning quietly to work in the Adventist Church.
After Warren G. Harding, gun shy Adventists elders reflected sadly on their church’s brush with power, vowing to remain focused on spiritual matters, while earthly events could take care of themselves. But now, things have changed. This is a time when Christians are lined up an shot dead for their faith. There is a hostile media declaring open warfare on their values. And finally, there is the emergence of Ben Carson, a quiet, self effacing doctor, now a front-runner for the GOP nomination. He is not a descendent of Adventists like Obama. Or a friend of Adventists like Harding. He is the real thing.
See below: Doug Wead on the collapse of the Jeb Bush Campaign. 30 Seconds.