The Agora: Do Politics Have a Place in Adventism?
Newbold Auditorium was buzzing with conversations from people of different ages, academic majors or degrees and Christian perspectives. On Jan. 21, and students and faculty had gathered to hear a debate; this Agora, the question at hand was whether Adventists should be involved in politics. As moderator Garrison Hayes (second year, Master of Divinity) welcomed those in attendance and introduced Ben Dietel (junior, architecture) and Jose Briones (first year, Master of Divinity) to the floor, the crowd went silent.
Dietel, who spoke in favor of Adventists’ involvement in politics, stated, “We should be in politics because we are citizens of the United States, and as citizens we have a God-given right and duty to be involved.” Briones, on the other hand, supported the position that politics has no place in Adventism, and stated, “The church shouldn’t be involved in political campaigns or political activities at all.”
As the discussion began, it became very clear that the audience was very interested in why Briones stood by his “no” position, and asked him many questions. As the microphone was being passed around to allow the audience to ask questions, people also took it upon themselves to make statements. One statement that got a lot of buzz was made by Ben Lee (freshman, political science, pre-law). Lee said, “If the church doesn’t decide to take action on social issues we will have to deal with the consequences it’ll make in the future.”
As Briones was asked questions left and right by the audience, Hayes would throw a question to Dietel at times to keep the conversation balanced. Throughout the discussion, however, there was a lot of overlay in what Dietel and Briones were saying. For example, both believed voting as a civic duty, and being cautious when dealing with politics. This was mainly because both men weren’t the original people scheduled to be involved in the discussion—one scheduled individual was sick and the other person had a change of heart.
Although Briones was asked to further explain his point by the majority of people who attended, it was Dietel that ended up being stumped by a question from the audience. Chaplain Michael Polite, Associate Chaplain of Campus Ministries, asked Dietel, “How does religion and politics go together if in this previous election, and in history, it has proven to be messy.” Dietel tried to come up with a quick answer, but ended up not being able to do so. When Chaplain Polite was asked afterwards about his question, he said, “I believe that an assumption was being made by the audience that when the church gets involved great things happen.” He also went on to say he threw in that question because he felt like Dietel wasn’t getting a lot of questions and he wanted to shake up the conversation.
By the end of the debate, the matter of Adventism and politics had proven not to be a clear-cut matter. In regards to how the Agora went, Hayes said, “I think Ben and Jose did a great job in doing their very best to portray their sides the best they could, and I loved the audience participation.”