The Adventist adaptation
In recent years, some Christian denominations have discovered that their membership rolls are growing mightily in the Global South. Often those growing Christian communities are quite conservative on issues of gender and sexuality. We are now seeing such conflicts among the Seventh-day Adventists, which has passionately debated the ordination of women. A church that was once regarded as a purely U.S. phenomenon has become one of the world’s fastest growing and most diverse.
The Adventists grew out of the millenarian fervor that swept the United States in the 1840s. In 1844, William Miller warned of the Christ’s imminent return and the world’s destruction. In fact, he did so twice, and the double failure provoked what is termed the Great Disappointment. A remnant of Millerites then reconstructed their movement under the visionary leadership of New England–born Ellen G. White.
The new Adventism displayed many characteristics of the American sectarian world of the 19th century, not least the belief in charismatic prophetic leaders. The Seventh-day movement regards Saturday as the true Christian sabbath. Adventists follow older sectarian practice in avoiding meat, alcohol, and tobacco. These puritanical habits gave them a cranky image in the Mad Men era—until a series of longitudinal studies from the 1950s onward showed just how highly beneficial those lifestyle practices were. Much of what we know today about the linkage between diet and health grows out of Adventist health and mortality studies. We also owe to Adventist dietary theories the notion that cereal is an ideal breakfast food.