Dealing With the Hard Issues

Posted: February 16th, 2023

He knew he shouldn’t have ignored the Check Engine light, but he had done what he always did with most bothersome things—ignored it, thinking it would take care of itself. But not this time. The car wouldn’t start.

Even though some people say they enjoy a challenge, I wonder if they look forward to facing very difficult ones. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, argues that people don’t like to deal with hard questions and have a tendency to replace them with ones that are easily answered.

It seems that Seventh-day Adventists are not immune. We are also averse to dealing with difficult questions. So says Dr. Allan Parker, professor at Southern Adventist University, in a presentation earlier this week in Portland, Oregon. He was citing findings from recent research he undertook with Millennials who had left the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Parker reported that one of the primary reasons given is the perception that the “church ignores hard issues”. Social justice issues, same-sex attraction, and gender identity fall into this category. I’m not sure if anyone can adequately argue that our church readily demonstrates a willingness to seriously consider these issues—at least not at the local level where it matters most.

As a teenager, I remember the hesitancy of some local leaders to host any discussion regarding sexuality. We were keen to have a safe space where they could ask questions that our parents were not answering or were unable to answer. Maybe some were even struggling with their own sexual involvement and were seeking some form of help but, too often, the answers were at best superficial. On reflection, perhaps these leaders did not have the answers themselves or maybe felt inadequately prepared to lead a meaningful discussion.

Today’s youth are constantly bombarded with ideas and arguments purporting to be factual. Naturally, they look to their church as an authority to help them wade through the mire and arrive at a position that is Bible-based, something to which they can anchor themselves. They look to their church to be a safe place where they can air their thoughts, ask their difficult questions and find answers from the Bible. They want their church to have a voice that speaks out against injustice and oppression—just as Jesus did and told His followers to do. However, the disappointment can be grave when their church avoids hard questions or remains silent about injustice.

The hard issues are real in the life of our society. We cannot relegate them to being just signs of the end or think they’ll right themselves. If we say that our church is the church for the last days, then we must be courageous to face last-day issues and give leadership to those who look to the church to hear God’s voice.

Let’s deal with the hard issues.