Up until now, Trump has mostly played nice with Carson. But since Carson's recent lead over Trump, The Donald has taken his gloves off. And his lowest blow has been about Carson's religion as a Seventh Day Adventist.
The blow: At a Florida rally last weekend, Trump said, “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.”
What Trump did was clever.Without saying it outright, Trump placed the nagging question in the minds of listeners: Is Carson in a cult? Does he have weird beliefs?
So what are Seventh Day Adventists and why is Carson one? The Adventist movement was originally started in the 1800's by William Miller, a farmer turned Bible teacher who thought Jesus would return in his generation. He inspired people to sell their belongings and live with a sense of urgency in Jesus' coming.
While his prediction was obviously wrong, the group remained and learned from the experience what the Bible says: that truly no one knows the day or the hour of Jesus' return. They also adopted a focus on healthy living (many are vegetarians) and on keeping the Sabbath sacred, which they observe on the original Jewish tradition of Saturday.
G. Alexander Bryant, the executive secretary for Seventh-day Adventists of North America, shares with NPR, "It's not just that we worship on the Sabbath; we honor that day as a day of rest. We don't engage in secular activities, we don't work during that time, and we look at that time to be rejuvenated."
And that is something Carson tries to follow too, even while campaigning. Carson said, "Sabbath is still a precious day for us. We go to church as often as we can. Even if we're on the road we treat it as a different day than all the others."
Despite the differences between Adventists and Evangelicals, Bryant says they truly are Christians. "If you know our faith, you can't say we don't have the same beliefs as other Protestants."
Carson became an Adventist following after his mother, who found her faith in a mental ward. A very angry teenager, Carson shares in his autobiography, "Gifted Hands," that he really committed his life to God after he nearly killed a friend in an argument. He prayed God would take his anger away, and He did. “My temper will never control me again,” Carson wrote. “Never again. I’m free.”
Carson has been very vocal about his faith and feeling called to this campaign by God. And to Carson, a personal relationship with God is what is most important. “I spend just as much time in non-Seventh-day Adventist churches because I’m not convinced that the denomination is the most important thing,” the NYTimes reports Carson saying in 1999. “I think it’s the relationship with God that’s most important.”
And despite Trump's best moves, it seems the public is more impressed by Carson's faith. Thomas Kidd, a professor of history and religion at Baylor University in Texas, told the NYTimes, “I think a lot of evangelicals would say they would rather have a practicing Adventist than a nominal Presbyterian who doesn’t seem to have basic theological understanding about Christianity. Even if he’s not an evangelical like us, he’s sort of a friendly fellow traveler in a way that Trump is not.”
What do you think? Does it matter to you that Carson is an Adventist? And do you think that is something Trump should have thrown out there? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments! We love to hear from you!