This piece was originally published in a special issue of the Whitman Wire written by the staff of The Collegian.
Many Adventists would agree that the most stereotypical Seventh-day Adventist food is the haystack, which roughly resembles a taco salad but has many different interpretations. In my family, a haystack consisted of a base layer of corn chips (Fritos), chili (made vegetarian, because the good Lord told us to), cheese sprinkled on top, various chopped veggies (onions, tomatoes, olives, peppers, lettuce, avocado, etc.), salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. Though each person makes their haystack differently, there are a few important things that can be learned from this humble dish.
- Be Inclusive
The Adventist church recently took a major step backward when it approved a statement on “trangenderism” that ignores the experiences of trans individuals and disregards their needs in favor of “biblical principles” on gender. Unfortunately, the statement continued an already long history of LGBT alienation from the SDA church.
The haystack, on the other hand, is an inclusive endeavor. There is no set recipe or method to creating the haystack, and it is designed to include a whole array of ingredients. When the ingredients are mixed together, they create a food dish that is even more delicious than if you only enjoyed each ingredient on its own. Excluding an ingredient from the haystack, or excluding a demographic from the church, will only weaken your entrée and make your congregation increasingly bland.
- Be Adaptable
Seventh-day Adventism is a global religion, and appropriately the haystack is a global food. It can easily be adapted to whatever foods are more common in a region. While chips and beans may be more popular in the US, other regions may opt for a rice- and beans-based combination. The analogy is simple: the haystack adapts to whatever is available and accessible. The recent rules created by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists that limit women’s ordination and LGBT church membership shows an intense interest on the part of a small group of individuals in controlling the lives of a much larger group of people. While the General Conference says “abide by our rules and we’ll let you in,” the haystack says “show me what you got and we’ll make the best of it.”
It’s a simple metaphor that may seem funny, but the principles should not be hastily ignored. The SDA church has the opportunity of deciding whether it is going to be an organization of inclusivity and support or of exclusivity and degradation. Unfortunately, it appears church leadership is currently more interested in shutting doors than opening them.