I can’t really blame my mother for what she did. My father was an abusive alcoholic. I had seen him hit her on numerous occasions; once hard enough to make her mouth bleed. My sister and I were punished with a belt or backhanded. Yet despite what happened during the week, we still made it to church every Sunday morning. On that particular day we were all “good Christians."
Over the course of our lives my mother tried desperately to find spiritual comfort in a variety of religious sources. My sister and I got dragged to more different churches than I can recall: Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist. (Since, in my mother’s small-town estimation, Jews and Catholics were destined for damnation, she eschewed their doctrines.) She even indulged in the wacky writings of Edgar Casey, Scientology and the Church of Religious Science. All this in the name of finding inner peace and some greater meaning to life’s adversities.
Then one day some new neighbors moved in next door. They were an elderly couple who had been missionaries in Africa for nearly 50 years. Their home was a veritable museum of cultural artifacts. (I was very much into the “Daktari” TV show back then, so of course I was instantly enchanted with their tales of life in the Congo.) In addition to being very kindly and hospitable people, they were also Seventh-Day Adventists. This was a faith my mother had not yet explored, so she of course became enchanted for an entirely different reason.
From the time I was eleven until I was nearly fourteen I was compelled to attend Bible study in their home and Saturday service at their church. (SDAs hold Saturday as their Sabbath as part of their adherence to Old Testament law. Additionally, they subscribe to the ancient Hebrew belief that certain kinds of food are “unclean,” e.g. pork, shellfish and anything not having a cloven hoof.) This was a difficult teaching for my mother to swallow, figuratively speaking. Still, she did her best to comply with this oddball, superstition-riddled culinary requisite, refusing to serve her family many of the foods we had grown up loving. (This certainly did not help matters between her and my father, a man who dearly loved his morning pork chops or bacon.) Even worse, she began bringing home “SDA approved” non-meat, pseudo-food products packaged and promoted by the corporate church. The term “god-awful” was never more apropos than in reference to these vegetable by-product manifestations of malnutrition.
But gastrointestinal peculiarities and Sabbath swapping are not the reasons why I wrote this article. There is another Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine whose message is so vile, so racially and sexually perverted that the church has gone to great political and social lengths to deny that it ever existed. But it did exist. It does exist. It’s called “amalgamation." This is the twisted belief, invented and publicly endorsed by so-called SDA prophetess Ellen G. White, that Negroes (actually any human beings of darker skin tone) are the result of Jehovah's “perfect” people having sex with apes or other animals.
Some background: White was born in Maine in 1827. Though slavery had been outlawed there since the late 1700s, rum manufacturers in Maine made a financial killing trading their “liquid gold” in African ports in exchange for Negro slaves, which were then sold for a handsome profit in the West Indies or the southern American states where slavery continued to thrive. Thus, the good—presumably Christian—merchants of Maine could “keep their hands clean” and still reap some hefty rewards. Even so, pro-slavery agitators in Maine continued to press for the re-legalization of slavery. And while White herself did denounce slavery as an institution, her language regarding “colored people” is far from egalitarian.
"God cannot take the slave to heaven, who has been kept in ignorance and degradation, knowing nothing of God, or the Bible, fearing nothing but his master's lash, and not holding so elevated a position as his master's brute beasts. But He does the best thing for him that a compassionate God can do. He lets him be as though he had not been." Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, p. 193.
So basically, she is contending that the uneducated black man (or woman) isn’t even as good as a “brute beast." Therefore, the “compassionate god” will simply let him rot in his grave in the same manner as a beast. (Note, it is no small coincidence that White frequently equated “colored people” with beasts. In fact, this comparison lies at the very core of her amalgamation theory.) So, what is it? White herself gave the definition:
"But if there was one sin above another which called for the destruction of the race by the flood, it was the base crime of amalgamation of man and beast which defaced the image of God, and caused confusion everywhere." -Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3, p. 64, 1864.
"Every species of animal which God had created, were preserved in the ark. The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the flood. Since the flood there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the endless varieties of species of animals and certain races of men."- Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3, p.75, 1864.
In essence, humans had sex with animals, thus creating whole new “confused” species. Even in White’s day, this was known in scientific circles to be a genetic impossibility. Still, the SDA church then as now staunchly contends that Sister White spoke nothing that did not come directly from Jehovah . (Not surprisingly, these very passages were removed from later revised publications, presumably because they caused the church considerable political embarrassment.)
But wait, doesn’t the Bible itself speak of such creatures? The books of Deuteronomy, Numbers, Job and Psalms all speak of unicorns. In Isaiah and Jeremiah we read about the cockatrice, a creature half-snake and half-chicken. And the satyr, the famous half-man, half-goat, which appears in Greek and Roman mythologies as well, is featured in Isaiah. In truth, superstitions the world over are rife with many colorful examples of "amalgamations."
Now let's get to the ugly heart of the matter: Racism. The modern SDA can deny it all they like, but I vividly recall listening to that kindly old couple tell us how there was "scientific proof" that the black man's brain was considerably smaller than a white man's. Then too, the shape of his skull, nose, lips and jaw—similar to that of the gorilla—clearly indicated his primate ancestry. White herself stated that the results of amalgamation are evidenced in "certain races of men." Her crony and co-leader of the SDA movement, Uriah Smith, went so far as to name them specifically: African Bushmen, Hottentots and even the American Digger Indian.
Perhaps White's ignorance—and that's a mighty big "perhaps"—can be forgiven considering the racist period in which she lived or her own medically unbalanced psyche. However, this perverted doctrine was still being preached during my childhood. And that was the year 1966! If you visit the official SDA website today, you will see they claim to abhor all forms of prejudice. How convenient. And how very "politically correct" for an institution that wishes to keep enjoying its tax-free status. If you ask rank-and-file SDA members about amalgamation, many of them won't know what you're talking about. That still doesn't belie the fact that this "religion" supported and promoted one of the most despicable and degrading concepts known to humankind.
As I stated earlier, I can't blame my mother for what she did, exposing me to all this nonsense. If anything, I owe her a debt of gratitude! Her curiosity, doubt and desperate thirst for answers inspired my own quest for truth. The pain of an abusive childhood taught me the meaning of hypocrisy and gave me the audacity to ask "why?" The latter has proven to be my most powerful tool in tearing asunder the ultimate "amalgamation" of lies, superstition, bigotry and intolerance that define the parameters of all religions.
Author's Note: My mother never did join the SDA church. Despite her personal trials and restrictive upbringing, she was still a woman of considerable intelligence, and I'm certain she saw right through their hogwash. After divorcing my father, she found her own form of "spiritual peace" in painting beautiful landscapes.