As a denomination Seventh-day Adventists choose a healthful lifestyle in order to live longer. Does my diet and lifestyle impact the environment? And since Jesus is coming again, should we even worry about it?
The health message entrusted to the fledgling Seventh-day Adventist Church was given so those carrying the gospel to the world could be of service, and as Ellen White commented, because “our work was not yet done.”1 Uriah Smith referred to church workers at the time as the “invalid party,”2 as they went for treatment largely necessitated by incessant work and failing to live balanced lives.
You are correct: Seventh-day Adventists do have a longevity advantage and live seven to nine years longer than the general population (shown in the first Adventist Health Study).3 This was corroborated in an October 28, 1996, article in Time magazine; they termed it the “Adventists’ Advantage.”
Longevity, improved quality of life, and wholeness in our brokenness are all advantages of the health message. It was given primarily to fit us for service, and for sharing the grace-filled message of health, wholeness, and hope in Jesus.
You mention the question of our lifestyle and possible impact on the environment. After working with us on a health-related project, renowned filmmaker Martin Doblmeier sent an e-mail affirming the wholistic health work of the Adventist Church, adding the challenge that Adventist Health Ministries (AHM) emphasize health, wellness, and the environment. We are happy to share that for the past 15 years the Adventist Church has been urging the importance of the environment and health. In the comprehensive health education program CELEBRATIONS®, environment is included as a specific factor that influences health. And, reversely, careful lifestyle choices can affect the environment.
Historically, Seventh-day Adventists have practiced and advocated vegetarianism for hygienic reasons, not philosophical or theological reasons. We have been instructed, and believe, that care of the whole being can lead to improved spiritual awareness, clear minds, and the intricate nerve cells of the brain being more open to the impressions and leadings of the Holy Spirit. Careful analysis of studies looking at the influence of particular food consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have shown beef production (and consumption) has a greater GHG compared to other types of animal products (including dairy) and vegetable products. Further research concludes that reduction in livestock will be important in ensuring future food security, as current consumption levels are unsustainable.4
Should we also be concerned about the way animals are treated—or often mistreated and abused—in our food chain? Yes, we should, because God cares (see Jonah 4:11, NIV).
What about environmental pollution? Ultimately, at the Second Coming, God will reign forever and “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:18).
Does God care? He surely does. We may honor Him by faithful stewardship of the bodies He has given us and the environment He has created for our habitation.
1 Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958, 1980), book 3, p. 279.
2 Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White:The Progressive Years (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1986), vol. 2, p. 119.
4 T. Raphaely and D. Marinova, Impact of Meat Consumption on Health and Environmental Sustainability (Information Science Reference).
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.
Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.