"The voice of duty is the voice of God": The spatial manifestation of the religious duty of health in Seventh-day Adventism

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Burtch, Nathan R.
Geores, Martha
The Seventh-day Adventists are a millennial Christian denomination that traces its lineage to the Millerites of the mid-nineteenth century. Among the various theological differences espoused by Adventism is a predilection towards healthful living and providing healthcare services to those in need; a religious duty of health. This research studies the intersection of religious behavior, health, and space within Adventism. A content analysis of the writings of Ellen G. White, a particularly important voice in the creation of Adventism, demonstrates that healthful practice is a religious duty. This religious duty towards health can be categorized as both an individual and an institutional duty; adherents themselves have duties towards health, as well Adventist institutions have duties of healthcare provision. To understand how religious duty interacts with space, a model of spatialization of duty is constructed. Extending upon Lefebvre’s spatial triad, religious duty is theorized to meet with an individual’s agency of belief within a filter of space. Religious duty therefore manifests spatially through the construction of a dutyscape, or a landscape spatially constructed around duty. The terms religious space and sacred space are defined to clarify difference. Religious space is social space that establishes a connection between the physical and metaphysical realms, while sacred space is personal space in which the connection between the physical and metaphysical is experienced. Both types of space can manifest through a filter of space as dutyscapes. Adventist spaces of healing are assessed in the context of existing therapeutic landscapes literature and the model of the construction of dutyscapes. This research shows that the Adventist institutional duties of health manifest as a worldwide dutyscape of hospitals. Additionally, a content analysis of YouTube videos published by Adventist healthcare institutions, in conjunction with a narrative interview with an employee of Adventist HealthCare, demonstrates that these religious duties are still current to Adventist spaces of health. The spatial manifestation of these religious duties make Adventist hospitals religious spaces, and give the potential to create sacred spaces when individuals experience a connection with the metaphysical within the constructed spaces of care.