HINSDALE, Ill. —- Curiosity and anticipation ran high in the weeks preceding Diane Sawyer’s interview with former Olympian Bruce Jenner for millions of Americans, even Adventists.
Although noted today for his role as stepfather to the eponymous family in the reality TV show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Jenner is still fondly remembered by many for winning the gold medal in the decathlon during the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
“He was a hero to me, to my generation,” said Lonnie Sanchez, 60, a member of the Hinsdale Adventist Church. “He carried the hopes and dreams of Americans and made them a reality. And he beat the Russians good.”
The only problem: The interview aired after Friday sunset, which is seen as the start of the seventh-day Sabbath for Adventists.
While there are no direct laws against watching secular TV shows on Friday nights, many Adventists refrain from doing so, with reasons that range from “keeping the Sabbath Holy,” to “not doing your own pleasure on the Lord’s day” to “You’re just not supposed to.”
For some church members, such as Emma Millen, 22, watching TV on Friday night is a non-issue. “Wait, what? Why is this even a thing? I can’t even,” said Millen.
But for others, it is a little more complicated. “When I was growing up, watching TV on Sabbath was a big deal,” said Hinsdale church member Ben Karlson, 37. “The only things I was allowed to watch were nature movies or Bible-based cartoons. And only then on very special occasions.”
Still, it was clear on Saturday morning at church that many members had watched the TV special and were itching to discuss it with others, especially that Jenner had announced during the interview that he was transgender and actually a woman.
Church member Bonnie Tory, 56, decided to take a quiet, low-key approach and discussed the show with a select group of friends in the church lobby in loud whispers. Tory later said she only watched it because it was “a news program, and not made-up. Can you believe that he [Jenner] says he’s Christian?!”
Karlson gamely tried to bring up the topic during his Sabbath School class as a means of furthering conversation about the church’s issues with and treatment of the LGBTQ community, but was stopped short by shocked stares and someone asking, “So you actually watched it last night?”
A lively discussion then ensued on how to “guard the edges of the Sabbath,” such as making sure you take a shower on Friday and not Saturday, wading but not swimming and only playing with cards on Sabbath afternoon that featured animals, plants or Bible characters.
“Besides, why do we want to talk about Jenner anyway? He is clearly of the world. He wants to be a woman, which is obviously an abomination,” said Sanchez. “I mean, I heard that he wants to be a woman. I only heard.”