Ben Carson attempted to stab a close friend at the age of 14.
He has told the story many times.
He was living in a run-down home in Detroit with his older brother and single mom. His father was a disheveled minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Carson developed what he called “a horrible temper problem” at an early age. Dealing with poverty and his parents’ divorce proved to be too much for the young Carson.
Things took a turn when Carson and a friend got into a fight over which radio station to listen to. Carson snapped. He found a large camping knife in his mother’s home and went after his friend. Carson drew the knife and jabbed it directly at his friends’ abdomen.
The blade snapped on a belt buckle and fell to the ground.
Terrified and ashamed, Carson fled the scene and locked himself in a bathroom. There, he found a Bible and began to read. He opened up to the book of Proverbs and read:
“One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.”
Carson claimed in a 2008 PBS interview that he never struggled with anger again.
Carson, now a GOP presidential hopeful, dates his spiritual awakening back to that bathroom-epiphany, and has used his story of conversion to propel his campaign to a top spot in the polls.
His religious convictions are particularly interesting given Carson’s comments on the Islamic religion that quickly riveted the national media.
It’s no secret that Carson is a man of faith. He has been criticized for proposing a tax plan modeled on a biblical tithing system; he addressed the National Prayer Breakfast twice and called Jesus his role model; he regularly stands up for Christian principles and often recalls the religious tradition of America’s Founding Fathers; his Twitter avatar reads: #IamAChristian.
Not all Christians, however, consider Carson’s beliefs to be in line with their own.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Pastor’s Conference politely asked Carson to withdraw from a speaking gig offered to him earlier in the month, The Washington Post reported. Their concern, according to The Post, was that Carson’s beliefs, as a Seventh-day Adventist, were inconsistent with evangelical theology.
Carson grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and his father was an active minister. Having been baptized twice before the age of 13, he began to take his Adventist faith seriously after he allegedly attempted to stab a friend.
The enigmatic denomination emerged on the religious scene in the 1820s when William Miller, a veteran of the War of 1812, predicted the second coming of Christ. Several of Miller’s predicted dates passed without fulfillment and many of his followers abandoned the tradition. But a few carried on and attributed the faulty predictions to a misinterpretation on Miller’s part — not a flaw in the original idea.
There are two fundamental tenets of the Adventist Church: Saturday, the original seventh day of the week, is the Sabbath, and Christ will return to earth to test and judge mankind.
The religion also interprets the books in the Bible from a literal lens, taking the book of Genesis to reveal scientific truths.
NEXT PAGE: Carson’s Church Membership
Carson, in past interviews, has spoken with a flavor of Adventist theology.
During a 2011 lecture, Carson said he takes a literal interpretation of the six-day creation story, and that there is abundant geological evidence of a worldwide flood.
Later, in an interview with “Meet the Press'” Chuck Todd, Carson was asked how he reconciles his religious beliefs with his work in neuroscience.
“I find a good measure of correlation between my scientific beliefs and my religious beliefs,” said Carson. “People say: how can you be a scientist, how can you be a surgeon, if you don’t believe in certain things? Maybe those things aren’t scientific, maybe it’s just propaganda.”
Darwinian evolution, according to Carson, is one of those things that might just be propaganda.
In an interview with the Discovery Institute, Carson criticized Darwinian evolution calling it “incredible fairy tales.”
Although Carson stands by many of the scientific tenets associated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, it’s unclear how loyal he is to its religious commands.
According to Real Clear Politics, Carson has been a member of the Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist church in Silver Spring, Md., for nearly 20 years.
However, he attends only once or twice a month, and, according to an early interview with Carson, can regularly be found in other congregations.
“I spend just as much time in non-Seventh-day Adventist churches because I’m not convinced that the denomination is the most important thing,” he said in a 1999 interview with Religion News Service.
In his 2012 book “America the Beautiful,” he advocated for religious pluralism, and voiced respect for different religious traditions.
“As a Christian, I am not the least bit offended by the beliefs of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons and so forth,” Carson wrote. “In fact, I am delighted to know that they believe in something that is more likely to make them into a reasonable human being, as long as they don’t allow the religion to be distorted by those seeking power and wealth.”
Carson, although he strongly stresses the importance of faith, has made it clear his religious priorities as a Seventh-day Adventist should not get in the way of his political agenda.
Carson told Todd he does “not believe one’s religious beliefs should dictate one’s public policies and stances.”
Recently, he said to Wolf Blitzer: “Anyone who is willing to put the constitution above their religious beliefs is fine with me.”
Members of Carson’s staff declined to comment for this story.