My Abba’s Still Got His Fastball

Though racked by pain and illness, my dad still held ’em spellbound at Loma Linda University Saturday afternoon.

But let’s talk about me.

I leave my phone off the hook 90% of the time and then check my messages about once a day.

Friday. 11 a.m. I check my messages. There’s one from Amy Klein saying I’m the subject of her Modern Love essay in Sunday’s New York Times.

I immediately go online and search nytimes.com. There’s no mention of the article. I see it will come out in Sunday’s edition.

I’m feeling queasy.

Turnabout is fair play but that doesn’t mean it’s pleasant.

No matter how many times I’m written about, I still find it frightening.

Oh my. Amy Klein has every reason to shaft me. Some of my comments about her have been cruel and almost all have been weird.

Oh boy.

I set off for Loma Linda in a borrowed car.

I feel like I’m sliding all over the road. Not sure if it’s my psyche or my car.

I fear I’m gonna die and the Jews are gonna say, "He died driving to church. He was never one of us."

No fact-checker from the New York Times has called me. How do they know that what Amy alleges is true?

These pompous (everyone with standards will sound pompous compared to those with fewer standards) MSMers claim all sorts of fact-checking but much of that is nonsense. These types of columns are not fact-checked. I realized that when I read Wendy Shalit’s essay in the NYT Sunday Book Review several years ago about fiction centering on Orthodox Judaism. Nobody had fact-checked the article.

The Book Review editor at the time was doing one of those public "We’re taking emails and answering your questions" gambits on nytimes.com so I emailed to inquire if the section fact-checked its contributors. I got no response.

It’s obvious they don’t.

I feel sick.

I tell myself that Amy is an ethical journalist. She’s not  vindictive.

I’m not comforted. What if she’s entirely fair and accurate and I still come across as a creep?

That’s just more evidence that I am a creep.

No decent woman will ever marry me.

I wonder what she’ll write about? Amy and I have never gone out. We’ve scarcely exchanged more than a few words in the six years we’ve been acquainted.

Hmm, the only possible angle for Amy’s Modern Love column on me is her experience of being cyber-stalked. Oy ve, it’ll probably be very amusing but it won’t get me married.

I’m really getting tired of press coverage that does not increase my attractiveness to the opposite sex. Everything I do is for the ladies. What’s the point of believing in God and doing mitvzot and writing a blog and pouring out your feelings unless at the end of the day you’re nestled in the arms of a beautiful young woman?

Without women, life would be a mistake.

Amy, if you’re reading this, and I know that you are, please know that you have me very scared. I’m sorry I was such a creep. You have every right to be vindictive. Oh, please, please, please, be ethical and fair and accurate.

Don’t be like me.

Be a mentch.

Gawd, it’s hot.

San Bernadino. One hundred degrees. This is what hell will be like.

I might as well get used to it.

I get off the freeway and roll through La Sierra College and it’s laid out like every Adventist campus I’ve ever visited.

I feel like I’m home.

I feel like I’m a kid again.

I knock on the door of my seventh grade classmate (for two months) Gary Chartier, a professor of religion at La Sierra.

We do a dialogue for a couple of hours. Video

It’s a profound step forward for humanity’s moral thinking.

I hit the road.

Must reach Julius Nam’s before sundown.

I roll up at 7 p.m. I only have two hours to kill before he gets home.

I have a sumptuous Shabbat meal of peanuts and After Eight chocolate mints.

Julius gets home and my yellow fever hits me hard.

It’s the first time I’ve met him and his family.

Koreans are such good looking people. A Korean woman of 35 looks like a white 25 year old.

If I’ve gotta look at someone for a couple of hours, let me look at someone pleasing. Not all wrinkled and fat.

Asians are the model minority. Lots of education and not so much violent crime.

They bring out the fruit and the kindness.

Oh no, the clock’s ticking until I say something inappropriate and then they’re going to feel betrayed and I’m going to feel ashamed and my family will feel appalled and my rabbi will feel aghast and God will burn me forever because He hates me.

At 11 pm, I get my hands on the new biography of my father.

I read it straight through until 3 a.m.

It’s hagiography but I love it. I love reading a profile of my dad by somebody who loves him.

I hope somebody who loves me profiles me one day.

Got that, Amy?

Shabbos morning. I’ve forgotten my tooth brush. I have no gum. I am a man of unclean lips.

Breathing fire, I hit the main church at Loma Linda. It seats about 1,000. It’s full. One bloke’s wearing a kipa. I want to say g-day but I fear he’ll think me weird when I pull out the kipa in my pocket.

Got my tzitzit tucked in.

I’m undercover.

I don’t want to give my dad a heart attack.

My beard’s bad enough.

Everybody hates it.

They think I’m a hobo.

Up front there’s a performance of a scene from Les Miserables followed by a Gospel sermon.

The pastor is Randy Roberts but how is he referred to? "Pastor Randy."

I don’t believe in calling clergy by their first name.

I believe in hierarchy.

I duck out at the end of Sabbath School and walk the halls of Loma Linda’s Religion Department looking for names I recognize such as Ivan Blazen.

Then I stop by the Korean SDA church.

My yellow fever explodes.

Somebody call an ambulance.

These people are gorgeous. I want to take three home with me just so that I feel good about life and no longer want to kill people on my blog.

The average age in the room is about 25. The place is full of grad students.

High achievers. Good lookin’. Godly. Happy. Helpful. Cute as the Dickens.

I have this bad habit of staring when I see something I like, but when I look around this morning and stop my gaze on someone particularly beautiful, she smiles.

Normally women frown when I stare at ’em. Today they’re smiling.

Gotta come here more often.

After all, I’m 1/16th Chinese.

I hit the potluck. I believe it is under RCC supervision.

1:30 pm. It’s over 100 degrees outside.

I’m going to walk the Loma Linda University campus. I’ve never done that.

First though, I’ll take a little nap…

2:45 p.m. Julius wakes me. My dad’s meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m.

I don’t care about his Gospel message but I want to see him.

It’s been eight years.

Maybe I’ll see some friends from childhood. Maybe I’ll see Kendra.

That would rock.

Must remember not to open my mouth too wide when I talk to ’em or I’ll bowl them over with my kimchi breath.

It’s painful to look at my father. He’s had an upper-respiratory illness and lost ten pounds. Because of all his coughing, he’s slipped a disc in his back. He can’t climb stairs or get in and out of a chair without help.

He’s swarmed by fans.

Eschatological religions like Adventism attract a disproportionate share of nutters and they’re fluttering all around him.

"Aren’t you going to go up to say hello to your dad?" I’m asked.

No. I’m going to sit back here.

Once dad takes the pulpit, he’s great. He’s got everybody eating out of his hand.

He speaks more slowly than I’ve heard him before but it just makes his words more dramatic.

One hundred meters away, people are dying in the Loma Linda Hospital.

My dad assures the audience that all who are in Christ are saved.

There’s mass relief.

I have to take a break.

I stand outside.

An old man pushes a tract on me.

He compliments me on my beard and asks if I’m a motorcyclist.

He asks what I do for a living.

I’m a writer, I say.

What do you write on?

Entertainment.

I feel like "Jewish Los Angeles" would not be the right answer today.

The panelists, Fritz Guy, Kendra Haloviak and company are getting into systematic theology with my dad.

Cameras swoop over the audience to capture the discussion for DVD sale and satellite broadcast.

I was once an insider but now I’m further than anybody in the room from what’s being talked about — the Gospel.

Shabbos evening, I run into a childhood friend. I haven’t seen her in almost 30 years. If I’d have stayed Adventist, we’d have married.

I know it.

Now look at us.

Let me drown in your laughter
Let me die in your arms

I’m very very tired.

Like a sleepy blue ocean.

Sun’s down.

I sit by my friend and pull out my Blackberry Curve.

"I’m in Sunday’s New York Times," I say.

That gets her attention.

I pull up Amy Klein’s article and we read through it together.

Not exactly the way I want to reintroduce myself.

My friend’s indignant that my dad’s on stage taking stupid questions when he should be in bed.

"This is the life he chose," I say.

10 pm. The meeting’s over.

If I leave now, I won’t have to say goodbye.

I grab an Adventist. "How do you get on the Ten?" I ask.

After he points me in the right direction, he says, "I’ve read your blog. It’s…"

Pregnant pause.

"Interesting."

Julius Nam writes Shabbos afternoon:

… Luke Ford is staying with us this weekend, and we talked about this a bit last night.  Orthodox Jews like him don’t really have problems with conceiving of God as one who punishes.  I think most cultures and religions accept punishment as a legitimate divine response to human sin, and fear of that punishment is part of human devotion to God.  Fear is rightly a part of every human relationship, and I expect that to be part of my interaction with God.  Fear, I suppose, can’t be the primary basis for a relationship, but it can be a starting point and/or an element in it.

But I can see that the GNT messages that I’ve heard hold a great deal of meaning for many who struggle with certain Bible passages and certain fear-based views of God.  I can see how it provides liberty and assurance – just like the forensic view of the atonement does using a different set of arguments.  Both presentations – though they may seem at odds – seek to show the God of Love who dispels fear and condemnation (whether real or imagined).  Neither probably is successful with those who hold sunnier (if not, naive) views of the human nature and aren’t plagued by guilt or perplexity over God’s purported dealings with humanity in Scripture.

Isn’t it great that different preachers are able to bring out different perspectives that lead to deeper and fresher understandings of God?  Some need fear dispelled, others need fear induced, and yet others need not fear that they’re less of Christians simply because they don’t care about all this theological mumbo-jumbo.

OK, I need to go wake Luke up from his Sabbath afternoon nap (some Adventist habits die hard), so we can go hear the good news from his dad at 3pm.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
This entry was posted in Adventist, Personal and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.