My parents and I left the Seventh-Day Adventist church in August 1980 (I’m talking practically, not bureaucratically).
We moved to Auburn, California, where my dad started Good News Unlimited, a non-denominational evangelical Christian foundation aka the invisible church of Jesus Christ.
I entered ninth grade at the non-denomination evangelical Forest Lake Christian School.
For the first time in my life, I made friends with non-Seventh-Day Adventists.
I was miserable. I was a nobody (I used to be known as Desmond Ford‘s son, my dad was a bigshot in Adventism, out of it, not so much, anyway, it’s not like status matters that much to me, I’m more interested in the things of the spirit like faith, hope and love).
My knees had cracked up so I couldn’t jog anymore. I had nothing I was good at. I yearned for mastery and decided that journalism would be my thing. That would be my ticket to get lots of hot chicks.
I finished my first semester of high school with a 1.2 GPA. I flunked two classes (Spanish and Algebra).
The next year, I went to public school for the first time — Placer High School. It was easier. I passed all my classes.
The summer of 1982 I went back to my old stomping grounds at Pacific Union College (PUC) and got a job working at the church camp for elementary school kids. And on the job, I fell in love for the first time.
The object of my affections was a girl on the janitorial staff.
She’d been a grade behind me for my final three years at PUC Elementary School. I hadn’t much noticed her. Now I noticed her.
Her nickname (given to her by my friend Andy, who called me “Hans Ford” for my deep Germanic yearnings) was “Action Jackson.”
Action Jackson was not a theologically complex girl. Like me, she was more into deed than creed. She didn’t talk to me about the Three Angels message and I did not pontificate to her about the Investigative Judgment.
Now, lest you get dirty thoughts, please know that we went no further than kissing (which we did not do until the summer of 1983 after I’d warmed up with a couple of girls in Auburn). The one time I tried to go further, Action Jackson stopped me by seizing my roving hands and declaring, “I’m not that kind of girl.”
I think I stopped taking Christianity seriously by about age eight. I liked my religious community but I had no belief in it and was determined to leave it as soon as I could.
I wandered in a secular wilderness until the fall of 1988 when I discovered an Action Jackson style religion.
Like my first love, Judaism stressed behavior over belief. When I spent that summer of love with Action in 1982, we frolicked in the swimming pool. We rubbed lotion on each other. We lay close in the sun. We didn’t lose ourselves in abstract contemplation of our feelings. We did not meditate or pray about them. We did not compose systematic philosophy about our emotions. Rather, we acted on them.
Judaism was like Action Jackson. Judaism didn’t waste time with systematic theology. Instead, it emphasized a code of behavior rather than a code of thought.
I’m a physical being. I need physical expression for my feelings for God. I need to hold my love in my arms and to kiss her.
Judaism gives me a physical outlet. I tie on black leather tefillin straps every morning. I put on my tallit katan. I light candles on Friday night and drink a glass of wine and kiss the Torah in shul on Shabbos morning.