I just searched my father’s name on youtube and found many of his videos. I also found one I couldn’t resist listening to, “The Desmond Ford Apostasy.”
I can’t help myself. I’m intrigued. What exactly was my father’s apostasy? I’m not a Christian. I have no dog in this fight, but I know many people who are devoted to these controversies.
On October 27, 1979, the date of my father’s infamous lecture, I’m 13 years old and a few weeks into eighth grade. I sensed a growing excitement in my home over my father’s lecture this Sabbath afternoon. This would be like the Seventh-Day Adventist Super Bowl. It would pit my father the reformer versus the traditionalists in the church. Dad believed he was on a righteous mission. He viewed himself as standing up for divine truth as against faulty man-made tradition.
I had long since ceased to care about anything my father said from the pulpit. I’d been forced to listen to thousands of hours of his sermons and I was completely insensate to his rhetoric, just as I was insensate to the thousands of pages of Christian apologetics he had forced me to read. I had no doubt my father was a great man because everyone told me so. I could see the awe that thousands of people had for him but my father’s teachings meant nothing to me. I didn’t care about the mechanics of salvation. I didn’t care about religious controversies. I cared about girls and sports.
I am aware of the controversy that my father throws off in his wake and I have a sense that things must come to a head.
My dad is the rock star of the Church. As Protestants, Adventists have few rituals, so what unites them is the desire for a good sermon and my father knew how to give a good sermon promising Christians what they most want — forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life.
Norman McNulty’s lecture mentions the name of Kevin Paulson.
I remember Kevin Paulson. He was a student at Pacific Union College (PUC) starting in 1978. He was a big man on campus. He was incredibly intense. Seventh-Day Adventists produce many intense young men because Adventism is high intensity religion, it’s not mainstream Protestant. And the most intense of Adventists are the traditional Adventists who cling to the traditional teachings of the Church (as opposed to the liberal Adventists, who are mainly in the Church for the healthy lifestyle, and the evangelical Adventists who feel great kinship with other evangelical Christians and don’t worry much, if they’re not embarrassed by, the particular traditional beliefs of the SDA church).
Kevin D. Paulson had these big glasses and bad skin and poor sense of personal space and he’d get right in your face for the most elementary of discussions. He loved the Church with his heart and soul. He’d die for it. He was something of an Inspector Javert in pursuing my father for his theological deviations.
I just looked Kevin D. Paulson up on Facebook and got a fright. He has the same intense look that haunted my childhood. If you want to change the world, you do it with Kevin Paulsons. These guys will smash through brick walls for their beliefs.
Most of the students at Pacific Union College didn’t care much about the church. I went back in 2007 and that hadn’t changed. For most PUC students, the church is just a way of life (as opposed to divine truth). Such moderates are destined to be flushed down the toilet of Seventh-Day Adventist history. Every group, including Adventists, depends upon its true believers to perpetuate itself.
I was in Irwin Hall the day my father spoke to a thousand people. The excitement was palpable. The question time lasted about an hour.
Normally, I was pretty jaded to my dad’s preaching, but there was just something in the air that day that kept me awake.
In the following essay, Kevin Paulson captures the excitement of that day. In my family, we all sensed that our lives would never be the same. Once dad rose to speak that Sabbath afternoon, we crossed the Rubicon out of the Church.
For tens of thousands of Adventists, October 27, 1979 was the day the music died.
If you Google this date in history, there’s no mention of my father or the Church in the first few pages of results.
What else happened on this day in history? The Voluntary Euthanasia Society published its how-to-do-it suicide guide, and the Grateful Dead played at Cape Cod Coliseum.
On the Fall Quarter Events Calendar, we soon noted a scheduled meeting of the Association of Adventist Forums, with Desmond Ford as the featured speaker. His title: “The Investigative Judgment: Theological Milestone or Historical Necessity?” (12) (The very words rang uneasy bells in the minds of the faithful.) The meeting was scheduled for October 27, 1979.
I remember it well.
It was a lovely autumn Sabbath. Word seemed to have gotten around that Ford was about to make a major statement. Devotees of his theology gathered to the PUC campus from far and near. One reported to me much later that the evening before, Ford had stated to her, “What I say tomorrow will be heard around the world.” More than a few seemed to know this. That same evening I spoke on the telephone with Dr. Herbert Douglass, then serving as senior book editor at the Pacific Press. He was certain Ford would be extremely subtle in his assertions, and would need—in Douglass’ words—to be “smoked out of his lair.” He believed it utterly out of the question that Ford would join Brinsmead in directly attacking the historic SDA sanctuary doctrine. I then told Douglass I would call him the following evening, after Ford’s presentation, but only if something dramatic occurred. He seemed quite sure I would not be calling him.
He was in for a surprise.
At 3:30 the following afternoon, two friends and I knelt for prayer in my dormitory room, prior to leaving for the meeting site. Somehow, we too sensed something serious was about to happen. As we approached Paulin Hall, where the meeting was to occur, we saw the doors open and a crowd start pouring out. Running ahead, I learned that due to overflow numbers, the meeting was being relocated to Irwin Hall, PUC’s historic building which then overlooked the lower expanse of classrooms, walkways, and the college church complex. My friends and I turned around and hurried up the long stone staircase, anxious to find good seats. At one point I asked, with a hint of sarcasm, “What are we running for? So we can hear the investigative judgment thrown away?” My negative premonitions were growing stronger.
Ford began his discourse with his own testimony, describing doubts he had held for decades about the harmony of the Adventist sanctuary doctrine with the book of Hebrews. He went on to discount the validity of the year-day principle, denied any linguistic connection between Daniel 8:14 and the depiction in Leviticus 16 of the ancient cleansing of the sanctuary, and declared that the book of Hebrews places Christ in the Most Holy Place, not in 1844, but immediately at His ascension.
The crowd loved every word, greeting Ford’s message with enthusiastic applause. At least one retired North American Division president was there, rising to his feet during the question period with a choked voice and a breaking heart. A group of us gathered in the back after the meeting, hardly believing what we had just heard. Upon returning to my dorm room, I called Herbert Douglass again, as I had promised to do in the event Ford’s message was newsworthy. I read him my notes over the telephone. By the time I finished, his sorrow was palpable.
Tapes of the meeting belted the world in days. Soon the General Conference intervened, arranging with Pacific Union College that Ford be given a six-month leave of absence, during which time he would prepare a defense of his views, which would then be examined by a committee of persons from varied backgrounds. Ford’s manuscript, titled, “Daniel 8:14, the Day of Atonement, and the Investigative Judgment,” totaled 991 pages, and was eventually published in book form (13). An abbreviated version of the manuscript was also published in Spectrum magazine (14).
A group of 114 scholars, pastors, and church administrators, soon to be called the Sanctuary Review Committee, met to consider Ford’s case at the Glacier View Ranch near Ward, Colorado, the week of August 10-15, 1980 (15). Less than a month later, following unsuccessful efforts by church leaders to urge Ford’s reconsideration of his stand (16), the General Conference recommended to the Australasian Division that Ford’s ministerial credentials be removed. This was done.
The years that followed would see scores of pastors and a number of congregations exit the ministry as well as the denomination. And the controversy thus ignited continues to this day.
October 28, 1979, I ran the Angwin to Anguish 8 mile race with my father, finishing a three minutes ahead of him but just an inch behind my fellow student Greg Gibson. Then I watched my favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys, lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers 14-3 in a rematch of the previous Super Bowl.
At the time, I cared fifty times more about the Cowboys than I did about theology.
Norman McNulty starts off his talk in an academic and scholarly mode. Then five minutes in, he says that the Devil entered the Seventh-Day Adventist church through my father in the late 1970s.
It’s weird hearing this objective talk and then a sudden declaration that the Devil entered the church through the person of my father. That doesn’t sound scholarly to me to make sweeping declarations about how the Devil acted in history.
On the other hand, almost everything in a religion not your own sounds at best weird, so the idea that the Devil entered the Seventh-Day Adventist church through my father is no more weird than claiming that salvation only comes through belief in Jesus Christ.
Belief in the reality of angels and demons was taken for granted in medieval times and still helps to explain reality for hundreds of millions of people today. The sophisticated college graduate, however, does not believe in these manifestations of the supernatural but rather believes in aliens, UFOs, and hidden forces such as structural and systemic racism.
I look up Norman McNulty online and find that he is “an expert in biblical prophecy, presents a practical and clear explanation of the book of Daniel and how it applies to our lives today.”
I wonder if he can read Hebrew and Aramaic, the languages of the Book of Daniel? If not, why is he teaching the book?
McNulty gives an extended discussion of a paper my step-mother published in 1975 with a note that she wasn’t a trained theologian. That’s my dad and he largely ghost-wrote this paper published by my mom.
It’s weird hearing sweeping declarations throughout the talk about what the Bible does and does not teach when I don’t have any reason to believe that any of the Adventist intellectuals discussed are literate in Hebrew and Greek. That’s the thing that gets me now as an outsider to Adventism, as an ex-Seventh-Day Adventist, listening to Adventists discuss religion, they all seem to do it with sweeping declarations about what the Bible does and does not teach when 99.9% of them are not literate in the languages of the Bible. You don’t get literate in Hebrew or Greek or Spanish with two or three years of college courses in said languages and yet they’re all making sweeping declarations about what the Hebrew and the Aramaic really mean in various texts. And to think that these people are basing their whole lives on what these ancient texts say.
I’m not particularly literate in Hebrew, but I only listen to lectures on Judaism from people who are literate in Hebrew, meaning they have spent their lives immersed in the language and know it as well as they know English. Half of the people I know in shul are literate in Hebrew. Yet none of them ever say phrases like, “The Bible teaches this.”
I grew up as a Seventh-Day Adventist admiring the scholars in the church, but of these scholars (because they had PhDs from secular institutions), fewer than 1% are literate in the languages of the Bible. And yet they are regarded as scholars because they have PhDs. When it comes to being able to read a Bible in its original languages, 99% of these scholars might as well have received their degrees in boxes of cornflakes. And nobody talks about this.
This is clown town (just as Adventists hearing about the arcane disputes within Orthodox Judaism would similarly regard it as clown town). We all have our different hero systems and we get them from our community and we usually accept them without analysis.
About 114 leaders of the Adventist church, the Sanctuary Review Committee, decided my father’s case at Glacier View in 1980. I’m sure that fewer than five, possibly none, were literate in the languages of Hebrew and Aramaic that compose the Hebrew Bible and were the basis for the discussion that fateful August week. Talk about the blind leading the blind.
Hundreds of thousands of lives were turned upside down by this conference. I was there. I remember the intense emotion and tears and it was like some people’s lives were ending and other people’s lives were going to taking a completely different path from here and they were all doing it without literacy in the language of the text they were arguing over. It was like a Monty Python sketch. It was like The Life of Brian. It was completely absurd. And yet what they were arguing about was the very basis of millions of lives. Adventists devote themselves to texts such as the Book of Daniel that not only can they not read in their original languages, nobody they know can read them. None of their pastors can read them. The Seventh-Day Adventist church published numerous commentaries on the Book of Daniel by “scholars” who could not read the text in its original languages including my father. There are maybe a dozen Seventh-Day Adventists in the world who are equipped to read Daniel in its original languages and yet the entire church of 20 million people is based on interpretations of this book.
Spectator I: I think it was “Blessed are the cheesemakers”.
Mrs. Gregory: Aha, what’s so special about the cheesemakers?
Gregory: Well, obviously it’s not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.
Twenty one minutes into the lecture, McNulty says: “You see Adventism almost destroyed by one person [my father].”
Wow, my dad almost destroyed an entire church that now numbers over 17 million. That makes my dad really important.
It’s frightening for me to step back into this controversy that I have fled for the past 30 years. I feel myself tensing up. It’s weird standing back and seeing people give their lives for texts they’re unable to understand. How easily the insecure among us, people like me, all pursue bizarre ends we’ve chanced upon and then absurdly sacrifice everything for, including our families.
It’s like I’m standing here and watching people fight to the death beside a cliff face, and the fight is over languages that none of them understand.
I’ve been practicing Judaism for more than 20 years and I don’t remember one theological controversy during this time. I don’t remember one friendship ending over theology. I don’t remember one career ending because of theology. There are no theological fights in 99.9% of Jewish life. Only the rarest of Jews argues about theology. The study of God. How can you argue over something that is unknowable? Something that is purely in the realm of faith? To argue over faith is to argue over a game of make believe.
I like hearing the speaker, Norman McNulty, saying the Devil entered the Church through my dad but then only describing my father the human being in glowing terms. Those are the sorts of hilarious juxtapositions that filled my Adventist childhood. You’d hear things like, “Your father is an instrument of the Devil but as a human being he is very nice.”
Several times in the talk, McNulty butchers his pronunciation of Hebrew words while in the course of telling people what these words mean. That’s how I grew up as a Seventh-Day Adventist, having to spend thousands of hours listening to ministers and lay leaders and alleged scholars of the Church lecture us on the true meaning of Hebrew and Greek words when they couldn’t even pronounce the words.
I get a kick out of the conclusion of Norman McNulty’s talk: “Let’s study for ourselves so that we know what the truth is.”
Does this study mean developing literacy in the languages of the Bible?
David Klinghoffer: “Luke, in all seriousness, and maybe you’ve already done this or are doing it now, but you’re a wonderful writer with this fascinating personal story. I’m also very interested in what you *positively* believe about ultimate questions, looking around you in the broadest perspective, not so much about Orthodox Jewish failings and foibles. Why don’t you write a genuine memoir that takes pains to be thoughtful and serious, for a general audience of readers? Seek a real publisher. Think about what single big point or message you want to convey. I mean something truly sober and going as deep as you can. It seems almost a shame to suggest this in the context of Facebook which trivializes everything in such a terrible way. I hope you’ll think about it. Don’t pass this off with a self-deprecating joke.”
Yoram Hazony: “Luke, this is very moving. The conference you describe must have been, and must still be, painful indeed. I think you are right in describing Jews as being reticent to get into fights about theology. In most respects this is very positive, as you portray it. But worth noting that Jews invest relatively little effort in theology these days. Knowing what can and cannot be known about the God of the Bible amounts to a discipline, and an important one. It can be done foolishly and it can be done well.”
UPDATE March 7, 2013: I don’t remember my first year of life. From all accounts, my parents loved each other and my home was a happy place.
I’ve never doubted that my family loved me, that I could accomplish great things just as my father did, and that my family would be there for me if I needed them.
On my first birthday, my mom got sick and was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer. Over the next three years, I lived in many different homes while my father cared for my mother and for his job. I had only intermittent contact with my family.
I have few memories of this time. I remember mom crawling out of her sick bed to protect me from my sister’s blows after I broke into Elenne’s expensive perfume collection and mixed it with toothpaste and smeared it around the bathroom.
Before I turned four, my mom died. Eight months later, my dad remarried and in early 1971 we all arrived in Manchester, UK, so dad could get his second PhD. I spent much more time with my step-mother over the next two years than with my dad. He was a tower of strength and stability. He loved the fresh air, even in winter. Home was cold and sad. My sister left for boarding school as soon as she could. My brother got beat up at school.
Every day after lunch, I got put down for a nap, and I’d scream and cry my eyes out and thrash around in my bed until I fell asleep. I’m guessing that the naps felt like a return to an earlier abandonment.
I don’t remember thinking during these years that my dad was an important man. He just seemed set on accomplishing something that the rest of the world appeared oblivious to.
I enthusiastically took to washing the dishes after every meal in Manchester because I could soak my arms in the hot water and my whole body would warm up.
My brother bought me toy soldiers and they were a tremendous source of joy. I could play with them for hours. I didn’t have friends. I went to a secular kindergarten but I had to be careful about getting close to other kids, because if I ever started acting like them, such as eating cookies, I’d get hit by my step-mom, who suffered from raging PMS two weeks of the month. Eating between meals was a big sin in my Seventh-Day Adventist church and as the preacher’s son, I had to be a particularly good boy.
Navigating social interactions with those who didn’t follow the Adventist rules according to the way my parents decreed was complicated and frightening. I couldn’t get too close.
My father was the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong in our home but it was my stepmother who did most of the enforcing on me.
I learned to follow the rules at home and to break the rules outside the home.
We didn’t have much of an Adventist community in Manchester and it was good to get back to Avondale College in Australia where everyone I knew was an Adventist.
The first person to ignite my love for reading was Joan Patrick at Avondale College. Before I even started school in second grade, I was at her home (she and her husband Arthur had about five kids) and she gave me books to read and I loved them. And I kept coming back to her home and borrowing books.
The Patricks were the pinnacle of our Avondale society. They were the coolest and best-looking people around. All of their children were intelligent and graceful.
There weren’t a lot of graceful people at Avondale College, where my dad chaired the Religion department. It was not a happy place like Pacific Union College (PUC), the Adventist school in the Napa Valley where I went to sixth through eighth grade. PUC was happy. Avondale was grim. California Adventism was easy. California Adventists drank coffee, ate meat, danced, went to movies, and enjoyed pre-marital sex, all practices regarded as sinful down under.
Several of my classmates from Avondale committed suicide. That didn’t happen at PUC.
I remember hanging out at the PUC pool in the late ’70s and the lifeguards were talking about their experiences in discos (a shocking sin according to normal Adventists).
None of the friends I grew up with at Avondale are favorably disposed to Adventism. On the other hand, I can’t imagine any of my PUC classmates not enjoying a trip back up Howell Mountain to that shining city on the hill — Angwin.
March 5, 2013, I hear that Arthur Patrick is dying. Two days later, he’s gone.
He made his last post on March 3 and it was about my dad.
Since I first met Desmond Ford early in 1950, and he recommended me for acceptance as an Andrews University student in 1967, and called me as a member of his Department of Theology staff in 1973, we were comparatively close associates during the crises years of the South Pacific Division from 1974. The issues at that particular time clustered around Righteousness by Faith, the Sanctuary, Ellen White and the Age of the Earth. I saw the development of the “Concerned Brethren” party, and sat through the interminable Biblical Research Committee meetings before and after the Palmdale Conference of 1976. I was by conviction within the Church’s Community of Faith, and certainly no partisan of its most brilliant son, Desmond Ford, and never did I unthinkingly support Desmond Ford. Hence I applauded the consummate wisdom of the Righteousness by Faith consultation and its report entitled the “Dynamics of Salvation,” first published in Review and Herald 31 July 1980. I distinctly remember the Division President, Pr Keith Parmenter, asking my opinion about Dr Ford’s transfer to Pacific Union College. I agreed with him that such a change might give Desmond a fresh opportunity to express his talents for the benefit of the Church, and I settled down to engage with teaching under the chairmanship of Gordon Balharrie. There was a pervasive sense of bereavement in the Department of Theology due to Des’s enforced absence, but in essence the work of the Department continued strongly.
I had critically reviewed Desmond Ford’s book, Daniel, before it saw the light of day in 1978, and rated it as far the most useful volume on Daniel produced by the Church since the tome from Uriah Smith’s pen about a hundred years earlier. Even after the debacle of Desmond Ford’s address on 27 October 1979, only about 2 per cent of his Daniel needed any revision. To read his 900 page submission is to become aware he is a loyal son of the Church who was desperately trying to solve issues that were proved unsolvable during years of committee meetings under the leadership of President R. R. Figuhr. Ford should have been acclaimed for his sterling effort in writing the Glacier View manuscript, instead he was “de-frocked”, sacked and spurned in disgrace.
The Church failed to observe where the controversy relating to the Sanctuary had arrived, and it misread the strength of Robert Brinsmead’s anti-1844 thrust. How different it would have been had the Church even been able to read Desmond Ford’s (1979) book on Ellen White. It was totally oblivious to the short chance it had to engage its young people in serious Bible study, especially focused on the meaning of Daniel and Hebrews. Shortly after Glacier View, I along with a party of other Avondalians, stayed at a wonderful retreat in the Blue Mountains. There I read the Glacier View consensus statements with my RSV Bible open in my right hand, and was amazed that for the first time the Church I deeply loved was actually helping (not hindering) me from understanding the book of Hebrews.
These remarks are written to provide a very brief frame of reference for the document posted here, entitled “Australasian Seventh-day Adventists and 1980: Toward an Historical Perspective and the Normalisation of Relationships.”
On 11 February 2013, Joan and I (with our daughter Zanita) returned two days earlier than expected from our New Zealand holiday. The Chemotherapy from August to January was clearly successful, but from the end of January I was aware of a new enemy within, which turns out to be peritoneal carcinoma of vigorous type, untreatable.
Here’s a man who led a full life, surrounded in his final days by his loving family, and he devotes his final writings to seeking a reconciliation between my father and the Seventh-Day Adventist church.
As a convert to Orthodox Judaism, I have no dog in the fight between my father and the Adventist church. As a human being, however, who knows the players, I’m moved that Arthur Patrick devoted his final posts to my dad.
Will anyone devote their final thoughts to me? To whom do I matter? If I disappeared tonight, how many people would miss me? How many will show up to my funeral? Have I done more good than harm with my talents? When I’m gone, don’t be nice. Be true.
The signature of God is truth (Talmud).
Patrick signs off:
This is my LAST POST!
…You may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org but I expect to be unable to answer beyond 4 March 2013. Hence this website has reached its terminus.
My God, the man was blogging to the end, and yet what he said was phrased in the most academic of jargon, as in: “It is with some satisfaction that I re-iterate the value of a transformationist stance toward the issues involved.”
On Sabbath afternoon, October 27, 1979, my father gave a lecture that would convulse the church and lead to our family’s exit (along with thousands of others). And I was there. And I only cared to the extent that it affected me.
In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Sanctuary Review Committee was a group of biblical scholars and administrators which met to decide the church’s response to theologian Desmond Ford, who had challenged details of the church’s “investigative judgment” teaching. The meeting was held from 11–15 August 1980, at the Glacier View Ranch, a church-owned spiritual retreat and conference centre in Colorado, United States. The event is referred to informally as “Glacier View”. The outcome was Ford losing his job.
It was also the largest investment of money and time of church workers ever given to a doctrinal issue in Adventist history. At the time, one scholar stated it was the most significant Adventist meeting of its type since the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference Session. Ford’s firing was a controversial and emotionally charged issue, and the church experienced the largest exit of teachers and ministers in its history. One modern commentator describes ‘Glacier View’ as “Adventist shorthand for pain, dissension and division”.
And who was that modern commentator? Arthur Patrick.
His description of Glacier View as “Adventist shorthand for pain, dissension and division” would apply to all of my father’s controversies long before this one and to my controversies long after the 1980 shaking of Adventism. On the face of it, my struggles and my father’s struggles have nothing in common. My father is a Christian clergyman and I’m a notorious blogger who converted to Orthodox Judaism. But if you look away from the shadows dancing on the wall, and instead look at the real thing going down, both dad and I get our importance from disrupting lives.
Where do you get your feeling of importance? That tells you who you are. Those who get their feeling of importance from building are pro-social. Those who get their feelings of importance from destroying are anti-social.
The purpose of an NFL defense is to disrupt the offence. My dad and I are the Lawrence Taylors of Adventism and ex-Adventism.
A Seventh Day Adventist Bible scholar emailed me in 1998:
You father “knows” too much for me to tell him anything. Including about you. It will never happen.
…Knowing too much, summarizing too fast, summing up too quickly, is a weakness he has. It’s a way that you and he are terrifically alike.
…By the way, you enjoy controversy and driving people nuts way too much. Both of you. What is the blessing in “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Jesus knew at least as much about Judaism as you do….) Part of what makes you ill at ease in the self/world dichotomy is this approach toward the outside world as the enemy to be debunked.
Hiding behind “journalism” as the reason for this cynicism just won’t do. I ain’t convinced! There are lots of “journalists” who do have the same problem with their approach, but there are lots that don’t. It’s not endemic to journalism to have to drive people nuts, to be cynical, and to print what MAY be someone’s screwup and assume it’s true until proven otherwise. The theory of the law, “Innocent until proven guilty” would help in your approach to your journalism. But of course you became this sort of journalist as a result of an already existing cynicism, not the reverse. You have charm and intelligence and good looks, and I can see that it is dangerously easy for you to mislead people about yourself–even when you know you’re doing it. Careful, this can make for a hollow feeling and dis-ease.
…Now, what your father [two Ph.Ds in Christianity] was exposed to was “readings” in the British style. Not the original materials, but readings of not-very-good European writers, whose writings couldn’t even be taken seriously (since they’re relatively ignorant of the details) in American Biblical Studies. Out of this study of generally poor secondary sources your father got the impression he was something of an expert in theology. From this weak background, with most of his questions unanswered, he launched into doing what only someone who didn’t know what he didn’t know would do: he tried to write a commentary on Daniel. It was a terrible mishmash of preterism, historicism, and futurism without any understanding of how these systems complement and clash. There was no understanding of their history, of the sameness and difference involved in them.. And much of the book was unedited quotes from other sources strung together in ways that didn’t fit at all. It became apparent to me after only a few minutes that your father didn’t have the foggiest notion of the Book of Daniel, and shouldn’t even be teaching an academy class on the subject, much less writing a book about it. That a Seventh Day Adventist publishing house published this mess, virtually unedited, and with even the Hebrew title screwed up, showed the blind leading the blind.
You write very much in the style of your father. Like him, you tie together long quotes, with rather poor segues and transitions. This is so evident in your website that I marvel that I didn’t get it sooner. And you’ve gotten the same kind of accurate and strong criticism your father got for what passes for writing. And the same kind of “this guy really didn’t take the time to know what he was talking about before he became a legend in his own mind” criticism.
I’m looking through the early pictures of my family in Milton Hook’s biography of my dad.
During years six to ten, I understood that my father was a big man on campus. I understood that people were always wanting to talk to my dad and he was always trying to get away from people. We never had a phone in our home until the end of 1977 when circumstances forced its installation. Without a phone, people would drive up to our community and hunt dad down and barrage him with their theories about the end of the world.
One of my father’s favorite sayings is “Hell is other people.”
In Sabbath school and in my Adventist school, I was expected to know things that my father specialized in such as apocalyptic but this just made me feel special.
As a child, after my father’s sermons, I would stand in the pew and imitate his gestures for others’ amusement, but the content of dad’s sermons never moved me. There would be good stories here and there, but the chief idea that faith in Christ gives you salvation got boring fast. And then what? My interests were located on this earth.
For third, fourth and fifth grade, as a punishment for telling lies to avoid punishment, my dad decreed that I had to read 30-40 pages of dense works of Christian apologetics every day, type a one-page summary and then hand it in to him (and sometimes discuss it). This gave me a good intellectual understanding of my religion and an emotional hatred for it.
My father and step-mother sometimes told me the story that when my mother was carrying me in her stomach, she had this great conviction that “This one would do something special for the Lord.” I felt like I was born to greatness but wanted to do it in this world, not the next.
Other kids didn’t care who my dad was. His successes and failures in theological combat didn’t seem to make much difference to my life until late 1979. My parents schooled me in what dad was fighting for but I didn’t care unless it affected my life. It was just more rules I had to follow at home, except that they were called grace. My father preached about grace but he rarely showed grace. He preached about forgiveness but rarely showed forgiveness. He preached about love but he couldn’t build a loving home.
People who hated my dad were extra nice to me to show what good Christians they were, and people who loved my dad were often particularly nice to me, so this was a good dynamic for me, but it didn’t go far. After initial meetings, people treated me according to my own merits.
I was often asked me about my dad but it was not a topic that interested me. I learned to recite family legends about his discipline (two PhDs in 18-months each), strength (he walks and runs 10 miles a day!), drive (he rises at 4 a.m. almost every day), commitment and righteousness (I never saw him do anything wrong!).
It was important to me that my father was great. My home was not happy and I wished to live elsewhere, but I told myself that it was good to be Des Ford’s son because one day, I too would be great. It was better to be awkward, anxious and awesome at something than to be normal.
I grew up watching my older brother and sister get away from home as fast as possible. I felt much happier when I was in homes other than my own. By late 1979, when I was 13, and my parents moved to Washington D.C. and allowed me to stay behind at Pacific Union College and finish eighth grade with my friends, I felt normal for the first time.
As my dad flamed out of the Church at the 1980 Glacier View conference, my primary interest (aside from its impact on where we would live, the closer to PUC the better in my view) was in how famous this would make dad. We’d just bought our first TV and dad predicted he’d be interviewed on the Phil Donahue Show one day. That never happened but he was written in about in publications such as the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek.
Dad told the press that he now belonged to the “invisible church of Jesus Christ.”
The invisible church of Jesus Christ did not have a big youth program. During my high school years, I missed our former home at Pacific Union College.
So what impact did my father’s expulsion have on my life? It was dramatic. Until then, everybody in my life was a Seventh-Day Adventist. I had only known life within the close Adventist community. Now we were outside the pale and I felt lost.
Disconnected from real people and real community, I retreated into a TV-fueled fantasy world similar to my father’s where I was the hero saving the world. From the time I started reading books at age seven, my greatest desire has been for adulation. When the National Film Board of Canada director Paul Cowan followed me around from 1998-1999 for the documentary Give Me Your Soul, he said my biggest thirst was for glory.
I never committed to my father’s teachings but I took them for granted as true until about age 18, when I graduated high school and left home to live with my brother for a year. I took up atheism.
Only when I was 22 and away at UCLA, did I stop thinking of my father as a great man.
When I came home at age 23 in June of 1989, I thought of him as fatally flawed and I knew that I had all of his flaws and that they might kill me. Over the next six months, I decided to convert to Judaism to create a different life.
I return home to Australia. My family pays for the trip on the condition that I see doctors of their choice. One of them is a psychiatrist who talks to me for three hours and then reports back to my family (with my blessing):
Luke is not suffering the effects of a head injury.
Applying the DSMIV, he has a personality disorder of the histrionic/narcissistic type.
Luke is very dependent upon other people for his identity as a person.
He has poor identity integration and poor self esteem. Accordingly, Luke is always looking for mirroring – it’s called “narcissistic supply.” That is to say that Luke is always looking for external validation of himself as a person (i.e., he needs other people to tell him who he is). However, because it is not possible for people to mirror him all the time, he gets disappointed and this can turn to envy. Luke may not be conscious of the fact that he is very envious of his family as they seem to have things he would like to have but does not have. This leads to him fluctuating between, on the one hand, devaluing people such as the family (putting them down) and on the other, idealisation of people – such as Dennis Prager.
Luke tends to make unreasonable demands of people who are eventually driven to setting limits on him. Luke takes this very badly.
Luke needs five to ten years of insight orientation psychotherapy. It was the falling out with Dennis Prager which caused him to go to therapy. While Luke has a lot of therapy ‘speak’, he may not really understand the concepts involved. Luke’s therapist did well to keep him in therapy for 15 months – that is unusual for someone with Luke’s condition as such people often leave off therapy when it becomes too confronting. Luke will not continue therapy that is confrontational, particularly in the early stages.
Luke will continue to do what he is doing to satisfy his needs until such times as the rewards (reinforcement) are outweighed by the negative effects of same (punishment). Then he may do something about getting his life on track and getting therapy or going back to finish his degree (which would give him some self-esteem).
The negative effects of his current behavior are that no one will have a long term relationship with him as no matter how sane they are, people cannot live without getting something back – and Luke is always taking in without giving anything back. Second, any decent woman who looked at his website would be immediately repulsed.
Luke has a complicated personality. He has mood instability – perhaps mild cyclothymia. His personality type is prone to this.
Luke become very focused on one thing then, when he is not getting the desired rewards, he drops it and moves on.
Luke may have had some post viral illness but then the illness took on a life of its own. It is common for people to retreat into the sick role because it is a way of failing in a face-saving way. Luke was failing because of the lack of significant relationships in his life.
Luke in his current state would not be successful in employment.
He wants immediate results and if he does not get them, then he does not want a bar of it.
He does not have a bipolar condition.
As with most adolescent boys, Luke was obsessed with sex.
As with most super egos – it is not well integrated. His rules are situational and he justifies things.
Luke is capable of being exploitive.
Luke is reacting to the values of his family unit.
He is not really interested in what Dr. R. thinks of him. He is only here to enjoy the trip. There is no point him seeing Dr. R. on occasion before his return as it is long-term therapy he needs.
We [Luke’s family] have to have a firm boundary of where we go in his life. We should stay off his website – what we don’t know won’t hurt us. We should set limits on his unreasonable behavior. We must treat him as an adult that he is and stop babying him.
Luke has tunnel vision and difficulty seeing things as others see it. He is only looking for mirroring.
He has demonstrated the capacity to at times, not put his immediate gratification ahead of everything, i.e., taking his rabbi/synagogue off his website when requested. He respected those involved and did not want to lose a relationship with them. So he has the capacity to learn from his experiences.
Luke has a poor sense of identity – he is not well integrated – he has no sense of self – therefore he is very changeable in different circumstances.
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.
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’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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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.
I push my way through the fans and try to say hello to my father at the Saturday evening meal. He doesn’t recognize me. I say, “It’s your son, Luke. I’ve got a beard now.” He says, “Ohh, Luke.” I can’t imagine he’s happy to see me, I am a source of shame for him, but he’s cordial. We eat together for a few minutes and then he has to rest and prepare for his next performance.
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.
I sit by my friend, she’s a big fan of my father, and she’s very respectable, and I 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…"
UPDATE: 2013: I’m rereading Milton Hook’s biography of my dad. On page eight, he writes:
Their concern was just as focused on the man as it was on his theology, because he had attracted a significant following of devotees enthusiastic about his gospel preaching. They wondered, “What was to be the fate of Professor Ford…?
Why was my father at the center of concerns? Why not just the theological beliefs he articulated? Why was the concern so personal? Why was dad the man in the middle of things? Because my dad was expert at creating that personal attention.
From page 106:
At one time [in 1968], when Des was visiting Gwen [my mother dying of cancer], John Brinsmead said to him, “If you cast in your lot with the Brinsmead family, accepting our teachings, then God will heal, Gwen.” Des was appalled at the bribe.
That kind of talk was common in Adventism. When I was bedridden for years in my 20s, my father said to me — once — that if I accepted Jesus as my Savior, God might cure me.
* “Bete noir” (black beast) is a term applied to my father by old Adventist Walter Scragg. (pg. 138) It was also a term applied to me by the Los Angeles Times in June of 1999 vis-a-vis the porn industry.
* Old Adventist George Burnside published in the 1970s anonymous pamphlets against my father with titles such as, “Dr Ford DD: Doctor of Doubt” and “Dr. Des Ford’s Dangerous Doctrines.” (pg. 1139)
* The setting was the high altitude (about 7500 feet above sea level) Glacier View Ranch in Colorado. On Thursday, August 14, 1980, the General Conference President of the Seventh-Day Adventist church (aka the leader), Neal Wilson, went after my father from his seat high above the gathering of the Church elite. He got angry. He said to dad, “Why won’t you listen to your peers?” My dad didn’t get much of a chance to reply. He just had to take it. I was sitting in the audience with my step-mom Gill. I got upset watching my dad torn apart by the church administrators. I really didn’t care about dad’s theological positions but I felt defensive about my father like never before. I became upset on his behalf like never before (or ever again). I felt like he was being bullied and humiliated by Neal Wilson (a much savvier political player than my father). I was familiar with dad’s constant controversies but nothing like this had happened before. Gill told me to calm down because the emotional way I was acting argued for Neal Wilson’s position that I should not have come to the conference. I was 14 years old. I would never again consider myself a Seventh-Day Adventist.
* “Being a Seventh-Day Adventist was hard but it was kinda fair. They quickly sorted out the ones they couldn’t trust and branded us with the mark of Cain and sent us wandering, fugitive sinners, through the Land of Nod for all our days.” (The Nostradamus Kid)
The movie that reminds me most of myself is The Nostradamus Kid. The movie that reminds me most of my father is The Road to Wellville. I feel like the wicked son George in the film. The movie that reminds me most of my family is Terms of Endearment.
* My father’s life as a Seventh-Day Adventist evangelist and intellectual was constant stress, so much so that Milton Hook says he thought about becoming a postman. This kind of stress is inevitable when you refuse to toe the line in any group. There are benefits to belonging to a high-intensity religion such as Adventism or Orthodox Judaism — adherents make greater sacrifices for their faith and for each other than do adherents to mainstream religions, but this intensity comes with a price. People get in your face, get in your business, challenge you, and finally push you out if you don’t follow the rules.
In 1993, I converted to Judaism.
In 2008, I began studying the Alexander Technique and learned that all beliefs are just unnecessary muscular tension.
May 15, 2010, I spoke at the Seventh-Day Adventist Loma Linda University about the importance of the Seventh-Day Sabbath. I was weird. I can’t believe it is even possible to write the following but it is true — I lack my father’s social graces.
In June of 2014, I saw my dad in Brisbane for what I knew would be the last time. The whole visit I can’t think of anything but my lack of cell phone reception.
I don’t think I spoke to dad by phone or Skype over his last five years. We had essentially stopped speaking beyond the perfunctory in 1991.
But I won’t cry for yesterday
There’s an ordinary world
Somehow I have to find
And as I try to make my way
To the ordinary world
I will learn to survive
My father’s fans saw a great man. I saw an emotional cripple.
Within a few minutes of finding out in LA on March 10, 2019 (it was March 11 in Australia at the time) that my father had died, I began a live stream on Youtube about him.
When my stream finished, I worked on this blog entry:
My father died an hour ago (in his sleep) at age 90.
He wanted to die for the last three months as he lost control of his body and mind.
I feel exactly what I expected to feel — relief.
This will sound horrible, but that man scared me. When my hallway creaks in a particular manner, I still get frightened that my father is coming to my room to reprimand me.
As a child, whenever I saw my father walking towards me with some urgency, it was never good news. It never meant he wanted to go fishing or to watch the cricket. Instead, it was usually him bringing to my attention one of my moral failings.
Dad was not an unfair man, I did a lot of bad things growing up (chiefly lying to avoid punishment), and I got my share of reproof. He rarely hit me (I only recall three beatings and none after age 11).
What was my father’s view of me? He talked to journalist Peter Gilstrap for the Jan. 28, 1999 issue of New Times Los Angeles:
Delving into Ford’s motivation ultimately leads back to his father and to Luke’s early years, much of which is covered extensively in his online bio. After leaving the Seventh Day Adventist church over a
doctrinal dispute in 1980, Dr. Desmond Ford founded Good News Unlimited, a church ministry based in Auburn, California. It is a Christian organization whose “only purpose is to preach the gospel,” the father says. His church has been broadcasting on the radio for 20 years, and Dr. Ford has traveled the world lecturing and teaching since before his son was born.
“My family are religious Christians,” says Ford the younger. “So it’s been very hard on them that I converted to Judaism and that I’m writing on porn. They’re basically left with two explanations: either I’m evil or I’m sick. And if I’m sick, it’s because I was hit in the head when I ran into a parked school bus in a Volkswagen bug in 1985.”
Ford, a fine-looking man, still bears a scar from the incident on his forehead.
“You need to understand Luke’s background to understand the foolish things that he’s doing,” offers Dr. Ford. “He was separated from his mother when she was declared to be a terminal patient of cancer when he was 12 months old, and so he had a series of [nannies] for a number of years. Each time he’d get his affection wrapped around one, things would change, and he’d have another person looking after him. This went on until I remarried, and by that time he was something of a psychological case because he’d been deprived over and over.”
Brutal honesty seems to run in the Ford family.
“He was fairly normal until he got chronic fatigue syndrome and he had years of nightmares, thinking he was in pits with snakes,” the doctor continues. “Then he had a car accident [in 1985] that injured perhaps his pituitary and that changed the shape of his face. He has behaved quite out of character since he had CFS and the accident.
“The psychiatrists say that if a child experiences deep anger before the age of five or six, that when they get a bodily disease they’ll be in trouble in a psychiatric way. We think this is exactly what happened to Luke. He is narcissistic, seeking excessive amounts of attention, and has chosen a calling that has given [him] that amount of attention. He’s just not acting sanely because he’s not well.”
And the doctor has an explanation for Luke’s embracing of Judaism as well.
“He wants to be someone in his own right, which is a normal desire, but it’s very difficult for a son growing up whose father is in public work. He didn’t want to be thought of as a clone of his father, he had to strike out in something different. Judaism for him is a psychological out from being thought of as a clone of his father. He’s not really behaving according to the ethics of Judaism at all. It’s only a front, though he may not know it’s a front.”
Still, it’s his son’s involvement in porn that concerns the doctor most.
“I’m afraid he’ll be shot,” he says. “He’s doing damage to people who have no scruples, so he’s in a dangerous position and I fear for him very much. We’d rather have him live a quieter life–we love him dearly–but that would bore him to tears. If people understood his background perhaps they
wouldn’t feel so harsh about his erratic behavior.”
When informed of this conversation, the son’s only comment is, “Oh, my poor father.”
As Bertrand Russell said, “The fundamental defect of fathers is that they want their children to be a credit to them.”
Dad was a lonely man, particularly after he was kicked out of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church’s ministry in 1980. Dad was not comfortable around people, and he would only go into social settings if he could instruct people about theology or preventative health. His favorite speaking engagements were funerals because that’s when people would take his words most seriously. A family members calls him “Dr. Deathman” because he’s so gloomy and pre-occupied by death.
Dad and I said our final goodbyes January 8, 2019. I emailed someone close to him:
You can let him know that I am grateful he lived a righteous life, left a righteous example for me, that he never stole from anyone, that he paid his bills, that he made responsible choices, that he didn’t make reckless decisions that caused people like me needing to clean up after him, that I never went without anything I needed… You can let him know that I am happy and healthy, the best I’ve been…and I have money in the bank, way out of debt, that I am a valued part of my religious community and i have friends in LA and a good life here.
When I think about dad, there’s nothing I seek him to understand about me and my choices… There’s no particular incident that I want to work through. There’s no conscious pain I carry of some thing in particular…and I never think, oh, if only dad had done X or Y or Z… Dad found effective ways to overcome the disabilities of his upbringing, and I found effective ways to deal with the chaos of my early life…
I hope you are doing ok…and I hope dad is at peace… There aren’t any particular words or emotional expression I seek to hear from him. Dad often says, I’m not emotionally demonstrative…but he doesn’t need to demonstrate anything to me…
I emailed someone else close to dad:
I have no grudge against dad…and there’s nothing I’m struggling to forgive re him, nor want to work through… There’s nothing I’m dying for him to understand about me and my lived experience. He’s a flawed man, I’m a flawed man, I was an imperfect son, and he was an imperfect father but I accept his imperfections as he accepts mine. I want him to live in peace in this world and the next as I seek the same state for myself.
I can’t think of any hurt I carry around with me regarding dad. I’m probably the most like dad of the three kids. Both dad and I put our work, at times, ahead of all other considerations…
If anything comes to me, I will email you. I have thought about this over the past few days in particular, also over the past few years at times…
I never recall dad acting unethically with me or with anyone else… You can tell him that… I value good behavior even when I don’t reach that level myself…
My father dictated this response that same day:
How very kind of you to write
You have been given much intelligence and I appreciate how you manifest it.
Luke your best days are ahead. Do what your intelligence and conscience tell you to do. I will love you as long as you live. And I thank you for your very kind letter. Blessings luke today and always
February 19, 2019, my father issued his final testament:
Statement by Desmond Ford dictated to his wife and signed by himself:
This is a brief record of my memory of my own record of speech over years. As a Christian, I have been motivated by the Christian demand for truth. Therefore, I have never knowingly debased truth. As a Christian when I have been invited to defend that which cannot be defended by the facts, I have refused. There have been many times when it seemed to my profit to accept error, but I have refused.
Now, at the end of my life, I wish to say that to my knowledge I have defended truth for over ninety years. Those who have known me and lived with me will defend this charge. I make this comment because of other charges, which will be made against me in later years.
The books I have written also defend what I have asserted here, and statements of close friends. Pray as you read these statements and trust God in all things.
I had the sense that my father was smarter than me, that his accomplishments were more formidable, and that he saw me more accurately than I saw myself. I didn’t always appreciate this.
The last time I tried to seriously talk to my father was the Spring of 1991. A friend of mine (acquainted with my father) came to visit. We had a pleasant chat and then I brought her back to say g-day to my father who was studying on his porch. When she arrived, he immediately got stuck into her about evolution. She went into shock, made her polite goodbyes as soon as possible, and left.
I went back to my dad and asked him not to debate my friends. Offended, he said, “Fine, I won’t talk to your friends.” I tried to explain that was necessary, just abstain from provoking them, but it did no good, and my father stopped talking to my friends and I gave up trying to talk to my father.
My father could not brook the slightest criticism (except from a handful of people who knew how to deliver it gently). He was crippled by shame and anything that touched on this caused him to close off.
My conversion to Judaism in 1993 embarrassed him, but not 1/1000th as embarrassing as my writing about the porn industry.
My fondest memories of my father include:
* Him bringing freshly squeezed orange juice to my room in the mornings
* His cooking
* His understanding of me
* His protection of me
* As a kid, I’d don my dressing gown like a cape and carry a broom like a lance and ride around on his back
* Dad was funny. For my 21st birthday, he prepared and delivered ten-minutes of jokes. After two hours, however, he couldn’t wait to usher people out of the house so he could return to his routine.
* When I developed an interest in philosophy around age 20, he spent hours reading up on the philosophers I was intrigued by and we would discuss them over dinner.
* Dad never tried to live through me.
My father baptized me into the invisible church of Jesus Christ in February of 1982. It was important to him and I got the hint and went along with the ritual with my best friend from childhood, Wayne Cherry, though this was also the month I got hooked on porn (Playboy, Penthouse, etc).
* I ran into some Seventh-Day Adventist intellectuals in 2010 who knew my father and they said that I seemed a much happier man.
* Two of my girlfriends found him frightening (ala intimidating). They suddenly understood why I turned out as I had. One couldn’t wait to get away from my strict home so she could stuff her face with cupcakes.
* My father didn’t enjoy life. One of his most memorable sayings was, “I don’t give a cracker for this life.”
* Every few years after I converted to Judaism, dad would mail me tracts and books to try to bring me back to the church. I’d toss them in the trash.
* Circa 1992, I published a letter to Spectrum magazine about my recollections of Glacier View, and when my father read it (he was on a speaking tour of Australia), he ran to the bathroom and retched.
* My father was often away preaching when I was growing up. He wrote home regularly but his handwriting was so poor, I rarely put much effort into deciphering it.
* I see movies and TV shows about kids who get disappointed because their dad doesn’t show up for their birthday party or other celebration. I don’t understand this. Wouldn’t you rather party with your mates away from your parents?
* When I was a kid, I’d often invent elaborate games. I’d be asked, why don’t you play that with your father? “Oh no,” I’d reply, “my dad would have no interest. It would be pure torture. He’d rather be studying.”
When dad would play with me as a kid, he’d usually carry such an air of burdened obligation that I quickly learned to stop asking him. I think the last time we threw a ball around was in 8th grade and his shoulder popped out of its socket and he was in agony.
My son turned ten just the other day
He said, thanks for the ball, dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw, I said-a, not today
I got a lot to do, he said, that’s okay
And he, he walked away, but his smile never dimmed
It said, I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him
I’m gonna be like him.
“I wouldn’t want your father’s life for all the tea in China,” said my therapist in 1998. “Why would you want to recreate that?”
To his fans, my father was greater than Marilyn Monroe. After he died, somebody invoked this Elton John song:
And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in
And I would’ve liked to know you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did
Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God.