In the Seventh-Day Adventist world I grew up in, my dad was like a rock star.
He’d get mobbed when he went out in public and learned the bitter truth of Sartre’s aphorism that "Hell is other people."
As for me, my first girlfriend probably put it best: "The more you try to be different from him, the more you’ll be like him."
Since my earliest years, I’ve been a bloke who prefers to take rather than to give.
Growing up the son of a controversial theologian, I got treated wonderfully by two types of people — those who loved my dad and those who hated him (they wanted to prove how big of heart they were). I never remember anyone treating my badly because of who my dad was.
I learned from my dad how to live in community, how to live on the edge of community, and how to live without community.
I’m getting ready for Shabbat by rereading Milton Hook’s biography of him, "Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist".
Everyone should be so privileged to have their life written up by somebody who loved them.
Roy Branson wrote in the Dec. 1994 issue of Spectrum magazine that my dad had "more than any other one person, made Adventists care passionately about theology."
Many marked my dad’s departure from the Adventist church in 1980 as the date "the very Spirit had departed from their church." (Milton Hook)
The key question, writes Hook, is: "How could one man exert so much theological momentum in the culture of Seventh-Day Adventism, a group so protective of its traditions and so resistant to change?"
I don’t mind sounding egotistical so I’ll pose the same question about myself and the impact I’ve made on two opposite worlds.
Dr. Hook begins my dad’s story with this quote from my paternal grandfather to my dad: "You can have a shilling for every book you read."
This is a family tradition that my dad continued on me. By age eight, I was hooked on reading.
My dad’s parents divorced when he was nine.
Around this time, a Seventh-Day Adventist came knocking. Charles Bird was the Northern Queensland Mission superintendent for the church. He began an affair with my dad’s mom Lillian. My dad in turn became close to the wronged woman Ruth.
My dad left high school in tenth grade and became a journalist. He was offended by the profanity of his peers, got baptized into the Adventist church at age 16 (to his parents’ displeasure), and eventually made his way to the Australasian Missionary College (Avondale).
By saving his pennies, my dad bought a second-hand copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica where for the first time he discovered the disturbing insights of Higher Criticism.
Under the influence of Ellen White‘s book Messages to Young People, he stopped reading fiction and going to the movies.
Dr. Hook includes a couple of pages from my dad’s 1942 diary. Not surprisingly, there’s zero emotional introspection. Instead there are comments such as "Jap cruiser sunk" and "Saw beach girl contest."