Relies Are Beaut, Mate

I don’t have any relies (relatives) in America, not close ones anyway, but I have relies all over Queensland and it’s beaut, mate.

I don’t often run into people in America who look like me and think like me and have my childhood experiences. I am most likely to find such people among refugees from the British commonwealth. I get on particularly well with South Africans, Australians, Kiwis and even bloody whinging Poms.

I love the language in Australia. A ten-minute break at work is called a “smoko.” A mandarin is a “mandy.” Breakfast is “brecky.”

Races are simply extended families, partly inbred (to use Steve Sailer’s definition). I love walking around a land where a high percentage of people feel like family. I’ve enjoyed learning more about my ancestors and I see many of their traits in myself (anxiety, bookishness, emotional coldness, etc).

* I supplemented dinner and breakfast by simply picking fruit off my sister’s trees at Mango Hill Farm and eating it on the spot. My sister said it was fine, I was all concerned with washing the fruit.

* I like coming to a place rarely enough that you get spoiled for simply showing up. So far I’ve racked up $150 cash for simply living to my 48th year. I guess this is reparations for being stolen from my aboriginal parents and raised by white people.

* I spent 90 minutes last night reading a beaut book — Beyond Azaria: Black Light White Light” by Lowell Tarling and Michael Chamberlain. It reminds me of my upbringing at Avondale College in Australia.

On September 18, 1980 the Seventh-Day Adventist world church withdrew the credentials of Australian, Dr Desmond Ford, its leading theologian. Never before or since has Time magazine recorded such a sacking from a seemingly unimportant denomination.

What followed was the systematic purging of young Seventh-Day Adventist ministers and ministerial interns, so that within a few years some 130 Ford supporters were terminated in Australia alone, with a corresponding mass exit of church members. As a student in his classes, the core of Ford’s teachings affected Michael Chamberlain deeply, as it affected everyone who attended Ford’s lectures.

We cannot guess whether or not Pastor Michael Chamberlain might have been caught up in this controversy, even though — like many of his fellow students at Avondale College — Chamberlain ranks Ford as his greatest teacher. Chamberlain didn’t have time to consider the implications of Ford’s sacking. He had troubles enough of his own. Just one month before, on 17 August, 1980, his daughter Azaria had been killed by a dingo a Uluru [Ayers Rock], an event that became the biggest news story in the country…

Seventh-Day Adventism was seven generations old and growing up… Earlier, the Seventh-Day Adventist church had emphasised its differences from other faiths. In the 1970s (partly because of Ford) it began to emphasise points held in common with other faiths…

To have even a whisper of a court case, let alone a charge, is liable to frighten the daylights out of someone culturally inculcated with Seventh-Day Adventism…

I notice that is not always the same in Judaism. In some parts, sure, even the whiff of a scandal will end a rabbi’s career, but in other parts of Jewish life, it’s not a big deal. Perhaps it is a religion vs tribe difference. You are always a member of a tribe, no matter what you do, while a religion depends on assent to certain beliefs and practices. No matter what, if you were born a Jew or born black or born Chinese, you will always be part of that group, while if you go off as an Adventist, you are out.

“Within that conservative domain you’re not even supposed to get angry.” Well, there’s no such demand in Jewish life. Jews are much more open with their emotions than SDAs.

“You’re supposed to be ‘meek and mild’, even smiling, always victorious and basically always a winner. There is no place in the Adventist ministry for people who look like losers. And there is certainly no place for alleged criminals, not even innocent ones.”

Thus, to Jews, SDAs look fake.

In the midst of all his “A dingo took my baby” controversy, Michael had his ministerial credentials revoked by the SDA church.

“I would never talk about ‘lust’ for my wife, I’d use the word ‘desire’ because to me it sounds more decent.”

“Seventh-Day Adventists are traditionally much more conservative voters…”

I don’t think that is true in the United States, but SDAs in Australia tend to be much more conservative in their religion and I guess their politics. I remember what a joy it was to move to California at age 11 because SDAs in California tend to be much more easy going than the SDAs I knew at Avondale College in Australia. California has a higher proportion of lifestyle Adventists while the Australian Adventists I knew were more fire-breathing believers.

Over the past 34 years, Michael has become more concerned with the plight of the Aboriginees, not something that tends to worry conservatives, who take it for granted that the abos are primitives.

At age 21, Michael had a bad motorcycle accident. Right after, a SDA minister knocked on his door. Michael was vulnerable and he ended up converting to the church. I remember when I was standing in line for pain medication in 1998 after surgery to fix my broken wrist and this psychic said she had a special feeling about me and I ended up visiting her several times and spending about $800. She got me when I was vulnerable.

Michael writes on page 65:

I especially remember Dr Desmond Ford, an exceptional lecturer with two PhDs…

Ford put Christ at the center of everything and in so doing, influenced a whole generation of ministers who were my peers. He sure influenced me. Unfortunately, he was also feared and hated by an unhealthy number of the ‘old school’ because they recognized that Ford was taking away their distinctive sectarian traditional belief and transforming it into a credible Protestant denominational model, capable of holding dialogue and being less exclusive in its dealing with other faiths.

Orthodox Jews, by contrast, are fundamentalist. They believe in fundamental truths that cannot be questioned and because of this, they do not dialogue — in general — on religious matters with non-Jews and with non-Orthodox Jews.

I admired Ford. You felt you were almost sitting at the feet of Jesus, sitting at the feet of Des Ford. You wouldn’t go down the back of the classroom to hear him, you’d sit right in the front seats. His Christ-centered approach to theology lectures was refreshing, exciting, and in the context of Seventh-Day Adventism — tended to be revolutionary. People started taking sides. To a Seventh-Day Adventist college student, theology is the core issue… In my time at college a high percentage of students supported Ford.

Desmond Ford was a Christian gentleman and, in my eyes, he has no guile. He was a marvellous role model for ministers. He was a man of grace, a man of hope, and that’s what the church needed so desperately, and still needs.

I remember Ford driving around in an old Volkswagon, not an up-market car like many other lecturers. Perhaps because Ford has two doctorates, he doesn’t know a thing about cars. One time, he couldn’t start his Volkswagon so he simply left it, and swam across Dora Creek, from the college back to his house, in Currans Road. Another time, he was invited to preach at a Chapel Service, where it is conventional for all students to sit and listen for 45 minutes. Instead of preaching, at the age of 45, he invited the students to join him in a 45-minute job, and he led the pack. Ford lived a healthy lifestyle and an impeccable Christian life. He led by example. And he too has had his share of personal tragedy.

I consider Ford to be the Martin Luther of Australian Seventh-Day Adventism and Australia’s most influential Seventh-Day Adventist theologian in the 20th Century. In 1980, when the church administrators in America gave him the chop, it was a very severe blow to my spirit…

[At Avondale College] there were rules about everything — dress lengths for the women, hair length for the men. There was a rule against owning a car, a rule against seeing your girlfriend outside daylight hours, and even a rule prohibiting students leaving the campus without permission…

Music, chess, theology, the college gym all interested me, whereas when I was at Avondale College I had absolutely no interest in politics, and very little interest in the outside world. To me the political world was fluff. Here today, gone tomorrow. I was much more interested in Eternity.

It’s funny reading Michael talk about the importance of studying the Bible at Avondale College when only a few folks had any skills in Biblical languages. I can’t imagine a Jew getting away with lecturing in synagogue on the meaning of texts he can’t read in the original but the goyim are gullible.

To attract new members, Seventh-Day Adventist ministers were expected to hold public programs about Biblical archeology without needing to hold any expertise in the subject. Michael writes he was uncomfortable doing this, preferring to talk “about topics I understood and had researched in my color-coded Bible.” An English-language Bible.

“I felt the Billy Graham-style approach was the ethical way to go.”

“Seventh-Day Adventist ministers tend to be thought of as jacks-of-all-trades — a bit counseling, a bit of preaching, a bit of outreach…” I expect the average Seventh-day Adventist IQ is about 25 points below that of the average Ashkenazi Jew, or, in other words, Adventists are probably average for their IQ when divided by race.

“The demands on a Seventh-Day Adventist minister are such that many ministers’ children walk away from it. They hate the self-sacrifice they have experienced as a family.”

Yet rabbi’s children don’t tend to walk away from Judaism as often as preacher’s kids do. I wonder why that is? The rabbinate is every bit as demanding as the ministry but the Judaic way of life is inherently balanced and structured around family, so I think it is more sane and sustainable.

“Seventh-Day Adventism has been very quiet on social issues, with the exception of drinking, smoking, and gambling.”

Orthodox Jews tend to be quiet on social issues.

Anybody else who didn’t understand our cultural background felt strangely offended by the way we were expressing our grief. And more to the point, what we were expressing was offensive to them. The focus on Jesus Christ, our beliefs about the resurrection of the dead, and the status of Azaria tended to be foreign to them…

I think that was part of the problem because if I had been a Catholic, showing grief like a Catholic, I probably would have had 45% acceptance in Australia. But because I was acculturated in to Seventh-Day Adventism, expressing Seventh-Day Adventist grief, I probably only got 5% acceptance.

Jewish and Adventist ways of expressing grief are opposite. Adventists deny grief and talk about the resurrection while Jews express grief and talk little if at all about the next world. Jews in general are at ease with the natural passions, including grief, and expressing them loudly while Protestants are the most repressed people I know well because their religion is all about faith.

Up to the 1960s and 1970s, Seventh-Day Adventist ministers accepted a very high behavioral standard to fulfil as part of their ministry. They have loosened up a bit since. Consider this for a list when I was a minister: pro-vegetarianism, no alcohol, no smoking, no gambling, no dancing, no card playing, no theater attendance…

Then there’s the Sabbath day when you shouldn’t swim. You shouldn’t go to pubs or clubs. No watching football on telly on Saturday afternoons… There’s very little in the culture of the land that a Seventh-Day Adventist minister can be involved in.

I remember when I moved to Tannum Sands, Queensland after graduating high school in Auburn, California in June of 1984. For a few months, I went to the Seventh-Day Adventist church in Gladstone on Saturday mornings, often after going to discos the nights before. I’d have ink on my arm for the admittance. The people my age understood. When I got a job that required me to work Saturday mornings, I stopped going to church (with a couple of exceptions in June of 1985). I remember the Gladstone Adventist pastor, a student of my dad’s, hunting me down at my new workplace (the Boyne Island Shopping Center) to express his concern about my dropping out. After I let him pray with me, he left me alone.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Adventist, Australia, Personal. Bookmark the permalink.