Seeking Approval

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong in seeking approval. It all depends on who you seek approval from.

I notice that a lot of people say, "I don’t care what other people think."

I believe this is always false bravado. We all care about what certain people think.

As a child, I wanted my parents approval. Then it quickly became very important to get the approval of certain of my friends parents.

I got into Judaism and I wanted the approval of Dennis Prager and my favorite rabbis.

When I fell out with Prager and many of my rabbis, I decided that the number one thing in my life (tied with Judaism) was my writing and thus I seek the approval of writers I respect.

I’ve always had daddy issues. I’ve always sought out father figures and looked for their approval. I’ve always picked good role models. It was devastating when I fell out with Prager and company.

Let me grab my triangle and drive it into my hand. Let the physical pain distract me from the pain of my soul.

Ahh, let me wave my hands over my keyboard and proclaim, "This is a safe space."

Dr. Spielvogel, my father had this strong devoted following. My father knew a lot of great people, mainly fellow academics, and so I had many advantages being Desmond Ford’s son. My father also attracted a lot of nutters because my dad specialized in eschatology — the study of the end times. Seventh-Day Adventism is an eschatological religion. It attracts a lot of loonies who think the world is going to end.

Their fervent beliefs were so much fun to mock. These folks would come over to the house and I’d try to get them going on back-lacing of rock lyrics or the illumanati and other ridiculous topics. I developed as a child a love of baiting people. It made me feel superior.

My stepmother caught on very quickly to what I was doing and tried to shut it down. My love of shredding ridiculous people is not one of my more attractive qualities.

I’ve been rereading a new biography of my father.

Due to a divorce of his parents, my father didn’t see a lot of his father. So he latched on to father figures and when many of them were Seventh-Day Adventists, that must’ve played a role in my dad converting — despite his family’s displeasure — at age 16 to Adventism.

Things were a lot easier for me when I converted to Judaism. When I told my dad, he said, "They’re certainly not like the Adventists, out there seeking converts."

Even as a fervent Christian teenager, my dad saw the Bible as written by fallible human beings under the influence of their surroundings but simultaneously inspired by God. Revelation was perfect for its purpose, he’d often say.

My dad liked to read while biking. In his first year at college, he had an accident because of this and has had painful dental problems ever since.

How did my father court my mother at Avondale College? By expressing concerns about her health. Ironically, she’d die less than 20 years later of bone cancer. She responded to him by giving him a file so he could better organize his preaching notes.

From page 32: "Desmond regards his Avondale days as often preoccupied with legalistic jousts and endless discussions over proper Adventist behavior rather than a sustained focus on the life of Jesus Christ."

On page 42, I learn my dad loved to ask incisive questions in public that made public speakers look foolish.

I enjoy that too.

When my dad did this to a religious leader (evangelist George Burnside), he got the response, "You’ve got a big head." And then the evangelist prayed aloud to God that He shape Des up.

I got some similar responses in my time.

I love this sentence on page 45 on how to convert fundamentalists to evangelical Christianity: "…The heart must first be broken before the mind is reshaped."

I love how the evangelists compete over how many baptisms they perform at various crusades for Christ. Truly inspiring stuff for the thirsty soul.

In 1955, my dad had a big debate with a Church of Christ minister Pastor Burgin about the Seventh-Day as Sabbath for Christians too. "Burgin made the first presentation but had scarcely said three words before Des touched him on the shoulder and suggested the meeting should begin with prayer. The initiative immediately placed Des in a favorable position with the audience."

"The proceedings  did no harm to the SDA cause, and later Des baptized some of Burgin’s church members."

A friend of my dad’s, Robert Brinsmead, was denied re-admission to Avondale College in 1959. Why? Improper protocol. "He had not passed his manuscript before an investigative committee, they said; he was disruptive with debate while at college; his literature unsettled church members, and his paper had some misquotations from Ellen White’s writings in it."

Sound like anyone you know?

I was voted "class pastor" for eighth grade at Pacific Union College Elementary School.

My dad was class chaplain when he graduated Avondale with his BA in 1958.

My dad endeared himself to the dean at seminary (the non-accredited Potomac University) by telling him, "I wouldn’t cross the road for some of your teachers here, let alone cross the world."

My sister recalls my father only losing his temper once — when he caught her and my brother listening to music he thought inappropriate — stuff like Puff the Magic Dragon and Yellow Submarine.

The sight of the first TV antennae in Avondale occasioned great wailing and gnashing of teeth by fundamentalists. We didn’t get a TV in our home until 1980.

In 1963, my mom Gwen got diagnosed with breast cancer and she had a mastectomy (got a breast cut off).

Winters were cold. It never snowed though but my dad was so bothered by frozen feet he tried putting pepper in his socks. It didn’t work.

I heard wondrous stories about central heating in America where even in the middle of harsh Michigan winters, people could walk around the house in winter in their shorts.

I show up on the scene in May 1966 (page 104).

In 1968, my brother Paul (then aged 10) wrote our mom: "How is Luke settling in. Dus Luke go fishing poper?"

Neither my dad nor I ever developed any interest in fishing (something my brother loves).

My dad preached to the college girls at Avondale against fashion fads.

His teachings remain embodied with me today.

In my mom’s final years (she died in 1970), various women started making moves on my dad.

Two days after her 40th birthday, my mom pressed my dad’s hand and said, "Thank you for a lovely life." Then she died.

My sister wanted my father to marry her favorite school teacher. My dad wanted to marry his secretary Gillian. They had a long talk and my sister acquiesced.

Gwen had made a list of women for dad to marry. Gill’s name was not on the list.

I love this description on page 155 of my dad’s debating style: "After lunch he launched into his answers, reading quotation after quotation that destroyed the positions held by his critics. One by one he threw the books down on the table in front of them and challenged to admit their error."

Surprisingly, none of them did.

According to this bio, my father constantly feared losing his job when his heretical views were found out.

That’s the price you pay for belonging to a close-knit religious community and not thinking identically with it.

From page 321 speaking of the years around 1987: "During these visits to Australia those who had known Luke as a child often asked after his welfare. Des would reply, "He is arguing with his father on philosophical issues plus doing a little schooling, radio, and landscaping."

Milton Hook did a beautiful job with this book on my father. I refer to it frequently when I am in therapy.

Steve reviews my dad’s biography on Amazon.com:

I can remember, as a young boy, sitting in my country church listening to a much younger Des Ford answering question after question on the Bible. I was impressed with the breadth and depth of his knowledge and the passion with which he spoke. Since then I have met Des Ford quite a few times and heard him speak. One thing that always shines through is his consistent focus on the gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone. And this focus remains to this day.

Des Ford’s life has been inextricably entwined with the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. Because of this, Hook’s book is much more than a biography of Ford. It is also the story of what must be seen as one of the worst periods of Adventist history when it comes to the way that theology has been done and people have been treated.

Hook begins his book by describing the event that occurred on Saturday afternoon, August 23, 1980 when an enormous crowd heard that Des Ford’s thesis was rejected at Glacier View and was probably to face disciplinary action. Hook asks:

‘Why would a Christian church, in the enlightened and progressive Twentieth Century, deliberately deprive itself of one of its best theologians, who at the same time was loyal, industrious, and arguably their most dynamic preacher of Christ’s gospel?’

Why, indeed? Hook returns to Ford’s childhood in Queensland, Australia to begin to find an answer to that question. From that point the story is a compelling one of a man who is passionate for God and the gospel coming into conflict with a church administration that is more concerned about preserving tradition and power than it is about pursuing greater understanding of theological truth.

The subtitle of the book is reformist theologian, gospel revivalist. This subtitle perfectly describes the life of of Des Ford.

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).
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