By Luke Ford Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Seven B Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve 1994-1997 1997 1998 1998B 1999 2000 2001 2009
The local stamp club doesn't raise children within its community, send them to its schools, teach them about ultimate issues in its weekly meetings, mold their views of the world, proclaim itself to be "God's highest authority on earth," lay claim to being the true remnant (of the remnant of the remnant), hold itself out as the only trustworthy repository of truth, the pinnacle of the world's religions, the apex of God's plan on earth. The local stamp club does not inculcate young minds with the notion that unlike other institutions, Adventism is based on truth, not on communal consensus or tradition.
I remember singing proudly, "Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone..." Adventism purports to believe that "What the world needs is men, men who will stand alone, men of principle, men who can be neither bought nor sold."...To teach Adventist youngsters that their church stands for this is a damnable lie...
Tell me, Luke, what stamp club would be so arrogant, so exclusivist, so cruel...
I did begin to listen to your tapes again. I found, however, that within half an hour my stomach muscles had cramped badly in response to the bitter and scornful tone I heard. Then it occurred to me, "What must Luke have had to go through that lies behind that?" There must be an enormity of pain and insult. Furthermore, I thought, Luke clings to the rational, to the objective, to that which comes from higher authority; he does not trust his feelings. Along the same line, Luke hates "beautiful words." Can it be, Luke, that you have so often heard, explicitly or implicitly, that your feelings did not count, that your emotions were not valid, that your sense of things was wrong? I hear a tremendous amount of anger behind your words. To what is this anger addressed?...
Glenn, I don't know. My friend Neville Cherry writes from Australia in November 1990:
I listened to all your tapes without pressing Fast-Forward once. I bet your ex-girlfriend misses hearing them.
My initial reaction to your promulgation of Dennis Prager's Judaism is negative. Why anybody not innured from birth would choose such a fettered, anachronistic lifestyle is beyond my ken. Only 613 basic laws, eh? I feel threatened when I hear extreme fundamentalist views expressed. Such people seem to have no place in their universe for me. I always try to see shades of gray. They only see black and white. Their message is not catholic.
I'm amazed to hear that you lose sleep pondering such questions (of ultimate meaning). Surely this is deleterious to your health. "Life is a mystery to be lived not a riddle to be solved."
Luke, vacillating between extremes as you do makes your credibility suffer.
I basically agree with what you say, but I don't bother with that stuff much. I go cycling or wind-surfing or see a movie or take photographs instead.
Neville, your letter typifies the responses that I receive to my Judaism from secularists.
From Melbourne Australia, Maurice Yang writes in December 1990:
I hope you are healthy enough to go back to university soon. You are a good thinker. It seems that in Australia most young people don't think much, if at all. There are many young people here with beautiful faces and nice bodies but they are spiritually boring. Some of them however, believe themselves very spiritual, but I've found that they're blind religious believers who only believe what their bibles or priests tell them. They never use their own brains.
I've enjoyed our conversations. I hope one day we meet again. I also hope that one day, when I go into a bookstore, I suddenly find a book written by you.
My friend Jules Zentner at UCLA writes towards the end of 1990:
You have grown and deepened in the time I have known you, especially the last two years. Your progression into Judaism has made sense, both from who you are personally and intellectually. Your tapes have been on a plane upon which I am not accustomed to move. I applaud your entry into Judaism. I attended temple and church without being able to accept either religion.
You have encountered Judaism through Dennis Prager's warmth and mental keenness. Its basis in law seems to provide you with a meaningful structure for belief. It may be that had I discovered Judaism in a like manner that I would've been similarly persuaded.
(About a year later.)
I am impressed with the impact that you make (as you desire) on others. I believe that your ardor and bluntness are not necessarily hindrances. Your sincerity and concern are evident. Some people respond better to your manner than more well phrased ones. I benefit from you partly because of your manner. Your challenge is, sometimes for better rather than worse, personal as well as rational.
That anyone would ascribe your search for meaning among different secular and religious beliefs to the persecution of your father by his own church was surprising. I take the opposite view, believing that your mental, spiritual and social health is incredible. You are far more solid and mature than when I first met you in the Fall of 1988. I liked the Luke I knew then but I am in awe of the Luke I know today. I've never known anyone who's matured so rapidly.
Luke, you could accept Prager's manner because of a combination of being thick-skinned in a vulnerable sort of way and a real desire to learn. You appreciate a logical argument even when it goes against you.
Your honesty and passion will be misunderstood by some people sometimes, but I treasure that in you.
The reader now understands why, since meeting Jules in the fall of 1988, I've treasured his friendship. He's done more than anyone else (outside my parents) to support me during my years of illness.
In the spring of 1992, I began corresponding with Roger Magnusson. I last knew him at Avondale College in 1977. He is the middle of three sons of Dr. Eric (who presided over Avondale while my family was there) and Neini Magnusson.
You talk with great clarity on your tapes. You ought to write a book.
Maybe when we are 60 and 61, they will publish our correspondence as a major step forward in moral thinking. Or perhaps they won't.
Luke, what makes you think that you will advance goodness in the world by not touching the opposite sex? Have you ever balanced the hurt that you might cause a woman who goes to shake hands with you against the brownie points you earn....The Apostle Paul is your biggest supporter when it comes to keeping away from women.
How do you explain this (halacah of not touching the opposite sex)? Do you think Prager would be able to do what he does--get people obsessed with God and values, if he were obsessed with details like that?...
Don't let your Jewish scruple against touching women become a metaphor for loneliness. Trees do not make good substitutes for people...(Referring to my habit of regularly hugging a particular pine tree.)
Roger, I've inherited my father's awkwardness at giving and receiving physical affection.
Through my teens, I shuddered when I received what I wanted most - the female touch.
I achieved deep intimacy during my college years, but I quit that upon accepting (in '90) Judaism's teachings on holiness.
In December 1991, I learned from Michal Kohane about frum (strictly observant) Jew Michael Weed's practice of not even shaking hands with women. I adopted that minhag (custom).
(The minhag of Michael is to me, sometimes, a law.)
"That halacah (law) is not you, Luke," people tell me. "That's Michael. He's ultra-Orthodox. You're more of a mixer."
Maybe. I'm highly skeptical of the positive value of this observance for me, but I keep it (1993) anyway for a variety of psychological, sexual, Jewish and spiritual reasons.
#1 Staying away from the female touch returns me to the comfortable ways of childhood.
#2 My custom makes it more difficult for women to sexually manipulate me. I can keep my perspective.
#3 It adds kidusha (the Hebrew word for holiness which literally translated means separate') to my everyday.
#4 I like the way this custom goes against the grain of touchy-feely California. Judaism wants Jews to challenge the values and mores of non-Jews in as many ways as possible.
My custom is not popular. Several respondees to my singles' ad said good-bye when they learned of it.
Most people seem to believe that because I keep this custom (which is an unimportant one in my view), I believe that others should too. I don't.
This halacah does not sound moderate. I'm affectionate with friends of both genders and sexual persuasions. I'm not prepared to give up the warmth of a hug when greeting them or the comfort of hands that hold mine in times of need. Especially because of the physical starvation that I felt in childhood, I do not find value in eliminating all physical contact with the opposite sex.
When I actively mourned the loss of my relationship with A., I formed a platonic friendship with X., who was also healing from a relationship. We spent a lot of time together during that period talking, crying, listening and hugging. It was beautiful to watch a man express emotion on that level and feel safe enough to do the same. Being an artist, he painted me a card saying that I was a Godsend and I feel the same way about him. I can hardly imagine that time without his companionship, shoulders and loving arms...It's hard for me to accept, regardless of what is written, that God or Judaism wants me to be deprived of a hug from a male in time of emotional distress.
In the same vein, a hug after each session of psychotherapy with Dr..., proved to be more therapeutic than all the hours of verbal-cognitive exchange...What I experienced in therapy with a male who hugged me was the epitome of goodness. Dr...served as a guide, teacher and surrogate father to a 21-year old girl-woman who had been abused on all levels--physically, emotionally and sexually. Those hugs... healed deep wounds.
Am I to believe that because Dr... is Jewish, he should not touch me even when that touch was of premium importance in my recovery?
S., I see no need for anyone else to adopt this originally Hasidic minhag (custom). (Neither the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) or the Talmud commands such rigor.)
Roger, I doubt that this halacah increases goodness in the world. I also doubt that Prager would be able to do his good work if he were obsessed with such details. I fear that this custom is another example of my self-destructive tendency to cut myself off from those around me.
For the moment, I keep it anyway. It gives me perspective on my sexuality and it helps stabilize my shattered life.
The foothills' guardian of Orthodox Judaism, Michael Weed, writes to me on the 28th of March, 1993:
You need to find out what the Jewish laws, teachings, and practices are before you criticize...You appear to guess and spread around inaccurate information...
With regard to the minhag of not touching females. You misconveyed its purpose. First, you can touch females such as your wife and anyone with whom the Torah specifically forbids a [sexual] relationship - like your mother, sister, grandmother, daughter etc.... Jewish homes are usually huggy.
The idea is to prevent misunderstanding... and sin.... For example, let us say the minhag doesn't exist. You're at home secluded with a female friend. She tells you wonderful news...and you both hug. Your wife walks in. [Your wife would feel bad.]
I quote further excerpts from Roger Magnusson's letters:
You asked my opinion of your idea of changing your name from Luke Ford to Yitzchok Adlerstein. I am not positive. The name you are wanting to change to is the name that someone already has. Will it make you feel more Jewish? But you were not born Jewish and you will bring to Judaism something unique and different. Your conversion from Christianity/Atheistic Communism to Judaism is special. You can't hide it. Why try?
Dr. Norm Young (Adventism's keenest mind according to my father) responds to me from Avondale College in Australia:
You say that you've led a misspent life. At 24, Luke, I've got good news. Your life is hardly spent, let alone misspent. You've just begun.
You mention your mother Gwen Ford whom I knew well. She was totally selfless and kind, gentle and sweet. Just "An Israelite in whose mouth there was no guile." A wonderful Christian and a good foil to Des.
I understand your comments about your pursuit of love and attention. Your first few years were tumultuous as you were handed around like a foster child.
My wife and I didn't really meet you until England [in 1971] ... [Your stepmother] Gill loved you dearly. You seemed settled...You clung to Gill and it was clear that she meant much to you. And I hope that she still does. She deserves a son's love.
I wouldn't have too much of a conscience about some of your boyhood misdemeanors... Goodness me, pinching a bit of money to buy sweets.... .There should've been sweets around. I don't rate eating [candy] as a great sin... Sweets are one of God's gifts to us...
The war between you and your father over [warm] stale air vs fresh [cold] air seems to me less of a war than a complementary ecological balance.... I remember [in England] your dad (sleeping in the pantry) waking up with frost on his chin. Anyone else would've caught pneumonia and died.
This is the problem with the Fordian health regime. Those who start it, unless they are of a cast-iron constitution, are going to be dead within five years. But if they survive they'll head off into their 90s. So... we end up saying that the Fordian health regime is marvelous because people get longevity from it... but we forget all those who died...
Patriotism...I'm typically Australian here.... I don't feel the same quickening of the heart and the rising of emotions as the Australian flag goes up as Americans seem to have for the Stars and Stripes.... But I heard you qualify patriotism by a judgment outside of patriotism.... If patriotism supports something bad, you oppose it.
Unsolicited advice is something that all of us practice and receive. Parents particularly give unsolicited advice. Of course, I have no idea, no idea whatsoever about who was the object of the unsolicited advice about the pea soup.... But let me give you some unsolicited advice.... Just pea soup with onions and a bit of salt does sound bland.... I'm not worried about the excessive nitrogenous content... just the taste of it. On the other hand, the other recipe that was given to you without request... containing soya milk, potatoes and peanut butter... sounded more like a recipe for glue rather than soup. So, somewhere in between... a little bit of diced potato and diced carrot to go along with the onion sounds palatable.... But, as you say, you are 24 years old and you can make your own pea-soup, thank you very much.
I think it is impossible and unhelpful to never criticize others.... Even when criticizing others for criticizing others, we are criticizing others. But, you're right. We are too swift and too petty and too smug in criticizing people too often and too much...
My Placer High School best buddy Shannon Anderson writes from Gonzaga Law School in Spokane Washington.
I enjoyed your conversations with Prager [over KABC radio]. Prager respected you. He challenged you with the tactics of an expert debater. You beat him to the punch several times. Those times that you conceded to his point gave your arguments credibility. No doubt, you have the same communicating talents that Prager has. Considering your performance with Prager and all your other tapes, perhaps you should go on the lecture circuit.
What's this about looking Jewish? I see Jewish people all the time. One of my best friends at school is Jewish - but he does not have a long bushy beard. I can only picture what you look like, and if my imagery is correct I see a Walt Whitman type. I hope that your appearance does not result in a loss of credibility. Does Dennis Prager look "Jewish"? I guess Prager does the "Jewish thing" by looking like "Prager." I hope you are looking like Luke and acting like Luke. I really want to be like Perry Mason, but I think I can still be a good lawyer without gorging calories.
My friend from Placer High School, Rochelle Kramer, says to me on tape from Japan in the summer of 1992:
Your voice is extremely deep. It took me a long time to adjust...From the tape of your KAHI interview, I learned much about CFS but even more about how CFS has changed your life [for the better]. You've been given the opportunity to consider the true reasons for man's existence and to adjust your perception of what is important in life.
I'm glad that you went on the radio to explain your illness to people. I admit that when I first heard about CFS, I didn't think that it was legitimate.
Rachael from Sacramento: "What do you mean [that you are] 'moral but sexy' and 'don't you want someone who'll be good to you?' Luke, you sound desperate. You don't even know who you are selling yourself to."
Jews are like everyone else. Strong, weak, ignorant, educated, proud, good, bad, they come in all shapes, sizes and personalities...Let us think about the Nevada County Jewish Community that received your letter. From listening to your tapes and reading your letters, I know that you come on strong. What were these people thinking when they read your letter? Using my imagination!
(1) What a nut! Toss letter.
(2) That's different! Think about responding but, the demands of life take over...
(3) Some or perhaps most, do not even read the newsletter.
A more directed approach to the community leaders who take the mitzvot [commandments] seriously (visiting the sick is an important one), may have been more effective...
Conclusion one: Be gentle and patient. People are naturally wary of someone new or different.
The woman from Florida who spoke of spirituality and Judaism but went shopping on shabbat. The woman who does not say brachot. Do not be critical. It is the all or nothing attitude which drives many people away. You know nothing of their background.
Conclusion two: The Jewish community is diverse. You can find what you are looking for...
You want Jews to be Jewish. Let them define it as they wish. True, an observant Jew would recite the 'rules' and why it must be just so. But, I believe that for the Jewish community to regain its strength it must include as many Jews as possible. We all have the opportunity for Teshuva (return). Teshuva maintains that Judaism is no more than the sum of the Jewishness of its members.
I can hear you saying "and converts." Perhaps you are right, but I don't think that we are ready for great outreach. Maybe with intermarried couples.
I read the publications you sent me about your father. My mother carefully asked me why I was reading Good News Unlimited... "Taking the gospel to all the world." I explained [that it was] from Luke... who now looks like a yeshiva bocher [student].
Robyn Vandiver responded to my "Australian-made..." singles ad in the Sacramento Bee in September 1992. Robyn, 20, is a Junior at UC Davis. She's studying English and plans to become a high school teacher. Robyn writes from her home in downtown Sacramento:
You got me going now... Old strict Mr. Adlerstein has gone into hiding to let the repressed Luke Carey Ford show me his most passionate strange self. You made me laugh. You truly surprised me. I only regret that your severe devotion to Judaism forces you to withhold this wild side and not act on your impulses. Do you think that all your religious trappings (yarmulka, payos, tzitzit, beard) make you a better person? I don't. They hide the exciting person who lives behind the cold calculating devout exterior. That sucks... Religion sucks.
You're much more fun when you're not playing Mr. Righteous Jew. This includes speaking memorized lines such as "Judaism is in the business of making separations." I've got that one word-for-word on two tapes.
The answers to your deep questions lie within yourself, Luke, not in the writings of any old rabbinic text.
... Okay, maybe there is a difference between "unnatural" and "disgusting." I, however, have natural desires to eat, sleep and have sex, but not with animals or other women. This is why bestiality and homosexuality are not natural for me. Maybe it's different for you. Please tell me that you haven't had sex with animals. If you have, I don't want to know about it.
About the woman [who had sex with a horse]: I also wonder how such a feat was physically possible. I think that the common analogy "hung like a horse" is an exaggeration. I couldn't imagine...Your jealousy in this matter amuses me. It's not the size. It's what you do with it.
I received your letter today [asking that we reduce our correspondence]. I'm infuriated and disappointed that you've turned out to be the phenomenally cowardly, self-righteous, self-centered, insecure, confused jerk that I was afraid that you'd be from the outset. You told me to be open and honest. I did, and you blow me off.
Our values aren't at loggerheads, Luke. We both believe in goodness and helping humanity.... Only our religions are [at loggerheads]. If you are afraid of me because I pose such a threat to your deeply rooted Judaism, then you are no better than the Jehovah Witnesses. Furthermore, if your religious fervor is so easily uprooted, it's obviously not real. How can you prove your strength as a Jew if you can't even face conflict with those who pull you in different directions?
If you weren't afraid of me, you wouldn't insist in cutting me off.... But if you have no backbone to maintain such "intense correspondence," then you can go ahead and send me back my stuff. I particularly want the coloring book.
If you aren't willing to accept all of me (my nuances and my intellectual openness which you do not share), then you can't expect to keep part of me. I'm sorry that I wasted so much time creating things for your enjoyment and amusement since you obviously do not appreciate them.
1/17/93 Jules Zentner writes from UCLA:
Thanks to you, Dennis Prager, and Dostoyevsky [who said that "where there is no God, all is permitted"], instead of being agnostic, I now recognize a God (but not any one religious explanation of Him). I acknowledge God's existence for ethical reasons. Unlike Prager, I don't have a logical necessity for explaining creation by positing a creator. Instead, I see a moral necessity for acknowledging a transcendent being. That gives authority for moral laws for which human authority is not sufficient. Those commandments... between humans (parents, adultery, murder, etc) are not justifiable solely on secular humanist basis. They must have their origin in a God.... The Ten Commandments are sufficient for me but it is helpful to know the laws and practices of monotheistic religions-including something about their bibles. Information from you about Judaism has been interesting and sometimes useful (not bothering salespeople in shops where I don't mean to buy...). That said, I see ritual observances (fringed shawls, set prayers, and Sabbaths, etc.) as clever ways to keep people mindful of ethics and of their giver. Thus far, they haven't seemed meaningful for my ethical needs. For me (organized religion aside), Ethical Monotheism is wonderful!!! Look what you've done!
Jules, your response bouyed me up during a down time. Thank you for letting me touch your life. You've certainly touched mine.
I'm surprised and saddened by your lack of faith in yourself... (unfortunately enhanced by your faith in Judaism, Dennis Prager, Jules Zentner, etc).... What prevents you from accepting the brash confidence that marks your personality? Why stifle the primordial Luke energy with doubt? How is it that you can't give yourself credit for mental fortitude and physical bravery in not allowing yourself to be worn down by long term illness. I can't believe that you are unable to acknowledge the astonishing and enormously worthwhile intellectual and spiritual feat you've accomplished in finding a spiritual direction and incorporating it into your life! Why doesn't that give you a sense of worth? If you knew someone else who had struggled years to discover a life that would benefit the lives of others and was currently making considerable intellectual effort to learn more about how to lead that life as well as subjecting himself to rigorous discipline to follow the rigorous religious dictates of that life, wouldn't you admire that person as possessing unusual worth? I liked you during a time that I felt that your beliefs were misguided and not helpful to others-so my affection for you was not and is not based on your beliefs. I liked you because you were honest and trying to do good. In times when people find it easier to be concerned with themselves, you were honest and trying to do good. In times when people find it easier to be concerned with themselves, I found you to be a genuinely good person who was concerned with others. I wish you had the courage of your convictions in a personal way as you do in a social way. You frequently cite other good people, describing how and why they are worthwhile. But you don't give yourself credit for the same things you cite in others.
I don't know enough about Christianity (as I don't about Judaism in other matters) to fully understand what impact the idea of Original Sin and consequent feelings of guilt as sinners on young Christians such as you were. That guilt, as I understand it, is supposed to be a warning and a guide to lead people to exert themselves to become better. One of its dangers, however, is that such guilt can undermine one's idea of self. Although not a Christian, I grew up in a guilt society and had my share.... Judaism, as I understand from you and Prager, judges by acts rather than intentions.... I'm suggesting that your acts of study... and of endeavoring to spread the word of Judaism or of Prager ought to give you a sense of value. That you are having trouble writing as well as you would like can't compare with those other things. Why is it that you don't value yourself?... Is your lack of faith a means of spurring you on or a weight holding you back? I suspect that greater acceptance of yourself would free your energies for the things you know to be important.
[Re: my autobiography.] ... Put down obscenities, blasphemies, "pornographies', etc., so that you can see them and get to what you really mean by them. It's in the writing process! You have powerful feelings about Christianity, Jesus and sexuality that have to be in your autobiography.... Put them down... transforming them into an explanation of who you are - rather than an expression of your resentment, bitterness or desire to shock.
"For the first time I heard your dad on the radio [710AM KFIA at 11am weekdays]," said Haim Zamir. "I found out that I'm a Gentile. You were a true Jew when you were a Christian. By converting to Judaism, however, you became a Gentile."
My dad says that God's Israel is the invisible church of Jesus Christ.
I introduce myself over the phone to SJF (Single Jewish Female) Adelle.
"How do you observe Judaism?" she asks.
"I keep shabas and kashrut, give tzedaka (charity), avoid lashon hara (gossip and slander) and I don't touch the opposite sex," I replied.
"You don't shake hands with a woman?" she asks.
"My God. That's all I have to hear [to know that I don't want to get to know you]," Adelle replied. "Go join the Hasidim."
Adelle's reaction typifies the reaction of many people to me based upon my observance of the halacah to not touch the opposite sex. But that's an immature reaction. One halacah does not sum up my totality. I'm an exciting guy and as far from the Hasidim as I am from secularists.
Torn between two lovers
Feeling like a fool
Loving both of them
Is breaking all the rules.
The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills 52-17 to win the Super Bowl. Do I still need to belong to the Chosen People now that America's Team which is my team rules the world?
Ilene Blender writes from San Francisco: "I opened a fortune cookie today... and immediately thought of you. The person who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd."
(I use the date that I receive the mail.) Julie writes from San Francisco:
Just got your tape. On the news there was something about a tone-deaf choir. Look into it.
SEX Sacrilege and Audio Tape sounds like a good title for a scandal within the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Otherwise, I think a new title would be better [for my autobiography].
Robyn Vandiver writes 8/93: "Where can I find this god? Let me know so I can talk to him/her about some screwed up people I know."
Lana (not her real name) phoned in the evening. This five-foot SJF with E-cup breasts wanted to know what I had told my stepmother Gill about her.
"That you look for extra-terrestrials in outerspace," I said.
It's true. Lana volunteers for NASA.
Lana says that the strangest creature she has ever found is me.
I once complained to my brother Paul that I'd never find anyone like myself.
"To find someone like you, Luke," said Paul, "you'd have to go to Mars."
Later in the evening, my stepmother asked who phoned. I replied "Twin Peaks."
Key symptoms of Psychopathy - Glib, egocentric and grandiose, lacks empathy, deceitful and manipulative. (Psychology Today)
"Luke, you converted to Judaism because it fits your [outgoing, aggressive, verbally violent and obnoxious] personality," said Rick Hammer.
Robyn, 20, writes that most of the women I'm interested in "sound old and dull".
Maybe that's what you need. You could never marry someone individualistic, free-spirited or wild - you wouldn't be able to exercise your divine right as god over her.
I got a new book Encyclopedia of Gem, Crystal and Metal Magic.... I've figured out your problem:
"Too much receptive energy creates moodiness, lethargy, depression, and a shutting off of the physical world. Other possible problems are nightmares, clinging love, lack of employment, depressed immuno-response and hypocondria."
Wear stones with projective energy - particularly black ones.... Hang some on your tzitzit and your problems will disappear!.... Of course, author Scott Cunningham is a witch. I don't know if witch magic works on devoted worshipers of non-beings.
Robyn, I don't do witchcraft. God runs the universe, not black stones.
I lost access in early April to the computers and printers that I used to write my autobiography. Spectrum magazine (the publication of Adventist forums) published my letter on Glacier View, the Heavenly Sanctuary and the Investigative Judgement. I concluded my piece: "Looking at Adventism's Gospel Revolution from a broader perspective, I see it as another explosion of Christianity's antinomian core and as part of humanity's general rebellion against God's moral Law.
"And where do I stand on the movements of Jesus in the Heavenly Sanctuary? I think it's all nonsense. I'm converting to Judaism."
My essay caused great pain to my parents and to their Christian supporters. I heard comments such as "patricide" and "stabbing his father in the back."
A couple of weeks after publication, my stepmother Gill came into my room and told me: "I don't know if you're more of a prophet or a loss."
My friends Noel Mason and Pauline Callaghan tell me that it is legitimate for me to publish in an Adventist journal differing views from my father. Almost everybody else in my life disagrees. E. typifies the response: "Stay off your father's turf. Talk to Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists, Bhai....Leave the Adventist world alone."
My best friend Jules Zentner (along with other people) tell me that I owe my father an apology.
Why do you increase the hurt to your father?
I admired you for the rigorous personal and religious soul-searching that you undertook before converting because you were mindful of his feelings...
Even with your explanation of the wish by Adventist friends to learn of your religious process.... I can't fathom why those reasons weigh (in an ethical sense) against adding to the hurt of someone who has... [been] good to you.... Becoming a better person through striving with the task that may be hardest for you (your relationship with your father) may be the greatest test of your Judaism.
I am sorry for the pain that I've caused Dad by my public proclamation of my differing values. I haven't told Dad this directly.
On another topic, Jules writes:
Forget about remarks about your being crazy - even by serious people you respect. Having different ideas and a flare for the journalistically dramatic may well startle and confuse others but claims that you are near any breaking point could only be done by a highly trained psychiatrist.
Hello ego!... Do you expect me to be crushed because you say so smugly "I'm seeing other women"? I laugh at you instead. "Other" women?... Big surprise. [Robyn didn't know that I was "seeing" her.] How are you seeing these other women? Imagining Luke Ford painting the town red is difficult for me.
I was surprised about your daring incident with the Adventist magazine.... Odd thing to do when you're still living with your parents.
Your nose is not Jewish. Only your clothes, books, holiday celebrations, etc. are. Nobody "gets" a Jewish nose by embracing Judaism or any other religion.
I don't hate your Judaism or Dennis Prager.... I just don't like the way you present it as Truth and superior to other ways of thinking, like mine. As in: "I want to marry someone who can live Judaism...Someone rooted in reality..."
Luke, I'm not dying to marry you.... But it disgusts me how religion dictates who a person can marry.
Interesting concept.... The isolation of a person from all "popular culture" as a way to better himself.... I'm not sure how successful your "hermit" idea will prove to be, Luke, but as your happiness grows I can't wait to hear all the exciting details.... Eliminating all frivolity and unnecessary entertainment from your life will speed your recovery and remove your depression....There goes that nasty sarcasm again, which you hate.
[I, Robyn, am not] the traditional "girl who wants a man to do her thinking for her" type....You may have found one in your "secular Jewish female!"....Great! Someone who believes everything you say is perfect for you.... A sponge. You keep mentioning the importance of marriage to make yourself a more complete Jewish person.... I hope you find someone who can put up with you!
I schmoozed for several hours with my old teachers at Sierra College. Political Science Chair Larry Wight told me that I was his best student in 27 years of teaching. "You're the Barry Bonds of academia," he told me. "You can do it all.... Even though I'm the king of atheism, I urge you to become a rabbi."
I then drove to the Orthodox shul Knesset Israel where I underwent immersion in the mikveh (pool of water) and the hatafatdam (where a couple of drops of blood were taken from my penis) to formally become Levi Ben Avraham.
My new friend, Layeh Bock, writes to my stepmother Gill.
I have recently made Luke's acquaintance, by tape/mail/telephone. He sent me a copy of the piece you'd written for your newsletter about his beliefs and values. That impressed me: it takes largeness and love to (1) see and (2) accept and (3) value our differences from the ones we love most. From parents to children, especially, that has a rareness that is sad.
Anyway, Mother's Day seems like the appropriate time to send you a note of congratulations. You have done an impressively good job with yor son: his earnestness, his openness, his curiosity, his sense of responsibility, and his openness to the reality of other human beings - all speak volumes for the many (innumerable as grainds of sand in the sea!) bits of doing-it-right that go into rearing a son to be a decent human being. That's especially noteworthy in this society of glitz, pretentious distractions, encouragements to self-hate bred with self-obsession, and glorified shallowness.
Whatever your part in forming Luke, you seem to have done one fantastically good job of it.... Thanks! Yes, in that (1) I believe that each of our acts makes the world more "that way," and so your rearing a good human being makes the world I share with you swing that much to the good; and (2) the man you reared that way can now be a valuable friend.
"I was ready to send you a loggerheads letter after the incense incident.... You know, "I can't carry - it's not permitted." I was ready to stick the incense up your nose so you could fully enjoy its smell. But after listening to you say that you always drive people away, I decided not to give you the satisfaction of doing the same to me."
Roger Magnusson writes from Australia.
[Dennis Prager] as a father [figure] leaves you unsatisfied. I wonder, when the commanding voice, the strong dominating persona, and its accompanying rhetoric are stilled, does he realise the responsibilities of having persuaded a searcher like yourself to embrace his view of the world? I wonder if he does not disappoint you with his brevity, with his failure to recognize in you his golden chosen child?
Reading your autobiography SEX Sacrilege and Audio Tape (a splendid, if not entirely original title!), I gained the impression that you are/were a free spirit, a larrakin, a compulsive, generous, arrogant, analytical, dreamer of grand dreams, albeit with injuries from the past.... You are fresh air.... I suspect Judaism cramps this style.
Roger, I'm glad that Judaism cramps my style. Frequently in my spontaneous unique behavior, I do hurtful stupid things.
Maybe I'll come back from Russia as a communist, and at your insistence, our correspondence will come to an explosive end for lack or shared values!! Ha! Ha!
A noticeable theme in your autobiography is that some halakhic (observant) Jews are more ritualistic than goodness centered, a point not lost on Jesus in his criticisms of the Pharisees. (No Luke, I don't think you are the Messiah!)
You said that "at my core I feel dispensable." I've felt the same. Its a feeling of freedom; no reason for not doing this rather than that; going here rather than there. I'm glad we both have friends, because friends anchor our lives, and contribute to our wellbeing; you have contributed to mine, with your tapes: a generous, arrogant, thoughtful, rather pleasing blend of domestic news, moral philosophy, Jewish apologetic, Californian Republican crap, personal issues, not to mention the odd gallon of outrageous bullshit I cannot let pass.
Your purest joy is in the misery of others.... I understand. You feel connected with others when they trust you enough to give you the bad, the honest bad, as well as the superficial breezy good.
You mentioned that the article I gave you on moral dilemmas and suffering love was mystical, academic and 'emotional religious masturbation.'.... You want to excise from your religion emotional soul searching, mystical communion, emotional dilemma...Emotion is fine in religion, like in friendship... wallowing in other people's problems, sharing their joy.... There is a conflict in the way you want to come close to people and to God.... By the way, a good religious wank (Australian slang for masturbation) never hurt anybody.
Roger, good stuff.
"If you allow others to treat you like dirt, you are dirt. You made this statement in response to what I said about how a Jewish lawyer in Paris treated Laura's sister.... Abusing the weakness of others who are disadvantaged because they are not strong enough to put you in your place is evil. It's not Jewish, is it?"
Roger, it's not Jewish. But people have to learn to stand up for themselves and stop whining about how other people take advantage of them.
"Most people are boring." Don't tell them.
"You love middle class bourgeois values. What sort of motherhood statement is that?"
Roger, middle class values are synonymous with Judeo-Christian values. In other words, leading lives devoted to work, family, education and religion.
"You'd teach your kids as a moral principle to whack someone who had whacked them. You like 'hardball religion'.... Such religion is easy to understand because it is in our natures to whack those who have hurt us.... Jesus breaks the vicious cycle. Who are you needing to whack back, Luke?"
Anyone who whacks me, Roger.
"Some people will pontificate about the need for values so that families stick together. That sounds fine, but it allows them to worm out of asking themselves what are they doing now, with the kid on their own doorstep."
Roger, good for you for picking people off the streets and giving them bed and breakfast. But unless you can give these addicts and alcoholics values, you can't permanently lift them out of the gutter.
By Luke Ford Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Seven B Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve 1994-1997 1997 1998 1998B 1999 2000 2001 2009