Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Blurred History

A Magazine Cover That You Will Never See


I got to thinking about a recent article I saw in Issue 58 of the famous Calvary Chapel Magazine. Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa gets top billing as one of the supporters of this magazine.* But it appears to me that there are just some people that the magazine will never write about, so I came up with this imaginary magazine cover. Maybe someone in the future, after digging around in banker boxes stored behind the mop bucket in a dusty janitor's closet at CC Costa Mesa, accidentally finds some old, mildewed records that reference a certain, obscure "youth minister" who was once employed there, many years ago. By this time, however, nobody living could remember who this youth minister was or anything about him. But this discovery seemed so surprising to the person making it that he decides to write up an lengthy article regarding his investigation and submit it to the magazine. Of course, I am just imagining all this.

Down the Memory Hole


It is funny how history can get blurred. As a good example of what I mean, how history gets re-written, just take at look at this article, titled "They Called It the Jesus Movement," published in issue 58. The authors of this particular article were Jessica Russell, Debra Smith, and Tom Price. The nearest that Lonnie Frisbee and his wife Connie get to being mentioned in this "history" is this vague reference:
After being introduced to a couple who fit the hippie description, Chuck and Kay prepared the church to meet their new friends. The young people were well-received, and the countercultural community at Calvary Chapel began multiplying rapidly.
I was surprised at how glaring here the omission is. The names of the hippie "couple" were left out altogether, no matter that Lonnie played a very catalytic role at that stage of the story. I can understand the authors trying to put an "uplifting" spin on things, but this is getting ridiculous. I also noticed that the article had no pictures of Lonnie, such as at the beach baptism at Pirate's Cove. I know people who were baptized personally by Lonnie at one of these beach baptisms. But I guess Lonnie has now disappeared down the Orwellian Memory Hole.

I find it hard to believe that this article is merely a case of slipshod journalism. It looks to me more like censorship, a puff piece, a selective whitewash of history, or sweeping stuff under the rug. For the record, here is another picture of Lonnie at one of the CC beach baptisms at Pirate's Cove. You mean to tell me that Russell, Smith, and Price, the authors, did not know about any of this? Come on. And they couldn't even mention the guy's name? What were the editors at Calvary Chapel Magazine afraid of?

Here is Lonnie preaching at the original church building in Costa Mesa. The place was packed out. Yet his name is expunged from the record, damnatio memoriæ. I have to admit that at first I was a little steamed about this article. But upon sober reflection, it became clear to me that the article, which appeared in the commemorative issue concerning Chuck Smith, was intended by the authors to emphasize that Chuck was a towering figure. Indeed, he was. But what does it harm to keep a few simple facts straight? Listen, people. Chuck might have been towering, but he was not always a "one man show." He had some help. So why is it so hard to give a tiny bit of credit to whom credit is due? Not even L.E. Romaine, the "Number Two" man at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, was mentioned in the article. Did he count for nothing too?

In the long run, it is better to stick with truthfulness and honesty, and let the chips fall where they may. But I suppose that, in Lonnie's case, the editors wanted to protect the Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel brand names, which might get sullied if associated with the name of a flawed individual. Erasing Lonnie's name, I guess, solves this problem. His face has been blurred out, in effect, and he has now become the anonymous hippie.

Since we cannot always expect Calvary Chapel to remember its own history, more than ever, I implore Roger Sachs to stop delaying and publish the remainder of Lonnie's autobiography. I think we have waited long enough. Lonnie Frisbee was not some inconsequential footnote or a tragic Samson-esque "Bible Story" character. His life mattered, and so does the grace of God. Come on, Roger, publish the rest of Lonnie's autobiography. Let Lonnie finish the message he was trying to tell.


* [Update, 2017 Jan 15] Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa has since disappeared from the list of supporters, which happened sometime after I originally wrote this article. It is rather strange that the eponymous church that started it all is no longer listed as a supporter of the magazine that bares its name.