Thursday, November 15, 2018

Epistles to Lonnie Frisbee

Letter #8


Seraph Postal - Forever
Dear Lonnie,

I apologize for taking so long to answer you. There are several reasons for the delay, which I shall explain, but I do want to acknowledge that I did receive your letter, and I thank you very much for your very helpful recommendations.

Besides the fact that your letters naturally glow in the dark, there were this time additional peculiarities about the letter you sent me that I should mention. First of all, after I checked its postmark, it appeared to me that there had been a 21 day delay before it arrived in my mail box. This is unusual because the Seraphic Mail Service normally transports mail on a "same day delivery" basis. Secondly, the angelic letter carrier had attached a sticky note to its envelope. The note was written using Hebrew characters, and so I assume this is the language that angels use for official business. It took me a while to get the note deciphered because I don't know how to read Hebrew, but once translated, the note simply stated that "special circumstances" had held up delivery of the letter, "those which required the intervention of archangel Michael to overcome unexpected opposition," and "please accept our sincere apologies for the unfortunate delay." Lonnie, I am guessing that, despite your being up there enjoying the Beatific Vision for all these years, you are still getting hassled, albeit indirectly, by those nefarious "principalities and powers" who were attempting to sabotage your mail enroute. But your letter did finally reach me.

Now concerning the subject of the prophetic, I hope I understand correctly what you wrote to me. You said that my five categories were a rough but workable sketch of a complicated picture, but they needed more refinement. You also indicated that I needed an additional category called "Balaam." As you said, this is because in their endeavor to "turn prophecy into a money-making professional career," some people had acquired very unwholesome motives and therefore had fallen into "the error of Balaam, who concocted bogus stuff that sounded like prophecy or who would tell people what they wanted to hear, all for the sake of money." Of course, Balaam was the prophet-for-hire who had to be rebuked by the talking donkey he rode on. I should have thought of this category. Thank you for your suggestions. Finally, you mentioned that Heaven is very much aware that the prophet situation here on Earth has gotten "very overgrown" and was due for some "radical pruning soon," and that "too many people were attempting to get in on the act who really had no business being there." I have to agree, Lonnie, that things are a mess, a smoking dumpster fire.

Let me say that, while researching this subject, I also discovered, much to my surprise, that within charismatic circles there has been an on-going recrudescence of Postmillennialism in various forms. After taking this into account, it became easier for me to understand why some "prophets" were saying what they were saying (especially those in category #1 and #3). And I suspect that this may also explain many of the things the Fireman has been "prophesying." Nowadays Postmillenialism has many variations, and this letter would become too lengthy if I tried to cover them all in any detail. But roughly speaking, I would say that it's the notion that the Church is somehow entirely responsible for implementing the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth. Consequently, the Second Coming will happen only after the Church has been completely perfected and has somehow "christianized" all levels of society in all nations. But I need to put off talking any more about this topic, Lonnie, because I need to move on to the main reasons for this letter to you. There is only so much lambskin vellum to write on.

The last time I checked, someone told me that the third book of your autobiography, "Set Free," would come out before the end of this year. Should I believe this or not? I don't know anymore, given the miserable track record so far for unexplained delays. Lonnie, if you have any leverage at all, up there in glorious Heaven, please try to apply a little pressure on your ghostwriter Roger Sachs to get "Set Free" published. It's way past due. Maybe you can put in a request: If Roger were to get a friendly visit from an archangel…oh, wait, that might be too terrifying — I don't want to give poor Roger a heart attack, given how elderly he is, but you understand what I mean.

In your last letter, you told me that Greg Laurie's new book would be out very soon, but you added a word of caution. You said to me, "You should not be too surprised if Greg gets several things wrong." Well, sure enough, his hardback finally came out this September, and the book is entitled Jesus Revolution. Ellen Vaughn is the co-author, and the subtitle is How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How We Can Do It Again Today. Greg has been actively promoting this book with plenty of advertising and fanfare. I immediately bought me a copy. And I have been carefully reading through it and taking notes. So far I have gone through the book three times. Taking time on this is an additional reason for the long delay in writing an answer back to you.

If I were to make a guess, it would be that the coauthor Ellen Vaughn did most of the actual keyboard grunt work producing drafts of the book. And she probably was responsible for most of the research while putting together the background material regarding what was happening in America in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. However, I think it would be nearly indisputable that Greg Laurie was the person who had the final say about the content and objectives of the book, especially the biographical parts regarding himself and his wife, and the events surrounding pastor Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel. This is why, hereinafter, I shall often refer to it as "Greg's book," not that I want to deny Ellen Vaughn her proper credit.

You see, Lonnie, I don't think that your place in history can be erased, at least not entirely. However, people can engage in various degrees of historical revisionism in an effort to spin things in certain directions. Now that I have read Greg Laurie's Jesus Revolution, I was disappointed to discover that his book is yet another example of this being done. I don't have any Seraphic parcel postage stamps; for if I had, I would just mail you a copy of Greg's book so you could read it for yourself and see what I mean. But you are entirely correct. What I shall give you here, in this and future letters, is derived from my notes, where I wrote down my observations and criticisms as I was reading Greg's book. Some relevant quotations from his book will be included along with my comments.

Before I begin, however, let me first state that overall Greg's book is an interesting and curious hodgepodge. I would not be surprised if someone tries to turn it into a movie. True, the book does contain a thumbnail history of the 1960s and 1970s, and hippies and Calvary Chapel and Chuck Smith — mainly for the benefit of the Millennials, who were born too late to know about this stuff — but it was obviously not intended to be a detailed, chronological history of the Jesus People Movement in Riverside and Orange counties, down in SoCal. If people were expecting that, they would be disappointed. The lives of Greg Laurie and his wife Cathe, told in the third person, are the book's primary focus, though not much more is revealed about them than what has already been made known publicly. Greg is really a very private person, and he doesn't disclose personal details other than what fits into some evangelical objective of his. A better subtitle for the book could have been The Adventures of Greg and Cathe During The Jesus Movement and Beyond, or How You Too Can Have Explosive Success in Your Church Just Like Pastor Chuck Smith Did. The book finishes with the funeral of Chuck Smith, followed by three more chapters of sermonizing about America and revivals, which mostly repeats the conventional, evangelical wisdom on the subject. And I must say that it was a strange feeling for me to read about people and events which in some cases I have witnessed for myself, if only as a bystander in the crowd. As books go, it was passable, notwithstanding that Greg pretty much depreciates the charismatic aspect of Calvary Chapel and spins the narrative when it comes to your own involvement.
There is a long-haired teenage boy. He looks like he's about seventeen. He's more quiet and reserved than the girls, as if he still carries the burdens of the past dead ends of drinking, drug use, and skeptical despair. A bearded pastor in a flowing tunic, sopping wet, dunks the young man down in the cold water for a long moment. It's as if he's been buried.

Then the hippie pastor raises the kid up, and the teenager bursts out of the sea, water streaming down his face and hair and shoulders. His heart is on his face, and he is weeping. … [12]
Lonnie, here on page 12 in the prologue is probably where you are first mentioned in Greg's book. However, you have been shifted into being a nameless "hippie pastor" that baptizes Greg, who is likely the "kid" being mentioned here. There were not many "hippie pastors" at Calvary Chapel who had a beard and a trademark "flowing tunic." It was obviously you. Of course, it really doesn't matter who baptized Greg. But did Greg intentionally leave your name out, being careful from the very start to maintain a certain amount of distance between himself and you? I suspect this might be the case, especially when I consider the overall effect of what gets written about you further along in Greg's book. As I share more and more of my notes, you will see what I mean when I say that there is a pattern that develops — the cuts get a little deeper as the pages turn.
Some were like Samson — mightily blessed by God, but then they fell off his wagon. [17]
You remember, Lonnie, that your funeral at the Crystal Cathedral was packed out. But didn't it seem odd to you that so many people turned out for it? Where did all these "friends" come from? Where were they before in those few years before you died? More than one person came up and eulogized you, and one of them drew a comparison between you and Samson. A little later, pastor Chuck Smith came up to speak, and he carried this simile farther down the road. So from that time forward, people have only remembered Chuck as the one saying this about you. Anyone who knows the Bible knows exactly what they were implying: that just like Samson, though you were "gifted," you were a moral failure, who ultimately did yourself in by your own reckless behavior. Consequently, Lonnie, this is how you have been viewed ever since, notwithstanding what actually happened in the last few years of your life. I think it is unmistakable that you are the one that Greg had in mind here when he wrote this. Do you see what I mean?
One of the younger people who floated into San Francisco that summer was a seventeen-year-old art student named Lonnie Frisbee. Lonnie was from Southern California and had dropped out of high school there to enroll in an art school in San Francisco.

Lonnie told his friends he'd had an awful childhood. His biological father was a serial adulterer, a drunk who beat Lonnie and his mom and eventually left her for another woman. Lonnie's mother tracked down the other woman's husband and eventually married him. The new stepdad hated and rejected Lonnie and his brothers. Then, beginning at age eight, Lonnie was sexually molested by a seventeen-year-old guy from the neighborhood who babysat for the family. The adults in Lonnie's life did not believe his story.

There was one bright spot: a godly grandmother who took Lonnie to church and encouraged him to dream. So, though he'd been born with clubfoot, he dreamed of being a Mouseketeer and dancing on television. … As a teenager Lonnie worked on his dance moves, and his dreams almost came true when he was recruited to be a regular dancer on a local afternoon TV show that featured live bands. It was called Shebang, and it was as groovy as afternoon TV could get.

Lonnie got into drugs in his early teens, first acid and other hallucinogens, then dope. (He as initially scared to try marijuana because of a drug deterrent film called Reefer Madness that was routinely shown in the public schools. Anyone who took the movie's message to heart knew that dope was the certain doorway to death, destruction, and insanity.)

But eventually Lonnie succumbed to reefer madness as well as the madness of every other drug on the streets, which was saying a lot. He went out to the desert, tripping, looking for UFOs. He protested the Vietnam War, hitchhiked up and down the coast of California, and spent a lot of time seeking God in a canyon near Palm Springs. One time he and a hundred of his closest friends were arrested for doing so, only because they were all naked and smoking dope at the time.

So in 1967, Lonnie Frisbee was just another vegetarian nudist druggie on the scene. But that was about to change, and he would become a key figure in California's Jesus Movement. [62-63]
Here on pages 62 to 63, you can see a sample of the book's breezy, journalistic style, in which Greg basically repeated, in a summary way, much of what you have already told us in your autobiography about your early life. There were no big surprises here. However, Greg completely left out details regarding your experiences at church and Camp Seely, which you considered the actual starting point of your relationship with God, though as a teenager you would later drift away for a time. Maybe these details were left out merely for the sake of brevity. However, I think I can show that in several other places Greg left out critically important information in such a way that causes the reader to get the wrong impression about you.
Like Lonnie Frisbee and everybody else in that era, Greg had seen the films in his public high school warning about the madness of marijuana. [64]
This is possibly one thing that Greg, you, and I have in common on an earthly level, besides being artistic types who had various degrees of difficulty in our family life when growing up. Yes, Lonnie, I too saw the educational film Reefer Madness. The only difference is that I never tried the stuff, but the film had nothing to do with deterring me. I do confess that once in the middle of a vast crowd at a Deep Purple concert, long ago, at the Orange Show Event Center in San Bernardino, someone offered me a "hit." I speak the truth, Lonnie, when I say that I politely refused. That was that.

I have many more notes to share with you about Greg's book, but I see that I am now running out of lambskin vellum on which to write this letter to you. Though my rams are as busy as possible, my ewes can only produce so many lambs per month, and the process of slaughtering a lamb and preparing the vellum, according to the Seraphic Postal specifications, takes time and painstaking effort. Please stand by, Lonnie. I am sure you are patient since you have plenty of time now. When I have another batch of vellum, I shall write back to you, and you will understand a little better my reasons for agreeing with your initial assessment.

Shout Glory.

Sincerely yours,
Exiled in My Own Personal Idaho