Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Incipit

This is the ongoing, introductory cover page. Know that this blog is still active, so please explore the archive to read the profound or crazy stuff I have written. Occasionally, I add something new. And I promise that you will find no boring stories about my cats, mainly because I have no cats. If you have any questions, be sure to consult the FAQ.


Other Things to Remember Today…

  • People are crazy.
  • All the news is fake.
  • The Internet is full of lies.
  • The Swamp drains you.
  • Beware of the cassowary.
  • Grumpy Cat died young.


Epistles to Lonnie Frisbee


Below are links to my ten fantasticated letters to Lonnie Frisbee (1949-1993), in which I discuss various topics:
Letter #1
The Seraphic Mail Service and Identity Politics
Letter #2
The Big Split at Calvary Chapel
Letter #3
Greg Laurie the Southern Baptist
Letter #4
Revival and Unacceptable Surprises
Letter #5
The Five Mottoes of Peak Evangelicaldom
Letter #6
The Five Categories of Prophets
Letter #7
There's a Bathroom on The Right
Letter #8
An Interesting and Curious Hodgepodge
Letter #9
Angelgram From Heaven and Hair
Letter #10
Set Free at Last
For those who don't know, Lonnie was a young evangelist and revivalist who lived back in a bygone era. He was sometimes called the "hippie preacher." If you want to know a little more about Lonnie, be sure to read the two book reviews referenced in letter #1. Below is a picture of the final book of his autobiography.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Epistles to Lonnie Frisbee

Letter #10


Seraph Postal - Forever
Dear Lonnie,

First of all, after waiting for such a long time, I finally got a copy of the third book of your autobiography. It came in the mail back on March 30th. As anticipated, it is subtitled "Set Free". It is slightly longer than either of the preceding two books, and it covers the years from when you quit your ministry position at Anaheim Vineyard in 1983 until your final illness and departure from this sad world in 1993. Your book is very interesting, and I will probably need to read it through about four times so I can digest completely the various topics you covered.

Now I don't need to tell you the details of what is in your own book. And you probably already know the final text that your friend Roger Sachs laid out. My guess is that you are satisfied that your side of the story is out there finally. It took a little over 26 years for Roger to finish it and get it published. But I think that taking this long was unfortunate, and I wish that things had been done sooner. On the other hand, the long delay is somewhat understandable given that Roger also had many other responsibilities, such as running his own construction business as well as a foreign mission ministry on the side. But still, 26 years is an awful long time! The book indicates that he and you had already done much of the work on your story back in the 1990s.

It is likely, after I finish thoroughly studying Set Free, that I will write out a brief book review. Your book will get a positive review from me. I can tell you that ahead of time. It was very worthwhile to read, and it also gave a more complete picture of what your personality was like. You had your ups and downs (way down), and you could be overly candid with people, outspoken to the point of being tactless and undiplomatic, even with your friends. It is easy to see how you could have gotten yourself on the bad side of church leadership by speaking your mind too openly. This further reinforces my view that, if somehow you were still here today, you would have a difficult time fitting into the system. But your book shows me that over time you learned to tone it down.

Lonnie, there were several places in the book where I very much wished you would have given a more detailed explanation about what was happening behind the scenes. There are several things that are not clear to me, the reader. For example, on pages 12 to 13 regarding the circumstances surrounding your departure in 1983 from Vineyard, I don't entirely understand what the problem was between you and John Wimber. After explaining how John had de-scheduled you from doing any more pastoral counseling sessions, you finally said, "I had several more meetings with John Wimber over the next couple months, and more accusations came at me until my final blowup, when I declared ‘I quit!’"

I suppose that you were probably trying to cover for John Wimber here to avoid as much as possible reflecting badly on him . But I also think you should have been more up front about what exactly happened at this very crucial point in your story. Now from what I know about John Wimber, he was a godly leader, but he also was fallible and could make some serious mistakes that later he would come to regret, have to walk back, and apologize for. It might have been more helpful to the readers if you had given them more insight about what John was doing and his motivations, at least as they existed at that time. There are some gaps in the story, the picture is blurry, and I am reduced to guessing about the reasons behind what transpired.

Now you mentioned that rumors and accusations had been circulating about you. But who exactly were your accusers? Did they have names and faces? Were you ever allowed to confront them? Why did John give them any credence? Where was John getting his information from? Where were the witnesses? It sounds to me, going by what is written in your book, that you were being pushed by John into a no-win situation, where there was no feasible way for you to defend yourself no matter what you say or do. Consequently, you became extremely frustrated, blew up at John Wimber, quit your position at Vineyard, and walked out on him. There was a complete breakdown, which had huge repercussions on you afterwards. I am just wanting to understand fully the reasons for the breakdown.

John Wimber might have been under a lot of pressure at the time. Do you remember what I said in a previous letter about reputation, how important it is? Lonnie, you know that John was under relentless attack from the Discernment Posse. And you know how accusations work in the real world — they don't have to be true in order to be truly destructive. When accusations get repeated often enough, they can take on a perverse, inextirpable life of their own. And labels, once applied, are worse than difficult to remove. Looking at the situation this way, I can only imagine the havoc the self-appointed discernment vigilantes could have inflicted on John and Vineyard if they had latched onto the accusations against you, as so-much handy ammunition, and started broadcasting to everyone "hey, look here, John Wimber is allowing a such-and-such person to continue to minister at Vineyard churches." And they were very influential (they still are) and had platforms from which they could do serious damage. One noteworthy member had his own well-known national radio program, and others published widely circulated books and were often invited to expound their imprecations against John Wimber and Vineyard from the pulpits of various churches.

If I look at things from this perspective, John Wimber's actions in the story seem a little more understandable to me. I mean, for example, where he repeatedly took steps to make sure that you would never be invited to minister at any other Vineyard churches — the "telephone calls" you mentioned in the book. Now some readers easily could misinterpret this as a form of stalking, motivated by spite. However, it is very difficult for me to imagine that John was acting from a malicious desire to hurt you. I suspect, given the severe pressures he was under, that John considered the risks for the Vineyard brand name to be too great if he allowed you to have any ministry visibility. Church leadership can sometimes bend under the pressure of controversy.

Another puzzling incident, for example, is when later in 1985 John requested a meeting with you, which the book covered on pages 31 to 33. This looked to me like it might have been a lost opportunity to turn things around. However, you rejected John's offer, which seemingly had mild conditions attached, and you said that "I didn't really trust him or his motives at the time" and that "he is trying to shut me down and label me." However, you didn't clearly explain what the issues were here. Why exactly didn't you trust John? What do you think his motives were? What was the label? I can only guess.

Lonnie, I am just trying to understand what actually happened. There are other examples in the book where I wish a more complete picture had been provided for the reader. Also, from reading your book, I get the distinct impression that over time you came to regard your broken relationship with John Wimber as largely your own fault and caused by all the heavy psychological baggage you carried. But was everything strictly a one-way street? There can be valid reasons to be angry at injustice. Church leadership doesn't always get it right. And I suspect it is possible, in their dealings with you, that John Wimber and Chuck Smith made a few mistakes that they should have owned up to.

All this might not matter too much as far as you're concerned now, for every tear has been dried where you are. But we have the record you left us, your autobiography. And after reading it, I can tell one of its persistent themes — that the severe traumas you experienced in childhood continued to affect you throughout your entire life. Yet there is nothing in the record that clearly shows me that John Wimber or Chuck Smith, your substitute "father figures," ever had the percipience to understand what was really going on beneath the surface of things — that you were a "broken" individual, which is the term your friends most often used to describe you throughout the book. It wasn't until you met up with Rich Buhler that you started to get the kind of counseling you needed to begin healing your deep seated, emotional wounds.

I can try reading between the lines and engaging in speculation, but in the end I have no choice but to accept your decision regarding how much information you wanted to tell the readers. Later on in the book, John Wimber agreed, at the instigation of others, to allow VMI to provide you with financial support during your final illness and decline. You were generously provided with a car, a stipend, and an apartment on Balboa Island, your last earthly residence. Therefore, I can see some reason for why it would be very awkward, and downright ungrateful, if your book were to depict John Wimber too unfavorably. Consequently, some things had to be toned down, and some details had to be left out. But I am still left wondering — the book isn't all that clear about this — if your relationship with John was ever fully repaired, although I know that now in Heaven it has been restored.

Now I want to move on to other topics …

At the end of the book, when your friend eulogized you, some of them likened you to "Samson". I think this was just another label that people were trying to paste on you, a convenient way to make it easier for them to understand your life by putting you into a category of some kind. Your friends probably meant well by it, but labels were something that you always very much disliked. And I particularly disagree with the Samson analogy for several reason, most of all because I don't believe that it fits you. I think you would agree with me about this, that you were scrawny little guy — "too light to fight and too thin to win" — and not a comic book level hero doing superhuman feats of strength, such as carrying off the gates of Gaza or killing a thousand Philistines using the jawbone of an ass. (Oh, by the way, have you met Samson yet up there in Glory Land? Did he ever grow his hair back out?)

Also, in the sermon you preached at Tom Stipe's church in Denver, back on July 20, 1991, you told the congregation about the "seven lights" vision, which hit you while reading Jamie Buckingham's biography about Kathryn Kuhlman. You never made it clear when this vision occurred. Now at the end of the vision, you were told to "call Chuck Smith." Lonnie, you probably remember the part I am talking about …
I was brought back into my body. I called Chuck Smith. I hadn't talked with him in years. It was one thirty in the morning, and I said, ‘Chuck — I am one of the seven lights! The Lord just told me to call you! I'm one of the seven lights!

And Chuck was going, ‘Oh brother, you need prayer!
Lonnie, I must say that Chuck's response was a funny ending to the strange vision you told everybody about in your sermon, but I wish you would have told the readers a little more about what else transpired in that telephone conversation between you and Chuck Smith. Did you explain to Chuck all that happened? And did you and he discuss anything else? Or did Chuck just dismiss it all as craziness and hang up on you? After that sermon in Denver, did Tom Stipe and you continue to be friends? Did he ever invite you back? These are some of the things I wondered about.

I noticed on page 229 that you paid a big compliment to Greg Laurie, saying you that were proud of him and calling him "one of the most dynamic evangelists in the United States." Yes, Greg's been hugely successful at the stadium level. And he even has a hired PR firm, The Kairos Company located in Glendale, that helps his news and media optics. You also added, "Of course, he definitely has his opinions about me, but that doesn't matter." Yes, this is true. He does. And when I read this, it seemed almost as if you prophetically anticipated what I said in my previous letter where I talked about Greg's latest book. I guess it also reinforces what you said in the angelgram you sent me.

Finally, Roger Sachs gave a postscript at the end of the third book. In it Roger mentions a "prophecy" that was given to him by someone named Tom Chapman …
"Immediately, I heard just two words: ‘Book four!’"

"You got to be kidding, Tom!"

Lonnie's story had been such a long endeavor, with so many challenges, delays, and spiritual warfare, that Tom's message was not really welcome news at the onset.
Lonnie, the idea of a fourth book might be a surprise for you. But what Roger Sachs is proposing to do is publishing an additional book that contains transcripts of your recorded sermons, along with some other miscellaneous material. I guess it would be an interesting supplement to your autobiography. There is one thing I wish Roger would include in a fourth book: he should add an essay explaining all the difficulties and "spiritual warfare" that he faced in the process of getting Lonnie Frisbee's autobiography published. That in itself would be a very interesting story to read, and I think that Roger has shown himself to be a fairly good and perceptive writer. In fact, I wish it were possible for me to meet Roger. I do hope that he publishes this "book four" in a timely manner. But I am very glad that at least I have lived long enough to read the final book of your autobiography.

In other news, my wife's restaurant business, Bimbo's Coffee Pot, is doing very well. In fact, it's really taken off and become famous, so much that Gordon Ramsay has scheduled us to be filmed in an episode of his new show highlighting outstanding, excellent restaurants that do the job right. We don't know the name of the show yet, which will be on the Food Network, but we are looking forward to working with Gordon. He is especially fascinated by our authentic Byzantine desserts, which are truly extravagant and were derived from ancient Greek manuscript recipes from pre-Ottoman Constantinople. It should be a whole lot of fun. I can't think of much more to say for now, Lonnie, so I will end this letter.

Forever young, you're set free at last. Shout hallelujah!

Sincerely yours,
Old and Grey and Still Stuck on Earth


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Proofs of Q

Snow Then

Shadow Proves Reality

Global Warming

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Revival Remarketed

A Book Review
Title: Jesus Revolution
Subtitle: How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today
Authors: Greg Laurie & Ellen Vaughn

Greg Laurie wanted to market a new book which would help keep him in the spotlight as one of America's leading stadium evangelists — holding the mantle and following in the footsteps of Billy Graham — and what better than a book that extols the revival that happened 50 years ago at Calvary Chapel as the foremost model to follow for starting a revival across America. As a shining example of the model's lasting success, Greg's own spiritual odyssey would be the main focal point of the book's storyline, with other primary characters being pastor Chuck Smith and Greg's wife Cathe (née Martin). Since over the years a nostalgic and hazy romanticism has grown up around the Jesus Movement that happened in Southern California, a new book on this subject by one of the movement's noteworthy participants would likely draw much attention, and the resulting media buzz could potentially be utilized for promoting various evangelical initiatives by Greg's Harvest ministry. Furthermore, the Calvary Chapel formula for success, presented as orderly, rational, and easy-to-process, would of course be based on pastor Chuck Smith's tried-and-true prescriptions, primarily "expository Bible teaching" as the secret sauce that made the revival work — this was a theme often repeated throughout the book. And nothing in the formula will be unpalatable to today's evangelical leadership because it repeats much of what they already think.

However, there was one big problem: The Jesus Movement revival had some indecorous stuff down in the crawl space — because at that time, 50 years ago, Calvary Chapel was an actively charismatic church, somewhat of a mellowed Foursquare flavor, although this aspect would later change over the years — much like how the Ship of Theseus gradually changed, its timbers being pulled out and replaced one at a time. Nonetheless, any "history" fully disclosing the charismatic side that existed back then probably would have been an embarrassment to an evangelical audience and to Greg's evangelical peers, especially the ones who are cessationists — maybe Greg himself would have been embarrassed — and more so if any hint or suggestion were made in the book that the charismatic component might have been a integral part of the revival. However, the book easily solved this problem by simply sweeping the issue under the rug and leaving out the relevant facts, such as those I briefly outlined in a memorandum. But who is going to raise an objection to this omission? Who even cares anymore? A sanitized version of the Jesus Movement revival, with minimal glossolalia, would be presented instead and thus more acceptable to a mainstream market. The Baker Publishing Group probably wouldn't fuss too much about the verisimilitude; for them it was only important to have a salable book on a glamorous topic by a celebrity megachurch pastor, which is always a safe and profitable bet as far as the publishing business goes nowadays. Welcome to the "Evangelical Industrial Complex."

The only ticklish problem that remained was what to do about that pesky, charismatic Lonnie Frisbee, for there was no feasible way to completely leave him out of the picture. But the book handily took care of this by keeping Lonnie in the storyline but at the same time using every opportunity to insinuate that he was an erratic and unstable personality — an aberration, who ended up being a pathetic failure, shrunken, dying in hospice care. There was indeed a certain artistic ingenuity in constructing the narrative this way, because Lonnie could then be used as a foil to draw a sharp and dramatic contrast with those who were the real and abiding heroes of the Jesus Revolution book, its towering pillars of solid stability and enduring success: pastor Chuck Smith, and Chuck's most exemplary protégé, Greg Laurie, of course.

As books go, Jesus Revolution is an interesting and curious hodgepodge. Yes, for a backdrop, it does contains a thumbnail history of America in the 1960s and 1970s, and hippies and Calvary Chapel and pastor Chuck Smith — mainly for the benefit of the Millennials, who were born too late to know about this stuff. But the book was primarily intended to be a memoir about the lives of Greg Laurie and his wife Cathe, although it was told in the third person, which was an odd technique to use in a memoir. And though they are the book's primary characters — and the readers will sympathize with them — not all that much is revealed about them that hasn't already been made known publicly from other sources. One of the few surprising details disclosed in the book was pastor Chuck Smith's strong opposition to Greg's plan to expand his Harvest ministry by opening a campus in Orange county, which eventually landed in Irvine, California. However, pastor Chuck later acquiesced to Greg's decision, not long before dying from lung cancer in October of 2013. The book finishes up with the funeral of Chuck Smith, followed by three additional chapters of general sermonizing about revivals in America, which mostly reflects or amplifies the conventional, evangelical wisdom about the subject.

I think a more descriptive 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 didn't reach as far as becoming an earth-shattering literary work of stunning, heartbreaking genius, nor was it tiresome dreck. It was a passable book, notwithstanding how it devaluated the charismatic side of Calvary Chapel and slanted the perspective regarding Lonnie Frisbee. And while it did not present any new and extraordinary ground-breaking insights that elucidate the nature of revivals, I nonetheless think that Greg Laurie sincerely wishes to see a revival happen again in America, which indeed sorely needs it. Writing books about revivals, however, doesn't start revivals — the power of God does, with signs and wonders following, mixed in with a heap of controversy. Despite my reservations, I would still recommend Greg's book, cautiously, and rate it at about two-and-a-quarter stars out of five.

Jesus Revolution has been out there since September of last year and is getting heavy-duty promotion and plenty five-star reviews — a movie version is already in the works — so I suppose it can be said that success rebuts any fool's clever argument. My book review may be the only one that is less than adulatory. On the other hand, I did like the book's jacket cover. I noticed on the decorated hippie VW van, depicted on the cover, there was a drawing of Greg's famous cartoon character "Ben B. Again." To end things on a lighter note, I wanted to ask Ben to come around and put in a good word, but unfortunately he wasn't available due to contractual obligations. Ben's older brother Ziggy and his trusty friend Inkman were kind enough to volunteer instead.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Letter to Greg Laurie

Regarding His Book Jesus Revolution


Dear Greg,

In my previous letter to you, I pointed out the primary defect in your new book Jesus Revolution. This letter will now cover some of my notes regarding other problems with the book, so I am going to rain on your parade a little. Because there is much to cover, I'll dive right into it.…
Not too long after Lonnie Frisbee's summer of '67 arrest for public nudity and drug possession, he hit his favorite canyon again, this time without a hundred of his closest friends. His brain was an urgent swirl, full of the beauty around him, questions about the meaning of life, half-remembered threads of everything he'd experienced over his eighteen years, and a nice tab of LSD.

As Lonnie would later explain it, he took off all his clothes, turned his face to the sky, and screamed toward Heaven, "Jesus, if you're really real, reveal yourself to me!"

He felt the atmosphere around him begin to tingle, shimmer, and glow. He was terrified. He felt the presence of God. He saw visions. He felt God's calling on his life.

Lonnie returned to San Francisco, and though there are different versions about what happened next, he evidently met some Jesus People on the street in the fall of 1967.… They lived in a community, modeling a New Testament family of believers, and were loosely headed by a couple named Ted and Liz Wise. [74-75]
What you provided here, on pages 74 to 75 of your book, is a very abbreviated version of Lonnie's personal testimony regarding what happened to him when he was up in Tahquitz Canyon that crucial day back in 1967 when the Lord answered his cry, intervened in his life, and sent him in a new direction. You even quoted from his autobiography what Lonnie screamed out that day in the canyon — it's footnoted, of all things — but your book completely left out almost all the other details given in his autobiography about what had happened to him, including what Lonnie said about it afterward:
It was the most radical moment of my life. At eighteen years old, God was calling me to serve Him. It blew my mind — but I was definitely saying — "Yes, Lord!"

I came off the mountain a different person. I still didn't have all the answers — but I knew for sure Jesus was real. He had responded to my desperate cry. I had an instant revelation of my calling.
However, notice carefully, in what I quoted from your book, this little insertion in the first paragraph: "and a nice tab of LSD". Now I have listened to Lonnie Frisbee's testimony about his calling, in various recordings that are still around today, and I have read what he said in the first book of his autobiography. Lonnie never said that he was tripping on acid at the time. In fact, he affirmed in his autobiography that "I was scared and shocked, and positive it was not an LSD flashback." Now did Lonnie tell you something different than what he has told everyone else? You weren't there in Tahquitz Canyon at the time, so who is the source of information about this "nice tab"? You didn't tell your readers, but you certainly did not get it from Lonnie's autobiography. Did you just read it somewhere on the Internet? Or was the book over-embellishing the facts, possibly because you don't think that God gives people "prophetic visions" nowadays? In other words, you just assumed this must have been the case, that Lonnie was on a LSD trip.

Just how much of a friend of Lonnie's were you anyway? I cannot help but ask, because in effect you have made an insinuation here that demolishes Lonnie's testimony altogether, reducing it to nothing more than a drug-induced subjective hallucination on his part, a mere psychotic episode. I am sorry to say it, but this poisonous little insertion leads the reader to this ineluctable conclusion. It was not the only put-down in your book, but I think it was the first unmistakable instance.

A pattern more and more emerged in your book when it came to Lonnie Frisbee — the cuts get a little deeper as the pages turn. However, I cannot cover every instance, because I don't want to write a whole book on the subject, and therefore I have confined myself in this letter to a few salient examples that I recorded in my notes. You managed to get a few things right, but you also got some things wrong or distorted.
During those days of Greg's experience of the Jesus Revolution, it would be hard to overestimate Lonnie Frisbee's influence on Calvary Chapel. Chuck Smith conducted services on Monday nights, and Lonnie would do so on Wednesday nights. The combination of their skills and gifts was always explosive in terms of the church's growth, but you could be certain that most of the drama would transpire on Wednesday nights. It was surprising: even though Lonnie had the gravitas of looking just like everybody's mental picture of Jesus, he was a slender, physically unimposing person who didn't read well and often mispronounced words. But Lonnie had a power that was more than the sum of his parts. When he spoke or taught, kids would stand up all over the packed chapel to receive Christ. [120-121]
Much to your credit, you were right about it being "hard to overestimate" Lonnie's influence." At least you admitted here that he was one of the laborers in the field of Calvary Chapel's early exponential growth, back during his first tenure there, in the years from 1968 to 1971. For a long time, most CC leadership wouldn't readily acknowledge this, and their public consensus about the matter hovered somewhere around Lonnie being a historical footnote of minor consequence. Furthermore, you also said that "Lonnie had a power," although you didn't exactly explain what this power was or where it originated. I think you should have been able to do so, because a few pages later, speaking in the third person about yourself, you said this:
Greg eventually did get more comfortable sharing his faith, as his track record as a crusade evangelist makes pretty clear. But he realized, from his very first nervous sharing of the gospel, it is not the skill or eloquence of the evangelist but the power of the Holy Spirit that opens people's hearts to recognize the truth of the gospel and yield their lives to Jesus. [126] [emphasis mine]
It is strange that you didn't seem to realize that what you had said here about yourself on page 126 could have been connected to Lonnie Frisbee as well. For during his short time on Earth, the Lord also called Lonnie to be an evangelist (like yourself) and equipped him for the fields where He sent him — for example, South Africa, or the 1980 Mother's Day revival at the erstwhile Calvary Chapel of Yorba Linda. The Holy Spirit provided the power in Lonnie's "slender, physically unimposing" clay jar. I think that the same truths that apply to you, also applied to Lonnie as well.

Supposedly they don't make the difference, but when it came to "skill or eloquence," you said that Lonnie "often mispronounced words." What were you niggling about here? Lonnie had his particular unpolished style of communicating, which was sometimes a little theatrical and sometimes wildly humorous. Whatever faults his style might have had, nothing in the recordings that still exist of him preaching indicated to me that Lonnie had a special problem with pronunciation. You yourself can stumble too sometimes (we all do), as seen on page 160, where the book recounted a funny incident where you mangled a particular verse in the Bible into "quenching all the diary farts of the wicked one." Furthermore, I have asked other people who have heard Lonnie preach, and they don't recollect that he had a particular problem with pronouncing words. And he seemed able to read out loud the King James Version, written in the English of the year 1611, about as well as anyone else can.

However, on the very same page 121, you proceeded to depreciate Lonnie's "hard to overestimate" influence by adding the following:
Then, after the chapel services, Lonnie would have follow-up "afterglow" meetings in a side room. He'd dim the lights and preside over extended times of singing and prayer. Then he'd begin to call things out about kids who were in the room.

"There's someone here who has a problem with his neck," he'd say from the front. People would be standing, swaying, and then someone would say, "Yes! That's me!" That person would come to the front, Lonnie would pray for him or her, and usually the hurting person would swoon to the floor. People were lined up in a row to catch those who fell.

For Greg, this was all new, just like the experience of even being in church was new. He noticed that if Chuck Smith was around, Lonnie was more reined in. But if Chuck wasn't there, Lonnie would focus more on getting people to pray in unintelligible languages or to fall down in the front of the church. Lonnie told him it was called "being slain in the Spirit."

Greg reasoned that God could, of course, do anything He wanted. Ever the observer, though, he also saw that people could get a bit hooked on emotions and psychological suggestion, looking for a certain thrilling experience over and over. He felt more centered when Chuck was in charge, teaching everybody straight from the Bible. [121]
Oh my goodness, what's this crazy "afterglow" stuff? Yikes! The lights were getting dimmed! Egads! People were "swaying" and "swooning" and "falling down in front of the church" and talking in "unintelligible languages"! Oh noes! They're getting "slain" and "hooked"! This sounds like Lonnie was a sneaky scapegrace who easily manipulated others to do his bidding. And his influence, alluded to earlier, must have included some tricky psychological inveiglement or sly hypnotism that Lonnie utilized to lure weak-minded people into talking gibble-gabble and doing crazy things, unless pastor Chuck Smith happened to come around to stop the insanity.

If there is a more polite and kinder way to describe what you did here on page 121, someone please tell me what it is, for I cannot imagine how to say it other than your book was not telling the whole truth about the situation. Consequently, because critical background information has been left out, the reader will likely misconstrue what Lonnie was doing, get the completely wrong idea, and mistakenly conclude that he must have been a shifty hippie and crazy, loose cannon at Calvary Chapel. What other conclusion did you expect the reader to draw?

In other words, I think that you have chosen in your book to ignore or forget certain important facts about Calvary Chapel, those that I outlined for you in the memorandum given in my previous letter. Here they would have been especially important for the reader to know in order to properly understand what the "afterglow" meetings were really about. As it is written now, the book is hardly better than counter-informative propaganda, for it does not provide an adequate explanation about why, for example, people in the afterglow meetings were speaking in "unintelligible languages." And because your book has left out this essential contextual information, the readers can only suppose — going by what's on page 121 — that Lonnie Frisbee was engaging in some kind of cult-leaderish-snake-handling jiggery-pokery. Or is this your actual opinion about him and precisely what you wanted the readers to believe?

On the other hand, suppose that somehow the readers had been made aware of the items in my memorandum, especially item #9. In this case, they would have developed an entirely different perception of the events. At a minimum, they would have asked, "why does Greg have a problem with what Lonnie was doing if Greg himself also conducted afterglow meetings?" Do you see what I mean? Context is everything. Your book subtly slanted things and twisted the perspective by controlling the context — in this case, the absence of context by not divulging all the pertinent facts behind the picture being depicted of Lonnie Frisbee.

It's very sad to say but what I have pointed out so far is really not the worst of it — your book said other things about Lonnie Frisbee that are mangled. And sometimes I was taken aback because of how deviously mangled they are. My wife became so disturbed by what you had written about him that she couldn't finish reading the book. And why did it bother us so much? Well, because it seemed pretty obvious that you were subtly revising parts of history to suit your own agenda and in the process Lonnie was given a knife between the ribs, so to speak. Your book has been boosted by hefty amounts of promotion and advertising, and it will therefore likely become by default the "official version" of events — and for Lonnie, the final nail in his coffin — but it seemed to me that an injustice was being done, and so I had to speak up and say something because he was being depicted in a unfair manner.

Greg, really, you ought to have done better.

Sincerely yours,
Revenant from a Bygone Era

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Letter to Greg Laurie

Regarding His Book Jesus Revolution


Dear Greg,

All Saints, where it started
You probably don't remember me. I was just another face in the crowd, back when you were still at All Saints, on Terracina Drive in Riverside, which you called the "stone church" in your new book. My wife goes back to when Lonnie Frisbee was still coming up from Calvary Chapel to hold meetings at All Saints, before you arrived and took over the scene. She was a good friend of the Waughs, Fred and Ruth, who were instrumental in bringing Lonnie to All Saints to begin with. We were there when you finally moved the CC Riverside meeting from All Saints to the Arlington Avenue location, where you took over the building that you bought from the Baptists (with a little help from pastor Chuck Smith). Next, you changed the name to Harvest Christian Fellowship. We were also there in the meetings held at Riverside Municipal Auditorium and Raincross Square as well. We remember when Keith Ritter was still the senior pastor, and Duane Crumb, Bob Probert, and Fred Farley were still around. My wife and I might know a few things — kind of like surviving eyewitnesses who should speak up, who remember past events from long ago.

I bought and read your new book, Jesus Revolution. It was interesting to say the least. However, the book managed somehow to neglect certain very important background facts regarding Calvary Chapel that the reader needs to know and ought to have been told. If these things mattered back then, 50 years ago, they matter today and should have been carefully elucidated, in order to fully provide the proper context surrounding some of the people and events described in your book. I have listed them in this memorandum. Could you please take a couple of minutes to study it? I have tried to keep it as brief as possible.…
Memorandum
To: Greg Laurie
Re: Jesus Revolution
  1. At the start of the Jesus Movement, Calvary Chapel was still an actively charismatic church, as explained in the following items.
  2. Calvary Chapel taught the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" as a distinct experience.
  3. Calvary Chapel taught the "gifts" of the Spirit. These charismatic gifts are supernatural in origin and not merely amplified natural human abilities.
  4. Calvary Chapel also taught that one of the evidences of having received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was "speaking in tongues" or "prophecy" or one of the other gifts mentioned in the Bible. (See 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12.)
  5. The afterglow meetings, mentioned in the book, were also called "believer's meetings". Their purpose was for worship and to pray for people who were already believers to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, often by laying on of hands.
  6. Afterglow meetings were also intended as the place for believers to exercise the gifts, such as speaking in tongues or prophecy or healing or interpretation of tongues.
  7. Afterglow meetings were entirely authorized and their purpose announced.
  8. Because Calvary Chapel, at that time, was a charismatic church, there would be nothing surprising or clandestine about Lonnie Frisbee and others doing charismatic things in an afterglow meeting (see page 121).
  9. Greg, you yourself also conducted afterglow meetings back at All Saints. We know this because my wife and I were there in those meetings.
  10. Even after the move to the Arlington Avenue location, afterglow meetings would still be conducted at least for several more years.
  11. "…when the divine is poured into the human, we can expect human beings to act in unusual ways." Greg, you said truly, more than you know, on page 243. Sometimes legs can get wobbly. There could be thrills. And tongues can sound like "unintelligible languages," which is why the gift of interpretation is needed. Don't you remember?
By the way, it so happened that a few years before you acquired the building on Arlington Avenue, I went there one Sunday with a friend when it was still a Baptist church. I guess by now that building has been so thoroughly remodeled that it can be debated whether it exists anymore, rather like  Plutarch's Ship of Theseus. Another odd coincidence is that, years ago, my wife was once acquainted with your wife's sisters, who are mentioned in your book. They probably would still remember her if they met her again.

It's especially strange that your book never disclosed anything about the fact stated in item #9. Nor did the book make it very clear regarding what is stated in item #7. In particular, as it is written now, the reader is liable to get the very mistaken idea that Lonnie Frisbee entirely originated the idea of "afterglow" meetings and was somehow conducting them surreptitiously on his own initiative. The book should have done more to clarify this sort of thing.

It's difficult to imagine that confusing or misleading the readers would be an outcome that you were aiming to achieve, yet your book fell short by not adequately explaining to the readers very pertinent information, such as what is delineated briefly in my memorandum. That it failed to do so is very disappointing, especially since this information is surely known to you, if not to your coauthor. I have read your book three times. Did I somehow miss something? Maybe I need to read it a fourth time. In any case, if the readers are kept poorly informed about the charismatic side of Calvary Chapel as it existed back then, they will very likely misunderstand or misconstrue several of the events that were depicted in your book.

Greg, are you claiming that what I have stated here in my memorandum is not correct? I mean as pertaining to how things at that time operated at Calvary Chapel. If so, please explain why. The items in my memorandum counted as something back then, supposedly. Are you now trying to tell us that none of these mattered? Are parts of my life and my wife's and what we remember being nullified as well?

I admit that I have other misgivings about your new book, but to delve into those now would make this letter much too lengthy. I wanted to keep it short by focusing on what I think is the book's primary deficiency.

Sincerely yours,
Revenant from a Bygone Era