Thursday, August 15, 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.

If you want to see my most recent post, just click on the "Older Posts" link below.


Other Things to Remember Today…

  • People are crazy.
  • All the news is fake.
  • The Internet is full of lies.
  • The Swamp drains you.
  • The insanity never stops.
  • Woodstock was a bad trip.
  • Grumpy Cat died young.
  • Beware of the cassowary.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Spoofs of Q

Find It in Baltimore

Set Free

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Spoofs of Q

Hug Point

Low Tide

Thursday, August 01, 2019

The Great PFM Fiasco

Letter to the Calvary Chapel Association


Dear CCA Leadership Council, et al:

I am just a plain lay person and not a pastor. At most I can claim that in the past I attended a CC church for a long period of time. Today I am an doddering retiree who occasionally blogs for a hobby, but I have virtually zero audience. So I am probably not a person from whom you would accept any advice, especially regarding very difficult situations. However, I am going to give you some advice, on the premise that what I say here might be amusing to you in some way.

As you are very painfully aware by now, the Potter's Field Ministries fiasco is in the process of erupting into the news. At this point in time, the story largely has been confined to the local news outlets in western Montana. It has also reached Montana Public Radio and U.S. News & World Report. The Washington Times is also echoing the story. It's even reached as far as the moonbat leftist news site Daily Kos. So far you have been very fortunate that the PFM fiasco hasn't yet attracted the interest of the mainstream media, such as CNN, MSNBC, etc. But don't count on your luck not running out. If it ever does get their attention, they will discover an enormous mother lode to mine, a bonanza, because there are a large number of witnesses available to be interviewed, all of whom tell similar stories. I've read several of the testimonies, and it's clear to me that you guys have a real mess on your hands, and things could get a whole lot worse for you — just wait and see what happens once the lawyers get in on the act. Of course, there has been nothing that has prevented your long time nemesis, the redoubtable Newnham, from probing into this fiasco.

I remember my time years ago in a church (not a CC) where the elders were sometimes verbally heavy handed with people, and so I have been on the receiving end of this kind of treatment. I know it can be very disconcerting and can leave you spinning for a time. I did recover, but I must admit the experience has made me a wee tiny bit wary of church leadership. Now one of the common elements in the PFM stories is that various people were getting subjected to this kind of tongue-lashing for hours at a stretch. You would probably agree this is a good indicator that something at PFM had gone off the rails. But, gentlemen, are you seriously telling me that up until recently nobody in the CCA Leadership Council could figure out that Mike R. was carrying on like this? I find it atonishing how this could have escaped your attention, but I guess it's possible. He must have fooled you all for a long time.

Now as far as the word "cult" is concerned, because the word is so hyperbolic, people often resort to using it pretty early in the game. In this case, you cannot brush off the "cult" word, because most people reading these testimonies about PFM will walk away with precisely that word in their minds. It doesn't matter if you think it is a fair assessment or not, because it will still be the general perception. Now consider this syllogism:
  1. Many Calvary Chapels were promoting or financially supporting PFM.
  2. But PFM is a cult in northwest Montana.
  3. Therefore, Calvary Chapel itself is some kind of cult.
Of course, this line of reasoning is fallacious. However, you must realize that neither logic nor facts matter in today's perpetually online society. People react reflexively to what they see on the web and therefore are going to think "cult" no matter what. Consequently, Calvary Chapel will be accused of being a cult.

In other words, what I am trying to tell you is that the CCA potentially has a public relations catastrophe getting ready to explode in your faces. It is not enough merely dispatching someone to Montana to do the legal paperwork of dismantling a non-profit corporation and liquidating its assets. The usual pastoral stonewalling when dealing with unpleasantness might have worked for you in the past, but I am sorry to tell you that it's not going to work now, not at this scale. There are just too many people talking about their bad experiences at PFM.

Gentlemen, you can't go back to business as usual. Instead, you need to think ahead and plan proactively. You should also ask yourselves why you didn't detect the problems with PFM earlier. And it wouldn't hurt if you hired an experienced public relations company to advise you. Now Greg Laurie uses The Kairos Company to handle his PR matters. Maybe Greg can recommend them for expertise in dealing with difficult situations?

Furthermore, I suggest that you take into consideration that there are eager people out there who will utilize the news of this fiasco for their own agendas. For example, don't you know that Newnham has a inescapable calling on his life?…
It’s been my calling in life for the last couple decades to patrol the grimy underbelly of the church and report on what I find.
Cue the Sad Trombone. You all know, of course, whose "grimy underbelly" he is mostly talking about here. We should sympathize with Newnham for the heavy cross that he is called upon to bear. For it's not a "calling" that I would relish having, crawling around underbellies and reconnoitering for unsavory, malodorous things. And how can anyone dare disagree with Newnham? He is very smart and very good at what he does, sniffing for skulduggery and expressing his righteous indignation when he finds it. Furthermore, he sometimes claims to have unnamed sources who feed him insider dirt on the late Chuck Smith and all the stuff going on at the Calvary Chapel Association. Now I don't know if his claims are true or not about having anonymous sources, let alone what they tell him. The CCA Leadership Council is in a better position to know the actual facts. But one thing is very certain: when it comes to this PFM fiasco, Newnham has hit the jackpot, and he is not giving it up. He is going to be on your tails like diapers on a baby. Therefore, your current policy of largely ignoring him should be reconsidered and maybe changed.

Finally, gentlemen, this fiasco has handed you a plenteous supply of lemons. Now is the time to start making lemonade. I have no doubt that all of you were very disturbed when you heard the various stories coming out of PFM. You need to embrace those stories. I mean that literally — give the hurting people involved a big group hug. Get out front and immediately invite some of them to your churches. Bring them up on stage and have them share their testimonies — the catharsis will be therapeutic. Express your earnest shock at what happened to them at PFM and demonstrate your deepest sympathy. Talk about gentleness, healing, and forgiveness. Maybe apologize for not spotting the problems earlier. If possible arrange a photo-op with the press, and have everybody smile for the cameras. I am convinced that you are deeply concerned about what had happened, but please don't be shy about publicizing your concern. In other words, gentlemen, as soon as possible you must achieve command over the narrative. Otherwise, other people, such as Newnham or CNN, will gladly control the narrative for you.

I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.

Very humbly yours,
Exiled in Idaho.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

I, Lonnie

A Book Review
Title: Not by Might, Nor by Power
Subtitle: Set Free
Author: Lonnie Frisbee, with Roger Sachs

This book review concerns the third book of a three book series that is Lonnie Frisbee's posthumous autobiography, which is titled Not by Might Nor by Power. I have already reviewed the first and second books in the series. I strongly suggest that these two reviews should be read first.

Published back in March of this year, the book Set Free consists of twenty-six chapters. The book is a little longer the each of the previous two books.

Chapters one through twenty-one contains Lonnie's memoir, which covers the ten year period from when he left the Anaheim Vineyard in 1983 until about the end of 1991. Intermingled with Lonnie's own recollections are numerous testimonies from people who interacted with him at various stages during these years.

Chapter twenty-two, entitled Eternal Perspectives, could be considered Lonnie's apologia and farewell address, in which he gives his final testimony regarding his life. This chapter might be the most important thing that Lonnie ever wrote, and it contradicts much of the consensus regarding him that you will find by googling the Internet. Now some people will be very disappointed with this chapter if they come to it expecting to get from Lonnie an endorsement of the various nostrums, concepts, agendas, labels, categories, prescriptions, and ideological constructs of contemporary identify politics.

After this, the next three chapters of the book were entirely put together by Roger Sachs, from his and other people's recollections. These describe the final fifteen months of Lonnie's life when his health began to deteriorate, his death at age 43 on March 12, 1993, his funeral, and burial.

The last chapter of the book is more or less a collection of eulogies, in which various people reminisce about Lonnie and the impact he had on their lives. Possibly the most noteworthy item in this chapter, for those who will hear and understand, is a retraction issued on page 271 by Kenn Gulliksen, the original founder of Vineyard. Following this chapter, the book ends with a short postscript by Roger Sachs where he announces that a fourth book, a supplement to the autobiography, might be in the works and which will consist of several transcripts of Lonnie's sermons, along with some other miscellaneous material.

My Overall Assessment
For me, the third book, Set Free, was the most critically important of the three books, and the most heartbreaking to read. It elucidates for the readers a more complete picture of Lonnie's personality, including his character flaws and deep emotional injuries. The book also demonstrates the tremendous grace that God worked in Lonnie's short life, although we had to wait 26 years after his death for his story to be published. And it does a fairly good job of relating the struggle that Lonnie went though as he climbed out of the dark hole of bitterness and backsliding into which he had fallen for a time. I very much recommend Set Free, and I can only hope that it will appeal to a wide audience and have a major impact. It would be good if down the line Roger Sachs published a hardback edition that contains the entire autobiography in one volume.

Two Underlying Themes
On page 1, in the Introduction, Ken Fish made the following observation regarding prophets:
…one of the rarest and least well understood are prophets of power. Such prophets are enigmas who nearly defy description…. They are people who carry something of the overt, explicit, numinous power of God…. Moses, Samuel, and Elijah were such prophets, and so was Lonnie Frisbee. [emphasis mine]
He was being a little rhetorical by putting Lonnie on a par with Moses, Samuel, and Elijah, but Ken Fish does have a point. Lonnie Frisbee was in many ways an enigma. So how does someone go about writing a critical biography about an enigma? Well, it would be difficult and may require a certain amount of inspiration.

Now by the term "critical," I simply mean employing a careful process of methodically examining and weighing the sources, trying to discern motivations and reasons, and then constructing the story about a person's life in a more chronological form — where the purpose is not that of debunking or destroying, but instead to gain a better understanding. For a biographer, one difficulty about Lonnie's memoir is that he isn't overly concerned about giving dates and timelines when he tells us his recollections. He was a preacher and not a scholar or historian. Another problem is that Lonnie doesn't always explicitly tell the readers everything that he knew regarding a situation. We often have to fill in the blanks, connect the dots, and read between the lines.

If I were setting out to write a critical biography about Lonnie Frisbee, I could begin by pointing out several things. First of all, as the saying goes, Israel loved its prophets, after they were dead. And secondly, the Church (in particular the leadership thereof) didn't always treat its mystics all that well while they are still alive. And in many ways this was also true about Lonnie Frisbee — although it can be said that even after his death he still isn't well regarded by many people. In any case, I would state that there are, at a minimum, two major themes that underlie his life, which are very intertwined:
  1. His personal tragedy
  2. His difficult relationship with church leadership
There are other themes in Lonnie's autobiography, some of which were covered in earlier reviews, but I would like to cover these two in particular, as briefly as I can.

Personal Tragedy
The first of these themes began in Lonnie's early childhood and would affect him throughout his life. His father Ray Frisbee was alcoholic, very violent, and had severely traumatized Lonnie as a very young child. In my opinion, the physical abuse he gave his wife and children should have sent Ray Frisbee to a penitentiary for a very long time. Let me further illustrate the lasting effects of this in Lonnie's life by pointing out an incident, mentioned in Set Free, that occurred many years later. On one occasion, probably sometime after 1990, Roger Sachs suggested to his friend Lonnie that he needed to meet up and be reconciled with his father, Ray Frisbee. However, Lonnie's reaction was swift and very angry. He became "totally unglued" at Roger's suggestion, and the readers can easily imagine the cause behind Lonnie's intense feelings about the issue. Furthermore, Roger doesn't record anywhere that Ray Frisbee had ever changed or had expressed any remorse for how he had treated his children. And Lonnie also tells the readers that Ray Frisbee once had assaulted and nearly murdered Wesley, one of Lonnie's brothers. This must have made it doubly hard for Lonnie to cheerfully accept Roger's advice, however well-intentional it might have been. Given all this, we should ask instead why Roger was surprised at Lonnie's very heated reaction. The book never informs us if Lonnie ever met with Ray afterwards, and we can therefore assume that it must have been too painful for Lonnie to do so. The incident is enough to show us that for Lonnie the wounds down in his heart were still raw and bleeding.

Later, when he was growing up into adolescence, Lonnie experienced nothing but complete rejection from his stepfather Lyle. This was bad enough. The only light that came through was the godly influence of a grandmother, which led Lonnie to have faith in Christ at the age of eight. Throughout his autobiography, Lonnie always maintained that this was the starting point of his relationship with God. But what proves the existence of the Devil, who hates what is good and wants to destroy our souls? How much proof do you need? The reader is told that shortly thereafter a male teenage babysitter had started terrorizing Lonnie by sexually molesting him, which occurred repeatedly over a extended period of time. As Lonnie expressed it in chapter 22:
That was the beginning of a nightmare in my life that I cannot fully express. That babysitter was a dark evangelist sent by demonic forces to ruin my life two weeks after I became a christian as a child. [213]
Lonnie's mother and stepfather, for some reason, never had the wherewithal to watch, listen, and understand what this predator was doing. This was a case of parental negligence that bordered on criminal. Now the term "broken" is the one word that Lonnie's friends used most often throughout the book to describe him, and we can understand why it seems almost like a glib understatement. For what person could endure all this abuse and not end up becoming deeply confused, vulnerable, and psychologically scarred? Later in the 1960s, Lonnie drifted off into experimentation with drugs and the dissolute hippie lifestyle, and all these entail. That this would eventually happen is not surprising, and Lonnie's story could have ended there, as a drug overdose statistic in some back alley near the Haight-Ashbury. But God's grace and calling reached down and changed the direction of things that singular day when Lonnie was hiking alone up in Taquitz Canyon.

Church Leadership
A critical biographer would also have to deal with the second major theme of Lonnie's life; that is, his complicated and often difficult relationship with church leadership, specifically pastors Chuck Smith, Bob Mumford, and John Wimber. These men could be considered the most important substitute "father figures" in Lonnie's life. And in the book Set Free, it is John Wimber who played the most crucial role in the story.

The most surprising aspect of Lonnie's autobiography is the one question it never fully answers: Did these "father figures" in his life ever have the percipience to see beneath the surface of things and understand that Lonnie, though he was gifted in a most unusual and powerful way, was also a deeply wounded man who also needed help? This is what I wonder about the most. Apparently at the time they did not, as far as I an tell. And it is especially sad that John Wimber didn't, which is something even more difficult to understand given that John Wimber in his ministry had put some emphasis on "inner healing." Yet Lonnie never gave us in his autobiography any clear answers to this important question. From reading Set Free, we do know that there was an especially catastrophic breakdown in Lonnie's relationship with John Wimber, which would have a very drastic impact on Lonnie's life.

But what was the cause of the breakdown? Again, we are never told exactly what happened at this very crucial turning point in Lonnie's story, which occurs on pages 12 to 13 of Set Free. We do know that the breakdown must have been traumatic, in that all trust was destroyed, because thereafter Lonnie immediately plunged into a rapid downward spiral of anger, bitterness, isolation, backsliding, and drug addiction. His reaction would become very self-destructive, and it would take several years for him to begin recovering from the dark wilderness he went through. It is very much to the credit of Rich Buehler and Phil Aguilar, whom Lonnie encountered later, that they were perceptive enough to see a little of the deeper picture, and as a result they sought to help Lonnie find recovery, emotional stability, and wholeness.

It is easy to find on the Internet a huge amount of misinformation regarding the reasons for Lonnie's departure in 1983 from Vineyard and his breakup with John Wimber. But the reader can check pages 12 to 13 for himself to get Lonnie's own recollection about what had happened during this very important point in his life. I will briefly recount here what he said:
One of he final blows for me at the Vineyard happened soon after in 1983. Lots of rumors about my sexuality were circulating, but my role at the church stayed on the same schedule. I had my own office, and when there were no trips or speaking engagements, I had counseling appointments scheduled like the rest of the pastors on staff.…

…all kinds of temptations and demonic setups seemed to be increasing. I decided to confide with and seek some help from one of the other pastors I respected and considered a friend. I asked this experienced staff leader if I could confidentially share some struggles I was experiencing and then told him about the gal in my office. In addition to attractive women throwing themselves at me, there were gay men doing the same. I knew for an absolute certainty that the satanic strategy was to label me a homosexual to discredit everything about my ministry. I had rejected that lifestyle, knew the Scriptures concerning the subject, and was seeking prayer from this pastor for all the attacks coming at me from both men and women.

The next day John Wimber confronted me and wanted to know the name of the young women who had exposed herself. The pastor "friend" had broken my confidence and taken the information directly to our leader. I was furious!

I told John, "I'm not telling you!"

"You have to tell me! I'm the senior pastor!"

"Well, I won't! I already dealt with the person, and besides, your trusted senior staff pastor broke a confidential agreement with me!"

That was that — or so I thought. The next day I came to the church and asked the secretary for my schedule. I was told that there were no appointments scheduled. The next day was the same, and the next, and the next for two weeks straight. I got so bored that I shut the window blinds, laid on the carpet, and went to sleep every day! It only got worse from there. 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!"
There are several things a biographer would notice in this account. First of all, Lonnie had already gracefully handled an awkward situation with the young woman, and he wanted to spare her any further embarrassment. Also, Lonnie had a mind of his own and was not overawed by John Wimber. Therefore, he wasn't going to comply with John's demand to divulge the lady's identity. John probably did not like getting this kind of pushback from a younger subordinate. Secondly, Lonnie does not tell the readers who the "senior staff pastor" was. Since we know this incident happened in 1983, a diligent biographer could probably track down who this person was without too much trouble. Whoever he was, he had in extreme betrayed Lonnie's trust. This was bad enough, but John Wimber next added ridiculousness to the situation by clearing Lonnie's appointment roster yet expecting Lonnie to turn up for work everyday. This kind of pettiness makes no sense and is a ludicrous way to send a signal to someone. For if John Wimber didn't want Lonnie to do any more counseling, then why didn't he just tell him to stay home? Finally, in the meetings with John over the "next couple months", the tension must have increased, for Lonnie tells us, "more accusations came at me." Something must have gone very wrong. However, this is a case where Lonnie, for some reason, had decided not to tell the readers all that he knew about the situation, and the readers are left having to make educated guesses. We can only assume that John Wimber must have been the person making the accusations. But where was John Wimber getting his information? And where were the two or more witnesses as required by the Scriptures:
Do not entertain a accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. [1st Timothy 5:19 NIV].
And what exactly were the accusations? When approaching this difficult question, the biographer will have to take into account several things. First of all, by the time Lonnie and Roger Sachs had begun working in earnest on putting together the autobiography, Lonnie was already going through an program of professional therapeutic counseling to deal with his emotional and psychological issues. These counseling sessions were undertaken in response to the suggestions made to Lonnie when he had earlier met up with Rich Buehler. And according to Buehler, Lonnie was greatly helped and had made progress. Secondly, Lonnie was also by this time actively involved with pastor Phil Aguilar's Set Free church in Anaheim, and Lonnie had started ministering again publicly under Phil's supervision. Thirdly, and very importantly, towards the end of his life, Lonnie had started receiving much needed financial support from Vineyard Ministry International (VMI), with John Wimber's permission. This support consisted of an small apartment on Balboa Island, a car, and a modest monthly stipend. Roger Sachs informs the readers in chapter 24 that Steve Zarit and Paul Cain were the ones who separately convinced John Wimber to provide help for Lonnie.

Whatever they were, Lonnie knew the accusations were false. He wanted to tell the readers the truth about what had happened, yet at the same time he also wanted as much as possible to avoid casting John Wimber in a bad light. In other words, he wanted to cover for John Wimber, because to do otherwise would have been very ungrateful, especially since Lonnie was receiving financial support from VMI. Furthermore, by the time he was putting together his autobiography, Lonnie had largely worked through his feelings of anger and bitterness, and he had genuinely forgiven John for the wrong that was done. "Love covers a multitude of sins," as the Scriptures tell us in 1st Peter 4:8. I believe this is the simplest and most plausible explanation for why Lonnie didn't give more detailed information regarding this crucial incident in his life.

Some Minor Criticisms
I do have a few very minor criticisms regarding Set Free. I have kept this until last because I don't want to detract from my recommendation of the book. So feel free to ignore this section.

Lonnie's autobiography incorporates the testimony of other people to convey and confirm what was happening at various stages in his life. The third book Set Free leaned a little more in this direction than the previous two books. However, there is always a danger from uncritically pasting in testimony from other people — they sometimes have their own agendas, or axes to grind, and they might assume that their being asked to submit a contribution to the autobiography also constituted a kind of open-ended invitation to toot their own horns. There are a couple of places in the book where I think that things got a little bit out of hand in this regard.

The first of these involves Paul Cain, who died in February of 2019 shortly before Set Free was published. My view is that Cain's actual contribution to Lonnie's autobiography seemed to be materially pretty negligible. And what he said in pages 73 through 78 looked more like attempt by Paul Cain to puff up his own ministry. Other than one time, through a third party, sending Lonnie a "message", Paul Cain apparently never had any substantive interaction with Lonnie, although they had coincidentally attended the Docklands conference in October of 1990 — there Paul Cain and John Wimber were up on the stage, and Lonnie was somewhere in the audience. However, Paul Cain does mention that Lonnie was up in the balcony during a side meeting held at Kensington Temple around that time, stood up, and loudly prophesied. Paul apparently knew who the person was, although John Wimber didn't acknowledge that it was Lonnie:
And Lonnie, I remember, sat in the balcony on the left side of this church, and at one point he got up and gave a prophecy that just rang out all through the meeting without a microphone or anything. It made the hair on my neck stand straight up. It had a resonance about it; it was a real prophecy, but he and John Wimber had already parted ways, and John didn't acknowledge or recognize him in the meeting or anything. [78]
Lonnie once said that he had a "microphone voice." In any case, Lonnie didn't give the readers any details about the "message" from Paul other than "that I needed to reach out to a particular list of people and attempt to reconcile with them" (see page 79). Lonnie later mentioned that John Ruttkay was on the list, but otherwise we are not told who else was on it.

The second instance is where, on pages 87 to 96, Phil Aguilar spends a good amount of time talking about his own ministry. However, Phil's bold self-promotion here is much more excusable because he did give Lonnie a helping hand at a time when Lonnie very much needed it.

Paul Cain died on February 12th, not long before final book of Lonnie's autobiography was published. It is interesting to note that Paul Cain and Phil Aguilar are also controversial people, each in his own way. However, that would be an altogether different topic, and covering it would make this book review much too lengthy.

Final Words
I would like to end this book review of Not by Might Nor By Power by citing a few words from Ken Fish, given on page 2:
Lonnie left us all too soon, and the drama of his life and death reverberates through the pages of this book. … this small, frail, conflicted individual who carried the power of the Spirit and who sought to say yes to Jesus and to follow in his footsteps.
I regret that I never met him.

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 posthumous 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 it had been done much sooner. On the other hand, the long delay is 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 wished you had retained more of your outspokenness and had 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. I am talking about the point in the narrative where, 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 trying to cover for John Wimber here to avoid as much as possible casting him in a bad light. From what I know about John, he was a godly leader, but he also was fallible and could make some serious mistakes, which later he would come to regret, have to walk back, and apologize for. However, I also think you should have been more up front about what exactly happened, especially at this very crucial point in your story. The readers should have been given more insight about John's motivations, at least as they existed at that time. As it is now, the picture is blurry, and I am reduced to guessing about the reasons behind what transpired.

You mentioned that multiple 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? Where was John Wimber getting his information from? Why did he give it any credence? Where were the (1 Tim 5:19) witnesses? You never really provided answers for these questions. But it sounds to me, going by what was written in your book, that you were being pushed by John into an unfair no-win situation, as if he had determined beforehand that he was going to shut you down and had found some convenient pretext for doing so. Consequently, there was no feasible way to defend yourself no matter what you say or do. And you became extremely frustrated with the situation, blew up at John, quit your position at Vineyard, and in anger 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, or at least that's one possible theory. 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 that self-appointed vigilantes could have inflicted on John and Vineyard if they had latched onto the accusations against you, used them as high-explosive ammunition, and started broadcasting everywhere "hey people, look here, the heretic John Wimber is also 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 inquisitor had his own well-known national radio program. Others published widely circulated books — there is a big market for books by makebates — and they were often invited to expound their imprecations from the pulpits of various churches. I remember that one of these vigilantes was also invited to speak at Harvest several times.

If I look at things from this perspective, John Wimber's motivations in the story might be 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 (such as the "telephone calls" you mentioned). Now some readers easily could interpret this as a form of stalking, motivated by spite. However, it is very difficult for me to imagine that he was acting simply from a malicious desire to hurt you — although I must admit it showed a side of John Wimber that isn't pretty to behold. But I suspect that, given the pressures he was under, John might have calculated that the risks for the Vineyard brand name were just too great if he allowed you to continue having any ministry visibility. Do you remember what I said in a previous letter about reputation, how important it is? More than they like to admit, church leaders are concerned about reputation and therefore can bend under the pressure of controversy — and you were always controversial if nothing else.

Another puzzling incident is later in 1985 when John requested a meeting with you, which the book covered on pages 31 to 33 and which you attended. 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." Something in your relationship with him had gone terribly wrong. Although I think you were far more perceptive than your friends gave you credit for, you didn't clearly explain to the readers what the underlying issues were here. Why exactly didn't you trust John? What do you think his motives were? Why was he trying to shut you down? Is the "label" the same one that you mentioned on page 13? Lonnie, I am just trying to understand what actually happened. There are other examples where I wish a more complete picture had been provided for the reader.

I get the distinct impression from reading your book that over time you came to regard your fractured relationship with John Wimber as very much tied to all the heavy psychological baggage you carried. Yes, you had a problem with feelings of rejection, and you became very embittered and angry, and you needed to overcome these things. But was everything strictly a one-way street? Was the onus only on your side, like a one-man seesaw? It is sad to say this, Lonnie, but people have been abused or mistreated by clergy due to malfeasance, incompetence, misguided priorities, or good intentions. Church leadership doesn't always get it right — what happened on page 94 was a very sad example of this. And you yourself said on page 6, "Good men can be really wrong," and "the more power and authority they get, the more chances they have to be wrong." True, you had to learn forgiveness, and you made it clear this was the major aspect of the Set Free story. But there must have been something to forgive. So I am guessing that, in their dealings with you, John Wimber and Chuck Smith might have made a few mistakes which they should have owned up to. Tell me, Lonnie, did they ever once apologize or ask you for forgiveness? About anything? The book doesn't say, which is strange. It was good that at least Kenn Gulliksen, the original founder of Vineyard, issued a retraction, given on page 271. I was very surprised by this, though I think it might have been added to the book just recently. He apologized for something in a "so-called Christian documentary" that he said about you, which was "due to false information that I was given from some church leaders." I think I have a good guess about what "documentary" he was talking about here. Heaven knows who the "leaders" were.

All this might not matter too much as far as you're concerned now, for every tear has been wiped away where you are, over there in The Sweet By And By. But we have the record you left us, your autobiography, parts of which were very heartbreaking to read. And after reading it, I can tell its major underlying theme: the severe traumas and rejection you experienced in childhood continued to affect you throughout your entire life. You were a "broken" individual, which is the word your friends most often used throughout the book to describe you. And it wasn't until after 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. On the other hand, the substitute "father figures" in your life whose approval you most desperately wanted, John Wimber and Chuck Smith, apparently never had the percipience to understand what was going on beneath the surface of things and to see the break down in your heart. Wouldn't they have sought healing for you if they had? Instead, they treated you as if you were little more than a difficult employee — very useful to have around for some purposes but otherwise hard to manage — and when push came to shove, you were expendable.

Lonnie, I can try reading between the lines and connecting the dots, 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 given a car, a small 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 get the distinct feeling — although the book wasn't clear about this — that your relationship with John Wimber here on Earth was never fully repaired. I am glad to know that now in Heaven it has been restored.

Now I want to move on to other topics …

Chapter 22 of Set Free could be considered your final farewell address before crossing the Jordan. Everyone should read it. By the way, Lonnie, can I borrow your mantle? Or at least your easel? (LOL) 😄

At the end of the book, when your friends 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: 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?)

The book indicated that you went to the Docklands Arena in England in October of 1990, though you were just out in the audience somewhere. Besides your meeting up again with Roger Sachs, I wish that you had told the readers more about why you were there, what you did, and what you saw. That conference was a crucial turning point for John Wimber and a big disappointment. The influential "prophet," who was with the Vineyard at that time and up on the stage with John, had to eat crow burgers afterwards because the big bang revival that earlier he had predicted would follow the "Holiness" conference simply did not happen. "I think we missed that one," he said on page 78. Who is this "we," Kemosabe?

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 exactly 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…
Then He lowered a golden scepter at my head, and He said, "Thou art received in the beloved. Now call Chuck Smith."

I was brought back into my body. I called Chuck Smith. I hadn't talked with him in years. And I said — it was one-thirty in the morning — "Aah!! I am one of the seven lights!"

Old Chuck was going, "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? Did you and he discuss anything else? Or did Chuck just dismiss it all as lunacy and hang up on you? After that sermon in Denver, did Tom Stipe and you continue to be friends? Later, Tom went on to have his own falling out with Vineyard, as you probably know by now.

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." And when I read this, it seemed as if you had prophetically anticipated what I said in my previous letter to you where I talked about Greg's latest book. I guess it also reinforces what you said in the angelgram you sent me. Yes, it's true that Greg does have his opinions. Whether he ever changes them is anyone's guess.

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 last 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, so I will end this letter. Please write me back, Lonnie, if you think I am getting things wrong. Thanks.

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

Sincerely yours,
Old and Grey and Weeping by the Rivers of Babylon


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Spoofs 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 once 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 whole 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. The book handily took care of this difficulty by keeping Lonnie in the storyline but at the same time using every opportunity to reduce him to an erratic figure — a transitory aberration, who ended up shrunken and pathetic, dying in hospice care at age 43. There was indeed a certain artistic ingenuity in constructing the narrative this way, because Lonnie could then be employed as a foil to draw a sharp and dramatic contrast with pastors Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie, who are the book's exemplars of solid stability and lasting success, and the real heroes of the Jesus Revolution.

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. Quoting your book…
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 above, 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 in the canyon — it's footnoted, of all things. However, your book completely left out almost all the other details given by Lonnie in his autobiography about what had happened to him. This is what Lonnie had to say 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, did you just assume 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 a 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