Franky Schaeffer: a confused conundrum.

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Franky Schaeffer is a difficult conundrum. I invited him to speak at Covenant College in the mid-80’s when I was a student and spent three days with him. He was very sharp, well read, not much of a sense of humor. Sensitive to what people thought (even though he loved to irritate them).

He gave an address that I will never forget that was very powerful: basically that the fall of the Soviet Union was the fruit of 500 years of the godless Renaissance finally failing for good. He had great moments.

I subscribed to his Christian Actviist publication as an avid pro-lifer, but a couple years in, men in long beards and black robes started appearing on the cover. What gives? Franky had become an Eastern Orthodox Christian. This was my first introduction to someone I knew becoming Orthodox, which I later became. I respected Franky’s intellect and background, so it certainly caught my attention.

But a few years into my Orthodoxy it became clear that other Evangelicals who had become Orthodox stopped mentioning or claiming Franky as a poster child. His attitude was hardly saintly, nor of the Orthodox way, and his trashing of his parents not very appreciated. Most of us from our Evangelical backgrounds appreciated the fact that we had found Christ in our traditions, believed godly people could be found there, and were not rebelling from them but rather looking for a firmer foundation for the true Faith we had been introduced to.

At the beginning of the video I posted here, Schaeffer identifies himself as “a survivor of polio and a fundamentalist, evangelical upbringing.” Hardly. As Franky got more shrill, other voices finally began to emerge. The best response I ever read (which I can never find online) was from his brother-in-law Os Guiness in Christianity Today. He provided a touching account of Franky and Francis’s relationship, but noted that the younger Schaeffer was hardly the victim of Fundamentalist abuse. Rather, Francis and Edith never disciplined the young boy, let him run wild at L’Abri, and he became quite spoiled. In Guiness’s words, Franky, rather than being a victim of fundamentalism, instead “was the poster child for Dr. Spock.”

I don’t really know for sure Franky’s financial situation, but his last couple decades of trashing his parents and Evangelicalism seems be a variant on the theme of shucking and jiving for reactions and cash, similar to what he admitted he did as an Evangelical speaker (15.00 mark). He accused others of the same, but he should speak for himself: I think James Dobson believes very much his message.

Franky doesn’t sell many books the past 15 years if his message is in line with Orthodox Christianity, emphasizing “Blessed are the poor in Spirit.” But he definitely needed to do something different than those movies, which were gosh awful terrible, so boring you didn’t want to watch more than 20 minutes.

And his representation of Orthodox Christianity is unfortunately incorrect. at the 21.00 mark of the video, he says Eastern “Apophatic” theology stresses “not knowing.” This is quite misleading and arguably the exact opposite. In fact, it was Western theology that had stressed the inability to truly know God himself, and therefore the best we could do is to know “about” God. Thus, the intellectualism and scholasticism of late Middle Ages and the Reformation emerged, which still affects us today with church leaders looking more like John Calvin than Francis of Assisi. The true virtue is apparently encyclopedic knowledge.

Eastern Christianity never believed that. The belief has always been that God himself is knowable: through prayer, ascetism, faith, the sacraments, charity, love, obedience, humility, etc. Knowing God, therefore, is more of a struggle, and it is more mystical than a rational certitude, which Franky hints at, but it is by all means true knowledge. This “apophatic” theology, while always emphasized in the historic church for 2000 years, was championed in the 14th Century by Saint Gregory Palamas of Thessalonika, whose cathedral and remains I had the privilege of visiting a couple of years ago. He taught that we cannot know God in his essence, since we are creatures, but we CAN know him in his energies. His whole point—the point of apophatic theology—is that we CAN know God.

Franky is really screwing up by misrepresenting the historic church.

He also said in this video that he doesn’t “pretend I have the Truth or something like that.” Well, now Franky is the hypocrite, because as an Eastern Orthodox he sings the following words at the end of every liturgy: “We have seen the True Light, We have received the Heavenly Spirit, We have found the True Faith, Worshipping the Undivided Trinity, who has saved us.”

Top 10 Questions and Comments on Harriet’s Secret

It has been one month since the premiere at the IMAX Theater of Harriet’s Secret: A Progressive Marriage in the 1890s, the full feature documentary I have been working on for two years.

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Having now taken a deep breath, I will devote a blog entry to discussing the most common questions and comments I heard that night after the show and the week following. For those who haven’t seen it yet, click here for the storyline.

1. It really wasn’t what I was expecting . . . but I liked it!
Apparently, a large portion of the audience was ready to chill out with some popcorn and enjoy an evening of light entertainment. I got the sense it was entertaining—it did keep everyone’s interest—but it was hardly light. The intense themes, tragic drama, and large amounts of information imparted to capture the social history of the era made for a night of intensity. It was more like the Deer Hunter, Sophie’s Choice, and Clockwork Orange and less like The Sound of Music.

People pay money to watch those intense movies made by Hollywood as well, so I think everyone was glad they came. It just took a few minutes to adjust.

2. That could be made into a narrative movie, not just a documentary.
This often mentioned comment surprised me. But I guess all the stuff is there for a Hollywood version of my doc. I was flattered. There are two reasons why I didn’t make it that way. 1. I am naturally inclined toward documented history and hard journalism and 2. It would have been literally ten times more expensive. Maybe more.

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3. I hate Percy. Why does Harriet act that way? Cecil confuses me.
These are sample comments on various characters. They represent the sense that the movie really made people think, which was a definite goal of mine. People on both sides of the ideological aisle enjoyed the film, and it challenged them.

4. I liked the Andrew Carnegie/Theodore Woodruff subplot as much or more than the main story.
I heard this quite a bit. The story of Percy and Harriet lasts about 55 minutes. The remaining 35 minutes provided me the opportunity to also tell the story of another ancestor of mine, Percy’s grandfather, who invented the Pullman sleeping car that revolutionized rail travel. Carnegie and Pullman stole the patent and left Woodruff penniless, but Carnegie decades later in his autobiography credited Woodruff with starting his fortune. This subplot is a fast paced story with adventure and intrigue and ends with Woodruff dying mysteriously. I used the subplot in part to lift the mood of the audience as the Percy and Harriet story, while also fascinating, is heavier and somewhat slower moving.

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Subplots can perform various functions. One is to contrast with the main plot. Another is to confirm it or double down on the climax, which is what this one does. The movie ends with two strange and mysterious deaths.

5. The first half was slower than the second half.
This was actually a backhanded compliment. In fact, the second half of the movie is so interesting and moves so quickly that even I have a hard time stopping it, and I’ve watched it dozens of times. But, yes, the first half is slow by comparison, but still keeps your attention. This is one of those tricky facets in the art of storytelling where you have to provide just enough intrigue while imparting the necessary background information to properly set up the rest of the movie. This story required quite a bit of information, so I counted the cost when writing the script. But I feel like it worked.

6. The quality was so professional, like what you would see out of Hollywood.
Indeed. Much of the credit for that goes to cinematographer and co-producer Axel Arzola, who shot and edited the entire film. His standards are extremely high, and he’s just flat out talented. Our actors, untrained volunteers, also had an unusual amount of raw talent.

7. What are you working on now?
I have been chewing and praying on this question for a while. I don’t have the answer yet. However, I have in fact started playing around with a romantic comedy and it’s starting to take some shape. (I guy who plans to become a monk falls in love with his buddy’s mail order bride.) We’ll see where that takes me.

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8. Did you enjoy it?
Yes. Very much. I was a good bit concerned about the medium of film as opposed to what I am used to—writing books. I wondered if the big but temporary splash of a movie would be less satisfying than the longterm feedback you get from a book. I guess it’s a bit too soon to fully compare and contrast the two, but I will say I did enjoy the high intensity of premiering a film. I didn’t say, “Well, that was anti-climactic. I won’t do that again.” I really enjoyed the experience, and if the right opportunities come together, will look to try and do something again.

9. What else is planned for Harriet’s Secret?
It has been submitted to several film festivals (and we plan to submit to a few more). Hopefully, we will catch someone’s attention. We won’t know for several more months. Until then, we have to refrain from distributing via DVD, streaming, YouTube, etc. as festivals often require their festival to be the first public viewing of the film (our premiere was by private invitation only). If the movie gains traction at a film festival, perhaps a cable company will pick it up.

In order to enter all these festivals and tie up loose ends, we have a remaining need of $500. Click here if you have an interest in helping with that.

10. Any other interesting stories?
Yes. A friend from high school and her husband traveled from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to attend the premiere.  Really, Amy was more of an acquaintance back in the day, so her traveling all the way to Chattanooga was surprising, but certainly flattering. It was one of the little bonuses of the event for me.

Turns out, there’s more to the story. Amy’s husband Ed is an entrepreneur and investor. And one of his pastimes is Kickstarter. So one day he was surfing around the fundraising site and came across my film project. He thought it was really cool and showed it to Amy.

“I know that guy!” she said.

So they decided to make the nine hour trip. I got a chance to chat with them at the afterparty; they had dressed up to the nines, participating in all the fun of a premiere. That’s when I learned the story of how they came across Harriet’s Secret. They loved the film and want to help advance it’s promotion with a network of friends in the Los Angeles area.

Amy and Ed travelled from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Amy and Ed travelled from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Harriet’s Secret Premiere a Success!

What a great night! The event Friday a week ago at the Chattanooga IMAX Theater can only be described as a success in every way.

Jacki Rexford (playing Harriet Thompson Gerson) on the red carpet.
Jacki Rexford (playing Harriet Thompson Gerson) on the red carpet.

We had a great crowd. Not every seat was taken but it was clearly full. The red carpet ceremony before the show, accompanied by period musicians, was a total hit (I wasn’t exactly sure how that would go). Afterwards, we had Q & A. The program said for ten minutes, but the several dozen people who stayed wanted to stay even longer. The rest of the night we had an afterparty next door where about 50 people showed up to discuss and process what they’d just seen.Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 5.29.13 PM


On the big screen!

I plan to write a separate post about crowd reaction, questions, postives and criticisms about the show. Until then, just know that overall the premiere was a great evening, everything I had hoped for.

We have submitted the film to the following: Sundance Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival, Portland Film Festival, Malibu Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival, Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival, and the Berlin Independent Film Festival. We should find out in two or three months if we get accepted to any of these events or a few others we plan to enter.

Here’s a bunch of photos!


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Our Leading Lady’s Lip

When a dog in Mexico ripped off the top lip of our leading lady a few months ago, it wasn’t pretty.

Jacki Arnold Rexford, my niece, plays the leading lady Harriet in our documentary film. I asked her on a whim to try dressing up and see if the camera work we would do around trains that day would also look realistic with a period actress. Jacki walked up while we were at the Railroad Museum that morning and took our breath away. She was perfect.

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Not only that, she is incredibly photogenic and has great presence in front of the camera. She is one of those classic actor/actress types (I directed a bunch of them when I headed up the dramatic productions at Covenant College) who is quite low key in real life, but when given the opportunity comes alive in a performance. (Conversely, the happy chatty types are usually not good at acting.)

Jacki graduated from Cooper Union Art School in Manhattan and moved here with her husband Caleb who works with Fancy Rhino video company. She is a homemaker in their East Lake fixer upper and one of her current of a multitude of talents and activities is fermenting and pickling whatever she can get her hands on.

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One of the shots of Jacki in the train car was so perfect, we used it for the key image and poster for the entire project. Her green eye matches the green background, and her prominent pouty lip adds intrigue to the title, “Harriet’s Secret.”

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Oh, yeah, the lip. So my beautiful niece and her husband Caleb take a quick jaunt to see a friend in Mexico about a month after we finished shooting. As they are eating, his dog comes under the table towards Jacki, somehow gets riled up and leaps up at her and bites her twice in the face. It all happened in a split second. There was blood and an obvious need to head to the emergency room immediately.

Waiting to heal.
Waiting to heal.

Caleb kept telling Jacki it was going to be fine. Meanwhile, Caleb’s friend was in the back seat holding the middle part of Jacki’s upper lip in a jar. He had found it on the ground right after the incident.

Thankfully, the plastic surgery industry in Mexico is pretty darn good. Apparently, a lot of Americans travel to Mexico for those operations. She spent a couple days in the hospital, the docs did their magic, and all I know to tell you is that today she looks exactly the same. She is as beautiful as she ever was. Thank God.

One of Caleb and Jacki's many fun pics and poses.
One of Caleb and Jacki’s many fun pics and poses.

You can see some of Jacki’s great acting in this trailer. I’m so glad to have her as part of the team and the cast.

P.S. 11 days to go. We had four new donors yesterday to reach $2,921. Help us reach $3,000 today! Give at the Kickstarter site here:


What’s the End Game?

Give to kickstarter campaign here: or by check here:

So how will you distribute your film? What’s the end game?

I get that question a lot. Sure, it can be a little unnerving when the bottom line answer is, “I’m not really sure.” But I have confidence good things will happen.

As an author, I have never had a “publisher” publish one of my books. I have hundreds of rejection letters to prove I gave it a serious college try. So, my books have been self published. A few have done little, and a couple of them have done really well. One of them, “Old Money New South” about Chattanooga history, was the best selling book of all books at the local Barnes and Noble for one month. It was the best selling book of the year for a local downtown bookseller.
So, by intuition and experience, I know you can do the “build it and they will come” thing for creative media projects. I gave up long ago waiting for some atheist magnate in New York to give me permission to write or film something.

But, to answer the initial question: we will have a cool premiere of the movie in Chattanooga. Details to be announced. We will enter the film into several film festivals. I am confident we will get selected somewhere, although it may not be Cannes or Sundance. (I will try, though!)

We will put it on NetFlix. There is a way to do that, although it’s difficult to find just surfing around. If the project continues gaining traction and is well-received, we will submit it to various cable channels and see if one of them is interested in picking it up. If the general market has an interest (see my previous blog Sex sells), when we can sell it on the DVD market or on demand. Eventually, it will be available for everyone on YouTube.

One thing we have going for us is that the film is good. Each day of editing, I get excited about how it is all coming together. So, while being connected and having super duper marketing strategies are all important, they pale in comparison to having a first rate product. So I’m hopeful. See you at the box office.

12 days to go for the Kickstarter campaign. Please spread the word! Thanks.

Give to kickstarter campaign here: or by check here:

Sex sells

Give to kickstarter campaign here: or by check here:

I’ve decided to start blogging again as I make this film.

The first topic to choose was a no-brainer. My documentary deals a good bit with the topic of sex, and sex sells. It even sells blog posts.

“My great grandparents advocated for communism and free sex in the 1910s and 20s.” That’s the soundbite I use to describe this major documentary I am creating. It always works. Sex sells.
Percy and Harriet straw hat

Percy and Harriet espoused what they called “free love,” along with socialism and atheism, at the turn of the century, even though Harriet was a circumspect Christian from a strong religious family when she first met Percy on a train in 1893.

This was all way before the hippies’ sexual revolution of the 1960s. And the 60s wasn’t a gradual thing. The effort of the Progressives like my great grandparents died rather suddenly with the emergence of World War II. First, I’m guessing, because too much was at stake on a world level to be jacking around back home on moral issues. (Reminds me of the rugby team guys in South America whose plane crashed in the mountains for months. They said there were never any dirty jokes or swear words spoken—they needed God’s help too much.)

The second reason was the exposing of eugenics. Americans were dabbling in it, but the Nazis were deep into human breeding and gene selection, selecting males over females, lighter over darker, and all the things that come along with acting like God.

Margaret Sanger
Margaret Sanger

The Progressives, like Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, the largest performer of abortions in the world (and a buddy of my great grandparents), were deep into eugenics. “More children for the fit, less for the unfit” was on the masthead of Sanger’s birth control newsletter. I’m guessing that this association with eugenics was part of the reason the sexual views of the Progressives were also left behind for a “Father Knows Best” era until the 60s came along.
It’s pretty clear my great grandfather was running around with lots of young girls. He was a gynecologist in Hollywood, an abortionist (possibly handy on a personal level), and lived next door to the “Denishawn Dancers,” a world class dance troupe. These girls hung out all day at the house (and at night, too, I imagine), and their daughter ends up writing a lot about it in her journal decades later. That’s how we know all about it.

Percy flirts with a Denishawn Dancer (film footage).
Percy flirts with a Denishawn Dancer (film footage).

It’s pretty normal for a cad to run around with various women. But I regularly get asked, “Do you think your great grandmother was sleeping around?”

I have no way of knowing for sure, but I suspect she did not. Her quotes from the journal seem to espouse a kind of high minded “Free Love” that one should be open to for making the world more open. Did she experiment a little here and there? Don’t know. I would think probably a few times to fit in with her radical crowd. But her ultimate reaction to Percy’s philandering—extreme jealousy and depression—indicates to me that she never personally embraced the lifestyle.

Harriet watches from behind. (Film footage)
Harriet watches from behind. (Film footage)

How it all pans out is the point of the documentary, so I will leave a little bit unsaid to keep you on your seat. But one of the points, I think, is a reminder that “there is nothing new under the sun.” Think you or your parents are sexual progressives? Ummm . . . someone’s already been there, done that. And it’s a lot more complicated than you think.

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The Mentor of Lewis and Tolkien

Article with pictures here.

I have nearly finished in two days “A History in English Words” by Owen Barfield.

Barfield was an Inkling, a good friend of Tolkien, a better friend of C. S. Lewis, and a scholar who heavily influenced both of these legendary writers.

As best as I understand it, Barfield explained to them and the rest of the modern world that when language was invented, the world was a magical fairyland of Gods, and most things took their name from the gods.

Owen Barfield

As an illustration, when an infant sees a man and says, “Da Da!”, he has really only one concept: his daddy who is a man. The baby does not yet recognize other men. Not until he gets older will he be able to differentiate between his father and other men.

The same is true with society and language. “Panic” comes from Pan, the greek god of herds. Whatever Pan does to make those herds stampede is the same thing he does to humans when they go “pan-ish-like” or “pan-ic.” Only later, would an emotion known as panic be separated from a ghost who makes you panic.

The Latin word “spiritus” means wind, spirit, and breath. This is because when early man saw wind, he assumed it was a god breathing onto the world.


Who cares, you might say. Well, Tolkien and Lewis came to believe that this enchanted view of our world is much closer to reality than modern man’s sterile, “natural” view of nature. Barfield contradicted another scholar, who said myths were a “disease” of language. Rather, as Tolkien later put it, language was a disease of mythology. To say it another way, the gods came before the words.

Tolkien and Lewis believed the world is teeming with angels of many rank, both good and bad, along with the activity of the Holy Spirit.

If you think this is out of step with the enlightened leaders of the Reformation, think again.

John Calvin, in his commentary on the four living creatures in the early part of Ezekiel, says that “All creatures are animated by angelic motion.”


Calvin’s assertions were so strange that his modern translator argued with him in the footnotes. Nevertheless, Calvin went on to say: “While men move about and discharge their duties . . . yet there are angelic motions underneath, so that neither men nor animals move themselves, but their whole vigor depends on a secret inspiration.” (pp 334ff).

Modern man has lost his way. Not only is his worldview wrong, it is also boring.

What Tolkien did was bring excitement and mystery, enchantment and angelic or elvish magic back to the universe. People, who have eternity planted in their hearts by God, have been longing for this better version of reality.


| By chattabooks | 8:36 AM

Romney, Mormons, and the end of “Christian America”

The recent “Mormon bashings” on my Facebook page—or what one person called “drive-by postings”—probably deserve a more lengthy commentary. I have written long pieces in the past (books, blogs, etc), but currently the platform of social media seems to have me providing more Krystal bite-sized nuggets. Yet once in a while, more content is appropriate.

A number of you have dialogued and argued with me on these Mormon exposes, for various reasons. I love all of you. (“Faithful are the wounds of a friend” “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” [Pr. 27:6,24:26]). Each of you is willing to provide your thoughts in writing to dialogue toward the truth. Conversely, many people simply hate and say nothing. (Pr. 10:18)

Since Relativism and Tolerance are key gods of our age, let me start with that issue: Many are simply offended that I would be “mean” to anyone, regardless of the situation. That doesn’t seem like Jesus. I agree, in general. But both Jesus and the Apostles could get very nasty when dealing with critical matters where supposed religious leaders are deceiving the good-hearted folks, being “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” what later is called the promotion of “heresy.” There are various forms of heresy, but the nature of Christ and doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation, the starting point, the center of all Christian belief, and when that gets tampered with, Jesus and the Apostles get pretty “mean.”

Jesus told the Pharisees, “You belong to your Father, the devil . . . the father of lies” (Jn 8:44). In Revelation, Christ calls the gatherings led by these same leaders a “synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 3:9). Not very nice words.

Paul pleads with sinners to repent. He exhorts the Jewish people themselves to follow Christ. He says problems of the flesh (adultery, homosexuality, drunkenness, etc) are obvious failures and offers forgiveness to those who practice them (like the Corinthian guy sleeping with his Mother-in-law). But he doesn’t condemn them with the kind of fiery words of damnation that he reserves for promoters of heresy. He calls these types, among other things, “warped and sinful … self condemned.” (Titus 3:11)

So, there is obviously “a time for everything,” including a time to be “mean” like a mother would be mean toward a predator trying to eat her babies. I don’t think everyone will be able to get past this point since Relativism is so dang prevalent in our culture. (One person already unfriended me over this issue—I have no idea who she was, so I’ll probably get over it.) But I hope most of you can get over the “meanness” thing. Because it’s not the issue.

Oh, one other point here. False teachers screwing up people’s understanding of Jesus being God himself (like Mormons) can make the nicest people in the world become “mean.” In the 4th century, a bishop named Arius was promoting the view of Jesus now propagated by Mormons. St. Nicholas was one of the bishops at the council of Nicaea which attempted to sort through the false teaching of Arianism (not Aryanism, a racial word). St. Nick is Santa Clause (repeat St Nicholas and emphasize the first and last syllable and you’ll get it.) Church tradition tells us Santa Clause was so infuriated by the heresy spouted by Arius that he got up, walked over, and punched him in the face! He went to jail for it. When it comes to Arianism, its nice guys gone wild.

Why emphasize the heresy of Mormonism right before a pro-life, pro-family candidate like Romney might possibly defeat the very liberal Obama? I have answered this question a number of times in the threads but will repeat it briefly here.

Firstly, I care more about upholding, preserving, and championing the divine nature of the Lord Jesus Christ than I do about politics.

Secondly, if Mitt Romney were a proven, longstanding prolife advocate like, say, Rick Santorum, that would make some difference. He’s not.

Thirdly, if I thought the country was on the precipice of overturning Roe v. Wade, I would be more interested in Romney. It’s not. The U.S. made its decision in the early 90’s to abandon any relationship between God’s law and civil law. On the most extreme issue of whether it should be legal to chop up a baby in the womb (even to the 9th month), our leaders silently approved, despite the fact that thousands of Christians were arrested blocking abortion clinics. Around that same time, both houses of congress and all 50 state houses openly discussed partial birth abortion, described it in detail, televised it on CSPAN, and the people and lawmakers decided to keep allowing it. Our country has made its decision, and I grieve the choice.

Fourthly, if I thought Romney was a less dangerous choice than Obama, that would also make a difference. I don’t. Seeing that lives won’t be saved by overturning abortion, it would be good to prevent the millions dying from our foreign wars. These conflicts are not about Democracy (when do we invade the Saudis?) but about oil and the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, the efforts of desperate Western billionaire bankers to stay on top. Obama seems to reluctantly agree to the schemes of the secular, godless Neo-conservatives, despite the Nobel folks trying to egg him the other way. Conversely, Romney promises to boldly champion the evil machinations of the military industrial complex, the great monster we now face that Eisenhower tried to warn us against in 1960. This monster involves untold corruption. Assassinations, drug dealing (Russia begged the US to shut down the Afghan opium trade, but we refused), 16 intelligence agencies promoting lies upon lies, conducting regular torture, and other abominations too manifold to detail here. For most people, it goes under the category of: “You can’t handle the truth.” Suffice it to say, Ike was right.

The institution of government in America is not Christian and does not look to become so. This crushing blow has let me to another institution that I will discuss in a moment.

Because of my long, slow march toward despair of godly government in America, I have switched my strategy to help “strengthen what remains,” as Christ says to the church of Sardis (Rev. 3:2).

What does remain? There are millions, maybe even a 100 million or more good-hearted, faithful followers of the true Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God himself in the flesh, one of the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Maybe less than millions. Who knows? But they are out there in vast numbers. Now, the Evil One may be attempting to snatch even that away from us. Robbing America of its moral and Christian foundations was not enough. Now it is time to deceive millions of Christians regarding the foundational belief of the Trinity.

You may say Romney is not heading up the church, he is heading up government. I understand. But where are the voices condemning the evils of Mormon heresy? Liberal Christians don’t care. Conservative religious leaders are in a silent political alliance. The Billy Graham organization has just removed Mormonism from their list of cults. For them, politics has become more important than championing the historic Christian foundation stone of the Holy Trinity.

Many ancient Christians were tortured and killed over the Arian heresy of the Mormons. My wife is reading a three-volume history of Byzantium, the empire that started about the time of the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Today people think Constantine legalized Christianity and believers coasted from there, leading to institutional corruption. In fact, just as soon as Arianism was condemned as a heresy, Constantine’s son took over and killed Trinitarian Christians en masse in the name of Arianism. This persecution continued off and on for centuries. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Trinitarians have been tortured and killed for this foundational belief.

We, however, are afraid to offend our “nice Mormon friends.” We, unlike those tortured, are more interested in electing a Mormon to office than speaking out against Arianism.

My father earned his doctorate in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, a great man. I grew up talking theology at the dinner table. Yet, until I became connected to the historic Christian church, I could not have told you that we worship “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: the Trinity one in essence and undivided.” I sing that every week now in the Divine Liturgy, as I have become Eastern Orthodox (more on that later). But growing up we talked about things like Calvinism, the rapture, the millennium, and modes of baptism. It’s not that we didn’t believe the Trinity. We just really didn’t talk about it much. We assumed it was, well, taken care of and obvious.

I say all that for those who think I am barking up a tree of paranoia. No, our evangelical Christian culture, though very well meaning, is really shallow and superficial when it comes to what we believe at a fundamental level. “Hey, if you love Jesus, it’s all good.” Arians say they love Jesus, so it’s really, really, not all good. It’s scary. Our culture is ripe for an Elmer Gantry to step in and lead the sheep to danger and destruction. Our media dominates and is owned by secular, godless people who are at best indifferent, and at worst hostile to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Our military is dominated by secular neo-cons.

Is Satan not the ally of those who deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Did Satan not inspire Lenin and the Bolsheviks only 100 years ago to slaughter 8,000 pastors and millions of Orthodox Christians to advance an atheistic empire? Why are we exempt from such dangers?

I am not equating Romney with Lenin. I think the dangers I just laid out are true regardless of who is President. But Romney would make it even more complicated, as the evils of Arian/Mormon heresy will be more veiled and hushed. With Obama, we know we have a guy who promotes same-sex marriages. We don’t confuse him with a nice, conservative follower of Jesus.

So, what to do? On a general level, we must defend Christianity. We must be outspoken and champion the fundamental belief of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, and the Trinity. We must be willing to pay the price for doing so.

My personal decision has been to join the ancient Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy is the second largest Christian group behind Catholicism. Our church is vibrant in all sorts of cultures across the globe. Of those Christians being persecuted and killed in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, many, if not most, are Orthodox.

When dealing with these larger questions, the biggie of them all is this: who is in charge? Who makes the rules? Once this question is answered, it is easier to do the right thing. Just follow the leader. “Follow me, as I follow Christ,” said the Apostle Paul.

Let me provide a brief church history, terribly truncated by me and certainly from my perspective: Jesus laid his hands on the Apostles and actually began the institutional church (now a dirty phrase!) and “the gates of hell have not prevailed against it.” It continues today in the form of the Orthodox Church. In 1000 AD the Patriarch of Rome broke off from the rest of the Patriarchs because he wanted to change the Council of Nicaea. For a thousand years, the church had been “ruled” by hundreds of bishops coming together in a full council to decide the core truths of Christianity. No one man was in charge. They did this less then ten times in 1000 years. From these councils we crystallized the teaching of what books are Scripture, the Trinity, the divine and human natures of Christ, and other foundational Christian beliefs.

Rome’s break really screwed up Christianity. The other bishops said the councils cannot be changed, and they certainly did not believe one man should be in charge. 500 years after this “Great Schism,” as it is known, the Reformation rightly rebelled from various false teachings and practices committed by a Roman Catholic Church that had strayed from its authority—problems like indulgences, papal infallibility, and crusades. The Eastern Orthodox never committed these false practices.

Unfortunately, Martin Luther let the genie out of the bottle. If one man can break away from the church, he can decide for himself what is right. He can cause a church split. He can lead church in his own home. Hell, he can just have church with himself. Who can tell him different, for the Protestant belief is that he is in charge. Instead of one pope, we now have millions of them.

It is time to return to our forefathers, return to sanity, return to foundational Christian teachings. The Church fathers know better than we do. They know how important it is to sing each week, as has been done for nearly 2,000 years: “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: the Trinity one in essence and undivided.” They know how important it is to honor saints on the calendar day after day who lost eyes and limbs, who were boiled in hot oil, and who were ultimately killed for their commitment to the Trinity over Arianism. They understand that championing the Divine Essence of Jesus Christ is far more important than being cool or looking weird. (Funny robes, written prayers, and outdated music are not important issues.)

You can try fighting this battle on your own, but it is not recommended.

As I said at the beginning, I love all of you. I appreciate your vigorous responses. I am serious about this issue. Thank you for letting me discuss it in a lengthy fashion.


Mr. Jones was–no is–an icon

This isn’t Jim Jones but it may as well be.

You all know him. He’s the guy who is there “whenever the church doors are open.”

Jim Jones won’t be attending Grace Church in Roanoke this Sunday, but only because his funeral is today. He was 90.

Okay, he may have missed some services lately due to declining health. I don’t know because I don’t live in Roanoke anymore. But when I went to church there starting in 1966 as a two-year-old (Dad was the pastor), he was always there. Always.

If the church doors were open, whether worship service or Bible Study or Saturday work day, you might wonder how many people were going to show up. But you knew Mr. Jones would be there. Dad, Mr. Jones, and whoever else decided to come.

Jim Jones and wife Emily

According to the obit, he arrived at Grace Church in 1966, the same year I did. I am suspicious of this. Jim Jones has always been in Roanoke, since its founding, and he has always been at Grace Church, since the beginning of time. At least in my mind. I don’t have a conscious memory that doesn’t include seeing him up in the pulpit a couple times a week leading the hymn singing or making announcements or providing some other service or function for the church. When someone else better arrived on the scene to do it, he stepped aside with total graciousness and looked for other ways to serve. He was always serving, always smiling, always appreciating, always believing.

Today they sing cooler songs, praise music and such. But my spiritual formation cannot be understood without including years of my early psyche singing along with Mr. Jones to: Bringing in the Sheaves; When the Roll is Called Up Yonder; Jesus is All the World to me; I’m So Happy and Here’s the Reason Why; and dozens and dozens of other old faithful tunes. While they may not make the canon of all time classics (neither will the praise tunes, probably) they contained a more important element: a guy who really believed them leading the charge. That’s a nice thing for a young kid to observe several times a week in an age craving for authenticity.

The church asked me to speak at their 60 year reunion last year. Before I spoke, Jim Jones was on the agenda. There he was, up in the pulpit, speaking and providing old memories. It had been 30 years since I had been to the church, but, for me, nothing had changed. The world was still stable. Jim Jones was in the pulpit.

You know, the big dogs can be a little volatile, my Dad included. They reach great heights, then take a plunge. Think Jimmy Swaggart or Charles Stanley. Or even King David in the Bible. But it’s the Jim Joneses of the world that help us all keep the faith. They never waver. He is my Rock of Gilbraltar.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Jim Jones modeled that. He is an icon. An archetype. A legend. I guess I could say I will miss him. But the truth is, Jim Jones is never leaving my memory.