Hate Speech – Blasphemy Laws: Strange Bedfellows?

Hate Speech – Blasphemy Laws: Strange Bedfellows?

Hate Speech is a term that has often been used by pro-gay activists to refer to anything perceived to cast homosexual behavior in a bad light, e.g., referring to it as sin. Homophobia, as a label, is also used in this context, as though homophobia is the root cause of hate speech.

Blasphemy is a term used by zealous Muslims for anything that appears to place Muhammad, the Quran, or the Islamic Faith in a bad light. Blasphemy laws are intended to protect Islam. The case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman in Pakistan, who has been accused of blasphemy, is now making headlines around the world. Muslim friends of hers say that she spoke ill of Islam and Muhammed. The penalty for blasphemy could be as severe as death, though usually the death sentence is not needed to be carried out as the accused is more often assassinated by either zealots or those who want the reward for doing the deed. (Both money and a sure ticket to paradise are offered as rewards.) One of Pakistan’s leading clerics in addressing the issue of justice for a person deemed to be guilty of blasphemy, put it this way: “Any Muslim, if given the chance, would kill such a person.”[1]

Blasphemy laws are enforced in some Muslim states, not all of course, and these laws are being challenged, to some degree, today. There are efforts being made in Pakistan, for example, to do away with such laws, and the radicals are up in arms about it.

In Western societies hate speech,[2] so called, is a term heard more and more and as yet the rhetoric has not yet reached the level of the blasphemy laws. But will it?

Islamic blasphemy laws reveal a weakness and demonstrate a cultic mentality. To stifle contrary opinions is not a strong position but a defensive one, and one which borders on, at minimum, a sense of inferiority. The same can be said for the pro-gay lobby. Heterosexuals don’t operate from a place of guilt over their sexual identity. Their defense of traditional marriage is not rooted in anger, guilt, or shame, rather it is centered in what is obviously natural and normal not to mention biblical.

Progressive, modernist, or liberal Islamists have made some headway toward a more tolerant expression of Islam. These emphasize reason more strongly than revelation and are willing to subject the Quran to academic tools of textual criticism.  And most importantly, they will accept a separation between mosque and state. However, freedom of expression is firmly restricted in most Muslim states where the radical Islamists and traditionalists have gained dominance. It is this group of moderates who face the threat of violence and death and have often then immigrated to Western countries.

Pro-gay activists seem to be energized toward even more aggressive efforts to normalize homosexual behavior. The repeal of “Don’t’ ask, don’t tell” has been a long sought victory and is spurring the pro-gay lobby toward more demands, especially the legalizing of same sex marriage. Likely more demands will be made such as lowering the age of sexual consent, legalizing of plural marriage, and who knows what. The barriers confronting the achieving of such goals are largely localized within the broad Christian communities. The pressure is evident already as many historical Christian groups have adopted the gay agenda. But there are those who are faithful to the biblical witness that homosexual behavior is errant and immoral. What is to be done?

Hate speech has been defined as any communication that puts homosexual behavior in a negative light. The issue is whether such speech should be criminalized, which is seemingly a step too far at this point in history. If not criminal then maybe making so-called hate speck a breach of civil rights law and thus opening the door to tort lawsuits and other bureaucratic pressures brought to bear on non-profit organizations or other institutions who somehow benefit from government grants or loans.

Is it possible that the pro-gay lobby might be successful in using the legal system to stifle dissent and outlaw communications that do not portray homosexual behavior as normal? This has yet to be decided but it is a battle to be fought, and soon. And it will pit the conservative wing of the Christian community against those who accept homosexuality to be normal. The U.S. Constitution will be no help since the founding fathers did not imagine that protections against homosexuality and same sex marriage would need to be guaranteed. No, the law of the land is actually if favor of the pro-gay activist and so the legal battle will likely be lost for the Bible supporters.

Would that be enough for the pro-gay folks? Probably not. And here is where the blasphemy laws and hate speech join up. Strange bedfellows – radical Islamists and those who defend homosexual behavior – there is a good chance we will see this.


[1] The quote is from Muhammad Salim as reported in the Los  Angeles Times, December 27, 2010, section A, page 1.

[2] Hate Speech, in regard to homosexual issues, would include describing homosexual behavior as sinful, or, that there is something wrong with it as in it being immoral. The insinuation is made that let us surmise, a Christian preacher saying that homosexual behavior is sinful or immoral would be coming from hate toward the homosexual. All this would be based on an assumption of course. The opposite would more likely be the case however as in warning those whose actions would result in unhappy consequences. So far the pro-gay lobby has gotten away with applying the term hate speech broadly and without definition.

Healing, Healing, Healing

Healing, healing, healing—is it all about healing?

A significant part of Jesus’ ministry involved healing. The motive for Jesus’ healing ministry was compassion. “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). In John’s Gospel, healing, along with other miracles, were also signs confirming that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.

It would seem that an emphasis on healing has taken center stage in many American churches. Some even think that if a church does not have a healing ministry, even specific healing rooms, it is deficient and that there must be something wrong with that church. This does not apply to all Christian churches in the USA, since the healing focus is still largely among Pentecostal and charismatic churches, but healing ministries, along with prosperity teaching, seem to be spilling over into churches that are neither Pentecostal nor charismatically inclined.

Why is this so? The most obvious reason may be that healing draws large numbers of people. It certainly did so in the ministry of Jesus. Many passages from the Gospels could be quoted to verify this. However, simply because an emphasis on healing may attract crowds, that alone is not sufficient to justify a healing ministry. No, adhering to biblical precedent and faithfulness is foremost. Our work as Christians cannot be driven by seeming success in terms of ‘nickels and noses.’

Whatever we do must clearly conform to established biblical methodology. My point is that the current popularity of healing ministries is not grounded in Scripture.

Miracles, miracles, miracles

 People will traverse the globe hoping to see a miracle. This has long been known, and it is not to be associated only with the past. Places like Lourdes in France have been internationally famous for centuries and provide millions of pilgrims with the hope of a cure. Today thousands flock to churches and ministries that focus on healing, often with nothing other than a desire to witness a miracle. Certainly, many either have a need for some sort of healing or have loved ones who do. This is understandable.

Why do people like me then caution against seeking the miracle of healing? Notice the word “caution” as it is not wrong to seek God for healing.

One reason is that abuses may easily occur under such circumstances. People are so eager to be healed that such will be claimed when, in fact, no healing took place. This can be dangerous. Based on what I have found, miracles are claimed without any verification that an actual healing corrected an actual injury.

Another reason is that healing ministries are vulnerable to what I call “mind bending.” Healings will be reported when none occurred, simply to support a healer and avoid the emotional conflict associated with cognitive dissonance. Few are able to protest in front of a congregation that is rooting for both the healer and the subject of the healing. Most will simply go along. Standing in the midst of hundreds of people, I would likely “bend” to the obvious will and need of those watching.

And then, not all healings are from the Spirit of God. Jesus warned, “False christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24). “Signs and wonders” is a phrase often used in the New Testament and included physical healing (see John 4:48; Acts 4:30; Acts 8:4-13). This warning came toward the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and something akin to it came at the beginning. Consider what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty words in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

Paul spoke similarly in 2 Thessalonians 9. “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders.” This depiction of the end of history and the working of Satan would likely involve healing, since we see the phrase “signs and wonders” used here in the very same manner we see it used to describe actual healing by God’s Spirit. Satan indeed is a counterfeiter.

A last reason to be cautious about the present, renewed, emphasis on healing is that it is a distraction from the central ministry of the Church. Jesus commanded His followers to preach the Gospel in what we call the “Great Commission.” He did not command us to go about healing (see Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8), although the longer ending of Mark 16:9-20 does contain these words: “they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:18). The longer endings of Mark are clearly later additions to the Gospel and not original, but most editions of the King James Version of the Bible do not reflect the lack of early manuscript evidence, so many who rely on that version believe the ending is authentic.

Those who challenge churches that focus on miracles and healing will do so on the basis that there is little or no Gospel proclamation involved. And those intent upon a healing emphasis have dismissed the criticism by insisting that the Gospel is indeed preached along with the healing work. However, after reading the literature, attending meetings, and surveying the many blogs covering the healing efforts, I would deny that the presentation of the Gospel is anything more than a casual mention, and even then it is, in my opinion, not the purpose of the minister to preach salvation.

The primacy of preaching Jesus, His person and His work, is what marks an authentic Christian ministry. One may be healed and yet be unconverted. Witnessing a miracle, or being healed, is not the same as being born again. However many times someone might be healed, he or she will one day die. Then there is the judgment, and heaven or hell will be the final outcome. Healing is of significance, but, as Paul understood, it is at best secondary: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

 The hunger for miracles

Miracles are addictive—seeing one is not enough. The miracle work of Jesus produced some untoward attention as well. In John 2:23-25 are these very revealing words:

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

Though many “believed,” it is apparent that the believing was not of a saving nature. Saving faith is trust in Jesus alone for salvation and not a cognitive acknowledgment that Jesus is a miracle worker. Thus Jesus, knowing the great desire humans had to witness the supernatural, refused to be caught up in the inordinate excitement.

Ah, to be a miracle worker

 During the Jesus People Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, many of us did witness miracles, and healing was included in that mix of signs and wonders. For a period of several years I prayed for people to be healed, accompanied by anointing with oil and laying on of hands. The problem for me with the healing ministry was the notoriety it brought. It was overly intoxicating, but it was also short-lived. We watched the healings and other miracles wane, even cease, as the Jesus People Movement ebbed away. The experience of seeing these miracles disappear caused many of us to question ongoing charismatic claims, but I now think that one could even be a cessationist—believing that the charismatic gifts did not survive the apostolic period—and yet believe in healing. (I identified at that time as a charismatic, but I no longer would be considered such in the sense that the word is used today.)

Let it be noted that I am one who is very aware of the power of the devil to imitate miracles and produce counterfeit healings. In addition, I am aware of the power of suggestion, the placebo effect, and the fact that nearly 50% of all doctor’s visits have to do with psychosomatic complaints rather than true disease. Even still, I will attest to being a witness to real miracles, including healing.

My concern here is that we do not throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water, that we keep what is biblically faithful and reject what which is not. My view of it is that the instruction of James 5:13-15 is normative for the Church in all ages:

Is anyone among you suffering: Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful: Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Some have argued that the letter of James is sub-Christian, a “right strawy epistle” as Martin Luther thought. However, even after considering the historical context lying behind the letter of James, my view of it is that it is not error that we have the small letter included in our canon of inspired Scripture.

Could it be that many biblically-oriented Christians have ignored anything to do with healing, de-emphasized it at least, because it has been hijacked and abused by the wealth and health preachers?

Must we be charismatic faith healers?

 When requested, I will yet pray for people to be healed, basing my action on James 5 and the general compassion-based ministry of Jesus. Very few, if any, are healed in these current times. In fact, I rarely even speak of healing. But it is often in the back of my mind that dear people in the congregation are ill and need attention.

Is there a format for healing ministry? Must one anoint with oil and lay hands on the person to be healed? Whose faith is operative, the person who needs healing or the one(s) doing the praying for healing? These questions are difficult to answer. Jesus used no set pattern in healing. Sometimes He healed from a distance, sometimes He simply commanded it, and sometimes He touched, spit, made clay, and so on. If we think certain procedures must be carried out, like oil anointing or hands laid on, we are coming dangerously close to magical thinking. This occult-oriented notion must be strictly avoided. Regarding whose faith is operative or how much is needed, we simply have the words, “the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick” (James 5:15). There is a mystery here, but the one who is prayed to is the One who heals. That much is certain.

Whether or not people are obviously, verifiably healed must not motivate my decision to pray for them to be healed. In the same manner, I will proclaim the grace and mercy of God in salvation, whether people are converted in front of me or not.

A plea

A simple plea: It is important for me not to break fellowship with my Reformed brethren who may not view things as I do. I am hoping that my willingness to engage in praying for people to be healed will be seen as an intramural debate among brethren, rather than an extramural dispute involving serious breaches of established biblical doctrine.

No one is a healer. I am not a healer. I would not be numbered among the charismatics. But I will pray for healing, because it is God alone who heals. Sometimes, especially in outpourings of the Spirit in awakenings, there are healings. Even in the Jesus People Movement some, but not all, were healed. We did not know why, nor could we predict outcomes, and we refused to blame the minister or the one who needed healing if there was no healing. Some were healed however. That is my testimony. In the years since the Jesus People Movement, during what might be referred to as “normal times,” compared to times of awakening, few are healed. Over the last three decades I have prayed for about twenty people, and to my knowledge not one was healed. Maybe it is better to be faithful, biblical, and hopeful than successful; in any case, in light of the current confusion and error regarding healing, I am beginning to reflect on my views and ministerial practices. Thus I am considering including an opportunity for any who would like to have the elders of our church pray for them along the lines of James 5. If I do so, it will not make me a charismatic healer or a quack. And if a healing should occur, then to God be the glory. And if healing is not given, then to God be the glory.

Kent Philpott

January 27, 2010   

Dear Abby says “Listen to your heart”

Dear Abby says “Listen to your heart”

A 26 year old mother of an 8 year old daughter, having just ended a 5 year relationship with a man, is attracted to a lesbian friend of hers, and the attraction has become sexual in nature. She thinks it is mutual. Her problem is her daughter. She writes; “I don’t know how she would handle it if I were to date a woman instead of a man. I am also afraid of how my family would react.”

Jeanne Phillips, who is now Dear Abby, begins her reply with, “I am reluctant to advise you to spend the rest of your life living a lie in order to avoid upsetting your family, because I don’t think it would be healthy for you.”

Phillips assumes the mother is lesbian rather than being on the rebound or confused about her sexuality. She makes a leap too

far, at least. A same-sex attraction does not necessarily point to full blown homosexuality. “Living a lie”, hmmm, a rather disingenuous conclusion perhaps?

Then the counsel not to be concerned about family, just assuming that the 8 year old will be just fine with it all. Pretty far reaching evaluation. I wonder if Phillips is not simply pandering to the current approval of gayness and fearful that any other kind of advice might be met with a lot of criticism maybe even demands she step down. Can you imagine her telling the mother to re-examine her position and to consider the consequences for her daughter? In our culture, few would be brave enough to do so.

Dear Abby, oh so very dear, concludes her most gracious reply with: “My advice is to listen to your heart, and you won’t go wrong.”

There it is, basically saying that by so doing you are on the right path. Go gay, since obviously you are one, and your daughter, other family members, will all just simply adjust without problem. Ignore everyone but yourself. Fulfill your desires. It is all about you.

The heart, surely trust worthy, especially when the heart in this case is informed and fueled by hormones, perhaps an emptiness due to the recent ending of a relationship, and perhaps other emotional and physical issues that Abby has no way of knowing anything about. Verges on mal-practice, maybe?

How trustworthy is the “heart?” I know mine and have followed it and thereby have gotten myself in more trouble than I want to think about. An ancient prophet said: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (This is found in Jeremiah 17:9)

Trust the heart today generally means trust your feelings. Feelings – mine are subject to so many factors it is worthless for me to even start a list. I am all over the board but I have found that I need to be careful and considerate in my appraisals. If I did not have Scripture to consult, which by the way captures the wisdom of the ages as well as that of the Creator, I would be at the mercy, and a flimsy mercy at that, of the dominate and fluctuating values of the culture around me.

Of course, Jeanne Phillips could not bring up the Bible or she would be hounded out of a job. The uproar that would descend upon her would make her a household name for perhaps two or three days. And she would be looking for a job.

Kent Philpott

July 15, 2013


Hereafter the movie: What is it all about? Rowdy Yates, Dirty Harry, Thunderbolt, Philo Beddoe, Josey Wales, Bronco Billy, and William Munny are some of the film characters Clint Eastwood has played and which I have seen between two and a dozen or more times each. They are all unforgettable in my mind. He is without question my favorite actor and director. The world he has lived in both in terms of geography and culture, I have shared. Clint is a man twelve years older than I am, and perhaps, like me, he is wondering how much more time he has left. On October 20, 2010, my wife Katie and I saw the movie at a theater in San Rafael after reading two reviews of the film earlier in the day. I was fairly certain I would write as essay based on the film, exposing the theological error that I was certain I would find. The film was superb in every way, a real masterpiece. The acting, script, story, special effects, and camera work, among other aspects—it was all captivating. The film’s major theme was whether there is a continuation of conscious life after death. After being a pastor of Christian churches for more than four decades I can understand the things that run through most people’s minds when they realize that their personal end is looming, and I can well imagine that Clint Eastwood might have an interest in the subject. A Christian world view was not in evidence in Hereafter. And that is not surprising. If I had not been suddenly and convincingly converted some forty-seven years ago, I might possibly have investigated reports of near death experiences and mediumistic contact with spirits of the dead. After all, before my encounter with Jesus Christ I was quite interested in Edgar Cayce, Bridie Murphy, and all things to do with UFOs and aliens. If I had known where to find a medium, psychic, or palm reader, I might have been tempted to find out what they had to offer a young inquiring mind. It was only after becoming acquainted with Scripture that I learned about the occult—everything in magic and witchcraft to spiritualism that has to do with mediums or psychics making contact with the departed. The Bible has much to say about fortune telling and mediumistic activity, and it takes it all seriously. Without presenting particular passages which demonstrate what I am writing about, I will keep it simple and summarize my view—the demonic realm works ceaselessly as a clever counterfeit or alternative to the life of grace and faith we find in the Messiah. The point is to subtly lead people away from Jesus who is eternal life in person and who is the only way to that life. Clint Eastwood and millions of others are hoping that the grave is not the end and are especially looking for assurance that the judgment and hell Christians talk about is complete garbage. They are desperate to find another way, not of a religious nature as we think of religion, but something that is both plausible and possible and, most of all, without strings attached. The character of George, a hesitant reader or psychic, is played by Matt Damon, and toward the end of the film, he reluctantly agrees to contact the tragically killed twin of the young boy Markus. The dead twin Jason informs Markus from the “hereafter” that his was the invisible hand that had knocked off his brother’s hat on the loading platform of the London Underground while Markus was desperately trying to board a train. A frantic search for the hat causes Markus to miss his train, which meets with disaster and a great loss of life moments later. George, in revealing this concrete contact of the dead with the living shows Markus that he is not a manipulating trickster and is therefore worthy of his trust. The story line is plain—there is conscious life after death, and that life is far grander than anything a human living on the planet has ever experienced. Proof now that Jason is “alive” and can speak with him comforts Markus. I found myself smiling as well, and I will wager most of the other movie goers had a similar warm glow about them. Was the film simply entertainment or did it also have a message? To put it another way, was Eastwood, the film’s director and producer, playing the role of a spiritualistic evangelist? Had he come to a conclusion about life and death and wanted to share that with an audience wider than Billy Graham would ever have garnered? From a pastoral perspective I cringed at the counsel given by the departed Jason to his twin brother Markus, advice that might be boiled down to “get over it.” Through psychic George, Jason encourages his brother and urges him to move on, though he will be with him every step of the way. Is this a comforting thought? What a burden for a young boy to carry: the spirit of his dead brother will be a constant companion, watching but not intervening any longer, but a continuous presence nevertheless. During my years as a pastor I have officiated at hundreds of funerals or memorial services. My experience has shown me that we human beings are especially vulnerable, emotionally and spiritually, when we lose a loved one, someone important in our lives. Life brings us loss after loss, and without proper rebuilding and recovery from the natural grief we experience, there is a spiritual and mental price to pay. And, it is at times when we are in the pain of loss that we are open to deception, more than we normally would be. We seem to lose our ability to bring sober evaluation to a situation, and thus we are open to being misled. My experience has been that psychics and mediums can take advantage of such situations. During the ten years that I operated the Marin Christian Counseling Center in San Rafael, California, people who had experienced loss, especially through death and divorce, required special and tender care, because they were overly influenced by suggestions and easy means to resolve their grief. My concern then, and the chief reason for this essay, is that people who have experienced traumatic loss, especially through death, not rush to the mediums and psychics for comfort. George knew himself that the supposed gift he had was really a curse and rejected the temptation to re-engage in it, for a time, until his compassion for a boy’s suffering broke down his resolve. He comes close to expressing the premise of this essay—that in the broad scheme of things, it is far better that the dead be dead, which allows for us to recover and live our own lives. Life is grand and ugly all at once. It takes courage to face it full on. It is best to look to and rely upon the Maker of heaven and earth, who is the beginning and the end and who offers us eternal life, without strings, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Gay is now good?

Gay is now good?

After the publication of two of my books, The Third Sex? and The Gay Theology in the mid-1970s, I was invited to participate in debates about homosexuality at Presbyterian Church, USA events. I represented the conservative or biblical point of view.

During this process, I inadvertently heard a number of discussions among pro-gay church leaders who were seeking to advance the gay agenda, which was to normalize and win acceptance for homosexuality. The religious contingent of the pro-gay lobby was particularly concerned that their sexual practices be considered as normal as heterosexuality. This was the goal, and to reach that, they knew that two things were necessary: one, denominational leadership must endorse homosexuality; and two, children must be educated to accept homosexuality. During these discussions, it was clearly understood that the two-pronged process would take decades and that it would be important to work incrementally, little by little, until homosexuality was affirmed as good and normal.

The program as then outlined was to change and/or influence the leadership of Christian denominations and of both Christian and secular educational institutions. The themes of “fairness” and “equality” were slated as the primary concept tools to be used in these public and private institutions, but there was something else on the agenda, something more subtle and far more compelling. Everyone must get to know an actual homosexual. The idea was that it is one thing to debate principles and legal issues, but it is another to reject and judge another individual human being. To make homosexuals known in a personal way to the entire culture, entertainment media was the perfect vehicle. So, in film, television, drama, novels, and so on, gay and lesbian people would be shown as normal, healthy, talented, and lovable. The real issue would then be masked.

That was nearly forty years ago. Now we see more clearly how the goals of the pro-gay folks are being achieved.

During the 1970s I wrestled with two issues. First, I understood that those practicing homosexuality would resent being looked down upon as being deviant. Because the power of guilt and shame is so strong, they would have to work fiercely and spare nothing in their efforts to normalize a gay lifestyle. Second, I feared that I would have to fight the whole pro-gay battle long into the future.

Though the law of the land is tending to equalize homosexuality and heterosexuality, all the way to sanctioning same-sex marriage and beyond, this will not necessarily satisfy homosexuals. As long as there are people out there like me who have not changed their opinions and continue to say so publically, then their victory is not complete. No, the dissenters and the conscientious objectors must be dealt with somehow. I assume that, along with a whole host of other Christians and fellow travelers, I will be challenged with the goal of being silenced.

There will be varying forms of intimidation, including supposed violation of hate crimes and civil rights laws, removal of non-profit status, disqualification for state and federal grants, and exclusion from other desirable programs such as helping the hungry and housing the homeless. It will no doubt prove to be a complex and expensive nightmare.

One good thing, however, is that there will be a shaking of the Christian tree, and the dead leaves and branches will fall. The result will be a purified Church. Already a number of denominations have capitulated, and more will follow, including some that historically stood up for the authority of Scripture. In the hearts and minds of Christians, a decision will have to be made. And for those who have homosexual friends and loved ones, the problem is far from academic or political in nature. Indeed, it will be emotional, familial, and personal, and it will leave many confused and divided in their loyalties.

The pro-gay lobby has won certain victories, and they will boast of more goals reached in the future. The activists I encountered in the 1970s had it right; they knew what they were doing. The recent triumphs in the courts will not, however, reach so deep into the heart and conscience of those who glory in their homosexuality as to bring deep abiding peace. There will remain a certain uncomfortable sense that things are still not right. All the powers that be will not be able to hush the voice of the Creator that is hard-wired into every creature made in His image.

The political battles presently being waged and won will only be celebrated in the here and now and not in the forever, which is where we are all headed. None of us will get out of this alive, and then, as the Scripture says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). To temporarily have guilt assuaged, shame suppressed, and a measure of acceptance achieved, is all merely a part of a larger deception perpetrated by the prince of the great lie.

Memoirs of a Jesus Freak: Part 7 in the series “My years as a tongue speaker”

A transition in title is now necessary, and in this blog I will explain why.

Prior to a winter night late in 1968, at Soul Inn, at 2 o’clock in the morning (the story of which is yet to come), I had consigned anything to do with Pentecostalism to the nether regions, meaning that I thought such was error or even outright demonic. After that night I was a tongue speaker from 1968 to 1975. When I ceased speaking in tongues I continued to hold to its validity, as well as all the other charismatic gifts. It is simply that I stopped speaking in tongues, a ceasing I cannot explain.

I am not a “cessationist,” the definition of which is someone who believes that the charismatic gifts as listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 – at least the “power gifts” like speaking in tongues, prophecy, and miracles – are no longer operative and are also unnecessary due to the publication of the Bible. I never bought that idea, because I did not clearly see it in Scripture. I was tempted to do so – yes – since distortions of the charismatic gifts, especially prophecy, became all too flagrant.

Early on in the Jesus Movement, which was a designation originating from where I do not know, we called ourselves “Street Christians.” Our fields of labor were the streets of the big cities. For me it was San Francisco, specifically the Haight-Ashbury District, where the young and restless, those looking to expand their minds and explore the esoteric spiritualities, and sex and dope, were to be found. Sex and dope went hand in hand and likely became the major motivators for the majority, but there were definitely those who wanted to find God and assumend He was not to be found in the American churches. The causes for this are beyond the scope of this piece, but to identify with a “church” was not the thing to do.

I was a Baptist but I didn’t tell anybody that. For a period of time I avoided the term “Christian” as well. “A follower of Jesus” is how I described myself. Eastern religions were big, Buddhism more than Hinduism, but there was the Hare Krishna thing, and the Beatles made TM (Transcendental Meditation) popular for a time. There were so many isms out there then, and all of them were foreign and new to me. During 1967 I received so many rejections, sometimes beatings and threatening, that I felt like giving up and concentrating my efforts in Byron, but I kept on figuring that God had called me and I was not going to discourage easily.

Sometime in 1968 there was news coverage of what was going on. Some reporter used the phrase “Jesus Freak,” a tag I did not appreciate and rejected in favor of Street Christian. A more friendly term, “Jesus People” was coined along the way and I adopted that one. Later on, the whole thing that was going on then across the country was termed the “Jesus People Movement” or JPM. This worked for almost everyone

It is not clear to me when I realized that what I had been involved in was unusual. During my seminary years the great revivals of religion were taught but I had no idea that the JPM was actually one of those. It was only in looking back at it that I realized that the JPM was an awakening like the great awakenings America had experienced, and this realization came primarily through reading the books of David Martin Lloyd-Jones and, above all, Iain Murray.

In my book, Awakenings in America and the Jesus People Movement, I attempt to demonstrate that the JPM meets the requirements for inclusion in America’s great awakenings. (see www.evpbooks.com)

Jesus freak was not a term of derision, as it turned out. Everyone who sought after more than could be found in main street USA was a freak of some sort, even if it did not involve sex, dope, or far out religion. Artist, poet, musician, writer, occultist, astrologer, psychic, Satanist, monk, wanderer – these and more were considered part of the freakiness that seemed to offer more. I was really not one of these, as I had already found what I had been looking for, and I had no sense I had ever been looking for anything at all, as I thought I had it all.

The writing of this very blog is the first time I have embraced the term Jesus freak.

My Years as a Tongues Speaker: Part 6 – in Byron, CA

Byron is still a small farming community, a bend in the road, off Highway 4 in Contra Costa County between Brentwood and Tracy. A large development went in called Discovery Bay, but that was long after I was gone. In fact, the Excelsior Baptist Church  long ago disappeared, though the old building that once housed the Excelsior School and then the church is yet standing.

Toward the end of my first year as a seminarian I had a strong urge to pastor a church. Pastoring was what we, the young lions, were constantly talking about. We were either going to be missionaries or pastors, one or the other for sure. I wanted to pastor.

In a way I do not recall I put out word that I was looking for a church and received a call from Joe Smith, the area missionary, who offered me the chance to preach at the Excelsior Baptist Church in Byron. Was I ever excited, and I went right to work on a sermon that I was sure would cinch the deal. I was right, and quickly they “called” me as pastor and gave me a salary of $20 per week. On October 2, 1966 the church ordained me, and my old pastor, Bob Lewis, then pastor of First Baptist Church of Fairfield, California, preached the ordination sermon. My dad made the trip but my mother did not. My mother, though a staunch Methodist, never was born again, and this is not a charge against her but something she proclaimed loud and long. I never did figure that out.

After a few weeks David Hoyt began to accompany me to Byron. My practice was to travel up on Saturdays and Sundays, 75 miles one way, meaning 300-plus miles per weekend. I had arranged for weekends off from JC Penney & Co. between Mondays and Fridays. As I think about it now, I had begun a pattern that would essentially take me away from my family way too much. Here were doors opening up to me, which seemed to me to be by the Hand of God, yet in walking through them I was also harming my family. It is something I have had to live with and about which I have never come to any clear understanding.

David and I began seeing what we could do in the Byron area. For one thing we made contact with the local juvenile hall. David had tantamount to grown up in state institutions; California had, in a real sense, been his father and mother. He was quite at home visiting there, and before long the entire boys’ home was coming to church every other Sunday; the other Sunday they went to the local Methodist Church, the only other church in town.

Oddly, this did not sit well with the deacons, maybe because it took my attention away from them, yet I still visited every single household in the church at least twice a month.

The situation deteriorated when David and I started walking though the local migrant workers’ camp on Hwy 4 between Byron and Brentwood. One particular family quickly responded to the Gospel, a family of seven, who lived in a one room shack in the migrant settlement, and I baptized all of them. Soon other Mexican people were coming as well, and the church got crowded. Soon after this the deacons cut my salary to $10 a week.

Perhaps they knew more than I did, because trouble followed almost immediately. One Saturday morning I arrived at the church building alone without David to find that almost all the windows had been broken. Tomatoes from the fields that surrounded the building on three sides had found their way into the chapel and school rooms. It was a huge mess. I put out a call for help and soon most of the church members were on hand cleaning up the splattered tomatoes.

The next week, a time when David was with me, we entered the migrant workers’ housing area when two large German Shepherd dogs rushed out to attack us. It was a fight for life; David and I defended ourselves and fought them off, and after a while the dogs were whimpering and whining.  David and I were a complete mess: dirty, bloody, and plenty scratched up. None of the occupants of the camp, including those who had been attending church, emerged to help us except one elderly man who told us that the priest at the Catholic Church in Brentwood had put the dogs on us.

We drove to the church, cleaned up, then headed to Brentwood and the Catholic Church. Both David and I had grown up having to fight and stand up for ourselves. Parking in front of the church, we loudly called the priest out, and when he emerged we verbally let him have it, and in no uncertain terms. He knew we could have made a lot of trouble for him if we had gone to the police.

That turned out to the last time we had any trouble, and the migrant workers continued to come to church while the harvesting was going on.


My years as a tongue speaker part 5: David at the seminary

David at 10A Judson Lane Mill Valley

Driving back across the bridge into Marin, now with David Hoyt in the car, he and all his worldly possessions. He still had on his religious garments, and he had that look in his eye, expression on his face, and the body language of someone who had totally imbibed eastern spirituality.

The time was 1967 and the place was a Southern Baptist Seminary. Everyone on campus was Caucasian, the professors mostly spoke with southern accents, and no one looked like I did, with a mustache and slightly longer hair, and certainly no one looked liked David Hoyt. Now he would be living there among them.

Then there was my wife Bobbie, about as straight an arrow as you could get, plus my two little girls, a kindergartner and first grader – Dory and Grace. With only two small bedrooms and neighbors on each side, there was no place to hide David.

I was working part time, and Bobbie worked as a minimum wage sales clerk. We had the G.I. Bill, without which I would not have been able to afford a seminary education, but I was also pastor of Excelsior Baptist Church in Byron and making $10 a week. (It had been $20 a week but the deacons got mad at me for bringing migrant workers to church and baptizing them.) We barely survived as it was.

Bobbie and the kids were quite shocked when David and I walked into the place carrying his belongings. He ended up making our tiny front room his bedroom and we managed as best we could, but the pressure was on Bobbie. My dear, sweet daughters made the best of it and got along with David just fine.

How it all worked out is kind of blurry to me now, but I recall David coming to classes with me, and I would hear stories of his wanderings around the campus and talking to students. He spent some time with Timothy Wu who was living in the men’s dorm. Due to David’s strange appearance and presence in the admin and academic buildings, a ruling was made to the effect that students could not have non-relatives living with them. (This rule is still in force.)

My job was to disciple David and I did the best I could. All my life it seems I have been constantly busy and especially then. But we fit it all in. David and I started from scratch: who is God, what is sin, what was the Fall, and the longish story about what God did about it all. David was nothing else but intense and eager. He was a sponge and grasped complex biblical ideas quickly. After a few weeks he was ready to go with me into the city on what were now routine visits and ministry on the streets of the Haight-Ashbury. It was the “Summer of Love,” which David and three others had actually organized. As I am thinking through these things I realize David Hoyt was not only one of the first, if not the first convert in the Jesus People Movement, but he was also one of the chief evangelists for the whole hippie scene in San Francisco.

So our adventures together began. At least once a week we drove into the City, arriving as early as possible and staying as late as possible, visiting David’s old friends at the Krishna Consciousness Temple and others like the Buddhist priest, Robert Sutherland, to whom David did his best to tell about Jesus, and hippie after hippie by the hundreds. Early on we wrote up flyers, some of which I still have, and passed these out. We bought hundreds of Campus Crusades, The Four Spiritual Laws, and other materials to use in our witnessing. Some were converted, but it was only the trickle before the flood that was to come.

One other thing David and I did together: he began coming with me to Byron on Saturdays and Sundays. That story comes up next.

My years as a tongue speaker: Part 4 – Bible study in the temple

Timothy Wu was a young and very evangelistic student at the seminary. Since we both were intent on direct personal evangelism, we became friends. He readily agreed to come with me to a Bible study at the Hindu temple.

As was my agreement with the temple officiates, we had to sit through the Kirtan before we could file down into the basement with David. After a prayer, I introduced Timothy and asked him to give the teaching. He started with how he had become a Christian and moved right into a very fine account of the Gospel message. He was speaking rapidly and passionately.

After the meeting broke up I headed upstairs, and after talking to some of the devotees for a while, I looked around for Timothy but didn’t find him. I went back down the steps to the basement and saw Timothy and David engaged in animated conversation. They were both yelling, and it looked like it might be the prelude to a fist fight. Seeing me watching them, they calmed and backed away from each other. Timothy walked toward me, and we both turned and walked up the stairs and out of the temple.

On the ride home we did not talk about what happened back in the basement. It was almost three weeks before I found out what transpired between David and Timothy.

Much later there was another ride home, and this time it was David and I on our way back to the seminary. David was silent for most of the ride, but as we were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge he told me what had happened between him and Timothy that night after the Bible study. Timothy had given him a prophecy, a word of revelation, that within three weeks God would take David out of the temple.
All I did was listen. David said that night he had a dream. He saw himself in a very large open space and peoples of the world were all around him. All of a sudden he heard a trumpet blast, and looking up he saw Jesus in the clouds with a host of angels. People all around him were lifting up their arms to receive Jesus, and as they did they floated up and joined Jesus in the air. David said that he looked at his own feet and they were planted on the ground. A fear rushed through him and he woke up to find that his makeshift basement altar was on fire. He tried to put it out but it was already too large to extinguish. He grabbed what he could and raced up the stairs. He ran down again, picked up some paint cans and a brush – supplies he had used to paint out the basement for his use – and began writing in large letters those Christian slogans I saw on the walls of the temple. As the fire trucks started to arrive, he found a phone and called me.

Now his life was going to be very different.

As a kind of endnote: Timothy Wu and I remained friends. He was the youth pastor at a Chinese Church in San Francisco, and he invited me to preach to their rather large assembly from time to time – and this while he was at the seminary. I remember now the last time that we did evangelism together. Dr. Francis DuBose, professor of missions and evangelism at Golden Gate Seminary, had become a friend and mentor to me. Sometime in 1968 I asked him and Martin (Moishe) Rosen, who later founded Jews for Jesus, to be on the board of directors of Evangelical Concerns. This was a vital group made up mostly of American Baptist pastors. It was about at that time that Dr. DuBose asked me to conduct a tour and evangelist foray in the Haight-Ashbury. I did this several times, and on the first of these Timothy Wu came along.

Timothy and I met the students on the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets, divided up into teams of two, and agreed to return in two hours bringing any converts with us. At the appointed hour the students began to arrive. I had two with me, none of the students had any, but Timothy came walking down the street with a whole group of hippie kids, twelve being the number I recall. We held a prayer and discipleship meeting right there on the street. Timothy preached and taught and so did I. A larger crowd gathered and more professed faith in Jesus.

This was the Jesus People Movement. And this was not the last time I would see something similar happen on that very street. But the description of some of those events will come along when I talk about Lonnie Frisbee.

My years as a tongue speaker: Part 3 – Fire in the temple

Racing into the City, down 19th Avenue, left on Masonic, right on Stanyon, left on Fredrick, and right away I could see the fire trucks and smell the smoke. I parked just up the street next to old Kesar stadium (home of the 49ers pro football team), jumped out, and ran to the door of the Hindu temple.

Fire hoses snaked into the temple from the fire truck, and people were running in and out. The place was chaotic. I stepped back and saw, in foot-high letters painted on the walls, Christian phrases like “Jesus is the Way,” “Lord Jesus Christ,” and more.

As I began to move in the direction of the basement where most of the activity was happening, David suddenly appeared carrying bags of his personal belongings and shouted at me to take the bags he was carrying, so he could dart back down the stairs to the basement. In a moment he was back carrying more bags, then we ran out into the sidewalk and down the street to my car, into which we threw David’s few possessions. We hustled back to the temple, David disappeared again, and I simply stood in the middle of the room contemplating this place of the Kirtan rituals and studied once again the altar for the offerings to various Hindu gods.

Then I noticed a little cluster of Hare Krishna devotees huddled in the back behind and to the right of the altar near the kitchen, which had been the source of some really good Indian food I had eaten. The little group of former hippies turned Krishna worshipers moved toward me and began yelling at me. I was a young man, not big but not small, and I stood my ground and faced them. At that point David rushed by carrying more stuff. As I turned to follow him, two of the devotees grabbed me from behind and shoved me up against the door of the temple. One had his hands on my throat and was squeezing as hard as he could. I was about out of breath when a fireman came up behind them and swatted them away. I fell down gasping for breath, and saw the devotees lying around on the floor after their brief encounter with a San Francisco fire fighter. I quickly gathered myself up and headed out the door and up the street to the car. David was there inside, so I jumped in, wheeled down the street, and eventually made our arrival at Mill Valley and 10A Judson Lane, Golden Gate Seminary.

The adventure had only just begun.