My years as a tongue speaker: Part 2 – The call to the hippies

During my years at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (Southern Baptist), I was anti-Pentecostal and did not yet know what was meant by “charismatic.” As far as I was concerned speaking in tongues was of a demonic origin, and short of that it was at least wrong doctrine. We had little or no fellowship with Pentecostals. In Marin County that would have been limited to the Assembly of God churches or maybe a Black Pentecostal church of some kind.

One night in February of 1967, while I was driving home from my part time job as shoe salesman at the J.C. Penny store in Corte Madera and while listening to Scott McKenzie’s “When you come to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair,” it was as though God spoke directly and personally to me: “Go to the hippies in San Francisco.” That was it and that was all. The very next day, a rainy Thursday evening, I did just that and the adventure began.

That night, while peering through the window of Hamilton United Methodist Church on Waller Street, a young hippie approached me and wanted to know if I wanted to meet someone who knew a lot about religion. I jumped at the chance, thinking this is the hand of God and said yes. He brought me just a few doors away to an old Victorian house and introduced me to David Hoyt. David was living in a house full of lesbians; he was the token male and body guard for the ladies, and his room was under the stairs that climbed up to the second floor. It was really just a janitor’s closet, but David had made it into a bedroom, which was probably about the same size as the jail cell at Lompoc Prison from which he had just recently been released. David had entered prison at age 19 as a biker with a conviction of drug smuggling from Mexico. He had become a jail house guru of sorts and had decided on Hinduism as his religion of choice. By the time I met David that evening, he had risen in the eyes of Swami Baktivadanti to being one of the chief devotees at the Hare Krishna Temple on Frederick Street, just blocks away from where David was then living.

We began a Bible study under the stairs, just David and I, but in a few weeks David moved to the basement of the Hare Krishna Temple. To continue the studies, I had to get permission from the swami. After a couple of meetings with the elderly man, he gave me permission to do the studies on the condition that I first had to attend the Kirtans, or Hindu worship service, after which I could hold the study.

More people started attending the studies, which continued for some months, until a Saturday morning when I received a phone call from David asking me to rush to meet him at the temple. I jumped in the old Ford station wagon and did just that.

My years as a tongue speaker: Part 1 – Some background

Some background:

This is the first in a series on my life as a flaming Pentecostal; well maybe not so much flaming as in Holy Roller, but my life in the Charismatic/Pentecostal fold. It all began, strangely enough, in Portland, Oregon with what happened down at the local Odd Fellows Hall.

Two blocks from the family home in Northeast Portland, on Deacon and Durham Street, was the Odd Fellows Hall, which was rented out by different groups. It no longer exists, and probably the huge old wooden, two-story structure burned down. When Pentecostal meetings were sweeping Portland one met there and it was wild. We kids, my brothers and I plus a kid named Topsy, would sneak in and watch. We slipped in the back doors, found seats in the back, and got our entertainment. Since that day I have never seen anything quite like it. There was actual rolling around on the floor. My dad said nothing too bad but nothing too good about it all. I don’t know that he ever went in there, but he definitely went to the North Baptist Church about a mile from the house.

My dad had not yet become a Christian, a real one I mean, and I think he attended church out of tradition, because his folks were the quiet, serious kind of Baptists.

Jumping now to 1963 and the First Baptist Church of Fairfield, California and my conversion at age 21. I will not walk us through that here, but after a period of nine months of sporadic listening to the Gospel preached by Pastor Bob Lewis, I experienced the new birth. It is still mostly a mystery to me. Pastor Bob was in his mid-thirties and was serious about discipleship. A book he gave to all of us new believers was on the Bible-based American cults. It was a small volume and discussed only five such groups: Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Science, Adventists (Seventh Day), and Pentecostals.

Back then Pentecostals were rightfully included in such a book, but today that is not the case. Most people do not understand that in the early years of the 20th century Pentecostals earned the designation of “cult,” because they believed that they were the only ones really filled with the Holy Spirit and that speaking in tongues was the only sure mark of a real born-again Christian. This took them into the cultic realm.

So then, reading that book I was convinced that Pentecostals were cultic, and I gave them and their doctrines wide berth. This was my mind set all the way to 1968 and the Jesus People Movement.