Monday, July 27, 2015

on 8 comments

New Book of Interest: Heretics and Politics

A new book has just been published and is being released as per the attached announcement (see attachment).

As most of you know, I had a life prior to my life as an evangelical pastor, and in this former life I was on the faculty of two colleges, Jackson College of Ministries in Jackson, Mississippi and Cascade Bible College in Portland, Oregon. Some of you to whom I am sending this missive were either faculty or students at one or the other of these institutions. Others of you may have an interest in this book because you know or knew some of the principle people concerned.

 In short, this book, researched and written by historian Thomas Fudge (University of New England, New South Wales, Australia), details the demise of Cascade Bible College and its link to Jackson College of Ministries via the life and ministry of Donald W. Fisher. Closely associated with Fisher, of course, were Dr. Joseph Howell and myself. Since all three of us figure prominently in this historical narrative, I thought you might want to be aware of its publication. I have read a preliminary draft, and so far as I can see, the historical details seems to be correct. This treatment documents a sector of religious history that would otherwise be lost entirely except in the fading memory of the few who were participants.

If some of you take the time to read the book, I, for one, would be interested in your reflections, especially from those who were in some way linked to these institutions.

Click here to view the promotional flyer for the new book.

8 comments:

  1. Fudge did a good job placing UPC politics and cultural conflict in the larger context of "heretics and politics" in religion/history in general.

    I could only shake my head sadly at the account--which I know firsthand is accurate--of Portland-area pastors, vulture-like, demanding student tithes from a small, struggling college. Picking CBC's bones like vultures for thirty pieces of silver would have been disgusting enough; they were doing it for the relative pennies students tithed from their jobs at a soda fountain or such.

    Fudge's conclusions about Don Fisher's ultimate career destiny were correct, in my opinion. He was a brilliant man and administrator, though with only a bachelor's from a small college, he didn't have a chance in hell of landing an administrator's job in secular education. I'd often wondered why he didn't try and further his education, and mentioned this to Skip Paynter. Skip very astutely observed that DWF was not an academic at heart, but grew impatient if academics did not produce the changes he deemed important. "He would have chafed at the years a graduate degree would require," Skip said. I could just imagine how lively his meetings with his thesis or dissertation adviser would have been.

    Don Fisher was not a poker player. I don't mean that disparagingly. I became a pretty good one. I don't mean that as a compliment. But every good poker player knows: it is foolish to continue playing a hand he knows he can't win. Is poker analogous to life. Mostly. Poker is a long series of hands in which the good player folds most of the time, waiting for his cards. Don Fisher approached his life and career as one single hand of poker which he had to make work at any cost. While that was not my approach, I cannot fault him for that.

    As much as I think I've left that life behind, I get emotional reading Heretics and Politics, as well as Christianity Without the Cross. Those are not just footnotes and academic sources, they are men and women whose lives intersected mine, with whom I laughed, cried, worked, played, and lived.

    God, how young and innocent we all were from 1975-1980.

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  2. Just got my copy of Tom Fudge’s recently published "Heretics and Politics: Theology, Power, and Perception in the Last Days of CBC." I have only read the first third of the book, but so far it sounds like the "Howell and Lewis Show."

    The first section – on the JCM days as the prelude to the fall of CBC – places a lot of the focus upon Dan Lewis and me and the impact of our teaching on the "lost generation" of our students.

    Now, it has been a long time, but as I remember it, all the bad things that were "done and said" were done and said by Dan. I don’t remember being involved in any of this.

    I, of course, was just young and impressionable – an innocent, dare I say a sheep among the wolves. I was barely more than a teenager.

    Therefore, I must hold Dan Lewis personally responsible for the whole affair.

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  3. I heartily concur with young Brother Joe, who has taken the honorable path.

    Yes, my dear Brother Joe was but a broth of a lad, led astray by older and more sinister figures from the dark side.

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  4. Yeah, yeah, yeah! Joe, I always thought it was you and the social consciousness of the 8th century prophets class you taught--not to mention your specious treatment of the Letter to the Romans with that bunk about grace and faith! Truth be told, we were all pretty young at that point!

    I haven't seen the finished copy yet, since I'm in England at the moment doing some lectures, but as soon as I get home, I'm eager to get a look at Fudge's final version. I saw an earlier version, but I understand it is much expanded from when I perused it. I'll share whatever perspective I have when I get a chance to read it.

    Love you, Bro!

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  5. Actually, I always thought Jim Wilkins was the real puppet master. Quiet and assuming in public, but behind the scenes a theological Robespierre.

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  6. In many ways, this was a depressing read. I did not know the story after DWF's resignation from the CBC presidency in 1983.

    The book did even one like me, who was part of the action at JCM in the "glory years," frame some context and perspective regarding DWF. Regarding education reform in the UPC, he was a driven idealist. He perhaps was not a poker player. A good poker player lives by Kenny Rogers' axiom. Paraphrasing: only a fool continues to play a hand that he knows he can't win.

    Fudge quoted TLC regarding those of us in the "lost generation." I have to include myself in that number. Though I have gone "further out" than probably all of you and am not religious at all these days, I have to say that DWF influenced my thinking. He might rejoice in the "leaving UPC" part, though not the remainder of the path I have trod. Like Dan and DWF and probably others of you, I have learned that standing for your beliefs and principles will cost you dearly, even to your heart being broken by losing one that you love.

    Regarding that lost generation, TLC said that DWF was responsible for many young people no longer being UPC. That's true, but I've met many others, including our contemporaries from prominent UPC families, who made the journey out because they learned to think critically. Many of these never heard of Don Fisher.

    What was DWF's legacy regarding education INSIDE the UPC? Obviously, an utter failure. The UPC is perhaps more backward in this respect than ever, stubbornly clinging to this unaccredited "Bible School" motif wherein such schools are really just glorified Sunday Schools.

    But regarding those of us he influenced who "left" ... I think DWF's real legacy is that he showed educational--and critical thinking reform--is absolutely impossible inside the UPC. To me, that is a worthy legacy and for that, I honor his memory.

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  7. Your reflections are - as always - insightful.

    My initial response to completing the book was almost exactly the same as yours.

    A few days ago, I responded to an inquiry from Ed Kozar, an old ABI compatriot and retired UPC pastor -- and the only guy I know on the Internet that is a bigger curmudgeon than you Tim -- about my first impressions of the book and I wrote these words:

    "I was a little . . . depressed, I guess is the right word when I finished the book. I was unaware of the details of the "collapse" of Don Fisher's life - especially his treatment of Donna and the girls. This left me feeling quite sad."

    Anyway, I have just finishing scanning my "Suggested Reading List for Theological Students" from May 1981 to which Fudge repeatedly referred. I will post it to this the mailing list later today with some explanatory comments.

    I wonder if there is any chance we could persuade the good Reverend Lewis to share his 'Journey Out" article as well. I, for one, would love to read it.

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  8. I’ve just now been able to start reading Fudge’s new work, and while I’m only into it a hundred pages or so, I would be remiss if I did not express heartfelt appreciation for the four men who have been most influential in my life. My dad is one, as you might expect, but the other three are all “stars” in this book: C. H. Yadon, Joseph Howell and Donald W. Fisher. No matter what else has been said or done or what will be said or done in the future, I am grateful to God that I was able to rub shoulders with these four men. They have been incredibly helpful in more ways that I could possibly enumerate!

    As to the book, I’m enjoying it so far. I must confess that reading about one’s colleagues and oneself after more than three decades is more than a little strange! So far, however, Fudge seems to have got it right in my view. He includes some priceless quotes, not the least of which is the one by Howard Goss in response to some who thought that the UPC Manual had been directed by the Holy Spirit. “I know better than that. The Lord had nothing to do with it. I wrote a lot of it myself.” What wonderful frankness!

    I’m just glad we don’t live in the 15th century. If I did (or if you, Joe, had lived then) we’d both we the names on some old pub—the “Sign of the Dangling Heretics” or something like that!

    Finally, I still wish to stake my claim on the ethical principles, academic vision, and theological introspection that we advocated back then. We were young, I’ll grant you, but we had some things right, in spite of being somewhat naïve (well, I’ll at least speak for myself regarding the latter).

    It’s been great being in touch with you all!

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