Michael Brown Responds
July 23rd, 2009
Timothy Kincaid and I have exchanged several emails with Michael Brown since publishing my article, “Anti-Gay Extremists Predict “Flash Point” for Charlotte Pride” on Monday. It’s been a cordial exchange; his opening line gave me a good glimpse of his humor: “A colleague just pointed out your new article to me, and obviously, we’re in two completely different worlds here.” Of the many things in which Dr. Brown and I disagree, obviously that much is something I can say “Amen” to.
Dr. Brown took the time to write several very lengthy emails. Unfortunately, his first emails to me bounced because because my inbox was full. And once I cleared that logjam out, the rest of his emails came while I was working on my day job, I confess that my responses were considerably shorter and incomplete, probably coming off as terse. So for that, I’ll begin by publicly apologizing for that.
He had several bones to pick with me, and I concede that a few of those points are legitimate, and so I’ve made some modifications to the original article. I’ll point those out as we come to them. On some of the other points he raised, I’m not so sure I agree with him and I’ll discuss those as well. That said, let’s dive in.
First, Dr. Brown wanted to address my concerns about what I believe to be his violent rhetoric:
As for my use of “revolutionary” or “violent” language, perhaps my recent article will be of help. I’m simply following on the heels of Christian tradition and the New Testament – and always with absolutely clarity and full qualification of my points. (For example, if you recall my “revolution” message at the Exodus conference, when I quoted Elaine Brown, I spoke of her organization as being a negative example that we did not want to emulate – because of their violence – stating only that she exemplified the way revolutionaries think, and that mentality was in harmony with Jesus’ words that, “if you find your life, you lose it; if you lose it for me and the gospel, you find it.”). Jesus is our example – He laid down His life and renounced violence – and we seek to follow in His footsteps.”
True, he did say that. After having reviewed his talk again, I agreed that including the additional information about what he said would provide a more complete context. I added the following portion in italics to that paragraph:
Citing such revolutionaries as Elaine Brown of the Black Panthers (“Even the notion of dying for something bigger than you was far more powerful than living out a life of quiet desperation.”), he said “the key to overcoming the forces of hell” was the willingness to embrace martyrdom. While he said that the Elaine Brown’s quote represented a negative example, he also said that for Christians it was compatible with Luke 17:33 (“Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”).
Brown then corrected me on my earlier statement when I wrote that, “One of the participants at the Toronto Blessing was Steve Hill.”
“Also, just for the record, Steve Hill never attended the Toronto Blessing, and to give you perspective, the great bulk of the scandalous articles of the PNJ (scandalous in terms of their journalism) came out in Nov. 1997; the revival continued well into 2000. At the time the articles were written, our school had 510 students. From fall 1998 until 2000, we had well over 1,000. We only grew and increased after the articles came out, one reason being that most of the people who knew us in the city knew the reports were false.”
My source for that information wasn’t the Pensacola News-Journal, but another conservative Pentecostal web site that was critical of the Brownsville revival. It turns out that the source I used for that wasn’t accurate, and I apologize for the error. Hill’s involvement with the Toronto Blessing was a bit more indirect. Therefore, I’ve deleted that sentence in Monday’s post and replaced it with this:
The Toronto Blessing spawned several other revivals, one notable one being a revival in the United Kingdom at Holy Trinity Brompton in London. In fact, it was the British press which dubbed the revival “The Toronto Blessing.” And that’s where an American Assemblies of God evangelist by the name of Steve Hill reportedly received “The Blessing” at Brompton.
More generally, Brown was critical of our links to the Pensacola News-Journal for some of the criticisms of the Brownsville Revival:
For the sake of Christian integrity, however, I should point out that your characterizations of the Brownsville Revival are as false and misleading as the quotes you lift from the thoroughly discredited stories from the Pensacola News Journal (interestingly, that infamous series of articles was sandwiched between years of glowing coverage about the revival in the PNJ which preceded those articles and then no more negative reports in the years that followed the reports). There are thousands of hours of footage of the meetings available for all to see and hear, none of which concur with the ridiculous reports of the critics, while the fruit of wonderfully changed lives (to this day) remains as a witness to what Jesus did in those meetings.
As for the PNJ’s journalistic integrity, I will leave that for you to decide as to whom you’d prefer to believe. It does strike me as a count in the PNJ’s favor that they wrote both positive and negative articles, which leads me to believe they were capable of covering the Brownsville Revival with a measure of impartiality. Dr. Brown obviously disagrees, and strongly so. So I guess we’re at something of a stalemate there for the time being. Dr. Brown however did recommend a book by Steve Rabey titled Revival in Brownsville: Pensacola, Pentecostalism, and the Power of American Revivalism, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers (the Bible publishing people).
Brown believes that by quoting from Matt Comer’s article in InterstateQ, I mischaracterized his 2005 action against Charlotte Pride:
I’m not sure how to correct the completely false, anonymous report about our involvement in Charlotte Pride, 2005, other than to point out that it’s fascinating that these charges just surface now, for the first time, four years later. Unfortunately, it presents a 100% false picture of our involvement that day – shall I direct to you some of the 100+ people who were there that day to speak with them for yourself? – and the report is as ludicrous as claiming that we raided a gay bar and hit people over the head with Bibles. It is not who we are anymore than you and Timothy are secretly running a branch of the gay Taliban.
In a second email, he strongly emphasized this:
Under no circumstances did any of our people do such a thing. Under no circumstances did they communicate with the children who were there, and under no circumstances did they tell them that their parents were sinners going to hell, and under no circumstances did they harass people.
I’m not sure how anyone can vouch for all 100-plus people at an event like that, particularly with the assurance of “under no circumstances.” It may well have been that they were instructed that “under no circumstances” were they to speak with children or harass people, but I can’t see how anyone could make such a guarantee. I also suspect that a Pride-goer’s idea of harassment is likely very different from Dr. Brown’s under these circumstances. I also see that Dr. Brown has been exchanging similar emails with Ali Davis at 365gay.com. She notes that an article in the Charlotte Observer at the time also reported “some tense interactions, and notes one named source who says she was told she was going to hell.”
But that led to, I think, his main problem with the piece: our expressed concern that by having 1,000 people to confront (or surround in prayer or witness to or whatever anyone might want to call it) those who plan on attending Charlotte Pride.
As to your concerns about violence breaking out at our event on July 25th, there’s no more chance of that than there is a chance of it happening at a Sunday morning church service where we worship and pray together, although the spate of recent articles predicting this very thing makes me wonder if some will be disappointed when the Jesus-focused, Lamb-like nature of the participants is manifest for the whole world to see.
Dr. Brown gave his assurances in another email to Timothy Kincaid that for this year, the red-shirted participants will remain across the street from the the Pride festivities and will not interfere with those who want to attend:
Our red-shirted participants will NOT be trying to intercept people going into the event. If folks want to talk with us, we’d be delighted to do so, but our red-shirted folks (whom we can clearly identify and hold to our terms of commitment) will not be trying to intercept anyone. We will have a sufficient presence in prayer just by being there.
I hope he’s right. Believe me, I do hope he’s right and he will be able to hold his thousand or more red-shirted folks to their “lamb-like” commitments. And I take him at his word that he will do everything he can to make sure that happens. A thousand people though, that’s a lot to keep track of. And besides that, a crowd of a thousand people is an intimidating presence, no matter their intentions.
Think of it: What if we were to gather a thousand red-shirted LGBT activists — and let’s face it, they would be activists because ordinary people are rarely motivated to mount such an action — and have them gather at a park where a church picnic or festival was taking place, promising them that if they do this, that the religious right would meet its “high water mark” and that it all “stops there”? For good measure, we’ll go to a city that is “takeable” and promise to attack the “demonic spirit” that rules their ideology. Okay, we don’t speak in terns of demonic spirits, but you get the picture.
Wouldn’t the people attending that church picnic or festival have every right to be concerned? More significantly, wouldn’t they have every right to take the action as a serious and deeply held affront? I can just hear Focus On the Family now.
Brown and Engle characterize this publicly as an evangelical outreach effort. If that is their intention, then they may well rejoice if one or a few out of the crowd decides to “find God.” But for every one they do manage to reach by some great miracle, they will likely push countless others much, much further away. Surely, they must understand the consequences of that. That’s why I find it hard to believe that the intent is to convert. If it is, then Dr. Brown and Mr. Engle have hopelessly unrealistic expectations for what they hope to accomplish.
But I don’t think that’s what they really want to accomplish. It’s something very different, as reinforced by this press release issued just moments ago:
According to Dr. Michael Brown, director of the Charlotte-based Coalition of Conscience and the organizer of the event, “Nothing like this has ever been done in conjunction with a gay pride event in any city before, and those who join together on this day will be part of history in the making.”
Brown’s event is being actively supported by Lou Engle, national director of TheCall to Action. Engle, who advocates bringing about cultural change through prayer and fasting, believes that the “God Has a Better Way” rally could be a national flash point, with the goal that homosexual activism “stops here.”
Speaking of Lou Engle, Dr. Brown didn’t like how his friend was quoted in the SPLC article as saying, “If I die, I die” and “Shoot everything!” Dr. Brown wanted me to understand that there’s really no such thing as a Joel’s Army — which is true insofar as I understand that it’s not an organization but a movement. But most importantly, he wanted me to understand that Engle wasn’t speaking literally but in metaphor:
I urge you to listen to Lou’s words in the context of his entire message; it is next to impossible to hear him speak and to take away any message other than our call to prayer and fasting. It would be like telling a rowing crew, “We’re going to fly down this river!” and think that they would take this to mean that they are supposed to become birds!
I understand metaphor. I also believe I can understand context. But I also understand that sometimes context is in the eye of the beholder as well as the speaker. So let’s try this: look at this video of Lou Engle and tell me what you think:
Rampant rape and molestation. Your children won’t be safe. Our whole culture will be like Sodom and Gomorrah. We’re in a Joel 2 moment. A Jezebel-Elijah showdown. This is survival of nations. Tremble you kings!
How much of all that is metaphor? Or is this guy, who is one half of God Has A Better Way, someone we should be concerned about?
Wouldn’t those Christians in my hypothetical park be equally concerned and insulted if they saw rhetoric like that coming from a leader of those red-shirted LGBT activists?
You bet they would, and rightfully so.