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Madness centered on God

"Madness centered on God" Continued...

Issue: "Crackdown," July 18, 2009

Two days after that I joined the CACC to begin my war against communism, and my education in both the strengths and weaknesses of the Christian far right. The strengths were significant: Schwarz understood Marxism and had taught thousands of people about its dangers. He was personally kind-hearted to friends and unpretentious, living simply. He was a baseball fan: We went to Dodgers and Angels games and ate fried chicken in the stands. He understood that college and university leftists are "protectors and runners of interference for the communist conspirators."

That emphasis on conspiracy, though, was a weakness. I had started reading Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who noted, "If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." The tendency of beleaguered groups like the CACC was to comfort their supporters by making evil external. (The approach of G.K. Chesterton was better: When a London newspaper asked him to write an essay on what's wrong with the world, he responded, "I am.")

For several months in the summer of 1977, I had great satisfaction giving my Judaism/atheism/communism/Christ testimony first at a Knott's Berry Farm banquet and then in various U.S. cities. Audience members praised what I had done-but wait a minute, hadn't God done it? I then returned to California with the opportunity to spend time on the beach with Susan and our son Pete. We visited several churches, including one where the preacher spoke of the necessity of men "whuppin' their wives." We encountered Christian survivalists.

After another ego-gratifying speech in Indianapolis, a pastor shook my hand and suggested that I needed help. Edward A. Steele III, from a distinguished Presbyterian lineage, had gone to Yale 10 years before me and wanted to protect the university's reputation. Steele had an anti-communist perspective but saw the CACC as a crackpot organization with which a Yalie should not be yoked. I then spent four late-summer days with his family and himself, living in his manse and studying every day in the backyard, under Steele's tutelage, the book of Romans.

What I sensed from my own experience-that God was truly sovereign and I was truly helpless-I now began to understand theoretically. I returned to California with a suitcase full of systematic theology books and started interspersing my trips with hard study. At that time Schwarz and I argued about my answer to a major CACC funder's question about whether Martin Luther King Jr. was a communist. I had said "No," while noting that a couple of his associates were. Schwarz wanted me not to answer that question directly, and instead to imply that King had spoken about black and white but was red all over.

That was not right. I said that I would not answer questions that way. Schwarz insisted. I demurred. He suggested a parting of the ways and generously offered to fund for nine months my anti-communist activities anywhere in the country as long as it wasn't Indianapolis, where Steele's Reformed teaching would lead me astray and where I might lead astray the CACC's Indianapolis supporters. On Oct. 31, 1977, Susan and I packed up our Chevette and headed to . . . Indianapolis, of course.

It was madness. With an almost 5-month-old baby, and without significant savings or any clear income, we left southern California's comfortable climate and headed into what became Indianapolis' coldest winter in decades. But at least it was madness centered on God: My plan was to study the Bible with Ed Steele for a few months, and then maybe set up a study center. I had no plan as to how to do that and no experience that would even help me to set up a realistic plan.

The best that could have been said of me at the time was that I was a holy fool-and the next four months brought us close to disaster. We moved into a cheap rental house in a poor area of northern Indianapolis, tempted by a big side yard that offered the promise of a big spring garden. But blizzards came first. Our furnace failed. We bundled up Pete as the temperature inside dipped to 50 and falling. We tried to leave but could not get out of the driveway in our minimum-power Chevette.

Meanwhile, Ed Steele's church had just gone through a sad split that forced the pastor, his wife, and two sons to leave their lovely manse and move into an apartment. Nevertheless, Steele drove to our rescue in his big old, maximum-power gas-guzzler. We moved into the crowded Steele apartment for 10 days until we could move into an apartment nearby that cost more than I had planned to pay. (It had one useful perk: heat.)

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