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missler-abanes

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To all brother and sisters in Christ,

 

This letter is in response to the "Open Letter to Hank Hanegraaff" that was posted by Chuck Missler on his Koinonia House Internet Web site. (ed: Missler eventually took down the page).

 

He makes a number of statements in both his letter and his editorial notes to which I must respond. These statements deal not only with the article I wrote for the Christian Research Journal (Winter 1997, pp. 10-19, 46), but with my book American Militias (InterVarsity Press). Additionally, Missler has made comments in his letter that impugn my Christian character, professional ethics, journalistic abilities, and motivation for writing American Militias. These statements, too, will be dealt with in the following response.

 

First, Missler writes:

"It is my understanding that Chuck Smith tried to dissuade you Hank Hanegraaff from publishing it (the article)." This comment came as a great surprise to me since I was told by CRI senior researcher Elliot Miller (editor-in-chief, Christian Research Journal) that several months before publishing the article -- even before making a final commitment to running the story -- CRI had indeed received an okay from Chuck

 

Smith to proceed with the piece. Smith had, in fact, read the article in the presence of Miller and responded by saying that he saw no problems with it. I have confirmed these events with Hank Hanegraaff, who has additionally informed me that he himself spoke with Smith, and that Smith personally told him that the story was fit to print. Consequently, I have no idea why Missler believes Smith tried to dissuade Hanegraaff from running the story.

 

Second, Missler writes: "I have been very clear in my position regarding issues confronting us today as well as those that are written in His Word. To associate this calling and ministry with the 'Gospel of Hate' is personally abhorrent to me as well as totally foreign to everything this ministry stands for." Nowhere in my article or in my book do I state that Missler, or any other evangelical, is preaching a gospel of hate. I do conclusively prove, however, that certain individuals who are preaching a gospel of hate have been able to infiltrate -- this is the key word -- the Christian community. Such an infiltration has occurred because various evangelical leaders, in their zeal to unmask our government's ungodly deeds and/or prove a particular eschatology, have quoted from, endorsed, recommended, and directed Christians toward racist/anti-Semitic/white supremacist sources of information: e.g., Eustace Mullins, Nesta Webster, "Jayhawk Nazi" Gerald Winrod, Bo Gritz, and Spotlight, published by the Willis Carto's Liberty Lobby, which is one of the most influential purveyors of anti-Semitic propaganda in America.

 

Missler quoted from Spotlight. That is undeniable. Moreover, he provided readers of his Personal Update with the address of Spotlight in an apparent endorsement of the publication. This is exactly how Christians are being introduced to potentially damaging information that includes racist views, groundless conspiracy theories, various fear-inspiring rumors, and most assuredly, the gospel of hate preached by members of the Christian Identity movement.

 

It should also be noted that I took great pains to distance Missler from the racist views often promoted by Spotlight. On page 19 of my article, I firmly state: "Missler is not a racist. Nor is he anti-Semitic. Nevertheless, he has used white supremacist sources in his attempts to find news that supports his eschatological views." I attribute no unchristian motives to Missler. In fact, I go on to excuse to some degree Missler's actions by making the observation that he is quite possibly a victim who has "fallen into a trap laid long ago by Willis Carto," founder of the Liberty Lobby.

 

My article goes on to explain that Carto has for many years attempted to pose as a respectable conservative in order to disseminate anti-government propaganda. Over the decades he has set up numerous front organizations and publications in hopes of turning the country hard-right, primarily through popularizing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, holocaust denial, and a racist ideology.

 

Third, Missler asks: "How does this the article edify the Body?" I would respond by asking another question: How does Missler's posting of his letter on the Internet "edify" the body, especially when it contains unwarranted, personal attacks against me? But in response to Missler's question, I have received numerous phone calls and letters from people all over the country who have been greatly blessed by the article and my book. Many of them are Calvary Chapel attendees who have been disturbed by Missler's increasingly anti-government, conspiratorial tone. These individuals have been edified.

 

Fourth, Missler asks: "Why would you Hank Hanegraaff promote a book that is poorly researched and relies heavily on sources from the extreme left?" My book can hardly be called "poorly researched" since it contains 1,421 endnotes, most of which are gathered from such diverse sources as patriot/militia groups, Christians, non-Christian conservatives, and racist/anti-Semites. Regarding my reliance on "sources from the extreme left," this is almost the exact wording used in a negative review of my book in this month's issue of The New American, published by The John Birch Society. The review stated that my book rests on nothing but leftist sources: "Morris Dees, Kenneth Stern, Chip Berlet, Ken Toole, and sundry other left-wing 'experts.' "

 

But the facts speak for themselves. As previously mentioned, my 296-page book contains 1,421 endnotes. Of these references, I quote Ken Toole only 6 times, Stern gets 10 mentions, and Berlet has 13 endnotes. I do not quote Morris Dees at all. I do, however, cite his publication Klanwatch a total of 4 times. This adds up to 33 endnotes; less than 2-1/2% of my sources. Any other sources that might be considered "leftist" provide, at the most, an additional 2-1/2% of references. It should also be noted that the alleged "leftist" sources I quote are often themselves simply quoting people on the "right." I also quote statistics they give, rather than interpretation of statistics. This is very different from how evangelical leaders are quoting racist/anti-Semitic sources.

 

Missler's claim that my book "relies heavily" on such sources would be dismissed as utterly absurd by any reputable scholar or professional journalist. Moreover, Missler's indictment makes it seem as if I, too, am somehow on a mission from the left to destroy God-fearing, patriotic, anti-New World Order Christians. He all but paints me as yet another conspirator in league with the government. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I strongly condemn the government in my book (pp. 13-14, 17-19, 227, 228), especially for its outrageous conduct at Ruby Ridge and Waco (pp. 47-49, 60-61).

 

As early as my introduction I state: "Making the current situation even worse has been the government's refusal to ease the justifiable fears and frustrations of patriots" (p. 4). At the book's end, I appeal to a Media Bypass interview with Colorado Senator Charles Duke (p. 228). Both Media Bypass and Duke are well-known patriot sources. These are certainly not left-wing sources.

 

Fifth, Missler declares: "Any discerning review of Abanes's malicious work reveals that it is deceitfully crafted to smear the brethren." It is here that Missler has left the realm of honest disagreement/thoughtful criticism and entered the arena of sin. In my view, his statement is in clear violation of the commandment: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" (Ex. 20:16). By calling my work "malicious" and "deceitfully crafted," he is essentially calling me a deceiver who is purposefully, and with malice of forethought, seeking to destroy the brethren through spreading lies. This is not a comment on my work, but an indictment of my Christian character and walk with God. I contacted him personally regarding this matter and asked for three things: 1) an apology; 2) removal of the letter, or at least those parts referring to my character; and 3) a full retraction of those statements implying that I was a deceiver.

 

Interestingly, Missler admitted to me that he has not yet even read my book, which makes his outright condemnation of it rather perplexing, to say the least. He also apologized and asked for my forgiveness for posting the letter, which is an admission of guilt. He then promised that he would have a

 

retraction printed up and placed on his Internet site. These responses gave me great hope for reconciliation. But on February 13, I was informed by a Koinonia House representative that Missler had decided that he would not removed the letter, nor would he print a retraction. Missler also refused to go on Don Matzat's "Issues, Etc." national radio program to discuss the issue with me.

 

Unfortunately, by posting his letter on the Internet, he has put me in an extremely difficult position regarding Matthew 18. He has, in a sense, already brought the whole subject up before the church in a very public manner. I have already been asked to defend myself during radio interviews, through E-mails, by telephone, and in letters. I, therefore, have no choice but to now discuss the issue openly.

 

Sixth, concerning his referral to the Spotlight and the American Patriot Fax Network (APFN), Missler states:

 

"Abanes's book builds its case on a Single bibliographic note concerning an article about the court martial of Michael New . . . . we gratefully acknowledged the source that had called our attention to this ostensible miscarriage of justice. Regardless of the source, the information reported about Michael New proved correct. . . . In our article, the reference to Spotlight and APFN was in no way intended to be an endorsement."

 

This is an inaccurate assessment of my position. I do not mention Missler simply for noting the source of a story, but for giving the address where readers could obtain a subscription to Spotlight and APFN. Furthermore, there was no warning or qualifier regarding the anti-Semitic nature of Spotlight or APFN (see American Militias). Additionally, I clearly demonstrate that Missler has done much more than just quote one or two sources in a single publication. His literature consistently echoes patriot/militia rumors (such as the possibility that the government bombed OKC building), patriot/militia catch words and phrases (such as references to the "D.C." in Washington D. C. standing for the "District of Corruption"), and patriot/militia perceptions (such as the view that our political system is now worthless and there only remains two camps: Constitutionalists vs. New World Order conspirators). Thus, he is indeed a major bridge between patriot/militia ideologies and mainstream Christianity.

 

Seventh, Missler states: "The Christian Research Journal article here referenced, published by the Christian Research Institute, presents as fact material that is grossly distorted from the truth." Grossly distorted from the truth? I do not agree. All I did was quote what Missler himself had said and done. I then proceeded to further explain the background of the sources he quoted.

 

Eighth, Missler states: "No attempt was made by Hank Hanegraaff or CRI to contact Chuck Missler or Koinonia House prior to publication of the CRI article to discern the truth or fiction of the Abanes material as it relates to Chuck Missler." In truth, CRI did seek to discover whether my information was true or not. I was asked by Elliot Miller to provide CRI with photocopies of every document I quoted in the article. I complied. There was no need to call Missler to verify the information. CRI already had the documents in hand that supported my article.

 

Moreover, I have tried in the past to personally contact Missler regarding his erroneous endorsements of patriot/militia-related materials. I have never received a response from him. In 1994, for example, Missler used a Monday night main sanctuary church service at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa to recommend the now widely discredited Waco: The Big Lie video, produced by Indianapolis militia personality Linda Thompson. This tape alleges that during the Davidian raid ATF agents murdered one another and that the whole affair was part of a complex New World Order conspiracy that reached far into the White House. It also purports to show evidence that the FBI tanks set fire to the Davidian structure on the last day of the siege. Several conservative publications -- Soldier of Fortune, Gun Week, Machine Gun News -- have denounced this tape as a propaganda tool, complete with historical inaccuracies and altered film sequences.

 

I contacted Missler's ministry about his recommending of this tape not only at Calvary Chapels, but at other churches nationwide. It was confirmed to me that he was indeed sanctioning the video during his cross-country speaking engagements. In an effort to help him and his staff, I sent a package of materials that included my home phone number in case Missler needed more information (see enclosed). Neither he, nor a Koinonia House representative, ever responded to my initial contact with the ministry. A follow-up call by me confirmed that Missler had received the package. However, I never saw or heard a retraction from Missler for his endorsement of the Linda Thompson video. To date, I continue to meet Christians, many from Southern California Calvary Chapels, who refer to the Thompson tape as "the truth" about Waco. When asked how they learned about the tape, many have responded: "Chuck Missler."

 

In conclusion, I can only say that it is surprising to me that a man of Chuck Missler's status would stoop to misrepresentation of the facts in order to justify himself. Furthermore, it is ironic that before contacting me, Missler would publicly accuse me of personally sinning against him. This is in clear violation of Matthew 18. In short, he has done exactly what he is accusing me of doing. Matthew 18, of course, does not even apply to me or my article, since I do not accuse Missler of a personal sin, but only comment on what he himself had already said publicly. He, however, does accuse me of personal sin by saying that I "deceitfully crafted" the book in order to smear the brethren. My hope is that Missler will repent. I ask that everyone please keep him in their prayers. As he himself said in his letter to CRI,

 

"Repentance needs continually to be on all our hearts."

 

One in Christ,

 

Richard Abanes


 

Open Letter from Richard Abanes to Chuck Missler

 

February 22, 1997

 

To: Chuck Missler

c/o: Colin/John Loeffler

Fr: Richard Abanes

Re: Current Reconciliation Process

cc: Misc. Internet Sites, Misc. Calvary Chapel Pastors, Chuck Smith, Bob & Gretchen Passantino

 

Dear Chuck,

 

I appreciated your phone call yesterday. It was an important step toward complete reconciliation. This letter is my way of clarifying the details of our conversation so that we can avoid future misunderstandings, inaccurate statements, or damaging comments. First, I accept your apology for having stated on the Warren Duffy show that I was not a Christian. You mentioned to me on the phone that you did not remember the exact wording you used on the program. In order to make sure of exactly what was said, I reviewed my recording of the show. It contains the following dialogue:

 

Duffy: I read a magazine article about you. You were connected with the militia movement. Are you getting weird on me Chuck Missler?

Missler: There is someone that we view as posing as a Christian, who is doing a smear attack on people like Chuck Smith, Don McAlvaney, Texe Marrs, uh, myself, uh, Pat Robertson. Implying that we're anti-Semitic. Implying that we're racist, and so forth. And this has been picked up by some prominent Christian newsletters, and has been the result of great deal of revelation, if you will, on the Internet and the rest.

 

It is somewhat difficult for me to understand why you made this accusation after our February 4, 1997 conversation in which you apologized and asked for my forgiveness for the comments contained in your Internet-posted "Open Letter to Hank Hanegraaff." Nevertheless, I am willing to accept your most recent apology for the accusation made on Duffy's show.

 

Second, during your teaching at Calvary Chapel you clearly implied that I was someone from the "Christian left." This is untrue. As I explained to you on the phone yesterday, I am a Christian conservative, both doctrinally and socially/politically. It was encouraging to hear you apologize for this comment and I look forward to your next speaking engagement at Calvary Chapel (March 7) when you will, according to your promise to me yesterday, retract this charge and apologize for making it. I also look forward to having the statement you made on the Warren Duffy show corrected during your next appearance at Calvary since a number of people who heard Duffy's program no doubt attended the February 14 service in which you mentioned me by name. A number of other comments made during your teaching at Calvary last week will also need to be corrected on March 7. They are as follows:

 

1. You implied that I called you anti-Semitic. In reality, I state the very opposite in the CRI article where I wrote: "Chuck Missler is not a racist. Nor is he anti-Semitic."

2. You stated that "book reviews of the book American Militias have been very disparaging." To my knowledge the only negative review I have received appeared in The New American, published by the John Birch Society. Positive reviews have appeared in Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Religion Bookline, Books and Culture, and The Nation.

3. You stated that I am at the "head of the list" of 106 disgruntled ex-CRI employees. This is untrue. The list in your possession is a list of ALL former CRI employees who left CRI since Hank Hanegraaff took over CRI leadership. My name appears first simply because my last name begins with "Ab." My wife is listed second. Neither of us have been, or are now, disgruntled ex-CRI employees.

 

I am extremely pleased that you have arranged for the tape of your Friday night lecture to no longer be offered by Word for Today at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa. Again, this is an important step toward reconciliation. Unfortunately, damage has been done, and continues to be done, to my reputation. As you know, I have been forced during this last week to defend myself in numerous public arenas. Because of the strength of statements you made and the swiftness with which they are circulating, I feel that I must continue to defend myself until the following public steps of repentance are taken by you:

 

1. The "Open Letter to Hank Hanegraaff," or at least its comments regarding my character, must be completely pulled from your Web site. As of 2/22/97, the letter's link had been removed from the main Page, but the search engine continues to pull up the letter if "Abanes" or "Hanegraaff" is searched. Also, the letter can be accessed if someone knows the URL page. I had hoped that the letter would be pulled completely off of your site by now, especially since you have apologized to me for the errors in its contents. This remains a crucial part of the reconciliation process.

 

2. I still expect to see in the very near future a full retraction of the letter's comments that impugn my Christian character (see prior E-mail sent to your assistant, Colin). I hope that the retraction will be made within the next 3 days. After all, in our conversations of more than one week ago you indicated to me that you would, at the very least, pull the letter's offending comments and print a retraction. But people continue to have access to the letter on your site. Consequently, I look forward to see in the letter pulled very soon.

 

3. A full public apology must be made regarding your February 14 accusations relating to my Christianity. This, as we agreed yesterday, will take place during your next Calvary Chapel teaching (March 7). I look forward to hearing you inform the congregation that I am indeed a conservative Christian rather than a non-Christian, or an individual from the Christian left. The many other books I have written clearly reveal that I am indeed a conservative believer.

 

I am blessed by your repentance to me in private and await the above three steps to be taken publicly so that both of us may put this issue behind us. Until then, I will continue to update the church and speak the truth publicly when asked about our reconciliation process.

 

One in Christ,

 

Richard Abanes

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