10. Major find Survivor
On the first Sunday in the New Year 2005, I had remembered to attend the advertised meeting in Gawler, about 45 kilometer north of Adelaide. That week the bi-annual Youth Convention of the Uniting Church was held in that town. The service that afternoon was to celebrate 50th years since this event first started. The Uniting Church had hired this church building just for this meeting. I arrived and sat down early in the still almost empty auditorium. A tall man, about 40 years old, asked if he could sit beside me. He introduced himself as Eric.
He asked why I was here. I mentioned the memorial service I had attended at W.L. and reading the announcement of this service in their church newsletter. I explained: “As soon as I noticed it, something inside me said, you’ll be there”. He seemed to accept this without further query. He knew the lady Minister at W.L., who had just taken over that parish. Despite not knowing anybody, sitting with this man gave me a feeling of belonging. I believed I was meant to be there on that Sunday afternoon. The theme of the sermon was: “And it came to pass.”
As soon as Eric, a Uniting Church Pastor, had given me his name, I was reminded of an email I had sent 3 days earlier, enquiring about a man named Eric. As mentioned, my life had taken on a peculiar pattern. One bit of information here seemed to be leading to another there, possibly thousands of miles away. I was not looking for any of these connections. I just took notice, knowing that as soon as I were to start fabricating matching data, I would not be truthful and in real danger of going crazy.
Who then was this other Eric, I hear you ask? His name came to my attention reading a book by well-known author Philip Yancey. I had looked forward to reading his title ‘Soul Survivor’, because Yancey had a reputation for ‘outside the box’ writing. Looking back now, I should have left it at that, just reading the title.
In ‘Mind’ Chapter 52 I had cast doubts on another book, a bestseller - ‘The Heavenly Man’ - querying the truthfulness of its contents. There was no reaction, let alone an answer to my bold probing. The author of “The Heavenly Man, Paul Hattaway, was only a little known writer. But to doubt a work by Philip Yancey, I felt out of place, to even hint at any irregularity. He is regarded as one of the most successful and widely read Christian authors of our day. I let the reader be the judge of my reasoning.
The title of Yancey’s book is badly chosen. ‘Soul Survivor’ suggests the book is about an inner battle or losing and finding the soul. Instead, Yancey writes about 13 leaders, people who had made an impact on his life. The subtitle - How my faith survived the church – does not display a humble attitude. Everything we have comes from God, we should never boast about what ‘our’ faith has achieved. God’s grace and HIS gift of faith, moulds us into who we are. HIS love and compassion enables us to walk by faith, following HIS footsteps. Philip Yancey’s ‘surviving’ the church, despite the hurts it had caused, was all to God’s glory.
Unlike Yancey’s other books, Soul Survivor does not include one recommendation from a high-profile fellow writer or clergyman. His book “What’s so amazing about grace” starts with 2 pages of nice comments by ten famous people.
Soul Survivor is copyright SCCT. Who is that? Should it not just be Philip Yancey? Still in the preliminaries, I also found something amusing, as if they were trying to pull my leg on purpose. A string of numbers just underneath the copyright statement reads: 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 – that’s it. Why not complete the sequence, instead of leaving out the obvious missing ones? (I never forget the date 1/2/03 that’s why I noticed).
All publisher’s data at the beginning of the publication, is Great Britain oriented; from the British Library Cataloguing, to typesetting by Avon Dataset, to printing and binding by Clays Ltd. St. Ives plc, to the actual publishers, Hodder and Stoughton. London. His second paragraph in the acknowledgments start with: “My publisher at Doubleday in New York …” Which is it or am I dumb?
I had not reached the main body of the book and was already confused by these conflicting facts. In the ‘acknowledgements’ Yancey’s Agent, Kathryn Helmers receives kind words of thanks for her help ‘far beyond an Agents job description’. The famous author specifically mentions her help with ‘thematic organisation and cover choices’, whatever these were supposed to mean. Kathryn also receives thanks for help in ‘sentence structure’.
Why would a world-famous, experienced author need help with sentence structure from his agent? Am I asking too many questions?
I didn’t read all of ‘Soul Survivor’; it was too tedious, many times causing my eyelids to drop, as I reached for the off-button on the bedside lamp. Outrageous claims about two of his idols, one who was not even professing to be a Christian, had me thinking further. Firstly, on page 18 Yancey writes about Martin Luther King jr.
“As for the other charge, accusations of King’s sexual immorality reflect historical fact, not rumors.”
This sounded interesting. For the first time I had read that Martin Luther King jr., an ordained Minister, carried on extra-marital affairs up until the eve of his death! If this was a true fact (the claim was made by the FBI), why did Yancey include this man of God as one of the people, who shaped his views? Can you have a role model, whose theology you admire, but whose character you despise? Yancey does not in any way elaborate on King’s alleged moral problems.
I found it hard to grasp that a Minister of Religion, fighting for justice for an oppressed minority, speaking like a man with conviction with God’s special touch, would betray his wife and millions of his followers. King was a winner. He won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. Why would God have blessed this man’s work, if he were a liar and an adulterer? It doesn’t make sense. Anybody who desires God’s special blessing on his or her life’s mission, must first repent of any known sin and stop living a lie.
What puzzles me too is that Yancey obviously believed the FBI’s findings, even defended them. He writes (still page 18): “Frankly, I find it easier to understand Kings sexual failings, a sin in which he has much company, than his plagiarism.” (King was also accused of this mischief). Frankly, I’m unsure what is more shocking, the FBI’s findings about King’s immorality or Yancey’s acceptance and elevation of King as his hero.
The second hard to believe story in Soul Survivor (and I haven’t read much about the other 11) is about Mahatma Gandhi, the respected, Indian independence fighter. To the best of my knowledge he lived a clean life, but did not commit himself the Christian faith. To include a non-Christian personality as role model in a Christian book, I find rather unusual. (Or was it his name ‘G and hi’ that Yancey admired? Hi to you too).
On page 144 Yancey writes that Mahatma Gandhi supposedly tested his vow of chastity by sleeping with nude, young woman. In the next sentence he states that Gandhi mistreated his wife. How extra-ordinary!
Mistreating his wife, if I would believe it, I could picture. But how did he arrange the circumstances, enroll willing young ladies, with whom he wanted to proof his vow of chastity? Did he knock on a friend’s door and ask: “Excuse me, my friend, I’d like to proof that I can keep my vow of sexual purity. Would you mind if your daughter slept nude beside me in my bed tonight?”
A writer of the caliber of Yancey should not have left the statement – ‘slept with nude young woman’, unexplained, if there was any truth in the statement. It all smells a bit fishy.
Just as I was writing and looking at ‘Soul Survivor’ again, I just noticed the latest strange twist. One of Yancey’s characters he writes about is a man named Buechner. In chapter 52 of ‘Mind’ I report about a doubtful Evangelist’s name whose initials I had given only as A.H. His surname in full is Huebner. I drew attention to the possibility of this man inventing an online Missionary work, taking cash from people, without actually lifting a finger, except operating a keyboard and mouse.
(I had written an email to a Missionary in Kenya, asking it they knew of the crusade planed for Dec. 04. I have heard nothing since, neither about a crusade in Butere, nor from the Kenyan Missionary. I still don’t have information, which is correct, the website-miracles (50 000 accepted Christ in Pakistan in one crusade) or my sensitive spirit uncovering a fraud.
Out of the blue it came to me, while writing this chapter. I linked the names Buechner and Huebner, both sounding very German. If I took the name Buechner and deducted all the letters of Huebner, all that is left is - c.
But there’s more; take away the ‘N’ from Buechner and all you are left with is Buecher – the German word for ‘books’. NIC as in panic had been one of my earliest bizarre, outside the box observations on my website depiction of Jesus, turn form Lies and P-anic, to Love and Peace. Surely, a famous US author, or a group around him, was not playing games with a religious comic in Australia?
If so, perhaps Yancey’s publisher, his name given as Eric Major, was part of this fun-loving circle. I typed the name Eric Major into Google, but could not locate a man associated with Doubleday Publishers, New York. Instead I came up with a Member of the House of Representatives of the US State of Alabama. Since I have an interest in politics and a sister near Mobile, I googled for a while and discovered something interesting.
It was either sheer fluke or indeed a trail to the USA I was meant to be following, but this time without crossing the Pacific. Many will think I am strange, but to even discover such complex linking, even if there was no ultimate connection to it, felt unreal. In an email to the Administration of the Alabama Senate, I queried about the name Erich Major. I sent it four days before sitting next to the man Eric at Gawler that Sunday afternoon.
The person I sent this email to was responsible for ALISON, which is, if I understand it correctly, what we call Hansard in Australia. Eric Major, the politician, was Representative for Jefferson, District 55.
Subject: Eric Major the same?
Sorry to trouble you, but I have a quick question. In one of his books’ acknowledgments (Soul Survivor) Philip Yancey mentions a man named Erich Major as his publisher (of Doubleday, New York). I came across an Eric Major, Member of the House of Representatives for Jefferson, Alabama. Would you know, if it is the same one?
"Soul Survivor" by Philip Yancey reports that Martin Luther King, despite his heroic, firm Christian stand, was a womanizer and had affairs right up to his death. (I could not find this info in Google). He supposedly once was chained, handcuffed, appearing in court. He received 4 months hard labour for driving a car registered in Alabama, instead of Georgia.
I was going to ask Mr. Major, if he really read and believed this before publishing the book. Philip Yancey is normally a better writer than that. And I find it hard to believe that God would have given Martin Luther King jr. victory, if he really would have had affairs outside marriage, right until his death. When God uses people, they know it and would not lead a double life like that.
Thanks for being so patient. I have a sister in Loxley, Alabama. I've been there twice before. It was nearly once more, when I got as far as Riverside, California. last year. Would have liked to make it to Baton Rouge and Alabama, but my visit was cut short.
If you can't help me, don't worry, because I'm not.
Dieter R. Fischer
PS1 Can a book published by Doubleday, New York be printed and bound by Clays Ltd. in St. Ives, Plc UK?
PS2 You must be crowded in your Parliament House (like ours). Room 539 C is shared by two Members. How do they get on with each other?
The incident about King driving a car in Georgia, while it was registered in Alabama is printed in Soul Survivor, Page 27. Just as I read the piece again I registered the name ‘De Kalb’. Some years ago this was the place, where a major study into Driver Education had been undertaken. Further, the fact that you could not cross a border in a car registered in a different state, sounded unrealistic. Even if it was true, four months hard labour as punishment, even in the American racist South in the 1950’s, would be over the top.
My PS 2 in above email points to an overcrowded Parliament House. After the 2002 Election I remember reading an article in our Newspaper, where Mr. T, the Member of the Upper House, had to work underneath a staircase for lack of space. But I could not help noticing, while browsing through the extensive, alphabetical list of Members of the Alabama Parliament, my contact Eric Major shared room No. 539 C with the very first Member listed. (Major’s actual profile page, I discovered later, puts him into Room No. 539 F).
At times I feel silly to be always correcting spelling errors, dead links on websites, reporting street lights that don’t work etc. This error however was the result of a complex labyrinth of paths and links, all because my wife had bought a Philip Yancey book and left it lying around for me to ‘discover’.
The number 539 and of course the C, which took on more significance, after the Buechner/Huebner comparison, had me thinking. Two days earlier I had uploaded Chapter 6 of my autobiography, ending with a scripture, which is Old- and New Testament, Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3. My finding numbers and playing with them must sound like an obsession to some. I thought about this and got my answer while watching an episode of Oprah.
Oprah interviewed people who were habitual shoplifters. They lived a double life. The needed to compulsively shoplift to fulfill the craving for the adrenalin rush their addiction gives them.
Was my picking up bits of paper or aluminum cans an addiction? Was I obsessed with numbers to such degree that I had to chase mathematical links to satisfy a sense of well-being? After watching those people on Oprah describe their addictions, I didn’t think so.
The reason was that I was getting tired of operating of this level, despite some of the fun I was having. The same with car registration plates – I was getting very tired of noticing the VLT, the WWV or the USJ’s etc. with the usual combination of 153, 150, 007 etc.
Had I been addicted, I’d be going out to specifically look for codes to satisfy a craving. If this were the case, I would have to admit to having a mental condition that needed attention. But I rarely even wrote down registration plates any longer or bothered picking up stuff off the road, unless I felt a real prompting.
Likewise, sending emails to the media did not produce any great rush of adrenalin I desperately needed. It was fun, but also tiring, especially when I had to express my doubt on a story that didn’t make sense. One of these, Prince Harry, the third in line to the British throne, had allegedly committed the ultimate sin. He wore a swastika to a fancy dress party. A photo of him wearing a Uniform, featuring the offending emblem in bright red and black, circulated around the world in Mid January 05.
Perhaps it was my German background that tickled my fancy for this story. It awoke the poet in me. I emailed my latest poem to the BBC, London, The Independent Newspaper, London and to our own ABC Newsradio on 14/01/05:
The Prince and Derick
There once was a Prince named Harry,
Who was hoping one day he would marry.
He was invited to a party, all fancy dress,
But had no clue, how best the girls to impress.
Derick worked for a paper, an old mate from their school,
Harry asked him, tell me - what should I wear to look cool?
A uniform, said Derick, you ’ll look smart as a Soldier,
Great idea, thought Harry, girls will think I’m much older.
The party’s guest list had stunning-looking chicks,
Plus world-famous names, even old Ronald Mr. Biggs.
Derick brought his camera, taking shot after shot,
when he had a thought - should I do it or not?
The following Thursday, Harry got the life of his fright,
The papers showed photos from that Saturday night.
It’s not true, Derick, how could you put that in the news?
People now think that I’m a hater of Jews.
Why worry Harry, you look cool in the pic.
My boss assured me, no one will notice the trick.
What about that silly armband? You had too much grog!
Would you rather go back to being a frog?
My aim was and still is to do God’s will in my life. He would not want me to act in an unhealthy, repulsive manner, playing out a compulsion or nasty obsession. His ways were unusual at times, but the more I walked with HIM, the more I talked with HIM, the stronger I trusted in his leading.
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord”