The following is my letter to the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America.
Dear Mr. Nelson,
In the late 1970s I was a deacon and youth leader at Ygnacio Valley Presbyterian Church in Concord, California, and later a graduate from Whitworth Presbyterian College in Spokane, WA.
A YVPC board member, the late Ernie Ascher, escorted me to the General Assembly of the PC-USA in Berkeley, CA, on the grounds of so-called Holy Hill, at the Graduate Theological Union, moderated by Howard Rice.
As I have read on your website, the GA reviews the work of synods, resolves controversies in the church, is responsible for matters of common concern for the whole church, and serves as a symbol of unity for the church.
I would like to take this opportunity in writing to once again address the General Assembly regarding the information I had attempted to present to Mr. Rice and others some 40 years ago.
First, I say that I have a reputation for “exacting honesty” as Ken Baker, then pastor of YVPC testified under oath in 1985 in Los Angeles, CA. I can prove this by providing court documents upon request.
Second, I say that I was born and raised Presbyterian. My father — a man of some note, as the inventor of the 1960s diet drink Sego, which made a movie star out of TV model Tippi Hedren — served on the board of the Greenville Presbyterian Church in Greenville, IL (50 miles east of St. Louis). I was born at Clemson hospital in Anderson, S.C. 25 November 1956, and lived in Greenville from age 2 to 12. My dad brought us to church every Sunday, in our Sunday suits, and he often stood in the pulpit when requested. He invested significantly financially in our church, which was a small church where children got a chance to hang from the bell rope and ring out the good news of the gospel truth.
Skipping forward to August, 1977, I wish to share what I know about the so-called “Wow Signal” which is the report by a SETI researcher who encountered an enormous, sudden radio frequency burst at 11:16 pm EST on 14 August 1977, and never recorded such an anomally again. I would like to share with the PC-USA where I stood and what I did at 11:16 pm EST on 14 August 1977.
Mr. Nelson, I am placing great faith in you to act on this information.
I stood in a wide open, freshly cut field on the farm of my great aunt in Weatherford, Oklahoma, at 9 pm local time, praying to the Lord Jesus Christ about my future as an actor.
I must digress to say that after Illinois, I lived in Columbia, MO, where I assisted the US government’s Drug Enforcement Administration, Audrain County Task Force on Narcotics, under agent Richard Boulware, along with undercover Columbia MO police department patrolman Kenneth Hawkins, under supervision of Sgt. Frank Moyle, head of Narcotics and Vice for the Columbia PD, and I lived in an apartment in Mexico MO where I got six stitches over one eye under armed guard at Audrain County Medical Center as a direct result of my work as an undercover narcotics informant, under a waiver with the FBI signed by my parents, a copy of which I can provide upon request. The point of the digression is to demonstrate my reputation for bravery, and a background in acting. After Missouri I moved with my parents to the San Francisco Bay Area and specifically, significantly, symbollically, Diablo Valley, where I studied Drama at Diablo Valley College under the shadow of Mt. Diablo. This is significant because on the 6th of January 1977 I knelt in prayer at the side of my bed and during that prayer, Concord CA experienced a series of three earthquakes which caused no significant damage, but showed me a sign.
Returning to the topic of 14 August 1977, I stood in the field. The horizon was flat. The sky, which began completely overcast had, during my prayer in conversation with the risen Lord Jesus Christ, opened at one spot in the western sky, but then as I again looked up, had completely cleared so that the Milky Way was shining directly overhead, and the North Star directly before me as I faced north, stood up from a crouch, and lifted up my arms.
You of course will know that the Presbyterian character is relatively reserved, not (at least in 1977) so much known for the lifting of arms but rather the stoic bowing of heads. I felt compelled to raise my arms and recognize Jesus Christ, the name I know from my Holy Bible, to address Jesus as existing throughout the macro and micro and inner and outer dimensions as far as one could think and infinitely beyond, in every direction.
It was about 9:10 pm local time in Weatherford, OK, that I confessed to Jesus that I wanted to be an actor in Hollywood, and put forward that I had been prepared by my narcotics informant background and actor training at Diablo Valley College where I was excelling. But I sensed in that moment in all fairness that God perhaps would wish and deserve some benefit from answering my prayer, as if to say to me, if I were to be an actor then, an actor for God. It seemed the natural impulse.
At this moment the Big Dipper lay in the heavens to the west, the giant W of Cassiopeia to the east, over the flat horizon in some way mirroring my outstretched arms, like a perfectly balanced painting. Even, I could say, like the symbol of masonry (an organization I never joined nor was knowingly invited to join) with its balanced angles and odd G in the middle. (My parents were masons, Dad at least 32 degrees, Mom in the societal organization for women known as Eastern Star.)
The moon was not to be seen that evening on the outskirts of Weatherford, OK. Symbollically, I thought of the moon as a false light compared to the sun. For whatever reason, I found it noteworthy to mention this during my prayer, as follows.
I said my thoughts out loud, standing alone in that field. Rather than furthering thoughts on becoming an actor for me or an actor for God, which would in all cases be a presumptuous, even, impetuous supposition, I concluded with this request:
“Can I just dwell here, in this thick darkness, with no moon in my way, and tell you, I love you.” My rhetorical question.
Mr. Nelson, I stood in the field and held out my arms and stared up at the heavens and uttered my three words “I love you” at 9:16 pm local time.
At that precise milisecond, the bright light of a shooting star flew into the cup of the Big Dipper.
I am going to continue in a moment but first I will say Bible verses leapt to mind even as my right heel jolted and a spark, perhaps just the twitch of a nerve, leapt out through my right eye — a feeling almost as if lightning had shot through me from the earth to the deep purple sky. I noted this in detail, in my book GULF in the WAR STORY, which is a more reader friendly version of my 1993 book Military Secret which Monument Press published and which I had them take out of print but which is still on call at the Nimitz library of the US Naval Academy as well as War College, Harvard, Yale, and others.
But without referring to my other writing on this, the first verse I recall leaping to my mind, at this writing, was from Acts, chapter 1, verse 11. I’m sure you know it well, assuming you yourself are not some corrupt, evil spirit lurking in the church.
Angels appear to the core group of followers who are still staring up at heaven where their testaments say Jesus rose after his resurrection. “Men of Galilee, why are you still looking up? Jesus will come back in the same way he rose.”
I have always had some question about that passage. It makes sense they would watch for his immediate return, if it would be that he would come back the same way he left. But the church people there, and to this day, seem to have accepted this as functional, sensible, or at least not worth arguing about with angels.
Whoever those angels were, I realized on 14 August 1977 they had told the truth. This Jesus who rose into heaven replied to my three words, in the heavens, in the wink of an eye, like a thief in the night, in a manner that every eye had to have seen — at least the SETI researcher noted Wow! at 11:16 pm EST 14 August 1977. But there is more.
I ask you and I ask anyone who believes in the promised return of the Lord Jesus Christ to planet Earth, what would you do or say or ask or think if this happened to you? But I tell you what I said next. I asked Jesus Christ directly. Perhaps this was a simple fact of my youth — I was 20 years old, alone, believing in Jesus, solid in my faith, and talking to him the entire time. So I simply asked:
“Is this your second coming?”
This was immediately as I stared, rocked up onto my tiptoes, having a fear of being lifted up only to fly like Ichaurus too close to the sun, fearing I would rise a certain distance and drop to my death — that is to say, this experience was thrilling, breathtaking, awesome, holy, and most of all sincere.
Staring by now at the Big Dipper in the western night sky, arms outstretched, I witnessed the burst of another shooting star.
And a third.
And with that I said “amen” at the realization of the infinite power of the creator. This had not been Reagan’s Star Wars program. This had been the one star flung by the hand of God and the two stars confirming to Robert David Graham that what he had witnessed, what I had witnessed, was not a meteor shower, not a coincidence, but the answer to my prayer.
I can really only believe I was placed on this Earth by God, led to that spot that night and inspired by a lifetime of devotion to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I was sent to you as a witness to inform you that your groom has not been delayed. It is you who sleep.
I spoke to Howard Rice, a gay man in a wheel chair moderating the Presbyterian Synod. I said I would have so much to tell the body of the church. His answer, “Or perhaps you’ll have nothing to say.”
Mr. Rice truly dumbfounded me, and literally rejected my attempt to communicate this truth, my testimony as to the second coming of Jesus Christ.
With my dear friend Ernie who also testified of my character in my trial at Los Angeles County criminal court in February 1985, I attended a church growth seminar there in Berkeley where I spoke with Mr. Rice. A woman, I don’t recall her name, led some gathering in which remarks were opened to the floor, and I raised my hand.
Symbollically, I will say, the index finger of my right hand had suffered an injury and I stood out among the people there, as the guy with the big gauze pad wrapped around his finger. So the man with the noticeable finger stood up and attempted to inform the congregation and the world during the PC-USA General Assembly the following.
“I am prepared to say that Jesus has already come and gone.” I hear, obviously, how silly that may sound to one who has not seen exactly what I saw.
“Leaving us with what?” She asked.
I shrugged. Could I respond, “You mean, who.” Of course not. I’d have been lynched. I’d have had them calling me Satan.
Next, I visited the Chair of the department of Theological Ethics at the Graduate Theological Union. The result of that brief meeting was that the professor invited me into his office with a spectacular view of the San Francisco Bay, and he shoved his hand inside my trousers. I was 20 years old, there to seek some guidance in how I might inform Christian congregations in a manner that could have some chance to be heard, considered, understood. And I got sexually assaulted.
I am not writing to complain about that incident, the man is likely dead by now and facing his judgement directly. But you should know that such experiences drove me to give up approaching you and the church and instead turn to the media, as a well prepared actor after all.
I drove from Concord to Hollywood in 1983 and began to seek contact with the media.
I arrived at the church of TV evangelist The Reverand Doctor Gene Scott in Glendale, and put $100 of the $300 I had to my name, into his offering. This was my “widow’s might” investment in my trip to Hollywood to tell the world I had witnessed the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (which, by now, had occurred seven years before). A young man who reminded me of myself stood up in the back balcony as Dr. Scott was insisting on donations so that he could remain on satellite “until Jesus comes back.” The man shouted, “The Rapture is already happening, Dr. Gene Scott.” As two ushers removed the man, Dr. Scott barked into his microphone, “Get your own soapbox.” That was the reward for my investment, truly a great lesson.
But before I could develop my promising soap box, a neighbor shot a gun off in the building where I stayed. This was a young man, 17, Hispanic, a member of a Hollywood gang imported from El Salvador, known then and there as 18th Street. Legend was that you entered the gang by murdering someone, and you left the gang by getting killed or otherwise dying.
The story of my conflict with the gang member led ultimately to my involvement in a case of first-degree murder. I had also been charged with second-degree murder, also with voluntary manslaughter. Over Valentine’s Day weekend, in February of 1985, the jury acquitted me of all charges and accepted the argument of my Jewish public defender, James Bisnow, that I had killed the younger man (I was 27) in self-defense. The central question, as I had been attacked by the man wielding a meat cleaver, then a baseball bat, and finally a butcher knife, while threatening to get his .38 which I assumed he had but I knew he had, and I had seen him hide, a 25 automatic. The thematic question of my trial as presented by Mr. Bisnow was, “How many times must a man turn his cheek when attacked relentlessly.”
So my prayer to become an actor indeed led to a performance, of sorts, resolving an unanswered question from Matthew 5, verse 39. How many times must a man turn his cheek?
The answer is, if you ask me, twice.
He had knicked my collarbone an inch from the jugular, with a meat cleaver. He had cracked me in the forehead with his baseball bat so that blood ran into my eyes threatening blindness in the midst of a life and death struggle with a man known for violence. He had swiped with the butcher knife as I counter-attacked with his bat, which I had commandeered on a down-swing. And the LAPD had found the butcher knife still lying in the palm of his hand after I called 911.
At a pre-trial hearing I sat among others and bowed my head in prayer. “Lord,” I prayed, “I’m not asking for anything for me but I just hope no matter what these people are in here for today, may it go well for them and for everyone involved, amen.”
I looked up from that prayer and saw a man from my Hollywood neighborhood (the incident had occurred at 2017 North Argyle Avenue in Hollywood on 24 February 1984). So called “Nigger Sam” — his street name (his real name Lonworth Goddard) — had arrived in court “on a dope charge” and later testified that “everyone knew” my attacker carried a gun.
Aside from my book, I received screen credit for “additional materials and dialogue” on the 2009 Luxembourg Film Prize winning feature film House of Boys about the onset of AIDS featuring the notable British actor Stephen Fry.
In my humble opinion, you and I and God and Jesus and the Christian Church are in that sweet spot between the rock having landed in the middle of the pond, and the ripples arriving ashore. This, if you ask me, is the difference between the rapture, which happened with the Wow Signal, and the second coming, which is where I come in.
I have inserted my admittedly simple pinboard rendering of the night of the big Wow, that moment of extra-terrestrial communication, that communion with God, indeed that covenant I received, explicitly regarding the Second Coming of Jesus as referred to in the book of Acts, chapter 1, verse 11: