Frisbee Thoughts

17 Jan

I have finally seen the Frisbee documentary – Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher. It was a great hour with a fascinating story and great discussion aftwards. Ever since I read about Frisbee in the Quest for the radical middle (the Vineyard history) book, I wanted to find out more about him. After seeing it, I have some mixed feelings about it:
The bad – it doesn’t tell the whole story

Here are two claims that I don’t perceive as true to history and therefore feel uneasy with:
Frisbee not mentioned in history – A central claim for David DiSabatino and of the movie is that Frisbee has been written out of the history of the Vineyard and Calvary Chapel. He points out that Lonnie is not mentioned in the Wimber books or only passed by as “a young man”. That is not fully true.
In the book about the Vineyard movement (quest), there is an entire chapter on Lonnie’s life and his role in the early days. Besides the appendix, there is frequent mention of him and his influence on the Vineyard. In Carol Wimber’s book about John Wimber and the Vineyard, Lonnie is part of the story on numerous occasions. Also, the Calvary Chapel has a section on their homepage with details on Lonnie’s life and his impact on their history.

I have written a book about the Vineyard history in German (not published yet) and have included him (beyond some other important figures like Brent Rue etc). Wimber didn’t mention him by name because he wasn’t writing history. He was telling a story about an idea and usually you only include people by name if they are at the core of the story. If you include someone, there must be strong reason and it was not in Wimber’s scope to talk about historic facts, but to illustrate a point.

DiSabatino says that Wimber wanted to distance himself from Lonnie. I have read elsewhere that he actually paid the hospital bills for Lonnie in his last year when he was very sick. Lonnie has also continued to appear in Vineyard churches. So I wonder if David’s point is really truthful. But it certainly fits with his desire of painting a portrait of a rebel that is cast out from the history books.
People were only interested in his gifts, not his person – A central claim in the movie (and strong motive for the drama in it) is around Vineyard/Calvary dropping Lonnie after they found out about his homosexual problems. It is portrayed that they were “interested in the gifts, but not the person”. Let me ask the question: why did DiSabatino make a movie about him? Why are people watching a movie about Lonnie? I think most people are fascinated by the gifts, impact and eccentric personality. People like stars and I think that is fine.
What is not fine is the claim that they abused Lonnie. It is always tricky to remove someone really visible and not offend someone. Lonnie had issues and it was not OK to let him go on in public without dealing with the issues. I am sure there were mistakes. But it is really tricky for any leader to walk through the process. How could they have done it better? I don’t think it is fair to blame Smith and Wimber for being only interested in the gifts. They were concerned for Lonnie and the church (I hope) and had to deal with the issue in public spotlight. I think it is cheap to walk over this difficult situation and just point fingers at the power-hungry leaders.

The good – it tells a good story
Being with Frisbee was dangerous – in one interview (Ken Gulliksen) he speaks nicely about how it was to hang out with Lonnie. It was not the safe thing that most people are drawn to in church. You never knew what happened next. That is good stuff. I wish I had more of that in my life. Lonnie was truly inspiring in listening more to God and being ready to be the oddball for his sake. I think most churches need a healthy dose of this attitude.

God loves to give his gifts to unlikely people – God continued to use Lonnie even when sin and problems were in his life. That is a great aspect about the story. We keep thinking in performance terms: more prayer = more power. But sometimes God just breaks out of any religious calculations and blesses people. That is actually no surprise since his mathmatics is grace-math from the beginning. But somehow preachers don’t know how to motivate any other way and so they come up with “you have to do more”. Lonnies story is a reminder that it is not about correlations, not about effort, not about earning anything. It was a gift and will be a gift. I think we all need to remember that from time to time and Lonnie’s story highlights that beautifully.

Overall, I like the film. It captures the times and some of the spirit. I am sorry it has such an angry undertone that is mostly unwarranted. I hope that people who see it draw out the good things for themselves and skip the fluff. As Lonnie used to say: “Eat the chicken and spit out the bones!”

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7 Antworten to “Frisbee Thoughts”

  1. Antony 19 Januar, 2007 um 3:03 am #

    Marlin,
    Thank you for this. I have not seen this film, but I have wanted to. It seems like your review here is fair and balanced, and from my own expereince in the Vineyard here in the US, I think you are correct in your assessments. Blessings to you my German brother,

  2. Martin.D 25 Januar, 2007 um 6:41 pm #

    Dear Marlin, to be honest I do not agree with all of your estimations. The book you are talking about, was released in 1999. The Wimberbook, he is talking about in the movie came out 1991. Maybe in between, something has happend there? Fact is, that Lonnie is not mentioned in the powerhealing book, wimber wrote. The Spirit fell 1980 on mothers day. In that time he wrote the book (1991), Loonie was just devorced and also in close contakt with Wimber. I wouldn’t wonder, if Wimber thought, it would not be a good idea to promote Loonie in that time, cause of his moral issues he knew of. The book, where his role is mentioned came out 1999, three year after his death!
    The artikel wich is linked in your post to calvery is only mentioning the meeting, Chuck had with Loonie, not his influence and impact he had on the church. It sounds a bit like the same „arrogant“ whay (like his ex-wife claims it in the movie) he talked at Loonies funaral, where he (Chuck) „wonderd“ what he (Lonnie) could be if he would „lifed up to the ultimate of his potential“. Since many of the interviewed people in the movie seem to agree, that he was „ripped out of the historypages“, I rather believe their judgement, than yours. It is so human, that people are acting that way, but it happens, everywhere. As long as you live in a way they expect you to, they make you a hero, but when you fall, the are more than willing to let you down, and even change historytelling, cause they feel suddendly ashamed of you.
    We shoudn’t forget, that the movie is made by a non christian, as Sabatino said about him self. He has not the „inside“ feeling, we have. For that preconditions I think the movie is a great piece of art and historytelling, and a documentory from the beginning and the beginner of a move of Gods Spirit we haven’t seen so far in our generation, and I wish, with all of my heart, that we will see it again, one day.

  3. marlster 25 Januar, 2007 um 11:30 pm #

    Hi Martin, thanks for the comments. I think history is no certain/objective issue, but seen from where you stand. The people I talk to or hear about from are Vineyard people and they don’t see Lonnie being purposefully neglected. People who come from the Loonie-side-of-things seem to say that the omission were done intentionally. I am no expert. I know the Lonnie-story only second-hand and hear bits and pieces here and there. Maybe there is room for both angles to the story. Maybe whatever one says reflects what one wants to believe. I wanted to highlight the fact that it is superdifficult for a leader to deal with someone who is very present in the public. Is there a best way of doing this? It seems always very painful for everyone involved. How would you have done it?

  4. mike donovin 31 Januar, 2010 um 12:05 am #

    it would not be surprising if every culture big or small had throwing games and or contests…throwing a frisbee/dish would be a natural progression….lol

  5. Gifts Parents 24 Mai, 2013 um 8:08 pm #

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  2. Hasos Tafel » Marlin über Lonnie - 18 Juni, 2008

    […] Allen Lesern, die mein Interesse an Lonnie Frisbee und dem Film über ihn (”Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher“) teilen, empfehle ich die Rezension von Marlin. […]

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