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Closet Witches tapes review
"CLOSET WITCHES" Tape REVIEW! (© 1986) When I first received audio copies of Closet Witches, I wasn't very motivated to play them. Why waste three hours of valuable time (time I might better spend fawning over tracts) listening to a couple of born-again babes bitching about witches? I mean, a witch is a witch is a witch. What could they possibly say for three hours that hasn't already been said? Besides, "real" witches are so passe. They rank on the believability scale right up there with vampires and werewolves... Sure, there are some people who call themselves witches and probably really think they are witches, but like the vampire wanna-bees who sleep in coffins during the day and have their incisors sharpened by dentists, they don't really possess any more powers than the rest of us. (Except the power to infuriate Fundamentalists.)
But there was one thing about the tapes that compelled me to listen to them anyway, and that was the presence of a third person. The interviewer who was none other than Jack Chick himself. So I set aside three hours, nailed some garlic to the door and sprinkled holy water around the room before plopping the tape in the machine and punching "play." What I heard KNOCKED MY SOCKS OFF!
I quickly realized that Rebecca Brown was more than just another author that Chick plugged in his tract footnotes in order to sell more books (which of course, his company published). Oh the contrary, she was a major influence in his work during the time of their association. In fact, she was the next big (controversial) thing after Alberto!
Many Chick watchers wondered where Jack would go after Rivera. He had burned a lot of bridges and many "mainstream" Christians (the ones concerned about appearances) distanced themselves from Chick Publications. Would he preform some sort of public penance to get back into their graces? Would he go back to printing regular tracts with non-controversial topics? Would he stop causing a fracas and let everything blow over? Those who thought 'yes' obviously didn't know Jack very well.
Chick instead hooked up with someone with an even more sensational and conspiratorial story than Alberto. Instead of being an ex-Jesuit, this person is a former medical doctor who turned into a sort of Christian version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She would warn of an even bigger conspiracy than the Vatican. (Just when you thought all roads led to Rome, along comes the super highway to hell!) Only this conspiracy didn't use sneaky Jesuits to manipulate history or assassinate good Christians. Its agents were powerful demons, witches and werewolves! And whether you believe Rebecca Brown or her partner in these colorful exploits (Elaine Moses, ex-Witch), you have to acknowledge they inspired some of the most incredible Chick tracts of all time.
Now that you know what's at stake, (a little "burning witch" humor there) lets turn to the tapes and permit this tale to unravel itself at its own pace. But allow me to set the stage with a little caveat. If you ever wondered where Chick got the idea he could open a story like Satan's Master with the bold statement "based on a true story", even though the tract is filled with demons physically attacking people and Satan making visible manifestations, well, you're about to find this out and a whole lot more. So turn down the lights and turn up the Halloween music. Things are going to get real creepy as you read what Rebecca has to say. Rest assured that it will make John Todd and Alberto seem like warm up acts... Go Here to continue this Review!
"WALTER MARTIN vs. DR. RIVERA Debate" TAPE REVIEW! (© 1982) You gotta hand it to Alberto, he never shied away from a chance to prove or disprove his story-- even if he was taking on the best minds and resources the Vatican could muster! That isn't to say Walter Martin worked for the Vatican, but he was certainly "carrying water" for them as far as Alberto was concerned. For those not "in the know", Dr. Walter Martin was a renowned Protestant Theologian and expert in cults (and ran the Christian Research Institute) until his death in 1989. His clear arguments and catalog like knowledge of the Bible made him a formidable adversary to Mormons, Christian Scientists, and Jehovah's Witnesses etc. etc. He was generally conservative. In fact, there was really only one controversial Church that many Protestant's considered a cult that he didn't: The Roman Catholic Church. Martin did acknowledge that Vatican was a "back slidden, apostate church" and that they were wrong about many teachings, but he maintained since most Catholics believed in Jesus, they were still Christians. He also said he wanted to unify the Catholics with the Protestants, but just who he expected to change the most in the marriage was uncertain. These attitudes were in direct opposition to Alberto's belief that the Roman Catholic Church was the "mother of all harlots" described in Revelations. It was fitting, if not destiny, that the two should meet and publicly debate these issues.
The tape begins with Jack Chick himself introducing it. (Although the tape was sold by Alberto's AIC organization, Chick had an obvious interest in promoting Alberto's case.) Chick says, "Those involved (in this debate) are Dr. Alberto Rivera, Dr. Walter Martin, and Mr. Brian Onkin. I believe you will find this a very stimulating message between two very strong personalities." Exactly which of the three Chick thinks is NOT very stimulating is unclear, but it's safe bet he doesn't think much of Brian Onkin, who comes across as a bit of a whiner. (He sounds a lot like the kid at grade school who was always trying to whip up fights between other people. "Did you hear what he just said about you? Are you going to let him get away with that?!" Charming.) Truth be known, Chick wasn't too fond of Martin either. He had asked for Martin's support when publishing Alberto, and Martin refused. Chick was upset because he thought the information in Alberto was VITAL to Protestants. But Alberto told Chick to forget about Martin, because he actually worked for the Vatican. Chick has since told friends that he thinks Martin is roasting in hell for helping the Pope. Martin wasn't very magnanimous either. Before his untimely death, he routinely told others that they should toss their Chick tracts in the trash because they were worthless. (Obviously, he never foresaw the collecting value of some of the rare ones!)
After the Chick introduction, a brief segment follows where Alberto is on the phone with Martin working out the details of the meeting. Alberto sounds completely discombobulated, stumbling around trying to get the recorder working and carrying on a conversation in his trademark broken English. An incessant "beeping" interrupts every five seconds to alert the caller he is being recorded. Alberto asks Martin if they can tape everything and make it available to the public. Martin says yes, but only if it's in context. The two are civil and both sound genuine. Alberto signs off after telling Martin he'll be staying at the Jolly Roger Hotel-- kinda ironic, considering Alberto claims the Jolly Roger flag is a symbol of the Jesuits.
Then the "debate." Martin and Onkin attempt to pen Alberto down by asking pointed questions. Alberto answers them willingly and in great detail. He seems to have an answer for everything, though Martin and Alberto disagree whether the answer is legitimate. At one point, Martin says, "You've made some very serious charges, and that requires very thorough documentation." Unfortunately, he's incorrect. Allegations don't require proof, convictions do, but not allegations. Anyone can allege anything and it's up to the subsequent trial or debate to prove or disprove them. By that measure, this debate is another stalemate. Great exchanges are made, but little proof one way or the other is actually provided. Common sense and preconceived notions would allow anyone to listen to this tape and feel it proves whatever their opinion already was (much as the Nixon/Kennedy debates let both sides claim victory) but if you really approached it with an open mind, it was another draw. Yes, Alberto is THAT GOOD at advocating his position, even against the grand Pooh Bah Walter Martin!
Many of Alberto claims are fantastic. No surprise there. What is more surprising is that some of Martins claims are equally wild, especially coming from such a respected intellectual. At one point, Martin tries to suggest that Alberto is wrong about the Catholic Church being the Whore of Babylon, because the majority of Protestant theologians say it isn't. Since when does the truth rely on polls? Especially when it comes to religion. Using that logic, no Christian should believe in Jesus, because the majority of humans don't. Alberto missed an opportunity to make another point regarding Martin's claim. He could have pointed out that one of the reasons there aren't more Protestants who believe as he does is because millions of them were murdered by Vatican agents during the Inquisition. Like it or not, killing the heretics did have the effect of reducing the number of vocal Vatican critics.
Brian Onken brings up a flyer with the name "Father Alberto Rivera" on it from the Universal Life Church. This is the outfit that allows anyone to become an ordained minister for FREE via mail or internet. Both Martin and Onken ask what affiliation Alberto has with the organization. Alberto seems confused over the flyer, and doesn't admit that it's his name on it. However, Martin asks the leading question "...and you don't have any ordination with them?"
Alberto doesn't give a clear answer to this. Who would want to admit to being an ordained minister through a mail order mill? Onken's follow up question is "Do you know Bishop and Mrs. Hensley?" Alberto responds, "I know them personally!"
The couple he knew was none other than Kirby J. Hensley and his wife Lida, the founders of the notorious Universal Life Church. For all of the alleged heresies of Roman Catholicism, Alberto associated with the founder and "pope" of the world's flakiest religion, where plants, pets, and ficticious people can be ordained upon request. (No beliefs or theological training required.) The ULC is the world's most infamous ordination and diploma mill, where a "degree" of Doctor of Divinity costs only a few dollars. Was the Universal Life Church also on the Jesuit infiltration list that Alberto infiltrated under orders from the Black Pope? (See Crusaders vol. 12, "Alberto" that alleges that all churches have been infiltrated with Catholic spies.) One wonders...
There are other funny exchanges as well. A highlight is Alberto's claim that Walter Martin is a "knowing Agent of the Vatican." Alberto says he saw a list when he was an undercover Jesuit of big-name Protestants that the Vatican could "rely on" for help. Martin's name was on the list. Martin gets down right defensive at that point, stammering for the first time, "No, no, I'm not- I- if, if you saw THAT..." He actually seems temporarily speechless until Onkin comes to his rescue. One could imagine the panic that might have briefly entered his mind. Suddenly the hunter had become the hunted! What if instead of discrediting Alberto, Alberto discredited Martin? A life time of religious Academia destroyed by a comic book author? THE HORROR!!! But the usually unflappable Martin quickly regains his composure and returns to going on the offensive.
Funny interludes of confusion still throw him off though. At one point Martin says, "But the statement that was made here, was that uh, was not from that perspective though. What was the statement?" Onkin chimes in, "That he, Dr. Martin, was a knowing agent of the Vatican." Martin continues, uncertain, "To them, but not to me?" Alberto blurts out, "What YOU know, I don't know, what THEY know, I know!" It reminded me of the old Jerry Lewis routine from Which Way To the Front, where he responds to the guard asking for the password. "But if YOU know the password, and I know the password, I shouldn't tell you the password because you already KNOW the password, unless you don't really know the password, in which case, I shouldn't tell you!" Funny, yes, but it can also give you a headache trying to figure it all out.
The entire session goes on like this. Back and forth, tit for tat. Pretzel logic circling back and intersecting itself. But there's also something very sobering about it all. One of these ministers isn't truthful. If Alberto is accurate, we might conclude that Martin was just uninformed, but that's ignoring Alberto's claim that Martin's name was on the secret Vatican list of "reliables". If Martin is right, then it's Alberto who's lying. Either way, it's disconcerting to hear two men of the cloth who both sound so very sincere and realize one of them is pulling a Clinton.
Martin also told friends he never intended for this debate to be sold by AIC. So from that perspective, Alberto got the last laugh. Not only did Martin fail to discredit him, but he ultimately helped Alberto's credit card sales by providing another tape for Alberto's organization to peddle. The listener is the real winner though. You'll be hard pressed finding something more fun or fascinating to listen to for 90 minutes. (Although understanding Alberto's English is sometimes frustrating.) Grade: B+ for Bickering! Return To Tape Index.
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