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A Summer of A Thousand Nights: From Tehran to Susa

 

by Mark Dankof

 

 
In greatest appreciation for the life and teaching career of Dr. Richard Balkema of Valparaiso University, who retired this year for other fertile fields yet to plow; to Mrs. Laverne Dean of Valparaiso, Indiana, whose godly advice and friendship have sustained me for thirty years; and to the memory of Helen Claire Carr of Philadelphia, two priceless saints of God and fellow companions in the suffering, kingdom, and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus (Revelation 1: 9)

 



 

Table Of Contents


Foreword

Introduction

 



Part One

The Diary



 
 

Chapter One

A Dream in the Night in Tehran

Chapter Two

Night Stars and the Sound of Rushing Waters in Lar Valley

Chapter Three

Joy and Sadness at the Feast-Day of St. Thaddeus (Sourb Thade)

Chapter Four

Echoes of Esther in Ecbatana (Hamadan)

Chapter Five

The Suffering of Saints and the Judgment of Evil in Isfahan (Tabae)

Chapter Six

The God Who Fulfills and Appoints:  Cyrus at Pasargadae and the Achaemenids of Persepolis

Chapter Seven

In Search of Daniel: The Road to Susa (Shushan)

 



Part Two

The Bridge

 [or The Chapter Without a Number]

[or The Interlude Before the Unleashing of the Fifth Seal]



Part Three

Thoughts, Dreams and Visions in the Night

America 1984-2003



 

Chapter Eight

January 1984: An Orwellian Dream in Wisconsin

Chapter Nine

July 1998: The Man in London Fog: A Night in Section 60 at Arlington Cemetery

Chapter Ten

December 2002: The Mystery of Christmas Past and Present

Chapter Eleven

January 2003: A Prelude to Cataclysm--Ali’s Prayer and Plea

Chapter Twelve

January 2003: The Last Rose–Saying Goodbye to Helen Claire Carr

Chapter Thirteen

August 2003: A Message from the Angel of What Is and Not What Appears To Be

Chapter Fourteen

Sourb Thade Has Come

 



Epilogue



 

 

 
 
           The dimensions of the life of Mark Dankof are seemingly without end. Known today as an Internet news commentator for Uncensored News and Views; a past candidate for the United States Senate; a book reviewer of everything from spy novels and biographies to the history of world conflicts; a Lutheran pastor and Christian counselor; and finally as an academic theologian, his odyssey continues toward destinations yet unknown. He would tell you that three fourths of the joy of life is simply in the quest, and in the future exploration of the planet’s vineyards under the direction of God while time remains. I have every confidence that this will characterize his life until his entrance into the Kingdom that is yet to come, in a world without end.
            We have now known each other for almost thirty years, dating back to that time light years ago when we were underclassmen at Valparaiso University in Indiana, 45 minutes south of the Chicago Loop. In the nearly three decades that have passed since our first encounter in the fall of 1974, we have upheld each other through relationships lost, open-heart surgeries, parental deaths, career setbacks, and different road signs along the way which point to biological aging and the ongoing passages endured in the changing seasons of life. While the public largely thinks of Mark Dankof as a thinker and pundit, he largely looms in my life as a friend whose faithfulness and constancy have survived intact, amidst the twists and turns in the road for both of us in the transition from vibrant youth to a reflective middle age.
            Finally, I believe the key to unlocking the life and world view of my well traveled friend resides in love–his love of God and His Son; his love of all of God’s Creation and cosmos; and his ongoing love affair with two nations, America and Iran, both past and present. This key is unveiled for our individual discovery and analysis in the passages of his diary from the summer of 1976, collated and presented here as A Summer of a Thousand Nights: From Tehran to Susa.
Jon Hartwein
St. Louis, Missouri
 


 
 
 
 
            Part One of A Summer of A Thousand Nights: From Tehran to Susa represents a re-reading and collation of my diary kept in Iran as a twenty-one year old American residing there in the summer of 1976, as a break from undergraduate studies at Valparaiso University. The text is a combination of devotional notations not originally intended to be published for public purview, brief autobiographical references, a smattering of geographical and Biblical references noted at the time in my journal as having relevance to my observations made during my solitary travels in that Central Asian country, and an inspired synthesis of fact and fable comprised of a layered mosaic of montage.  It is my hope that this diary will minister to those who find themselves bearing many of life’s burdens with a sense of isolation and increasing hopelessness. As I now re-read the pages of my tattered chronicle, I am reminded of the Biblical paradox that it is precisely in the midst of this sense of isolation and depression that God reveals His deepest mysteries and grace to those who seek Him and the Cross of His Son as an alternative to the futility of pop psychology, self-help manuals, and the self-absorbed hedonism of our New Age. To the extent that He utilized my private journal entries of the summer of 1976 as an instrument both then and now, of a divinely guided path to self-understanding in a Biblical context, I am eternally grateful. It is my prayer that this little book of journal entries might assist the reader in his or her own journey in, or toward, a Biblically oriented faith and life.
            I am also eternally grateful to my earthly parents for their ongoing sustenance and encouragement to me in this life. To the extent that I used the summer of 1976 to learn anything about modern Iran, ancient Persia, the Scriptures, and ultimately myself, I must credit them for inculcating in me the desire to travel, to see, to listen, and to learn, appreciating the opportunities God enabled them to give me, while seeing a wider world in the context of the wisdom of the ancients and the deepest historical roots of the past. For with God, a thousand years are as a day that is past, or as a watch in the night (Psalm 90).
            My devotional diary cannot possibly pass for either Biblical or Iranian scholarship. In the former area, I would recommend to the reader that he or she contact either Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, or Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, for a trusted reading list of the best applicable works tailored to a scholarly and believing approach to the Word of God. In the latter field of endeavor, I would recommend Sandra Mackey’s marvelous volume, The Iranians; Edwin Yamauchi’s Persia and the Bible; and A. T. Olmstead’s History of the Persian Empire.
            Part Two is entitled The Bridge. The present is the bridge between the distant past and the future yet to come. It may serve as a hermeneutic, or principle of interpretation and understanding, of both the diary of Part One and the contents of Part Three.
            Part Three of this book represents the results of a diary of night thoughts and dreams which occurred in the United States between January of 1984 and January of 2003. I will leave the lion’s share of the interpretation of these nocturnal manifestations to the individual reader.
            I wish to express my love for the history and people of Iran, as well as for The Old American Republic and Constitution. May both contemporary peoples find their way, and re-discover the best of their roots and identities, in the difficult days and times ahead.
Mark Dankof
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 



 
Chapter One
A Dream in the Night in Tehran
 
“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” –Psalm 139: 12
 
            I am awakened in the late hours of this June night by a most comfortable breeze, blowing through the screen which separates my bedroom from the elevated balcony terrace. The breeze seems as perpetual as the darkness, permeated and illumined by moonlight. I have never felt a breeze this comfortable, even as a boy traveling and sleeping in the deserts of California by night. It enters my mind that this must be the reason for the Hebrew word ruah and the Greek word pneuma, both of which appear in the Scripture and are simultaneously employed for the dual concepts of physical wind in the cosmos, and the Spirit of God in the realm of the unseen.
            The slight wind continues to blow without ceasing. As it does, I am conscious of the fact that its awakening of me from sleep has terminated what was a very significant, and seemingly mysterious dream. This is an especially curious insight, as I must confess as I write that I cannot remember the contents of the dream, no matter what degree of effort is exerted to do so. My mild frustration over the inability to recall this transaction of the nocturnal subconscious is compensated for by the breeze, which continues apace at a speed and temperature seemingly controlled by a thermostat not made by human hands or of this present world. I simply remember that the dream, whatever it was, produced a sense of transcendent tranquility, subsequently enhanced by the movement of the night desert breeze blowing through Tehran from south to north. 
            Now being fully awake, the thought occurs to me that I should walk out to the elevated balcony terrace just beyond my bedroom, to get a good nighttime glimpse of Tehran while enshrouded by the cool night desert air. The movement of air has lifted the haze of dust and automobile exhaust which often hovers over this urban sprawl, increasingly one of the world’s most significant cities at this juncture in history. Each time I have appeared at this balcony at night over a period of successive summers, my mind receives a most impressive and permanent photographic imprint of an endless succession of flat topped roofs, terraces, alleyways, tree-lined streets, and the incessant twinkling of what seem to be an incalculable number of city lights to the south. Watching these lights for an undetermined period of time in the darkness, I am now reminded of my ongoing impression of the southern part of this city, largely formed by several visits to the Tehran bazaar--a labyrinthine maze of shops, narrow streets and hidden passages, and scores of people speaking languages I do not understand. On the one hand, I like the sights, smells, and mysterious ambience surrounding this apparently central place of economic transaction and political intrigue. On the other, there is the sense here of an impenetrable, Byzantine, subterranean world where the possibility of the replacement of festiveness with directed hostility seems to simmer just beneath the surface. There is only one other time when my sixth sense is similarly aroused by the perception of that which is both surreal and forbidding–the distant sounds of the call to prayer (the moezzin) which emanate from the mosque.
            The cool, soothing breeze continues to blow from the south. As it does, I feel the need for another visual scene in a completely different sector of the city on this night. As remarkable as it seems, this is achievable simply by leaving the terraced balcony outside my bedroom for an identical one just outside the kitchen in this same apartment–this time facing due north. 
            The Biblical God has bestowed His countless blessings upon me many times in many places on this earth. I am reminded of this truth again tonight in standing on the terraced balcony of the north, with the stark magnificence of the Elburz mountain range almost at my fingertips. The great mountain Damavand lies to my right, northeast of the city. In the winter, one is awe-struck by the indescribable beauty of the snow on these peaks, further visual evidence of the artistry and handiwork of God. Tonight, an evening of early summer, unveils a range of stark, encircling omnipresence, whose primary message to me continues to be my own dependence upon the Sovereign of the Universe and of History who created these seemingly immutable edifices of physical grandeur out of nothingness. I am reminded too, that this city of millions, which lies at the southern edge of the Elburz, also remains at the feet of its Creator as well. Invaders, empires, and dynasties come and go in the context of time. These mountains testify that it is God alone who is constant and unchanging.
            I still cannot remember anything about the dream from which I was awakened by the southern breeze. But as I gaze north toward the mountains in the darkness of the terrace balcony above the dimly lit street called Golestan Number 4 off of Saltanatabad, there is a dawning and intuitive sense that my time in this place far removed from America is running out. I do not know why or when. But it seems that this is so.
            I wonder tonight if this is simply the reflexive reaction of someone who grew up in the American Air Force, where the only permanence is impermanence and transition, or if my intuition is the Spirit’s whisper in the night desert air, in the form of a premonition. German Lutherans are taught to seek God’s revelation in the objective tools and format of the inscripturated Apostolic Word and the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord. Because of this background, I maintain a healthy suspicion of the subjective and the intuitive as related to the Divine, especially packaged in the subconscious machinations of the mind which eventually reach the conscious level primarily when the mind is engaged in reflection upon the meaning of the past, the present, or the future.
            But these feelings do not depart this evening as I pray to the God of Israel who revealed Himself via the Incarnate Logos in the linear procession of time and history, while continuing to gratefully graze at His handiwork expressed in the mountains north of the city of Tehran. As St. Paul admonishes the believer to “pray without ceasing” [I Thess. 5: 17], I continue to pray on the terraced balcony through the night and into the dawn. It seems that I have been blessed in these hours with an ability to focus my heart and mind on concentrated communication with God in a way not known or experienced before. The session begins to wane only with the beginning of the appearance of the light of dawn as the beginning of the dissipation of the night. It is broken most consciously with the familiar sounds of animal hooves, directly below me in the street.
            A aging villager is leading a donkey eastbound on Golestan 4. The donkey is carrying blankets, pots and utensils, several hefty bags of fruit and produce, and other items I cannot identify from the balcony. He walks with a slow, but steady and willing gait, and a demeanor that suggests his patience with the general demands of life and the specific tasks of this dawning day. The elderly man’s attire consists of a haggard, bill-less cap; worn sandals; white T-shirt; and a coat and pants made of aging light gray materials. His gait is as methodical as the donkey’s. Passing by my terraced balcony, the old man raises his right arm to engage in a congenial wave, matched by a wry smile and eyes that continue to sparkle even in the earliest hours of the morning. I visually follow him, and the burden-laden donkey until they are out of sight, probably headed for a small village east and south on the outskirts of town. There is a sudden, poignant sadness at the disappearance of these benevolent creatures of another age. I wonder if I will see them again. 
            The Spirit’s whisper in the urban desert tells me that I will not forever remain here, despite my love of this place and desire to remain. He tells me that this summer is a special gift from the Lord, to search the treasures of this country and its history in the blink of an eye that has been granted. The Spirit insists that “he who has an ear” [Rev. 2: 11] will maintain this laborious journal as a record of the days when I obeyed His mysterious voice, in the ongoing formulation of the kaleidoscopic mosaic that is my life.
            Light has indeed replaced darkness once again from the vantage point of my northern balcony, as another dawn hails from the east, to be replaced this evening by the setting of another sun in the west. The time is passing quickly. The content and the meaning of the night dream in the south desert breeze have come to conscious memory. God is at work in these unfathomable times and seasons, although I cannot understand or scrutinize the inscrutable. In this regard, on a summer desert morning in Iran, I affirm the observation of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 11: 5 that, “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” 

 



 
Chapter Two
Night Stars and the Sound of Rushing Waters in Lar Valley
 
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him?”–Psalm 8: 3
“. . .his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.”–The Apocalypse of St. John 1: 15
 
            The mind cannot process the awesome character of the night sky in Lar Valley on this Persian summer night. I have borrowed a now out-of-print book entitled Persia and the Persians, written by the first American clergyman to serve in this country. The part of it apropos for this celestial evening is his description of this place, north of Tehran and in the Central Elburz.
            It is not an exaggeration to record in this journal that one can employ the naked eye in this Valley at night to observe not simply constellations, but galaxies. My only other point of personal reference in the past goes back to my days as a kid at the planetarium of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, where one would sit in air conditioned comfort in a circular theater format, waiting for the astronomer/technician to slowly dim the lights while beginning his lecture in a clear, but droning baritone voice. I remember that during one Christmas in Hawaii, the resident astronomer at the Bishop did a presentation on the Star which guided the Wise Men to Jesus. My mind suddenly recalls a mental file during silent thought, in which it occurs to me that he spoke of his theory that these Men were from Persia, and represented the Zoroastrian faith. This information lay dormant for years, until I arrived here and visited a place called Yazd. There were all of these little houses with domes, made out of mud brick. Outside the city, a guide took me to a so-called Tower of Silence, a hill reminiscent of the kind of topography one would see in Arizona or New Mexico. In lieu of burying their dead, the Zoroastrians would leave deceased loved ones on top of this Tower, while maintaining a three day vigil from a little mud hut at the base of the hill. An illuminated lantern would burn in the hut for three days, to insure the translation of the deceased from this life to the next.
            But this is no planetarium. These constellations are real. So is the silence that echoes in this Valley and which proceeds from the celestial bodies. I feel that this silence is of a type that can occur only in the presence of an awesome unveiling of a portion of God’s mystery for us. Exodus 33 says that even Moses could not encounter God directly in His divine essence unveiled, without experiencing death. I imagine that other than an eventual eschatological encounter with the Logos of God, described by the Apostle John as the One who has made the unseen God known (John 1: 18), the closest I will ever come to a physical, visual encounter with the God of Israel is in this Valley of Lar.
            The reverberations of the silence of this Valley are permeated only by the perpetual sound of the rushing water of the river that runs through it. This afternoon in the bright sunshine, I experienced this river after donning leggings and wading hip-high into the midst of its mild rapids with my fishing rod, in search of fish. John 21: 11 records that Peter and the others caught 153 fish in a Christ-guided venture of reaffirmation and restoration. However, my total today at days end was zero, or as my German Lutheran pastor of catechetical days used to say, null. My lower extremities, even with leggings, were frozen to the point of numbness. I later used a raging campfire to ward off what seemed like a mild case of hypothermia. A combination of dry clothes and the fire prove successful. The brilliance and the heat of the fire continue into the darkness–and brightness–of the night, and the reverberations of the Valley’s silence which contain the mediated communication of God. His speaking continues through the rushing of many waters in the traversing of these hills by the river whose currents are calmer in the cool of the evening. John has Daniel [the 6th century prophet of Israel resident in Persia] in mind when he says in his Apocalypse that the voice of the Logos is “like the sound of rushing waters” (Revelation 1: 15; ref. Daniel 7: 13). His presence at Lar, expressed in rushing water, darkness, light, and silence is palpable.
            It occurs to me that this is the most significant contemplative thought in silence I have experienced since the windup of my father’s involvement as an Air Force colonel ensconced in the Vietnam war. From there, it was here. I hope the endgame is better this time than the last. As my parents escaped Saigon and the Pacific for Tehran, I escaped the pain of being an American high school student in the context of the quagmire of Southeast Asia, by matriculating in college south of the Chicago Loop. A change of geographic venue and assignment enable one to proceed with life apace and without excessive introspection.
            Until one is in the silence of the Valley. Now in the presence of God in Persia, it is time to reflect upon the past, while donning the present and anticipating an unknown future undergirded by faith. It occurs to me in this incredible place of the night that the past must be examined, in the ongoing discovery and re-evaluation of the self, to turn the uncharted waters of the present and future over to the Sovereign who sets up the Times and the Seasons. There is no successful circumlocution that can preempt this process for those who possess a Soul and a Spirit, the pseuche imparted by God. The alternative is a slow, but inexorable death.
            As this death enshrouds the individual outside of the Divine, it occurs to me on this night that it rains its slow, steady mist of destruction upon nations and empires who ignore or consciously thwart His purposes as well. I love the Old American Republic and Constitution, but must confess that presently residing alone in thoughtful seclusion in a Persian mountain valley at night is preferable to the kinds of celebrations currently in vogue here among American expatriates during this summer of Bicentennial. It occurs to me that the spirit of Lexington, Concord, and Valley Forge, constantly invoked in the public observances here, is light years removed from what consummated in Saigon in April of 1975, or for that matter what is happening in this part of the world. There is an officially sanctioned American mythology being communicated this summer, soaked in beer and tucked in hot dog buns wrapped in Old Glory, which obfuscates by design and through symbolic truths demonically re-cast as convenient, lethal falsehoods. Aided and abetted by the funded cacophony and decadence embodied in the present state of American culture and the body politic, the mythology deceives when the heart is dedicated to the aggrandizement of the self and the replacement of God with the deification of the State. St. John, I learned this summer, says in Revelation, chapter 2: 13 that the church of Pergamos resides “where Satan’s seat is.” A Christian missionary resident in Tehran told me that this comment references the fact that Pergamos was the first official center of Emperor worship in Asia during the time of the Roman Empire. I hope the Bicentennial celebrations this summer are not the beginning of a good case Rome Redux for the United States. In its legitimate search for its glorious, pre-Islamic Achaemenid past, the Persian nation must come to grips with these temptations and tensions as well.
            I am reminded in this silent, nocturnal paradise with its domed ceiling of celestial beings, that the Bible condemns the age-old temptation of attempting to divine the future by specific configurations of stars and planets in the night sky. The methodologies of the Egyptian and Babylonian occultists and court astrologers are no match for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who revealed Himself and His consummate purposes in time in and through the Logos. The voice of the Logos speaks to me in the sounds of rushing waters proceeding through the darkened terrain of the Valley, with an eerie, visually penetrating moon-sheen skimming on the surface of the mild rapids and the rocks and pebbles of the twisting shoreline. As eyelids begin to close to the visual panorama of God’s awesome cosmos, the aquatic reverberations of the voice in the hills remind me of ideas conducive to restful sleep. First, that His presence in this place is indeed a protective covering from potential predators and harm. Second, that the Father’s blessing has been bestowed on those who recognize His sovereign domain over the future. It transcends the celestial beings and the absurd notions of those who seek to replace the sovereignty of God with deterministic proclamations of the future based on the stars and their fixed courses. And finally, that the voice of the Logos has confirmed the other places for my brief journey in Persia in the context of a summer which embodies the truth of the incessant speed of time and the brevity of temporal life. I shall proceed to Azerbaijan and the Church of Saint Thaddeus; followed by a search for Esther and Mordecai in Ecbatana; a commemoration of God’s termination of the evil life of Antiochus Epiphanes IV in Tabae; a visit to Cyrus and the Achaemenids at Pasargadae and Persepolis; and finally a search for Daniel and the deeper meaning of his proclamations at Susa.

 



 
Chapter Three
Joy and Sadness at the Feast-Day of St. Thaddeus (Sourb Thade)
 
“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”–John 16: 20
 
            I am returning today to Western Azerbaijan in Iran, and the Church of St. Thaddeus, located approximately a dozen miles south of Maku. Two years ago [1974], it was my privilege to be here during the yearly Feast-Day for Thaddeus, known as Sourb Thade. The people of northern Iran also refer to this Armenian church as the Black Church or Kara-Kilise. In 1974 during the once-a-year Feast and Church service, I was told by an elderly Armenian man making his 57th consecutive pilgrimage to this place, that St. Thaddeus [Jude] founded this physical edifice dedicated to Christ in A. D. 66. He added that the sacred sword or spear used to pierce Christ on the Cross at Calvary had been transported by Thaddeus to Armenia, subsequently to be stored in a sacred museum of supernatural treasures called Holy Echmiadzin. By his account, Thaddeus’s founding of Sourb Thade was not simply the genesis of the Armenian church, but of all of Christendom. I am not in a position to assess the historicity of any of this, but it makes for one of the most fascinating accounts of the early Church in the first century.
            The early Armenian church’s experience was one of mystery, love, and joy, coupled with persecution and martyrdom at the hands of Armenian Arsacid monarchs. In this regard, it mirrors the materially poor, but spiritually rich church of Smyrna in Asia Minor at the time of John’s Apocalypse in the first century, persecuted by Emperor Domitian (81-96) and other subsequent Roman despots. Perhaps it is also suggestive of the remnant Church of our Lord during the darkest of persecutions today yet unveiling prior to the blessed eschaton of the Logos. The memory of Thaddeus, martyred while spreading the Gospel in these Iranian mountains in the first century, permeates the sanctuary and the surrounding hills, mountainous peaks, rocky slopes, and endlessly panoramic horizons east and west.
            Once a year, the believing remnant pilgrims arrive here by all terrain vehicles, donkeys, or strenuous walking. The sounds of the Feast and the silence of the Azerbaijani mountains which encircle it, continue to communicate the presence and working of the Holy Spirit through time, despite earthquakes, military invasions, and all other manner of natural catastrophe and political tragedy past, present, or future.
            I was perpetually reminded of the Holy Spirit’s work and presence here two years ago, in numerous ways. The first of these was in the mystical gathering of the pilgrims around God’s Word in the sanctuary, where the reading of the Word, the lighting of many candles, the reverberations of the voice of the priest emanating from the illumined altar space with the domed ceiling, the sacred transcendent artistic images, and the palpable joy of the people all acknowledged the presence of the divine Logos and the Spirit who proceeds from the Father (in the Western church, the Father and the Son). It was clear to me as I watched and experienced this, that in Eastern Christianity there is a special, ethereal experience of the God of history who manifests Himself in Word and Sacrament. The Armenian priest assumed the role of the steward of the Mysteries of God. As he negotiated the altar-space, there was a most effective utilization of light behind and above him, conveying the entrance and the presence of the Light of the World in this sanctuary through the brilliant illumination which enveloped the priest as he reverently worked in the midst of the Holy of Holies. The Bread of the Presence of God was the inexplicable intersection of the eternal and the temporal. The majesty of the mysterious power and fullness of the Holy Trinity was made apparent during the entire ritual. The blasphemous trivialization of God and His mysteries through profane familiarization, so characteristic of the humanistic American church and its concessions to secular Western culture, was absent in the worship here. God was indeed present at Sourb Thade for His people as the Logos was encountered in written and spoken Word; Light; Bread; and the singing and chanting of ancient Liturgy which connected each annual gathering of the Body of Christ in this sacred place to its predecessors and successors in time. The paradox is that this manifested itself at Sourb Thade while the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob concurrently maintained an eternal, transcendent conveyance of His omnipresence and omnipotence in a way which underscored the unbridgeable gap between the Creator and His creatures. So shall it also be in the New Jerusalem, and in the New Heavens and the New Earth (Revelation 20).
            There is yet another vivid, poignant memory of the power of ritual and symbol from the past Feast here–the slaughtering and shedding of the blood of the lamb outside the sanctuary. I must confess watching this most significant event two years ago from a considerable distance away in the surrounding hills. The execution of this innocent, spotless animal, and its subsequent suspension from what appeared to be a meat-hook of sorts attached to a horizontal bar and suspended between two trees, was at one level repugnant to me. Yet this ghastly intrusion of displaced violence upon the lamb facilitated the spiritual grasp of the reality that while the Jewish High Priest could only enter the Holy of Holies once a year, and only accompanied by blood (Hebrews 9), the Logos entered the Most Holy Place not by the blood of a surrogate lamb, but once and for all by His own blood as the Lamb of God, and on behalf of the Saints. This yearly ritual in Western Azerbaijan at Sourb Thade reacquaints and rededicates the pilgrims to the truth that without the shedding of the blood of the Agnus Dei, there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9: 22). The law of God requires that there be payment for sin and a cleansing with blood; the love of God mandates that this horrific payment be willingly undertaken by His Agnus Dei alone. The death and shedding of blood are simultaneously an act of horrific judgment, and an unmerited gift of divine love and life. In these now deserted hills, I remember the echoes of the voices of the young Armenian, European, and American children of two years ago, singing the relevant portion of the ancient Liturgy during the visual re-enactment of the once-and-for all gift of the Logos:
Lamb of God, You Take Away the Sin of the World,
Have Mercy On Us.
Lamb of God, You Take Away the Sin of the World,
Have Mercy On Us.
Lamb of God, You Take Away the Sin of the World,
Grant Us Thy Peace. Grant Us Thy Peace.
            The pain and poignancy of the death of the lamb is later replaced in my memory by the Festival Dancing and Singing. There was great joy in this for the young and young-at-heart who participated. I theorized two years ago that perhaps there is a multi-faceted component to the joy which welled up in those who joined hands in a circle to enact a variety of Armenian dances and songs. First, even my German Lutheran objectivism tied to a conscious veiling of the deepest emotions was moved by the Divine Liturgy of the Logos, the sacrifice of the lamb, and the beaming faces and clapping hands of those who expressed what I suspect was a layered tier of liberations. The foundational of these must have been the recognition of liberation from sin and the Prince of Darkness embodied in the life, death, and resurrection of the Logos. Secondly, one sensed that the love of family, friend, and national tradition which energizes the dancing and singing was also a temporary liberation in time from the individual tragedies and hardships transported here from a multitude of places on the earth, near and far. In those handful of days, these burdens were willingly borne by the collective faithful as yet another reason for the continued imperative on the part of some to make the pilgrimage here once more. And finally, it occurred to me in that day of the observance of dancing and singing from afar, that these expressions of body and voice were somehow connected to the expressed liberation of the Armenian from political, racial, and religious oppressions past and present–and perhaps future. Perhaps then, this community truly is a microcosm of the Church of the Ages, awaiting the liberation of the Logos from the agony and oppressiveness of the present Age and tribulations yet to come. It is thus to me, a theological, anthropological, and ontological mystery of cosmic proportions that our deepest union with the Father and the Logos through the Spirit, occurs in the context of the greatest joys experienced on the mountains’ heights, as it also does with the inevitable valley of the greatest pain and tragedies known in time. The Festival of Sourb Thade testified to this revealed and yet incomprehensible mystery in 1974. One believes that it will again, bringing transitory pilgrims in the years that follow with blinding and relentless speed, until the Logos enters history again for its termination, as a precursor to the Kingdom and Age to come.
            Only now there is no Festival here. It is a month away. I deliberately came here to West Azerbaijan one more time to experience the silent, but majestic presence of God away from the teeming multitudes of pilgrims and the colorful sights and sounds of two years ago. What is particularly striking is that the mountains, valley, and Monastery of Sourb Thade still testify to the grace and greatness of God as signs of His handiwork. But the panorama is of a different genre, for a totally different day in time. The sun is noticeably absent; the hills which contained a panoply of colors and supernatural shades two years ago have a monolithically depressing hue of deep gray. The elevated vantage point I possess in the mountains to the west of the Monastery enable me to glimpse but for a few brief visual moments, the exterior of the deserted sanctuary devoid of all lights, sound, color, pilgrims, or priest. There is a distant but steady sound of thunder coming from the west, preceded by billowing dark clouds which begin to envelop me on the top of the mountain with an obscuring mist and a steady, but penetrating and drenching rainfall. The sanctuary has disappeared completely and silently in the sudden onset of fog and rain.
            Is this earthly cessation of light, sound, color, gathered pilgrims, and the presence of the priest at Sourb Thade an omen for the future of this country and mine, and the confessing Church of Our Lord in the midst of an impending “. . .great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. . . .?” I cannot say, for “We are given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left; and none of us knows how long this will be (Psalm 74: 9).”
            But the Logos who manifests His presence in the mountains of West Azerbaijan at Sourb Thade is reassuring in the fog and rain. The sanctuary is in a fortified position of rolling hills and encircling walls. The River of God continues to flow through the valley there. A Feast for the people of God will come again. And we shall soon see the Logos of the Word, the Bread, the Wine, and the Light, face to face in the glorious realm above and beyond our linear journey in time.

 



 
Chapter Four
 
Echoes of Esther in Ecbatana (Hamadan)
 
 
“For if you [Queen Esther] remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this? [Mordecai to Esther] . . .I [Queen Esther] will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”–The Book of Esther, chapter 4: 14, 15
 
            Driving in an old Peykan automobile toward Hamadan, known in the ancient world as Ecbatana, my mind’s thoughts drift off in quasi-highway hypnosis to a contemplation of a movie released earlier this year entitled Midway. It stars Charlton Heston and Henry Fonda among others, and depicts the circumstances surrounding the pivotal Pacific naval battle of June 1942 between the United States and the Imperial Japanese Navy commanded by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.
            In the actual conflict, the American Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) was an unassuming, but brilliant naval tactician from a small town in the German-American sector of the Texas Hill Country northwest of San Antonio. His name was Chester Nimitz. Named to the post in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor disaster in December of 1941, it was his job to supervise the rebuilding of a devastated American Pacific Fleet and to devise a coherent strategy for reversing the tidal wave of Japanese naval successes since the outbreak of the war. It appeared to be an impossible task.
            The first furtive breakthrough occurred in the dark recesses of the underground cement fortress that housed the American Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) cryptography division at Pearl Harbor. The cryptographers, led by a young genius named Joseph Rochefort, managed to secretly crack the JN-25 code being used by Admiral Yamamoto for transmissions to and from his staff commanders in the Pacific. In the decoded transmissions being surveyed in the cryptography basement headquarters of ONI at Pearl, Rochefort’s team encountered a strange reference to “Objective AF.” It became imperative to determine what this “AF” referred to. Rochefort was convinced that it pointed to the location of Yamamoto’s next fleet attack in the Pacific.
            One of his junior cryptographers subsequently remembered an oblique reference to “AF” from a Japanese aircraft’s radio transmissions the previous March. At the time, the junior code-breaker recalled plotting courses to determine what land mass the Japanese plane was nearest as it broke radio silence with the “AF” transmission. The only appreciable land mass the plane was proximate to as it mentioned flying over “AF” was Midway Island.
            The Washington naval establishment discounted the information as a deliberately disseminated fake, designed by Yamamoto to mislead Chester Nimitz as to the former’s intentions. Washington was convinced that there would be another attack in Hawaii, or an attack on the American West Coast. Nimitz was urged to disregard Rochefort’s information and analysis, and to keep his three remaining aircraft carriers, Enterprise, Hornet, and the damaged Yorktown at port in Pearl Harbor in a completely defensive mode.
            But the visceral instincts of the German-American from the Texas Hill Country told him otherwise. He became convinced that Rochefort and the other American cryptographers in the secret underground basement fortress at Pearl Harbor were absolutely correct. Completely disregarding the pleadings for defensive caution emanating from Washington, Admiral Nimitz secretly deployed all three of his remaining Pacific carriers northeast of Midway to wait for the Japanese naval task force he was convinced would strike Midway from the northwest, coming in behind the cover of an oceanic storm front.
            Nimitz and Rochefort were proven to be absolutely correct. The Japanese arrived with a task force comprised of four of the six aircraft carriers used to inflict defeat upon the Americans at Pearl Harbor six months before. Their names were Hiryu, Soryu, Akagi, and Kaga. They arrived at “Objective AF” with their best pilots and planes on these legendary carriers, an invasion force, and the capable command of Admiral Nagumo who had led the Japanese to victory over the American Pacific Fleet in Hawaii the previous December 7th.
            But the outcome this time was vastly different. Between Rochefort’s cryptological genius and Chester Nimitz’ daring naval strategy, the Imperial Japanese Navy met with cataclysmic disaster. All four of their aircraft carriers were blown out of the Pacific waters off of Midway Island and subsequently laid to rest at the bottom of the sea. Their escort vessels met an identical fate. The undulating waves and tides of history had turned dramatically. The sun began to set on the fortunes of the Japanese Empire in June of 1942, a process which concluded with the terrible, apocalyptic fireballs which vaporized Hiroshima and Nagasaki three years later.
            The Heston/Fonda production Midway contains a posted paragraph in bright red print at the movie’s onset. At one juncture, the inset refers to the “. . .pure chance by which great events are often decided.” This was apparently Hollywood’s verdict on the outcome of the events in June of 1942 under the command and orchestration of Admiral Chester Nimitz. But was it truly accurate in this assessment? Or were these events on and near Midway Island which turned the tide in the Pacific War under the direction of a Divine Providence whose identity and sovereign direction of historical events had been missed by the producers and directors of the film epic?
            Arriving at modern Hamadan, it crosses my mind that this is the same issue underlying the events in the lives of King Xerxes (486-465 B. C.), Queen Esther, and Mordecai which culminated in the unraveling of the evil plot of the Persian Prime Minister Haman, to eradicate every Jewish person in the 127 provinces of the Persian Empire from Ethiopia to India (Esther 1: 1). The name of God is not mentioned even once in the written narrative. Does this mean that the events recorded in 5th century B. C. Persia, or any other historical occurrences for that matter, are a chance configuration of evolutionary forces and coincidences? Or is there a purposeful God who quietly designs and directs in time and space?
            King Xerxes strikes me as a tragic figure. Having read the account of his royal conclave in Esther, chapter 1, I am now reminded of the educated hypotheses of the commentators regarding the significance of the setting of this initial chapter in the year 483 B. C. in Susa. The year, and the presence of the military leaders of Persia and Media, are suggestive. Was he, as Herodotus (7.8) seems to suggest, planning the road map of the disastrous Persian military campaigns against Greece from 482-479 B. C.? In this regard, Xerxes seems to be a proleptic version of the tragic, but gallant Yamamoto of Japan in the 20th century. His efforts, and that of his military staff planners, would come to a similar end. Perhaps this particular Achaemenid king of ancient Persia was unaware of the road map of history provided by the dreams and visions of Daniel in chapters 2, 7, and 8, which predicted the end of the zenith of Persia and its eclipse at the hands of Alexander the Great. The Ram would indeed be shattered by the projection of the power of the Goat (Daniel 8), which would subsequently enjoy the apex of its own power for but a brief season in time.
            And what of the other developments and configurations in this incredible saga? What were the percentage odds on the secretly Jewish Esther replacing Vashti as the Queen of Persia? On Mordecai’s discernment in advising and instructing Esther to conceal her nationality and family background from Xerxes (2: 10)? On Mordecai’s presence at the King’s Gate at the precise time he needed to be there to overhear and report the details of the plot of Bigthana and Teresh to assassinate the King? Or on the way in which Esther became used as the Queen of Persia to intercede with her husband to halt the genocidal anti-Jewish pogrom of the Prime Minister, Haman?
            The question of either “pure chance” or a Divinely predestined design in all things especially hinges on Esther 6: 1. It comes to my mind again here on a sunny afternoon in Hamadan, that this verse demonstrates the mysterious way in which God often employs the mundane, the ordinary, and the seemingly insignificant to accomplish His purposes in the lives of His people in the capsule of Creation and time.
            Xerxes could not sleep. On this night of insomnia just prior to the launching of the pogrom, he decided to read. Of all of the volumes in the royal Persian library, his selection of that fateful evening was the book of the Chronicles of his Reign as King of the Persian Empire. With all of the voluminous material within these Chronicles, the King finds his way to the very page and paragraph telling him of the pivotal role of Mordecai the Jew in thwarting the assassination plot against his life, conceived of five years before. It leads to the honoring of Mordecai; the King’s lending of a willing ear to Queen Esther’s plea to help the Jewish people throughout the Empire; and the issuance of a new decree which authorizes the Jews of the Empire to defend themselves from the ravages of Haman’s pogrom. The military victories of the Jews in Esther, chapter 9, laid the foundation for the observance thereafter of the Feast of Purim.
            And then there is the question of Haman and the existence of evil in the darkest spiritual realms of the blackest hearts of men and women. Esther 9: 1 mentions that “. . .now the tables were turned.” The seventy-five foot gallows that Haman schemed and labored to build as the instrument of Mordecai’s death, now served as the instrument of his own, and that of his ten sons. The forces commissioned by Haman to carry out mass murder throughout the Empire were themselves annihilated, with over 75,000 casualties. The long lineage of conflict between Israel and the Amelekites (Exodus 17; Deuteronomy 17; I Samuel 15), symbolized in the struggle between the Jews of Persia and Haman, had resulted in the victory of God’s people once more. And with this victory came the provision of the Lord’s rest (Esther 9: 17, 18).
            The place of rest for Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai is in a mausoleum in this place now known as Hamadan, an elevated city southwest of Tehran and northwest of Isfahan. Hamadan Province, which includes this city, is a place of beautiful, fertile highlands, gargantuan mountains with snow-topped peaks, and a deep blue sky. The cold and snow which enshroud Hamadan for two-thirds of a year give way in the summer to mild, breezy sunny days and a deep green reminiscent of agrarian Ireland. I would select it as a place of rest over the centuries for a beautiful Achaemenid Queen of Persia and her cousin.
            One is deeply moved by the simplicity of the mausoleum, which is dwarfed by the historical and Biblical significance of its honored occupants. It consists of simple brick dome. Underneath the dome are two graves with Hebrew writing on the wall’s plaster work. Two antique wooden tomb-boxes may be seen here; there are also manuscripts of the Old Testament inside the building, which I am told doubles as an active synagogue for the small Jewish remnant still extant in this city. This is poignant evidence that the flame of the Spirit of the God of Moses continues to burn here in the hearts of his people, a flame that cannot be extinguished and whose energy and life-sustaining power is nurtured by the ancient historical narrative of Queen and cousin inscribed in the hearts and minds of those of Abraham and David’s seed. 
            Despite Hamadan’s move to a modernity of ancient historical erasure working in tandem with the passage of the centuries, there is yet one more physical reminder here of the work of the God of Israel, using the great Achaemenids of ancient Persia as His instruments in history. Just west of Hamadan is a beautiful green valley called Abbas-Abad. There is a cliff which reaches to the bottom of this lush, cool place. This cliff is a part of the face of Mount Alvand (height 3574 meters), the highest point in Hamadan Province. There are two cuneiform inscriptions carved on the side of the cliff, known as the Epigraphs of Ganj-e-Nameh. The inscriptions belong to Darius and to Xerxes, testifying in three languages to the greatness of the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda, and the greatness of the reigns of these Achaemenid Kings. The real force operative through these men is not mentioned–a silence repristinated in the book of Esther and in the Heston/Fonda rendition of Midway. Yet my central observation of this day is that the mere spoken or written omission of His name cannot erase His eternal presence, His ongoing action and activity in history, His love for His people, and the assurance of the Second Advent of the Logos at the termination point of the linear history in perpetual movement since Adam. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

 

The Suffering of Saints and the Judgment of Evil in Isfahan (Tabae)
 
“He [Antiochus Epiphanes IV of Selucid Syria] will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of Princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.”–Daniel 8: 25
 
            The Biblical narrative is absolutely specific about two things, from Genesis to Revelation. One is that the Saints of God will suffer trial and tribulation in this life, often for their faith in the Divine Logos. The other is that evil exists in this present world and the system that guides it, run by demonic powers and principalities and spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6). With these given axioms, the Saints are sustained by the knowledge that their faith and hope reside in the next world and not the present one; simultaneously, God has placed his irrevocable imprimatur on the guarantee that evil will be comprehensively judged in His time, and with His mysterious methods.
            These are my thoughts as I depart Hamadan for Isfahan today. I have a contact to meet there, an old Armenian friend for years presently living in Tehran, who tells me that he and his family find it a privilege to meet me in Isfahan to show and explain the sites of the city, with special emphasis upon the Christian quarter of this most historic place. The name of this quarter is Jolfa, established by the Safavid Shah Abbas I at the beginning of the 17th century. It is located on the south bank of a river called the Zayandeh. It is linked up to the Muslim part of town by the Sio-se-pol bridge. I pray that this physical link proves to be a mirror of a spiritual bond inherent in the dignity of all of humanity created in the Imago Dei, especially in terms of a peaceful coexistence between these differing faiths here, and around the world. Is the apparent calm here real, or the eye of an impending future storm of the whirlwind? I do not know. But the situation here seems different from the dynamics I sense in Tehran, especially in the south where the present state of peaceful coexistence between its denizens and the Pahlavi Peacock Throne’s coalition seems to be a deceptive veiling of a subterranean, combustible future of conflagration. I wish I could escape the sense that the Americans will be in the center of this potential maelstrom, but it crosses my mind that the ominous parallel previously observed between Saigon and Tehran is at least presently absent here. Isfahan seems to be an appealing oasis which separates me, at least for a time, from grim ruminations and speculations about a future of tribulation known only to the God of Times and Seasons.
            The Pauline understanding of the Theology of the Cross is omnipresent in Isfahan in a place called Vank Cathedral. Externally, I would have mistaken this sanctuary for an Islamic mosque, given its domed appearance. The Armenian family accompanying me indicates that this is due to the edict of Shah Abbas that all of the worship sites in Isfahan be visually marked by the appearance of the dome, both Islamic and Christian. Once inside, the interior of the domed ceiling is laden with gold and light, both the natural light which permeates the altar space through windows placed at intervals in a circular pattern in the domed ceiling’s base, and the light generated by a series of candelabras in the sanctuary suspended from the roof by a series of interspersed cables. As in Western Azerbaijan, the erection of a railing which separates the Holy of Holies and its altar space from interlopers emphasizes the mystery of the Holiness of God, whose desire for the love and worship of the Saints does not evolve into an illegitimate familiarization with His ways and His being that blurs the lines of demarcation which qualitatively separate Him and His majesty from even the most beloved within His Created Order.
            Pastor Luther Koepke of Valparaiso University’s theology department recommended a book to me in the last academic semester of the year, entitled The Theology of Martin Luther by Paul Althaus. There is a chapter on the Theology of the Cross in this volume where Althaus quotes Luther as believing that the suffering Saint, and the suffering Communion of Saints, are those drawn closest to a mystical communion with the Biblical God. This may be the most striking paradox articulated in the New Testament, where the notion is present that weakness, sadness, and the unspeakable character of unimaginable suffering, tragedy, and injustice reveal the strength of God’s power, justice, and eternal love.
            The fresco paintings here convey this with a degree of detail which underscores the extent to which the artists and the worshipers in the Armenian version of the Confessing Church understand this truth. Their individual and collective perception is an existential one garnered through their own story as it evolved in historical experience and narrative. The frescos which depict the suffering, torture, and death of Armenian martyrs at the hands of Byzantine Greeks derive meaning only in the artistic expression of an even greater experience of the aforementioned on the Cross at Calvary, in the agony of the Logos whose tortured exclamation of Psalm 22, “My God, My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?”, is followed by a complete restoration of the relationship of the Father and the Logos and the subsequent eternal outreach of Father, Logos, and Spirit to the Saints in their tragedies in time. The indwelling Spirit enables the Saints to exercise Luther’s definition of faith: belief in the love and sovereignty of the God of Israel as expressed through the entrance of His Logos on the stage of human history, even when the empirical evidence of the Cross and other derivative tragedies in history seem to contradict the inscripturated and embodied assurances of God in the Word and in the Bread of the Presence of God.
            In this place is one additional reminder of life in the midst of death, as well as in the aftermath of death. The Armenian family escorting me takes care that I see a monument visible at the entrance of the perimeter of the Cathedral, outside the sanctuary. The monument is comprised of what appears to be an erected tower in its center. The tower is encircled by figures reminiscent of tombstones. There is the ongoing sound of water generated by a fountain. At the base of the tower is a two-dimensional figure of the Cross. I cannot read the inscription on the monument in either Armenian or Farsi, but am informed by my friends that it is dedicated to the memory of two million Armenians massacred in 1915 in Western Armenia by the Turkish government. This is followed by what seems to be an interminable silence. There is a quantifiable sense of eternal sustenance in this silence, but only in the knowledge that the Suffering Saints of God in time are translated into the joyous, futuristic Communion of Saints in the Kingdom that terminates time as it simultaneously transcends it. It is guaranteed and sealed by the blood of the suffering, forsaken Logos at Calvary and the victory of His empty tomb on Easter Sunday.
Nightfall
            This is the second night of rest in marvelous private quarters in Jolfa quarter. Tomorrow I will depart Isfahan for Pasargadae and Persepolis, to see one more time the remaining evidence on the Persian desert plains of the glory of the Achaemenid Era past.
            There is a most notable past event which took place in this city before the First Advent of the Logos. I refer to the horrific, but totally deserved Divine judgment and retribution manifested upon the Selucid Syrian monarch, Antiochus Epiphanes IV, in 164 B. C. It is not an accident to suggest that of all of the evil individuals chronicled in the Old Testament, Antiochus may have been the ultimate prototype of evil, the possible historical context and precursor for the remarks of St. Paul about Antichrist future in 2 Thessalonians 2.
            Daniel’s predictive vision of Antiochus in chapter 8 of his prophecy is one of the most chilling pericopes found anywhere in the Word of God. The vision occurs in the Persian city of Susa, the winter residence of the Achaemenid monarchs. After witnessing the future fall of Babylon, the rise and fall of the Medes and Persians, the appearance of Alexander the Great, and the four-fold split of the Greek empire after the death of Alexander, Daniel concentrates upon an examination of Antiochus, who will rise to power as king of Selucid Syria [one of the four sectors of what was Alexander’s original empire]. The prophet of Judah, resident in Persia since his deportation from Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar in 605, describes Antiochus as “stern faced. . .a master of intrigue. . .causing astounding devastation. . .he will succeed in whatever he does. . .he will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. . .he will cause deceit to prosper. . .he will take his stand against the Prince of princes [God].” In a fashion suggestive of the Satanic leader of the German Third Reich in the 20th century, the 6th century mogul of predictive prophecy indicates that Antiochus’ illegitimate ascension to the Selucid throne and his acquisition of great strength was “. . .not by his own power.” The commentators I have read this summer see this as a strong suggestion of the demonic powers and principalities working through his conscious willing of blasphemy against God. It manifested itself in history in his 3 ½ year profanation of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem [“the abomination that causes desolation”], followed by the fitting demise of his reign in the wake of the re-capture of Jerusalem by the Jewish army of Judas Maccabeus and the reconsecration of the altar of the God of Israel on Kislev 25, 165 B. C.
            On this cool summer night in what was ancient Tabae, my discomfort in the contemplation of this brand of wickedness past–and possibly future–is countered by the assurance of God’s guaranteed termination of evil and its perpetrators at a time and place of His own choosing. Daniel emphatically conveys the real story behind the end of the reign of Antiochus, underscoring in 8: 25 that “. . .he will be destroyed, but not by human power.”
            An Armenian priest here tells me that the verdict of the archeologists and historians is accurate regarding Antiochus’ selection of Tabae as a venue for exile. The Biblical narrative does not mention this detail, nor the specifics of the trip and the final unfolding of his Divinely ordained destruction. Why the Spirit guided Daniel past this portion of the fulfillment of his prophetic vision is known only to God. Oral tradition here I cannot authenticate says that Antiochus died a slow, tortuous death at the hands of a strange intestinal parasite that consumed his body internally with complete deliberation and efficiency. It is alleged that he was conscious of the Author of his demise in what was a brief utterance of death-bed regret at having desecrated the House of God in Jerusalem in an act of blasphemous insolence. His departure marked yet another incidence of the administration of Divine recompense and justice, an ancient echo of the end of a modern despot in history in an underground bunker in Berlin.
            Somehow I sense that I will live long enough in this temporal life to see other manifestations of Satanic powers and principalities in the evolving global political order driving toward the establishment of a world government not under the authority and governance of the Biblical God and His Son. I am internally troubled tonight in Persia in nocturnal mind and spirit by this probable, even certain prospect. My solace comes solely in the knowledge that the perpetrators of these unfolding events, empowered by the invisible but real realm of the demonic, will join despots from Nebuchadnezzar to Antiochus and the Fuehrer in an assured end, both in history and in their irrevocable consignment to the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20).

 



 
Chapter Six
The God Who Fulfills and Appoints: Cyrus at Pasargadae and the Achaemenids of Persepolis
 
“[I am the Lord] who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, ‘Let it be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Let its foundations be laid.’. . .I will and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward. . .”–Isaiah 44: 28; 45: 13
 
            The superintendence of God over time, history, and the affairs of nations presupposes His foreordained, predestined, mysterious will. I sense this today in a way I have never quite experienced before as I stand in the sun in a place called Dasht-e-Morghab, or the Plain of Pasargadae. It is here that the tomb of Cyrus the Great of Persia, the first of the ancient Achaemenid kings, resides.
            The tomb itself consists of a single narrow passageway on the northwest side. The steps which lead to it are about five feet wide. The tomb chamber rises from six distinctive tiers. The Dasht-e-Morghab is a starkly barren plain in the summertime, accentuated by incessant solar heat and the occasional drift of desert wind which moves dirt and sand today from northwest to southeast. For some reason, being here today reminds me of visiting the remains and legacy of John F. Kennedy on a hill in Arlington near the Lee-Custis mansion and west of the sprawl of downtown Washington lying beyond the Potomac below. For while the aura of the desert of the Plain of Pasargadae is a complete topographical contrast to Arlington, the quiet contemplation of the contribution to history on the part of both of the deceased is identical.
            There are no other visitors here today. This fact, accompanied by the desert wind and sand and a visual horizon which extends forever, serves to underscore King Cyrus’s solitary residence in silent regal grandeur and dignity on the plain. At one level, this physical locale in space reminds me of the speed of time and the fleeting character of physical life within the bookends of its genesis and termination points. These are truths and axioms about existence that affect kings and empires along with the mundane and forgotten of history. At another level, the ongoing presence of this starkly poignant edifice in the desert serves as a reminder of a past greatness whose impact and influence is supernaturally present and future as well. I cannot escape this feeling as the wind-driven sand continues to embrace the tomb before continuing its journey to the southeast and points unknown.
            The Biblical story of King Cyrus testifies to the deliverance of God’s people from catastrophe and oppression in every age. Isaiah 44 and 45 predicted his appearance in world history 150 years before his arrival on its stage. Daniel 2 records that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream which clearly referenced the end of his own empire at the hands of the Medes and the Persians led by Cyrus. It would be an act designed to successfully achieve the absolute vindication of the God of Israel in Biblical history that Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians, the instruments of the destruction of His temple and the forced diaspora of His people in 605-586 B. C., would in turn be jettisoned by the Persians and their Achaemenid monarchs. And just as Isaiah had prophetically indicated in the 8th century B. C., Cyrus used his moment at the crucial intersection of the crossroads of history to enact a decree initiating the repatriation of Jews to Palestine and the holy city of Jerusalem, for the purpose of the reconstruction of the Temple of God. Ezra, chapter 1 states specifically that God “moved the heart” of Cyrus to issue his royal proclamation of liberation. The King, in turn, states in his Empire-wide decree that he had been “appointed” by the God of Israel for this purpose.
            I have a theory about the truly great men and women of history. It is that when the most significant moment of their lives presents itself as a turning point in the fortunes of God’s people as well as their own, they seize the moment as the Spirit arranges and directs. The atoms and molecules that spin off into space are precisely aligned in history for a given moment only once. Those appointed by the Biblical God for His designs are known to Him, set apart, and appointed even before their conception in the womb (Jeremiah 1); all the days of God ordained for the Appointed “were written in Your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139: 16).”
            This raises a question for today as the sun looks down upon me as its rays beam upon Dasht-e-Morghab: What, if anything, am I appointed to? At twenty-one, it occurs to me that I’d like to be appointed of God for something significant in His timberline and design. The usual American mantra about fame and fortune does not drive me–but then again, neither does consignment to cosmic irrelevance either. What is it, then?
            I have not the foggiest notion today in this sun-drenched desert plain light years removed from my homeland in the heartland of America. But it occurs to me that in lieu of having this revealed to me today, I should settle for two things based on what the Bible reveals about Cyrus. The first is the idea that the concept of his appointment for God’s purpose can be legitimately extended to anyone concerned about the Lord’s kingdom and the well being of those who seek Him. I must affirm the idea that He has appointed me for some reason, and has superintended all of the events and angles in my life that have led to this moment on the plain in a place I’d never thought about or heard of when my primary concern in the universe was the place of the baseball Giants or the football Redskins in the current league standings. The Dasht-e-Morghab testifies to the cosmic irrelevance of these media-driven children’s concerns appropriated by adults with just enough creativity to turn on a television set before popping open the Six-Pack. The cosmic creative and redemptive design of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and His Logos, reduces the concerns of contemporary American life and culture to the realm of the quixotically and blasphemously trivial. If I had one prayer to utter on this day, it would be to receive God’s eternal promise of redemption, not simply from Luther’s “sin, death, and the power of the devil,” but from the curse and death of consignment to a temporal life lived in perpetual insignificance, without definitive design and direction from Him. The achievement of something significant [not in the world’s definition, but God’s] is of the essence of life and time–while you still have it. King Cyrus and the ancient Persian Empire would be at their apex only for a season in God’s conception of history, but the role played by this great man as an instrument of the Lord in ushering in the repatriation and restoration of the fortunes of Israel before the Advent of the Logos, remains secure in eternity. In this way, the tomb of the King at Pasargadae serves as a physical monument to the Biblical God and the achievement of His purposes in time, both in the 6th century B. C. and the 1st century A. D. It cannot be an accident that Isaiah speaks prophetically of Cyrus by name in chapters 44 and 45 of his treatise, followed by a lengthy discourse on the future Messiah, the Suffering Servant of chapter 53, whose agonizing death as the Logos of the Father precedes His own resurrection–and ours. The legacy of Cyrus which rests on the Dasht-e-Morghab is ultimately not as the great King of Achaemenid Persia, although he certainly was. It rests in his divine appointment as the precursor and prototype of the ultimate Savior of all of humanity, who would appear in human history over five centuries later.
            I think a lot not only of these events in the past but their possible spinoff applications in understanding the present and futures unknown. One example comes to mind immediately–the events that I understand took place here five years ago in 1971, when after 2,150 years the Shah would celebrate Cyrus’s founding of the Persian Empire and his capture of Babylon on October 12, 539 B. C., by holding a two-week royal celebration near the ruins of Persepolis near this plain. Something like 33 heads of state attended this event; it supposedly cost approximately $100 million in American dollars to stage. The now-deposed Vice President of the United States, Mr. Agnew, second in command to the now-deposed 37th American President, Richard Nixon, was the representative of Washington here on the desert plains for the Shah’s ultimate coronation and the commemoration of Cyrus. What this suggests or portends, I do not know.
            I will at least venture one observation about Cyrus which is documented by Isaiah and which bears repeating again in my mind. The prophet quotes the Lord as saying of Cyrus that “He [Cyrus] will rebuild My city [Jerusalem] and set My exiles free, but not for a price or reward.”
            The sun has now descended significantly as it heads for its destination point below the visible horizon. The sudden appearance of cooler temperatures and the increase in the tempo of the wind are accompanied by a kaleidoscopic portrait in the heavens of hues of red, white, blue, and purple as a precursor to darkness. In the especially colorful onset of twilight, my emotions are mixed. The visual spectacle of this sky painted by an unseen hand on the panoramic half-dome of the roof of the Dasht-e-Morghab above me, is exhilarating evidence of the work of God in bringing me to this place in this brief, passing moment which links East to West and the previous 2500 years of motion, events, and actors to my own life in a way I do not understand. But my sense of grateful and exhilaration is tempered by the proximity of darkness. It seems to enshroud the entire planet. I do not know if it will always be followed by another sunrise, either for America and Persia, or for the cosmos itself. Perhaps this says that the Lord is at hand (Philippians 3), with the New Heaven and the New Earth in His wake (Revelation 21). This must be my hope as the zenith of the sunshine of the Empires of this present age must be inexorably followed by twilight and darkness and the denial of another sunrise when the God who determines the Times and the Seasons decrees it.

 



 
Chapter Seven
In Search of Daniel: The Road to Susa (Shushan)
 
“In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign [in Babylon, circa 551 B. C.], I, Daniel, had a vision after the one that had already appeared to me. In my vision, I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns [Persia] was longer than the other [Media] but grew up later. I watched the ram as he charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power.”–Daniel 8: 1-3
 
            My first encounter with the ancient prophet of Judah living in exile in Persia, was through the auspices of a book my parents purchased for me at the age of 7, entitled Egermeier’s Bible Stories. I remember particularly identifying with God’s preservation of Daniel after the latter’s consignment to the lion’s den by King Belshazzar of Babylon, especially during October of 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Living then as a boy at McClellan Air Force Base in California, and going through the daily drills and practices designed to supposedly protect us if the Russian nuclear warheads delivered by ICBM suddenly struck Sacramento, California, I needed daily reminders of God’s protective capabilities. These were found each day in re-reading the story about Daniel’s deliverance. It is now fourteen years later. And I am in Susa, site of one of Daniel’s most historically significant visions, and the site of the temporary consignment of his body to the earth.
            Susa is in Khuzestan province. It is explained to me today that the northern and eastern boundaries of this province, known for oil exploration and agriculture, face the Zagros mountain range. To the south is the strategic Persian Gulf. If I were to move to the southwest from here, I would quickly cross into Iraq and the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The Iranian industrial and oil center known as Abadan is not far from this confluence, and rests perilously close to the Iraqi border. I note with some discomfort today that the area south of the Biblical confluence of rivers involves a waterway called the Shatt-al-Arab which feeds into the Persian Gulf. My discomfort resides in the fact that in recent years, the English language Kayhan newspaper of Tehran reports regularly on the Iraqi-Iranian disputes over rights and sovereignty where this waterway is concerned. Dad is convinced that a war may eventually come between the two nations over both oil and water rights, suggesting that Abadan may eventually be a city not to be a resident of, if his military and historical analysis hold course. I remember our last conversation about this eventuality. He said that Mother and I would be sent packing for the States immediately if this contingency ever materialized. Assuming that the alliance between the United States and Iran were to continue unabated, he would remain here to handle the aviation logistics for the Shah’s Imperial Iranian Air Force in the event of war. That will always be Dad–occupying Bavaria after VE Day; the Berlin Airlift; Turkey; the Cuban Missile Crisis; Vietnam; and now this brewing tea kettle. I keep waiting for the whistle to sound for the beginning of these ominous events. Maybe the Apostle John knew what he was talking about on Patmos in speaking of the angel and his 6th bowl, drying up the Euphrates for the arrival of the Kings of the East and the final conflict of world history (Revelation 16: 12).
            There are so many Biblical and historical confluences in Susa that it is hard for the mind to comprehend them. The lives of both Daniel and Queen Esther intersect with this city, as do a number of the Achaemenid kings mentioned in the Old Testament, including Darius I, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes. This is because Susa was once the administrative capital for the Achaemenid kings, from Darius I onward (circa 521-331 B. C.). It was the eastern terminus of the Persian Empire’s Royal Road, which ran westward to Sardis in Asia Minor 1600 miles away. I recall this place called Sardis, although I have not been there. In John’s Apocalypse, chapter 3, he mentions the church in Sardis, the 4th in a series of 7 churches John writes letters to in Asia Minor, now western Turkey. As a digression today, I suspect John’s conveyance of Christ’s description of the church in Sardis in the first century applies with equal force to the American church and culture in the twentieth century, during this allegedly great Bicentennial observance this summer: “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die.” Somehow I get the uncomfortable feeling that a collective heeding of the admonition of Almighty God isn’t in the cards, tea leaves, and lots–that the Bell Curve model for nations in history, applied to my own, suggests that the future course for The Stars and Stripes is one of declension. While those in post-Christian America, whose ultimate faith is in technology and man see the curve pointing only upward, those whose faith is in the Biblical God and His Logos and not in man, of necessity perceive the movement of linear history in the opposite direction. My historical pessimism over America’s course in the next few years and decades is overcome only by the reassurance that the eschaton of the Logos and the arrival of the New Heavens, the New Jerusalem, and the New Earth lie beyond whatever awaits my country’s temporal fate. Of this one can be readily reassured.
            Another thought suddenly permeates my mind. Is the ancient geographic connection between Susa and Sardis matched by a spiritual one? Is John’s testimony and insight on the church at Sardis linked to the vision of Daniel here in Susa (Daniel 8) regarding the eventual fate of the Persian Empire with all of the subsequent implications?
            One difference does come to mind. The church at Sardis is given a reprieve if it repents. In the case of Daniel’s vision in the third year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, he sees at Susa the irrevocable decision of the God of history to terminate the glory of ancient Achaemenid Persia. The vision reveals that it comes at the hands of Alexander the Great and the Greek Empire, symbolized by the annihilation of the previously invincible Ram at the hands of the Goat coming from the West. In turn, Daniel reports Alexander’s own eclipse, stating in chapter 8 verse 8 that at the “height of the Goat’s power [Greece], his large horn [Alexander] was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven [a four way split of the Greek Empire, including Ptolemaic Egypt and Selucid Syria].”
            Strangely, my mind suddenly and temporarily departs Susa for another time and place: Montgomery, Alabama in February of 1964, over a dozen years ago. My father had promised me that if I completed my 3rd grade homework for the next day, I’d be allowed to listen by transistor radio to the events transpiring that night in Miami Beach, Florida. It was there that Sonny Liston would defend his heavyweight championship title against Cassius Clay of Louisville, Kentucky, later to be known throughout the world as Muhammad Ali.
            What does this have to do with the Ram [Persia] and the Goat [Greece]? For one, Liston looked as invincible as Persia when Daniel stated that “. . .none could stand against him [Persia].” I still remember reading and listening to every sports pundit at the time involved in predicting the outcome. Liston was a prohibitive 8-1 favorite in the betting odds. A Sports Illustrated columnist publicly stated that Clay was “crazy” if he thought he stood a chance of even finishing the fight, much less winning.
            The world now knows the outcome from that February evening in Miami Beach long ago.  Sonny Liston would be outboxed from the opening bell of Round One to the end of the fight. He would be unable to answer the bell for the beginning of the 7th round. His demise, and the elevation of Cassius Clay to the heavyweight championship of the world, stunned the planet as it marked one of the pivotal turning points in the history of all of human competition on the planet.
            And so it was when Greece replaced Persia, only for the mysterious death of Alexander the Great in Babylon on June 13, 323 B. C. to mark Greece’s own fragmentation and eventual replacement by the Roman Empire as well as other Empires throughout the evolution of events in the cosmos and in time. It reminds me of a poem a Persian girl showed me last summer when I asked her about what she thought might be the longer term future of the present King and dynasty reigning in her land. The poem was penned by Omar Khayyam of Nishapur light years ago and its most poignant line reads:
Lo, in this battered caravanserai, whose portals are alternate Night and Day. How sultan after sultan with his pomp, abode his destined hour and went his way.
            I am internally troubled again when the issues of Emperor and Empire-worship are applied not only to Persia and Greece, but to America. The deification of the State must inevitably be enshrouded in mythological falsehoods and symbolism, along with the accompanying diminution or elimination of God–or even worse, the employment of His name in a thinly veiled attempt to mask the cancerous character of an Empire devoted to power, wealth, sex, and spiritual death. The coming 4th of July Bicentennial celebration of America’s birthday among its expatriates here will echo refrains from Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams while extolling the virtues of a Constitution whose original thrust and intent is repudiated by the current merger of American government with central banking and corporatism. It is a guarantee that no one will reference the violent deaths of the Kennedy brothers and King, the disasters of Vietnam and Watergate, the pivotal Constitutional and moral disaster embodied in 1973 by Roe versus Wade, or the ever-encroaching power of the central government and global institutions vis a vis the individual. The entire affair will be one of a collective expression of smug self-assurance. Thanks, but no thanks. The Ambassador and the military brass will be funding the bands, the fireworks, and the beer. But my mind cannot escape the visions of the night about helicopters departing the roof pad at the Embassy in Saigon fourteen months ago. In the night visions I still see the desperate Vietnamese civilians desperately reaching in vain for one last attempt at salvation in the form of the departing copters with the escalating sound of their whirring blades, hurriedly lifting from the roof pad in the wake of the impending American defeat in South Vietnam. Is this defeat an ominous portent of the future fortunes of yet another Ram? The beer should deaden the mental and emotional proclivity and capacity of the patriotic masses to contemplate these questions as the strains of God Bless America echo and reverberate within the walls of the city at the base of the Elburz on July 4, 1976. I must confess what I’d never say to Dad out of respect for him and the fine men I have known through his military career: that here in Susa one will not hear these songs or watch nocturnal fireworks igniting the night sky. There are only a few whispers emanating from the inanimate rocks and monuments about Empires past and present, abiding their destined hour and going their way.
            Feeling slightly sick at these thoughts, I am suddenly reacquainted with the notion that the physical heat in Susa and Khuzestan province in the middle of a summer day is close to being unbearable. It is a time to find sustenance and shelter from the burning rays of the sun. No tourist dares come here except between November and March, except for me. I wonder why I have pursued such contraindication all of my life. I do not know. Wherever the masses go, I depart for other confines. My mind does not reflect on this thought very long before its replacement by a vision of the Rock cut out of a mountain and the prophet of Susa’s reassuring discussion of its appearance in history and its ultimate meaning:
. . .the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms [Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome] and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the Rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands–a Rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. [Daniel 2: 44-45]

 

 



 
Part Two

 

The Bridge

 

[or The Chapter Without a Number]

 

[or The Interlude Before the Unleashing of the Fifth Seal]
 
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.”–St. John’s Apocalypse, chapter 6: 9-11
“Follow your conscience [under God] and abjure the Realm”–Daniel New, chairman of the Texas League of the South, to Mark Dankof in 2003
“If all men are brethren, why are the winds and the waves so restless?”–The Emperor of Japan on the eve of war with the United States of America in 1941
 
            I was recently in the twilight zone between consciousness and sleep during the late night. I was having trouble achieving the latter after making the mistake of watching an evening television show devoted to the dyspeptic topic of the American atom-bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima. In the narrative of the presentation, one of the crew members of the Enola Gay indicated that the targeted reference point for the crew regarding the entire city was a bridge, located in the midst of a particularly strategic area of the urban sprawl destined for fiery destruction below.
            I recall another mental image of a bridge. This one is in the Garden of Peace at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, a charming German-American community in the Texas Hill Country. In this instance, the bridge was designed to be a symbol of peace and interconnection between the chief protagonists during the War of the Pacific, as well as a symbol of the hope for peace and forgiveness among all of humanity.
            A third vision of a bridge came to me in the night not long ago. It looked like the Garden of Peace in Texas, and entered my mind when thinking about the passage of the years between the penning of my diary as an expatriate American itinerant in Iran and now. Who was I in youth in the middle 1970s? Who am I now? And what insights about God, the future of humanity, and myself have dawned since those early days of youth vanished into distant time and space?
            The first realization is that an idea or wish recorded in chapter six of my diary twenty-seven years ago continues to revisit me on each day of my life. I said then that, “I must affirm the idea that He has appointed me for some reason, and has superintended all of the events and angles in my life that have led to this moment on the plain [at Pasargadae before the tomb entrance of Cyrus the Great]. . . .” What did this mean then? What does it mean now?
            I suppose that in those days, I thought in terms of a divine appointment that involved some kind of fame or worldly greatness, a God-directed destiny that would enable me to achieve something that would remain entrenched in human memory throughout the passages of time. Upon reflection, it alternates as something both humorous and sobering–humorous because as days and years go by, it becomes increasingly doubtful that my temporal life will intersect with anything that causes the world to remember a single thing about me after my passing--and sobering because somehow it occurs to me that in those days, my subconscious was less concerned about being a willing, passive servant of God’s will than it was in the effective projection of my own desires and ego in influencing the cosmos. This last realization is especially significant, not simply in the acknowledgment of the need of the individual will and ego to be mastered by the Logos and the Holy Spirit, but in the absurdity of the notion that remembrance in a history book is even a motivating goal. For in terms of Christian eschatology, this world is ageing, dying, decaying-- in a process that is redeemable only in the context of the Second Coming of the Son. The prophet Daniel understood this well on the last night of the Babylonian Kingdom and the reign of Belshazzar. He had interpreted the ominous handwriting on the wall for the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar simply because God had commissioned him to do so. The offer of the third highest position in the Babylonian Kingdom by Belshazzar in reward for the prophet’s services was ludicrous against the backdrop of the fact that his reign would be terminated that very evening. The prophet submissive to the will and sovereignty of God knew this. The king dedicated to Empire did not.
            As the reader enters Part Three of the narrative, this principle must be kept in mind throughout the consideration of the individual chapters. The Orwellian dream in a Wisconsin farmhouse in chapter eight projects not simply the end of Empires and Realms, but the evil character of the powers and principalities that undergird them. John Kennedy and Jonas Savimbi tell us this as well, not simply in further development of these foundational themes, but in the attendant dangers of falling prey to the false mythologies and symbols employed by those interested in the furtherance of their positions in the Empire comprised of both New Babylon and False Israel. These mythologies and symbols involve a direct appeal to the highest and noblest sacrificial instincts of the subjects of the Empire and the Realm–in what actually proves to be the advancement of the duplicitous agenda of an elite interested in the acquisition of its own aims, chiefly power for the mere sake of wielding it, and the advancement of the kingdom of the Prince of Darkness. Mr. Savimbi will warn the reader–to perceive what is, and not what appears to be.
            What then is my own calling and destiny in the context of the clash of Empires and the avarice of the Corporate Conglomerates? What was the message of God in the desert heat of the Plain of Pasargadae twenty-seven years ago?
            My friend Daniel New, The Angel of the Bridge Between Past, Present, and Future, conveyed the answer to me today. “Follow your conscience [under God] and abjure the Realm.”
            In abjuring the Realm and its Prince of Darkness, you and I may be found under the Altar in the unveiling of the Fifth Seal.

 



 

Part Three
Thoughts, Dreams and Visions in the Night
America 1984-2003

 



 

Chapter Eight
January, 1984: An Orwellian Dream in Wisconsin
 
“The Dragon gave the Beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the Beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the Beast. Men worshiped the Dragon because he had given authority to the Beast, and they also worshiped the Beast and asked, ‘Who is like the Beast? Who can make war against him?’”–The Apocalypse of St. John, chapter 13: 2-4
 
            I find it hard to believe that I graduated from seminary in Chicago a month ago after years of seeking the right school and applying myself to the grind of completing graduate school with limited resources. And here I am, trudging through the snow on a blistery night in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, heading toward a farm house where I will spend the night before returning to Chicago tomorrow. In meeting with a group of people here who want to begin a new Lutheran church in this city, I must confess serious internal and intellectual reservations. There is a vague uneasiness as I wind my way on foot to the place of my lodgings for the evening. My suspicion is that I will feel better getting on the road back to the Windy City in the morning.
            This sixth sense of things increases markedly upon arrival in the farm house. I am greeted by the head of household who indicates that there is a spacious and finely furnished bedroom upstairs awaiting my arrival. I simply have to summon the energy for navigating the staircase, and then making a left turn down a long corridor. The room in question will be on my right, halfway down the hall.
            As I ascend the stairs, there is a strange sense of descent. It increases with each step I take. The drive to Chicago in the morning looks better all the time.
            There is no way to have anticipated what has been awaiting me above. On both walls of the hallway are paintings and pictures of astrological signs and charts. At the very top of the stairwell stands a tall bookcase aligned against the wall. The bookcase is starkly black. On each shelf are perched a series of Masonic artifacts, interspersed with others which reveal the Jewish Star of David, not in its light or dark blue hues that I have seen on Israeli flags, but in what appears to be a strange color or stain. It reminds me of a mixture of oil and blood. Strangest of all, in the center position of the main shelf of the bookcase is a wooden cross. It is a cross draped with a cloth. The cloth is not the chosen color of any of the individual liturgical colors of the Confessing Church [red, white, green, or purple]. It is a synthesis of red and white horizontal stripes, with a series of white stars in symmetrical alignment within a definitively blue box in the upper left hand corner of the fabric. My first instinct is to remove this drapery from the cross in an act of silent, reverential revulsion. But then the next thought is that I should refrain from touching anything connected with this bookcase or its individual artifacts. An increasing instinctive sense of a cancerously gritty, grimy evil begins to reemerge within me. The hours leading to my departure by car for Chicago in the morning will hopefully pass quickly. I am already visualizing my right hand putting the keys into the ignition as I pump the accelerator with my right foot to encourage my junked out Plymouth Horizon to emerge victorious over the howling winds and deepening snowdrifts of the upper Midwest in the literal dead of winter.
            I am now in bed. It is odd that I do not remember undressing or putting my small suitcase against the wall next to the bedroom entrance. I am now conscious of a night stand to my right which holds a white pitcher containing what appears to be fresh water. Thankfully there are no obviously occultic artifacts that can be seen anywhere in this particular room of the farm house enshrouded by now in darkness. For some reason, I note that the accouterments of the bedroom are of an early colonial American aura and ambience. It crosses my mind that the Mount Vernon-like sleeping arrangements are certainly better than the Masonic museum in the hallway, but then I am suddenly reminded that Washington was a Mason and that the guest bathroom is in the hallway. I am not going out there again on this creepy night under any circumstances. My last trip through that corridor will be as I ambulate in the morning to the staircase to begin a descent to the foyer and main door of the farm house. Or will it really be an ascent? Only the morning will tell.
            I am fully awake as the attempt to pummel my mind, body, soul, and spirit begins in earnest. The choking and the targeted attempt at strangulation begin the assault. But I cannot see any physical attacker. My arms are pinned to the bed although there is no physical evidence of any device of restraint or nocturnal predator or intruder. Then the chanting begins. It is overtly demonic although I cannot understand the lyrics or see the vocalists. They are a multitude approaching Legion. Their voices are symphonically synthesized, but produce a sense of destructive cacophony which seeks to musically accompany the termination of my life in this single moment. As I try to lurch my upper torso upward in resistance while attempting to kick with both feet and legs, I discover that the unseen but tangible force applied to cutting off my oxygen by encircling my carotids continues not only to pin arms, but legs, feet, and torso as well.
            Oxygen deprivation and the absolute application of superior physical force to the head, torso, and all appendages, is now accompanied in joint frontal assault by a visual presentation of a futuristic evil supernaturally and proleptically revealed to me in this instantaneous, horrific moment in time. How long have I been struggling? A second? An hour? All night? A thousand years? But Satan is not presently bound, but engaged in a broken field run in history and in this bedroom and farm house. I hear the tails of his minions and apprentices thumping the floor repeatedly as the visually kaleidoscopic slide show unveils its design upon my soul and the future of the cosmos. I have the terrifying, conscious thought that if I should lose consciousness I will awaken in the hottest region of the subterranean netherworld of Sheol.
            In the night vision, the gun shots ring out in rapid succession. There are not three, but six shots fired at President Kennedy on Elm Street as his limousine winds its way through the glass, metal, and cement canyons of Dallas. I am on the north side of Elm to the right front of the stricken president. It is my desire to leap from the curb and into the backseat of the car to shield him from the fusillade. But I am immobilized as the choking and chanting continue. In the montage of car, spectator, buildings, blood, and brain tissue, I can see the faces of the gunmen. They are all Cubans. One is positioned at either end of the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Another is hidden on the second floor of the Dal-Tex building next door. A fourth is on top of the roof of the County Records building on Houston Street with a spectacularly elevated view of Dealey Plaza. The fifth is on the Grassy Knoll behind a picket fence and concealed from bystanders below on Elm Street by a clump of trees and shrubbery. The gunmen behind the President, lurking in the shadows of their concealed positions in three different buildings, manage to strike him only once in the back. Another shot chips the south curb of Elm. Two other reports strike the Governor of Texas in the back and in the left wrist. It is left to the frontally stationed marksman, behind the picket fence in a one o’clock position relative to the President, who accomplishes the deadly assignment. His first shot strikes the President in the throat and engages in a clear rear exit. His second shot strikes the President in the right front part of his head and exits diagonally, ripping through his cerebellum.
            I have no memory of how I have managed to make it into the back seat of the limousine, but I am now here as Greer and Kellerman floor the accelerator for the frantic escape from Dealey Plaza. I am lying in a prone position in the back seat, drenched in Mr. Kennedy’s blood. Approaching the Triple Underpass I look upward to see a single, sinister figure still standing there and looking down at me and the other occupants of the car. His countenance is comprised of eyes hidden behind the darkest of sunglasses, designed to obstruct even the slightest permeation of light from the outside world. I was once told that a person’s eyes are the window to the condition of the soul. This may be true, but I observe in a brief second and flash in time that this man is evil to the deepest molten core of the center of the earth. In this case, the smug and satisfied grin at what he observes in the Presidential car below his feet is his window to the bottomless blackness of his accursed soul.
            He wears a beige colored trench coat. His hands are concealed in his pockets. Before the car disappears under the Underpass and subsequently exits in a blue blur streaking for the Stemmons Freeway, I see that he moves his hands away from his body while continuing to conceal them from view. The result of this is that his trench coat flashes open for a millisecond before closing. In that millisecond, I observe that he is literally bare breasted. There is a huge tattoo covering his torso. It is triangular in shape, much like the pattern of the gunfire which has just engulfed Mr. Kennedy. The tattoo is comprised of a series of numbers, names, insignia, and symbols which are transposed upon one another. At any given point in this millisecond, a particular component of this tattoo emergences in visual prominence, only to recede into the darkened background in deference to yet another. The numbers 666, 3 ½ and 42 are followed by the Jewish Star of David, the Masonic insignia, the Islamic crescent, the Hammer and Sickle, the Swastika, the Pink Triangle, the Triangle of the Federal Reserve with its Secrets of the Nile surrounded by the dancing Gnomes of Zurich, the Stars and Stripes, the Union Jack, and finally the emblem of the United Nations dripping with the blood of the martyrs and the unborn children whose voices cry out for the intervention of an avenging God of the New Israel.  The tails of the demons thump the floor with greater intensity; their voices rising in chant level and intonation now testify to the identity of the man on the Triple Underpass as the car disappears in the darkness.
“He is the Beast who is given power and authority by the Dragon! The whole world is astonished by him and follows him! He has authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation! No one may buy or sell from the Antiochus of the New World Order without his name stamped on their forehead! Kennedy’s blood is the first phase in the river of blood of those without his name, and who are not deceived by his signs and wonders!”
            My last, gasping breath and thought are for the appearance of the breath of God to come, his ruah. I suddenly remember to attempt to speak the name of the Divine Logos of God in the rebuke of these Legions who undergird the World System of the Prince of the Darkness of this coming New Age and Order. As each syllable grudgingly and chokingly emerges from my mouth and throat, calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I become stronger. After the last syllable, I possess complete control of my mind and body again. The vision is over. My soul is in the firm possession of the Logos whose blood seals His saints.
            Arising from this bed of tortures not of this world, I retrieve the suitcase lying against the wall by the bedroom door. It occurs to me not to re-enter the realm of the hallway beyond in an attempt to reach an escape route. I cross the room for an open window to a moon-lit, star studded firmament above with a snow covered landscape below. The suitcase goes out the window first. I then raise the window to its absolute height before hoisting myself onto the ledge which leads to Light and not Darkness, to freedom and not to imprisonment. The plunge of ascent to the welcome Earth is cushioned by the white, powdery drifts. As I retrieve the suitcase with the newly restored strength of my hands, wrists, and arms, my lower appendages break out in an energetic and determined sprint to my car. It is still there. The ignition key opens the door lock; the suitcase is tossed in the back; in jumping in the driver’s seat, I thankfully discover that the insertion of my ignition key and the rhythmic pumping of the accelerator cause the engine to turn over with confidence and eager verve. I never look back once during the entire drive. I am relieved when the sun finally emerges from the eastern horizon to begin what remains of my life, and that of a temporarily turbulent linear history in the incessant movement of time.
            Yet I am also troubled in spirit to the point of near physical illness. What is the meaning of this appalling vision?

 



 
Chapter Nine
July 1998: The Man in London Fog: A Night in Section 60 at Arlington Cemetery
 
“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”–Second Corinthians 11: 13-14
 
“I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. . . . I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars–I will make them come and fall down at your feet, to acknowledge that I have loved you.”–The Apocalypse of St. John 2: 9 and 3: 9 [to the Churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia]
 
            I have received special dispensation from higher authorities to be in Arlington Cemetery in the darkness that follows closing time and the setting of the sun. The ever-faithful Blue Line of the Metro has brought me here from Foggy Bottom’s station at 22nd and I street. The GWU parking garage near there has proven accommodating once more in housing my car until I can return to the District from my godparents’ final resting place in Section 60.
            I guess because of all the years I had as a kid growing up as the son of an American Air Force Colonel, I’ve grown used to remembering street names and directions by the celebrated military surnames which often designate them. Arlington Cemetery is no exception to this habit learned long ago. The man appointed to surreptitiously open the main gate of the entrance to this hallowed ground starts to give me spoken directions. I politely demur, indicating that I definitely know the way. I will walk down Eisenhower until I reach Bradley Drive. The only way one can turn off of Eisenhower onto Bradley, given my charted course, is left. On Bradley, I continue until I am located approximately half way between Eisenhower and MacArthur Drive. It is at this juncture of terraced landscaping sprinkled with more white headstones than can reliably be counted, that I leave the road completely for the endless deep green and manicured grass of Arlington which houses the graves of the medaled denizens of Section 60. I marked a tree here by Lee Bowie Knife six months ago, which enables me to pinpoint the exact spot where my godparents await their resurrection bodies in the life that is yet to come.
            The moon is full; the stars in the sky seem as innumerable as the headstones. There is a divine, eerie sheen on the individual markers provided as a gift from the heavens. A single headstone in Section 60 records the names, birth dates, and passings of my godparents. On one side is the Lieutenant Colonel and faithful aide to my father for many years. He had pulled me out of the proverbial fire so many times over so many years. The other side of the stone belongs to his beloved wife, a citizen of this hallowed ground on her own merits. Not many married couples can honestly claim to have met during hostilities between Allied and Axis forces at Anzio Beach. That kind of duty, honor, and fidelity can’t be purchased over a counter.
            For a time, the clarity of the sky enables me to casually observe the late night arrivals and departures to and from National Airport. To the east, I can see the red night light in the sky marking the location of the Washington Monument. I have never quite been able to decide whether I prefer the day or night view that is available from this location in the Cemetery. The best view in the place is the elevated one that accompanies the grave marker of the 35th President of the United States and the Lee-Custis mansion. For the uninitiated, it is no longer acceptable in the age of Political Correctness to refer to this edifice by that name, but by the appellation of Arlington House. The attempt at historical erasure of the memory of the great General of the Army of Northern Virginia continues apace.
            There is a sudden change in the weather and the late night landscape here. The wind begins to blow steadily, but not violently. It produces a continual, but soothing rustling of the tree branches which symmetrically line and protect Bradley Drive. The temperature becomes unseasonably cool, but not cold. My eyes are suddenly averted from the engraved writing on the west side of the grave stone of my godparents, to notice the arrival of a low level fog which enshrouds Section 60 as it dips under the tree branches and covers both grass and stone with a damp misty draping. Ground visibility drops to approximately ten feet. I notice that there is a cessation of night time air traffic to and from National. Looking briefly to the east, the red light at the apex of the obelisk that is the Monument has suddenly disappeared from view. I note briefly that this does not disturb me. When I was a child, it once occurred to me that the architecture of this bastion of the District skyline was disturbingly reminiscent of the 90 foot tall obelisk that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had placed on the Plain of Dura. He demanded that all in his kingdom worship this statue as palpable evidence of the deification of his Empire, as recorded by the prophet Daniel. The king had already forgotten the prophet’s explanation of the former’s dream in chapter 2–that his Empire and a succession of others would have their place in time for only a brief moment. The God of Israel who directs the Times and Seasons, and causes Empires to rise and fall had already decreed the end of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. The erection of the obelisk was a pathetic testimony to the king’s lamentable spiritual state and his loss of historical memory. He would later be rewarded with a seven year period of insanity and exile. The demise of his Empire would occur during the reign of his grandson Belshazzar.
             I return to facing west. The fog continues to worsen. It reminds me that I have only 90 minutes before having to catch the underground Metro car outside the Cemetery gate for the subterranean trip east across the river to Foggy Bottom at 22nd and I. This may give me just enough time to retrieve the car for a late night stop at Bullfeathers restaurant southeast of the Capitol grounds. That has become a ritual for me upon departure from Babylon-by-the-Potomac. I order a Roughrider sandwich and a Diet Coke for the infusion of late night caffeine for the three hour drive back to the City of Brotherly Love. And just before departure, I will walk across the street to the Capitol South Metro entrance off C Street, which has the best street side set of newspaper vendors in town. It is always my ritual to get every paper there before leaving this place, which reminds me of another life in another time here light years away in motion and space.
            The spiritual serenity induced by the ambience of night and fog in the Cemetery located half way between time and eternity is suddenly interrupted by the intrusion of the sinister. I am still facing west and looking at the Lieutenant Colonel’s engraved markings when the sixth sense of the distant past suddenly reactivates itself. Barely audible amidst the pleasant breeze permeating the tree branches of Bradley Drive are quiet footsteps approaching me from behind through the manicured green carpet of freshly mown grass. The intruder stops, ominously, about ten feet behind me and without introducing his presence with even a semblance of greeting. Will my end come in the night fog of Arlington?
            I whirl around without a semblance of an advance greeting of my own. The left wrist snaps the Redskins cap at an estimated target between the chest and the head. In a blur of speed and motion long forgotten and dormant through disuse, the right hand comes up with the Walther PPK in .380 automatic. The right thumb deactivates the safety on the left side of the pistol in the same motion which subsequently pulls the hammer back to the firing position. In a millisecond, my left hand joins the right as my torso and knees assume a slight crouch. The elbows are slightly bent in a classic Weaver stance. The tip of the front safety notch is perfectly aligned with the horizon of the rear safety. At an aim of six o’clock, I have acquired the target of the cardiac center of the body opposite mine. In acquiring the target by sight, there is only another millisecond to decide whether or not the tip of the right index finger will gently squeeze the trigger in an attempted preemption of my own demise.
            I do not fire, due to a combination of positive identification of the potential target, and a sense of a synthesis of wonderment and bewilderment never felt before in my life. John Kennedy is only ten feet away from me, in London Fog trench coat and felt hat.
            The twinkle of the eye and the trademark grin are unmistakable. So is his opening line of dialogue, which consists of “I’d appreciate it if you’d put that thing away, you stupid prick.”
            My eyes and wrists keep the gun trained on his upper torso as I levelly inquire, “What is your name? Who are you? What are you doing here?”
            The calm and measured response comes complete with the unmistakable Bostonian tint. “I was, in my past life, the 35th President of the United States. I am now The Angel to the Remnant of the Confessing Church in America. I bare good will and good tidings to you, along with a message from my superior, the divine Logos of God.”
            I have to suppress a sudden urge to laugh. “With all due respect, Mr. President, since when does a real Angel of God call someone a ‘stupid prick?’”
            The mind, logic, and witty retort from the architect of Camelot brings back the televised images of press conferences past. “Since when does a real pastor bring a concealed semi-auto into a National Cemetery and Shrine when visiting a gravesite?”
            The impeccable logic delivered as a victorious verbal riposte seals it. This is indeed John Kennedy. The Walther PPK is lowered slowly. The right thumb returns the safety to the “on” position, which automatically lowers the hammer safely to its resting position without delivering a lethal blow to the firing pin which was assigned to strike the primer of the 95 grain, hollow point bullet poised in the chamber. The gun returns swiftly and silently to its Uncle Mike leather holster under my wind breaker.
            “Go head, Mr. President. My apologies.”
            The man in London Fog acquires a bright white sheen which accentuates his presence amidst the ever-increasing ground fog beneath the swirling branches of the trees in Section 60. “I must remind you that I was the President. I am now The Angel to the Remnant of the Confessing Church of America. Any questions before I deliver the message of the Logos, my son?”
            “Yes, sir. How many am I allotted tonight?”
            Kennedy smiles radiantly again. “Since this is the last time you will see me prior to your own entrance into the Kingdom of God, I am authorized to allow seven questions, with the caveat that I can say, ‘No comment,’ if I choose. The Angel of the Logos, however, can and will never lie. That is why I can no longer be President, by the way.”
            I take a deep breath, followed by the first question, “With all due respect, sir, I’ve always wondered--did your father use Giancana and the Chicago syndicate in Cook County to steal the 1960 election?”
            The Angel to the Remnant of the Confessing Church of America laughs. “Hell, yes. I thought you’d have tougher questions than that to ask.”
            I take another deep breath. “Sir, if I ask a follow-up to this, will I be charged with a second question against my total of seven?”
            The President shows his legendary patience with mere children. “No, kid. Shoot–er, not with the Walther either. I mean, ask.”
            My follow-up interrogatory venture is, “An Angel of God admits cheating, and using the word ‘hell?’”
            Kennedy shoots rhetorically from the hip. “Do you have a real problem with cheating Tricky Dick and keeping him out of the White House? There isn’t a soul in Heaven above who hasn’t let me off the hook on that one. And besides, I paid for it in Dallas three years later, anyway.”
            That kind of logic and mirthful honesty cannot be matched. I decide to proceed to the next question. “Sir, were you really involved with all those women, and with Marilyn Monroe. And did you and your brother have anything to do with her, um, well, her death in Los Angeles?”
            The Angel pauses for only a moment. He takes a deep breath and begins. “In the interest of fairness, I must assess you two interrogatories on this one. Where the first is concerned, the answer is ‘yes.’ In the case of the second, my answer is, ‘No comment.’ The Logos has not authorized me to tell you.”
            “Sir, again with all due respect, how on earth did you enter the Kingdom of God at all, much less to be appointed as an Angel to the Remnant of the Confessing Church in America?”
            He who was once the 35th President of the United States does not pause at all here. “Son, that was your fourth question, by the way. You have three remaining. And the answer is faithful and true, followed by my question to you: I entered the Kingdom of God only by the blood of the Logos who was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. And ascended into heaven, where He sitteth at the Right Hand of God the Father. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And my question to you is this: Apart from the blood of the Logos, what makes you think your admission to the Kingdom is assured? I could ask you some questions about your performance in life up to now, if I chose to.”
            My conviction here is complete, along with a dawning insight. “Mr. President, I am convinced that you are the Angel you claim to be. You do understand the absolute love and grace of a forgiving God. And your explanation to me testifies to this truth.”
            John Kennedy has not lost any of his self-effacing humor. “Thanks, kid. I needed that. And by the way, your pal Lee has been a great neighbor in eternity, up on that Hill above the City. He visits the Mansion next to me all the time. And he told me to tell you that living next to a Yankee in the world without end is AOK in this case, at least as a summer retreat. He’s even revised my views on Lincoln. I now have to concede that this Honest Abe crap is quintessential horse dung. I see him now for what he really was and is--the progenitor of the present American Empire, which has a beginning and a distinct end. And good riddance to the bastard, or as we say in Boston, ‘The bahs-taard.’ He murdered the Old Republic.”
            I forget to whom I am speaking when I lose my self-consciousness to blurt out, “That’s encouraging, sir. It gives me hope when you say you’ve changed. My brother is one of your Pinko devotees. Maybe he will move to the Right in the Kingdom to Come.”
            The Angel chuckles, but does not comment. “Your fifth question, past devotee of Curtis Emerson LeMay.”
            I pause to scan my mental files feverishly. There are only three questions left before the Angel’s departure. How do I maximize my opportunity in this fleeting moment in the fog and wind?
            “Sir, I have two questions about Pearl Harbor posed as questions five and six. The fifth stems from Bob Stinnett’s book, Day of Deceit, which says that Admiral Kimmel was indeed conducting the right naval reconnaissance missions 200 miles north of Oahu, as recently as two weeks before the attack. He selected, on Sunday, November 23rd, the very corridor of approach that Yamamoto did on Sunday, December 7th-- between 158 and 157 west longitude, the Prokofiev Seamount [extinct underwater volcano 200 miles north of Oahu -- See Robert B. Stinnett’s Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor (Free Press), pages 144-146.].  Sir, who issued the famous Vacant Sea Order to Kimmel which specifically forbade him from any future searches of the northern approaches to Oahu, in favor of the Torres Straits between Australia and New Guinea? Is this the ‘smoking gun’ which proves Roosevelt’s complicity in a conspiracy designed to start a War for the Empire?
            John Kennedy’s countenance is one of pensive solemnity. “And before I answer, what is the sixth and related question.”
            My level baritone voice intones the 6th and related inquiry. “Sir, Gordon Prange mentions in At Dawn We Slept that Admiral Theodore S. Wilkenson, the Director of Naval Intelligence (ONI) in the fall of 1941, was killed on February 21, 1946 after a ‘friend’s car he was driving plunged off a ferry at Norfolk, Virginia’-- [See Gordon W. Prange’s At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor (Penguin Books), pages 690-691.]. This was just after the completion of his testimony to the Joint Congressional Committee Investigation [of the attack on Pearl Harbor] held from November 15, 1945 to July 15th, 1946. Was it an accident, Mr. President? Or was it a targeted killing designed to suppress the eventual uncovering of the ‘smoking gun?’”
            The Angel to the Remnant of the Confessing Church in America looks wistful as he dutifully replies, “I know the answers to both of these questions, but am forbidden by the Logos to provide the answers to you now. And He has His reasons which are beyond both your understanding and mine. Let it rest in this life. Wilkenson is buried here, you know. But he still isn’t talking about any of this, not to me–not to anybody. And Kimmel stayed silent on the existence of his reconnaissance missions and the Vacant Sea Order, even when he could have used both to defend himself publicly while still in this life. Why is not for you to know, except to take it as a warning to ask no further questions on these matters for your own sake, and that of many others.”
            My nod in quiet assent is followed by the 7th and final question. “Sir, what would you and the Logos say about my father and godfather?”
            The Angel is still the Commander-in-Chief. He is both sincere and smiling when he gives his final answer. “I can truthfully and faithfully report to you that the entrance of both into the Kingdom of God is sealed and assured. They were and are, men of great honor. They were and are devoted to the great God of history, His Logos, and the America of the Old Republic now vanished. Neither had my charisma and external appeal to the masses, but neither did they have to repent of the vices which plagued me in life. They both served me with duty, honor, fidelity, and love, in the context of their role as Watchmen guaranteeing the safety of the City from the vantage point of the Hidden Places in the Protective Covering of the Shadows. I salute them both.”
            My eyes are filled with mist, matching the fog and light rain over Arlington. “Sir, this is the greatest moment of my life. I thank you for your visit, and letting me ask a few questions.”
            John Kennedy’s grin was replaced by the solemn sincerity of the Angel carrying the message of the Logos. His arms are outstretched. His hands are placed on both of my shoulders as he grips them for emphasis. Our eye contact is absolute as he continues:
I am the Angel of the Remnant of the Confessing Church in America. This is the message of He who was, and is, and shall be forever: “The American Empire has been tried and found wanting in the balance. The verdict of the Father, discussed within the Counsels of the Holy Trinity available only to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is now unveiled to you. The walls, cities, and people of this Empire shall be crushed and returned to dust. The fire which shall consume all three is not a refiner’s fire, but the fire of irrevocable judgment. The instruments chosen for this destruction are the cancer of internal decadence and hardness of heart against God, along with the coalescence of a coalition of foreign enemies whose hearts burn with the fire of unquenchable and determined hatred. The Empire will resist, but to its destruction. Its secret elite will use the Stars and Stripes, the Star of David, and My Cross to galvanize the masses for its own purposes. Both will perish before I return. Evil will increase exponentially in The New World Order. Worship Me, not the Empire or the State operating under the guise of my Symbols and with the deliberate distortion of My Holy Word.. And reject the overtures and counsel of the spokesmen of False Israel, who all front for those who serve the Prince of Darkness and his present parenthetical realm of money and power, who ‘say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.’ The apocalyptic unveiling for Smyrna and Philadelphia via John on Patmos is also for you and the Remnant of the Confessing Church in this endangered land. Under no circumstances are any of you to trust those who ‘say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.’ He who has an ear, let him hear what the Logos and the Spirit say to the Remnant Church of This Dying Republic and the Entire Cosmos. Be faithful unto death; receive the eternal Crown of Life. The coming Kingdom and its electees are the only Israel of God. The blood of some of the Saints will be spilled and sprinkled on the sacrificial Altar of Empire, before the End of Time ushers in the merciful arrival of the Logos. It will be a merciful arrival for His people, but a clarifying moment of Divine Vengeance for the proponents of the present merger of False Israel with the New Babylon.”
            Kennedy has vanished. The fog beneath the trees begins to lift. The rain ceases. As I return to Bradley Drive, turning right onto Eisenhower and then finally turning right again to exit the Main Gate-- which mysteriously opens and closes for me on cue--my strides increase in cadence for the escalator which transports me below ground level for the final return trip of the night to Foggy Bottom. I am ill to the point of slight nausea. My headache is both dull and incessant. My heartbeat increases in palpitations within my chest as my forehead breaks out in slight beads of perspiration. I wish I could ask the President an 8th and final question. What is the trusted interpretation of this revelation of the Logos? And what are its implications?

 



December 2002: The Mystery of Christmas Past and Present
 
“In Him was life, and that life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”–John 1: 4-5
 
            An audible, bitter wind accompanies me on this Philadelphia night which makes the transition from Christmas Eve to the wee hours of Christmas in the year 2002. The wind seems to travel wherever it wills, in tandem with a snowfall moving in relentless horizontal sheets. A fog-like aura enshrouds the desolate scene around my apartment complex. My own apartment is in total darkness, as the fog and the snow have reduced visibility to virtual zero. While fumbling for the key to open the main security door, I become conscious of my hands' increasing sense of numbness from the cold. Along with the sensation of ears beginning to freeze, the onset of internal chills and tremors remind me that I have reached the destination of home after work in the nick of time. On this night, there is the sense of a vast, internal void over having been unable to attend my Christmas Eve Candlelight Eucharist and the accompanying contemplation of the First Advent of Christ because of the responsibilities of work. On the other hand, given the grimness of the inclement weather and my physical struggle with influenza, there is an admittedly welcome relief in having reached friendly confines amidst howling winds and the ever-present darkness.
            The darkness permeates my bedroom as I enter it in total silence. After downing two Tylenol tablets with piping hot tea, it seems appropriate to place the Deutsche Grammophon CD entitled Gregorian Chant: Third Christmas Mass into my stereo on the night stand next to my bed. As the haunting voices begin their nighttime praise of the Holy Trinity with the Introit and the Kyrie, I light a kerosene lamp strategically placed on the basement apartment window sill which faces due north. It seems that the introduction of this physical light combines with the Nativity Mass of the Monks of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Martin to stave off the ravages of the wind, the cold, and the night. My spiritual and physical tremors seem to be in abatement. In closing my eyes for but a moment, I am conscious of the Divine Presence in my bedroom on this dark evening in suburban Philadelphia. As my mind begins to wander through a long litany of Christmases Past, it finally settles upon another dark night, halfway around the world almost a quarter of a century ago. The haunting harmony and reverberation of the voices of the Monks facilitates the memories which have been imprinted, and which do not fade.
            The forbidding, howling wind; the incessant snow; and the dimness or darkness of alleyways and narrow streets is now Christmas Eve of 1978 in Tehran. I have been informed by a fine German Lutheran pastor named Johann Mueller of a discreet location selected for the commemoration of the birth of Christ in the reading of the Word and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. On this blessed night, however, I am on edge. The political turmoil in the city and the tension produced in the hearts and minds of its inhabitants is palpable. Impending, unpredictable acts of spontaneous violence seem to be lurking just around the corner of every intersection and street in this increasingly hostile locale. Mueller's furtive relocation of his Christmas Eve Candlelight Mass has obviously been undertaken with this in mind. As I follow his written instructions for locating the service, it occurs to me that a single wrong turn will not only cause me to miss the Eucharist, but potentially place me in an unfamiliar area of Tehran not the least hospitable to a wayward American in the midst of the incipient stages of a revolution. I begin to pray for God's guidance in the execution of each turn of the Persian Peykan I am driving, occasionally glancing at the Pastor's handwritten note provided for safe navigation of the neighborhood. The note says that I am to:
. . .proceed south on Roosevelt Avenue, crossing Takhte Jamshid Avenue (the American Embassy will be on your right hand side). Crossing Shahreza Avenue, you will proceed south on Saadi Avenue. After passing two major intersections with lights, you will turn west on Khaneghah Street. Count four kuchehs [alleyways]. Make a left and an immediate right. The house you seek will have a grey Rambler Aria parked in front of its security wall. Press the button for entry. Upon entry, as you proceed to the front door, notice the small window on the left. It faces due north and will have a lighted kerosene lamp placed in it. The light therein is the confirming sign that you have arrived at the safe location. In Christ-Mueller.
            Unbelievably, I arrive at the destination without a hitch. Parallel parking on the street is immediately followed by the sensation that the wind is capable of dismantling the tin-metal Peykan in the next gust. The parked grey Rambler Aria in front of the security wall indeed pinpoints the location of the spiritual shelter and refuge I seek from the night's harrowing automobile journey in the city. And I see the light emanating from what proves to be a kerosene lamp in the window to the left of the front door which opens for me upon the press of a button. Mentally, I note that Mueller is incredibly precise. The light in the window does indeed face due north.
            As the wind assaults the perimeter of this secluded location with each new burst, the snow continues to arrive from the heavens, blowing horizontally across a grim urban landscape gripped by a tension bordering on strangulation. The darkness in the neighborhood seems both physical and spiritual. The sense of foreboding is simply inescapable. All of this contrasts with the aura permeating the interior of the house itself. In what was a spacious front room, a conversion to a worship sanctuary has taken place. A portable wooden altar has been vested in white paraments embroidered in Christological insignia. In the center of the altar is a glistening gold cross. On either side of the cross are stationed red poinsettia plants. On the far ends of the altar, the Gospel and Epistle candles are positioned and lit. Above the altar, the Crucified Christ looks down upon Pastor Mueller and a mere handful of his original faithful in the city, suspended from the house ceiling by a make-shift wire arrangement. The nails in His hands and feet are visible for those gathered in front of the altar. The motifs of body and blood are reinforced by the silver chalice and plate placed on the top of the altar.
            Pastor Mueller stands in front of the altar. The handful of communicants stand in front of him in a symmetrical straight line. Mueller is vested with alb and cincture. Over the alb is a strikingly beautiful chausible, a brilliant white with gold embroidered Christological symbols consisting of the Cross, the Chi-Rho, and the Alpha and Omega Greek lettering which reprise the literary description of Christ found in the Apostle John's Apocalypse on Patmos. Suddenly I notice that there is no light source in the room emanating from electrical power. The light extant comes only from the Gospel and Epistle candles and the hand-held candles of each of the communicants, of which I am one.
            Mueller's wire-rimmed bifocal glasses are perfectly positioned on his face. The impassive facial expression and the adherence to the precisions of rubrics in the altar paraments and his vestments would convey a forbidding sterility to outsiders to the German Lutheran version of Christianity. But to the small gathered faithful this night, they convey a solid, unwavering foundation in the midst of a sea-change of danger, uncertainty, and impending darkness.
            He proceeds to read the Gospel of John, chapter 1, which speaks of the appearance of the Divine Logos in history, the Light who has overcome the Darkness which cannot comprehend Him. Completing this Gospel account for Christmas Eve, he then pauses to look at the remnant of what was a thriving congregation. Most of it has already left this city and country hurriedly. Mueller's eyes thoughtfully penetrate those of his gathered with both insight and compassion. As the poignancy of the moment begins to build to a point perilously close to the unbearable both for pastor and flock, he begins to speak his final, brief homily while there is yet time to do so:
I thank all of you for coming. I am amazed that twelve of you managed to arrive here amidst the dangers of this city at this hour. This shall be the last gathering of this congregation to celebrate the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. I suspect that one year from now, those of us still on this side of eternity will be scattered around the world. I know that each person here is developing plans to depart this place very suddenly. I also suspect that events taking place in this country tonight and in the days and night ahead will affect our lives without ceasing until the Second Coming of our Lord, whose birth we celebrate this evening. It is my prayer that He shall not tarry. As for the rest of us, you and me, we must cling to the Light who has entered the Darkness of this world, and Who has overcome it. There is a new, impending darkness enveloping this city and the world. The Confessing Church of our Lord is threatened by danger and violence here and elsewhere, as well as by the spirit of decadence and complacency which serve as an increasing and malevolent influence in the Western world. Tonight, as followers of Jesus Christ indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, we must resist these demonic trends and serve as those who testify to the Light, even at the point of death. Look for and follow the Light this dark night, and all the dark days and nights that may yet come, as we anticipate the Day of Light when history shall end and the Incarnate Logos of God will return for His people and the beginning of a Kingdom of Light that shall never end. Amen.
            The Gospel and Epistle candles on the Altar seem to flicker more frequently, along with the hand-held candles of the faithful. The percussive sound of the brutal night wind is on the increase; the light in the altar space seems dimmer. The twelve are instructed to follow the Pastor in an oral reading of the bedrock creedal theology of the ancient, apostolic church. The voices operate in unison, accompanied by a reverberating echo produced by the stark walls of this secluded place. Past, present, and future become consummate in the words which confess:
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal. As there are not three Uncreated nor three Incomprehensibles, but one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say, There be three Gods or three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before or after other; none is greater or less than another; But the whole three Persons are coeternal together and coequal, so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. He, therefore, that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity. Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood. Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but one Christ: One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead; He ascended into heaven; He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies and shall give an account of their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved. 
            With the haunting, echoing conclusion of the Athanasian Creed, the Gospel and Epistle candles on the Altar remain lit as the sole source of light in the room. The twelve hand-held candles are extinguished before the reception of this Last Supper. The reading of the Words of Institution and the distribution of bread and wine again make the mystery of the Incarnate Logos a present reality in time and space, even as the past is remembered and the future anticipated. My own eyes remain transfixed upon the Crucified Christ suspended above the Altar as Mueller's voice provides the last punctuation mark for the evening, with all the finality it can convey:
May the True Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you steadfast unto Life Everlasting. Go in Peace, and on this very dark and forbidding night, seek the Light, testify to the Light, rejoice in the Light, and follow the Light, until He comes again.
            There is no time to speak to anyone, to convey final blessings or to bid farewell. I have an overwhelming feeling of the need to walk quickly and furtively back to the parked Peykan on the street. Once outside the security wall, a sense of danger and foreboding has returned. My steps become longer and faster. It is darker outside. The strength of the audible, howling wind has increased. The horizontally blowing snow stings my eyes and face with renewed zeal as I approach the car. I notice several people ominously lingering in the area without apparent good purpose, only a block away. In praying for an unimpeded, safe arrival at the car, an unfrozen lock, and a quick engine start, my mind deliberately repristinates the final words of Mueller's benediction, ". . .seek the Light, testify to the Light, rejoice in the Light, and follow the Light, until He comes again." Calmness and peace return, but I remain conscious of the incessant sound of crunching snow and ice underneath my Red Wing boots with each stride and step. I hear it again and again and yet again.
            The sound of crunching snow becomes ever more proximate, even as the voices of the Monks of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Martin reach the conclusion of The Third Christmas Mass. I am startled in the awakening realization that I have been transported once again in time and space to the beginning of the 21st century and to a basement apartment bedroom in suburban Philadelphia on yet another dark Christmas Eve night permeated with wind and snow. The light generated by my kerosene lamp on the window sill facing due north is still burning brightly. Suddenly I become conscious of the fact that the sound of footsteps is an indication that someone has been walking just past my bedroom window at ground level in the howling wind, obscured from my sight by the night fog and steady snowfall. This time, for reasons not completely clear, I am not alarmed.
            Suddenly, I am completely awakened by the sound of my security door buzzer ringing. Who needs access to this place on this sort of night who actually belongs here? I rise from the bed, walking out of the bedroom, through the living room, out the front door, and up the steps to the main access door to the building. It proves to be Reggie, a 7 year old African-American kid who lives a floor above me. The darkest hue of his skin is accentuated by the whitest teeth betrayed by a wide grin at my appearance at the door. Dressed in a Philadelphia Eagles jersey possessing the number 22 and the name of the great running back Duce Staley, along with stocking cap and mittens, he is nonetheless shivering as the door opens. Next to him is a sled for nighttime navigation of snowy hills, along with his Cocker Spaniel dog, Mutt, similarly overjoyed at my timely arrival.
            I cannot resist opening the conversation with, "Let me guess, Reggie. You went sledding tonight with Mutt, forgot your key, and figured you'd rather deal with awakening me than your mother."
            "That's basically it, Pastor. I'll tell you something else. Coming back from the sledding hills, I couldn't see the building for the snow and the fog. I got really scared, and then I saw your light in the basement window. I just headed for it. You have that lamp in the window for Christmas?"
            I nod in both self-satisfaction and an awe-struck remembrance. "Yes, this marks the 25th straight Christmas Eve and Christmas for me that has involved a light in the window at the north end of my house or apartment. It's kind of a tradition."
            The young, innocent black boy looks quizzical. "What's that all about?," he asks in genuine curiosity.
            "Sometime I'll tell you the whole story," I reply. "But for tonight, I simply want you to always remember the light in this window, and the way it directed you out of the fog, the snow, and the darkness."
            The boy's face takes on a solemnly sincere, appreciative expression. "Before the Lord Almighty Pastor, I ain't never going to forget this night, or that light in the window. I promise. And I always keep my promises to the Lord. I want the Eagles to win the Super Bowl this year."
            The once youthful German Lutheran pastor remembers his aging predecessor of light years ago as he looks directly at the youthful, wind whipped black countenance in front of him.
            "Reggie, I'm going to tell you something. You will someday remember that I said tonight that colder, darker, and terrifying times are just around the corner, worse than tonight's snow and fog. When those times come, you must seek the Light, testify to the Light, rejoice in the Light, and follow the Light, until He comes again."

 



 
Chapter Eleven
January 2003: A Prelude to Cataclysm--Ali’s Prayer and Plea
 
“Indeed, he [Epaphroditus] was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.”–St. Paul to the Philippians (2: 27)
 
            Dad’s observation of 1976 about Abadan was proven sadly prophetic in the see-saw conflict between Iran and Iraq between 1980 and 1988. The casualties were in seven figures. Like the American War Between the States, the survivors were often less fortunate than those killed outright.
            Abadan was a sneak-and-peak glimpse at Hell itself. The twisted metal, oily smoke, and leaping flames consuming both human flesh and edifice were a theophany testifying to the concrete physical and moral catastrophe known as war. Seen from this perspective, the conflicts between people and nations cannot be divorced from the ominous but unseen activity of the demonic realm in history. The Olivet Discourse of the Logos (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) tells us that this madness will persist until the end of time itself, when the Real Kingdom replaces the Empires. Special blessings ensue for those who can distinguish the former from the latter.
            My dear young friend, Ali, is a survivor of the fighting in and around Abadan. The conflict between Saddam and the Ayatollah, ostensibly over borders and the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, was called a draw after eight long years. The Iraqi-initiated invasion and the war’s subsequent outcome served the purposes of Israel, the United States, and Britain, along with the financial largesse which accrued to the international merchants of death who pledge allegiance to no God or flag, save that of the central bank. Khomeini’s Shiite revolution in Iran failed to be successful in an expansion westward. Token Sunni Saddam tightened his central government’s tightly-held leash on the Shiite majority in Iraq, especially around powderkegs like Najaf. And the conflict precluded any possibility that there could be an alliance, at least in the short term, between Arab Sunnis and both Arab and Persian Shiites against the hated Zionists in Palestine. This pleased both Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush in their respective Presidential Administrations, as it did their friends at AIPAC, the Christian Right, and the petroleum consortiums. But George W. Bush would now like the electorate and the world to forget the convenient alliance that once existed between his Country, Party, and Father on the one hand, and the demonized Saddam Hussein on the other. This utilitarian alliance began in earnest in 1958, when the United States recruited Saddam as a paid contract killer for the Central Intelligence Agency in a failed attempt to murder the then prime minister of Iraq. As documented by Richard Sale, the Intelligence Correspondent for United Press International, this unsavory effort was the brainchild of the Eisenhower era. The subsequent tragedies and horrors to follow proved unstoppable in a seamy world of unseen intervention and counter intervention. The cycle of violence continues as the number of victims continues to multiply exponentially.
            And for this, Ali is minus both of his legs and his left arm. His right arm is only technically intact. It is functionally useless. The upper torso and face are intact but bear the burns and scars of war. The eyes that once sparkled as they conveyed a personality of exuberance and joy, now seem soulless and catatonic. What remains of his body is a microcosmic embodiment of total despair. The little boy of eight at the front end of his once-promising life and future, is now a thirty-seven year old testimony to the hell and wreckage that was Abadan and war. His younger sister, Leila, a beautiful and sensitive child of six, is now thirty-five years old and involved in dangerous political activism against the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) regime, centering in unrest at Tehran University and other hot spots on the revolutionary Iranian landscape. The American inspired coup d’etat of 1953, which led to the Islamic Revolution of 1979 as counterpoint, may now be followed by another counterpoint to both. The endgame and the number of future victims arising out of all this is known only to God. I simply pray that Leila is not one of them.
            How idyllic it once was, or seemed to be, when I was a young American man and these two were children of heaven from a village just outside of Tehran. I was nineteen then; Ali was eight; Leila was six. Their mother, Mehri, was a badji (maid) for my mother and father in their home in the capital city of Iran. She worked for other American expatriates in the same capacity. Her husband was dead. Her elderly father lived with her and the two children in a small desert hut east and south of the city, furnished with only a rug, a card table, an ancient black-and-white television set, and a few dishes. Visitors would remove shoes and sit on the rug while awaiting the obligatory tea and white sugar cubes. One was always struck by the genuine love expressed for each other in this house, and the collective exuberance which the occasional visit from an American expatriate would elicit. The presence of love was accompanied by a refreshing absence of guile, malice, or pretension. I can still see and feel it, even now.
            But how long ago that really was, when one considers that these innocent little angels have now been stained by technologically induced violence and death, disfigurement, daily physical and psychic pain, and the dangers of political activism at the hands of a theocratic regime which has never heard of Magna Carta or Amnesty International. Could I have ever imagined little Ali preceding me in ultimate suffering and sacrifice for his God and Country? Or Leila becoming a Persian Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson? What manner of world is it which visits these tragic events and demands upon the guileless and the loving?
            As I enter Ali’s hospital room, he manages to turn his head to identify me as the visitor. The seemingly catatonic state of his eyes and soul is replaced by an Olympian attempt at a smile. His eyes mist as they simultaneously convey his surprise that I have somehow managed to miraculously come from America one more time to find him, his sister, and the other hidden treasures of my past in Persia.
            The memories of these treasures come flooding back in the seedy ward of incarceration which masquerades as a hospital in Tehran. Mercifully, my mind fades out of 2003 and into the middle 1970s for an instant. Ali, Leila, and I are walking in a beautiful park near Niavaran. The summer greenery, the flowers, and the coolness of the water fountain accompany a myriad number of happy people and young children enjoying this oasis in the northern desert. Blankets and picnic baskets are in copious use among these extended families. In the winter time, the snow-laden tree branches and the white, powdery capping of the Elburz Mountains just ahead to the north provide another painting of the awesome landscape which underscores the design and presence of a purposeful and loving God.
            And then there was the time when my earlier athletic prowess as a teenager returned one more time in the extra-inning fast pitch softball game at the American Gulf District stadium off Saltanatabad Avenue. Dad’s old Air Force command had a detachment here in those days. Although I was the only player not on active duty (the eligibility rules were bent to enable the son of a past command favorite to play), I played center field and was the cleanup hitter in the starting lineup. This particular game involved an encounter with an Army team. My past sprinter’s speed enabled me to catch up with two deep drives that night in the alley between center field and right, just before hitting the brick wall that comprised the right field fence there. Both drives had been hit with men on base and two out, causing the Army to strand five runners in those respective situations. The game went into extra innings in a 1-1 tie before my last home run in a competitive game ended it just before midnight, with two runners on base. It was a deep, arching drive which cleared the 25 foot high cyclone fence in left field. The Army left fielder did not move. The excitement of Ali and Leila was such that their mother told me of their subsequent insomnia for a week thereafter. They loved the crowd noise, the lights, and the endless stream of candy and caffeinated beverages that came their way that evening, courtesy of an Air Force enlisted man and his wife I did not even know, who found it both gratifying and intriguing that a couple of Persian children were present in a sea of Americans in a place as far removed from the tense reality of Tehran as Yankee Stadium.
            That was my last season of dabbling in competitive athletics. Before returning to Chicago that September, I gave Ali my Louisville Slugger and Adirondack bats, along with a MacGregor’s outfielder’s glove, a Rawlings infielder’s glove, and five bonafide Spalding baseballs. It seemed important that these ancient relics of the past remain in Tehran, and with his family.
            Christmas in pre-Revolutionary Tehran is the other compelling memory and vision in my mind for but an instant in time. My parents had legitimate access to the military commissary at the American Embassy at Takhte Jamshid and Roosevelt Avenues in those days. It was illegal, of course, for those with access to buy for those who did not, if money exchanged hands. Gifts without return compensation were authorized. When I think about the love of God expressed in the Logos, the Biblical theme of a willing gift without return compensation or strings attached comes to mind in the way Mom and Dad silently insured that this village badji and her elderly father and kids knew how much they meant to us in their lives and work. It was conveyed in the American items they had never seen, and could never hope to get in their lifetimes on the local economy. This was also the way it was before my birth in this world, when Dad was a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps and part of the American occupying force in Bavaria after Hitler’s welcomed demise signaled the end of the War in Europe. The local Germans in his neighborhood got wind of the presence of the American Lieutenant with the German surname, via an Erding Arrowhead football program [there was an organized American military football league in occupied Bavaria] which listed my father as the Head Coach and the starting offensive and defensive end of the club. This resulted in late night approaches from the economically deprived German locals. They would offer to barter for American BX (Base Exchange) items. My Dad would refuse the proffered compensations, citing the American Army Air Corps regulations which proscribed this practice under penalty of potential court martial. But he and several other Lieutenants who recognized that Germans were still Children of God after VE-Day, combined their collectively meager resources to insure that the Bavarian neighbors had winter mittens and caps for their children, along with various other items of necessity. These were gifts without recompense–the perfect model of the Heavenly Father whose ultimate Gift is the sacrifice of His only begotten Son. 
            My mind snaps back to the present in this unsanitary and dilapidated hospital in Tehran which now houses my once young friend. He begins by stating the painfully obvious. “This place is an outhouse. I have been cheated out of a merciful and quick death. When the body dies slowly and painfully, it drains the soul and the spirit as well.”
            One can only nod silently and empathetically at these stated truths. I can only manage the anemic question, “How long has it been?”
            Ali can only smile thinly now. His countenance bears faint resemblance to that of his lost childhood. The vague stare and the eerily even voice suggest a hypnosis rooted in an initially apocalyptical shock, followed by the ageless silence thereafter. “Either fifteen or seventeen years.  We were attacking Iraqi fixed positions with repeated use of human wave formations north of Abadan. I didn’t believe for a minute the idea that this was a glorious journey into martyrdom, but there was no choice, no alternative. I kept praying that a single shot to the head or the chest would end it. But no rifle bullet ever touched me. After the explosion I realized I’d hit a landmine. It was days or months later that I was finally told that our commander knew the minefield was there all along. We were the human instruments used to clear the field.”
            The natural pause in the conversation enables me to walk around the bed to the other side. I am only able to say, “It is a miracle that you lived.”
            Ali smiles weakly once more. “The paradox is that I discovered death in near-death and in the ‘life’ that followed. I am dead, though I live. My companions are all dead to this life, but hopefully they really live now. Only death can be merciful to me now.”
            As I nod in quiet assent, my mind remembers a point from the past that Ali can connect to the horror of the present. “You know, Ali, my father predicted all of this in 1976. He figured that the area around Abadan and the Shatt-al-Arab would be the site of much of this. Border sites and oil terminals–it never fails.”
            Ali manages to verbally hit the nail on the proverbial head. “And foreign intervention and incitement. Your country, Israel, and Britain–they were working behind the scenes to provoke this. It never changes. Before that it was Russia and Britain. We’ve been invaded by Babylonians, Greeks, Mongols, Arabs. You name it. But Mr. Mark, it was your USA this time. The oil and the Israelis–are these all that America thinks of now?”
            I have trouble in either swallowing or replying to the indictment and clear conviction. Finally as my eyes mist and my voice clears, I am able to offer only one mitigating idea or factor to the fair conclusion. “It is ironic that the presently leading Empire in The New World Order has now killed 40,000 of your adversaries to the west, while steadily losing the blood of its unsuspecting American sons and daughters. Many of their hearts are as pure as yours. It waits for no one. This is the only consolation or explanation that I can offer in regard to this evil. And there is more blood to come.”
            The young Persian boy now without three appendages and a worthless fourth asks me to grasp his withered right hand as his breathing begins a period of prolonged, exaggerated labor. “Mr. Mark, I must share with you a great mystery. I love America as deeply as I hate it to the core of my soul. That is my last thought as I finally feel my soul and spirit departing this wretched body.”
            The critical nature of this situation seizes me as I sense life and time slipping away. Before I can speak again, Ali continues his train of wisdom and thought. “The America of invisible spies, banks, armadas, armies, oil, and companies I damn in my final words of life, if there is a God to damn. But I will always love your America of the real Jesus, the Hank Aaron bat, the Willie Mays glove, and the Bobby Bonds picture with the penned name and the frame. I love the America I met in your parents and the Gulf District ball games. How do these Americas live in the same country?”
            My reply is a choking one. “They really don’t. The first has killed the second, and will later die a death of its own. I lost the second America many years ago. My only consolation is in the Kingdom of God in Jesus.”
            Ali’s eyes continue to fade and drift, even as his voice and mind presently remain intact. “I keep this picture of the great Bobby Bonds and his Giant signature at Leila’s house. She says that he must be happy as his son is now a Big Man in the baseball. Many home runs out of the Gulf District. More than his Daddy. But Daddy is so happy now! I wish I could be Bobby Bonds and away from this place and famous. Do you see him now?”
            “Yes,” I confidently affirm. “Mr. Bonds is very happy now. His son is the greatest player in the game. And Mr. Bonds is now with Jesus. His pain from cancer is over. His new life has just begun. It is a life which shall never end.”
            For the first time, Ali smiles the smile of the young boy living in a hut in Tehran, east and south of the city. He manages to turn his head to the west toward Jerusalem. “Mr. Bonds is waving to me from the bluest sky above. He has your bats and gloves. He is calling me! And he is next to your Jesus who calls me, too! Sourb Thade has come!”
            And mercifully, Ali is gone.

 



January 2003: The Last Rose–Saying Goodbye to Helen Claire Carr
 
“. . .a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”–Proverbs 31: 30-31
 
            If on this late night of the 22nd of January, you find yourself in the outer limits of tolerance when it comes to incessant news coverage of The Abortion War and Mr. Bush’s impending Middle Eastern showdown with Saddam Hussein, join the club. As someone retained by an Internet news service to comment on these issues as they arise, I am struck not only by the obscene volume of print and electronic communication extant on the items in question today, but by the failure of most of this voluminous corpus to articulate any new ideas or insights either port or starboard. Nothing I might add to these debates will possess any more inherent value than that already served up by my journalistic colleagues across the ideological spectrum, engaging in the incessant drone of words printed or spoken. And perhaps in making the conscious decision to isolate myself from the scene for a day, I am also betraying a major case of fatalism and resignation regarding the direction being chartered in American domestic and foreign policy by our self-appointed Insider Elite—finally conceding consciously that my pen and word processor will never alter these grim inevitabilities. This is where it really is.
            So I jettisoned all of this futility today to do something as noble and as worthwhile as it was heart wrenching. It was my duty, honor, and privilege in the early afternoon to gather with approximately 20 other souls in a freezing, windy cemetery in Philadelphia called Ivy Hill, to bid a temporal farewell to an 85 year old woman named Helen Claire Carr. 
            My path first crossed that of Helen Carr in October of 1998. She was a resident of a Philadelphia retirement community known as Fort Washington Estates, located in the heart of the earliest historical roots of America. I had just started at the Estates as a security officer, to supplement my meager income as a Lutheran pastor in residency as a post-graduate student of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in the City of Brotherly Love.
            Destiny materialized that fall when summoned to her apartment to fix a problem whose nature I no longer recall. On the main wall of her living room was prominently displayed a picture of a young American Air Force officer sitting at his desk. Another picture of the same man depicted his helmeted, Steve Canyon-like ascent up a ladder to the top of an F-4 Phantom aircraft. Supplementing these photographs was what appeared to be a framed copy of an aviation award or certificate.
            My father was a USAF lifer, a full-bird Colonel upon retirement after 3 decades plus in the military. In this context, I was particularly interested in the biography of the figure pictorally depicted on the wall. Guessing on vintage and chronologies, I ventured the observation that the young officer looked like a veteran of the air war in Vietnam. Helen Carr’s countenance exhibited the beaming radiance that was her trademark, followed by the proud affirmation of her only son’s dedication to king and country in Southeast Asia. He served for several years with noted distinction and a laundry list of commendations. Managing to return to the United States miraculously intact after the Gehenna that was the lot of the Air Force aviator in Vietnam, he married his awaiting fiancé in California, subsequently accepting the gratitude of his military superiors as expressed in a transfer to a coveted post with 8th Air Force in England.
            A handful of months later, on December 11th, 1970, it came to a fiery, apocalyptic end over a small English village. Captain Thomas Carr, the F-4 Phantom navigator on a routine training mission, perished along with his pilot for reasons never entirely understood or elucidated in the official Air Force investigation that followed. Helen Carr and her husband would receive a synopsis of this investigation from the Commander of 8th Air Force, followed by a letter of condolence from then Air Force Chief of Staff General John D. Ryan. The loss of her son enshrouded her for the remainder of her life, thankfully eclipsed only by the evangelical Christian faith that enabled her to peacefully rest in His sovereign love and judgments. She would spend the rest of her days in the linear movement of time ministering to others depressingly mired in the mysterious vicissitudes of life’s tragedies. This was always accompanied by a transcendent grace and kindness undoubtedly bestowed upon her by the Holy Spirit of God.
            But as for Helen and me in the fall of 1998, our destined intersection and subsequent relationship of four years duration was cemented for her by a newly ascertained piece of information in the puzzle of life, obtained in her living room at Fort Washington: that in the years of her son’s most dangerous missions flown out of Thon Sa Nhut Air Base in Saigon, there was a second Air Force officer stationed at the base, a full Colonel from the Air Force Logistics Command in Dayton, responsible for the administration of the entire logistical support program and infrastructure designed to maximize the chances of her son’s success and survival in the skies over North Vietnam and Cambodia.
            It was my father. He was in his final years of active duty Air Force service prior to becoming a logistical director for the Shah of Iran’s Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) after the ignominious conclusion of America’s military involvement in Southeast Asia. For Helen, and for me, this did seem to be beyond reasonable coincidence, and in the realm of mysterious divine direction and predestination. 
            In the years that followed the fall of 1998, I continued to wonder how much longer a person of my background and educational level could continue to serve and survive in the Security Department of the Estates. I pondered whether or not in my life’s circumstances God’s hand and direction could still be ascertained or even affirmed as existing. I was plagued by recurring doubts. The notion that the best and most meaningful days of my life were already past continued to revisit my soul. With Helen Claire Carr, I could and did share these dark thoughts and nights of the soul in complete confidence on an ongoing basis. The fellowship and maternal counsel received was invaluable and endless. Her intercessory prayer on my behalf was without ceasing.
            Several years ago she made a prediction oft repeated in the days that followed. In the context of the loss of her departed son, she said she was convinced that God had brought me to Fort Washington Estates in her final years as a compensation for the loss suffered in the sudden and explosive devastation of three decades before. As a corollary to this thought, she added that the Lord had somehow shown her that I would serve there until her departure from this life. And that the open door for me and the final chapters of my own life and world history would then follow. She never elaborated on the method of the Lord’s revealing. I pondered this many times in my heart.
            Especially today in a bitter, icy cold that enveloped Ivy Hill cemetery during the final committal of the body of Helen Claire Carr to the earth, to await a glorious resurrection from the dead as a saint of God sealed in the blood of His Lamb. The grave side pastor’s words affirmed these truths as the green tent erected above and around her resting place continued to flap audibly in a determined, incessant winter wind.
            Red roses were distributed to the 20 people present. There were instructions directing each person to place their single rose on the top of the casket as a final act of remembrance and temporal farewell. As each person made a final approach to the elevated rectangular edifice stationed on a metal frame above the destined grave, my thoughts kept replaying her predictive prophecy about my destiny yet to be fulfilled in this life.
            I was the last person to approach the casket. The last rose added to the moving configuration of red was mine. When I finally departed the gravesite and the covering above it, my mind replayed a thousand conversations and pondered predictive prophecy once more. In the audible background, I kept hearing my own steps in the frozen tundra.
            And the beaming radiance of the countenance of Helen Claire Carr looked down upon me from the vantage point of the Kingdom of Heaven. The twinkle of her penetrating eyes, the reassuring smile, and the confident nod of her head told me that she knew what I had just learned in these last days. A literal fulfillment of her prediction had occurred, concurrent with the weekend of her departure from this life.
            I will ponder this impenetrable mystery, and her life, in all the remaining days of my own.

 



 
Chapter Thirteen
August 2003: A Message from the Angel of What Is and Not What Appears To Be
 
“Nothing in politics happens by accident.”–Franklin Delano Roosevelt
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
–St. Paul to the Ephesians (6: 12-13)
 
            It is the cool of the evening in suburban Philadelphia. The wind has picked up its pace, but only slightly. The sky is overcast and is accompanied by a landscape peppered with light ground fog. On the park bench where I sit, there is the protective covering above me provided by the rustling leaves and branches of the oak trees which tonight produce a mild sense of the pleasantly somnolent. There is not another soul at this public park which comprises a portion of the total acreage of the apartment complex where I reside. The ground fog, wind, and cooler temperatures have apparently urged everyone else along their way for the night.
            I am facing south when I notice the interesting figure coming toward me from a distance of perhaps seventy-five yards away. Perhaps he has come from the parking lot located beyond. His build is relatively athletic and slightly burly. His clothes consist of military camouflage gear and a black beret. He has the darkest black skin, typical of one of southern African origins, with a pleasant countenance which belies the stress, danger, and conflict that has characterized his life from beginning to termination.
            And by termination, I mean literally. On February 21, 2002, Dr. Jonas Savimbi of the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) would be shot dead in the brush of Angola, a victim of a targeted assassination ordered by the regime of Jose Eduardo dos Santos and his Marxist oriented Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola (MPLA). But how can a certifiably deceased Savimbi be literally here now, alive in suburban Philadelphia in the United States eighteen months later? And why is he heading toward me? Is another vision afoot? Why would the Logos select him?
            The camouflage-bedecked freedom fighter extends his right hand in the darkness of night and the misty sheen of fog. “Good evening, my friend. I have been sent by the Logos to deliver a message to you and yours. Yes, in life I was Dr. Jonas Savimbi. I am now in eternity The Angel of What Is and Not What Appears to Be.
            My right hand reaches into the right pocket of my windbreaker for a Kleenex, but my eyes never leave the Angel’s for an instant. “If you are The Angel of What Is and Not What Appears to Be, why did the Logos not send Franklin Delano Roosevelt?”
            The twinkle in the eye of Jonas Savimbi makes up for the concealment of the stars in the heavens by the night fog. “It is simple, Mr. Dankof.  For one, I cannot even confirm for sure that Franklin Delano Roosevelt is in the same place where I reside, with John Kennedy, Admiral Theodore S. Wilkenson, and Robert E. Lee. Secondly, the Logos may suspect that you would not gladly receive Mr. Stalin-er, Roosevelt. And thirdly, he originally asked Admiral Wilkenson to carry out this assignment. But the Admiral still isn’t in a talking mood about the events of February of 1946 -- [ See footnote 2, chapter 9 for the context.].  Kennedy says he’s never seen such paranoia. Kind of reminds you of Allan Dulles saying that ‘the ideal covert operation is one that remains secret  from inception to eternity.’ I think only the Logos knows Wilkenson’s complete story, with the possible exception of Roosevelt. And as I told you, I  don’t know where the ‘hell’ he is, frankly. ”
            Savimbi’s verbal pause is a natural one, which enables me to seize upon the proverbial moment in time. “I’m less interested tonight in February of 1946 than I am in February of 2002. What happened?” [See Dr. James P. Lucier’s expose on the Savimbi assassination in his shocking article entitled, "Chevron Oil and the Savimbi Problem," published in the September 16th, 2002 Insight.].
            The man known in life in Angola as The Black Cockerel sighed. “I will keep this briefing short, down to the core of what you need to know. The application is up to you. You will remember that Reagan always supported me and my UNITA movement. He saw us correctly as anti-communist freedom fighters against the MPLA. In the late 1960s, you may recall that the MPLA received Portuguese assistance and 30,000 Cuban troops and Soviet advisers with arms. The MPLA did something brilliant militarily which would guarantee its success over 30 years later–it seized the enclave of Cabinda which enabled it to control the offshore oil fields and most of the country’s total economic assets based on the worth of the oil. I had to utilize diamonds to support our movement, taking over mines in the north and exporting the diamonds through Zaire while getting supplies via Namibia to the south.”
            “Go on.”
            “It boils down to the fact that I was caught in a crossfire, just like Kennedy was in Dallas. This one involved a crossfire between oil and diamond interests. Each one had powerful American links. With Reagan out of the picture, more pragmatic American political and economic interests decided that my demise would assist in milking the people and intrinsic wealth of Angola for all they were worth.”
            “Who were the players?”
            “It is all very simple, Mr. Dankof. Condolezza Rice was on the Chevron Oil Board of Directors before assuming her role as National Security Adviser to the President. She convinced Bush that my termination with prejudice and a subsequent alliance with Dos Santos would benefit Chevron and its access to the newly discovered deep water oil reserves off the coast of Cabinda. At the same time, there were credible rumors that Jacqueline Kennedy’s old friend, Maurice Templesman, was the one who had convinced Bill Clinton to initiate sanctions against UNITA and me in 1993. You see, Mr. Templesman’s diamond interests in Angola were being threatened by our own involvement in the diamond industry in this country for the sake of sheer survival.”
            “So your death satisfied two sides of the counterfeit political coin known as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Trilateral Commission, both of whom own the top political leadership in both of America’s two major political parties.”
            Savimbi summed it up impassively. “That’s it in a nutshell. Dos Santos met with George W. Bush face-to-face in Washington only six days after my death, which was achieved when the MPLA learned that I was in the northern province of Moxico in Angola. Dos Santos initiated a scorched earth policy which employed chemical weapons to defoliate trees and kill agricultural crops. Entire villages were burned. The people who did not flee successfully were interned in camps. The policy of depopulation and defoliation removed my cover for secretive movements. It was only a matter of time before American satellite imagery found my forces and me. The MPLA was receiving assistance from foreign commandos as well. Once I was cornered, they dispatched me with seven shots.”
            My irreverent humor will occasionally surface even in the most poignant of moments. “Were they just trying to make sure you were dead, or was your heroism to the end being acknowledged by the enemy with the bestowal--in hot mercury-tipped lead--of the Biblical Number Seven?”
            The Black Cockerel’s shoulders shook with his good natured guffaw and shrug. “Who knows? Somehow I don’t think it was based in any nostalgia or admiration. Let’s face it. Bush didn’t exactly press Rice and Templesman into financing a state funeral for me. At least when the Israeli Mossad blew their own asset away in the Robert Maxwell ‘drowning’ off the coast of the Canary Islands, they paid for a State funeral on the Mount of Olives with a eulogy delivered by Yitzhak Shamir-- [See Gordon Thomas’s Gideon’s Spies–The Secret History of the Mossad (St. Martin’s Press).].   Now they had a modicum of class in carrying out State-sanctioned Executive Action, in my view. And Kennedy is always getting in my face about his very own televised event during final committal at Arlington. What happened to the panache at Langley? I realize an asset without oil is no asset at all in the Bush Administration, but what in hell happened to a little gratitude for my past service to The American Empire?”
            It is now my turn for the smile to light up my face as my shoulders shrug in the fog and darkness. “Helms and Kermit Roosevelt aren’t around anymore. Reagan has Alzheimer’s. And Bush is jealous of you. That’s the way it is.”
            The Angel of What Is and Not What Appears to Be is incredulous. “How does a rich White man, who also happens to be both alive and President, find himself envious of a dead and rejected Black covert asset in a Third World country?”
            My own reply is succinct and pointed. Insight magazine says you speak nine languages. Bush had a 1.68 GPA at Yale. Get the picture?”
            Dr. Savimbi cackles again. “You know, I’m glad the Admiral turned down this assignment. We’ve had some good laughs in all of this.”
            “Jonas, that’s about all one can do in the midst of complete tragedy and abyss. Now that we’ve covered the events of eighteen months ago, what is the cosmic meaning of any of this for me? What is the real message of the Logos that you were assigned to deliver?”
            The countenance of The Black Cockerel is now supremely sincere and serious. As he maintains eye contact, his right index finger comes up for pointed emphasis as he continues:
As The Angel of What Is and Not What Appears to Be, I convey this message of the Logos to you. As you process its meaning with the help of the Holy Spirit, it is to be conveyed to those within the Church who have an ear. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. One must seek the discernment of the Spirit in distinguishing What Is from that which is Not What It Appears to Be.
 
The Old American Republic is Dead. The American Empire is the glue of The New World Order which links False Israel to the New Babylon. Those who give their lives to it offer their blood to the Beast as they in turn spill the blood of others for the Beast. This is not new information. The Angel of the Remnant of the Confessing Church in America told you these things five years ago.
 
But the new information imparted by The Angel of What Is and Not What Appears to Be is this. The airplanes which bequeathed fire, death, and destruction on September 11th were really launched from the Prokofiev Seamount of The New Age. Their spiritual longitude and latitude and the actual identity of those who conceived and authorized this operation under the absolute cover of the Darkness of Powers and Principalities is the Rosetta Stone to the understanding of the special ways in which False Israel undergirds New and Mystery Babylon. The paradox of many angles and dimensions in time and space is rooted in the knowledge of the Logos that those who died in undertaking this evil assignment of the spilling of the blood of the innocent are ignorant of the Identity of Their Master Planners who revel in spinning webs and telling tales of Legend and Myth. He who has an ear and who awaits the Spirit will not be forever fooled. And ask the question which Admiral Wilkenson can answer and will not, even in eternity. Who really benefitted?
 
The Prokofiev Seamount of The New Age is a triangle whose foundational linear line extends from Hollywood, but not in California. It links Babylon-By-The Potomac to the Flaming Towers of the Big Apple. This is the first truth.
 
The second truth is this: Urban Moving is not an Urban Myth. The people at Creative Loafing have not loafed in their pursuit of the meaning of this truth. Murdoch leads but one consortium of six that has silenced them. Maxwell would lead another, were he not dead. Surely the real number of the Consortium of Six is Triple Six. They convey the message, not of the Logos, but of Beelzebub. Their mission is to paint and sketch facades on the canvas of history. The landscapes and portraits are deceptively beautiful. Beautiful because of the artistic expertise of Beelzebub and the dutiful learning of his apprentices at Bezalel–but deceptive with a demonic spirit that conceals What Is by depicting That Which Appears to Be. Were it possible, even the elect of God would be deceived. The good news is this. When the Cracks in the Canvas expose What Really Is, it will be the endgame. And tel-evangelism for Empire will be consigned to Hellfire forever, along with all those who have participated in moneychanging in the Temple under the auspices of False Israel and The New Mystery Babylon while deceiving the Little Ones of the Logos.
 
The third truth requires much pondering in mind and heart: 3389 Sheridan Street is not only near 4220 Sheridan Street, but their respective denizens are only pawns in a deeper game with darker consequences. They do not know the identity and ultimate agenda of their respective handlers. Can either Hollywood understand this? It cannot possibly perceive this truth, either in California or in the other place. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
 
The fourth truth follows quickly: Beware of those who travel in that which is white and who say that, “We are not your problem!” They are at the center of the conspiracy of the Darkness that masquerades as those who wear white and who have white, pure hearts.
 
The fifth truth must be applied to those who think and understand: Maria is still alive because her last name is unknown. The Spirit told her not to reveal her last name to those who represent those whose name is Triple Six. Beware of those who know your name and who seek your life.
 
The sixth truth must also be applied to those who think and understand: Watch to whom you speak and what it is that you say. AMDOCS is listening. Gower Leconfield is a trusted source for you. He knows the Logos and the playing field. He knows that the two minute warning has just stopped the clock. The clock will resume its ticking when the ball is put into play in the final, desperate struggle between offense and defense.
 
The seventh truth is already known to you and self evident. It is the Logos who is the Light among the Nations, not False Israel or the New Mystery Babylon. Those who affirm this truth may lose their earthly lives as violently and suddenly as I. You may be one of them, at the hand of those who fire suddenly and without warning with seven bullets. But you and they shall be blessed when Sourb Thade comes again, never to depart. This is the end of the message of the Logos, who restates in closing that those who endure will receive the Crown of Life and sit with Him on his throne when Sourb Thade arrives.
            The fog has begun to lift as early evening gives way to darkness. Jonas Savimbi gives me his right hand as his left hand squeezes my shoulder with fatherly affection. His final words still haunt me in the darkness that is Philadelphia: “The dungeon and seven bullets do not, and cannot kill. They are simply the fleeting experience of the Refiner’s Fire. You will not see me again in this life, but I will greet you in joy when Sourb Thade comes. I will be seated next to the Logos of God on His throne. You will know me, but your joy will come from knowing Him.”
            And like the Prince of Camelot, The Black Cockerel has suddenly vanished in the darkness.

 

 



 
Chapter Fourteen
Sourb Thade Has Come
 
“Then the Angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night.”
–The Apocalypse of St. John (22: 1-5)

 

            Christopher Mayer, a denizen of the Washington banking industry, duly notes that at the end of the 19th century, William Graham Sumner correctly noted that “History is only a tiresome repetition of one story.” Mayer provides the student of Sumner with the explanation of what was in the latter’s mind when his interpretation of history was proffered:
Sumner was referring to the seemingly endless attempts to harness the power of the State to further one’s own ends at the expense of other people. All human types–generals, millionaires, priests, scholars, and so on–have made these attempts. The disease is not confined by race, color, or creed, by age or occupation, by democracy or dictatorship. All of it makes little difference. The desire to live at the expense of other men is a constant theme that runs through all of human history -- [Christopher Mayer’s brilliant analysis of Sumner, entitled "Sumner’s Forgotten Classic," may be accessed on-line through the Mises Economic Blog service. This September 5, 2003 entry is presently found at http://www.mises.org/fullstory.asp?control=1306].
            This desire is rooted in the Biblical anthropology which correctly teaches that all of humanity is mired in the sin of Adam. Because of this, unregenerate humanity seeks to amass the demonic trinity of power, money, and unrestrained sexual gratification at the expense of the worship and veneration of the true God and His Logos, and the welfare of the blessed children of the Logos.
            At the very end of history, this demonic trinity expresses its presence in the hearts of its evil advocates through the creation and expansion of World Empire in history. The technological advancements at the dawn of the 21st century have created new capabilities for competing Empires hell-bent upon inflicting incarceration and mass death upon their intended serfs and martyrs. Each Empire dedicated to power, money, and self-gratification as the expression of self-deification, is served by an accompanying demonic trinity of the military/surveillance state, the controlled media consortiums, and the twin brothers known as central banking and international oil conglomerates. The dream of evil humanity since Babel, Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, and the ancient Roman Empire, has been an Ultimate Empire coalescing into the complete control of the destiny of One World.
            This goal and those who pursued it with zeal in temporal history have now both met with a deserved, final, and perpetual destruction. Now that history has ended, Sourb Thade has returned for an ongoing moment known as Eternity. The Logos is the Shahanshah [King of kings in Persian] in this Age without End.
            John Kennedy retains his irreverent but cheerful humor in the Eternal Age of the Logos. He tugs me on the elbow and announces beamingly, “Old Iron Ass [“The Iron Eagle,” General Curtis LeMay] wants us to go fishing with him this afternoon. He’s already got the poles and the bait and the boat. He insists there are trout in the water of the River of Life. He also wants to impress me with his boyhood Eagle Scout skills. It’s the 490th time [70 x 7] time I’ve endured his story about how being an Eagle Scout readied him for the creation of SAC [Strategic Air Command]. But then I admittedly have to remind myself that fishing with the two of you at Sourb Thade sure beats hunting in life on Lyndon Johnson’s ranch in Texas–hands down. And Old Iron Ass has finally conceded that no one needs SAC or Generals here at Sourb Thade. He’s become quite agreeable in old age. I like him a lot better as a fisherman, just like I told Goldwater I liked him better as a photographer.”
            I enjoy the boat and the fishing all afternoon with these Leviathans extant in Eternity. The President knows I enjoy his snickering humor, even as I acknowledge to him and anyone else who asks, that for me the General will always be truly The Iron Eagle. Kennedy finds out for the first time today in the boat on the River of God that this Iron Eagle is not only of iron will and in command of intellectual steel, but a Feeder of the Sheep. The General announces that we will use his captured trout for a special campfire meal, especially since Kennedy and I have caught nothing. And LeMay has already invited the other chosen guests. The President obviously notes this and later concedes to me what I already had known as a kid–that the cigar-chomping, mythological Old Iron Ass has a well-concealed, but golden heart. But the well-concealed character of his golden heart is itself a myth. The real condition of his heart is in fact not hidden well at all from those he commanded, despite his sustained attempts at doing so. This, and not Eagle Scouts, made him the General of the Generals of the Heavens. We salute him, even as we acknowledge him as The Iron Eagle, even at Sourb Thade.
            Kennedy, LeMay, and I arrive at the evening campfire in the mountains of The Azerbaijan of the New Heavens and the New Earth. The General’s strategic wizardry is apparent even in the selection of the site and the guests for the meal. Jonas Savimbi is roasting a marshmallow while awaiting us. Ali and Leila have come as children of heaven again. And two completely unexpected Leviathans have come: Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and his Prime Minister Amir Abbas Hoveyda. This produces an aura of awe and excitement for little Ali and Leila not seen since my home run beat Army at Gulf District in north Tehran. Kennedy greets both men first, and then introduces LeMay and myself to these Persian instruments of history. The President, the Shah, the Prime Minister, and little Ali and Leila proceed to spend an evening of light, depth and fun around the campfire. Kennedy insists on displaying his legendary charm and charisma for the star-struck children. This in turn causes Mr. Hoveyda to reveal his own considerable skills in mastering the acquisition of the loyalty and allegiance of his young listeners. I observe that the Shah now possesses a combination of his youthful good looks from the distant past with an approachability and informal affability not seen in life among the merely mortal. It is a most poignant moment when he apologizes to Mr. Hoveyda and the children for his personal failures and the unanticipated, tumultuous twists and turns in the tragic history of his reign. “I am glad to be with my friends at Sourb Thade,” he proclaims. “And I now realize that I am not the Shahanshah, but a past king among many kings in mere time and space. And I am glad for the eternal reign of love and forgiveness in this place, administered to us by the Logos of Life in Eternity.”
            LeMay, Savimbi, and I are standing apart from the others seated around the warm and inviting campfire. We monitor the most significant aspects of the exchanges between those luminaries and the children through the night, while conducting our own inside conversation. Jonas quietly points at Kennedy and says in mock disapproval to LeMay, “Did you really invite that Pinko?” LeMay proves he is equal to the challenge of the verbal riposte from The Black Cockerel. “Yes, and I invited you, Jonas, even as the 1968 Presidential running mate of Governor George Wallace of Alabama.”
            Savimbi guffaws as his eyes twinkle in beaming light. “We’re even stranger bedfellows at Sourb Thade than we were in the past life, Old Iron Ass. You’re the best.”
            The General proves to be equal to the task again as his countenance betrays the beginning of the smile that shows his real heart. “That’s The Iron Eagle to you, Savimbi.”
            John Kennedy suddenly delivers his own verbal joust at a distance, from the circle around the warmth and light of the campfire. “Hey, Jonas. If you want to really feel included tonight, your old pal Dankof voted for Wallace-LeMay at his 8th grade junior high school Mock Presidential Election in Dayton, Ohio. It was the Ultimate Mock Vote [laughter around the campfire].”
            The Iron Eagle returns fire at the President. “I understand the monitoring of the vote count in that Mock Election in Montgomery County, Dayton, Ohio was better than it was for the Nixon-Kennedy race in Cook County, Chicago in 1960. That one was a real Lesson in Democracy wasn’t it?”
            John Kennedy jocularly jousts once more. “It sure was, Old Iron Ass. And the best man won [LeMay joins in the laughter of everyone else].”
            With the President’s final word and victory in verbal hilarity, LeMay, Savimbi, and I form a triumvirate in returning to the campfire. Everyone is grateful for the evening, not yet over as Savimbi begins roasting marshmallows for the rest of the faithful at Sourb Thade. It suddenly occurs to me in counting the metal spits for The Black Cockerel’s role in producing dessert, that counting two great children and five famous luminaries from the previous cosmos, I have seven special friends in one place and in one divine moment at Sourb Thade.
            This thought is suddenly interrupted by the supernatural appearance of The Logos in our elevated campsite in the mountains. The wind blows coolly for those at the apex and zenith of New Azerbaijan. It reminds us that The Logos and His Spirit have both come to minister to us. No one can speak as we encounter the Shahanshah of both history and eternity. He smiles as he approaches the circle around the light of the fire. Taking his place in a sitting position with us, he places Ali and Leila on right lap and left as he toys with the marshmallow spit. He has not yet spoken. But knowing that we will all wait willingly forever to hear His voice and His wisdom around the fire reminds me of the words of Plubius Lentulus, the predecessor to Pontius Pilate as provincial governor of Judea during the reign of Tiberius Caesar of the ancient Roman Empire:
There lives at this time in Judea a man of singular virtue, whose name is Jesus Christ, whom the barbarians esteem as a prophet, but His followers love and adore Him as the offspring of the immortal God. He calls back the dead from the graves and heals all sorts of diseases with a word or touch. He is a tall man, well shaped and of an amiable and reverend aspect. His hair of a color that can hardly be matched, falling into graceful curls, waving about and very agreeably couching His head, running as a stream to the front after the fashion of the Nazarites; His forehead high, large and imposing; His cheeks without spot or wrinkle, beautiful with lovely red; His nose and mouth formed with exquisite symmetry; His beard, and of a color suitable to His hair, reaching below His chin and parted in the middle like a fork; His eyes bright blue, clear and serene, look innocent, dignified, manly, and mature. In proportion of body most perfect and captivating; His arms and hands delectable to behold. He rebukes with majesty, counsels with mildness, His whole address whether in word or deed, being eloquent and grave. No man has seen Him laugh, yet His manners are exceedingly pleasant, but He has wept frequently in the presence of men. He is temperate, modest and wise. A man for His extraordinary beauty and divine perfection, surpassing the children of men in every sense -- [See Jeffrey Furst’s Edgar Cayce’s Story of Jesus (Berkeley Books: New York, 1968), p. 239.].
            The treasured silence continues. Finally I venture to ask the Logos a question. “Sir, I counted Seven treasured friends around this campfire this evening. But where is Mrs. Helen Carr? I know General LeMay would never forget her, or her son Captain Thomas Carr.”
            The Lord of the Universe and All Eternity smiles. “Mrs. Carr was not here this evening as she was attending a state dinner on my behalf and at my invitation. I came here to get the little ones, Ali and Leila, for dessert. Helen will come again to one of your campfire conclaves in the mountains.”
            There is more silence before the Persian children venture the next question. “Mr. Jesus, who is this Mrs. Carr and why was she invited tonight to your dinner?”
            The Logos smiles again. “Mrs. Carr has the most humble background and resume of any of Mr. Dankof’s friends. But she has the greatest and purest heart of them all–including Mr. Dankof. The greatest shall be last and the last shall be first.”
            He continues. “However, I have decided that at least two of you will be issued invitations to the next state dinner. General LeMay and Mr. Savimbi will team up for the next fishing trip on the General’s boat. Mr. Dankof and Mr. Kennedy will take another boat. The first of the two teams to catch 153 fish, upon verification, will be issued seats to the next event.”
            The Iron Eagle snickers. “Lord, I caught all the fish for tonight. And Savimbi has all kinds of fishing ability, growing up in the African bush. Since this is such an uneven contest, I will give the President and the Pastor the choice of the four poles to be used. I don’t want Kennedy complaining later about any unfair advantages in the competition.”
            The Logos smiles again. His quiet, but authoritative voice conveys His message as He nods in assent. “Very good, General. This is how we shall have it.”
            The conversation is over. The Lord takes Ali and Leila, hand-in-hand, for the trek to His palace where Mrs. Carr and the Cherubim and Seraphim await the glorious dessert and fellowship. They disappear in the night that has become day.
            This is the signal for our campfire meeting and banter to cease and desist. LeMay, Savimbi, the Shah, and Mr. Hoveyda depart for their respective residences in the mountains. The President lingers while I clean up the site. He has the Kennedy twinkle in his eye but waits for me to speak first. 
            I finally venture a comment. “Mr. President, you know we don’t have a chance in this contest. I was surprised that you agreed so easily to something designed to let General LeMay come out on top.”
            The Angel to the Remnant of the Confessing Church in America guffaws as he toys with something not revealed earlier in the evening–it is a plain white envelope suddenly pulled from a hidden pocket. “Kid, I may not hold the Key to the City of David, but here is the guarantee on the results of the fishing contest and our appearance at the state dinner–a piece of cake.”
            I remember that twinkle well from childhood TV. What is in the envelope?
            The Angel proffers the envelope with instructions. “Read the contents. Then put the envelope and the contents in this remaining campfire for immediate destruction. The ideal covert operation is one which remains secret from inception to eternity.
            Hesitatingly, I open the envelope. There are two notes inside, the first of which is as follows:
Mr. President. I have obtained covert access to St. Peter’s fishing shed. He does indeed have what you need, in terms of a large net which can be manned by two men in shallow, calm water. The net’s weight and volume capacity far exceeds what is needed for the mission. It has been purloined and secretly packaged. It will not be missed, given the number of un-cataloged and un-registered nets in the shed. It is available for your pickup at the agreed upon Drop Site. Return via identical route of transmission after fishing.
 
Best–
 
“Danny”

            The second note continues:
Mr. President. A few of my boys reconnoitered the river. The perfect spot for the walk-and-wade dragnet is at the position code named AF. It is calm, shallow, and full of the desired contents. As previously agreed upon, you will remit to my organization 50% of the take, beyond the 153 required for the acquisition of the targeted goal. And each expedition beyond this one, as previously agreed upon, will result in a 50% share of the proceeds in perpetuity. Look forward to future cooperation with you and yours.

            “Daley”

            I am understandably incredulous. “Mr. President, surely you can’t suggest that this has been approved by the Highest Authority.”
            The Angel to the Remnant of the Confessing Church in America merely smiles. He will not answer.
            I take a deep breath. “Well, at least Walter Lippmann isn’t involved, I trust.”
            The President nods. “And neither is Barney Frank.”
            Both of us have forgotten the omnipresence of the Logos who suddenly appears in our midst without warning. The tone of his voice and the piercing look of His eyes convey both stern disapproval and an amused familiarity with the shortcomings of His saints presently caught and confronted.
            “I must say that Mrs. Carr is among the finest of the Saints with me now, even though previously tainted by the universal sin of Adam in the plane of spiritual existence in the cosmos past. Both of you, however, continually provoke me to eternal remembrance of the forbearance and grace of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in admitting anyone to Sourb Thade, especially Ye Two of Little Faith and Much Cunning. It must be said to you yet again: The Empires of the previous age are in the Lake of Fire. The Kingdom of the Logos has come–in the Realm above and beyond both time and space.”
 
End
 
 

 



 
EPILOGUE

 



 

            Over a quarter of a century has passed since my Summer of a Thousand Nights in Iran. The swift, incessant passage of linear time in history is marked by many passages. The most obvious is the Islamic Revolution in Iran of 1978-79 which supplanted the Pahlavi dynasty and its American mentors. The final implications of this in world history continue to unfold, as all have been turbulently reminded by the events in New York City on September 11, 2001. Only God knows how all of it will end. My prayer is for a world without hatred and violence, and the substitution of mutual respect and diplomacy for the wanton disregard of the heritage of others and the sacredness of human life. In this respect, I must confess to being less than sanguine about the prospects for this due to ongoing events in the world, especially in the Middle East, the United States, and Communist China. My ultimate hope, like that of all evangelical Christians, is ultimately not in this life but the next, in looking for the eschaton of the Logos as God’s final punctuation mark on the present age and cosmos.
            As world tumult began its increase in the late 1970s, I subsequently graduated from college and seminary in the United States. Later I would marry, and years after that event would enter one more post-graduate program. My career path varied from pastoral ministry and counseling to radio broadcasting, journalism, and a one-time endeavor as an iconoclastic political candidate in a U. S. Senate race, playing the role of third-party trailblazer with nothing to lose and much fun to experience. I traveled from Chicago to Seattle to San Antonio, and finally, Philadelphia. My 21st birthday in Iran during America’s Bicentennial Year is a distant memory as I continue to close in on the half-century mark. 
            There are other passages as well. My parents retired in Texas and are now fitful octogenarians; my brother, who had just graduated from the University of Texas law school in 1976, now has four grown children. The oldest girl followed him to Texas law school and is now in legal practice; his only son graduated from Yale a year ago and now enters law school at the University of Miami; his two youngest girls are at the University of Iowa and the University of Colorado respectively. Each development and event again suggests the speed–and the brevity–of time.
            But in committing my diary of 27 years ago to a presently publishable form, I am most grateful to God for His wisdom and care in moving me to commit my thoughts then to paper now. It has enabled me to re-live the most significant three month period of my life in renewed gratefulness for opportunities granted. And in this process, my ultimate allegiance and devotion to the Biblical God is re-affirmed, as my secondary love for America and Persia have been also. To the extent that anything written either introduces or re-affirms the reader’s faith in God and His Logos, and rekindles a Divinely-directed life of ongoing quest and growth, to Him be the glory alone.
            Finally, I wish to specifically thank my family and friends for their ongoing love and support through the vicissitudes of life. In the case of family, I mean to include those whom God has used during the most perilous and rocky times over many years. In addition to my parents, wife, and older brother Steve, these would include the late German Lutheran pastor Frederick L. Von Husen of Hawaii; the late Jim Evans and his wife Verla, my friends in both Iran and Seattle, Washington; Ali and Banou Babaali of Babol, Iran on the Caspian Sea and Seattle; the late Lt. Col. and Mrs. Lester B. Barnes; Mrs. Laverne Dean of Valparaiso, Indiana; and the late Helen Claire Carr of Philadelphia.
            My friends are as numerous as the sands of the seashore. I have special thoughts today for Pastor Ralph Spears and his beloved wife, Sallie, of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, both of whom are to be credited with being used of God to keep me in the Lutheran pastorate in the aftermath of especially trying tragedies and afflictions; Dr. Richard Cummings, a Princeton/Cambridge scholar and Middle Eastern expert and consultant for The American Conservative and Lew Rockwell.com has been unflagging in his support for my completion of this project. Special kudos are also in order for Mr. Arik Johnson of Aurora Competitive Intelligence of Chetek, Wisconsin, whose professional technological competence has been used of God to enable me to distribute my writings world wide through my Mark Dankof’s America web site.  Arik is not simply a great technological wizard and advisor, but a friend whose influence and assistance in the last three years has been incalculable. Special mention is also due to the Persian human rights activists associated with Marze Por Gohar in various places worldwide; and to Mr. Farrokh Ashtiani of Persian Paradise in Santa Barbara, California.
            Finally, I wish to acknowledge the love and friendship of the Honorable Fereydoun Hoveyda, the former Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations during the Pahlavi years. Mr. Hoveyda provided me with an interview in Virginia, and subsequent advice and counsel, with no hope of anything but gratitude in return. He embodies the love and friendship I experienced as a young person through so many of the people of the land of Persia.
Mark Dankof
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
U. S. A.  

 



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  • Copyright © 2003 Mark Dankof’s America.  All Rights Reserved.  The contents of A Summer of a Thousand Nights:  From Tehran to Susa may
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    (Mark Dankof is a correspondent and staff writer with Uncensored News & Views and an occasional correspondent with the orthodox Lutheran weekly, Christian News.  A graduate of Valparaiso University and Chicago's Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, he has pursued post-graduate theological study in recent years at Philadelphia's Westminster Theological Seminary. Formerly the 36th District Chairman of the Republican Party in King County/Seattle, and later an elected delegate to Texas State Republican Conventions in 1994 and 1996, he entered the United States Senate race in Delaware in 2000 as the nominated candidate of the Constitution Party against Democratic candidate Thomas Carper and incumbent William Roth.  His writings are frequently reposted in the Freedom Writer; Al Bawaba; Iran Dokht; the London Morning Paper; Nile Media; and Table Talk, the official publication of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod--USA.)


     

     

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