IT’S A NOVEL WITH A MESSAGE: OUR UNITY IS IN CHRIST; NOT THE BALLOT BOX.
Saturday July 28th, Morning, FBI Headquarters
I asked Pete to be in my office before the kids arrived, so he was there at 8:45.
Pete and I had been in my office for only fifteen minutes and I couldn’t handle him anymore. I asked, “Pete, why are you so hostile towards Billy and Sammie?”
“They believe lies, Jack. They judge others, they narrowly view life, and then if that weren’t enough, they spread those lies to an ignorant public.”
I sat there just looking at him with his unnatural rage and wondered why I never noticed it before. To me it seemed like a rage without logic. He had what seemed like ‘reasons’ to him, but in my judgment, they were hollow. Today would be interesting and I’d have the opportunity to see how good pimply-faced Billy and his future girlfriend really are.
Thinking about Billy and Sammie’s relationship I chuckled, and Pete squawked, “Are you laughing at me, Jack?”
“Don’t be silly, Pete. If I were going to laugh at you, I’d do it behind your back.”
To which he laughed and said, “I’m a little agitated.”
“You think?” I said and then grinned.
My old friend was doing what he accused them of doing. He was judging them.
Billy and Sammie arrived at 9:00 right on the dot, but there were a number of procedural things Pete wanted to discuss about this case, so we went over them before I let Billy and Sammie in.
Billy and I met downstairs and we took the same elevator up to Jack’s office. We had to wait outside his office for nearly an hour. I was wondering if we were going to be in a big room with both teams of agents, one from the FBI and one from Homeland Security.
I don’t know what I had expected. I guess I thought Billy and I would simply report our findings, to a very appreciative group of agents, answer their polite questions, and then leave.
It was not to be that simple.
I was relieved as we entered Jack’s office and the occupants were only Jack and Pete Beecham, who I learned, was in charge of Homeland Security.
The only way I can describe Pete, having never met him before, is a man with a scowl-filled face which made me look to see if handcuffs were at the ready. I wondered how long Billy and I would be there before we got hauled off to a jail cell. Pete looked like he was ready for a fight.
We sat down and Jack made introductions and then he asked Billy to give them the report, “Tell us why you and Sammie believe Perps #4 and #5 are not Perps.”
But before he could begin, Pete attacked them. “Let me tell you where I’m at before you even get started, Billy.” And then he turned to Jack. “I have looked into this kid’s background. He’s no different than the Perps we are trying to put away, Jack.
Jack sat there silently as Pete disdainfully went on. “He is one of these Bible-believing fools, who in my mind are untrustworthy at best, and at worse, are probably willing to distort facts to protect those like themselves.”
Jack took a deep breath and responded a lot nicer than I wanted. He said, “You may be right, Pete. But I think it’s best if we let the kids speak for themselves. They can give us whatever facts they’ve got. And we can figure out how to interpret them. Then we can decide what actionable steps are next, okay? Are you willing to cut the kids a little bit of slack?”
“Jack,” Pete said, “These two can say whatever they want to. I just wanted them to know my view of this so-called report before they begin.”
Jack nodded to Billy and me to begin. And I was so proud of Billy.
“First let me say Mr. Beecham, I agree with almost everything you just said.”
“Don’t patronize me, Billy,” Pete growled.
“I’m not, sir. I mean it. I see your attitude all over churches when they find out I have anything to do with politics. It’s amazing, Mr. Beecham because they believe that they have the same right to judge me, as it sounds like you think you do. It’s completely uncanny. You are doing to me what Christians do to those with whom they disagree. Even some they go to church with.”
Pete sat there with his mouth open. Jack was smiling with his eyes, and I was proud of Billy, but scared to death.
Billy smiled and then said, “It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it?”
He paused for a beat or two and was a bit too flippant when he spoke again, “I’m sorry, did you want to talk religion?
Jack cut in immediately, moving him along, “Billy.” He nodded towards Billy’s papers. “Get on with your briefing.”
Billy apologized and said, “Let me begin, gentlemen.”
“After looking at the questions and the suspicions you have had about these five Perps, and then the conclusions you have come up with. . .”
“Seven Perps now, including you and Sammie,” Pete said.
“Pete, calm down and give the kid some room.” Jack was now getting impatient with Pete.
Billy went on without skipping a beat. “You’re right, Mr. Beecham, seven of us.”
“After analyzing the data your teams were looking at, I realized there was one central figure who touched all of the Perps.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, Billy, we know this, Clyde, the Warner Robins Air Force Base Counterintelligence. . .”
“No, sir,” Billy interrupted. Jack and Pete were surprised by this.
But Billy and I agreed; while the Perps were obvious, and the end result was obvious, the central player was less obvious, until we connected all the dots.
Then Billy told Jack and Pete our conclusion. “The Prayer-Guy, Dr. Dale is the one who is at the center of all of this, and he doesn’t even realize it. But, once we figured out his role with all the principals, everything else fell into place, including which ones are your Perps and which ones are not.”
“Jack, are you serious?” cried Pete. How long do I have to listen to this kid?”
“Pete let’s see where this goes. To be honest with you, I don’t know where he’s going either. But I trust Billy’s intuition enough to give him a few more minutes. Very few though.”
Pete sat back, temporarily.
“What!?!? Only a couple of minutes,” I thought. “How is Billy going to explain what we have spent three months analyzing and organizing?” I was stressing. I know Pete wanted to get up and leave and while he’s at it, arrest us!
I looked at Billy and I ushered up a quick prayer. I could tell he was contemplating the same issues, and then he made me proud again.
“Do you know why Jude and Issy collaborated on that document, gentlemen?”
“So, you’re admitting that they did, Billy?” Looking at Jack, Pete went on, “What more do we need?”
Billy continued confidently as if speaking only to Jack. “Of course, they did, but do you know why?”
Pete seemed to realize that he may have just stuck his foot in his mouth. Quietly he eased back in his chair but kept his arms crossed over his chest.
“Issy’s boss, the Chief of Staff, Priscilla Ellsworth gave her permission to collaborate with Jude.”
Out of my file I pulled an email from Priscilla to Issy relieving her of any contractual responsibilities, if she and Jude collaborated on this one, specific project.
“And Jude had to get permission from his boss too,” I added and pulled out copies of that approval too. “By the way, the project was named, ‘News Outlets and Religious People.’”
As soon as I was quiet, Billy plowed on.
“Would you like to know why the Prayer-Guy comes to D.C. on Tuesday and Wednesday and never varies those days?”
Billy had their attention and he nodded towards me.
Out of my file I drew six pages. They were Dr. Dale’s last three months calendar, from his computer. I had two copies of everything, so I handed three pages to Jack and copies of the same three pages to Pete. On each page I had highlighted the two days each month Dr. Dale was in town.
“By the way,” Billy added, too arrogantly in my opinion, “Did you know he is meeting with Warner Robins counterintelligence officers right now?”
I rolled my eyes.
Jack shook his head.
But Pete blew a head gasket, as my father would say. Pete’s face got red with anger and he spewed out venom when he bellowed, “How do you know he is meeting with them?”
And in the same breath he turned to Jack and demanded, “What are you doing about this intel? Have you warned them, Jack?”
“I didn’t know anything about this, Pete,” replied a concerned Jack Jones.
“This is why I can’t trust you, Billy. Did you even think to warn Warner Robins or were you too busy trying to figure out how to exonerate your friends?”
Pete shook his head with disgust, “You had no clue you should have warned them, did you, Billy?” And then he looked at me. “Nor did you, did you Sammie?”
Billy seemed to put on a tone of command and said, “Mr. Beecham, I completely understand your fear. Like I tried to tell you earlier, I see it in churches all the time. You’re acting just like the church folk I see on Sunday.”
Billy went back to his documents. I looked at Pete who seemed to not know what to say, and Jack, who was shocked by Billy’s boldness. But, I kind of got the sense that Jack’s shock was laced with pride for his young protégé.
“Sir, Mister Beecham,” Billy went on, “There’s nothing for you to be concerned about and let me explain why. Look at the calendars that Sammie just pulled out of her file and gave you.”
This is a longstanding prayer meeting Dr. Dale does twice a month at his church. And why are these bigwigs from counterintelligence there? Simple, Dr. Dale is their chaplain. He visits with them weekly and has developed relationships with them, just like he has with elected officials and staffers on the Hill.
Jack and Pete were looking intently at their copies of the calendars.
“Billy,” Jack asked, with interest, “What are these things marked ‘CC’ and then a name after the two initials. They are on his calendar every Monday, Thursday and Friday. But they are absent on Tuesday and Wednesday, the days Dr. Dale is in D.C.”
Billy looked over at me and I was happy to share. “Gentlemen, I was tasked with running these initials down.” I paused and then added with as little of a smile as I could. “They stand for ‘Conference-Call.’ The names after the ‘CC’ are those people who are on those weekly conference calls with him.”
“What does he do on these calls? Do you know?” Pete said. I thought he was a little snarky. Then he added “And just why are you smiling, Sammie?”
“They are Prayer Conference Calls, sir.” I simply said, choosing not to look him in the eye.
Jack raised his eyebrows.
Pete spoke in a subdued tone, finally, and he just said, “This guy is more serious about prayer than anyone I know.”
Billy and I just sat there trying to look humble, but we were both pretty proud of ourselves.
We walked through a number of other issues and questions they both had, not the least of which were posts that appeared to be written by Jude and Issy, which they claimed were not.
“Did you compare them?” I asked.
“Why?” Pete asked, as if this was a trick question.
“Because,” Billy said with a slight scowl himself, “You should have picked up that they were the same posts, simply written from a different perspective.”
“One person writing two posts?” Pete asked, humbly.
“Yes, sir. We think so,” I said.
After an hour and a half of this type of back and forth, Jack stood up. “It’s lunch-time and I’d like us to go into my conference room, away from here, since we will be returning to this. Grace has already ordered for us.”
“Our documents?” Billy questioned.
“You can leave them here. If anyone enters, Grace won’t let them leave.”
He chuckled, but I’m not sure why.
Saturday July 28th, Lunch, FBI Headquarters
I was very proud of Billy and Sammie. Not only had their organization of the material allowed them to do some quick thinking, but Billy played hard ball with the appropriate amount of intensity. He also refrained from being disrespectful regardless of the treatment he received.
I liked this kid.
Sitting at lunch, Pete had completely settled down and being the professional he is, put the pertinent discussion aside. In fact, he was talking to both Billy and Sammie as if they were old friends.
There were some more “I’s” to dot and “T’s” to cross, but we would do that after lunch. I was grateful my judgment to let these two kids go where they wanted to, even my files, was vindicated.
Pete then asked a question I too was interested in. “Billy, why do you keep comparing my concerns, my legitimate concerns, and my anger, with the irrational fears of those people you call Christians?”
“Mr. Beecham,” Billy started, and then was cut off.
“Just ‘Pete,’ Billy, you’ve earned the right to call me Pete.”
And then he looked at me and asked, “Jack, how do they address you?”
“Sir,” I responded a little harshly. But I laughed and so did everyone else.
Billy picked back up. “Mr. umm, Pete, when I hear you judge my fellow Christians, I hear you judging them just like many of them are judging their fellow Christians, whose only ‘sin,’ so to speak, is voting for someone they do not like”
“And sir, Pete,” Billy went on, “It’s embarrassing.”
“Embarrassing? Why, Billy? If they are acting like idiots why is it embarrassing to you?”
“Because sir, they are a part of what we call the Body of Christ, like me and Sammie are. When they act like idiots, it is a reflection on all of us.”
“Aren’t you being a little harsh?” asked Jack.
“No sir, you see, we have no excuse. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us who gives us the grace to live above our pettiness, if we want to.”
“Are you talking that born-again stuff, Billy?” Pete asked with some hostility.
And then Billy did it again, he disarmed Pete. “Are you a John Fogerty and CCR fan?”
Pete looked at me and I just shrugged my shoulders. I had no idea where Billy was going.
“I am, yes,” Pete responded, clearly weighing his words.
“Then you can accept that, what did you call it? That ‘born-again stuff,’ because in the song, ‘Centerfield’ Fogerty says, ‘We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field. . .”
“What a stretch, Billy,” I said.
“I know. I was trying to be funny. I guess I wasn’t,” he said sheepishly but kept on talking.
“Yes, Pete,” Billy continued. “I’m talking about when Christians are born-again.”
Pete sincerely asked, “Well, clearly I have been wrong about a number of things thus-far in this case, but Billy, shouldn’t I be allowed to have some passion, even some anger about the things I see which are wrong?”
Billy responded, “I have an old friend who is a pastor and has been for over 40 years. He often says, ‘Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you open your mouth.’”
“Huh,” Jack snickered, “You only have to be married ten minutes to begin to learn that one!”
Sammie piped in and said, “Pete, you’re making the exact same mistake that you claim Christians make. But you’re right about the fact that Christians do this, too.”
“You lost me Sammie,” said Pete. “What are you talking about?”
“Just because you’re right, Pete, you are giving yourself the right to judge others. And that’s not the way Jesus says we’re to live, even if we are right.”
She was on a roll and she kept going. “You only have to look at the political mess Jesus was in. . .”
“I didn’t realize Jesus was in a political mess,” interrupted Jack.
“Nor did I,” added Pete.
“Yes,” said Billy. “The reason Judas Iscariot was a traitor was because Jesus didn’t take the political path he wanted Him to. We say, ‘Judas was looking for a political Messiah.’”
“And here in the USA two-thousand years later, during our elections, we have people who claim to follow Christ (and probably do) but instead of putting their trust in Him, they are putting their trust in their political candidate. It’s embarrassing.”
Jack chimed in, deciding to take a turn. “You two have said that a number of times now, words to the effect that, ‘the way some Christians are acting is an embarrassment’ or something they should not be doing. But isn’t that kind of passion the way we’re wired? What’s wrong with having strong opinions?”
“Nothing, as long as your passion doesn’t break your fellowship with fellow believers. Too many Christian’s political passion manifests itself as arrogance and then results in the breaking of fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s wrong, even if the reasoning is right.”
Billy continued, “Looking into Dr. Dale’s posts I found a great video he did on arrogance and politics, and he isn’t talking about the arrogance of the politicians.”[i]
“Of which there is plenty,” scoffed Pete.
Sammie picked up, “The New Testament apostle, Paul, wrote twelve or thirteen books in the New Testament and a number of them talk about politics. He gives a clear foundational understanding for this particular issue we are discussing.”
We were hanging on her words now. These two kids really knew their stuff.
“When Paul wrote the book of Romans, do you know who was controlling the nation of Rome and all its neighboring states?”
Pete and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders.
“It was Nero.” She continued, “Did you know that Nero used to light Christians on fire and stick them on the top of poles for his night lights? The fascinating thing in my mind is that Paul never wrote about how terrible and ugly the leaders of his day were. In fact, he says they were there because God wanted those leaders there.”
“Let me quote it,” she said. “In the thirteenth chapter of Romans, in the first two verses, Paul writes this, ‘Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resist the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves.’”[ii]
I questioned her. “I hear that, Sammie, and I think that is a very difficult teaching, if what you are saying about Nero is true, but how does that relate to us today?”
“I don’t know this for sure, guys, because I’ve never asked them, and they’re so humble I would never embarrass them by asking. But I suspect a husband and wife team, who go to church together, and support diametrically opposed political sides are getting a lot of grief from men and women in their church, even though God has made it clear that whoever ends up in the Oval Office is there because He put them there.”
“Your point?” asked Pete.
“The point is this, gentlemen,” Billy was now up. “God expects us to honor and give respect to those He puts in office, because we can trust Him, God.”
Billy continued, “Your unbridled judgmental attitude, Pete, has caused you to demonstrate hate and rage toward those you disagree with.”
Billy smiled and told us, “There’s a great story about Jesus going into a village and the people of the village rejecting Him. Instead of calling down judgement on them, like some of His disciples wanted to do,[iii] He and His followers simply walked on to another village.”[iv]
“Men, Christians don’t have an excuse for judging those around them or treating them (or anyone else for that matter) badly. God promises us the grace to live above that.”
Pete got wound up in a flash and said, “How can you say that Billy, when so much has been caused by those two so-called Christians. . .”
“Clyde Smith and Pastor Mortenson, right?” interrupted Billy.
“Yes, those two hypocrites. Look at how they have acted and treated their own kind. I’m not going to feel the least bit bad about putting them behind bars.”
“You shouldn’t, Pete,” Billy said, matching Pete’s rising volume.
“I won’t,” he responded even louder.
“Good,” Billy said, slowing the conversation, and then chuckling with that laugh which puts everyone at ease. “There are consequences to our bad choices and they will experience the governmental justice which is coming to them. And let me go further, Pete. I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you have this passion you do. I’m just glad Sammie and I were here to help you see this the right way. If you don’t mind me being so bold.
I added, “Actually, Pete, I think you’re making their point. There are many people, Christian and non-Christian, who willingly choose their own direction over God’s. That’s why you and I have a job.
Saturday July 28th, Afternoon, FBI Headquarters
We went back to my office, and Pete and I had a few more questions. But Billy and Sammie had done an excellent job and brought us a perspective which was way beyond our ability to comprehend, including the reason Pastor Mortenson had given so much money to both of these candidates.
Pete started the questions, “Why did Dr. Dale say calling him a terrorist was accurate?”
Billy responded, “I’d have to guess on that one, but I suspect it’s because in a sarcastic sense, you might say he’s a fanatic for fundamentalism, not Jihadist fundamentalism, but Christian fundamentalism. Dr. Dale often quotes a guy by the name of Leonard Ravenhill. He used to say, ‘Our nation’s problems stem from a faulty Christian fundamentalism,’ which I think Dale is doing his best to correct.”
I asked, “The enlisting of men and women really does have to do with just a Bible study or Prayer meeting, or something like that?”
“Yes, sir. And when he talks about wrestling, he’s talking about wrestling in prayer, the way Epaphras did in Colossians 4:12.”
Jack turned to Pete, “Doing prayer warfare is a term I have heard my mom use.”
“Spiritual warfare,” Billy corrected.
“Whatever,” said Pete, slipping back into his grumpy mood.
I’m going to have to remember this quirk about him. Pete does much better when he is around food.
Sounding like his sails had just been deflated, Pete asked a question which sounded more like a statement, “So, Dale’s efforts in D.C. really have no covert purpose?”
“Correct, sir. He just wants to help the elected officials and their staffers. He calls it bearing their burdens.”
Pete sat back thinking, and then said, “In one of the conversations we’ve heard from him, he says, ‘When I sit across from these elected officials, they all think I want something from them. They often give an audible sigh when they realize I don’t.’”
“We’re not used to people like this, Pete.”
“I agree.” Looking at Billy and Sammie, Pete continued. “I have a lot to thank you two for. It all makes sense now.”
With a big smile, Billy simply said, “Our honor, sir, Pete, Mr. Beecham. Our honor.”
“By the way,” Pete asked, as if he were starting a brand-new conversation. “How did you two kids know these were the questions we had?”
After some hesitation and squirming in his seat, Billy looked at me and started to say, “Well, Pete. . .”
And then I cleared my throat loud enough to get Billy’s attention, indicating for him to stop, but Pete immediately began to laugh.
An expletive went through my mind, I am embarrassed to confess.
Everyone else was quiet until Pete finished laughing and then looking at me, he said, “Billy hacked you, didn’t he, Jack?”
I changed subjects, “Pete, you and I now have to reinvestigate the cyber hacking with intent, making our focus Perps #1 and #2.” Pete acknowledged this, but he clearly wanted more details on Billy’s hack.
When he saw there was no further info coming on that front, Pete assured Billy and Sammie that he’d get together with each Chief of Staff and assure them their Religion Consultants are squeaky clean.
I saw Billy and Sammie give a big sigh of relief. I even think Sammie might have brushed a tear from her eye.
I stood up and motioned for the two kids to get up, but before they left, Pete stood and admitted, “I would never have expected to say this,” and then looking at Billy and Sammie, he said, “You know, for two young kids, you two are kind of smart.”
Playfully, but with a serious edge to it, Billy said, “When you want to talk about that born-again stuff, Pete, just call me.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” said Pete. “I’m not interested in the born-again stuff unless it’s from John Fogerty.”
“I’m not going to beat you over the head with it, Pete.”
Billy was on a roll, so he continued. I thought it was good strategy.
“Before we go, may I make one more point about the way so-called godly men and women act, specifically with regard to their fear.”
“Of course, Billy. While I didn’t come to Jack’s office for a Sunday School lesson, I do admit I’ve enjoyed the knowledge you and Sammie have on this Christian stuff.”
Billy continued, but with a clearly, heavy heart. “So many of my. . .” He looked toward and included Sammie before he went on, “So many of our Christian brothers and sisters are fearful, and that fear is never more obvious than when they pray. As we were investigating Dr. Dale, we found a challenging post and video of his which shows that Christians’ fear actually has them calling God a liar.[v] May I be allowed to be a little bit bold, one more time?”
I’m not sure, but I think I saw Sammie reach over and squeeze Billy’s hand, as if for some moral support.
Pete completely missed it though. He was the most focused I had seen him all day with his eyes riveted on pimple-faced-Billy. “Pete, your fear this morning had you calling people liars when the truth was so near.”
He added quickly, “I’m not saying that to pound on you, but just to tell you I’m concerned for you, and Sammie and I will be praying for you, if you don’t mind.”
And then he nodded at me and said, “And we’ll be praying for you, even if you do mind.”
The two kids left, and Pete and I decided on a plan of action to gather and review all of our evidence against Clyde Smith and Pastor Mortenson before we arrested them. It might keep them on the street for a few more weeks, but it’d be better to have our two cases in perfect order.
“Can you believe that kid?” Pete marveled. “He’s tough as nails, for a kid. I don’t think he would be fearful, even if the administration going into the presidency had the expressed desire of taking away all he and his kind hold meaningful in their lives.”
I added, “To me, it makes sense that they would have the right to be fearful, but you’re right, I don’t think that kid or his girlfriend would be.”
Pete smiled, “They’re not a couple yet, though, right?”
“I admire their work ethic, Jack. I like them; can I have them?”
“In a word, Pete, no!”
[ii] Romans 13:1-2 (HCSB)
[iii] Luke 9:54
[iv] Luke 9:56