"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 15, Number 8, August 2012

 

“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.

For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;

Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.

I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.

I will show partiality to no one.  Nor will I flatter any man.”

Job 32:17-21

 

“That which ordinary men are fit for I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.”

Earl of Kent

Shakespeare’s King Lear

Act I, scene iv, ll. 32-34

 

[“As I See It” is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek.  Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God.  The editor’s perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.

 

AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com.  You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.  Back issues sent on request.  All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org

 

All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only.  Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand.  Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given upon request.]

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The Tyranny of “Good Intentions”

 

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.  It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.  The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

C. S. Lewis

[copied]

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Ever-Learning but Leaving Much Unlearned

 

“We remember, gentlemen, those of us particularly who were deficient in early advantages, the delusive hope of boyhood, that there would come a time when we should have read all books, and become masters of all knowledge.  We learned long ago that this can never be; yet often one re-awakes to fresh disappointment, and finds that he has been dreaming that sweet dream of childhood still.  It is painful to think that we must live on and die, and leave many a wide field of human knowledge untraversed and unknown.  This longing to learn everything is in itself a noble element of our nature, and leads to noble results; but it requires to be checked by the stern voice of duty.”

 

John A. Broadus (1827-1895)

Sermons and Addresses, 1886

pp. 294-5

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The Greek Grammar of the Great Commission

 

“Jesus came and spoke to them: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth was given to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep all things which I have commanded you.  And see, I am with you all the days, even until the consummation of the age.”

Gospel according to Mathew 28:18-20

 

While these words of Jesus, the last by Him recorded in Matthew, are quite famous, and often memorized, their import is often misunderstood, or in some cases, actually distorted, in part by ignoring the meaning and force of the inspired Greek text here, or in a few cases, by actual misrepresentation of the force of the Greek.

 

Before addressing the Greek grammar of this passage and explaining its meaning, a couple of preliminary matters need to be addressed.

 

First, while these are the last words by Jesus reported to us by Matthew, they are certainly NOT Jesus’ ”last words.” Jesus appeared over a period of 40 days to various individuals and groups in various places and under diverse circumstances.  If those appearances began two days after Passover, they must have ended eight days before Pentecost, since fifty days is the set period between those two feasts.  In that period, seven or eight days were occupied with the Apostles remaining in Jerusalem (no doubt to complete the observance of the “Days of Unleavened Bread”) until after the second appearance to the Apostles as an assembled group (John 20:26), followed by at least two or three days walking back to Galilee as per the angels’ and Jesus’ instructions (Matthew 28:7, 10). 

 

On the other end of the forty-day period, another two or three days were taken up with walking back to Jerusalem.  So, at a minimum, the words spoken by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 were uttered at least two or three days before the ascension, but anytime in the approximately thirty days spent in Galilee by the disciples is possible.  (Why Matthew does not record the ascension--nor for that matter does John or the so-called short ending of Mark--I cannot say.  Obviously, he deemed it unnecessary for his purposes.  Luke gives us full accounts in his Gospel and Acts, and allusions to it are frequent in the epistles).  The “final” earthly words of Jesus must be sought for in Acts 1.  The “Great Commission” and Jesus’ actual final words in Acts 1:7-8 are, admittedly, taken up with the same message--carrying the good news of forgiveness and salvation through Christ crucified to all people everywhere.

 

The incident recorded in Matthew 28 occurred on a mountain in Galilee, some time after the second appearance of Jesus to the assembled apostles (John 20:26-29), and probably some short while after His appearance to the seven on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23).  Most interpreters understand this appearance to be that alluded to by Paul when Christ appeared to more than 500 believers at one time (I Corinthians 15:6). This informs us that though there were only 120 believers assembled in Jerusalem before Pentecost (Acts 1:15), they constituted only a fraction of the total number of disciples at that auspicious beginning.

 

Occasionally, some commentators and theologians of the liberal, modernistic sort will reject these words and declare that they can’t possibly be a genuine part of Matthew, and couldn’t have been uttered by Jesus, because they reveal a highly developed doctrine of the Trinity and of baptism, to say nothing about an organized program of world evangelism.  As for these words being an original part of Matthew, there is not the least shred of evidence in Greek manuscripts, ancient translations or early Christian writers challenging their authenticity.  All manuscripts and versions contain them without dispute or dissent.  The only sound verdict allowed by the facts is--yes, Matthew recorded these words and they were as much an original part of his Gospel as any other passage in it.

 

As for their rejection by apostates for theological reasons--there is precisely the issue.  The preconceived notion of what Jesus could or could not have said has led to such absurdities as the “Jesus Seminar” where arrogant men from the spiritual darkness of their souls pass judgment of Jesus’ words, rather that letting those words pass judgment on them, as indeed some day they will certainly do (John 12:48).  Not only do those men reject these words, they reject 80% of what the Gospels report Jesus to have said.  It is a personal spiritual problem, not a historical problem that motivates them. (For a solid treatment of this matter, let the reader consult A. T. Robertson, “Our Lord’s Command to Baptize,” chapter VII in, The Christ of the Logia [London: Hodder & Stoughton], 1924, pp. 112-126).

 

In most English translations of Matthew 28:19, the word “go” is translated as a command, an imperative.  Occasionally, the stray commentator (Wuest) or preacher (MacArthur) will with complete confidence inform his audience that in reality, the word should be translated, “when you go,” “as you go,” or “in your going,” in short, as an assumption of going, rather than a command.  Their justification?  “Why, the word ‘go’ in Greek is not in the imperative mood--the mood of commands, but is an aorist circumstantial participle, literally, ’having gone.’”  Very interesting, and seemingly convincing, and wrong.

 

The Greek word in question, poreuthentes, is indeed an aorist circumstantial participle, aorist--literally “undefined”--being the verb tense in Greek used to express simple occurrence without specifying duration or results.  This superficial analysis, however, ignores a crucial point in Greek grammar: words cannot be interpreted in isolation, but must be understood in the context in which they stand, and in the connections which they have with other associated words in the passage.  It is a fact of NT Greek grammar, demonstrable from many, many examples, that when an aorist circumstantial participle precedes the main verb of a clause, it regularly partakes of the force of the main verb.  In other words, if the main verb, as here (matheteusate, from matheteuo, meaning “make a disciple; train”), is imperative, the force of the aorist participle is also imperative.  If the main verb is indicative, the participle has indicative force (as, e.g., in Matthew 28:18, literally, “Having come, Jesus spoke,” that is, “Jesus came [and] spoke . . .”).  The “go” of Matthew 28:19 is certainly imperative.  Jesus commands us, “Go!”  (I first addressed this grammatical issue in “Is the Go Imperative?” in The Biblical Evangelist, vol. 19, no. 17, September 1, 1985, noting 20 other examples of this construction in the Greek NT and the Greek OT translation, the Septuagint; though overlooked by most Greek grammars, this construction is discussed in detail in Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, pp. 640-645, [Zondervan, 1996] focusing on this very passage).

 

Another point at issue: how many “points” are there to the Great Commission?  The usual explanation is that there are four, outlined as:

 

A. Go

B. Make disciples

C. Baptize

D. Teach

 

However, the sentence structure of the Greek dictates that rather than four points, there are two main points, with two sub-points under the second main point, namely:

 

A. Go

B. Make disciples

1. Baptize

2. Teach

 

“Baptize” and “teach” are sub-points under “make disciples” and are parts of the process of making disciples.  They are what are called adverbial “participles of means” which are explanatory as to how the action of the main verb was or is to be carried out.  In short, it explains further or fills in the details of what is meant by the main verb (see the discussion in Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, pp. 628-3).  Here, the means of “making disciples” is immersing and training people.  Naturally, the analogy of NT teaching requires that baptism here presupposes conscious personal faith and conversion first, the uniform NT pattern.

 

Some interpreters perceive a difficulty if “baptizing” is actually part of “making disciples,” since this would seem to imply, they imagine, that baptism has a part in regeneration, a clear doctrinal error.  The path out of this difficulty is to be found in recognizing that the word “disciple” (Greek, mathetes; it could also be translated “trainee,” “adherent,” “apprentice”) in the NT does not always mean simply a “convert,” but actually has at least three distinct uses in the NT.  Sometimes “disciple” means less than a convert, that is a mere adherent, follower, hanger-on.  In John 6:66, as a consequence of Jesus’ “Bread of Life” message, “from that point in time, many of his disciples turned back, . . .”  These were mere (temporarily) interested listeners, not true converts. 

 

A second use of the term disciple is that of a simple convert, who has not yet been trained.  This usage is found in John 4:2, where it says that the Pharisees had heard that, “Jesus is making and immersing more disciples than John!” (note that here, too, baptism is part of the process of “making disciples”--the public commitment to be a follower of Jesus).  More than mere followers, these are committed adherents, genuine converts, though yet neophytes and novices. 

 

The third use of “disciple” in the NT is found in Luke 6:40: “The disciple is not above his teacher, but every disciple when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”  It is this third usage that is contained in the verb “make disciples” in Matthew 28:19, since part of the process of making a disciple involves “teaching him to keep all things that I commanded you.”  These are disciples in the fullest sense of the word.

 

There are other syntactically parallel NT examples of the “epexegetical participle of means,” including I Corinthians 4:12: “We are laboring, by working with our hands.”  (See Wallace’ treatment for more examples)

 

(The identical grammatical construction found in Matthew 28:18-19 may also involve a “participle of manner” further describing the action of the main verb; Matthew 4:23 is excellent example of this: “And Jesus went about [main verb] in all Galilee, teaching [participle of manner] . . . preaching [participle of manner] . . . and healing [participle of manner]  . . . .”  NT examples are numerous--Acts 1:11, “you stand, looking. . .” and many more.  See Wallace, pp. 627-8).

 

On the basis of the fact that the singular “name” (in which baptism is to be performed) precedes the mention of the three Persons of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, some have claimed that this proves, or at least supports, the doctrine of the Tri-unity of God, “Three in One.”  Otherwise, they allege, it would be plural, that is, “names.”  In this particular case, they are claiming more for the Greek that it will legitimately bear. 

 

Yes, it is true that the use of the singular “name” is not disharmonious with the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity, but in and of itself it should not be appealed to as necessarily supporting or positively teaching it.  There are examples in classical Greek where the singular “name” is followed by reference to several distinct human beings, who certainly are not a unity.  Theophrastus (ca. 371-ca. 287 B.C), was, inter alia, the prized pupil and successor of Aristotle.  In his sketch of the “officious” or meddling man, he refers to the tombstone of a woman who had died upon which the meddler inscribes “the name [singular] of her husband and of her father and of her mother and of the woman herself,” (the Greek, transliterated, is: kai gunaikos de teleutesases epigrapsai epi to mnema tou te andros autes kai tou patros kai tes metros kai autes tes gunaikos tounoma [= to onoma]; see The Characters of Theophrastus, edited by J. M. Edmonds and G. E. V. Austen.  London: Blackie & Son, 1904, p. 19).  Here, four distinct people are mentioned under the singular “name” though we can be sure this actually means four distinct names were inscribed on the stone.  Since by actual historic Greek usage, then, “name” in the singular may indicate multiple, separate individuals, it is going beyond the evidence to claim here in Matthew 28:19, that the singular “name” teaches, directly or by implication, the Trinity.  The Trinity is certainly here in this text, a fact not dependent on the use of the singular “name.”

 

And then there is a final question--are the words “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” an essential, even indispensable baptismal formula, without which any baptism is invalid (much like the specific and mandatory Presidential “oath of office” which is prescribed in the U. S. Constitution, without which a man cannot be said to have properly been inaugurated)? 

 

I don’t think so, for several reasons.  First, the whole idea of prescribed words and formulas in religious rituals, while common in Catholicism (the magical words of the Mass, “Hoc est corpus meum”; the Rosary, “Sancta Maria, mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, etc.; and the like), is alien to the New Testament.  Even the famous “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13) is certainly NOT given as a stock formula for prayer (as the warning in 6:7 should make clear to all), but a pattern of the kinds of things to pray about.  And while there are numerous accounts of baptisms in the book of Acts, never once is the Trinitarian “formula” recited, but we are told that those baptized were baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus” or “Jesus Christ,” (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5) with neither the Father nor the Spirit ever expressly mentioned.  Obviously, the Apostles did not understand Matthew 28:19 to be a required verbal formula to be recited at all baptisms; otherwise they would have done it.  Then again, neither is it wrong to repeat these words, which are an acknowledgement of the part all Three Divine Persons have in the salvation of sinners.

 

These, then, are some small observations on the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 that may be derived from the Greek text.

---Doug Kutilek

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A Proper Perspective on the Promise of Christ’s Continued Presence

 

“This blessed hope [viz. “I am with you all the days, even till the consummation of the age,” Matthew 28:20] is not designed as a sedative to an inactive mind and a complacent conscience, but as an incentive to the fullest endeavor to press on to the farthest limits of the world that all the nations may know Christ and the power of his Risen Life.”

A. T. Robertson (1863-1937)

Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. I, p. 246

Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930

 

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A Side of Beef for Just $38.20

 

I with straight face, absolute honesty and not a speck of duplicity--hand in the air, if you please--declare that I recently bought an entire side of beef for just $38.20, cash money, in American dollars.  No, it wasn’t some midget breed.  No it wasn’t a diseased or decayed carcass.  No, I didn’t get it at a bargain price, but paid the full open market rate for live cattle on the day of purchase.  No, I didn’t have a money-saving coupon, or win it in a raffle or any such thing.  $38.20 was in all honesty the full price for the half steer (I did have to pay additional for processing--but only the standard going rate).  So what’s the deal?

 

The answer: it was paid for in U.S., pre-1965 silver coins.  Let me flesh-out the story.

 

Some 16 months or so ago, my brother Frank’s neighbor Bill, who owns a number of acres of good pastureland, purchased two feeder steers, with a view to filling his freezer with beef.  He offered to sell one of the pair to my brother, who in turn provided the alfalfa hay for the animals.  Frank didn’t need a whole steer, so he offered me the possibility of buying half of his steer, which I gladly accepted.  My wife and I in turn offered to divvy it up equally between one of our sons and his family, one of our daughters and her family, and my wife and me  Long months of waiting as the steers ate and grew followed--no antibiotics, no growth hormones, just good Kansas prairie grasses and alfalfa hay.  During the last couple of months, the grass and alfalfa were supplemented with grain to fatten the animals and produce marbling in the meat.  Finally, the day came in late June to haul the steers to the processor some 20 miles away.  It took five of us on foot about 20 minutes to round them up and herd them into Bill’s trailer.

 

Part of the processing of beef involves letting the refrigerated hanging carcass age for several weeks to improve the flavor and texture of the meat, before it is cut up into the various parts and frozen.  In mid-July, the call came that the meat was all cut up, packaged and ready to be picked up.  Off my son and I went with several ice chests to bring our half steer home.  I paid the processor directly for their services.  We divvied up the meat among the three families later that afternoon.

 

Now, to pay my brother.  He calculated the price of the steer on the day of purchase (around $125 per hundred pounds, live weight).  Our half: $725, current money.  On a lark, I asked him if he’d take payment in the equivalent in silver coins.  And due to the novelty of the idea, he laughed and said sure.  So, I stopped at a local coin shop and bought $725 in old silver coins, “junk silver” they call it.  It came to $38.18, which the shop owner rounded up to $38.20.

 

The U. S. government minted real silver coins-dimes, quarters, half dollars and earlier silver dollars--through 1964.  From 1965 on, the dimes and quarters have been deprived of all silver content, and have been fabricated out of layered non-bullion metals--so-called  “sandwich” coins (essentially as inherently worthless as paper money); the Kennedy half-dollars were still 40% silver from 1965 to 1970, after which, they, too, became devoid of all silver.  Of course, the old “silver” coins were not solid or pure silver--it doesn’t wear all that well, so it was alloyed with other metals (I don’t recall exactly which one(s) just now--whether copper, zinc or something else), and are actually 90% silver.  Furthermore, though the “official” established price for silver was $1.00 per ounce back then, the coins contained only 72.5 cents worth of silver per dollar face value.  To simplify it: a dollar’s worth of dimes, quarters, halves or dollars in the old silver coins was and is actually worth 72.5% of whatever the open market price for silver happens to be.  Taking into account normal abrasion and wear, it is customary in the coin trade to value such coins at slightly less, i.e., 71.5% of the price of silver.  So, if you have a dollar’s worth of old silver coins of no special numismatic value, they are worth 71.5% of whatever silver is selling for on the commodities market.  Recently silver has been bouncing around in the vicinity of $28 per ounce.  Multiply this by 71.5%, and you get $20.02.  So if you have $1.00 in old silver coins, they are worth $20.02 in silver alone, and any old silver dime is worth just over $2.00 all by itself.

 

To look at it another way: what a single dollar would buy in 1963 requires approximately $20 today.  Or to reverse the comparison: a dollar face value today will only buy 5% of what it would in 1963.  This change, this difference, is what is called inflation, or debasing the currency, one of the few functions at which the federal government--and all other world governments--is particularly adept.  Debasing the currency is a long-term practice of governments, so that they can continually overspend their revenues.  In ancient times, the Romans didn’t have paper money or bogus pot-metal coins.  Their money was gold, silver and copper coins.  But to make the government’s revenues go a little further, bit by bit, more and more cheap alloy was added, first to the gold coins, and then to the silver, which went from being nearly pure gold or silver to being almost entirely devoid of gold or silver.  This process took centuries from start to finish, but it completely succeeded in wrecking the currency and the economy and ultimately the empire.  By wholesale substituting worthless metals for the silver in our coins (and a couple of decades ago, they debased even the copper pennies!), the treasury has given the federal government free reign to pile deficit upon deficit, to cause rampant inflation (there was virtually none during the real silver days of the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s), and degrade the value of all money in circulation, leaving nothing to back the dollar except “the full faith and credit of the U. S. government,” which was downgraded recently, is declining further daily and may well collapse altogether before another leap year comes around.  Such is the warning contained in the account of a side of beef purchased for such a remarkably low price.

 

To conclude the tale: I took my cache of silver coins, all of it in a single jeans pocket, drove to my brother’s place, and paid my debt--a whole side of beef for just $38.20.  And the beef is first-rate, worth every dime.

---Doug Kutilek

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But Who Will Protect Us From the Government?

 

“Potentially, a government is the most dangerous threat to man’s rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims.  When unlimited and unrestricted by individual rights, a government is man’s deadliest enemy.  It is not as protection against private actions, but against governmental actions that the Bill of Rights was written.”

Ayn Rand (1905-1982)

[copied]

 

"If the government can take a man’s money without his consent, there is no limit to the additional tyranny it may practice upon him; for, with his money, it can hire soldiers to stand over him, keep him in subjection, plunder him at discretion, and kill him if he resists.”

Lysander Spooner

[copied]

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BOOK REVIEWS

 

“The bibliography at the tail end of a book serves three purposes: It suggests new acquisitions to book collectors; it directs students to sources of knowledge; it advertises the author’s learning to the unsophisticated and his ignorance to the learned.”

J. Frank Dobie

The Voice of the Coyote, p. 369

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The Voice of the Coyote by J. Frank Dobie.  Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 2001 reprint of 1949 Curtis Publishing edition.  386 pp., hardback.

 

A few months back, we reviewed favorably Tales of Old-Time Texas by this same author.  This volume is equally interesting, and written in the same chatty style.  Herein, Dobie has assembled just about everything of note about coyotes that he could find in print or heard directly or indirectly from eyewitnesses.  The whole of coyote-lore, then, including fact, anecdote, story, legend, tale, folklore, myth and even fable is to be found here.  Coyote conduct, including interactions with other animals, both predators and prey--and other coyotes,--coyotes and trappers, coyotes and Indians, coyotes and Mexicans; coyotes in the wild, coyotes in captivity, coyotes in the desert, on the plains and in the mountains, and more.  He documents the source of each story and account, and gives an annotated bibliography.

 

For much of the prairies, plains, deserts and mountains of the central, western and southwestern U. S., the coyote is the only remaining large predator or at least the only common one, the bears, wolves and cougars being either entirely exterminated, or greatly reduced in numbers.

 

The name coyote, which we in Kansas invariably pronounce “KY-yot” (with a long “o”) comes from the Aztec, coyotl; English speakers in North American at first called them “prairie wolves” before adopting the now-familiar name.  Full-grown adults range from 20 to 70 pounds in weight.  Though averaging 5 to 7 pups per litter, the record is a remarkable 19.  As a predator of small game but especially of domestic birds (chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys) and small livestock (especially sheep), coyotes were usually unwelcome and regularly heavily hunted, often for government-funded bounties, in the 18th through mid-20th centuries.  A more enlightened attitude generally prevails today, the coyote being viewed as a valuable asset in controlling rabbit and rodent populations in rural areas.

 

Though commonly classified as a separate species from domestic dogs and wolves, the fact of the capacity of coyotes, dogs and wolves--and foxes, as well--to inter-breed and produce fertile offspring demonstrates that they are at most merely varieties  of one species, with different characteristics emerging due to isolation of population groups (in the post-flood world).  The coyote, a true omnivore, is a remarkable hunter and is equipped with superb survival instincts.  The study of coyote behavior (and that of other wildlife as well), gives some small insight into the wisdom of his Creator.

---Doug Kutilek

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The Garner Files by James Garner and Jon Winokur.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 2011.  273 pp, hardback.  $25.99

 

James Garner (born James Scott Bumgarner in 1928 in Norman, Oklahoma) has been an actor in movies and television since the 1950s; his two most famous characters were Bret Maverick, a 1950s TV professional gambler and con-man, and Jim Rockford, a 1970s TV private investigator.  He has also done many commercials, most famously a series for Polaroid cameras back in the 1970s.

 

Garner, one fourth Cherokee (from his maternal grandfather) was the third of three sons born to an young and impoverished hard-drinking father, whose wife died at 27 when Jim was 4, the result of an infection following a botched illegal abortion (a subject about which Garner stupidly says he as a man has no right to an opinion).  Garner left home at 14.  He served in the National Guard and survived the Korean War, and got into acting almost by accident in the early 1950s.  Landing the part of Bret Maverick in 1957 was a career maker for him.  In 1956, he married his wife Lois after knowing her just 17 days; they are still married more than 55 years later--remarkable for Hollywood (they did go through an 18-month separation back in 1979/80).  Garner seems to have not had the usual string of adulterous affairs that characterize most of the Hollywood glitterati.

 

The Garner has been a lifelong hot-head, throwing frequent temper-tantrums, and getting involved in numerous fist fights as an adult, on TV and movies sets, while golfing, in public, in traffic, and more.  He was a heavy binge drinker until his 30s, a heavy smoker until 2005, and a user of marijuana for more than 50 years (and counting?).

 

Religion has not been a family forte; twice in the book Garner calls himself a Methodist (of what sort he doesn’t say), though he admits to not having attended church since he was a teen.  His mother and maternal grandmother are reported to have been Christian Scientists, and his wife is Jewish.  He says he was glad that his relatives didn’t push that Jesus stuff or hell-fire and damnation on him.  He alleges, “there were just too many miracles in the Bible for me,” (p. 8; I suspect his personal familiarity with the subject is insufficient to have come to so sweeping a judgment).  Yet, he also admits to having often prayed for Divine help in times of crisis, wondering if it did any good.  His final word on the matter: “I think there’s something out there bigger than we are, but I don’t have a clue what it is,” (p. 215).   So sad for a man to be 84 and know nothing about God--and apparently not even be actively looking for Him.

 

Garner has never been one to hesitate to express his opinions.  He chronicles his famous and epic battles over the years with various producers and Hollywood studio heads.  He asserts that he despises both the loss of privacy and anonymity that come with fame, and he expresses a dislike for the plethora of awards his industry bestows. 

 

Much of the book is taken up with Garner’s love of golf (at which he was a pretty good amateur, though venting his temper regularly on the links) and car racing, ho-hum subjects to me at best.  The book is often an exercise in extensive name-dropping, essentially saying: “Look at all the important people I know.”

 

When it comes to politics, Garner grew up an Oklahoma Democrat, but voted for Eisenhower in 1952--his one and only vote for a Republican.  He absurdly claims that Adlai Stevenson, Ike’s 1952 and 1956 opponent, was our most intelligent Presidential candidate, and even more absurdly says that Barack Obama runs a close second on that list!!! (p. 97).  He also says that most actors (including himself) are not qualified to serve in public office.  He expressly mentions Ronald Reagan as unqualified for either Governor or President; apparently Garner slept through the 1980s, when Reagan’s policies rescued America from Jimmy Carter’s economic and political malaise, and whose famous challenge “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” was followed by the complete collapse of the Soviet Empire, a collapse beginning scarcely more than two years later, and directly set in motion by America’s economic and military resurgence under Reagan.  Garner also accuses Reagan of being an unthinking dolt; such an accusation--pure main-stream media mythology--from an uneducated man like Garner whose whole life has consisted in merely mouthing the words others have written for him to recite!!

 

Garner condemns the gratuitous violence, vulgarity and nudity of modern Hollywood productions, yet salts his book with frequent very smutty language.  

 

Once again, the lesson is re-enforced--the appealing character you see on the big or little screen has little, or more likely no relation to the reality of an actor’s personal life.  What you see is all smoke and mirrors; what you see is not what you get.

---Doug Kutilek

---

 

Some quotes from The Garner Files--

 

“I learned [poker] around the kitchen table with Uncle John Bumgarner, who was a good player.  He’d say, ‘We used to be wealthy; it cost me a lot of money to get this good.’ “ p. 165

 

“Let’s face it: anybody can be an actor.  There are no qualifications.  The only other profession like that is politics.” p. 170

 

“Actors are paid more that they’re worth anyway.  Producers are idiots for paying the ridiculous prices we ask.  We make so much money, the majority of pictures never make a profit.”  p. 177

 

“Gary Cooper wrote checks for everything--gasoline, cigarettes, groceries, meals in restaurants--because he knew most of them wouldn’t be cashed.  Coop figured he might as well get paid for signing his name.”  p. 182

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