This discussion originated with Chaplain Steve Lowe's comments on the Final Weeks of the Assembly. It brings out how the Assembly distorted Dr. Charles Solomon's message in The Handbook to Happiness and made it a tool of bondage.
October 30, 2007, Chaplain Steve Lowe, Orange County Juvenile Hall: Can you imagine the pain of watching a beloved group of brothers and sisters in Christ struggling with the deception of egotistical leadership that promoted a form of works righteousness. I did my best to intersect in the lives of those deceived in my capacity as the Supervising Protestant Chaplain for the Orange County Probation Department. I made each Assembly probation volunteer study Charles Solomon's Handbook to Happiness in an attempt to help them understand their position in Christ and the finality of the cross. I struggled and hurt when Mark Wheel and Beth Alex went under the spell of George and came against me. What a sad time. I have counseled ex-members of the assembly from as far a way as Kansas. I prayed the Assembly away from my beloved incarcerated youth and God heard my prayer. When the annual Christmas pageant occurs (begun by Joe Bush and me) I rejoice that the ex-Assembly folks coming in now have been set free from the cruel taskmaster of toxic leadership. It is a new day and God rules in the lives of His children.
Editor's response to Chaplain Lowe:It's great to hear from you!.... We had no idea you have been involved in counseling ex-Assembly folks. I'm so glad.... As far back as 1989, when we were still involved in the Assembly, the Handbook to Happiness was brought in, and was adapted and twisted to support the legalism, perfectionism and tight control taught by the Assembly, bringing folks into even heavier bondage....
Chaplain Lowe's response to the editor:I can tell by the tone of your final comments that you are still stinging from the hurt caused by the Fellowship (since you guys did not have a church name I gave you the name "the Fellowship" so when I talked with my staff they knew who I was referring to--an old habit). Sorry for your pain over all of this.
I am baffled how anyone could make identification truths into a form of legalism. The entire reason Chuck wrote the book in the first place was to free Christians from any "selfism" in regards to acceptance before God. If ALL my righteousness is simply imputed then I have nothing to bring to God except my faith in the Person and work of Christ. That kills works-righteousness and legalism (religiosity). I was pleased years ago when the effect of identification became extensive enough that it trickled throughout the Assembly. I am disheartened to hear that it was perverted for some personal reason on the part of leadership.
I don't wish to open old wounds, so you do not need to continue talking about any of this unless you find it helpful in some way.
Editor's response to Chaplain Lowe: Steve and I left just as the Solomon teaching was coming in, so I'm not sure what it would look like today. But back then, it was taught like this: The line diagram about your position in Christ was completely de-emphasized, mentioned only once to an individual, and the circle diagram and the Selfer's prayer were used incessantly. "If you think you are too tired to attend every meeting, Self is on the throne. You need to say the Selfer's prayer and get Christ back on the throne so you will have a good attitude about all the meetings." "If your husband is demeaning you by giving you capricious orders to train you, and you don't like it, Self is on the throne. Your need to say the Selfer's prayer and get Christ back on the throne so you obey everything your husbands commands of you cheerfully." "I saw you wore dangly earrings. Obviously Self is on the throne."... Faith was turned into a work by the teaching that if you truly exercise overcoming faith, Christ will be on the throne. If Self is on the throne, obviously you are not exercising overcoming faith, so you need to try harder.
Chaplain Lowe's reply, Nov 6, 2007: Sheesh! The selfer's prayer was intended to aid the Christian who reverted to a works-righteousness mindset regarding their salvation, assurance of salvation, or acceptance before God. It was to help facilitate an assurance of identification. It was never meant to be similar to the Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) concept of having "self on the throne" (as opposed to being Spirit filled). The CCC kind of selfer's prayer was simply to admit self is on the throne and ask God to fill you with His Spirit. That is not what Solomon was after at all. Solomon was not pointing at behavior (condition); he was pointing to our position in Christ.
No wonder you have negative feelings about the Handbook of Happiness. It was misused by leadership--leadership I would assume that had not experienced for themselves the great freedom of the finality of the cross. This is sad. This creates legalism and pride. And, pride comes before a fall.
November 6, 2007, Flora, formerly of the Ottawa Assembly: "By the time the book Handbook to Happiness by Charles Solomon was being recommended in the Assemblies, I was disabled, spending 75 % of my time in bed and living with my parents – an hour drive away from Ottawa. I remember reading the book and meditating on it, as I rested in bed. To me, the focus of the book was our position in Christ and our identification with Him in His death, burial and resurrection. It clearly demonstrated how the work of Christ on the cross liberated us from serving sin and self.
It was written in such a clear, easy-to-understand way, with clearly illustrating diagrams, that my eyes of understanding were opened. I rejoiced in the love and mercy of my Saviour for the work that was accomplished at Calvary.
However, as I discussed the book with those in Ottawa that were being taught the Assembly perspective of the book, it seemed that their focus of the book was the Selfer’s Prayer. I witnessed that the more they focused on the Selfer’s Prayer, the more they seemed to lose their joy in the Lord. A number of people told me that they felt defeated and that they were concluding that a life ‘in Christ’ was impossible to achieve.
When I attempted to direct their focus to the work of Christ on the cross and their position in Christ, they would just look at me confused. Apparently when that was their focus, someone in a leadership position would inform them that some attitude or behaviour indicated Self was on the throne of their life and that they needed to say the Selfer’s Prayer. So they would conclude that they were still doing something wrong and that for some reason God just wasn’t answering their prayer.
By the time Betty came to Ottawa to do a workshop on the book, my health was strong enough to enable me to attend the workshop. In the workshop, I was surprised and shocked to discover that, although our position in Christ was mentioned, the focus really was on the Selfer’s Prayer.
After the workshop, I tried for a few days to utilize their perspective and I found defeat and discouragement. Consequently, I chose to ignore what I learned at the workshop and return to the perspective I had when I first read the book. When I did this, my joy and victory in Christ returned.
In conclusion, I agree with the comments of both Chaplain Steve Lowe and the editor. Handbook to Happiness by Charles Solomon is a great, instructive book and a liberating book. Yet, the Assembly leadership took its wonderful, easy-to-understand teachings and twisted and distorted them to further oppress and control God’s people. This was one of the many factors that lead to my leaving the Assembly in 1993.
[Read Flora's story here.]