Letters 06-29-2000

Call to Arms

I met Phil Arms at a church camp when I was 12 years old (20 years ago), and his in-your-face style of preaching really grabbed me ["In Arms' Way," by Lauren Kern, June 15]. (Sometimes fear is the only way to get the attention of potentially wild adolescents!) I visited Arms's place, nicknamed Peacemaker, many times during the next five to six years.

At the time, I did feel that he was sincere. However, that may have just been good acting -- who knows? Besides, I was young and impressionable. Nevertheless, I credit Arms and his band Reborn with straightening out my young life, and I am disappointed with the turn his life has taken. He was always critical of preachers who were immoral or unethical, and it's very sad that he has become exactly what he abhorred. He used to preach all the time that if you didn't get your inspiration as a preacher from God, it was from Satan himself.

I am unclear as to what happened that made Suzanne Arms do a 180 and side with her husband. Was it the money? Was it some sort of threat he made? I wonder.

And what is this rare blood disorder he suffers from? What is Phil Arms planning to do now?

Thank you for the article, even though it makes me sad to read such a distressing update about a man I once admired many years ago.

Paige Fontaine
The Woodlands

Please do a follow-up article on Phil Arms in the future. Hopefully he will have turned his life, marriage and ministry around. Wouldn't it be a shame if he gets his life straightened out and your readers never hear about it?

Now that you have helped to publicly expose Phil, it is also your responsibility to print the truth about his recovery when it occurs. It is easy to help destroy someone. Now, when Phil goes through treatment, we will see how responsible a journalist you are when it comes time to reporting something positive about Phil.

Bill Willis

This story brings back so many memories for me. It makes me ill and angry. As someone who used to support his ministry back in the late '70s and through the '80s, as someone who took youth groups to his ministry on Winkler Drive once a month to hear him preach, and as someone who had to explain to his youth group why he "guilted" the youth group to give all their money in the offering and then had no money for pizza afterward.

I write this with tears and guilt that I exposed many young people to him. Also, as someone who befriended former staff and heard their stories about Phil and did not want to believe them. May God forgive me.

It was hard for me to explain why he preached against materialism and yet left in a new Lincoln Town Car. This has been a hard lesson for me. I will NEVER get close to another clergy member again.

Name withheld by request
Bedford, Texas

I felt compelled to write and compliment your article. In this day, where controversies in religious facilities are headlines used against the church, your article presented a fair representation of the hardships of two individuals, their families and others involved in a tough situation. Thank you for the fair manner in which you presented the story.

C.J. Atkins-Patton

All in the Family

Your article about the disappearance of the O'Hair family was very well written and quite informative ["God Only Knows," by John MacCormack, June 15]. However, Robin Murray O'Hair was not Madalyn's daughter. Robin was Madalyn's granddaughter. Her father is Madalyn's other son, who was at the heart of the famous Supreme Court case. He was the one whose school experience of forced prayer led Madalyn to challenge the practice of school prayer. Years later he renounced Madalyn and Jon, accepted Christ as his personal savior and became a speaker on the fundamentalist circuit. Robin Murray O'Hair, his daughter, became so disgusted with her father that she left him and went to live with her grandmother. She was instrumental in maintaining and enlarging the library/archive that Madalyn was so proud of.

Brandon Wolf

Endorsing Dead Rats

I am pretty certain Tim Fleck has finally lost it [Insider, May 25]. He was close once before, with his mindless diatribes about Congressman Steve Stockman, one of the few folks on Capitol Hill who actually cared about the little guy, regardless of party.

But Fleck's column about Phillip Sudan is so bad (and so unprofessional) that it almost defies analysis. I read the darn thing three times, looking for any facts behind the unceasing innuendo, and all I could find was that Sudan had once gotten divorced and that his ex-wife was contesting the arrangement she had agreed to in court. Fine. Perhaps that's what courts are for, endless renegotiating, though I do wonder about the timing of her change of heart.

I didn't like Sudan's fatuous ads either, though I would vote for Sudan, or even a dead rat, before I would ever again support Ken Bentsen, now that Bentsen has voted for the China Appeasement (Trade) Bill. I want a congressman who will represent American workers.

I don't know why I continue to have the Press in my little restaurant. Perhaps it is because, unlike Fleck, I am not a mindless knee-jerk ideologue, but can tolerate diverse political opinions. But they need to be a lot more rational than Fleck's. Also, why do these hit pieces occur against only conservative Republicans, and mainly when they have a chance of politically defeating some liberal?

Richard K. Reed

Color Conscious

Houstonians were well served by Randall Patterson's investigative story about the fraud and deception that take place in the auto repair industry in this city ["Pain in the ASS," June 1]. What Houstonians were not well served by in Mr. Patterson's article was racial stereotyping. In noting a gentleman's reaction to his vehicle in a service station, he points out that the person was African-American and commented, "Ooh, that thing looks comfortable."

It is clearly a stereotypical image of African-American men that Mr. Patterson is trying to elicit, almost Amos 'n Andy in its tenor. It is a piece of feature news that had nothing to do with race. As a white American who doesn't generally suffer the ills of overt prejudice, I am embarrassed that journalists still feel a need to point out the color of a person's skin, when it in no way is salient to the story.

Alan Philip Stolz

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