The Letter of Bob Beechner That Hannaford Quotes
Hannaford quotes from a letter Bob Beechner sent to Christianity Today responding to Roger Olson’s article on our community. Parts of this letter, which Hannaford does not quote, reveal Bob’s struggle with integrity. Bob was once a sweet brother and happy to be a part of us. But he decided to leave after he started having trouble with one of his children. We cannot “prove” that Bob is dishonest in all his subjective accusations, but we can look at accusations that have a documentable trail. One glaring example should suffice to show Bob lacks complete honesty in how he has portrayed our community to others. We will use his own letter, which is in Hannaford’s possession, to demonstrate this lack of credibility.
Hannaford notes that Christianity Today published only a small portion of Bob’s letter, but he confirms that he has the whole letter. It seems he wants to present the letter as if he has “inside,” “exclusive” information, though a number of people, including us, have had Bob’s entire letter since soon after it was written around seven years ago. The letter contains many subjective complaints—Bob claims members suffered because they supposedly could not eat “chocolate,” “wear cowboy boots with high heels” and experienced a few other repressive abuses he claimed (falsely) that they suffered in our community. But more importantly, Bob also attempted to prominently illustrate in his letter our community’s alleged “elitist” attitude. He did so by quoting from a letter we had indeed sent a few years before to a woman who had asked for some of our literature. Bob claimed this letter proved our “elitist,” superior attitude and also our unwillingness to give our literature to others (we are supposedly secretive) until after we have “trapped” them into joining us. Actually, as we’ll see, Bob’s edited version of our letter only reveals the untrustworthiness of his depictions of our community. Here from his letter to Christianity Today, as Hannaford can verify, are Beechner’s own words verbatim:
“I have, as an example of the group’s elitist attitude, a copy of a letter written by one of Homestead Heritage’s leaders to a woman who contacted the group with concerns about their doctrine after she read one of Adams’s books on home schooling. She wanted for the purposes of research, to obtain several of the group’s other books which were referenced in the one she had read. Her request was denied, and when she pressed the matter, the leader wrote her:
We’ve seen unbelievers “expose” the Bible because they were not really prepared to assume the responsibilities the Scriptures confronted them with, and we have seen believers do the same with our literature because in their own unfolding walk with God their hearts were not ready for its obligations . . . Since our material builds line upon line, it would be senseless for you to study any more material if you cannot accept what you already have. This would make as much sense as you giving your young home schooling children Newton’s Principia Mathematica before they’ve even learned basic science or math, much less Latin.
Such condescension toward outsiders is typical of the group’s leadership, though they are usually more careful to conceal it.”
But did we, in fact, carelessly stumble into exposing our “elitist,” “secretive” attitude toward outsiders? Let’s see.
Because of the way Bob selected and framed the quote from our minister’s letter, our questioning of such an apparently innocent inquirer would indeed seem to carry an “elitist attitude.” What Bob does not say—but what he knew very well because he had in his possession the document that gives the complete story—is that the “innocent” lady in question was someone from a theological background noted for persecuting Anabaptists, such as ourselves, during the Reformation and which still harbors sharp doctrinal disagreements with our beliefs. More importantly, for these same theological reasons, she had orchestrated a secret investigation of us which culminated in her attempting to blacklist us from Christian book distributors, home-schooling magazines and numerous home-school book fairs, all before we even knew fully what she was doing. Again, Bob said nothing in his letter of this open hostility the woman had already exhibited toward our community. Bob wanted people to believe that we dealt brusquely and condescendingly toward even “mild-mannered,” innocent inquirers, cutting them off from any real information, because we feared they might then discover our “inner secrets.” He, therefore, had to omit this open hostility for his accusations against us to carry any weight.
In fact, at the time of our letter to her, from which Bob pulled his own further carefully edited excerpts, we knew that, from the perspective of her hyper five-point Calvinism, she not only had sharp and, to us, seemingly irreconcilable problems with our beliefs but also even had, in direct conversation with one of our members, openly expressed hostility toward us. Our letter to her, which Bob drastically and unscrupulously edited, mentions some of this: so, again, Bob was fully aware of her hostility.
But now let us go back to the letter we have quoted above, in which Bob attempted to prove to Christianity Today our “elitist” attitude. Again, this letter is not Bob’s most egregious falsifying of our beliefs and practices. But we focus here on this letter because it is documented evidence of his lack of integrity. Notice he places an ellipsis midway through the passage he has selected from our own letter: “their hearts were not ready for its obligations . . . Since our material builds line upon line” and so on. We received Bob’s letter, in full, from a very close friend of his. There is no doubt Bob himself placed the ellipsis where he did. Remember that Bob, unlike his readers (and Hannaford), had in his possession our entire letter to this woman. So what he, by this ellipsis, left out of our letter, he left out deliberately. Here is what he chose to omit from the middle of his quote of our letter, distorting the whole context:
We very much want to avoid anyone becoming guilty of rejecting God’s truth simply because they were not ready for its obligations. For this reason, we do not want to force our beliefs on anyone but want to share them only when the person feels God is telling them to genuinely investigate them.
In view of this, would you be open to discussing the materials we have already made available to you (Wisdom’s Children, Garden of God, and Covenant Love)? If the answer is “Yes,” then perhaps we could begin to communicate with one another to discuss the differences that the literature has raised. Perhaps you would be willing to tell us your objections to what you already have read. Since our material builds line upon line . . . .
In short, what Bob deliberately left out reveals much about both his intentions and integrity (as well as ours). It should be obvious that we were not slamming the door shut in a spirit of “elitist arrogance.” Rather, we were obviously attempting to dialogue with someone who was openly hostile toward us and, by her own admission and actions, trying to destroy our ministry. It was a difficult situation for us. We were very much trying to be Christian in attitude, not “elitist.” The point here, however, is that Bob had this entire letter. So why, then, did he edit it the way he did?—Only to prejudice people against us and keep them in the dark in regard to our real, and even worthy, intentions. His testimony to Hannaford, which, of course, Hannaford was all too eager to receive, is likewise simply untrustworthy. Bob will, as necessary, cut and paste reality to get the narrative to his liking, all in order to get back at us, whom he once loved.