It was yet another hostage incident in 1997 when Rick McLaren took hostages in West Texas. Living in Tennessee, I had not heard of the “Republic of Texas” movement to separate the State of Texas from the rest of the U.S.. The real shock came when the “President” of at least one of these “Republics” was named Archie Lowe. I said to myself, “It couldn’t be…I remember him from Dallas.” A little later NPR interviewed him; his voice was unmistakable. Without the family I knew was his many years ago, Archie was facing some potentially tough times. This is especially true in Texas, where the State has a high view of its own authority and of its need to exercise it when it feels it’s necessary (Karla Faye Tucker found this out the hard way.) Well, at least the Texas Rangers knew how to end a tough situation without a mess.
But I digress…let me go back and tell you about the Archie Lowe I knew, and some other reflections on what has happened.
The Latter Rain
In late 1976 I graduated from Texas A&M University and moved to Dallas to take a job with Texas Instruments (which is a great company, by the way.) Having been immensely blessed by a coffee-house ministry back in College Station, I cast about for another one in the Dallas. Unfortunately finding such a ministry proved an elusive task. I attached myself (though never formally joined) the Catholic Charismatic “Community of God’s Delight.” They led me to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit but their Gothardian authoritarianism made me uneasy.
One night at the end of the Sunday night prayer meeting they announced that there was a coffee-house ministry in Garland called “The Latter Rain Christian Coffeehouse.” I wasted no time looking it up. It was located in a store front in downtown Garland. Archie, his wife Sindy and another couple were running the coffee-house; there were two other couple who were regularly there. They had a band and they played and either Archie or one of the others would deliver a message. (You can click on Archie’s picture to hear a little of the music.)
None of the people at the Latter Rain were full time in ministry and Archie was no exception. At the time he was a technician with E-Systems in Garland; we were both in defence work and both held security clearances. Archie was very country, a quality I had come to like in my years in Texas. He and Sindy had probably had more to do than any body else in getting my Southern accent up to speed after years in South Florida, something that has proven a plus in Tennessee.
I was a regular at the Latter Rain for all of the summer of 1977 and into the fall. I enjoyed the Latter Rain; it filled a void at a time when nothing else did. I also spent time socially with Archie and the rest of the people there. It was good fellowship. Probably the most unusual thing we did was to put flyers for the Latter Rain in the cars parked for a James Robison crusade in Garland. This was before Robison received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit; we advertised that they could get the rest of the message at the Latter Rain. The people at the Latter Rain were committed to the Full Gospel; they’re a part of why this page was started as the “Pentecostal Layman’s Page.”
Unfortunately the Latter Rain had its problems. Its location was a start; downtown Garland was a forlorn place in the late 1970’s, and we didn’t get a lot of people coming in. The more serious problem was the long term direction of the ministry. Some of those wanted to concentrate on making an album and moving into contemporary Christian music, and the hows and ifs of that decision made for some pretty serious divisions. I was not privy to a lot of that. Their last Christian “concert” I attended was on 22 September 1977 at the Christ Community Church in Wylie, TX; after that the Latter Rain was pretty much history.
In early 1978, they told me about a church they were going to over in a warehouse in Farmers Branch, so I went and visited it. It was the Word of Faith Outreach Centre; its pastor was Robert Tilton, who was to get himself in trouble so many years later. One thing about Archie and the other Latter Rain people is they always went “whole hog” in anything they did; Word of Faith was no exception. It was a charismatic church, and this was no problem; the problem was in the single-minded emphasis on the accumulation of wealth as the ultimate goal of Christian life. None of the “faith” or “prosperity” preachers were as focused on this as Tilton. One Sunday he made his people commit to doubling their income in the coming year; I found this step of faith hard to take, but mine quadrupled. That notwithstanding I found “name it and claim it” hard to swallow, not because I liked seeing my friends impoverished but because of my first-hand experience with the wealthy.
Archie and Sindy were enthusiastic about this; they reinforced this in the Bible studies they had at their house. But my time in Dallas was ending; in late March 1978 I left for Tennessee. The last time I saw them was just before I left, when those of us who had been involved in the Latter Rain had a picnic at the DeGoyler mansion on White Rock Lake. I came back a couple of times to visit, but my contacts with Archie, Sindy and the others from the Latter Rain dwindled. My last contact with Archie was in 1980; by that time they were living in a communal setting in Rice, TX. (Click here to view the last letter from them to me.) After that I didn’t hear from or about them until the news broke about McLaren.
Organizations and movements such as the “Republic of Texas” and the other militia movements reflect the fact that in this country the values and interests of the ruling classes on the one hand and large segments of the population on the other have separated. (The usual term these days for this is “disconnect;” it used to be called “alienation.”) As long as this condition exists the government needs to be prepared to deal with uprisings such as this. Efforts on both sides to wrap themselves in an ideal, Constitutional past only obscure the real problem, although such is a favourite device of political debate in the English speaking world.
The U.S. isn’t the only country to have experienced alienation of the population; the Roman Empire experienced this also. Having incorporated many kinds of people while limiting their ability to actively participate in their government, many regarded their relationship with the state as an “arms length” proposition. Such a relationship — especially when expressed religiously — is a dry business; it leaves an empty space waiting to be filled. Into this void stepped the followers of Christ, proclaiming that God had walked amongst us and that He could set us free from sin and death, giving our lives new meaning and purpose. Without starting a political revolution Christianity changed the Roman Empire and ultimately the history of the entire world.
It’s sad to think that Archie, having proclaimed the Gospel in the Latter Rain, the Gospel that sets people free in a way that a Republic of Texas could not, turned to a political solution of dubious worth (consider the uninspiring years of Texas as a Republic the first time.) This ultimately is what darkens this whole scene, because changing peoples’ eternal destiny — yours included — is more important than any political goal.