I-35 revival: A new straight and narrow way?

Sometimes stories come along that leave me speechless for awhile and then with so many things to say, I can’t get the words all out at once. There are so many directions I could go with this story. There is the no-wonder-people-outside-the-church-think-Christians-are-looney angle and there is the sexuality angle. But, for now, I think it best to just get it on here and see what develops.

In case you are not keeping up with prophecies, signs and wonders, there is a group of people who believe a revival is springing up along Interstate 35 which runs from Texas to Minnesota. A CBN article explains it this way:

A number of Christians have come to believe that because of recent prophecies, dreams, and visions I-35 is the highway spoken of in Isaiah 35, verse 8 — “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness.”

The first of these prophetic dreams came to a prominent German prophet in 1984. Prophetic intercessor Cindy Jacobs of Generals International told CBN News, “And in this dream he saw a highway that went from the bottom of someplace to the top that had a ’35’ sign on it. And God showed him that revival was going to begin at the bottom of this highway and go to the top.

Many other prophecies followed. Jeff Baldwin, college and career pastor at Dallas’ Heartland World Ministries Church, said, “There’ve been very specific cities given in these prophetic words, and they say, ‘Go to these cities and cry out for holiness and purity, and I’ll come down and I’ll invade.’ And all those cities were along the I-35 corridor.”

Before you look at the CBN video clip about this prophecy, take a few moments and watch a clip of “Prophet” Sam Brassfield give the details. This description of the video from the Godtube page describes the main points:

Prophet Sam Brassfield delivers a powerful prophecy at Ten Nights of Miracles, October 27, 2005, hosted by Generals International at Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, TX. He declares that Interstate 35 in the United States is, like Isaiah 35:8, the “Highway of Holiness”. He details that I-35 splits east and west as it encircles the Dallas metroplex and decrees that Dallas is the epicenter for an incessant revival that is breaking forth in the nation. He stresses that this movement will not be exclusive to the Dallas area, but this revival will affect all 50 states as the fire of God consumes and lights this Highway – the heartbeat of America.

I admit I was skeptical from the beginning but I was pretty convinced this was not legit when he made all of the bad wordplays about mo’ of this and mo’ of that in MO (Missouri). However, two things make me take this seriously. One this movement is being likened to the Brownsville revival which sharply divided Charismatics and non-Charismatics through the late 90s. In fact, one of the principles in that movement, Steve Hill, is involved in this one. The second aspect of this story that made me want to record it here is the following story about James Stabile.

First, watch this clip from CBN describing the I-35 revival and pay attention to the words of James Stabile at about 2:04 into the segment.

Now if you read that CBN article all the way through you knew what was coming.

Then up came James Stabile, a 19-year-old homosexual who’d come by to drink and party.

“I was getting drunk in one bar and I was on my way to go continue getting drunk, and actually I was on my way to meet my fiance,” he said.

But he ran smack-dab into the Purity Siege and Joe Oden, who asked him, “‘Have you ever felt the Presence of God?” Stabile said he answered, “No,” and Oden asked him if he’d like to.

Stabile recounted, “He just barely touched me and he said, ‘Fire!’ and I remember staggering back and I thought I was tripping on acid. It was the weirdest thing ever. And he said, ‘Fire!’ again and I fell in the Holy Ghost.” Stabile said right then he felt God “…just came in and transformed me and radically saved me.”

One thing disappeared immediately: his homosexuality.

“I didn’t feel the desires to be with men like I had felt before,” he said.

Oden recounted the same story from his side of the event.

“We laid hands on him,” he said. “He was hit by the power of God and filled with the Holy Ghost … got plugged into our church, and is just living for God.”

Well, not exactly. There is more to this story that has only recently come to light. According to columnist John Wright of the Dallas Voice, Mr. Stabile’s homosexuality did not go away. But Mr. Stabile went away – all the way to Kentucky’s Pure Life Ministries.

[Pastor Joe] Oden told me Stabile had been shipped off to Pure Life Ministries, which operates a residential treatment program in Northern Kentucky.

“It’s a program for people who’ve lived alternative lifestyles just to get totally clean,” Oden told me.

Pure Life Ministries is the live in program where Michael Johnston now works. Wright continues:

A few weeks later, Oden told me Stabile had been kicked out of Pure Life for being a “compulsive liar,” which rekindled my interest.

Finally, I was able to get in touch with Stabile’s father, Joseph, who gave me the real scoop.

Coincidentally, Joseph Stabile is pastor of Cochran Chapel United Methodist Church, the oldest church in Dallas.

Joseph Stabile said he’s fully accepting of his son’s sexual orientation and believes being gay is neither a choice nor a sin.

Joseph Stabile said James left home to go out that Friday night and never returned. Joseph said James, or “B.J.” as his parents affectionately refer to him, is bipolar and had stopped taking his medication.

James called a few days later and told his parents he was moving out, and that he’d be back to get his stuff. James apparently had moved in with some folks from Heartland.

After that, it would be some time before James’ parents heard from him, as his church friends reportedly advised him not to contact them.

Joseph Stabile said the Heartland folks also may have advised James to throw away his medication, telling him that God would cure his bipolar disorder, too.

Bottom line: Young Mr. Stabile had other issues that he was dealing with that were interpreted within a spiritual framework by the evangelists. Ideas have consequences; what are in my view incorrect information about homosexuality and emotional conditions led to very questionable and harmful practices. Stabile is home now and according to his parents not ready to talk fully about his experiences. I suspect at some point he will be.

I know I do not have this whole sexual identity and religion thing worked out yet. Mark Yarhouse and I are making our best efforts and will revise the Sexual Identity Therapy Framework in 2008. But I am pretty sure what I am described is not the way it is supposed to go. I am not saying that I doubt all claims of miracles presented by Christians, but this story should give serious caution to those who are quick to accept such reports uncritically.

10 thoughts on “I-35 revival: A new straight and narrow way?”

  1. Warren, I don’t believe that anyone should accept any claim uncritically…miraculous claims especially.

    Ironically, I find myself knowing that claims and concerns regarding Stabile’s experience were and still are accepted uncritically, as fact and they lack verification.

    Is our concern for what ‘might have taken place’ and our belief for ‘what often does take place’ more important than ‘what did take place”?

    It doesn’t seem to matter, as long as one is impressing one’s view upon another or reinforcing their own view.

    The true facts don’t seem to be the goal.

    The point seems to be… ‘just that’… to make a point or to impact others with a shared view or personally held view.

    Could it be that if we let the truth speak for itself, it would’nt give our agenda the same ‘ZING’?’ Mud splatters further than truth when it hits!

    If there are legitimate concerns that the church was using James’ video testimony for publicity or to have some ‘zing’ attached to a supposed agenda…. then, for certain they wouldn’t have let Joe out there on camera, in his white ‘fruit of the loom’ t shirt.

    I mean… secondly, there is another video on Youtube that was filmed during a Heartland Purity Seige. It became available to be viewed the same week that the ‘Heartland on CBN’ video became available on Youtube. This Heartland video clearly shows a man ‘NOT’ claiming a miraculous, sudden freedom from Homosexuality and it’s been airing for 2 weeks under the title ‘Jesus moves in Dallas, Cedar Springs.’

    They seem to love homosexuals and if I sense any agenda it’s seems to be that, “if you want it, there is hope.”

    I for one… I get irritated real quick from a society that tells me “you have to stay the same way you are’. And who is anyone else to tell me what I am? And if I want to interpret the Bible to indicate that I’m in sin and that there’s an urgent need for change, then I’m gonn’a interpret the Bible like so. And if these Christians love me, then they had better show up on that street corner every Friday night on Oaklawn.

    And they had better not give up on me, if they find out that I lots of problems or mental issues. And they had better not give up on James.

  2. Media. How much research and follow-up should be in place before reports of healing are shared w/ a global audience?

    AND how much research and follow up should be in place before reports of a bi-polar man who is a compulsive liar and loves “attention” as stated by his own father in another article, are shared through the media?

    Just a thought…..

  3. Why make it hard? Charismatic Christians do not understand their own Bible let alone how the mind works. They perpetrated a crime on this man and probably have legal exposure. Mr. Stabile may have a monetary out-of-court payoff coming.

  4. I have some additional questions:

    1. Should Christian efforts to perform magic upon subjects be handled differently than similar efforts by persons of other faiths?

    2. Is the belief in a geocentric god (especially one that is conveniently headquartered in one’s own vicinity, perhaps one’s own church) a kind of past or present-day heresy? Should Christians globally do more to challenge such deviation from a universal God?

  5. Warren, I agree with you that there are several dimensions to this story. Here are a couple of considerations for reflection:

    1. Healing. What are we to make of claims of healing, even if we are not talking about sexuality? In what contexts might such healing take place? Is this the kind of experience (attraction to the same sex) that is healed? Should it be? What happens if healing does not take place or does not meet expectations?

    2. Psychopathology and spiritual interventions. What is the relationship between psychopathology (in this case bipolar disorder) and spiritual interventions that might be used as either treatment or as adjuncts to treatment? If they are used, what guidance can be provided so that they are used ethically? What about paraprofessional organizations and ministries and their use of spiritual interventions? What guidelines might be useful particularly if there is a pre-existing psychopathology?

    3. Follow-up care. What is best practice for care once someone has reported a conversion experience? How does that care integrate information on and assumptions related to psychopathology, sexuality, and spirituality?

    4. Media. How much research and follow-up should be in place before reports of healing are shared w/ a global audience?

    Thanks, Warren. There is certainly a lot here to think about.

  6. Revivals and various changes coming about through the Holy Ghost. This is nothing new amongst various believers and Pentecostals. The “I-35” issue is a campaign, met for revival. Looks like that are having an impact.

  7. Warren –

    This was just funny, but honest to me – thank you for saying it outloud so we didn’t have to :

    “There is the no-wonder-people-outside-the-church-think-Christians-are-looney angle and there is the sexuality angle. But, for now, I think it best to just get it on here and see what develops.”

    wow, it all I can say. Being a christian isn’t always easy…but sometimes it’s those making claims like this, that make it all the more…interesting.

  8. Oh sure, I wake up planning for an uneventful day, check in here, and find my alma mater featured! LOL! I attended Christ for the Nations Institute from 1976 to 1978. I assumed Freda Lindsay had ‘gone to her reward’ by now and think I’ve aged better than William ‘Dutch’ Sheets.

    This story makes it appear that all of them believe in ‘instant deliverance’–and for every person. Yet, when I was a student, there were approximately two dozen others I knew of who ‘came from homosexual backgrounds’. Of these, only a handful seemed to have no further with struggles with homosexuality whatsoever. (I must admit, though, that I was one of those who seemed to have no further struggles. Yet, it was there that I wrestled with the fact that I had fallen in love with my male ministry partner. For years afterwards though, I was still regarded as one of those who was ‘completely free’. It’s a matter of Christian/Charismatic Christian/Pentecostal Christian terminology.)

    While I attended the school and, several years later, when I returned to Dallas for a few years, the Dean of Men referred a number of students to me for counseling and support. I say him rather than the school, because when a prominent married staff person was busted for soliciting a male prostitute, the higher ups sent him for ‘inner healing’ and ‘deliverance’ rather than for practical counseling. (I wasn’t able to find out how that went. He and his wife disappeared quietly into oblivion. I’m sure someone followed up on them but I, personally, never heard another word.)

    When I was invited to attend my first Exodus Summit, it was while I was at CFNI, as we called it. I was strongly cautioned by several in leadership that I needed to be wary about being ‘re-ensared’ 1) by contact with some who might have mixed motives and 2) by moving into the ‘front lines’ and thus ‘drawing the enemy’s fire’. On one hand, they viewed me as someone who was ‘completely free’ but, when push came to shove, they recognized that ‘it ain’t over til it’s over’.

    So, I saw a good part of the prophets video the same way I did when I attended. You hear it, you measure it against the bible, you consider those parts that are open for interpretation (i.e. the entire I-35 connection), and you measure the words by the outcome. It’s now 3 years later and that wave must be having a hard time pushing it’s way further north than Kansas. (Did he speak of any place north of Kansas? Or is that where he couldn’t find anymore visible ‘signs of revival’ to support his I-35 connection?) I’m in Minnesota where I-35 splits and comes together again and I see no signs of any renewed wave of spirituality. (LOL. Makes me wonder how we interpret the I-35 bridge collapse. Has God given up on North Minneapolis in favor of the northern suburbs of St. Paul?)

    I’d love to comment specifically on the 2nd video but mine gave me a message that ‘it was no longer available’. (Spooky! And, then my MSN actually crashed twice! Rather than casting out a demon though, I sent an ‘error report’ and logged back in. Seems to have worked. 🙂 )

    I was just about to ‘submit’ this when I realized something else. CFNI sits right next to I-35. Literally! They sit on a wedge of property where I-35 and another highway split. I want to say 635…but it’s been a long, long time. Anyway, if you’re thinking up a sermon and you’re wanting to connect with your audience, their physical location would be one factor that might influence your ‘inspiration’. Prophets words need to be measured against their fulfillment; the vessels are human.

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