Memo To Creditors

Jay Green is a former used-car dealer from Indianapolis. As of now, he is also a former publisher and book distributor from Grand Rapids, Michigan. His book operations recently folded in bankruptcy, leaving more than $1 million in outstanding claims and debts—and many hundreds of unhappy customers.


The will of the late President Harry S. Truman raised some eyebrows when he left bequests of $500 each to fifteen of the sixteen grandnephews and grandnieces blit only $5 to one, John Ross Truman of Boston. Contacted by newspapermen, the Truman grandnephew said the codicil to the will was drawn at a time when he was studying for the Catholic priesthood, ruling out acceptance of any inheritance because of the vow of poverty. The young man later left his theological studies, took a law degree, and is now associated with the firm of noted criminal lawyer F. Lee Bailey. But Uncle Harry, a Baptist, never changed the will.


Green, who pitched his mail-order “discount” wares primarily to evangelcals, operated under at least four names: Sovereign Grace Publishers, Associates Publishers and Authors, Southeastern Religious Book Distributors, and Religious Book Discount House (RBDH). RBDH stores were located in Atlanta, Chicago, Fort Worth, and Los Angeles. The firms have been consolidated and reorganized under receivership in an attempt to get the books—and cash—flowing again.

Green advertised heavily in Christian magazines, and promoted a “student [sales] evangelist” program among seminarians and Bible school students. He reprinted old masters and standard works long out of print, offering them at remarkably low prices, and he even came out with his own slightly modernized version of the King James Bible. He discounted contemporary works from dry theological texts to popular best sellers. This earned both him and the publishers who supplied him the ire of retailers. The latter as a rule stick to list prices (the markup on an average book is between 40 and 50 per cent), virtually as a matter of sheer survival. Overhead is high, and volume isn’t that great, thus undercutting is a serious threat to them. A few publishers bowed to pressure from a number of Christian booksellers and refused to do business with Green; others stayed with him. Through it all, Green kept insisting his business was a “ministry.”

About a year ago, many of Green’s mail order customers (annual dues: $2.50) began getting credit memos instead of books. There were few refunds. In fact, Green appealed to his customers to send offerings instead of dun letters. Those who threatened legal action sometimes received a check, but with a printed note attached stating there were no funds in the bank to pay it and asking for a reprieve. He’s finally gotten it.

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They buried Mark “Jimmy” Essex, 23, his body riddled by more than 100 bullets, in the town where he’d spent a rather tranquil boyhood, far from the violence that ended his and six other lives at a New Orleans hotel. Three of the others slain were police officers, gunned down by Essex and possibly accomplices.
The funeral service was conducted in Emporia, Kansas, by Pastor W. A. Chambers of the St. James Baptist Church, who years before had baptized Essex. The black youth faithfully attended St. James with his family, say sources. He tithed, sang in the choir, was active in Sunday school, and ushered as a teen-ager.
Shocked family members and neighbors could offer no explanation for what the youth had done. But somehow, they said, Essex the sniper was “different” from Essex the boy. He had joined the Navy four years earlier, and his experiences there radically changed him, they alleged. They cited racial slurs, run-ins with officers, disputes over ratings, and other troubles that embittered him and drove him AWOL. He was finally court-martialed, and discharged.
The details of just who and what pushed Essex the most may never be known. At any rate, he returned to Emporia from the Navy “with a tremendous hatred for white folks,” says Chambers. He also repudiated Christianity as a “white man’s religion,” but neither the minister nor the family could find out why, reported Judy Henry of the Emporia Gazette. Investigators later found the walls of Essex’s run-down New Orleans place smeared with hate slogans, and they say he traveled in militant circles.
In the funeral service, Chambers identified with both black anguish and biblical mandates. “I know our patience has worn thin,” he told mourners packed into the 110-seat church, “but [God] will guide us and protect us. Trust in the Lord and wait patiently for him.” The world’s ills cannot be cured by a philosophy of violence and hatred, he insisted. “The God I know teaches love.”
A few softly uttered affirmations from the congregation punctuated his sermon, but it fell on some deaf ears too. There were clenched-fist salutes and black-power tokens at graveside. To one wreath was attached a slogan: “Power to the people.” They may have been Essex’s last words.
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Meanwhile, services were held in New Orleans for the three Roman Catholic police officers, one of them the second-highest ranking officer in the department, and a hotel employee. The bodies of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Steagall, who had been in New Orleans on a delayed honeymoon trip, were returned to Martinsville, Virginia, for a Disciples of Christ burial service. The tragedy hit Steagall’s mother hard, but, said she, “I just feel the Lord had a reason for taking them.”
During the shoot-out itself, Baptist and Roman Catholic chaplains ministered to firemen and policemen on the scene, to victims in hospitals, and to families of the slain and wounded. When it was rumored that snipers were holding hostages, Catholic archbishop Philip M. Hannan offered to be an intermediary and substitute hostage, but the rumors proved to be false.
On the Sunday morning Essex began his rampage, his mother reportedly rose in church and asked the congregation to pray for her son, “who doesn’t want to go along with the Lord.”
Shifting The Context

In twin actions at Sacramento last month, the California Board of Education decided that social-science textbooks—rather than science texts—are the proper place to discuss religious theories of creation for the state’s 3.3 million elementary-school pupils. A unanimously passed motion shifted the arena of the running battle between creationists and evolutionists on the nine-member board from science to social-science texts. These include history, anthropology, geography, ecology, philosophy, psychology, and economics. The motion was made by Seventh-day Adventist physician John A. Ford, the board’s vice-president.

In another action, those on the board who wanted equal treatment for creationism alongside Darwin in science texts failed in a last-ditch attempt.

Member Eugene Ragle had a surprise motion that was defeated 6–3. The vote put the board on record for the first time against placing religious creation theory in science texts. Ragle’s motion called for all science texts for children from kindergarten through eighth grade to include, as part of any treatment of life’s origins, the statement:

There are two basic conflicting theories as to the origin of life. Either is fully supported by scientific fact. The older of the two is the theory of divine or special creation. A more recent date is the theory of evolution, to which many scientists subscribe.

President David A. Hubbard of Fuller Seminary, with five other board members, voted against the motion. Hubbard commented later that his negative vote was based not upon disagreement with the statement but upon its “timing and strategy.” He said that since the board had just recognized that creationism has a rightful place in the social-science curriculum, Ragle’s motion was not made at the “right time, place, or context.” To have voted for Ragle’s motion would “have pleased my creationist friends but baffled my board-member colleagues,” Hubbard explained. A number of fundamentalists will be disappointed by the board’s action, Hubbard predicted, but “the more perceptive ones will understand.”

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The actions let stand a decision by the board in December to accept science texts for use beginning September, 1974, that do not mention creation theories (see January 5 issue, page 48). An editing committee of seven persons (including Ford and Hubbard) is at work removing what the board calls “scientific dogmatism” from the science texts’ presentation of evolution.


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