Life’s Little Ironies: Austin Miles goes full circle on Bill Moyers

In the last week, the intrepid journalists at Powerline (yes, I mean that- the three attorneys who majored in philosophy between participating in general left-wing shenanigans and antiwar protests back in college) broke yet another story, exposing how the laughable Bill Moyers (who, like Franken, Cole, and Ward-not-Winston Churchill, has turned into a parody of himself) lifted a quote from Grist magazine, which had in turn lifted the quote from a book by “former circus ringmaster” and defrocked Assemblies of God minister Austin Miles. The details are all at Powerline, as most details of most everything useful in life may be found (whatever you can’t get here, that is).

The story was essentially regarding Moyers’ allegation that Christian evangelicals (full disclosure: that category includes yours truly) are a bunch of apocalyptic nuts who are perfectly willing to despoil God’s creation (here I expect to be struck down by John Derbyshire for using the other “c” word; I will have more to say in another post about Derb’s disingenuous misstatements regarding intelligent design) because we all want the world to end next week and sweep us up to Glory. That exact point was the citation of Congressional testimony to that effect which has been alleged for the last 20 years to have been offered by Reagan’s Interior Secretary, James Watt, a member of the Assemblies of God denomination.

I’ve seen that alleged quote repeated in print for years as illustration of the idea that center-right conservatives are anti-conservation wackos, so that didn’t faze me at all. What I found interesting, rather, was the author of the book, Austin Miles. I wondered if he, widely cited as a former religious nut who had embraced the virtues of rational agnosticism, was a descendant of a Penn-trained pharmacist named C. Austin Miles. The latter gave up drugs (pun-type reference intended) for a new career as gospel hymn-writer and song publisher for Hall-Mack at the start of the 20th century. Miles’ most well-known song is “In The Garden”, which was my late father-in-law’s favorite song, and is on almost any Christian’s top ten “older hits” list (that would be George Beverly Shea, as opposed to Third Day).

In my searches, I located this bitter diatribe composed by the currently quoted Austin Miles, invective against everything Christian, and obviously reflective of his book Don’t Call Me Brother, which he followed up with Setting the Captives Free: Victims of the Church Tell Their Stories.

But there was also something else strange about the name- because the Google search turned up several links for pieces written by “Rev. Austin Miles” at places like the Bush Country blog, and various evangelical sites. Recent posts, not ten-year old re-hashed archival writings from the days of e-bulletin boards, for example, a post of concern over Islamic proselytizing in public schools. A little more review was in order, and the full story unfolded, here in Rev. Miles’ own words, “Burned out- a refining fire”:

I defiantly left the ministry with a vow never to return. The worst years of my life followed. My rebellion grew to the point that God found it necessary to send me to the pits where I could truly hear His voice……. In the midst of the chaos, God had a Divine plan and used three men and a poodle to get me back on track…… With God foremost in your life, in your work and focus, no man, thing, committee or hierarchy will ever manage to get between you and God again. This is the way it has worked for me.

I would try to impress this upon all Christians: Every soul you encounter, even those who observe you from a distance (such as the supermarket or on the street) has been entrusted to your care. You will be accountable for that soul and how your conduct affected it. A sobering thought and challenge indeed. You never know who may be struggling, even those who appear secure. Don’t let anyone down.

The boot camp required of me was tough but essential. It has proved to be the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I no longer have the need for man’s approval or acceptance. I am now serving Him on His terms. And the entire ministry today, for me, is joy unspeakable and full of Glory!

For the Republicans among us, he writes regularly at the Bush Country web site, which indicates his candidacy for sainthood, living as he does in Northern California where he is not in the majority, one might guess.

One thing we know for certain- he does not believe that James Watt is an anti-environmental nut. Thus, Moyers not only got the quote wrong, but both of his source’s original non-fact-checked sources have gone completely the other way in an easily verified fashion.

If that doesn’t tell you the difference between the work of “legitimate journalists” such as the felllow at Grist who hasn’t returned Big Trunk’s phone calls, and the corrective powers of the blogosphere, nothing does.


3 Responses to “Life’s Little Ironies: Austin Miles goes full circle on Bill Moyers”

  1. Rev. Austin Miles Says:

    Dear Duane,
    How very much I appreciate you looking for the ‘rest of the story’ by showing that I am not in the same place today as I was when I wrote those two books.
    Some of the bloggers on PowerLine, especially Frank Lockwood who is on a scholarship at University of Michigan and a reporter for the Lexington Kentucky Herald Leader, despite knowing where I am today, insisted upon falsely portraying me today as I was 15 years ago.
    And he had before him, the story that you graciously quoted, Burnout-A Refining Fire which tells of my complete journey and my return to the ministry.
    He quoted that I had stated that ‘the Bible was the biggest fraud in history’, as though that is my thoughts today even though I have thoroughly and publicly repudiated those statements that I uttered during a time of severe burnout…burnout caused by just such vicious counterfeit Christians as Lockwood.
    He also described me presently as an anti-Christ “eccentric circus ringmaster.”
    I have been [in] a full time, devoted ministry/chaplaincy for over ten years. I am working in the Bay Area of California which is true missionary territory….and this ministry is having postive results. I would not have time to even go to see a circus, much less to be IN a circus as Lockwood falsely desribes me.
    Thank you sincerely for putting my story in proper perspective, and may God richly bless you.
    Fiat Voluntas Domini
    Rev.Austin Miles
    email address:

  2. ancientmanuscript Says:

    Hello Duane,
    My name is Nadine Mesnard Alldridge, and I am the great-granddaughter of Charles Austin Miles, the composer of “In The Garden” that your father-in-law loved so much. I was writing to tell you that Austin Miles, whom you quoted in your piece, is not related to my late relative. Indeed, I have written to him to ask that if this is so, how is it I had never heard of him? He kindly wrote back to say that he is not related to me, but he would be honored if he had been.

    It is enjoyable for me to put my ancestors into the search engines and see so many interesting things about them come up. I have several fairly famous ones.

    By the way, for a little bit of irony, the gospel song we are speaking of, “In The Garden”, was written on a cold, dreary day in a cold, dreary and leaky basement in New Jersey that didn’t even have a window in it let alone a view of a garden. I guess you could say it is a tribute to my great-grandfather’s faith that he believed it existed, at least in his heart. Nadine Mesnard Alldridge

  3. Pamela Says:

    Searching for information about the hymn, “In the Garden” for a sermon I am giving in a nursing home and found your blog. Enjoyed the piece about the two Austin Miles’s. Thanks for clearing that up, it would have confused my research!

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