God's Own Party

Everything's divine in Arvada, where the GOP has veered sharply to the religious right.

Something has to be done about the liberal leanings that are destroying the country, Arrington says. But he also warns against veering too far to the right. "Liberalism leads to licentiousness, down to decadence, to lawlessness," he says. "But morality carried to the extreme is oppression. Both lead to totalitarianism. There has to be a balance. Most people don't think we're in balance right now. Somewhere we lost our way."

Finding that way is why these religious-right politicians value education so much. Only it's not the public-school system they want to help. They work within the system to siphon public money into their own schools. Arrington is a co-founder of Jefferson Academy, a "back-to-basics" charter school that's a glowing success, according to recent publicity and state education statistics. His co-founder was Denise Mund, who gathered money from Denver socialites such as developer Bill Pauls in a vain attempt to pass anti-porn Amendment 16 in 1994. Mund, who attends Faith Bible Chapel, was also Jim Congrove's campaign manager.

Arrington is surrounded by signs of the next generation he's helping to save. He not only has his own school rolling, he also attends church services at FBC's Carr Street Campus, a former athletic club on I-70 that now houses the church's high school, Faith Christian Academy. Perhaps Arrington wants children to avoid his own path: He describes himself as a "terrible hedonist" as a college student and says the "institution of marriage" set him straight. Like many evangelical Christians, he has a grim view of his own basic nature and credits Jesus with turning him in the right direction.

"I'm a filthy center," he says, "saved by an amazing grace."
Not as "filthy," however, as his pastor (and campaign contributor), George Morrison.

Born in 1947 in eastern Pennsylvania coal country as the oldest of six children, George Morrison grew up in comfort. His grandfather owned a box factory in Pottsville, and life should have been pleasant. But as his 1993 "personal testimony" (on an audio tape for sale outside the FBC sanctuary) reveals, he was a rotten kid. He swears that the vivid story, which veers toward cliche, is the unembellished truth.

Typically, in such a tale told by an evangelical preacher, someone else is ultimately responsible for all the bad behavior and a different someone steps in to reform the hapless human. Morrison's saga is no different, spiced with the reminder that "the Devil comes to kill, steal and destroy, literally, our lives."

According to Morrison's story, he drank and fought, and so did his brother Robert, who was a year younger. "We were very, very, very close," says Morrison. George got kicked out of parochial school and wound up in similar trouble at public school. Robert, he says, was even worse, drinking so much that he developed a bleeding ulcer at age fifteen.

"One particular night," Morrison revealed in his testimony, "we came home from a dance where he had unmercifully beat up the bouncer at the dance, in such a way that it bothered me. And I was drunk, and we were both in the kitchen, and I was giving him a hard time about the way he acted that night, and the next thing I know I got hit with a mayonnaise jar. I got six stitches. He threw a knife and stuck it in my leg, and I slid down the wall."

Robert wound up as a drug-using flower child in New York City, and George landed in trade school. Before he could get drafted to serve in Vietnam, George enlisted in the Marines. Robert, meanwhile, moved to Haight-Ashbury and then to Mendocino, where he lived in a tree house.

Just before George was to ship out to Southeast Asia, scraggly Robert visited for a short reunion. "He got hold of some LSD that night," recalled George, "and both of us took LSD, and we ended up howling at the moon for four hours until this lady screamed at us to get out of her yard."

While people his age were streaming to Woodstock and getting heavily into drugs, George was a helicopter door gunner in the jungle, getting heavily into drugs. When he returned to California, he still had eighteen months left with the Marines, so he moved to a place off-base with four ex-Marines and became a drug dealer, selling pot and cocaine. He was eventually joined by another brother, David, long-haired and strung out on drugs.

Robert had moved to a commune in Taos, "living in an adobe underground with sheep and goats." Then one day George got a letter in which Robert said he had "found Jesus Christ."

"I thought this was just another experience for him," Morrison recalled. "The tree, underground, now Jesus."

It turned out Robert had gone to Boulder, where he was converted by a former druggie friend. "I said fine, I feel good for him," Morrison recalled. "I went back to my old lifestyle, and I lived in total paranoia. I was strung out all the time, always afraid that we were going to be busted, never could drive anywhere with any peace."

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