In 1998, in New Orleans, I met a prophet.
His name was Fred Snyder, and he was a former member of the Church of God founded by Herbert W. Armstrong. Fred was a fifty year old biblical literalist, a sabbath keeping pork avoiding non-fiber mixing former Marine and widower. He was fascinating to an impressionable young man like me, in the big city for the first time. He'd done so much, had so many stories, and was a fabulous teller of tales.
We met because I was in a coffee shop discussing the witch clause in Deuteronomy with a stripper named Misty. He interrupted, and he and his friend sat down and eventually the stripper left but they stayed, and we talked long into the night.
He taught me numerous things: Taking the bible literally didn't necessarily mean taking what people said about it literally. He argued lots and lots with pastors about what the bible said, not what they wanted it to say. Strong's Concordance was a well thumbed book in his house.
He thought there were at least two divine beings, YHVH/Jesus Christ and the Ancient of Days, who didn't seem to be the same person. He viewed the Law as the guideline to a good life blessed by God, but didn't really believe in Hell for those who didn't live by it. He actually believed in Universal Salvation, because God so Loved the World, He sent His only Son. Salvation was all sewn up, and the Law was just there to tell us how to live the best possible life, with the least complications.
We talked a lot about God, the Law, marriage, adventures, and life. We talked about my approach, and my love of the odd and different. And, we talked a lot about prophecy. He claimed to be a prophet, because he only had bad news. He cited Jerimiah 14 for his prophetic ways, saying that only a false prophet brings good news, and the true prophet warns of calamity, famine, and sword if the people does not change its ways. And sometimes, even if it does.
For my wedding, at which he was the reader, he gave me a framed print. The definition of the word 'No' with the following advice below it: Use frequently for best results. He said it was the secret to a happy marriage. I followed that advice for many years, and they were some of the happiest ones in my marriage.
He was also a very depressed man. The death of his wife Charlie had hit him hard. I'll talk about Charlie more later, but he often talked of going to join her. In 2005, he apparently went into the desert with another impressionable young man, and while the other man's back was turned, Fred took his own life, shot himself in the head.
A prophet's lot is not an easy one.