Kung-phooey: two weird tales of religion, violent death, martial arts and make-believe

FOLLOWING news in Spain that a phoney martial arts “monk” had been arrested last month for the murder of a Nigerian prostitute, it’s been revealed – by the Evagelical Allliance, no less – that the best-selling biography of a British Christian evangelist and a Kunk Fu master is a total fabrication.

Report #1 concerns Juan Carlos Aguilar, 47. He was detained in connection with the murder of 29-years-old Maureen Ada Ortuya who was allegedly beaten up by the “Kung Fu master” and left in coma after the assault.

Juan Carlos Aguilar: police think he might be a serial killer

Juan Carlos Aguilar: police think he might be a serial killer

She was found by the police at Aguilar’s gym after a passerby saw him drag a woman by the hair into his Buddist temple and alerted the police who came and took the woman to the Basurto hospital in Bilbao where she later died of her injuries.

Afterwards,Spanish police discovered the remains of a Colombian woman in his house whom Juan Carlos admitted he had killed. Police said he may be a serial killer.

Juan Carlos was a star on TV and he was fond of walking on coals, breaking bottles with his fingers, defying gravity in spectacular positions and passing his tongue on a hot iron without burning.

Initial press reports stated that Aguilar had won a number of competitions and championships for his martial arts skills but the Spanish Karate Federation issued a statement clarifying that it has never had any association with Aguilar and that he never won any Kung fu competition in Spain.

Furthermore, the Shaolin Temple in Spain, the only centre in Spain recognized by the Shaolin Temple in China, confirmed that Aguilar is not a Shaolin master and nor is he a monk.

Report #2 concerns Kung Fu evangelist and convicted fraudster, thief and hit-and-run driver, Tony Anthony, author of a “biography” called Taming the Tiger.

Tony Anthony, author of the bogus biography

Tony Anthony, author of the bogus biography

According to Crosswire, a lawyer has been instructed by the Evangelical Alliance to investigate claims that a best-selling author and evangelist fabricated his larger-than-life story.

Anthony and trustees from his Essex-based global evangelism charity Avanti Ministries gave evidence to an inquiry which was launched after it was revealed that his autobiography, on which the charity is based, is built on fantasy and plagiarism.

Taming the Tiger, distributed in the UK through the Christian publisher Authentic Media, has sold more than 1.5 million copies in 25 countries. On the back of it, Anthony travels the world preaching the gospel in prisons, schools and churches as far away as Asia, South Africa and South America.

In the book, Anthony says he was taken to China by his grandfather, a Kung-Fu grand master, at the age of four. He was trained in the martial arts and became Kung Fu world champion three times. He then moved to Cyprus, becoming an elite bodyguard to businessmen, gangsters and diplomats before being jailed in Nicosia Central Prison for a series of thefts from hotels. It was in prison that Tony Anthony says he became a Christian.

The investigation began after Mike Hancock resigned from his post as a director of Avanti Ministries. Hancock had asked for proof of Tony Anthony’s claims but was met with evasion.

I understood that I had a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that his story could be thoroughly verified. I was unable to persuade my fellow directors of the need to do this. I therefore resigned from Avanti and pursued the search for truth with other like-minded Christians.

He, together with another former director and a small informal group of concerned church leaders, set about investigating Tony Anthony’s background. Their findings were presented to the trustees of Avanti, the Evangelical Alliance and Anthony’s publisher, Authentic Media.

As a result of the evidence obtained by the church leaders, the Evangelical Alliance launched a formal inquiry which is due to report any time now.

The informal investigators began by rebutting claims made by Anthony in his book.

One of the long-standing objections raised about Tony Anthony’s story is that there is no record, anywhere, to support claims that he won any Kung Fu competition; let alone that he was three-times world champion.

Anthony attempts to deal with this criticism on his website, saying:

The competitions that Tony Anthony took part in are over 200 years old – and they are derived from the lineage of ‘Gong So’ who goes back to the Manchu Dynasty. These competitions are held in mainland China and as they are so specialised Tony Anthony have not known them to be publicised outside of the relevant circles, which is another reason why Tony Anthony doubt very much that you would ever find these competitions advertised on a Google search engine.

But scrutiny of the book’s text reveals that many of the passages detailing Kung Fu techniques were copied, wholesale, from a specialist martial arts website. One passage is lifted from a book about Bruce Lee.

The investigators went further: Tony Anthony claims to have worked as an elite bodyguard to “a number of wealthy jet-setting clients” before becoming “first hand man” and close protection officer to the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to London, Amin Fahed. But there is no record of any Saudi Arabian diplomat called Amin Fahed. The Saudi ambassador to London at the time was Sheikh Nasser Almanqour.

Tony Anthony has long blamed the discrepancies on “western naivety” for not understanding that some details would be changed because of the “underworld and criminal nature” of his pre-conversion activities.

But Tony Anthony’s story really came apart when the investigators discovered his true identity: he was born Andonis Andreou Athanasiou on 30 July 1971 in London’s University College Hospital. Tony Anthony has now confirmed that this is his true identity.

But he has not explained how he could have been leading five-man security teams, checking hotel rooms for IEDs, engaging in James Bond-style high-speed gun-toting chases through the streets of Riyadh and using Kung Fu kicks to overpower armed kidnappers in Switzerland when he could only have been aged between 13 or 14 and 16 or 17 – dependent upon which version of the book is used.

Having ascertained his true identity the investigators discovered that Tony Anthony could not have been taken to China by his Kung Fu grandfather when he was four: Anthony’s grandfather was a laundry worker in Cardiff who later owned a café in Streatham. He died seven years before Anthony was born.

In public presentations, Anthony continues to claim he was taken to China by his grandfather, despite admitting in response to the informal investigation that he was taken by “a distant relative” as part of a “complex family arrangement”.

Another member of the investigation team, the Revd Carl Chambers, leader of Christ Church in Brighton, said:

I am deeply saddened that Tony should have been able to continue for so long in his deceit. I firmly believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead – that is the truth. It is hypocritical for an evangelist therefore to fabricate stories about himself whilst proclaiming the truth.

Anthony received a 15-month jail sentence for killing Elizabeth Bracewell, a 39-year-old girl-guide helper, and sister of the former Everton, Newcastle, Fulham and England footballer Paul Bracewell, in a hit-and-run accident in 2000. In the book’s version of the accident, Anthony says that he thought he had hit a “small deer or fox” that had “limped back into the undergrowth” because he had stopped his car and couldn’t see anything on the road.

But Bracewell was discovered in plain view in the middle of the road by a motorist who saw Anthony’s car speed off. And far from admitting the story, Tony Anthony and his wife Sarah told a series of lies and pleaded not guilty when they first appeared in court.

They were both sentenced for perverting the course of justice. Judge Stevenson, described Tony Anthony as a “devious and manipulative man” who had “deliberately embroidered his story” to throw police off the scent.

NOTE: The Tony Anthony report was brought to my attention by Robert Stovold, who followed a link on the Rev Carl Chambers Facebook page. Stovold left this comment:

I think it’s really great that you’re speaking out about this, Carl – well done.  I had to laugh at the part of the article which read “Critics were quick to point out that it reads like a work of fiction”, though.

From an atheist’s perspective, the whole story about the person who was born of a virgin, saw the whole world from the top of a mountain, was descended from a person who had a conversation with a talking snake, and came back from the dead after three days sounds, how can I put it … well, rather doubtful, particularly as we have no contemporary accounts of him.

In the light of such verses as John 20:29 (“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have *not seen* and yet have believed.”) is it really any wonder that some Christians find such accounts convincing?

17 responses to “Kung-phooey: two weird tales of religion, violent death, martial arts and make-believe”

  1. Adrian says:

    Well! Colour me shocked, a dishonest evangelist, who would have believed it!

  2. Daz says:

    The phrase “Grand Master Lobsang Dibbler” keeps popping into my mind…

    (Non-Pratchett readers may safely ignore this comment.)

  3. Barry Duke says:

    Daz: And Tuesday Lobsang Rampa keeping popping into mine:

  4. Peterat says:

    Anybody claiming to be “Anthony Anthony” is automatically suspect in my books!

  5. Peterat says:

    “I firmly believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead – that is the truth. It is hypocritical for an evangelist therefore to fabricate stories about himself whilst proclaiming the truth.”

    He had me right up until that part!

  6. remigius says:

    Here is a link to Carl Chambers website. It looks like he has done a lot of research on Phony Tony.

  7. Marky Mark says:

    “Anybody claiming to be “Anthony Anthony” is automatically suspect in my books!”
    …I was thinking the same thing

  8. Stonyground says:

    I used to be heavily involved in the martial arts scene about twenty years ago. I met some pretty awesome people but there was also no shortage of bullshitters. Mr. Anthony seems to be in a totally different league from the liars that I encountered though.

  9. barriejohn says:

    Evangelical Christioans can be unbelievably gullible ( I speak from experience!). Remember Doreen Irvine?

    From Witchcraft To Christ is historic in the way that other books which don’t deserve the appellation are also considered technically historic. Such as Kramer and Sprenger’s Malleus Malleficarum, the church’s 15th century handbook on how to torture evidence out of people accused of witchcraft. Doreen can rest assured she has done a good job for her god even if he/she/it failed to bestow upon her the writing skills of a Hemingway to accomplish it.

    As for it being a serious social document it is that only in so far as it reveals the fact that bigots are ready to believe any old tosh if it suits them.”

  10. AngieRS says:

    bikkit, Daz, wanna bikkit

  11. AgentCormac says:

    Prepare yourselves for yet more bleating of ‘persecution’:

  12. Robster says:

    A “kung fu evangelical”, wow that’s an impressive moniker. Bit like a drunk muslim or caffeinated mormon. Strange bedfellows indeed.

  13. 1859 says:

    ‘…and blessed are the rabbits, the ones with the little fluffy ears that bob in the wind when it blows hot and cold in the season of all rodents – those with their tails on the right and those with their tails on the left – they are all blessed especially those that wear their whiskers straight….’
    As you can see divine inspiration is easy…after a few glasses ‘Hic!’

  14. barriejohn says:

    Did anyone else notice this little item of news yeaterday, regarding an old friend of ours?

    The cash-starved RCC have found an unexpected $57 million dollars in a broom cupboard somewhere and purchased the ridiculous “Canvas Cathedral” for their own use. What irony!

  15. barriejohn says:

    Did I really type “Canvas Cathedral” there? Doh – that was Billy Graham!

  16. barriejohn says:

    Schuller and Graham upsetting the apple cart!