UK Evangelist Exposed Over Kung Fu Phooey

Somehow I managed to miss this one completely; from the Guardian:

Chronicling how a convicted criminal and martial arts fighter found redemption through God, Taming the Tiger had more than 1.5m copies distributed around the world while its author, Tony Anthony, become a sought-after speaker in schools and churches.

In the book, which carries the strapline “From the Depths of Hell to the Heights of Glory”, Anthony explains how he was taken to China by his grandfather, a kung fu grand master, and trained to become a martial arts champion. He then moved to Cyprus, where he became a bodyguard to businessmen, gangsters and diplomats. “In the line of duty as a bodyguard, I killed people,” Anthony would tell church audiences. “I have broken more arms and legs than I care to remember.” Later he recounted how he found God while in prison in Nicosia after being convicted of theft.

The book was a phenomenon. It was translated into 25 languages and won the Christian Booksellers’ Convention Award in 2005.

But now, following a sustained internet campaign by a group of Christians who doubted Anthony’s claims almost from the start, it appears that little of the book is true.

Anthony’s website now carries a notice:

It needs to be stated at the outset that Taming The Tiger was intended to be the ‘story’ of my early life. It never set out to be a strict historical account of each and every event with supporting minutiae. As such, it remains a ‘true story’, descriptively told and consistent with many other similar publications in its genre.

…Since writing, I have discovered some information about my family history of which I was unaware when first working on Taming The Tiger. I now fully accept that there are a number of details that appear in the book that are no longer historically accurate. For example, as a very young boy I was raised to believe that the man in whose house I lived and who trained me in Kung Fu was my grandfather. It has since come to light that this individual was not my biological grandfather. Whilst I now recognise this is the factual truth, I cannot accept that the reporting of my memory as it appears in Taming The Tiger is ‘incorrect’…

I gave my life to Christ in Nicosia Central Prison in Cyprus through the ministry of God’s faithful servant, Michael Wright – and it has been an honour to put into practice the Great Commission – to proclaim the Gospel to all creation!…

It’s true that evangelical paperback autobiographies of exemplary Christian personalities are usually dramatised into semi-novels and shaped into formulaic narrative structures by a professional writer (such books are usually billed as being “as told to…”); in Anthony’s (real name: Andonis Andreou Athanasiou) case, though, the problems appear to go deeper and his publisher – the rather infelicitously named “Authentic Media” – has now dropped the book and other Anthony titles.

The publisher’s decision – and the Guardian article – follow an investigation that was written up by Gavin Drake on the Christian website Crosswire earlier this month. It transpires that the kung fu grandmaster grandfather was actually “a laundry worker in Cardiff who later owned a café in Streatham”, and Drake documents that Anthony “used a fraudulent date of birth when he got married” and “changed his date of birth with Companies House.”

However, one question is why it took so long for the publisher to act. A bit of googling shows that concerns were being raised years ago. A website called Bullshido (“no BS MMA and Martial Arts”) has an extensive thread going back to 2009, which picks apart aspects of his story and includes reports of interaction with the publisher. A poster named Stephen Prunetti wrote in September 2009:

last posted on here over two years ago. Good to see more and more people have seen through Mr Anthony’s ludicrous fantasies. Two years ago, I asked his publisher, Malcolm Down of Authentic Media, if Anthony had ever been held accountable for the murder he freely admits to committing on Saudi Arabian soil, within the pages of his book. Malcolm Down assured me he’d be in touch to address my concerns. Funnily enough, he never did get back in touch. So, as i have more time these days, i’ve got back in touch with Malcolm, and i am currently awaiting his reply to my two-year old question. I’ll post on here as soon as he replies.

Down replied soon after:

Dear Stephen,

Thanks for your email – i do appreciate you taking the time to write and apologise for not getting back to you initially over 2 years ago.

You will not be surprised to learn that we have had a few people raise similar questions to yourself over the years so Tony has now decided to add a ‘questions and answers’ section to his website www.avantiministries.com. The tab is already there and the page will be completed within a month.

Having just spoken to Tony on the phone he asks if you could check out this page when it becomes live and if you still have any unanawered questions feel free to email him via the website.

With regard to your specific question about whether we believe Tony or not, there is an assumption built into the contract that each author signs that they are telling the truth. In respect of the White Tiger incident which you mention, it can’t actually be proved one way or the other. Tony thought he saw a white Tiger so that’s what he wrote – if what he saw was not actually a white Tiger but some other animal that does not make him a liar.

With regard to your claims regarding Tony’s knowledge of Kung Fu i can only defer to the ‘experts’ in China. The book has been translated into Chinese and although there were some queries similar to those you have mentioned, Tony has answered all of these now to the publishers satisfaction – if they were in any doubt of the claims he has made i’m sure they would have brought these up already. If, however, you are convinced that there are basic errors in his Kung Fu knowledge we would encourage you to detail what you think these errors are.

We can assure you that we have always taken seriously the issues you and others have raised, in fact some issues will be addressed in the next reprint of the book.

Thanks again for contacting us.

Warm regards

Malcolm

Down later added that “We obtained character references from people like George Verwer, Michael Wright and Tonys pastor. The manuscript itself was read by several people prior to publication. All were satisfied as to Tonys claims.”

Verwer was described on Anthony’s website as being his “mentor”; Anthony’s apparent fabulations are likely to be particularly painful for him, as his own religious ministry has had a particular concern for Christian literature (Authentic Media was at one stage owned by STL, which has distant origins as one of Verwer’s missionary operations).

(Thanks to a reader, David M., for bringing this to my attention)

One Response

  1. […] further investigations by the Charity Commission and Trading Standards etc.) has been provided by The Hub (a British bookstore offering refunds to it’s customers who purchased the book through them). […]

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