MD No.4


Former members of the WCG who are willing to talk openly about their experience with the church are by no means common. In this, the fourth in a series of interviews with people who are willing to share their story, Gavin Rumney talks with Steve Dalton. 

Other interviews in this series: Pam Dewey, Doug Ward, Jim Baldwin

Gavin: What was it that first attracted you about the WCG? 

Steve and Nichole Dalton

Steve: It was the know-so attitude that Garner Ted Armstrong projected on the World Tomorrow broadcast. GTA gave the impression that he knew the answers to almost any problem or question that you might have on any issue.  The Plain Truth magazine articles and the other pamphlets, booklets, and books  by Ted and others re-enforced that idea over and over again, that Ted and Co. knew what they were talking about. The articles would seem to quote eminent authorities on diverse subjects like pollution, "pagan" Christian holidays, mental illness et al., and then they would give the WCG spin on the matter of discussion. The spin was that none of these authorities really knew the ultimate answers to these problems, but we do! It's ta-da, the kingdom of God where all of these things will be worked out! For a naive 17 year old Peoria, Il. kid in 1969, with no real knowledge of the Bible, the history of Christianity, or the wiles of a religious con artist, this was awesome! These guys really knew what they where talking about! I was to learn many years later in Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer" that the leader of a mass movement can preach the most sublime or the most ridiculous doctrines to attract his followers, but irregardless of what he teaches, he must extrude certitude, that know-so attitude, so that those followers will give their hearts and souls to him.  As the Tkach regime found out, failure to do so means those hearts and souls go somewhere else for spiritual food.

Gavin: What first led you to suspect that all wasn't quite as you'd been led to believe?

Steve: It can be summed up in one little word: hypocrisy. The decision to defy the receivership in 1979 against the traditional teaching on respect for government as taught in Romans 13 could not be reconciled or justified in my mind. While I could see forgiving GTA in 1974 , (Hey, he "repented" didn't he? LOL!) I could not see the wisdom of willfully ignoring the word of God, which stands forever. For reasons I don't quite understand even today, I could not or would not like most of the Peoria WCG, follow Herbert's "new truth" on this matter.  Looking back, I believe it could have only been been God's mercy and grace toward me while I was in that benighted state. At that time, I had no desire at all to leave the church. But that simple act of hanging on to what I knew to be true was to be the start of my disillusionment with the empire of Herb. I started to see that hypocrisy was a standard policy for running the Peoria church.  For example, let's say your daughter becomes pregnant out of wedlock. The traditional response in Worldwide was to cast the "hussy" out. But if you were a deacon's daughter like one girl was, you got to stay, big belly and all. If you were an alcoholic, like a certain woman I knew, the minister disfellowshipped her, telling her that if she got arrested, we might be publicly embarrassed if they discover you're a church member. Yet, I found out years later that there was a drinking ring in the church that included a deacon!  But my discovery of the lawsuit against David Robinson and his book was to be the unveiling of the ultimate act of hypocrisy in the WCG saga. Again, it was one single word: incest. When I found that out, I got my ex-wife and myself out.  I could not justify my membership in Worldwide by any means. While I still believed in the Armstrongite doctrines, I could no longer follow Herbert. His incest with Dorothy started in 1934, the very year he started his church. He was corrupt from the start. Also, I knew an incest victim. Seeing her horrible suffering filled me with an absolute loathing for any one who was guilty of this vile sin. No amount of reasoning in my mind (he's God's Apostle etc.) could convince me to stay. He was a pervert, and that was that!

Gavin: Occasionally one hears "get over it!" and "you made the decisions you made, quit blaming somebody else" (the somebody usually being HWA.) Do you agree with those sentiments or is it just a case of blaming the victims?

Steve: I agree and disagree with the idea of "getting over it." If the person saying "get over it" is a member of or a supporter of the various Armstrong cult hierarchies, this statement is profoundly hypocritical and self-serving. They want their former dupes to "get over it" so they don't have to admit their culpability, and make real amends that would mean something. They should and must be held accountable for their misdeeds. But we must hold ourselves accountable for our own mistakes, too. Many of us were warned by concerned friends and relatives that Worldwide was not what it seemed to be, but we chose to ignore them. All of us were guilty of being gullible and naive enough to believe in the "one size fits all" package deal solution to life's problems that ol' Herb sold to us. All of us, unless we were children, freely decided to join the WCG or it's spin-offs. Now we were victims in a sense, because we gave ourselves over to an organization that didn't allow us to have informed consent. We were not told up front how the organization actually operated, the cover-ups of its sordid history, about many of the doctrines, and the many demands that would be made on our time and our money. But the minute you start to realize that you've been had, you have the option of being or not being a willing victim. If you decide to be a willing victim, you rationalize staying in by saying things like, "My wife might leave me, God will correct Mr. X,  I'll go to the lake of fire, my kids will go worldly, etc. I know that most of us went through a phase like that before we left. But most of us, (at least most of who will read this interview) overcame these fears and vamoosed.

Now I don't deny that bad things have happened to exiters during and after their Worldwide trip, (loss of health due to the healing doctrine, shunned by ex-friends and family members still inside the group, poverty due to extreme financial demands) but the moment you decide not to offer yourself up to the WCG/Spin-off Moloch, you're no longer a victim, for the primary meaning of the word victim is "a living being sacrificed to a deity or in the performance of a religious rite." So, if you're no longer allowing yourself to be tricked or duped, you're not a victim anymore. If someone is still hurting you, you can make up your mind to stop it, like Leona McNair did, with whatever resources that are available to you, but you still have to go on with what's left of your life. Morbid self-pity is worse than the original insult. Only the dead are certified 100% victims.

Now many of the exiters will claim that I'm discounting the brainwashing or the thought control they were under in the WCG or its spin-offs. I'm not denying that we were remote-controlled while we were "sheepeople" under ye ol' Pastor-General's 'care', but we need to remember this: Yes, we were lied to while we were being indoctrinated as prospective members by the Plain Truth, the World Tomorrow, the pamphlets, the booklets, the books, and the sermons. However, there was nothing that would have prevented any of us from using our God-given free will to examine other points of view. We, and nobody else can be blamed for turning our lives over to Herb and Co. Even while we were in the WCG corral, many of us had flickers of doubt about events, personalities, and doctrines.  But because we freely agreed not to listen to anyone else when we became members, we willfully ignored our doubts. As a result, our free will and our consciences were weakened, but not destroyed. For how do you explain the fact that most of those who will read this interview are now out of Herb's kingdom? If the brainwashing was that powerful, we should be there today. Also, why are there so many splinter groups? If brainwashing is all so powerful, all of the Armstrongites should still be under the Tkach regime today. The bottom line on any kind of brainwashing or thought control in a religious or secular setting is that people decide who they are going to obey, they get used to it, and they learn to love Big Brother. They may be mislead by ignorance, vanity, desires, or a cult leader like Herbert and his clones, but all who have not repented will be held accountable for following his lies and deceptions at the last judgment. We can not use "brainwashing" as an excuse for our misconduct.  

Some exiters will have a harder time of "getting over it."  Many of them have suffered mental problems, loss of employment and education due to religious restrictions, loss of loved ones due to the healing doctrine, forced separations due to the marriage doctrine, etc. These folks should not be given a stern, heartless "get over it" lecture. But they need to be gently encouraged to take positive steps to rebuild their lives. Medical care, if needed. Employment counseling and job training. Getting involved with other people in various social settings, (church, civic affairs, casual get-togethers, family gatherings etc.)  But above all, keep them focused on the present and the future. Any excessive self-pity about past mistakes or misfortunes should be discouraged. Especially verbalized self-pity. Such talk only aggravates the original pain and does nothing to make it better in the long run. At worst, it will alienate the person(s) who are trying to to help the afflicted one. I've seen it happen with one lady, (never a WCG'er) and without fail, she repels anyone who wants to give her genuine assistance and encouragement. So, while some have a tougher time of "getting over it", everyone who was involved with Worldwide or another cult has got to make up their minds to move on with their lives or they will stagnate or regress. (This does not apply 100% to someone who has a severe mental illness. These poor unfortunates can develop permanent delusions as a result of their sicknesses, so it may not be possible for them to "move on" as well as others. Still they should be encouraged to make as much progress as they can  from the WCG mess.)

Gavin: How did you first learn about the Exit and Support Network? Tell us a little about the material you produced for that website.

Steve: I found out about the ESN through Ambassador Report in and about 1994. I contacted Lin Stulman, the founder and original head of ESN, and began supporting ESN anyway I could. One of the first ways was to do research on Pasadena, to understand why Herb moved there. Joe AC's article in the Painful Truth pointed out that many of the millionaires that Herbert admired had summer homes in Pasadena. In my research, I discovered another possibility for his move to the city of Roses. The city has an atmosphere that has encouraged unorthodox religions, sects and ideas. Rupert was in Pasadena in the late 1910's.  Crowley, the founder of modern Satanism and witchcraft was in Pasadena in 1915. His organization, the OTO, still has a group in the city. Allen, the author of the British-Israel text, moved to Pasadena to retire in 1930. Jack Parsons, a pioneer rocket scientist, who was a Crowley associate, lived in Pasadena during the 1940's through the early 1950's. So ol' Herb would be right at home in this seemingly staid city. Ironically, Eugene, the city that he left in 1946, is also a breeding ground for unconventional religions and ideas . It's one of the centers of New Ageism on the west coast.

The article about Herbert's alcoholism was inspired by the James Graham book "The Secret History of Alcoholism", especially the section on "power symptoms". Ol' Herbie had every one of them! When I wrote that article, I believed like most people, that Herbert's main problem was alcoholism. I now realize that the man was certainly a psychopath from his childhood, and that the alcoholism was a secondary problem. When I write about Herbert again, I'll focus in on the psychopathy as the main problem.

The article on Loma was an accident. I was originally supposed to write about Garner Ted, and I was doing research on how a mother's anemia could affect an unborn child. It was while doing research on the illness that Loma had while bearing Dorothy, that I made my discovery that Loma had a lifelong problem with mental illness caused by anemia. The research I did for that article uncovered further proof that Herbert Armstrong was a cold, selfish man who neglected the health and well being of his family, to the point that he almost caused Loma's death by that neglect. But to me, the really sad part of the whole affair was the way he pulled a con by claiming a healing from anemia during Loma's last pregnancy. It was so obvious that the "miracle" was caused by eating the proper foods that contained vitamin B-12. But we believed it was a miracle, for most of us wanted to believe or we were too ignorant of certain fields of knowledge to judge the evidence in front of our eyes. The whole purpose for me in writing those articles was to educate the exiters and the general public on how to examine the claims made by a shyster like Herbie.     

Gavin: I wanted to ask you about your conversion to Catholicism. Is this a return to family roots or something new?

Steve: No, it's not a return to family roots. By the time my family arrived in Illinois in 1830, we were Methodists, Freemasons, or members of the other lodges, like the Moose or the Elks. My mother's people were Finnish Lutherans who settled in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. By the time I was born in 1952, neither of my parents were practicing any form of religion. My own religious history reads like a world tour, for before I joined the Worldwide Church for a seven year hitch, I was involved with the Unitarians, and the independent, Fundamentalist Baptists. After I left the WCG in 1981, I was involved with Ted's International, the 7th Day COG (Caldwell, Id.), the COG 7th Day (Denver, Co.), the Mennonites, the Missionary Church, an independent Bible Church, the Southern Baptists, and another independent Fundamentalist, Baptist church. I was in and out of all of these churches in a three year period! It was a whirlwind tour, man!  In 1984-85 I joined the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and stayed put until 1992. I then joined the Anglican church and stayed for less than a year. Then in 1993-1994, a study of the early church fathers convinced me that the Catholic interpretation of Matt 16:18-19 was correct. So, in spite of years of anti-Catholic indoctrination in the various churches, I went to RCIA classes and was granted membership after my first marriage, which ended in divorce in 1987, was declared null and void. 

Gavin: Where would you place yourself on the liberal-conservative spectrum in Catholicism? Would you describe yourself as a progressive Catholic or do you take comfort in the firm orthodoxies that the church offers?

Steve: I'm a traditionalist Catholic who attends Latin Mass. I'm a traditionalist, for when I studied the early church fathers on Matt 16:18-19 and other issues, I discovered that these beliefs were held by the church from the beginning. I do take comfort in the "firm orthodoxies" because the church can licitly only offer what has been handed down from the apostles. Since all of the basic mysteries of the faith center around entrance into life eternal, (baptism, the mass, confession, etc) why would anyone who truly believed in the "firm orthodoxies" wish to be a "progressive" in the modernist, liberal sense? Any time any religion or religious person seeks to be "progressive" they end up destroying their church and their faith. Look what happened to Worldwide. The Tkach's attempt to Protestantize the WCG blew up in their faces. The WCG faithful (to Herbert) did not want to hear "how dumb we were to believe these things". They wanted to "take comfort" in the "firm orthodoxies" of Herb. They "progressed" right out of the Tkach WCG into the new splinters that showed respect for the "Da Herbster". The Joey Boys forgot or didn't realize at all what Hoffer said many years ago about certitude, that you have to teach it and at least act like you believe it. They didn't and thank God, they lost it!  The only type of "progressive" Catholicism I believe in is striving to be a better orthodox Catholic in faith and deeds.  

Gavin: A lot of WCG folk, past and present, might still view the Catholic faith through the technicolor lens of apocalyptic fundamentalism: Babylon the Great, mother of harlots etc etc. What do you say to these people - assuming that they're genuinely puzzled by issues like that?

Steve: To the genuinely puzzled, who are not knee-jerk bigots, I offer this advice.

1. Study Catholic history from a Catholic perspective. After all, if your going to buy a Ford, you don't go to a Chevy dealer! Read the early Church fathers at your local public or college library, if they are available. If you can afford it, buy them. The Fathers are also available on the Internet, so go to Google and type in "church fathers". Since many fundamentalists and anti-Catholic cultists believe in a "hostile take over" theory claiming that us Catholics "paganized" the church after the death of the Apostles or/and during the reign of Constantine, a reading of the actual history refutes such nonsense. The same is also true all other historical events such as the Inquisition and the Crusades. We made the history, so it makes sense to read us first. Several good books about these events are "Triumph" by Henry Crocker, which is a good general history of the church, "The Crusades" by Hilliare Belloc and "Characters of the Inquisition" by Thomas Walsh. All can be ordered from Amazon. Also the "Biblical Evidence For Catholicism" website has hundreds of articles and links dealing with Catholic history, culture, and doctrines. 

An artist's impression of the Inquisition at work.

2. Study Catholic history from a non-Catholic objective point of view. Read books and articles written by folks who make up their minds after they had a chance examine the facts. Carefully check and see if their sources are first hand eyewitnesses to the events or from people who knew the eyewitnesses. Avoid any secondary sources. Also, avoid for now, books, articles, lectures, websites, DVD's and videotapes by people with an axe to grind. These would include professional anti-Catholics like Dave Hunt, the author of "A Woman Rides The Beast', militant atheists or humanists, or ex-Catholics who are atheists, liberal or some kind of evangelical, fundamentalist type who is out to 'save' us poor benighted Papists from the embrace of the Scarlet Woman. A good place to start would be the Inquisition, because "Nobody escapes the Spanish Inquisition!" (A classic Monty Python line!) The Inquisition, or rather the Inquisitions because there was more than one, is one of most controversial institutions in world history. Depending on who you read or talk to, the Inquisitions were either the model for Hitler's Gestapo that killed millions of 'heretics', Protestants and Jews, or a model of sanctity that saved individuals and nations from damnable heresy.  What's the actual story? Edwards Peters, a Protestant (as far as I know) the author of "Inquisition" and Henry Kamen, a Jew, the author of "The Spanish Inquisition", make a very strong case that most of what has been written and published about the Inquisitions is misinformation encouraged by political and religious bigotry and ignorance. Both authors had unlimited access to the very archives of the Inquisitions, which included case histories and the manuals that the inquisitors used to conduct their inquiries and courts. What they discovered totally changed what we thought we knew about the Inquisitions. Kamen had to rewrite his book to bring it in harmony with the newly uncovered evidence. What was some of that evidence that overturned old beliefs about the Inquisition? Well, they discovered that Inquisition courts were generally regarded as being fairer than the secular courts. They were considered so fair, many people would commit a crime that would be covered by Inquisition law, so that their case would be transferred to the Inquisition. You had the right to be represented by an attorney, and if you were indigent, one would be provided gratis. No known enemy could be used as a witness against you. Torture could be used, but unlike the secular courts, it could only be used for 15 minutes at a time, and it could not cause bleeding or breaking of the skin. Inquisition jail cells were clean and well lit, not pestholes like secular jails. Anyone giving false testimony in an Inquisition court could suffer the penalty the wrongfully accused would have suffered. The various Inquisitions sentenced only 5,000 people to death during their existence, not millions as commonly reported. The most common punishments of the Inquisitions were penances, not executions. Most people, some like St. Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross were found innocent by the courts. All of these facts, unearthed by primary research, totally overturned our previous ideas about the Holy Office. These discoveries should underscore the importance of critical, objective thinking in matters of religious controversy, and should serve as a warning to people not to believe in any derogatory story about any faith tradition unless it can be backed with hard evidence.    

3. After you have done steps 1 and 2, read or re-read the anti-Catholic stuff. If you're a knee-jerk bigot, you've probably ignored steps 1 and 2, but it will be reassuring to you to know the "truth" about the whore of Babylon. If you're an intelligent, open-minded type, you'll wonder if these guys write part-time for Mad magazine.    

Gavin: So, where to now? Is the WCG research something you'll return to? Are there any plans to get back online?

Steve: I've just started research on the censorship of the later editions of HWA's "Autobiography" The working title is "HWA's Censored Life". It will show how the Tkach WCG blue-penciled Herbie's "Auto" after his death to suppress  embarrassing information that Herbert unwittingly told about himself that revealed his true character.

As far as getting back on-line, if you mean on a website of my own, no. I'll just submit any articles I'll write to other folks websites. I'm too exhausted after a day's work to run my own website. I'm quite content to read The Missing Dimension and other fine websites.

Gavin: Apart from the WCG research, what are your other interests?

Steve: My biggest hobby is the family genealogy. Via DNA testing, I discovered that my roots probably go back about 1200 years to Norway and Iceland. I also figured out that my ethnic roots are just as convoluted as my former religious roots. This Viking descendant has DNA markers from all these places: all the Scandinavian countries except Denmark, Ulster, Ireland, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Australia (British), England, Wales, Scotland, Spain, and Italy. A new genetic test called a DNA print test shows that I'm 97% European and 3% East Asian.

This convoluted family tree arrived in colonial America around the late 1600's. The family stayed in Virginia and North Carolina for about 120 years. During that time they got to be friends with several of the founding fathers of America. Thomas Jefferson was a personal friend of one ancestor. Then in the 1820's, my immediate ancestor moved west to Ohio, and then in the 1830's they came to Illinois, and have stayed put since that time.

Most frequently asked question over the years: Are you related the the Dalton Bros. Gang of Wild West fame? Yup. Grat, Emmet, and Bob Dalton were my great grand-cousins from one of my great-grandfather's brother's branch of the old family tree. Also, the Younger Bros. who rode with Jesse James are my cousins because the Dalton Boy's mother was the sister of the Younger Boy's dad.

A final comment. Do I believe I was brainwashed into becoming an Armstrongite?  No, I was was just a gullible 17 year old kid who was too stubborn, arrogant, and ignorant for his own good. As a result of that ignorance and stubbornness, I was easily conned by Armstrong and Co.  I now believe the term "brainwashing" is an excuse used by those who will not admit their own gullibility and stubbornness got them into this mess.  

[Steve describes himself as a sadder, but wiser 50 year old man who lives in Morton, Il., with his wife Nichole and a Himalayan cat by the name of Yeti. He can be reached at]