AR33 October, 1985
WCG News in Brief
Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA), the self-appointed Apostle of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) and founder of Ambassador College (AC), continues to lead those organizations despite his 93 years. He also continues to inspire those organizations to levels of deception ever more outrageous.
The WCG has in recent months been running an ad in Broadcasting, a trade magazine for electronic media executives. The ad states:
We Don't Ask for Contributions. People know what to expect from The World Tomorrow. And they know we don't expect anything back. On The World Tomorrow, we've never solicited contributions. Neither have we used television to make converts. Or take sides politically. And we never will. What we do is deliver a message, a message that makes sense. The Bible message, rightly understood. That's why The World Tomorrow is one of the top rated religious programs in the United States.
Those who read Ambassador Report know that, while the above ad may make sense to someone hoodwinked by Armstrong's cosmology, in reality there is not one honest statement in that ad.
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The August 5 issue of The Worldwide News announced that HWA's latest book has come off the presses. It's titled Mystery of the Ages. While this book purports to answer all of the great questions inherent in human existence, some theologians who have purused the book say it is absolutely loaded with theological error and is nothing more than a rehash of old Armstrong theology. Nevertheless, we understand that some WCG members are already looking on the book (being sold in bookstores for $12.95) as some type of extension to the Holy Bible.
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During the last decade, as reported on by numerous articles in official WCG publications, HWA has maintained a close relationship with the communist government in China. Now, apparently, he hopes to do the same with the communist government of Russia. In July, HWA was in San Francisco for the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. In his July 25 letter to his followers HWA described how, while there, he met with the Russian ambassador:
The Ambassador from the Soviet Union spoke to me twice and said I am too hard on the Soviet Union on the air, although he admitted I was not as hard on them as other TV evangelists, and invited me to visit the Soviet Union.
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The Sept. 6 edition of the Ambassador Portfolio (an official Ambassador College publication) reported that HWA has given final approval to Ambassador Foundation participation in developing and operating a school in Sri Lanka (off India's southern coast). The project is named the Armstrong-Disanayake Educational Trust. According to the article, last November Sri Lanka president Jayewardene "personally asked" HWA to begin a project there. The article states:
In early June the [Ambassador] Foundation sent David Baker, an Ambassador graduate, and Trent Meisner, an Ambassador senior, to Sri Lanka to teach English to Buddhist monks at the temple in Mt. Lavinia, a city near Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka.
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The Sept. 6 Ambassador Portfolio also reported that:
Ambassador College isn't shaking hands - again. Because two cases of scabies in the local church area have been tentatively confirmed, the College administration has asked students to avoid shaking hands. The 1983 outbreak of scabies is still vivid in the minds of faculty and many returning students, so the administration has taken steps to prevent a similar outbreak this fall.
Scabies is a highly contagious skin disease caused by the parasite Sarcoptes scabiei, a small mite that burrows into the skin and lays eggs. In ancient times this disease was known as "the itch." It is mentioned in Deut. 28:27 as one of the curses that would strike the Israelites for disobedience.
WCG's Plain Truth Distribution Program Attacked
"There's some of those *@&"6 Plain Truth magazines. You take a couple of free samples, tear them to shreads, and I'll go talk to the store manager about removing the PT racks from his premises!" Increasingly we are hearing similar expressions of anger from indignant ex-members all over the world and from concerned members of the public who don't want their loved ones to fall under the Armstrong cult's spell.
Here in southern California, several ex-members confided to us that they watched in dismay as their neighborhoods were blanketed with PT stands, each containing up to 130 magazines. Explaining that their lives and families had been ruined by the hypocritical teachings of Herbert Armstrong and that it was the PT that was one of his primary vehicles for hooking new converts, these zealots said they were determined to rid their cities of PTs. To accomplish this, they went around to store owners, told them the plain truth about the Armstrong cult, and urged them to have all PTs removed from their stores. To date most of the PT newsstands in the greater Pasadena area have been removed by startled church officials. One person wrote us anonymously that he had gladly taken 3,500 free PTs in the last year and destroyed them.
Another former member, tired of having been pushed around by the Armstrong organizations for years, was flying in the U.S. Northwest on Horizon Air when all of a sudden she spied that hated symbol of Armstrongism, a PT, in her plane's magazine rack. Furious, she complained to the stewardess and then wrote a strong complaint to the airline's president. A few weeks later she saw that her efforts had been rewarded when she received the following letter:
©1985 Ambassador Report. Published quarterly, as finances allow, as a Christian service. ISSN 0882-2123
John Trechak, Editor & Publisher Mary E. Jones, Associate Editor
Founding Publishers: Robert Gerringer, Bill Hughes, Mary E. Jones, John Trechak, Len Zola, and Margaret Zola.
With reference to the magazine, The Plain Truth, we do NOT subscribe to it nor do we endorse the Worldwide Church of God in Pasadena, California. The magazine was surely placed there by another passenger, and we have reviewed this matter with the department involved, and I can assure you that any of the magazines that may show up on our aircraft will be removed by our grooming personnel. Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.
Manager, Consumer Services
Another one of our readers, who resides in the Spokane, Washington area, informed us that he noticed the PT displayed in Tidyman's Warehouse Foods. Determined to have the PTs removed, he wrote Tidyman's owner, explaining that the PT "is perhaps the chief tool" used by the WCG to lead the "unwary, religiously curious into their quite destructive religious trap - membership in the Worldwide Church of God.... As a successful businessman, I'm reasonably certain you would not wittingly promulgate the propaganda of this greedy religious cult." And his efforts paid off. Owner Jim Tidyman wrote:
I have been out of town and just returned and read your letter concerning the free magazine that we are allowing to be distributed in our stores. I agree with you that this organization preys on the elderly and ignorant and I don't want the distribution in our outlets. I have asked that our supervisors check this out and get rid of the publication. Thank you for writing to me so that I could correct the problem.
The U.S. is not the only country where people are fighting the inroads of the Worldwide Church of God and the PT. Phillip Adams, writing in the July 16,1985 issue of The Bulletin (p. 66), a leading Australian periodical, commented:
I particularly enjoyed the paradox of Herbert W. telling his followers to despatch their few remaining dollars immediately. IMMEDIATELY, as the world was about to end. While on the other [hand], he was forever building larger mansions and buying bigger jets.
These days, the radio network in Australia has finally contracted, although Herbert W. buys a significant amount of television time. Now the main method of recruiting is through Plain Truth, a journal with a similar appearance to The Bulletin or Time. And for reasons I fail to comprehend, this noxious journal, this malignant magazine, this un-Australian, anti-Christian rip-off is being enthusiastically marketed by the federal government....
By any standards, Plain Truth is the spearhead of a most sinister organisation.... Where you will see this exploitative rag is on special display stands on some of the most conspicuous pieces of Commonwealth real estate. If you're an air traveller, you simply cannot avoid the special display stands at airports. In Melbourne and Sydney, the magazines have a way of getting into the Flight Deck and Golden Wing lounges, where businessmen pick them up, presuming them to be conventional news magazines. They are, after all, well camouflaged....
Each year, millions of TAA and Ansett passengers are exposed to the misnamed Plain Truth, which carries as much objective information as Pravda. It is inevitable that a percentage of passengers are persuaded to repatriate huge amounts of their income to one of the most notorious of evangelical entrepreneurs.
In a democracy, in a free society, you are perfectly entitled to believe grotesque nonsense and to give your money away to confidence tricksters. The freedom to be a fool is protected along with freedom of speech, assembly and belief. But I find it hard to accept that this purveyor of paranoia, this pick-pocket from Pasadena, should wear our coat of arms.
Near Toronto, Canada, Ruby Beale, a Markland Woods resident, spotted Plain Truth magazines on the shelves of
her local IGA store. Incensed, she contacted store manager Al Muir and vowed to take her shopping elsewhere unless the offensive PTs were removed. Muir told Mrs. Beale that, just as she has a right to say what she thinks, the person who makes the PT has rights, and he initially refused to remove the PTs, no doubt partly because his store was being paid a $20 monthly rental fee by the WCG. (Reported in the Etobicoke Guardian, May 1, 1985.) Mrs. Beale wrote us that "this rack has now been removed, plus 3 others, to my knowledge."
Mrs. Beale was not the only person willing to stand up and be counted in the Etobicoke area. The Etobicoke Guardian (7/24/85) reported:
An Etobicoke variety store has refused to carry The Plain Truth magazine after a resident complained the publication was a subtle recruiting device for the Worldwide Church of God. The store, located at the Martin Grove Road and Burnhamthorpe intersection, received a complaint and forfeited the rental fee for the free magazine, confirmed Kay Neun. Neun was about to approach the store owner herself when she discovered another Etobicoke resident complained first.
"I had friends become involved with the Worldwide Church of God 20 years ago, and it was a very divisive thing. It became very distressing because it cut off our fellowship", said Neun.
The article went on to quote former WCG minister Richard Forkun, who remarked that the PT "looks legitimate but the danger is that it is really a very subtle recruitment. Eventually, if you are interested, you will get a call, a visit and eventually be invited to the meetings. It was my job to follow up on these subscribers."
Forkun's comments provoked an angry response from the WCG's Toronto pastor, Neil Earle, who denied recruiting was the purpose of the PT.
In the July 3, 1985 issue (p. 6) of the Etobicoke Guardian Pastor Earle had published in the newspaper's Public Forum section a long letter explaining the PT. In it he wrote the following:
...we are not in the recruiting business. I suppose one could say there is no evidence for my statement, but our advertising agency in the United States recently ran an ad in the May 13 Broadcasting magazine with the title: We're Not Looking for Followers. Does any other group categorized as a cult or sect take this position in public?
The answer, of course, is no. Most churches - unlike the WCG - avoid cutting down other Christian churches in public, and the churches that do advertise are more honest than the WCG in that they do not say "we're not looking for followers." Who does Pastor Earle think he's kidding? If the WCG is not looking for members, why does the church sponsor lectures for PT readers, sponsor evangelistic campaigns in major cities worldwide, offer tons of free religious literature to the public, print Bible correspondence courses, telecast religious TV programs, and offer toll free phone numbers? If they weren't looking for followers, they would stick to informative secular articles and make no attempt to interest their readers in the church's doctrinal teachings.
Pastor Earle continued his letter by referring to Ambassador Report's 1977 article, "Fleecing the Flock," which discussed financial irregularities in the WCG. He, of course, submitted no examples of errors the AR had made in that or any other article but simply said: "We direct people with any questions concerning our finances to our auditors, Arthur Andersen. The Worldwide Church of God is regularly audited by this reputable firm, and nothing in the manner of the charges made against us was ever found."
Comments like the above show that Pastor Earle is willingly ignorant, incredibly naive, or just plain careless with the facts. Perhaps he is unaware of the fact that Arthur Andersen & Co.'s first audit covered the WCG's 1978 financial statements (The Worldwide News, 9-10-79), while the AR's main articles about church finances appeared in Oct. 1977 - before Arthur Andersen's accounting firm was hired - so their audit didn't even cover the time period our articles discussed. Second, they were hired to audit the financial statements of the Worldwide Church and Ambassador College. Auditing financial statements does NOT include passing moral judgment on Herbert Armstrong's spending habits. If Pastor Earle had bothered to read our 1977 article, he would have seen that we objected bitterly to the hypocritical and unethical spending habits of the Armstrongs and their top cohorts. We did NOT charge them with anything criminal or illegal.
Arthur Andersen's auditors were solely concerned as to whether the church financial statements presented fairly the financial position of the WCG, the results of operations, and the changes in financial position in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles. (See the AR's lengthy article on this subject in our July 1984 issue, p. 4.) When Pastor Earle commented that "we direct people with any questions concerning our finances to our auditors, Arthur Andersen," he seemed unaware that the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' Rules of Professional Conduct (sect. 301) prohibit a CPA from disclosing confidential client information except with the consent of the client. When Pastor Earle claims "nothing in the manner of the charges made against us was ever found," he again is unaware that "the CPA is usually not competent to determine if an act is illegal or likely to discover such an act" (The Complete CPA Examination Review - Auditing, 1984, p. 66). Furthermore, if a CPA discovers an illegal act while auditing a client's books, the "illegal act should be reported to a high enough level of management to take remedial action.... The CPA has no obligation to notify third parties" (ibid.). Indeed if he notified third parties or the general public, it would violate the rule of confidentiality.
Finally, it's important to remember that even big-name accounting firms are far from infallible. According to the April 1, 1985 issue of Business Week, since 1980 the nation's largest accounting firm, Arthur Andersen (the WCG's auditors), paid out over $137.1 million in settlement of audit-related lawsuits. That's more than seven times the amount any other CPA firm has had to pay in settlement of such suits.
In all fairness to Pastor Earle, if any readers want to get his side of the story, they should write him at 149 Shaughnessy Blvd., Millondale, Ontario, Canada M2J 1J7 or call him in Canada at (416) 495-9419.
Plain Truth Not Catholic
Worldwide Church members have been so anxious to get stores to give away PTs that, in New York, some have told store owners that the PT is a good Catholic publication. It became such a problem that the Western New York Catholic newspaper had to run an article titled "Plain Truth Not Catholic" in its Sept. 1985 issue, p. 20.
WCG Hit With New Lawsuit
In mid-June newspapers around the country carried an AP story telling of yet another lawsuit against the WCG:
A Lowry, Minn., couple has filed a $6 million suit in federal court to recover farmland they said they gave to the Worldwide Church of God after church representatives told them the world was coming to an end.
The suit by Gilman and Gladys Anderson says the couple gave 160 acres to Ambassador College, an agent of the church, in 1969 after they were told they wouldn't need the land because the world was coming to an end. The college and the church have home offices in Pasadena, Calif. The Andersons ended their affiliation with the church in 1984.
"The Worldwide Church of God, through its agents, made numerous fraudulent misrepresentations to (the Andersons) that (they) were living in the end of times and that (the Andersons) would soon have to leave their property and flee for their lives to a place of safety in Petra, Jordan," the suit says.
The lawsuit says the Andersons were told in 1966 that they had a maximum of six years left, that Germany would destroy the United States by 1975 and that "there would be famine so bad that people would eat their own children."
The Andersons "were told that there would be no future for them and they should give all their property to the church," the suit says. "In reliance upon said misrepresentations, (the Andersons) transferred their farmland to Ambassador College in 1969."
Earle Reese, spokesman for the legal department of Worldwide Church of God said the church could not return property in cases such as Anderson's. "This nor any other church could ever exist under such terms," Reese said. "People can't make gifts and then change their mind."
Ambassador College made an offer a few years ago to sell the property back to Anderson at no interest rate and on an installment payment plan, but Anderson did not respond Reese said.
Anderson said he became familiar with the church by hearing Herbert W. Armstrong preach on radio. "It (the end of the world) isn't as close as he has been telling us," Anderson said. "He has been doing that for his own benefit; it's a scare tactic."
Anderson said he gave half his property to the church after ministers recommended that not all the land be turned over.
The Andersons are asking $1 million for the lost farmland, its income and economic opportunity and contributions made to the church, $1 million in actual damages, and $4 million in punitive damages.
The Andersons are being represented by attorney Elton Kuderer of the Erickson lawfirm, P.O. Box 571, Fairmont, MN 56031-0571.
WCG Member Convicted of Murder
On August 26, a Seattle jury of five men and seven women found WCG member Charles E. Harris (see our June, 1985 issue) guilty of two murders and two attempted murders. Harris will be officially sentenced on October 15, but legal experts say that hearing will be a mere formality, with Harris, by statute, now required to receive life imprisonment without possibility of parole. (The prosecution did not ask for the death penalty.)
During the trial Dr. Joan Hampson, a psychiatrist, testified that Harris suffers from a mental condition and was driven insane by pressure from the WCG. But the jury did not find Harris' insanity plea convincing. It did not help his case when prosecutors revealed that since 1976 Harris has been legally married to Elsa Bowen, a Canadian woman whom he had once chocked when she decided to separate from him (Harris killed his first wife in 1970). During the trial Harris did not take the stand.
The most dramatic testimony came when surviving victim Patricia Tobis tearfully described how Harris had gone through her home cold-bloodedly shooting his victims. Harris, himself, broke down in tears during her testimony. The attack by Harris left Tobis, a mother of two-year-old twin girls, paralyzed from the waist down and subject to constant pain.
Seattle-area newspapers reported extensively on the trial and a number of articles spotlighted the WCG (Seattle Times, Aug. 23 and 31). One of those who testified under subpoena at the trial was former WCG minister Kenneth Westby, now with the Association for Christian Development. Westby described the WCG as a "cult" and later told the press he feels the WCG leaders treat their members "like nerds" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Aug. 31, p. A6).
WCG Hires PR Firm
The above Seattle Post-Intelligencer article mentioned that when reporters attempted to get local WCG pastors to talk about their church, the ministers:
referred questions to a Los Angeles public relations firm that works for the Pasadena-based church. At church request, questions were submitted in advance and answered in writing. In a nine-page response, Joseph W. Tkach, the church's director of ministerial services, denied that his church forbids interracial marriage or marriages to nonchurch members. He called charges that the church controls its members "positively preposterous!"
We understand that the WCG's new public relations representatives are The Hannaford Company/West, Inc. with regional offices at 523 W. Sixth St., Suite 224, Los Angeles, CA 90014 (phone 213-622-1000). The WCG account executive is Peter S. Pande.
Apparently in the WCG I Peter 3:15, like so many other ignored Bible verses, is no longer of any relevance.
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Editor: Brenda Denzler, a former WCG member and Ambassador College alumnus now studying at Wichita State University, has been working on a book about the experiences of people who have entered and exited the WCG. Recently, while in California, Brenda visited Ambassador Report and made a number of comments that perked our ears. She told us:
Many people don't realize what a profound experience Worldwide Church membership can be, or how difficult it can be to leave once in that group. Joining and leaving Worldwide is not like joining and leaving the Methodist Church or some other mainstream denomination. For many, leaving the WCG can be just as painful as the membership itself.
Brenda told us that over the previous six months she has studied the phenomenon known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the psychological illness so closely identified with veterans of the Vietnam War. She pointed out that psychologists are more and more realizing that the symptoms of PTSD have been present in some veterans of other wars and also in other individuals who have gone through high stress or highly disorienting (though nonmilitary) experiences. Former members of certain religious cults, in particular, have been known to have symptoms remarkably similar to PTSD.
Ambassador Report has noticed over the years that some who have been a part of the Armstrong cult and then left have been able to readapt to the real world quite quickly and with little apparent difficulty. Such individuals are, however, a small minority. Many more experience fairly substantial difficulty at readjustment, at least for a few years, and a noticeable percentage experience very significant difficulty in readjustment. Sadly, it is quite evident to us that some never fully recover.
Recognition of this fact is important, especially to those with relatives or friends "still in." The truth is, for many people the "Ambassador or Worldwide experience" is mind-bending, and "coming out" can be extremely traumatic.
We think Ms. Denzler's observations on the subject are potentially very significant, and we asked her to do a short article on the subject for the Report. We welcome any comments our readers may have on the subject. And Ms. Denzler has asked us to remind all of you that she still wishes to hear from former WCG members who will share their experiences with her for possible inclusion in her upcoming book. For more details send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Brenda Denzler, P.O. Box 1005, Newton, KS 67114.
PTSD and the Armstrong Church Experience
by Brenda Denzler
For those of us who have been members of the Worldwide Church of God, leaving it, like entering it, happens in different ways. Some are disfellowshipped and leave kicking and screaming. Some, like my father, "wake up" during a sermon
and wonder, "What am I doing here?" then promptly grab their Bibles and leave forever.
While the methods of leaving tend to fall into one of two categories (willing and unwilling), the methods of facing and dealing with the Worldwide experience vary widely. Some mourn the loss of hopes, friendships, and an entire way of looking at and responding to the world. Others quickly form new religious and/or social attachments, as if the experience of Worldwide was inconsequential to them. Some become frank materialists after their soul-searing experiences in Worldwide. Others maintain many of the same beliefs and lifestyles that were embraced upon entering Worldwide.
No matter how we react, we all have as part of our past the WCG. And whether or not we admit it, it continues to affect our lives in the present. The question is, to what extent is our WCG involvement still coloring our present lives? Do we recognize WCG-related difficulties for what they are, or do we ignore them - by attributing them to our own personal and moral weakness or by giving Satan undue credit? Even when we do realize that current problems stem from our time and experiences in Worldwide, what do we do about it? What can we do about it?
To gain an insight into our own difficulties, I believe we can learn much by looking at the adjustment problems that have been faced by one group of individuals in our society that have been forced to come to grips with their own disillusioning and traumatic past. I am referring to the veterans of the Vietnam War.
It is estimated by some authorities that more than 500,000 veterans suffer from significant life adjustment problems stemming from their service in Vietnam. The problems that these veterans report sound surprisingly like the problems often encountered by former members of religious cults such as the WCG. Psychologists and counselors working with the vets say that the various difficulties are often aspects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD for short. The similarities between vets' adjustment problems and the problems faced by many former WCG members are striking.
Some victims of the disorder find it impossible to form or to maintain intimate relationships. There may be frequent marriage and divorce - or avoidance of intimate relationships altogether.
PTSD sufferers may become "action junkies" in an effort to duplicate intense experiences, such as combat. Through racing, skydiving or other high-risk pursuits, the vet may tempt death repeatedly.
In some cases, PTSD sufferers are overtly suicidal. In other cases, suicides are mistakenly classified as freak auto accidents instead of being recognized as bona fide suicides.
Often vets with PTSD will have flashbacks to their war experiences prompted by a chance sight, smell, or sound. They will momentarily re-live a part of their tour in Vietnam and react to the feelings and sensations generated by the flashback.
Vets with PTSD often have trouble holding a job. They may hold several jobs over a period of a few years or may willingly take and keep a job for which they are vastly overqualified, avoiding the field of their training altogether. These veterans may feel irrationally inadequate as professionals.
PTSD sufferers may withdraw from groups and activities that formerly interested them, seeming to prefer instead a life of isolation. Alcohol and drug-related problems are not uncommon and may mask other symptoms of PTSD.
The chief symptom of PTSD is "sealing-over" or "stuffing" - not coming to terms with what happened and what the personal consequences have been. PTSD leads to an over-controlling of the emotions for the sake of psychological survival. For Vietnam veterans, the tools for survival were learned in Vietnam and are still used in their everyday lives, though having outlived their usefulness.
A part of the difficulty for the men and women who served in Vietnam lay in the difference between what their society had promised them upon reaching adulthood and what they actually found as they came of age in the war zone. According to Denver Mills, team leader for the Veteran's Outreach Center in Santa Barbara, California, the Vietnam generation was a "chosen generation," used to having and expecting the best: the best education, the best living standards, the best health care. The opportunities seemed virtually unlimited.
Service in Vietnam produced rapid and profound disillusionment because of the conduct of the war and the management of personnel. Personal survival became the bottom line. Anything that might tend to make a soldier vulnerable had to be controlled.
According to Ron Rogers of the Wichita, Kansas, Veteran's Outreach Center, PTSD, under labels such as "battle fatigue" and "shell shock," has been around for a long time. What is new is its frequency and severity in Vietnam-era veterans. The average age of a serviceman in World War II was 27. The average age of a serviceman in Vietnam was 19. Around age 18-21, says Rogers, important psychological development occurs in a maturing phase leading into adulthood. At this time, ideas and values form concerning the nature of the world and what it takes to live in it. The stresses of a situation like Vietnam, imposed almost constantly for a year on young men and women, caused their evolving perceptions to be skewed along lines that may have been suitable for Vietnam, but could not work well in civilian life. Some vets had trouble making the transition from Vietnam to "normal" society again.
There was no time for the returning serviceman to internally process the images and meanings of Vietnam for himself or herself - no decompressing period. Soldiers were flown from gunfire and booby-traps back into living rooms in Hometown, U.S.A., within hours. They experienced culture shock in returning to civilian life.
Once again, survival for the veteran meant sealing over their experiences and their feelings. Many veterans learned to keep quiet about their service in Vietnam, or to lie about it. Some claim, "I went to Canada for the war."
The primary form of treatment for PTSD among veterans is the rap group. Veterans share their experiences about Vietnam and learn to feel again - expressing the emotions they once had to repress. Breakthrough is often so intense that it may involve uncontrolled sobbing, sometimes even for several days on end, followed by a surge of creative self-expression.
Often PTSD generates a religious crisis for the sufferer. One popular saying among vets is that John Wayne and Jesus Christ died in Vietnam. Veterans' beliefs about God were often profoundly altered by their war experiences, and during the healing process, the Transcendent [God and the quest for religious meaning] is usually confronted. The rap group itself functions like a religious community, offering the veterans a place and a rationale for confession, forgiveness, and cleansing of the past, and for understanding communication with people whose similar experiences help to create bonds of support and affection.
PTSD in Former Worldwiders
If you have read this far and failed to see yourself in the description of Vietnam veteran PTSD sufferers, you may not be afflicted with the disorder. If you have seen yourself, you still may not be afflicted. PTSD is rapidly becoming the latest psychological label fad. In reality, any one of the symptoms of PTSD may be caused by a variety of other psychological difficulties.
Nevertheless, PTSD is not necessarily exclusive to veterans of wars. Other life experiences may lead to symptoms of PTSD. Victims of child abuse may develop the distorted view of the world and its requirements that is a key feature of PTSD. Members of religious cults like the Worldwide Church of God may also develop personality disorders that resemble PTSD.
D. was a teenager when he learned about the Worldwide Church of God by listening to "the World Tomorrow" broadcast. He became involved in the activities of his local church "as far as I was allowed. But I was never baptized, despite repeated requests. I asked too many questions." After four years, he became sufficiently disillusioned with the WCG to break his association with the organization. He says he is "not recovered, except I'm a whole lot less gullible and trusting. It is remarkable how coming out 13 years ago is still so emotionally vivid, as though it were last month. All I can say is I suffer a lot of severe depression. I still feel like the WCG experience only happened yesterday. I have had two broken marriages, one wrecked courtship, have this week lost my job (for the umpteenth time). Frankly, I can't wait till I'm off this planet - it holds no more illusions which have not been shattered."
A. was the mother of three young children when she and her husband joined the WCG in 1970. "It was a strain to live up to everything. By the third year in it I had a terrible breakdown at the Feast of Tabernacles. It had taken a long time building up and many years to recover. I developed a phobia of 'people' that I still have to a degree, even now, ten years after the breakdown. And I saw other women have identical breakdowns. I still hardly leave the house or go into crowded rooms, so my life is almost a ruin.... We were shattered when we came out. Everything we'd believed in, everything we had done was all for nothing. Words cannot describe the experience... 1970-1976. Not long if you say it quickly. But so much harm was done in that time to my children. Wasted years... most of all my oldest three children. Five years is a big chunk of a child's life. Those short years almost destroyed me. They did destroy my two oldest sons. The oldest is in prison - cannot cope with life outside. The second oldest must have been stronger; she coped quite well. The third one can't cope with life either. When we came out, it was too late for them to regain much of what they had missed as little children. But thankfully it wasn't worse. Other people saw their loved ones die."
Just as Vietnam veterans may become "action junkies," former members of the WCG often become "movement junkies" - obsessed with obscure religious movements or other kinds of groups, continuing their quest for "The Truth" and/or for the satisfaction of considering themselves "in the know" within another self-described "select" group. Such individuals view the mainstream social and religious institutions with continuing distrust, scorning the very real strength and benefit that might be found in a careful and rational acceptance of those institutions, however flawed. One former member writes: "Psychologists themselves (all I ever knew), and ministers (ha!) - those guys? Who wants those devil's advice? They're the ones who need it."
Another writes, "We welcomed the 'comfort' of Jehovah's Witnesses. At the time we would never have withstood the 'transition' without them. We were like members until last year when we realized the danger of a repetition of the WCG. Fortunately, we never took that fated step of baptism. Now I thank God we realized just in time.... Now I can say, 'That's it. No more churches.' We pray and read the Bible every day. We accept Dr. Martin's literature still and are Christians. But we don't need churches."
Other former members of the WCG have established their own churches, literature, and tract ministries, etc. Many of these are virtually unknown and show every indication of remaining so. Others have achieved varying degrees of notoriety, mostly among former WCG members, but have a tendency to dissension and schism. Their participants part company and continue to pursue "The Truth" that has eluded them once again, or the sense of cosmic purpose which they originally felt during their time in the WCG.
Some former members, such as D., experience a series of failed relationships. Others suffer from depression and thoughts of suicide. One man I know was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital after his exit from WCG. It may be impossible to know how many successful suicides have been brought about by stress disorder directly related to the victims' time in the Worldwide church.
Former members of WCG may find it difficult to return to interests and projects that had been important to them before involvement in Worldwide. Old religious affiliations are often difficult to resume.
Several former members have experienced flashbacks to their WCG days. More than two years after my exiting WCG, I was listening to a representative from a small seminary describe his campus, the graduate program there, and the students. Although he didn't realize the effect he was having on me, I became more and more agitated as he described his seminary in words and phrases almost identical to those used to describe Ambassador College. After some minutes of this, I burst into wracking sobs, totally embarrassing myself and totally surprising the representative. Before this incident, I had thought myself quite "cured" of the effects of my time in the WCG and AC. In talking with other former members, I find that such experiences are not uncommon.
If the effects of an experience like Worldwide on adults can be severe, the effects on children may be much more profound. A., whose story appeared above, attributes two of her sons' legal difficulties to the years that the family spent in WCG. Children have not only one authority imposing itself upon them (as the WCG is the sole authority over adult members), but they also have the authority of their parents, whose attitudes toward and treatment of children may be greatly affected by doctrines and directives from the WCG. Thus, children may doubly be victims of the damaging aspects of involvement in the WCG.
Steady employment is a problem for some former members of the Worldwide Church of God, such as D., whose story appeared earlier. One former member, a professional man, lives as an itinerant, either unable or unwilling to hold a job. Other former members of the WCG have given up their careers for a life of isolation and anonymity.
Some former WCG members seem to sense a healthy need for contact with other former members. One WCG "rap group" I know of began meeting yearly in 1975. Early topics for discussion always revolved around organizational and doctrinal questions arising from the participants' common WCG background, and a lively correspondence moved between the participants throughout the year. As the meetings developed over the years, obvious interest and involvement in the WCG appeared to wane. The participants themselves claimed to have "gotten over" their WCG concerns. As the interest of some members of the group turned to other causes and movements, the cohesion of the entire group seemed to fade. There have been no group meetings for two years.
Several weeks ago, however, I had an opportunity to meet another group of former members of the Worldwide Church of God who have maintained a very close friendship for over ten years. "Oh, we usually don't even talk about the WCG," said one person soon after I had arrived. Perhaps it was just my being there that night, but the church was almost the sole topic of conversation, either explicitly or implicitly, for the next nine hours. As I think about it, that shouldn't have surprised me. Knowing that these people have maintained their friendship for many years since their involvement with Worldwide should have indicated to me that, on some level, the church is a very important tie binding them together. In some ways, I suspect that they function like a Vietnam veterans' rap group, offering each other the support and understanding that feels most authentic when a common past is shared among the members.
Despite the problems often reported after association with the WCG, some people do claim to come out of it with healthy, intact personalities, exhibiting no unusual adjustment difficulties, just as not all Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD. Often though, the people unaffected seem to be those who were not deeply committed or who were in for only a short period of time. One man even says that he remains in Worldwide in order to bring more people to Jesus. He believes that many people in WCG need help, and that the only way to reach them is from within, not from outside the organization. He plans to remain in Worldwide as long as he is permitted. Interestingly, his decision to remain does not spring solely from his mission. He confesses that he would be a "spiritual misfit" in any other group.
My experience and my knowledge of others' experiences lead me to believe that many people who leave Worldwide would benefit from some form of "rap group" or other therapy. In fact, the formation of circles of friends with common WCG backgrounds seems to be a natural response to the WCG/AC experience. Witness the two groups described above or the work of the Reunion News in England. But some people may require more than a congenial atmosphere of understanding friends in order to come to terms with their WCG experiences. For many of these people, counseling with a psychologist who appreciates the special problems of involvement in a group such as Worldwide may be essential.
PTSD is a recognized malady among Vietnam veterans. Its status as a recognized disorder in victims of other kinds of trauma and stress is less accepted. Victims of the Holocaust, survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb blasts, Vietnam veterans, and former cultists often share many of the same signs and symptoms of personality disorder. In the case of former Worldwiders, perhaps only the victims themselves will be able to awaken the mental health community to the reality of their problems and their problems' relationship to their experiences in the Armstrong cult.
Investment Scam Bilks the Faithful
In late 1982 a Nevada-based commodities arbitrage trading firm called Elmas Trading Corp. was conceived. Operated by President James Attarian and VP Don Smith, both former Seventh-day Adventist engineers, Elmas Corp. attracted several former WCG members as sales consultants, one being ex-WCG pastor Richard Plache.
Plache - none can deny - is a super salesman, a captivating speaker. Standing about 6 ft. 6 in. tall, he carries an air of authority and respect the moment he enters a room. Mixing well in a crowd, he knows how to make you feel both welcome and special. Conducting sales lectures is his forte. Brimming with confidence, he began one of his Elmas Corp. sales presentations by telling the audience how Jesus Christ had led him, after numerous business failures, to a sales job that was making him - and could make them - rich as long as they just had faith in God. He excitedly explained how two men, both brilliant former engineers and God-fearing Christians, had a spectacular computer program that did currency and commodity arbitrage. ("Arbitrage" refers to a buying of stocks, commodities, etc. in one market and selling them at a profit in another market.) Waving a commission check for $100,000 that he had earned in the last few weeks, he urged his listeners (1) to put all their savings into the operation and earn a guaranteed 36% to 46% a year in interest and (2) to earn a fat 10 % commission by bringing other friends into the deal. (He claimed Elmas Trading Corp. actually was earning 120% a year on investors' money.)
Though incorporated in, of all places, Reno, Nevada, Elmas Trading Corp., his listeners were told, had a special hookup with a giant computer in a San Francisco brokerage house, which enabled Elmas to manage the investment portfolio for an unnamed offshore entity. When asked who the brokerage firm was that was willing to rent its computer and why that firm didn't engage in the same type of arbitrage as Elmas Corp., Plache replied that Elmas was keeping it a secret so people wouldn't bother the brokerage house and that the brokerage house was too big and inefficient to profit from the scheme itself. Perceptive listeners saw a giant red flag waved in front of their face when they heard the preceding lame excuses, but the faithful were told: "Don't take my word for it! You go and pray about it, and if God gives you a good feeling about this opportunity, contact me then." And sure enough, the faithful prayed, they came to believe, and they emptied their pocketbooks into Plache's hands. One source said Plache took in $13 million over the next two and one-half years. Some gave Elmas Corp. as much as a quarter of a million dollars - feeling in their hearts God was behind it. And the "miracle" that people were so eager to invest confirmed to Plache, according to one friend, that truly God must be behind his sales successes.
Plache impressed the uninitiated by sprinkling his talk with dozens of unfamiliar financial terms and drew graphs and charts to make his point. To some it all sounded so believable, and who wouldn't want to make a guaranteed annual return of 36% to 46%! He even told of how he hoped to use the wealth God was granting him to form Christian groups around the country and that he felt he had been called by God to personally minister to the deceived WCG ministry (a minister to minister to the ministry).
While many who heard his sales pitch were captivated, we know of at least five people who voiced serious reservations about the whole scheme to Plache. One person spent days researching arbitrage in the library, concluding he could not in good conscience become an Elmas salesman, and he presented his research to Plache, but Plache simply ignored it. Why? Plache felt God was behind him and his product, so research or expert opinions on the subject became irrelevant.
Unfortunately for Elmas Trading Corp. investors (many of them Seventh-day Adventists), their strong faith was not strong enough to make a bad idea turn out profitable, as Forbes magazine reported on p. 40 in its May 20, 1985 issue:
A cluster of related companies, including Nevada-based Elmas Trading Corp. and Republic Overseas Bank, Ltd., are presently under investigation for a phony arbitrage deal and violation of state banking laws.... How much is left? No one is sure. Bank accounts are frozen. Apparently most of the suckers didn't understand what they were investing in but felt comfortable being in the company of so many coreligionists. The old Judas goat syndrome.
The former head of Elmas? He has been a salesman in a tax shelter fraud based in Arizona. Information about the company? Forbes tried calling another of the principals at home and got his answering machine. The recorded message: "[We] are away from the phone right now, but our two guards are always here, and they are armed to the teeth, if you know what I mean."
The Wall Street Journal in a feature article titled "Religion and Loyal Investors Play Big Role in Alleged Trading Fraud" (9-20-85 issue, p. 25) reported that 4,700 people from 41 states invested more than $70 million in Elmas Trading Corp. and that the Securities and Exchange Commission and other government officials persuaded Federal Judge Edward Reed to put Elmas Corp. into receivership last May for allegedly "defrauding its investors" and "operating what amounted to an illegal pyramid scheme."
Specifically, the SEC, which filed a civil suit charging Elmas with selling unregistered securities and with three counts of fraud, contended that investors were paid dividends not from commodities trading profits but from money subsequently put up by other investors.... According to Elmas's own records, court documents assert, only $8 million of the more than $70 million the firm collected from investors was ever placed in commodities trading accounts. According to the receiver, much of the rest of it was pooled into accounts in Republic Overseas Bank Ltd., a bank Elmas set up in the Marshall Islands.
Some of that money, in turn, was lent to individuals and other companies linked to Elmas, and some of it disappeared, the receiver says in court documents. Consequently, the SEC charged, "the ability of Elmas... to pay such returns [36% or higher] was dependent on the influx of new investors' funds."
We know of several former WCG members (none associated with Ambassador Report, thankfully) who will end up losing a substantial amount of money (including Richard Plache, whom we hear has over $300,000 tied up in Elmas) and others who stand to lose most of their life savings. Elmas owner Attarian, who in earlier meetings had assured investors that God was the chairman of the board of Elmas Corp., had to admit to faithful investors in a Jan. 1985 meeting that there was only "enough liquidity to give back 50% of investors' money." But now Richard Shaffer, the Elmas receiver, is saying investors may get back only 25% of their money. This is bad news for Elmas Corp.'s salesmen/consultants. We have in our possession a letter from a Gary Ringen of the Elmas Recovery Association that shows the seriousness of the situation. Below are
In the opinion of several attorneys who specialize in securities law, you as a Consultant bear two main areas of potential liability: (1) civil, (2) criminal....
Your clients are entitled to sue you for all principal plus interest lost. According to Richard Shaffer, Receiver, the receivership estate has every intention of initiating legal action to recover all finders' fees and consultants' fees paid to you as a consultant, plus your principal deposits and related earnings!...
Knowingly or unknowingly, if you sold, recommended, referred, etc. the Elmas program, you may have already violated federal securities laws which are classified as felonies. The felonies are punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.... Even if jail time is waived, you would be classified as a convicted felon serving a probationary period, which would be a matter of public record. Such a result would bar you from holding any securities or other professional license, procurring bonding, and, perhaps more importantly, obtaining most types of future employment.
In spite of these serious developments, mentioned above, our attorneys advise us that the majority of consultants have a legally defensable position with a good chance of winning.... Even if you have already hired your own attorney and/or understand the serious and far-reaching legal implications presented here, you are strongly urged to attend this special legal seminar [referred to in the letter].
How could so many sincere Christians be suckered into such an obvious Ponzi scheme, especially the ex-WCG members who had just gotten out of a religious scam perpetrated by the WCG? Greed certainly played a part, because everybody would like to find an easy way to get rich.
Lack of having had formal financial training was a major handicap to most, because anyone having such a background would immediately become very suspicious upon hearing someone promise you a guaranteed 36% to 46% return on your money every year. In fact Forbes magazine's annual mutual fund survey (Sept. 16, 1985) showed that out of over 700 U.S. funds, only one returned more than 30% a year over the last 9 years (Fidelity's "Magellan" fund returned 33.3%). Indeed the average U.S. mutual stock fund had an annual average return over the last 9 years of just 15.2%. And Salomon Brothers, Inc., considering the performance of bonds, stocks, old masters, U.S. coins, Treasury Bills, Chinese ceramics, housing, diamonds, oil, stamps, U.S. farmland, foreign exchange, gold, and silver, said that the number one investment (stocks) in the U.S. over the last 5-year period (ended 6/1/85) produced a compounded annual return of just 15.2%. Over 10 years, the number one investment was U.S. coins, averaging 20.4% annual return. People who regularly read financial publications are aware of such statistics and become extremely leery when they hear some group like Elmas Corp. guarantee you up to a 46% return. While occasionally a certain stock, coin, painting, etc. may appreciate at a rate of 50% or more for several years, Treasury bills are the closest thing to a guaranteed investment because the U.S. government stands behind them, and they paid an average of 12% interest over the last 5 years.
Another reason some ex-Worldwide Church members and other Christians fall for such scams is that they believe in miracles and tend to distrust many of society's institutions, particularly establishment bankers and financial advisers, and so, when a fellow Christian comes knocking on their door to sell investments, they seem to believe God is somehow backing his or her advice. Instead of logically asking: "What does this person know about financial investments, and if this deal is so great, how come the Wall Street wizards who spend their whole lives striving to earn the almighty dollar haven't thought of the idea?", they let down their guard.
The Wall Street Journal (9-20-85) explained that many Elmas investors still believe firmly in the company because, in the early going, they received dividends promptly. Like consultant Tim Johnston who invested $57,000, they believe that big banks and stockbrokers, as well as the government, forced Elmas out of business. "The banking system is a powerful organization, and I believe the banks hated us because we were paying more interest than they could pay." Though Johnston's opinions are pure nonsense, the faithful need a scapegoat - a "Great Satan" - to blame for their predicament. Otherwise, they might have to believe God failed them. The court-appointed Elmas receiver states that many Elmas investors hold him personally responsible for their potential losses, calling him the "deceiver," instead of the receiver. He has received two death threats. But for some reason, the investors never ask themselves: "If this was such a successful investment, how come 50% or more of the money has disappeared?" The receiver didn't cause the money to disappear. It was gone when he arrived!
Those who read business periodicals and newspapers are aware that there has been an epidemic of investment scams over the last several years. Newsweek (Dec. 24, 1984, p. 3 1) wrote that "Utah, the Land of the Mormons, has earned itself another name: the Stock-Fraud Capital of the Nation" and went on to state that roughly 1 out of every 100 Utahans had been bilked by quick-buck artists. Forbes (June 20, 1983, p. 33) covered the same subject and stated that "most of those bilked are Mormons, and the bilkers, too, profess to be upstanding members of the church and use church connections." (Money magazine also covered this general subject in the issues of June 198 4, p. 219 and April 1985, p. 112.) The moral? If you have religious friends in sheep's clothing (woolen suits) suddenly show up at your home selling an investment that's too good to be true, be polite to them, but keep your wallet in your pocket until they leave. You'll be glad you did.
By the way, we hear Richard Plache just wrote an article for World Insight titled "Spontaneous Giving." And the Wall Street Journal article quoted above claimed Plache was looking for overseas investors to help start a "mission of mercy" investment fund to "creatively" make up the money investors lost with Elmas. But, the Journal adds: "So far, he hasn't found any investors."
Larry Johnson's New Address
A number of AR readers have written us asking for information on Larry Gilbert Johnson, the former WCG member who started the group known as the Congregation of Yah or the Laodicean Church of God. At one time Johnson had a mailing list of 10,000 readers, a monthly income of $5,000 and owned four homes. But in recent years few have heard from, or of, Johnson. Now, thanks to some excellent research provided us by Robert C. Williams of The Shofar, we have been able to locate the head of the Congregation of Yah.
Larry Gilbert Johnson is now number 463-07 at Arizona State Prison in Florence, Arizona where, since November 1982, he has been serving a twelve-year sentence for child molestation. Johnson was convicted of having a continuing sexual relationship with the 13-year-old daughter of one of his "wives." (Johnson, who believes in polygamy, claims he has had eleven wives and eleven children but cannot locate all of them.) Court records show that Johnson's physical relationship with the young girl started when she was eight years old.
A psychiatric report in the court record (Maricopa County, case number CR-127 373) reveals that Johnson understood child molestation to be a crime in Arizona, but that he showed no remorse for his acts, believing he was exempt from such laws as a "prophet of God" (Johnson has taught that he and Garner Ted Armstrong are "the Two Witnesses of Revelation"). The court-appointed psychiatrist reported that although Johnson's mental state was close to paranoid and grandiose, he was not legally insane. Because of an anti-lawyer bias, and perhaps thinking God would miraculously intervene, Johnson refused to participate in his own defense. According to court records, he was tried and sentenced in absentia. Later appeals failed.
Martin's A.S.K. Expands
Ernest L. Martin, former WCG minister and Ambassador College professor, has expanded his new Associates for Scriptural Knowledge (A.S.K.) organization by starting an Academy for Scriptural Knowledge. Martin recently announced that his Academy is producing a correspondence course called the Home Study Course of the Academy for Scriptural Knowledge, and he has asked for "pledges" for the support of the new course. According to Martin (letter of August 5), the course will replace "the haphazard way in which I have provided research work... over the last eleven years...."
Martin claims that after taking the course, "you will be able to instruct others in the essential subjects within the Bible.... It can put you into the position of being a 'professional' yourself - and in a very short time" (Introduction, p. 1). Apparently those taking the Home Study Course hope to become "Teachers of the Academy for Scriptural Knowledge (the identifying initials are T.A.S.K.) and all of us together can be a 'T.A.S.K. Force' to help the world know more about Jesus Christ...." According to Martin (p. 4), "The prime key to learning any subject is by repetition..." and repetition apparently will play an important role in the new correspondence course.
For this group of future teachers Martin has started a newsletter called The T.A.S.K Force (A Journal of Prophetic Events in Today's News) that each month will survey news events "which will reflect a fulfillment of biblical prophecy."
But even more interesting, we think, is the special ministry just begun by Martin's wife, Joan Marie. She now has her own little monthly newsletter. Its first edition had the heading "From the desk of Joan Marie" followed by the title: "Postscript" (P.S. We Love You). Her newsletter makes extensive use of the "Holy Names" and promises to publish excerpts from each month's "love letters" to A.S.K. In the premiere issue she writes, "Postscript will provide a means for rejoicing as we select Associates to receive 'love bouquets.' Recipients of these bouquets (symbols, of course) will be honored for extra special deeds of love as associates of A.S.K. or students of the Academy."
The mailing address for "Doc" Martin, Joan Marie, A.S.K., T.A.S.K., the Academy, the Home Study Course, and Postscript is P.O. Box 1863, Hemet, Calif. 92343. Incidentally, because some have asked, although Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and "Jesus Christ Lightning Amen" (yes, that's really what he calls himself), the founder of the white-robed "Christ Family" cult, both live in the Hemet area, "Doc" Martin and Joan Marie, as far as we know, have nothing to do with either group.
Music From Oregon
Not every religious group split-off from the WCG has become notorious. One church organization that simply ministers quietly to its flock is The Church of God, the Eternal founded by Raymond Cole, one of the first men ordained by Herbert Armstrong and one of the first ministers to leave the WCG in the mid-seventies. Most of this organization's members are scattered throughout the U.S. (One member in Baltimore mentioned how they meet there at Shoney's Motel, the first sabbath of each month and in members' homes.) Their ministers include Bryce Clark, John Mitchell (former WCG ministers), George Leemon, and in Switzerland, Jean Aviolat. Besides personal ministering, the organization maintains a printed literature and cassette tape outreach program.
One unique facet of their ministry is, we feel, worth special notice. The leadership of this church appears to be sensitive to the role of music in biblical worship and has instituted the commissioning of original liturgical music. George King, a church staff member, is a college-trained musician and composer who has been working on a new church hymnal and has also composed a number of lengthy pieces for the church's annual festivals. He eventually hopes to produce works for all the church holy days. So far, using biblical texts as a starting point, he has composed cantatas for Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles and an oratorio titled "The Song of Moses." These works have been composed in a Baroque style similar to that of J. S. Bach or George Handel and have been tastefully orchestrated. Those interested may obtain cassette tape recordings of these choral works by writing to: Church of God, the Eternal, P.O. Box 775, Eugene, OR 97401. Considering how small this church organization is, we think this music program is truly an ambitiously creative undertaking. What a pity that the WCG with its vast resources and the millions it spends on "culture" has not shown one iota of the vision of this small Oregon church.
Literature of Interest
In our 1977 issue (p. 68), we reported on "Herbert Armstrong's Religious Roots," pointing out that many of Herbert's supposedly original teachings match those published by G. G. Rupert (1847-1922) of Britton, Oklahoma. Mr. Rupert wrote many books and articles advocating: tithing, sabbath observance, church eras, avoiding military service, only one true church, a type of British Israelism, and much more that is strikingly similar to HWA's teachings. We recently discovered that former Plain Truth staff member George Johnson now of Johnson Graphics has acquired several of Mr. Rupert's books and has republished that author's Time, Tradition and Truth Concerning the End of the World (200 pages). Copies are available for $6 each by writing to Johnson Graphics, Rt. 1, Box 230, Decatur, MI 49045.
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William T. Voyce's June 3, 1985 letter to the Worldwide Church of God is a veritable research paper with a "point-by-point refutation of their interpretation of American Sabbath history." Mr. Voyce is a member of the Church of God, 7th Day and wrote the 7-page letter to the WCG after reading their article "The Church They Couldn't Destroy." Mr. Voyce has not received a WCG reply to his letter, the subject of which he feels is so important that "if the truth about this matter were more widely known, a good share of the Worldwide Church's membership would never have joined in the first place." Copies of this interesting letter are available for $1 by writing: William T. Voyce, 140 South Hickory, Des Moines, Iowa 50317.
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Hal Lindsey's Prophetic Jigsaw Puzzle: Five Predictions That Failed! by Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi. Dr. Bacchiocchi writes that the purpose of his 90-page booklet is not only to expose "the senselessness of Lindsey's sensational scenario, but also to explain the true nature and function of end-time prophecies." His booklet also does an excellent job in refuting the WCG's prophecies about the Beast, the Common Market, Israel, and the end time. Those interested in this new book should send their requests along with $2.95 to Biblical Perspectives, 230 Lisa Lane, Berrien Springs, MI 49103. Dr. Bacchiocchi has also written important books on the sabbath and the time of the crucifixion. Those who may be interested in these subjects should write to the above address for details.
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Former WCG member Steven Collins has written several articles refuting Worldwide's prophecy doctrines including one called "A Biblical Examination of the 'Captivity Dogma.'" Mr. Collins believes that contrary to Armstrong doctrine, God is preparing Russia, not Germany, to attack America and her allies. For more information on his material write: 8500-101st St. Circle, Bloomington, MN 55438.
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World Insight has several articles and tapes written by former Worldwiders for former and current Worldwiders. We noticed an article in the Autumn 1984 issue of their magazine (p. 6) which was especially interesting. Titled "Ministering to the Walking Wounded," this article by Brian Knowles, without mentioning Worldwide by name, draws attention to the parallel between the WCG's ministry and the wicked shepherds of Ezek. 34:2-4, 6. For a list of this organization's tapes and articles write World Insight, P.O. Box 35, Pasadena, CA 91102.
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Concepts of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (104 pages) by Matthew Alfs is a work detailing the Trinitarian/non-Trinitarian views held by various Christian denominations. The book has sections on several of what Alfs calls the Second-Advent- spawned groups including the WCG, Church of God (7th Day), SDAs, JWs, and Christadelphians. The hardback edition is $12.95 plus $1.50 shipping and the paperback is $7.95 plus $1.00 shipping. Write to: Old Theology Book House, P. O. Box 12232, Minneapolis, NIN 55412.
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The Biblical Church of God (Canada) has several studies by Keith Hunt that they are offering free to AR readers. They suggest that their booklets Divorce & Remarriage - What Does God's Word Say? and Law and Grace - A Study in the Book of Galatians might be of particular interest. Their address is: Box 964, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada L1H 7N1.
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I would strongly urge those who are involved in Armstrongism to read the book Blood and Honor by Reinhold Kerstan. The author recounts the story of how as a young boy he was led into the Hitler Youth Movement. He was swayed from his faith in Christ to faith in Hitler. This book may he obtained from The Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc., Minneapolis, MN 55403.
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I recently read a book entitled Scripture Twisting - 20 Ways the Cults Misread the Bible by James W. Sire. It is published by the Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, IL 60575 and I recommend it to your audience....
I am currently reading the book Thirty Years A Watchtower Slave by William Schnell, a true story of this man's experiences in the Jehovah's Witnesses. It is like reading a history of the WCG, yet for a much larger organization. The similarity of this and the WCG is so remarkable, that I suggest it as "must reading "for your readers. Most religious bookstores should have it, or it may even be in the public library. Brainwashing, elimination of independent thinking, zombie-like church members, money making in the name of religion, it has it all...
One more book I have come across... is The Cult Explosion by Dave Hunt, published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR 97402. I don't recommend it to your readership, however, as I feel it may he too upsetting to an already upset audience. It mentions the WCG as well as other cults throughout the book and centers on the similarity in all cults and the spirit (demon) influence in all of them. I don't agree with all his theories, but the book gives an astounding insight into the world of hurtful religion. It seems the Devil agrees with the idea that if you can't beat them, join them. It seems more wars have been fought over or because of religion and its "influence" than for, or over, any other single cause. This book exposes the "influence."
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I have studied the literature put out by Herbert Armstrong and I recognize it as the con game that it is. I find it very mysterious how my wife, whom I regard as intelligent could believe such teachings as Herbert puts out. Now I have discovered a book which I believe solves the mystery. It is an important book called The Mind Possessed, A Physiology of Possession, Mysticism, and Faith Healing by William Sargant, published by J. B. Lippincott Co. (2350 Virginia Ave., Hagerstown, MD 21740). The author is an eminent British psychiatrist. I think you would be doing an invaluable service to pass this title on to your readers.
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Mr. Joel Bjorling (RR 2, Gilson, IL 61436) has written us that he is compiling a bibliography and historical study of Sabbatarian and Sabbatarian-related groups, churches, and organizations in America. The project is being prepared under the auspices of the Institute for the Study of American Religion of Chicago and will be published by Garland Publishing of New York. Officers of Sabbatarian organizations may wish to contact Mr. Bjorling and provide information about their groups for inclusion in the study.
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Readers with an interest in Bible prophecy may find the February 1985 issue of Discovery magazine of interest. It contained an article (p. 34) by Martin Gardner entitled "666 and All That." The article shows how different mathematical methods have been used to relate different names to the number 666. Gardner points out (p. 35) how one such system "yields 666 when applied to the first name of Garner Ted Armtrong, Herbert's excommunicated son who runs the rival Church of God, International, headquartered in Tyler, Texas."
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Editor: We remind our readers that listings of literature are provided for information purposes only and do not imply an endorsement of all the views they contain.
Although I dropped out of the WCG two years ago, I'm still listed on the church computers as an active member. I still have contact with the members and receive church literature. I can do this because I'm good at biting my lip. After receiving the last Worldwide News, however, I wonder if it's even worth trying to maintain those ties.
First, I want to thank Ambassador Report for the service you perform. I call it a service because like many Worldwiders who have had the courage to leave, I need reassurance and support from people of similar circumstance, and you people provide that link.
Anyway, in the June 24 edition of the Worldwide News, HWA wrote a special insert explaining the problems the church went through during the decade of the seventies. I'm sure you've read it, and I would be interested in your reaction to it. HWA never ceases to amaze me. He never takes responsibility for his own folly. He blames everything on the "liberal element" in the church. "Liberal" is a dirty word in the church. Remember Pavlov's dogs? You mention "liberal" in the church, and people start frothing at the mouth. HWA has an obvious anti-intellectual bias that he breeds very effectively into the membership. As a result they waive their right to think.
As a defense mechanism, I guess, I've tried to muse over the lies and misinformation HWA puts out, but this makes me sad, and it makes me very angry.
While I am at it, I'll mention another thing the church does that upsets me. Maybe you've picked up on this because it's done systematically and for a reason, Whenever there is a natural disaster or tragedy somewhere in the world, be it brush fire, tornado, hurricane, even a plane crash, the church will invariably report about those members living near the disaster who escaped harm or injury - giving no compassion or sympathy to those "worldly "people who have suffered. The obvious message here is, of course, that God protects his people. And this is the basic theme of The Plain Truth magazine.
But I wonder if statistics really bear this out. Ever read the church obituaries? The members have their share of untimely death. Which prompted, I suppose, the recent Worldwide News article encouraging members to pray more for God's protection. The article seems to imply that if you get hurt in an accident, regardless of who is at fault, you are slack in your prayers. You are less righteous than, say, the pastor-rank minister who wrote the piece and mentioned the mishap he miraculously avoided.
In past ARs you have stated that a WCG member only "pays and prays." You may or may not have noticed in the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course that lesson 19 proves you are correct. In fact, they go one step further as to the functions of the individual member. First, keep your mouth shut; second pay; third, pray. According to the course (lesson 19, page 12) a member's duty does not include "personally proclaiming Christ's message to his community or to the world." What it does include is the giving of "tithes and generous freewill offerings" and the "fervent and prevailing, continual PRAYERS of all members." I find it rather amazing that their own literature would verify your evaluation of a WCG member's only duties!
I am a former AC student (1956-59). It was only when I began to focus my attention on Jesus that I began to see that there was something dreadfully wrong with the movement. Jesus has never been the focal point of Herbert's teaching. In fact songs, etc. that showed deep feeling for Christ were considered stupid sentimentality.
For over two years, I have been calling friends in the WCG and even (at peril to myself considering that I could be held "in a bad attitude) called two ministers I respect [about problems in the WCG]. I felt I had to be going crazy. The church I attended had seemed to lose all semblance of balance or love. Fear held sway and it held the congregation fast. No one evidently dared talk or put into words their distress. There are those who love to call the ministry to inform on the so-called "goats" (as opposed to sheep) among the congregation.
First of all, the taped message by Dave Albert sent to all congregations was unbelievable. Among other things, the unbelievable assertion was made that women's minds were incapable of researching biblically and that he would not think it remiss for a wife to address her husband as "my lord." Only a sense of fascination for what would follow next prevented me from leaving during that tape. No wonder the little dictator-husbands have been literally unrestrained. And as for the impressionable young men, especially, sitting at Pasadena and drinking in this pap - God help their future wives and children.
Then, I became chillingly aware that in sermons locally and by tape from Pasadena, whole quotes and page numbers were being given from The Incredible Human Potential. Is this our Book of Mormon? Whatever happened to "not adding to or taking from the word of God"? To keep my sanity during sermons I played the "margin game." Jesus Christ and HWA each received tick marks when quoted. Guess who got the most quotes? You undoubtedly know.
A recent sabbath turned into a condemnation of us all, but particularly women. The women, I suppose, have been the source of all temptation and if we could just get them plain enough and respectful enough the men would be fine. Purdah (a la the Ayatollah) may be next. High heels, swimsuits, hair dye, vanity - it's all on us. Next to be hit was society, i. e., education, the media, etc. Never mind that God commended the Bereans and used one of the most educated men without parallel to be the apostle to the Gentiles.
Then, power asserted and sword unsheathed, we proceeded to the Mishnah - the fine do's and don'ts of godly conduct. Some of these (emphasized every Sabbath) include: washing one's car before the Sabbath, not removing one's jacket unless the minister tells you to (that is gives his permission), and so on and so forth ad nauseum. In self-defense I took to deliberately leaving the car dirty and going home and applying the brightest nail polish I could. Did I mention the minister who has told his congregation they must ask permission before leaving town for a weekend? Or another one who told his people they need permission to get together in a function with more than two couples present? "Give me liberty or give me death!"
Last month, I decided to quit attending the WCG after almost 15 years' membership. I had been on my way out for the past three years or so as a result of spiritual unfulfillment. Through Bible study and with the help of correspondence with some tremendous teaching pastors' programs on the local gospel station, and the prayer for deliverance from cultism on the part of a dynamic woman I met about 1= years ago (she was delivered from 15 years with the Jehovah's Witnesses and now has a ministry of exposing cults), and also by visiting around to other churches (all without the knowledge of my local WCG ministers), I edged my way out and last month, decided to give it up.
The period of withdrawal was a little traumatic, but not nearly so horrible as that experienced by those naive, poor souls who have attempted to discuss their "religion frustrations" with the ministry. Had I done that, I would have been suspended for revealing that I do not accept that HWA is God's only living Apostle. I would have been told to take a holiday and study all the booklets again, and get myself straightened out in order to be allowed back to church with ministerial blessing.
The thing that helped me most was reading The Godmakers by Ed Decker. He came out of Mormonism. His account of Joseph Smith's personality so resembled facets of HWA's that I thought: "My goodness! There's so much similarity. Here I am laughing at these Mormons for blindly obeying such a strange character. Meanwhile, we in the WCG are doing quite the same thing!" I can't recall the name of the founder of the JWs, but the little I have heard about him makes me inclined to conclude that he was also of the same ilk. Maybe they're all the same.
I really feel sorrow and compassion for Mr. Armstrong, Maybe I shouldn't, but I do. Whether he has willfully deceived his following or not, it is a sad fact that he surely must have deceived himself. All the hue and cry about deception, and look who's the most deceived. Let God judge him. It remains that all of us who fell for it are not without responsibility. For whatever reason, scriptural ignorance, poor judgment, naivity, self-deception, God may very well have used this route to illuminate us. That's not to say I am condoning anything. But some people will never come out of there because they are so happy putting themselves under bondage - it relieves them of responsibility, or so they think. Well, no, they don't think. They fear to. They just "trust."
In coming out, I decided that with this manner of ministry, the only way was to not let my right hand know what my left hand was doing. I didn't want to be forced out, I wanted to go out on my own, when and if I was ready, and when I was sure in my own mind that I had proved truth.
I had not attended those boring WCG Bible studies for about three years (only went through a sense of obligation-guilt, anyway) - time was better spent studying with the radio pastors. Now, however, I am taking four Bible courses at the local Glad Tidings Church, which has a thriving atmosphere of joyful Christians. What a delight to go through the word with excited people and dig out all those "neat things." One of the courses is "Comparative Religions" - how to spot cults and witness to people in them. Of all things, the first assignment is to write an essay on "Armstrongism," ie., HWA and GTA.
I became a member of the Radio Church of God in the early '50s and was baptized by Herman Hoeh. I tithed and did all those things for many years, then left when one of their ministers and I disagreed on makeup. I had heard Mr. Armstrong say many times that nothing is wrong in itself but that moderation should be practiced in all things, I agreed, and still do, with that statement When I told the minister this, he informed me that the church had been forced to take a stand on makeup and the ladies of the church are no longer permitted to wear even a little bit. He informed me that Mr. Armstrong had excommunicated his own daughter, Beverly [Armstrong- Gott] because of the makeup issue. This really irked me because while I didn't know Beverly too well, I liked and admired her, especially her beautiful voice.
I'm afraid our conversation became more heated than either of us had intended. I know I pointed to his very modern and eye-catching attire and accused him of trying to look his best in a modem world by way of conforming to the current styles, hair cut, etc. I was never officially excommunicated, but after that the only thing I received from them through the mail was The Plain Truth. Needless to say, I stopped tithing and disassociated myself from the church.
Because of disagreement about makeup, I was put in the nonmember category... even though I had come into the church during the no makeup period. When the minister said that we were to be slaves to Jesus Christ, I had to agree with him. But could it be that he perhaps put someone else ahead of or in place of Jesus Christ?
The unhappy feelings that I had been experiencing for years in the WCG were enabled to jell with my audacity to question makeup. Even without being one of those "in the know," it has been easy to see the double standards that exist. But the fear of not being in God's church was a strong habit ingrained in me since 1965.
Being a single (D&R case) working mother at the time ('73-'74) I asked for third tithe help. First, the minister asked if I had paid third tithe. Then when I said "Yes, twice during my third tithe year," he said, "Pray more, Mrs.------." I burst into tears and cried most of the night. In the morning, I couldn't work because my eyes were almost glued shut. This may sound foolish to most people, but I naively thought that God had rejected me through the minister. That man had already seemed not to like me and had talked about going to bat for another in my position when she committed adultery and was on third tithe. He seemed to get pleasure in putting me down....
I have discovered that there is life after the WCG. It does take some time to become totally deprogrammed. It's been about a year. The truth doesn't change and become vain and puffed up - people do. Love of the truth is what we all must hold fast to now so that deception doesn't hold us in its iron-clad grasp.
My daughter and two lovely children have been left by her husband (after he joined the WCG). He was a loving husband and father prior to joining, but he is now a rigid and fanatical stranger to all of us. We are heartsick as are his relatives.
Please send all future correspondence to my friend's address -------. My wife, still being in the clutches of Herbert, is very antagonistic and not only makes (or tries to make) my life miserable, but has destroyed some of my mail. Being a disabled veteran, I am unable to support you financially at this time, but do appreciate having false apostles and false prophets exposed, as they have brought misery to my life! I know that one day my wife will no longer worship this puny man. That is so comforting.
As a recent AC graduate, I have given much thought as to how today's AC students and grads can be helped. First of all the sad truth is that most of today's AC students are young, naive, impressionable 18-year-olds who come to college already firmly entrenched in "the church" - due to programming of church and parents. The church is all they know. The college reinforces this from day one. "This world has no hope outside of God's church," they say.
How well I remember Mr. Ames' forums on "How to Survive World War III," infering that the only way to escape the worlds problems and the coming tribulation is through "The Church." (Not to mention Dave Albert preaching "Never, never, never leave The Church.")
Now, in today's complex world with its many problems, fragile economy, etc., coming out of a well ordered "family" - one with all the answers, promises of protection, and where using one's head is not a requisite - is not an attractive option for most.
Somehow, an AC student or grad must be compelled to take a questioning look. My first step was learning how to think on my own. I owe a lot to Dr. Stavrinides and Dr. Dorothy.... When I began to use my head a little I began scouring scholarly books on Daniel and Revelation. The scholars who wrote these books had intensively researched Daniel and Revelation and compared evidence from many different fields of biblical research. What I began to see finally is that people "in the know" rarely agree with anything HWA has to say about these "prophetic" parts of the Bible. To my dismay, I woke up and realized at last that along with the old adage "there ain't no free lunch," "there ain't no place of safety."
Once I finally debunked prophecy and the commonly accepted myth that as long as I stay in the church God will work out the world's problems and take care of me, the rest began to fall like dominoes. (Although for months after these realizations, I would wake up with nightmares of being "left behind," nuclear war, and/or "Germans.") I think, in other words, that to open up a mind the necessary first step is to remove the security blanket belief of prophecy and the idea of "being protected" somehow, through it all....
It does help to have someone to talk to. I saw a documentary called "Moonchild" and an interview with a girl who left the Moonies. I remember she said she had tried leaving twice and kept coming back. Finally, she requested the services of a professional "deprogrammer" to help her. I feel my situation was similar in that after reading Tangled Web and others, I sought personal verification before I could really believe what I was reading.
My husband and I left the WCG nine years ago after an agonizing period of doubt and disappointment. Finally, we could no longer compromise with our spiritual hunger and had to admit that we were not being sustained by the "neutral sermons" and off-color humor which at that time was the junk-food (and the only food) emanating from the pulpit.
It felt good to be honest with ourselves again, but it was, truthfully, a while before we learned to think for ourselves and trust our own judgment.
Needless to say, when we left we were showered with dire predictions, none of which came to pass. We have been blessed with "worldly" goods which we once were taught could only be expected to be enjoyed by those who held an "office" in the church. We hold a joint position which pays us a good salary, allows the wife (me) to fulfil a potential always before throttled and undeveloped, and which has the added blessing of letting us be of service to a number of fellow human beings. It's all been very rewarding.
We still have many friends in the WCG and hope the day will come when their eyes can be opened too.
After being away from the WCG for a little over a year now, I am still a total mess. Physically, mentally, you name it. I'm wondering if there are any organizations that help former members of cults regain their former strength and vitality? I truly feel I need help and don't know where to get it.
Editor: Here in the Southern California region we know of a number of psychologists qualified in helping former cult members with readjustment problems. However, we are really not in a position to recommend psychologists or therapists to our readers around the country. We simply have no way of knowing who can help. Locating the kind of assistance you need will probably require a bit of effort on your part. Perhaps one organization that may be able to offer a suggestion is Focus, a support group for former cult members that is affiliated with the Cult Awareness Network of the Citizens Freedom Foundation (the latter's national mailing address is: Box 86, Hannacroix, NY 12087).
I was thrown out of the WCG. They let me back after three meetings with the local pastor. I was out for 14 weeks. I made up my mind I would quit after I got back if they ever let me back. After reading all your reports and believing them, I still can't get myself to quit. Maybe if I read a few more I will be able to, but I doubt it. I honestly don't know where else to go. It seems it doesn't matter how bad the problems are with the leadership, I still believe their proofs for their theology. Don't let me down and quit writing though. Your help is what I need to see both sides.
Editor: You would benefit from writing a letter to The Association for Christian Development, P.O. Box 4455, Rolling Bay, WA 98061. Ken Wesby's recent tape on cults is highly recommended. We think ACD has much to offer current WCG members.
Thank you for the AR. As mental problems increase in the WCG, your work is becoming more valuable all the time. I have been out of it a long time now and sometimes I tell myself I don't really care, what is happening over there. Then I meet someone I know who is still in and see the depressed state they are in. A friend of mine who is still in recently confided in me that he had contemplated suicide.
I have to take this opportunity to write and explain how we are using the Ambassador Report entitled "What's Behind the Plain Truth Magazine? and Who Is Herbert W. Armstrong?"
I always make sure I have several copies in the car, in my books, etc, If I see someone reading The Plain Truth I always walk up to them and ask if they know who and what is behind that magazine. Most of the time they have no idea. They almost always thank me for my time and effort, but before I go, I hand them a reprint of your article.
I also use that reprint when talking with store managers, owners, etc. They also thank me for shedding more light on this magazine. As of this date, I have never been refused. They always take the magazine out of the windows and out of their stores.
Most establishments are not aware that it is a church (cult) behind the magazine. Some even think it belongs to the Catholic Church.
Keep up the good work and keep the information flowing. Many people rely on you to get the inside story.
While visiting another ex-Armstrongite this summer, I was given some old ARs to read. It was like coming home. 1960 to 1975 was a big chunk of my life. It certainly is something one never forgets. It has taken 10 years to remove the bitterness. Keep up the good work and please put me on your mailing list.
I was once a member of the WCG. Of all the news you print about them, they must be worse than most churches. Just keep doing what you are doing, maybe some of my friends that are still with the cult will someday realize that your newsletter is the real good news.
Your letters to Ambassador Report are important! Not only do we want to hear of what is happening to the WCG and related groups in your area, but we appreciate your suggestions on what we need to cover in future issues. If there is something you'd like us to investigate, please drop us a note.
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