October 1998 (AR70)
Nuns Capture Big Sandy:
Ambassador to be Catholic College
Under the direction of Pastor General Joseph W. Tkach Jr., the religious-business empire built by Worldwide Church of
God (WCG) founder Herbert W. Armstrong continues to shrink. In September, the WCG's Worldwide News (WN) announced that the Tkach team has entered into a contract to sell Worldwide's Ambassador University (AU) campus in Texas to Pittsburgh-based La Roche College. While the agreement contains a provision whereby La Roche has a feasibility period in which to ascertain that the campus will suit its needs, those knowledgeable about the situation say there should be no real obstacle for the completion of the property transfer within a few months.
La Roche will be getting a huge piece of real estate. The AU property includes more than 200 structures and three quarters of a million square feet of building improvements. There are classroom buildings, office buildings, dormitories, a large university library building, private residences, a convention center, a field house, athletic and recreational facilities, a nine-hole golf course, two lakes, campgrounds with bath house, an FM radio station, an airstrip that is almost one mile long, on-site water and wastewater treatment facilities, and in addition to the core 228 acres of campus, the surrounding 2,000 acres of farm and timberland. Also part of the deal are all of the university's personal property including farm equipment and all of the library's collection.
In explaining the deal to its members, the WCG's leaders have described La Roche College as "a coeducational, private college with a campus in Pittsburgh." The WN article announcing the sale did not mention that according to La Roche's Web site:
La Roche is a Catholic, coeducational, private college that was founded by the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1963.... The Congregation of the Sisters of Divine Providence... is an international religious community confounded [sic] in Germany by Wilhelm Emmanuel von Kettler, social reformer and Bishop of Mainz, and Stephanie Starkenfels de la Roche, a French noblewoman, known in [the] community as Mother Marie de la Roche.... The Sisters of Divine Providence, St. Peter Province, Pittsburgh... have been the sponsors and supporters of the college from its inception.
Not generally known among WCG members is the fact that La Roche has generously offered to reemploy many of Ambassador's former faculty members at the new La Roche campus. It is not known if any accepting such an offer will convert to Catholicism. But such a development would not be surprising considering how used to doctrinal shifts former Armstrongites have become. Another fact not disclosed to the WCG's members are the financial arrangements of the land deal. One former WCG member wrote:
A close friend who lives in the Big Sandy metroplex area and who works as a reporter on a local paper has been in contact with both sides in the impending sale of the AU property. His last report to me was that the purchase price was confidential. My request to him was to find out who made that decision.
A few months ago, when the Office Facilities Building in Pasadena was sold, there was enough room in the WN to report an entire page of details regarding the efforts which went into the sale. But there was no mention of the sale price. I thought that that item would have been the most important item in the entire issue, given the WCG's perpetual need for money. I have ont yet seen any announcement of the sale price. So, it remains to be seen if they follow the same pattern of behavior with the sale of AU.
So far the WCG has stuck by its pattern of secrecy. Apparently its leaders do not feel that anyone whose tithes helped build AU has a right to know how much is being paid for that prized church asset or where that money will eventually wind up.
Strange Land Deals
The sale of the Texas campus is not the only strange WCG land deal that we have reported on. In AR55 we wrote about the sale of the Mt. Pocono feast site "for one dollar..." and in AR62 we reported on the sale of the Wisconsin Dells feast site to a mysterious group. Since then one of our readers sent us a clipping from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (3/27/97, p.1) which provides more detail as to what became of that beautiful Wisconsin property. Under the headline "Miracles Happen Here: Dells Center Aims to Heal Body, Soul," writer Jo Sandin reported how that property has been turned into a New Age healing center. Endeavor Academy, which also distributes Out of Time and A Course in Miracles, two New Age books, makes the claim that people coming to their healing center have been healed of everything from tumors to depression to arthritis:
"Miracles happen here," says Australian-born Rae Visser, 37, who with her husband, Michael, and two other pastors keep the Miracles Healing Center open 24 hours a day....
Basically, the message is this: Pain, suffering, disease, discord and death aren't real. These delusions disappear for those who learn to see themselves as they really are - perfect expressions of eternal life. "We're already in Heaven," says Rae. "We never left."
Another interesting land deal done by the Tkach team was the sale earlier this year of the WCG's Mail Processing Center in Pasadena. Located across the freeway from the old Ambassador campus, the building was apparently considered unneeded as the Tkach team's proselytizing efforts are producing ever less fruit. Again, as with previous land deals and the latest in Texas, important details about the sale were not made known to WCG members. With the Mail Processing Center sale, the WN only said that the buyer was an Alhambra, California-based company. But why not give the company's name?
© 1998 Ambassador Report. John Trechak, Editor & Publisher. Published as a Christian service almost quarterly - as finances allow.
Opinions expressed in by-lined articles are not necessarily those of the publisher. References to books, ministers, and organizations do not constitute endorsements.
Our suspicions raised, over the next few weeks the Report made a number of visits to the area of the old Mail Processing Center and observed in the parking lot a large number of police-type vehicles. But these were not city or county police cars, but late-model cars with mounted police-style lights. What was odd, however, was that on the days we visited there were no uniformed officers or uniformed security people to be seen. The few employees outside taking smoke breaks all wore suits and ties and appeared to be the kind of employees that spend most of their time at computer terminals.
The building, although it has many very large windows, remains shrouded in secrecy as all the windows are now highly tinted. The locked reception area appears to be well-monitored with automation but has no receptionist. On one of the strange patrol cars we noticed the name "Inter-Com." And thinking that the new company, Inter-Com Security Services formerly of Alhambra, might perhaps be some type of community patrol operation, we phoned the number listed in the phone book under that name and asked what they did. "Was this a community patrol company?" we inquired. After much hesitation, the unidentified voice on the phone quietly answered, "No." "Well, what exactly does Inter-Com do?", we shot back. Long pause, then, "security." "What kind of security?" Very long pause, then, "corporate." "Can you send us some printed information about your company, what it does, what services it provides?" An even longer pause was followed by another quiet, "No." "Can you give us any other information?" Click.
In an age when virtually every mid-size company has some kind of Web site, this company has none. In fact, a search of the Web did not find the company mentioned anywhere. Virtually no Pasadenans that we talked to knew anything about the company. And experts in the field say that "Corporate security" today could mean anything from physically guarding corporate properties to electronically spying on employees, outside electronic surveillance, or hacking into the computer files of competitors. One of our readers, a former Worldwide executive, told us:
The MPC building was built for data processing of mail and for handling thousands of phone calls. There were conduits of data cables and telephone lines that ran into the Publishing/Accounting/CIS building across the street. You can see outlines of the conduit trenches in the parking lot of Publishing where they diamond-sawed the pavement. There are also conduits that run inside the Green Street bridge to the other side of the campus from CIS. None of this is secret information. All the WATS lines terminated in the MPC building. All of this makes it a great structure for any firm handling lots of data or telephone traffic.
Again, the Tkach team has yet to reveal how much was paid for this valuable church asset or what entities got the proceeds.
Attorney General Handcuffed
The strange WCG land deals of the last few years have prompted more than one former WCG member to contact government officials to ask for an investigation. But earlier this year when one individual wrote California Attorney General Dan Lungren about the matter, Robert M. Raymer, a representative of the Attorney General sent this reply:
Thank you for your recent letter to Attorney General Dan Lungren... regarding your request for the Attorney General's intervention in overseeing the Worldwide Church of God. Unfortunately we must respectfully decline your request because we lack authority to act.
In 1981, California law was changed to restrict the Attorney General's charitable oversight role with respect to religious corporations. The Attorney General's Office does not have the same investigative or enforcement powers over religious corporations that it has over public benefit corporations and charitable trusts.
The Attorney General's enforcement powers may be used only if the directors of a religious corporation engage in criminal activity or conduct a public, fraudulent solicitation for "secular" purposes. As to other harmful actions by directors of religious corporations, including self-dealing, improper distribution of a religious corporation's assets, and gross mismanagement, the Attorney General does not have the legal authority to file a derivative civil action on behalf of the religious corporation. Only the directors of the religious corporation, or, in some cases, the corporation's statutory voting members, may file a civil action to correct these types of abuses.
We regret that we could not be of further assistance to you, but hope that the information we have provided clarifies our restrictions in regard to your request.
Long-time readers of the Report will recall that the Attorney General of California once had the authority to investigate churches in cases where church leaders were perceived as self-dealing. But as a result of the Petris Bill - which with much lobbying by the WCG's leadership was passed into law after the State of California versus Worldwide lawsuit of 1979 - the Attorney General has lost that power. Ironically, many Worldwiders who marched, demonstrated, and wrote to legislators to get that law passed are the very ones who now would like the State of California to intervene on their behalf.
We had hoped to get a comment on the situation directly from Attorney General Lungren, but when we phoned his office in Sacramento, we were told, "Sorry, Attorney General Lungren is out of town, campaigning to become our next governor."
Tkach's Church Marketing Strategy
Former WCG members who subscribe to the Report and who are following the transformed WCG as led by Joseph Tkach Jr. often comment to us that their impression of the WCG leadership is one of chaotic mismanagement. Many tell us that they cannot see any pattern to what Tkach is doing other than that of a confused religionist. While that may be the impression that is given to those not familiar with the world of religion marketing, our impression is that Tkach does have a game plan that has been thought out, even if it is not playing out as successfully as he had hoped.
In "Religion Journal: New Christian Groups Gain Members," which appeared in The New York Times on January 3, Gustav Niebuhr wrote:
Since the late 1960s, many mainline Protestant denominations have reported losing hundreds of thousands of members, while Roman Catholics' attendance at Mass also declined from an earlier peak before leveling off. Yet nationwide polls over that period have reported that the proportion of Americans' who say they regularly attend church has remained unchanged - at or slightly above 40 percent. If one assumes those people are being truthful, the question is where have some of them gone to worship?
In a recently published book, Donald Miller, a professor of religion at the University of Southern California, says that part of the answer lies in the growth of three new Christian movements, all formed since the 1960s, directed at people younger than 50, and made up largely of independent congregations unaffiliated with older mainline and evangelical Protestant denominations.
The three are the Calvary Chapel, Vineyard, and Hope Chapel movements, whose histories, leadership and constituencies Miller describes in his book, Reinventing American Protestantism, (University of California, 1997). He calls them examples of "new paradigm" churches, noting that their sanctuaries are typically devoid of religious ornamentation, that pastors and congregants alike favor informal attire, that music is contemporary (often electric guitars and pop-style "praise choruses" in place of organs and hymnals), that sermons center on Bible teaching, and that some degree of openness exists to such "gifts of the Spirit" as speaking in tongues.
All three movements began in Southern California, but have become national. Calvary Chapel and Vineyard are loose associations of independent congregations, while the smaller Hope Chapel movement is affiliated with the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, a 75-year-old Pentecostal denomination founded by evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.
Niebuhr goes on to show the movements' connections to Bill McCartney and Promise Keepers, the "Jesus Movement,"
and Rev. Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California. While Tkach has not been a slavish follower of any of these individuals and movements, he has adopted enough of their ways and has either mentioned them outright or alluded to them sufficiently to indicate he has studied their ideas. Unfortunately for Tkach, the adoption of such new forms of worship and such self-conscious religion-marketing methods has not produced the growth that was anticipated. One of our readers recently passed on the following insight from a former WCG member:
I was just looking at the current WN and noticed something interesting. In the past the WCG Treasurer's Report was for the Church only, and as I understood it, the income for Plain Truth Ministries [PTM] was kept separate. This WN issue says "WCG and PTM income and expenses." If they weren't adding PTM's income to that of the Church in the past, the income has dropped more than they want you to notice at first glance! In past issues, daily averages for the WCG alone were around $100,000. Now, for this past month, the daily average for both WCG and PTM combined was only $97,894. What a difference! If my calculation is correct, the WCG is again covering all the expenses of PTM, not just the one million of Church funds that they said would go into it. Mail-in income [of the Church] is apparently being commingled and, I assume, the other income would be advertising sales in the new Plain Truth.
The failure of the Tkach game plan to bring in the kind of financial growth that he anticipated has forced Tkach to slow down somewhat the frantic pace of doctrinal change that he had maintained previously. As we reported last issue, even though the WCG's leadership is in favor of making the WCG a denomination keeping neither the seventh-day Sabbath nor Old Testament Holy Days, fear of losing old-time Sabbath-keepers and Holy Day-keepers has slowed the rate of doctrinal change a little bit. Nevertheless, some doctrinal evolution continues.
The latest oddity resulting from the spirit of creeping Protestantism, as some Armstrongites refer to it, was the WCG's keeping of the Old Testament Holy Days recently on dates at variance with the traditional Jewish calculations. The leadership of the WCG previously announced that it planned on observing the annual Holy Days on the nearest convenient weekend. Because the Feast of Trumpets this year fell on Sept. 21-22, a weekday, if members were to keep the feast day as the Jews do, it would require many to take off time from work. To Tkach, this was inconvenient. So the suggestion went forth that should a congregation still desire to keep the feast day (this can be determined by survey, remember), but found the actual day inconvenient, then the congregation could reschedule the Holy Day to the nearest weekend.
So, this year after all the surveys were completed, a number of WCG congregations moved the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement to new dates. We have heard reports of WCG congregations around the country scheduling Trumpets services on Saturday, September 19 and Day of Atonement services on Saturday, September 26. At least one WCG congregation, showing even greater innovation, scheduled Trumpets for a Sunday night. While all this calendar juggling was going on, some WCG congregations continued to meet on the traditional Jewish dates. We have yet to find out if the latter churches are Saturday-keeping churches or Sunday-keeping churches or Saturday-and-Sunday-keeping churches. As one of our WCG readers told us, "It is getting really very confusing." But, another humorously told us, "We should rename the church The Worldwide Church of Convenience."
GTA Pays Masseuse
According to papers filed in the county court in Tyler, Texas, the civil suit brought by masseuse Suerae Robertson against evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong has concluded with an out-of-court settlement. Court records do not indicate the amount that was paid to the masseuse to drop her claim that the famous evangelist had sexually assaulted her at her massage parlor in the summer of 1995. By settling out of court, Armstrong was able to avoid an embarrassing trial that would likely have included a replay of the famous hidden camera video of his cavorting naked in a massage parlor. Tyler was also spared a trial that likely would have included testimony from an assortment of Texas masseuses and madams who have claimed that Armstrong has also been an abusive customer in their own establishments.
While Garner Ted has dubbed his latest church venture The Intercontinental Church of God (ICG), his followers appear to be mainly in the states of Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Missouri, Michigan, and West Virginia, with total weekly church attendance reportedly now well under a thousand.
Dart on the Air
While the ministry of Garner Ted Armstrong still survives, it is small and limp now. But one vibrant fellowship whose numbers are swelling is Christian Education Ministries (CEM) headed by Ronald L. Dart, formerly Garner Ted's right-hand man. Dart's Born to Win radio broadcast can now be heard on more than 120 radio stations.
During his lifetime, author David Robinson on a number of occasions commented to this publication that he believed that of all ministers to have come through the Armstrongism experience, Dart was in his opinion the most informed and the best teacher. A good example of Dart's intelligence and frankness can be seen in a recent Dart article that has been widely circulated on the Internet. In "Understanding Deception" Dart expounds upon many types of deception and the ways in which they are used. Here is an excerpt:
Almost every religious deception known to man has been introduced by warning its audience against deception. I have seen a lot of strange religious ideas, and most of them cite, somewhere in the text, Revelation 12:9 which identifies the Arch-Deceiver as: "that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world." The premise is that you, brother, have been deceived and I am here to ease your pain, to rescue you from deception, to lead you to the light. Problem is, the old Arch-Deceiver himself might show up on my doorstep with exactly the same message....
Deception loves to quote scripture (see Matthew 4:6). Any deceiver who cannot find some scriptures that say what he wants them to say isn't worth his salt. For deception, the more scripture the better. When I see a long list of scriptures in an argument, I ignore the list. To me it is a sign of someone who has nothing to say. (I told you not to read this far if you were feeling sensitive.) People who take proof texts out of context and string them together to make a point are immediately suspects. I prefer to read my scriptures in a leather binding and in context.
Dart's Christian Educational Ministries is at P.O. Box 560, Whitehouse, TX 75791; phone: 903-509-2999; Web site: www.cemnetwork.com.
More United Disunity
The so-called United Churches of God continue to embarrass themselves. In July the Cincinnati-based United (the UCGIA) announced that as a result of budget cuts and ongoing internecine squabbles 13 elders were terminated or resigned, and another 29 were put on half-salary.
The breakaway United Church of God (Monrovia) led by David Hulme, and which we will acronym the UCGM, has stabilized at about 2,300 members and a whopping 60 elders. As one UCGIA elder has pointed out, "With that kind of an elder to member ratio, if one wants to be thoroughly ruled with a rod of iron, then Hulme's bunch is the church for you." The Hulmites plan to put out a quarterly magazine beginning in January with UK elder John Meakin, an old Bricket Wood classmate and tennis friend of ours, to serve as managing editor.
Even within UCGIA there are more splits. For example, some weeks ago the Tulsa, Oklahoma UCGIA congregation split in two with one of the factions now aligning itself with the United group of Big Sandy, Texas (the UCGBS) which a few months ago itself broke off from the Cincinnati-based United organization. So while everyone in these groups loves the designation "United," there appears to be very little spirit of unity within any of these groups.
Philadelphians Fight Over
Another Armstrongite group that has been having problems of late is Gerald Flurry's Philadelphia Church of God (PCG). In recent months we have learned that such prominent PCG figures as Don Tiger, Don Roth, Jim Mortensen, Charles Bishop, and Arlen Berkey have left the PCG, are critical of Gerald Flurry, and are putting out their own set of the almost-complete writings of Herbert W. Armstrong. You may recall that back in AR65 we reported how the WCG had sued Flurry in federal court in an attempt to stop his PCG from distributing the writings of Herbert W. Armstrong. That lawsuit has yet to be concluded. In the meantime Flurry's group continues to distribute Armstrong's Mystery of the Ages and a few other Armstrong writings. Now, however, the PCG breakaway group has begun distributing many of HWA's writings for free in CD-ROM format and, of all things, Flurry, has threatened them with a lawsuit for doing pretty much the same thing that he, himself, claims he has a right to do. In other words, Flurry would like to have a monopoly on the writings of Herbert W. Armstrong.
Mr. Tiger and associates consider many of the writings of HWA to be inspired, not in the sense of scripture, but more in the sense of being a type of Talmud. For that reason they would like to see all the writings of HWA made available to the public. Ironically, although Flurry wishes to have monopoly control over all of HWA's writings, Tiger is convinced that Flurry, himself, does not want all of HWA's writings to be read by the public. Mr. Tiger of the breakaway group has written a fine legal brief of their position and they are offering it free to the public. Those who would like to obtain free copies of the writings of HWA on CD-ROM or who would like to learn more about the positions of Don Tiger and his associates should contact: Don Tiger, 1163 E. Ogden, #705-261, Naperville, IL 60563; tel. 630-235-9845. The group also has a helpful Web site for HWA's writings: www.herber twarmstrong.org and a helpful legal materials site at: www.tcog.org.
Global May Take Lead
Until the last few months, it appeared that the UCGIA, the largest of the Armstrongite denominations, would be the leading Armstrongite church organization as we enter the new millennium. Just a few months ago their membership was over 20,000 and growing. Insiders tell us, however, that following the recent Hulmite split (see AR68) UCGIA membership is down to about 12,000 and falling.
Now, with the Philadelphians, Uniteds, Garner Ted groups, and other Armstrongites being diminished by splintering, there remains the Global Church of God (GCG) headquartered in San Diego, California as quite possibly the strongest Armstrongite organization. While getting accurate figures on the membership sizes of the Armstrongite groups is not easy, the latest reports on Global indicate that it has about 8,000 members meeting each week in about 275 congregations and video groups. With their message being proclaimed on their program The World Ahead, now seen and heard on almost a hundred television and radio stations, its membership is reported to be growing. It is quite likely that the GCG will find itself the leading Armstrongite group in the next millennium. And although rumors persist that evangelist Roderick Meredith may some day be replaced as the head of that group, our sources in San Diego tell us that for the time being he remains firmly in charge of that organization.
Lon Lacey's New Mexico Church
Lon Lacey (AC/Pasadena, 1970) is now pastoring an Armstrongite group called The New Mexico Region Church of God. Lacey, who was ordained a WCG elder in 1992, began the new church in 1995. He has about 50 members in regular attendance plus a taped ministry that reaches another 1,000 and a quarterly magazine called The Logos Journal: Understanding Our Times. Those interested in subscribing should write: Lon Lacey, P.O. Box 20457, Albuquerque, NM 87111.
The Secret Church of Conspiracy
by John Trechak
In the first part of this extended article, I showed how the word "conspiracy" is used today in a wide variety of ways. The examples I gave, however, do not constitute an exhaustive list of active usages. Just since our last issue, for instance, I discovered a number of additional ways that the term is currently being used. For instance, in the recently published book The Divine Conspiracy, Christian author Dallas Willard describes God's true followers as being part of a conspiracy. While I'm not sure I would have called the working of the Holy Spirit a conspiracy, Willard's use of the term demonstrates just how popular the term has become. Suffice it to say, unless we make some attempt to define what we mean by it, using the word "conspiracy" can lead to confusion.
Just as conspiracy talk comes up frequently in popular culture, ridicule of all conspiracy theories seems today almost de rigueur. In fact, one can find many instances in the press where any suggestion of conspiracy is thought to be immediate grounds for disparaging the theorist as a kook. Underlying this approach seems to be the notion that the mainstream press does such a thorough job of ferreting out truth that if we just trust their reporting, we can then go ahead and reject all other views.
Nevertheless, sometimes criticisms not just of individual theories, but of conspiracy theory approaches to understanding current events are justified or, at least, reach a certain level of intelligence.
The Paranoid Style
Perhaps the most famous critique of conspiracy theory thinking ever published is Richard Hofstadter's essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" which came out first in the early 1960s and then in 1965 in a collection published by Knopf under the same title. The book is now out of print but can still be found in many U.S. libraries. All who are fascinated by the conspiracy theory phenomenon will find this short work of inestimable value.
While Hofstadter's lucid work is filled with page after page of relevant insights, I will point out just a few that relate most especially to the Armstrongites. Hofstadter correctly points out that conspiracy thinking can be found in the cultures of many nations, but that such thinking is particularly widespread in the United States. Hofstadter writes that he uses the phrase "paranoid style":
simply because no other word adequately evokes the qualities of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. In using the expression "paranoid style," I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes.... It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.... the clinical paranoid sees the hostile and conspiratorial world in which he feels himself to be living as directed specifically against him; whereas the spokesman of the paranoid style finds it directed against a nation, a culture, a way of life whose fate affects not himself alone but millions of others.
Hofstadter then points out that while conspiracy theories can be found at both the political left and the political right, at the time he wrote, conspiracy theories in the United States seemed to Hofstadter to be most strongly held by those on the right who feared "a further attempt by a subversive power to make us part of one world socialist government." He then went on to describe some of the most popular conspiracy theories in American history. They included theories centered on purported secret cabals of an international gold ring, slaveholders, European monarchs, munitions makers, the Pope, the Masons, and international bankers.
Hofstadter paid particular attention to conspiracy theories involving the Bavarian Illuminati who were accused of tampering in American politics as far back as during the administration of Thomas Jefferson. Ironically, Hofstadter, in what is almost a premonition of latter-day Armstrongite fantasies, points out that in years past, the astonishing theory developed that the Illuminati cabal had, itself, been infiltrated by another cabal - that of the Jesuits. Along the same lines, one famous book of the late 18th century talked of a "triple conspiracy" composed of anti-Christians, Freemasons, and Illuminati, all coordinatedly working to destroy true religion and social order.
Hofstadter's essay is must reading for anyone interested in conspiracy theories and United States history. But it should be pointed out that for all its worth, it is rather polemical. The essay makes no mention, for instance, that the underlying justification of our own American Revolution was a widely held conspiracy theory, namely that the King of England was working to gradually usurp the natural rights of Americans. Jefferson, himself, argued that such a conspiracy was underfoot and made that his central justification for revolt against the British. You can read about that conspiracy theory in a document called The Declaration of Independence.
Some scholars have pointed out that Jefferson's conspiracy theory, itself, hearkens back to an even earlier one in England. There in the mid-1600s, the suspicion arose that the Stuart kings were conspiring to make Catholicism the state religion of the British Isles. Some scholars, pointing to the fact that the British Isles had a Catholic population of only about five percent, scoff at the theory. But other scholars point to the fact that Charles II did indeed convert to Catholicism as did his brother and successor James II, and that the latter in making appointments, particularly to military leadership positions, had exhibited a strong preference for Catholics. It was widespread fears of just such a Stuart-Popish conspiracy that led to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and to the ascent of William of Orange to the throne of England. In fact, it was John Locke's writings during that turbulent era about those anti-liberal conspiratorial movements that inspired much of Jefferson's own liberal views, and his fears of the King's conspiracy as detailed in the Declaration of Independence.
Thus while Hofstadter makes some excellent observations about the limitations of conspiracy thinking, not all such theories should be ridiculed. Many have played an important role in history. In fact, Hofstadter, himself, admits that many of the better conspiracy theories contain more than a little truth. Nevertheless, he does make a strong case that many who get caught up in conspiracy theories tend to exhibit irrational and almost paranoid modes of reasoning.
The Armstrongite Variety
But what about some of the unique conspiracy theories that have engulfed the Worldwide Church of God and the Armstrongite churches? To understand where some of those have come from it is necessary to review a bit of WCG history.
Because, as Hofstadter so competently demonstrates, conspiracy theory thinking has been so prominent in American history, it should not surprise us that such thinking has been lurking in the WCG as far back as any church old-timers can recall. Herbert W. Armstrong, himself, subscribed to and actively taught a number of conspiracy theories. For example, Armstrong taught that top German militarists and financiers were actively working behind the scenes to bring about a united Germany that was to control a United Europe which, in turn, was to become an enemy of Britain and the United States. Armstrong also taught that the Catholic Church was actively working behind the scenes to extend the influence of the Roman Church to such an extent that a Pope-dominated Catholicism would eventually be reestablished as the state religion of all Europe and beyond. While Armstrong described such notions as prophecies, they were, in fact, conspiracy theories on a very grand scale.
While Armstrong's prophecies/theories were quite colorful (and not always lacking in a certain insight), anyone who makes a study of the varieties of American fundamentalist belief will discover that they were not all that unique. Similarly colorful interpretations of Bible prophecy combined with grand conspiracy theories can be found in many American religious groups. In fact, Hofstadter makes the interesting observation that conspiracy theories go hand-in-hand with almost all Bible-based apocalyptic thinking.
In all fairness to HWA, it should also be pointed out, that in stark contrast to some of the modern-day Armstrongites, HWA, himself, did not ascribe to many, let alone all, conspiracy theories. One popular theory that he not only did not ascribe to, but which he criticized, is the so-called Jewish conspiracy.
Conspiracy theories centering on Jews have been around for a long time and they come in many varieties. The most mild of the variants makes a little sense in that we all know that most people are prejudiced in favor of others who have philosophical, religious, or political views, or a personal history akin to their own. That being the case, it is not foolish to think that people in business and personal dealings tend to give a preference, even if only unconsciously, to others of their own race, religion, ethnicity, or political persuasion.
In Tribes (New York: Random House, 1992) a book primarily about international business networking, author Joel Kotkin does not talk of the Jews being a conspiracy, but he does point to the Jews as being the prototypical international business network based on ethnicity and shared values and experience. He also says there are other racial and ethnic groups that behave similarly in the business world. But when most Armstrongites talk about a "Jewish Conspiracy," they are not talking about something so prosaic. Most seem to be engulfed in a Jewish conspiracy theory going back at least to 19th century Russia where resentment toward Jews led to infamous pogroms. In that version of Jewish conspiracy theory, the Jews were viewed as a homogenous racial group, organized beyond that of any military organization and bent on world conquest. Prominent in that theory is the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an odd writing purported to be written by leading Jews who were supposedly outlining their plans for world conquest a hundred years ago, but who were not smart enough to avoid leaving a paper trail.
For decades now, the Protocols have been considered by reputable historians as unauthentic writings put together by anti-Semites bent on inciting pogroms and in expelling Jews from Russia. Because The Protocols play such an important part in Jewish conspiracy thinking, are so widely cited by Armstrongite conspiracy theorists, and because they offer such valuable lessons in conspiracies and conspiracy hoaxes, at this juncture I am presenting a short essay that is available at a number of Web sites dealing with anti-Semitism. On the Web the following essay is attributed to Dr. Daniel Keren who, nevertheless, informs us that it was actually written by Prof. Saul Wallach of Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the most notorious and most successful work of modem anti-Semitism, draws on popular anti-Semitic notions which have their roots in medieval Europe from the time of the Crusades. The libels that the Jews used blood of Christian children for the Feast of Passover, poisoned the wells and spread the plague were pretexts for the wholesale destruction of Jewish communities throughout Europe. Tales were circulated among the masses of secret rabbinical conferences whose aim was to subjugate and exterminate the Christians, and motifs like these are found in early anti-Semitic literature.
The conceptual inspiration for the Protocols can be traced back to the time of the French Revolution at the end of the l8th century. At that time, a French Jesuit named Abbe Barruel, representing reactionary elements opposed to the Revolution, published in 1797 a treatise blaming the Revolution on a secret conspiracy operating through the Order of Freemasons. Barruel's idea was nonsense, since the French nobility at the time was heavily Masonic, but he was influenced by a Scottish mathematician named Robison who was opposed to the Masons. In his treatise, Barruel did not himself blame the Jews, who were emancipated as a result of the Revolution. However, in 1806, Barruel circulated a forged letter, probably sent to him by members of the state police opposed to Napoleon Bonaparte's liberal policy toward the Jews, calling attention to the alleged part of the Jews in the conspiracy he had earlier attributed to the Masons. This myth of an international Jewish conspiracy reappeared later on in 19th century Europe in places such as Germany and Poland.
The direct predecessor of the Protocols can be found in the pamphlet Dialogues in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesque, published by the non-Jewish French satirist Maurice Joly in 1864. In his Dialogues, which make no mention of the Jews, Joly attacked the political ambitions of the emperor Napoleon III using the imagery of a diabolical plot in Hell. The Dialogues were caught by French authorities soon after their publication and Joly was tried and sentenced to prison for his pamphlet.
Joly's Dialogues, while intended as a political satire, soon fell into the hands of a German anti-Semite named Hermann Goedsche writing under the name of Sir John Retcliffe. Goedsche was a postal clerk and a spy for the Prussian secret police. He had been forced to leave the postal work due to his part in forging evidence in the prosecution against the Democratic leader Benedict Waldeck in 1849. Goedsche adapted Joly's Dialogues into a mythical tale of a Jewish conspiracy as part of a series of novels entitled Biarritz which appeared in 1868. In a chapter called "The Jewish Cemetery in Prague and the Council of Representatives of the Twelve Tribes of Israel," he spins the fantasy of a secret centennial rabbinical conference which meets at midnight and whose purpose is to review the past hundred years and to make plans for the next century.
Goedsche's plagiary of Joly's Dialogues soon found its way to Russia. It was translated into Russian in 1872, and a consolidation of the "Council of Representatives" [chapter] under the name "Rabbi's Speech" appeared in Russian in 1891. These works no doubt furnished the Russian secret police (Okhrana) with a means with which to strengthen the position of the weak Czar Nicholas II and discredit the reforms of the liberals who sympathized with the Jews. During the Dreyfus case of 1893-1895, agents of the Okhrana in Paris redacted the earlier works of Joly and Goedsche into a new edition which they called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The manuscript of the Protocols was brought to Russia in 1895 and was printed privately in 1897.
The Protocols did not become public until 1905, when Russia's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War was followed by the revolution in the same year, leading to the promulgation of a constitution and institution of the Duma. In the wake of these events, the reactionary "Union of the Russian Nation" or "Black Hundreds" organization sought to incite popular feeling against the Jews, who they blamed for the revolution and the Constitution. To this end they used the Protocols, which was first published in a public edition by the mystic priest Sergius Nilus in 1905. The Protocols were part of a propaganda campaign which accompanied the pogroms of 1905 inspired by the Okhrana. A variant text of the Protocols was published by George Butmi in 1906 and again in 1907. The edition of 1906 was found among the Czar's collection, even though he had already recognized the work as a forgery. In his later editions, Nilus claimed that the Protocols had been read secretly at the First Zionist Congress at Basel in 1897, while Butmi in his edition wrote that they had no connection with the new Zionist movement, but rather were part of the Masonic conspiracy.
In the civil war following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the reactionary White Armies made extensive use of the Protocols to incite widespread slaughters of Jews. At the same time, Russian emigrants brought the Protocols to Western Europe, where the Nilus edition served as the basis for many translations, starting in 1920. Just after its appearance in London in 1920, Lucien Wolf exposed the Protocols as a plagiary of the earlier work of Joly and Goedsche, in a pamphlet of the Jewish Board of Deputies. The following year, in 1921, the story of the forgery was published in a series of articles in the London Times by Philip Grave, the paper's correspondent in Constantinople. A whole book documenting the forgery was also published in the same year in America by Herman Bernstein. Nevertheless, the Protocols continued to circulate widely. They were even sponsored by Henry Ford in the United States until 1927 and formed an important part of the Nazi's justification of genocide of the Jews in World War II.
In addition to the astonishing Jewish conspiracy alleged in the Protocols, another variant of Jewish conspiracy theory is the Jewish bankers theory. This variant became more popular after World War II when the death of millions of Jews in concentration camps made it obvious to many, even to some Nazi troops who had been weaned on the Protocols by Hitler, that as a group the Jews, rather than being a highly organized and massive conspiracy, sixty years ago at least were, in fact, quite disorganized and rather helpless. But as for Jewish bankers, many feel that is a different story. And to some extent that may once have been true. The Rothschilds, the famous family of Jewish bankers, were most certainly an important factor in European politics during the 18th and 19th centuries. Unfortunately for the Jewish-bankers-as-world-controllers theory, while still around, the Rothschilds have nowhere near the power and influence they had two hundred, or even one hundred, years ago. In fact, if one wishes to find banker or financier conspiracies today, one should be looking at the great banking and financial establishments: the Federal Reserve, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, etc. This is not the place to get into conspiracy theories regarding such financial leviathans. Those interested in such topics will find a huge amount of valuable information in libraries and on the Internet. Suffice it to say, a bit of research will produce much about those organizations, but precious little of worth about any Jewish banker group secretly running the entire world today.
Enter/Exit Stanley Rader
With all of the above as historical backdrop, we now come to some of the most colorful and virulent of Armstrongite conspiracy theories, those centering on Stanley R. Rader. From about 1967 to about 1980, Rader, a CPA and attorney, was WCG founder Herbert Armstrong's chief advisor and most influential confidant. In the late seventies, especially after the ouster of Armstrong's wayward son, Garner Ted, Rader's influence on the Armstrong organization was immense. In fact, for a time, it was well known that Rader's executive secretary, Virginia Kineston, was authorized by Rader to single-handedly run the Worldwide Church operation while Armstrong and Rader flew to distant lands to meet with world leaders or bask in the sun at their Tucson, Arizona hideaways.
Rader's immense power within the Armstrong organization was no secret. In the late seventies, some in the Armstrong organization actually feared that once their church patriarch went to his reward, Rader would be the one who would inherit the Armstrong religious and financial empire. Even the Pasadena Star-News (10/12/78) in a front-page headline about Rader said, "Ex-Jewish Convert May Inherit Church's Wealth." Others who were more astute, however, realized that such an event was not likely to occur. Why? Because Rader was perceived as still being Jewish. While we are not aware that Rader was ever any kind of a practicing Jew, he was, nevertheless, from a Jewish family. And as such, in the culture of the Armstongites, no matter that he had been baptized in a Hong Kong bathtub by Herbert Armstrong who soon thereafter elevated Rader to the rank of evangelist. To the vast majority of Armstrongites, Rader was still a Jew. And not only that, to many Armstrongites he was the most suspicious of Jews for he was trained in the ways of finance and the law, and he was even from that most Jewish of states - New York!
To Armstrongites steeped in conspiracy theories there was only one conclusion that could be drawn from such facts. Rader, many believed, was surely part of the great Jewish conspiracy. With such an albatross hung around his neck, the reality was Rader would never have been able to gain the full confidence and loyalty of a ministry and membership that did not consider him one of their own. But that reality did not matter much to Rader's enemies, especially those loyal to Garner Ted Armstrong, and the theory that Rader was part of a Jewish conspiracy was promulgated widely and became an entrenched part of Armstrongite folklore.
The Rader myth was spread by many conspiracy theorists. In a tape widely distributed in WCG circles, Bryce Clark of the WCG breakoff Church of God Eternal hinted at Rader being a part of "The Conspiracy." Ex-Worldwider Larry Gilbert Johnson, founder of the Laodicean Church of God, and later a resident of the Arizona prison system, taught that Rader was a part of "The Conspiracy." And in handmade leaflets distributed on car windshields in Pasadena in 1978, so, did world chess champion Bobby Fischer (see AR4) who went so far as to call Rader "satanic."
Today, with Rader having been out of the WCG limelight for well over a decade and a half, one would have thought that his name would hardly be remembered by the current generation of Armstrongites. That, however, is not the case. We regularly receive letters asking for news about Rader. A few times each year, it seems, someone even writes asking where they may obtain copies of Rader's book Against the Gates of Hell. And some folks actually admit that they are devoted fans of Rader. One such admirer recently wrote:
In UCGIA we have been told that Mr. Rader is in league with some of the most powerful men in the world. He has been mentioned as being a part of The Conspiracy, a member of the Bilderberg group, a consultant to world leaders, and an advisor to kings. But I for one do not care. As one who was in the Worldwide Church of God during its most wonderful era, I recall the way Mr. Herbert Armstrong spoke of Mr. Rader. Certainly, it was because of Mr. Rader's love of the Church, his wisdom, and his courage, that Mr. Armstrong's message was able to be spread as it once was.
I for one think that the Church's real troubles and decline began when Mr. Rader was retired. And I wish there was a way for him to be brought back into the Churches of God to help straighten things out. Instead, we are hearing such stupid theories I often think some of the people have been taking stupid pills.
There is plenty of evidence that since Rader's official retirement from WCG in the early 1980s he has had some dealings with leaders in the WCG. That is nothing unusual, local attorneys tell us. Top corporate executives, and particularly lawyers and CPAs with expertise in arcane matters, we are told, are frequently retained by a corporation long after leaving full-time duties because of the value of their expertise (and also as a way to guarantee their silence, no doubt). But does Rader actually control all decisions that are now being made in the WCG? We have seen no evidence of that. Nor have we seen any evidence that Rader is the secret owner of Ambassador Auditorium, as some are claiming. We have made searches of county records and we have not found that Rader is actually owner of any properties believed to be owned by the WCG. Nor have we seen any evidence that Rader is controlling any of the WCG spinoff groups, let alone all of them, as some theorists are insisting. Furthermore, when often seen about town at less-than-exotic watering holes, at discount book stores browsing through novels, or driving his dated sport-utility vehicle to his monthly dental hygiene appointments, Rader today is hardly the image of one of Pasadena's elite, let alone one of the planet's most powerful oligarchs.
Nevertheless, the stupid rumors persist, and even continue to coalesce into the developing mythology of the Secret Church of Conspiracy. We will debunk more of those myths in a future issue. But for now, for those who want to learn more about the true origins of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, we suggest checking out the data at: http://www.igc.apc.org/ddickerson/protocols.html.
[Next time: Jesuits, Masons, and the WCG]
Caligula, Clinton, and Modern Rome
The Clinton sex scandal has, of course, inspired more great journalism than we could even allude to in these pages. But one conservative journalist's comments caught our eye as likely to be of particular interest to ex-WCG readers. The journalist is Eric Margolis, an internationally syndicated columnist and broadcaster who also puts out Foreign Correspondent, an online news service. In his 9/20/98 release, there was this intriguing analysis:
Watching President Clinton both humiliate himself and torture the nation has made me think a great deal about the Roman Republic. So have others. This week the Wall Street Journal titled a slashing column about Clinton "American Caligula." A nifty headline, but not really accurate. Roman Emperor Caligula was a demented monster whose grotesque sexual depravities knew no bounds. Clinton is merely an artful liar, and a very clever knave. Exposure of his clumsy, college dorm sexual antics befouled the White House and brought shame on the presidency. But to compare Clinton's small-time smut to the towering infamies of gloriously wicked Caligula is to gravely defame the ignobelist Roman of them all.
Still, remembering Rome at this time of constitutional and moral crisis is certainly apropos. The American Constitution is the greatest political achievement in mankind's history. Its issue, the American Republic, is the freest, most democratic, and successful nation ever created.
America's founding fathers patterned their majestic creation upon the ancient Roman Republic. The United States was to be the New Rome, wherein citizens of upstanding civic, moral and intellectual virtue would guide the nation's course. That is why the coat of arms of the Roman Republic hangs proudly on the wall of the U.S. Senate, and why Washington is a city of neo-classical buildings with doric columns and Latin inscriptions.
And that brings me to Regulus. As Clinton continues to spew lies and evasions, we should recall not Caligula, but Marcus Atilius Regulus. During the Roman Republic, the Senate would elect a man of the highest ability, character, dignity and respect to be consul, a position that combined military and political leadership. The American presidency is directly based on the Roman consular office.
During the First Punic War, a Roman army, led by Consul Regulus, was forced to surrender in 255 B.C. by superior Carthaginian forces. They temporarily freed Regulus to return to Rome in hopes he would negotiate a peace favorable to Carthage. If he failed, the Carthaginians warned, he would be tortured to death. Regulus gave his word he would return. Upon reaching Rome, Regulus advised the Senate not to make peace with Carthage, but to pursue the war with vigor. Then, heedless of the pleas of the Senate and his family, he returned to the cruel Carthaginians. A Roman's word was his bond, said Regulus, and must not be violated, His honor, and that of the Republic, said Regulus, required him to keep the pledge. Regulus was tortured to death.
Following his praise of Regulus, Margolis goes on to quote his no-nonsense superior Patricia Kinnaird who said, "If the Pope were caught in the Vatican with a nun, he'd have to resign immediately. End of story."
While some of us are not so sure the Vatican would be found to have such lofty principles or that Clinton should be looking to the Pope, or to Roman consuls, as his standard bearer, Margolis is, nevertheless, an interesting writer. Those who would like to subscribe to his free e-mail report service should send an e-note to: email@example.com with the message in the body: subscribe foreignc.
In our last issue we mentioned the writings of Robert D. Brinsmead. Since that edition appeared, we have learned that the two California addresses we gave are no longer operational. Those wanting to subscribe to Brinsmead's Verdict should write directly to him at: Verdict, R.D. Brinsmead, Duranbah Road, Duranbah, NSW 2487, Australia. Those wanting to read his latest writings about the historical Jesus and the religious implications of those discoveries may do so on the Internet at: http://home.istar.ca/~wkrossa.
The Late, Great Hal Lindsey, the latest book by Dave MacPherson, documents how televangelist Hal Lindsey was influenced by occult beliefs including pyramidology and astrology and how a number of Christian writers have accused him of plagiarism. For information, contact: POST, Inc., P.O. Box 1226, Monticello, Utah 84535.
Anti-Semitism: A Disease of the Mind by Theodore Isaac Rubin, M.D. (New York: Continuum Books, 1990). This easy-to-read 146-page study is one of the best that we have seen on the psychology of anti-Semitism. Dr. Rubin makes many observations we have noticed ourselves in our own experiences with Armstrongites. For instance, Dr. Rubin points out, "The anti-Semite's most buried and unconscious secret - from himself and others - is the desire to be a Jew." We think this may explain why there are so many fervent anti-Semites among church groups that from a Protestant perspective are quite "Jewish" in their keeping of OT sabbaths and holy days, their observance of OT dietary laws, etc. Those who are interested in anti-Semitism or who wonder about its hidden psychology, will probably find this book as instructive as we did.
A fair number of AR readers have written us asking for an opinion piece on The Bible Code, the popular book by journalist Michael Drosnin and published by Simon & Schuster. We have decided not to do an article on it simply because there is so much critical information about it already available both in printed form and particularly on the Internet. We should, however, mention one outstanding article on the subject. In "The Bible Code - Divine Pattern or Preposterous Chimera?" published in the Summer 1998 issue of United Israel Bulletin, Prof. James D. Tabor succinctly analyzes the problems of Drosnin's thesis and concludes with this intriguing statement:
The mathematical debate will go on and perhaps reach definitive resolution by the scientist. My own conclusion is that the verdict is still out on the final question: Has some author/s or Author/s inserted patterned messages into the text of the Hebrew Bible, or can all the patterns, so far discovered, be accounted for by statistical factors of chance?
For over 50 years the editor of the United Israel Bulletin has written and spoken about another "Code" found in the text of the Hebrew Bible. This patterned code has nothing to do with ELS skips or anything esoteric or technically mathematical. It has to do with a peculiar coded style that Horowitz maintains was used by all the writers of the Hebrew Bible and duplicated by no one else or in any other book. Editor Horowitz learned of this from his teacher Moses Guibbory whom he encountered in old Palestine in the 1920s and 30s. Horowitz has subsequently devoted his life's study to this particular phenomenon and its implications for understanding the message of Moses and the Prophets. In a future article I will offer an exposition of this "other Code" of the Hebrew Bible.
The address for United Israel Bulletin is 1123 Broadway, New York, NY 10010. A subscription is $10 per year.
The Bible Code was not Simon & Schuster's first book in the decoded-prophecy-in-hidden-text genre. In 1991 they published Nostradamus: The End of the Millennium (Prophecies: 1992 to 2001) by V.J. Hewitt and Peter Lorie. This beautifully done volume, rich in full-color illustrations, detailed text, and numerous charts, is no longer available through regular bookstores. However, two of our readers, Joe and Denise Nazarini of Ohio, found a copy in a used-book store and purchased it as a Christmas present for AR. The book is instructive. According to its dust jacket, author V. J. Hewitt "spent more than a decade developing a precise numerical decoding system that she has applied to the famous quatrains from Nostradamus's The Centuries. This extraordinary code, when applied, permits an accuracy that has never before been achieved, providing us with precise dates and locations out of the sometimes confusing texts." And now, seven years after the appearance of this earlier Simon & Schuster code book, how well have the prophecies of this code matched up with reality? Here are some of the prophecies contained in the 1991 book:
1992: "George Bush Re-elected"
1993: "The California Earthquake"
1993: "San Diego Disappears Beneath the Sea"
1993: "Sound-Waves Kill Cancer"
1993-95: "America Burns"
1993-96: "A New Hole in the Ozone Layer"
1995: "Black Holes Explained"
1995-98: "Israel Defeated by her Arab Neighbors"
1996: "Margaret Thatcher Reelected"
1996: "Medicine Reverses the Aging Process"
1997: "Russian Spacecraft Crashes to Earth"
1998: "Outerspace Aliens Televised"
2000: "A New World Religion"
2000: "Mission to Mars"
It is easy to see why Simon & Schuster is no longer distributing this decoded Nostradamus prophecy book. And we wonder if in a few years the new Drosnin code book will likewise be quietly removed from bookstore shelves.
Sex, Politics and the End of Morality, by J. Gordon Muir, MD, FFPM, seems to have arrived at a most appropriate time in our history. In a previous book, Kinsey, Sex and Fraud: The Indoctrination of a People, Co-author Muir showed how the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s had been greatly aided by the famous 1948 and 1953 Kinsey Reports, but that those reports had really been elaborate and carefully crafted scientific frauds designed to legitimize profligate and deviant sexual behavior. In his latest book, Muir builds upon his earlier revelations about Kinsey and shows how the sexual revolution that Kinsey helped spawn has produced a Pandora's box of societal ills: new venereal diseases, further erosion of family structures, the trivialization of sex, and now, the Washington sex circus. For many on the religious right, the Muir book will have arrived not a minute too soon.
In advertising the book, the publisher has teased the public with "Why Zippergate is no big deal" and "Why Republicans have less spunk than the neutered First Dog." But for many, Muir's most important contribution will be seen in his revelation that so-called "scientific" data, particularly when about human behaviors, can be seriously flawed due to both inappropriate research methods used in obtaining the data and then by inappropriate applications of the flawed data. Of Muir's new book, author and sexual researcher Edward W. Eicher has written, "This book describes the successful reengineering of society in a sexually pathological direction."
Some Ambassador alumni will remember Dr. Muir from his days at Bricket Wood (class of 1971) and later Quest magazine. Today, besides being a writer, Dr. Muir is President of Lochinvar Inc., a medical research and information organization based in North Carolina. Sex, Politics and the End of Morality can be found in larger book stores but those who prefer to order the 315-page book directly ($17.95 plus $3.50 shipping) should write to Lochinvar Inc., 1381 Kildaire Farm Rd., Suite 123, Cary, NC 27511. For credit card orders, phone 800-247-6553.
Brenda Denzler Awarded Doctorate
We are very happy to report that Brenda Denzler, a longtime reader and occasional contributor to these pages, received her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Duke University this past May. A former Worldwider who attended AC-Big Sandy from 1971 through 1974, Denzler (nee Reser) decided to go back to college in order to earn an accredited degree in religion after she was disfellowshipped in 1982 for doubting that one needed to keep a seventh-day sabbath in order to be saved. In 1987 she graduated summa cum laude, with honors, from Wichita State University in Kansas. As a recipient of a Mellon Fellowship, one of the country's most prestigious awards for humanities scholars, Denzler matriculated at Duke University in the fall of 1987, where she was also awarded the Gurney Harris Kearns Fellowship (from Duke's Graduate Religion program) and several other fellowships from various honors societies.
Denzler attributes her professional focus on religious studies to her prior fifteen years of involvement in the Worldwide Church of God. "In Worldwide we were taught that the WCG was recapturing the true Christian religion, as it was set up in the time of Christ," she recently recalled. "I began my professional career by learning more about the New Testament period. It was a very illuminating experience - one that I would recommend for all those who are trapped in the narrow anti-intellectual thought-world that fundamentalist religious associations tend to foster. In graduate school I expanded my field of study to encompass the early and medieval periods, and wound up my studies by exploring facets of the contemporary American religious scene."
Brenda's 475-page dissertation was titled, "The Lure of the Edge: Science, Religion and the Alien Abduction Movement" and deals with the ways in which the UFO community , particularly abductees, uses science and religion as frameworks for trying to understand the UFO phenomenon and abductions. The dissertation is currently in the hands of a large university press that has expressed an interest in publishing it. Those interested in studying her thesis now, however, can purchase a copy by writing to: UMI, 300 N. Zeeb Rd., P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346 and requesting publication no. 9839451, Duke University.
Along with her sons Todd and Graham, two dogs, two cats, and two boa constrictors, Brenda currently resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where, besides looking for a university teaching position, she works as a writer and editor. She is also pursuing further research on the UFO phenomenon and tells us, "This is an ongoing story and one that I think will increase in significance as we begin the new millennium." Brenda says she would enjoy hearing from AR readers who may have had UFO or abduction experiences. You may write to Brenda Denzler at P.O. Box 995, Carrboro, NC 27510.
Tonight, as I write, it is Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year, the Feast of Trumpets. Every year on Rosh Hashanah I put a sign out in front of my house. It reads, "The end of the world has been postponed (again) due to a lack of trained trumpeters." People passing by just stare at it - then keep their distance.
It is true that the WCG and its offshoots have had their doctrinal errors. But I hope you don't think that churches who are "orthodox" by Bible Belt standards have all the answers. Just reading the local papers in our part of the country one should be able to figure out that in spite of what evangelical preachers tell the public, many of the Bible Belt's respected churches are not being blessed. In fact, I really doubt that the religious values of the Bible Belt as taught in so-called "orthodox" churches have really contributed much to the well-being of our part of the country. I sometimes think there is more sin here and more resulting heartache, than in parts of the nation usually pictured as more worldly. And when natural disasters strike, they strike just as hard here, if not harder - almost as though God has turned his back on much of the Bible Belt.
Editor: I would not want to venture a guess as to what parts of our nation are more sinful or why that might be. But a number of readers have made comments along the lines of the above. For example, David Whitaker of Oklahoma has pointed out to us that many statistics suggest that the Bible Belt has a higher percentage of adultery, incest, rape, and other sex sins than other parts of the country. He recently sent us an article from the Enid News & Eagle (Enid, Oklahoma; April 26, 1998; p. A-2) which began with this sad observation:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)-Oklahomans pride themselves on family values. Statistics show they marry young. Unfortunately, they marry often.
Although it is in the buckle of the Bible Bell, conservative Oklahoma with its population of 3 million, has a divorce rate more than twice as high as New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and other populous states. Only neighboring Arkansas has a higher divorce rate, if you discount Nevada where "quickie" divorces are big business.
As for whether or not God is blessing or protecting certain churches more than others, I would not want to venture an opinion. However, Mr. Durward Boyles of Alabama wrote us that he thought many churches in his part of the country were, at the least, not being supernaturally protected by God Along with his comments he included a shocking clipping from the Religion section of the May 8 edition of the Birmingham News. In an article titled "Deadly tornado tests strength of congregations' spiritual foundations," the paper described how on April 8 a tornado swept through parts of Jefferson County, Alabama taking 34 lives and a surprisingly high toll on local church buildings.
In a huge side bar, the paper listed some of the more than 20 churches that suffered major damage or had been totally destroyed: Bethel Baptist Church, Cathedral of Deliverance, Chapel Hill Baptist Church, Ernest Chapel Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Edgewater Baptist Church, Edgewater United Methodist Church, Faith Temple Missionary Baptist Church, First Baptist Church-Gary in Ensley, First Baptist Church-Sylvan Springs, First Baptist Church-West Ensley, Ford Chapel CME Church, Fountain Chapel AME Church, House of Deliverance Holiness Church, Lily Grove Baptist Church, McDonald Chapel United Methodist Church, Oak Grove First Baptist Church, Open Door Church, Rock Creek Church of God, Union Hill Baptist Church in Rock Creek, and West Concord Church of Christ.
Oddly, when asked about the massive destruction to church buildings in the area, most ministers there said it was "a miracle" that more churches were not destroyed or lives lost.
I was surprised to read in AR68 that there are other AR readers besides myself who take an interest in the writings of Michael Parenti. But I was shocked by your comment that he is an atheist. I read his book Dirty Truths and I was not just impressed with his powerful writing, but in his condemnation of our evil society he struck me as being akin to an Old Testament prophet giving out the warning message to a sinful Israel. He is much stronger and focused in his message than even Garner Ted Armstrong was in his heyday.
Assuming you are telling the truth about his religious convictions, or lack thereof, from whence do you think he gets his zeal and righteous indignation? I wish I could understand how such things can be.
Editor: You are probably one of only about a half dozen AR readers who have ever read Parenti. While he does not make it clear in his writings, in his taped lecture "The Political Uses of Religion" Parenti makes it very clear that he is an atheist.
Most people who come from a Christian background tend to equate atheism with unrighteousness and tend to equate a professed belief in Christ with righteousness. That has been my own bias for most of my life. But in looking back over more than thirty years of involvement with Armstrongism and organized religion, I must admit that along with having known some very fine Christians along the way, I have also known quite a few who, while professing to know Jesus and even claiming to be doing the work of God, were still some of the most morally deficient human beings I have ever known. Author David Robinson once pointed out to me how famed Christian psychiatrist M. Scott Peck in his book People of the Lie makes the startling claim that some of the most evil people on earth are lurking in Christian churches. Peck wrote that that is so because true evil recognizes itself as such and then attempts to hide the terrible reality from all by resorting to churches as hideaways. I think Peck may be overstating things somewhat but, then again, there are some ex-WCG preachers who say, based on their years in the Armstrong churches, that such is indeed the case.
Conversely, while all of us can think of some professing atheists who lack moral qualities, I have known a fair number of atheists who were very upstanding and highly principled individuals. For instance, I recall an instructor I had many years ago at UCLA who, besides teaching and working as a composer and executive for CBS, had given years of his life to the peace movement. War, to him, was an abomination and he spent many years of his life donating his time and money toward, as he saw it, keeping our country's youth from being used as cannon fodder in foreign lands. One day after class we were having a private chat and, because he knew of my work with this publication and my religious training, he started to tell me about his own religious views. I will never forget how tears actually welled up in his eyes when he said, "I wish I could have religious faith, but I just can't." Here was a man who wanted to have faith, but for some reason could not, yet he was quite a dedicated and sensitive moralist who sacrificed many years of his life and much of his wealth in the furtherance of humanitarian causes.
I can think of many other such examples. Author Jack London is another such individual that comes to mind. I recently commented to a friend how I thought London's book The People of the Abyss, a study of the working conditions of turn-of-the century Englishmen, may well be one of the most Christian-spirited books written in this century. Yet, London was not a believer in the reality of the spirit world and his philosophy contained a large dose of what most would call agnosticism or even atheism. In spite of all that, London not only considered Jesus of Nazareth probably his greatest literary hero, he studied the Bible quite carefully throughout his entire life and incorporated many of its metaphors and teachings into his own writings.
Of course, you are already aware of the Bible teaching that faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8) and it is not something individuals can just will up. If you would like to do a study of that doctrine, I know both Ernest Martin at A.S.K. and Jim Coram at Concordant Publishing have done some excellent writing on that subject. David Whitaker (710 E. Chestnut Ave., Enid, OK 73701) has also written an eye-opening paper on how the Bible actually views atheists somewhat differently than many of us have been taught.
Finally, you might want to consider what Jesus said in Luke 6:46 regarding calling him Lord while not doing the things that he taught. I have to wonder if there is not a corollary to that idea as regards people who profess atheism, but who actually do many of the things Jesus taught. I certainly am not advocating atheism, but I must admit I would rather have as neighbors folks who professed atheism but who lived by the Golden Rule, as opposed to people who professed Christ but ignored the Golden Rule. If you think that is a radical idea, compare Matt. 7:21-23 with Matt. 21:28-31 and give it some thought.
John, I am in contact now with an international group called The Freedom From Religion Foundation, with Editor Annie Laurie Gaylor and her husband ex-street-preacher Dan Barker. They publish a magazine called Freethought Today, and it often features articles exposing priests and ministers who molest their parishioners. They would like to learn more about the history of the WCG....
I am finally getting on my feet after 137 days in the nut house where I was because of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While in that institution I met a gal whose four-year-old daughter was run over by a pickup truck. The mother was messed up mentally over that. But we got to know each other and now we are together and we are getting married. I am 47 and going to get married, like my Dad did, at the same age!
Anyway, The Freedom From Religion group carried me for over nine months when I was broke because my relatives ran up $2,700 in bills on me while I was in the hospital. This atheist foundation was more Christ-like than most of the Christian magazines I subscribed to. Their address is: Freedom From Religion Foundation, P.O. Box 750, Madison, WI 53701. I tried to send them your last issue, but I sent it back to you by mistake. The meds I was on were pretty strong.
Editor: The Freedom From Religion Foundation Web site is: www.infidels.com. Incidentally, newer AR readers who are not familiar with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how it relates to the WCG-Armstrongism experience should read Brenda Denzler's excellent article on that subject in AR33, our Oct. 1985 issue.
As a former WCG tithe-payer, I have written to Mr. Tkach Jr. and Mr. Albrecht asking for the return of my money. I have not had a Christian reply from either. The devilish teachings of the %$#@* WCG have cost me dearly and caused much suffering to my disabled mother and to my father who is now dead. Now I badly need my money returned but the WCG leaders don't give a damn.
Editor: We have known of hundreds of former members who, once they realized they had been duped, kindly asked the WCG for their tithes to be returned. The standard answer that the WCGs lawyers have instructed them to give is, "The tithes you contributed have already been spent, so there is nothing to give back." Of course, what they are really saying smugly is, "Get lost, we stole your money fair and square." As far as we know, the only exceptions to such stonewalling have occurred when WCG leaders have been confronted with physical violence coupled with the genuine likelihood of greatly escalated future violence. Of course, we don't suggest such a course of action as it would most certainly not be a Christian approach to the problem.
I am not a WCG member, but a former member, and I was angry and bitter for a long time after leaving. But with God's help, I have learned to forgive them, even though the scars will always be there. I have seen such a change in the members up here. They seem so much happier and more loving than before. I truly believe the Holy Spirit and their increased knowledge of Jesus Christ and his love for all of us has brought this change about.
-Mrs. Dorothy McCullough
I have been subscribing to the publications of Mr. Bill Dankenbring, Mr. Norman Edwards, and many other WCG offshoots. I can't believe how much they are into vicious Clinton bashing. I remember when Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was alive how he taught that we were to have respect for our leaders in government even though they were unconverted and made mistakes. Wow, have things changed, even among those who say they are following in Mr. Armstrong's footsteps.
More than twenty years ago, when you folks came out with the "In Bed With Garner Ted" story, you really shocked some of us. At first we felt that even if what you wrote was true, such things should not have been put in print. But once we came to see that what you wrote was true and that we had been duped by the Armstrongs, we started to look at the world without the rose-colored lenses we wore previously. I guess it was a kind of "loss of innocence" or a kind of "coming of age." Whatever it was, you folks did all of us a service. No more would we assume that religious leaders, or leaders of any kind, were simply what they seemed on the surface. You helped us greatly to be more questioning and skeptical of authority figures.
I guess that is why I am so surprised at the public's reaction to the Clinton scandal. Can people really be so naive as to think that politicians are always all they pretend? Once the Gennifer Flowers story came out, I always assumed that our President had a weakness for young flesh. But now so many act so shocked that our young President has human frailties.
As for our self-righteous Congress, I think it was utterly disgusting that they entered the Internet porno business. What's more, did you notice how they decided to do so for the first time in history on the Feast of Trumpets? Why could they not have kept the lewd details of the Lewinsky matter secret at least until they decided if there was an impeachable offense? Isn't it all too obvious that their actions were based only on a desire for more political power, not on any genuine concern for the good of the country, its morals, or its image abroad?
But even more disgusting than the low comedy of the White House and the slash-and-burn politics of the Republicans are the antics of the preachers of the Christian Coalition. The television condemnations of Clinton from preachers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson appall me. First of all, how can they be sure that Clinton's professed repentance is not real? I don't have any way of knowing. Do you? And if Mrs. Clinton can forgive her husband for being made a fool of by a shrewd seductress like that Monica woman, why should we as a country be interfering? Not only that, have you noticed how even Mrs. Clinton has gotten criticism for somehow causing the scandal? I have yet to hear even one Christian commentator praise her for taking her marriage vows seriously and for standing by her man under such humiliating circumstances.
Yes, he tried to cover it up. But I, for one, am convinced that there are times when some matters should be covered up (Prov. 10: 12, Prov. 12:16). And unlike the foolish TV commentators that think Clinton would somehow benefit his family or the country if he would just blab in public about every detail of his sins, I think that when he "threaded the needle" in his depositions, he was being "as wise as a serpent" in not revealing too much (Prov. 29:11) and in answering his accusers according to their own folly (Prov. 26:4-5). I had not intended to give you editors a Bible study. But it seems to me that we have too many in this country who don't understand that when you rush to judgment, you often make a fool of yourself (Prov. 18:13).
From sad personal experience I know what it is like to be in a family where adultery has occurred. Maybe for that reason, I wish that our Congress would have approached this immoral and sad situation with more sobriety and understanding, rather than using a family tragedy for political gain. But it angers me even more to see supposed preachers of the Gospel who are so ignorant of scripture and who behave on television just as abominably as the scribes and pharisees of Jesus' day.
Editor: I never voted for Clinton and have not been one of his fans. Furthermore, I would not agree that the President had any kind of a duty to cover up his sins. Nevertheless, your comments are thought-provoking. I did see both Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on television lambasting the President and demanding that he resign. I noticed that at no time did they seem to be aware of some of the most fundamental of Bible teachings on the subject of how Christians should relate to civil government.
While it is true that the Bible teaches that false prophets should be exposed (Eph. 5:11-12, RSV) and there are plenty of examples of that being done in the Bible (Matt. 23:13-33), as far as I can see there really is a different scriptural standard regarding civil leaders. Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God is not of this world (John 18:36). Moses taught that the people were not to speak evil of the ruler of the people (Ex. 20:28, cited in Acts 23:5). Paul taught that Christians should render all due respect and obedience toward civil rulers (Rom. 13;1-7) and pray for their well-being (I Tim. 2:1-2). Peter even went so far as to warn of those who "are not afraid to speak evil of dignities" and he compared those who did to "brute beasts" (II Pet. 2:10, 12). I suppose that if they have been given a commission directly by God to warn a national leader it might be different. But it is hard for me to see Falwell or Robertson as being a modern-day Elijah or John the Baptist because if they were, they would be going to Clinton privately and would be applying the principles of Matt. 18:15-17.
Of course, I am not suggesting that in a democracy such as ours, preachers have no right to participate in the political process. But I do agree that if preachers such as Falwell and Robertson would spend less time embroiled in worldly politics and more time in study and reflection, their public pronouncements might be less unseemly and more in line with what scripture plainly says.
There is a prophetic battle going on today for the nation of Israel. The ultra Orthodox Jewish political parties in Israel are doing everything in their power to outlaw Messianic Judaism - the growing group of Jewish people who believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is the true Messiah.
If passed, one new bill, submitted to the Knesset by Mr. Pinchasi of the Orthodox, would impose a THREE YEAR JAIL SENTENCE AND A $15,000 FINE ON ANYONE SHARING THEIR FAITH.
This law might even apply to you should you happen to be touring the Holy Land - three years in jail if you share your faith in Yeshua (Jesus)! The actual law reads:
Anyone who preaches with the purpose of causing another person to change his religion is liable to three years imprisonment or a fine of NIS 50,000 new Israeli shekels.
Moreover, there's already a law on the books that denies Israeli citizenship to Jews who believe Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah! They accept Jews who are Muslim, Bahai, or atheist, but not those who believe in Yeshua!
You see, since 1967 more than one million Jewish people around the world have accepted Yeshua (Jesus) as their Savior. These people have discovered that He actually is the Messiah. Never since the time of Yeshua and His disciples has there been such a revival!
Why would the ultra Orthodox want to place a ban on sharing the Good News? Because they are frightened! And they are justifiably worried. Because biblical prophecy predicts that just prior to the Messiah's second coming His Spirit will pour out upon the Jewish people. There will be a spiritual revival among them resulting in the eventual salvation of the nation of Israel. And Satan is doing everything in his power to keep that from happening. He's attacking from the inside out by using Jews to attack other Jews. He doesn't want Yeshua to return to Jerusalem as foretold by the prophets. That's why it is imperative that we defend the freedom of religion in Israel.
General Secretary, MJAA
Editor: Those interested in this political issue may obtain more information by contacting the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, P.O. Box 274, Springfield, PA 19064; tel. 610-338-0451.
I just read the intriguing Damascus Gate by Robert Stone (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1998). It centers around an American journalist living in Jerusalem who finds Jerusalem filled with religious fanatics suffering from "the Jerusalem Syndrome," a documented type of mental illness. In the book it moves one group to try to blow up the Temple Mount.
A big thank you for giving the Internet address of Robert Brinsmead. I read his writings on "Sabbatarianism Re-examined" (chapters 4 and 12) and a lot of things started to fall in place regarding the Old Covenant Sabbath day commandment. It looks back to God's rest (Gen. 2:2-3) and forward to our rest in Christ (Heb. 4). You know this, of course, but I did not, until now. There really is freedom in Christ and I say this with thanks.
It's been 15 years since I left WCG, but my seven-year experience there still has a big impact on my life. It wasn't all bad. I became a Christian there, read the Bible cover-to-cover, and learned a lot. The Southern Baptist Church I now attend has many of the same doctrines, without the greed and wackiness. My thanks to AR for helping me see WCG for what it was: a money-making personality cult that taught some truth but exploited naive people. I've now successfully moved on to a more responsible church.
Atkinson, New Hampshire
Isn't it strange, Mr. Trechak, people want the truth but are not willing to go that "extra mile" to keep it alive and well. After all that some may learn about the origin of the WCG, they still, when the truth is known, can't seem to find that extra bit of money to help you to help others break free of this world's string of so-called purveyors of the Bible. Jesus said, "The truth will set you free." Well, I am sending you what I can afford and I shall pray for you so you can continue dispersing that AR to help others get out from under the yoke of lying evangelists.
It is getting very exhausting, this Church of God. We have been through Herbert Armstrongism and Joe Tkachism, through Garner Ted Armstrongism and Gerald Flurryism and now the Uniteds. And we are still searching for the answers to prophecy. We know it's coming and soon, but how? There are now so many Bible prophecy theories among God's Sabbath-keeping people! Where are all these ideas coming from?
We read a paper about how Mikhail Gorbachev is secretly the Beast and is setting up world headquarters now in San Francisco. We then heard a tape about how there are Russian troops already hiding in caves in Louisiana. We were then given a book called The Gods of Eden by William Bramley that many members are reading. It's about how space aliens (demons) on the moon have sent messages to earth and that those messages are the symbols of the Masons. One religious tape said the Jews were going to build a temple in Jerusalem and it would be a Masonic temple. Then just last week a friend in Pasadena told us that NASA is secretly planning to buy the Worldwide Church's Pasadena properties as a location to greet space aliens. There are so many ideas being spread around and lots of proof, but also many contradictions. We hope you will report on some of these prophecies and about why there are so many of them now in all of the Churches of God groups. Some of these new ideas are interesting but many of them are upsetting.
"Proving" Your Favorite Prophecy
The closer we get to the year 2000, the more it seems that people everywhere are becoming preoccupied with Bible prophecies. The amount of information being published on the subject is absolutely astonishing. We know, because rarely does a day go by that our mail box does not contain some missive from another cleric or group offering "prophetic understanding."
Even more so than among mainstream and evangelical Christians, among Worldwiders and the Armstrongite offshoots there is an astronomical number of new, and frequently outlandish, notions floating around. This may be due to the stress of the ongoing disintegration of the Armstrong movement, to corrupt ministers looking for new religion marketing devices, to the growth of the Internet, or to all of these factors. Clearly, many of these new theories are being pushed by people who in times past would not have been allowed any writing tool sharper than a crayon, but who now have access to photocopy machines and the World Wide Web.
We will try to report on some of the new theories in future issues. But just keeping up with all the new teachings is difficult because there are so many wild tapes and writings in circulation, particularly on the subject of prophecy.
Such writings frequently contain a variety of biblical, historical, philosophical, and common-sensical errors. But there is one misinformation technique so commonly used by "experts" of the Armstrongite type that we are amazed how often ex-Worldwiders are falling for it. The method used is quite simple. For whatever premise, no matter how outlandish or even impossible, the prophecy "expert" simply scours all available news reports and surveys them for possible connections to his premise. Then all those reports not fitting into the predetermined scenario are discarded and ignored. All those fitting the predetermined scenario are then amalgamated, quoted, and cited as absolute "proof" that the prophecy is certain. And, of course, there is then the implication that the writer is "inspired by God" and you therefore need to send the prophet your money. This is the exact way Herbert W. Armstrong and his Plain Truth news department used to work. It is also the way so many of his spiritual offspring work today.
Therefore, a suggestion to those who are attracted to the latest wave of prophecy experts. Rather than simply accepting their "proofs," go to your local library and get additional data. Don't just look for data that fits the pet theories. Look also for data that presents contrary views, data that might lead a reasonable person to different conclusions. Admit what you, and the experts, don't know or even can't possibly know. Separate facts from theories. Try to distinguish the self-evident, the demonstrable, the incontrovertible, the probable, the possible, the improbable, and the impossible. In other words, weigh all the evidence.
Above all, try to remember how many times in the past such prophecy "experts" have been wrong!
In future issues we will report on some of the new prophecy teachings as well as the teachings of the growing Secret Church of Conspiracy. Until next time, my thanks to all of you who are helping to make this publication possible.
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