One Person, no matter who he or she is, is a very small part of a population. Why are some individuals given so much artificially created importance? It’s not artificial, you may say. People need leaders, and it’s perfectly natural that the leader of a large group will be very important to the welfare of the group and will bear a disproportionate share of the burden for maintaining that welfare. In at least one sense it certainly is natural.
The way humans treat their leaders–and the way some of them become leaders–is at heart pretty much the same as the hierarchical social structures of, say, baboons or chimpanzees. Males fight one another with the hope of becoming “alpha male;” those who don’t win are subservient to him, and females are subservient to all of them, with finer degrees of hierarchy of their own. The differences between how baboons do it and how we do it are more in details than in the essence.
That’s not surprising. All of us–baboons, chimps, humans–are primates, with common evolutionary roots both biologically and culturally. Our social systems look like modified versions of theirs because they are modified versions of theirs. And it works pretty well, for baboon troops. Their hierarchies, for all the conflicts they entail, probably do serve the group’s long-term welfare by preventing more extensive conflicts that would likely arise if nobody were imposing some order, and presenting a united front to external threats.
Dr. Stanley Schmidt, Editorial: “VIPs”; Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July/August 2012.
In one fell swoop, Dr. Stanley Schmidt just described the sociological world of Herbert Armstrong in the Worldwide Church of God: A strongly hierarchical structure with him at the top over a group of primates, acting every bit like baboons.
Generally speaking, as civilization matures, the evolution is toward the individual having freedoms in a venue where it is recognized that, for the most part, there is an equality among the people and there isn’t one particular super human to become the supreme autocratic leader. This assumes that each member of the citizenry take ownership to maintain order and act responsibly. It would appear that autocracies based in a stong hierarchical structure are regressions negating our social evolution, obliterating the hope of pursuing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by the singular individual.
It has become painfully obvious that Herbert Armstrong imposed order to present a united front to external and internal threats: It is obvious, because with his death, the conflicts have increased 700 fold and are certainly doing nothing to serve the group’s long term welfare. Even though Herbert Armstrong was one small fat short man, he rallied others to him as the “alpha male” to gain control of the group.
During his time, Roderick Meredith, Gerald Flurry, David Pack, Dennis Luker, Ronald Weinland, were all the losers and became subservient to him, with the females subservient to all of them, with finer degrees of hierarchy of their own. No real intelligence was needed: It’s pretty much social genetics, making the victims mere pawns in the evolutionary scheme of things, in yet another minor league cult. And yes, there are many more groups and larger groups of “baboons”, but what has happened in Armstrongism is instructive in the understanding of how locked into a system primates can be. In reality, Herbert Armstrong had absolutely no worth as either a person, an apostle or a false prophet, but he was in charge, and darn it all, we were going to believe and follow him, no matter what, without much thought put into it, following, as it were, our animal passions.
Dr. Schmidt continues:
Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?
People need leaders, you may say again, and I must agree at least in part: Some people need leaders most of the time, and perhaps most do under some circumstances. We’re sometimes told that people tend to be either leaders or followers, and in my experience many do tend to lean more toward one or the other–the in the complex hierarchies of our present societies, many people play both roles in different subgroups. And I don’t buy the idea that everybody has a natural preference for one or the other. Personally I don’t like to do any more of either than necessary. I prefer to work as independently as possible as much of the time as possible, and it’s how I usually work best.
Now, in the realm of religion, particularly Christianity, one would think that there would be more individuality: According to Scripture, when Christ died, the veil to the Holy of Holies was ripped down the middle, and symbolically, was a metaphor that the people no longer needed the High Priest as the leader to go directly to God the Father. One would think. It was to be a new world with the Old Covenant done away and a New Covenant written, so that there was no more hierarchy to get to God. The good news of the gospel is that your sins separating you from your God were covered and you had redemption. This was now a higher plane above, not just above the primates, but mankind itself. Old habits die hard. And there are a lot of successful con men out there, ready and able to recapture people as livestock to live off of them, promoting the very vision of the 1972 Princeton Prison Experiment, replete with the Warden Superintendant, guards and prisoners, reducing the supposedly spiritual plane back to the animal level: Herbert Armstrong invoked in us a regression to the primal.
Dr. Schmidt adds:
It’s also prudent for a large organization to have mechanisms built into it to ensure that its smooth functioning is not too dependent on which individual is currently doing whatever executive duties need to be done. That’s where most of them fall down. It’s nice to have a competent, well-liked and respected leader in those cases where you need a leader at all. If you’re lucky enought to have one, it’s naturally a sad thing to lose him or her–just as it’s a sad thing to lose any competent, well-liked and respected person. If that loss is a violent one, the perpetrator is a crimnal and needs to be dealt with as such. But it’s not the end of the world, whether violent or not, and reacting to it as if it were is likely to do far more harm than good. Wouldn’t it be better to have a social structure strong and resilient enough to deal appropriately and propotionately with both the loss and the crime, and meanwhile make the necessary adjustment to go on with the rest of its business in a reasonably normal fashion?
In the case of cults, no. Cults are cults because they focus on one man (or woman or a small cadre of “leaders”) to excess. It’s best to let them die. Now it should not have escaped any of you what the lesson here is: While it is true that Herbert Armstrong was a “success” in the sense that he got all he wanted out of life, he was a failure in providing a lasting legacy because people were entirely focused on him. In the aftermath of his death, there has been a vacuum left. Those familiar with science knows the old adage that nature abhors a vacuum.
Unfortunately, the “alpha males” rushing in to fill the void, simply can’t fill it. Armstrongism is a spectacular failure with sociopathic nutjobs popping up nearly weekly like mushrooms on the lawn after a rainy day. The final words of Dr. Schmidt in his editorial should give us all pause, even if taken out of context:
And if that happens, our reaction to any problem with it is likely to be as extreme and destructive as with any of its human predecessors.
So those now involved with Armstrongism — particularly now that we have the robust example of Ronald Weinland, the prophet that failed — have a clear choice: Make your own choices and be responsible for them or pursue social evolutionary regression to follow the baboon alpha male leader.
by Mary Ellen Humphrey
Who can find a virtuous woman?
Proverbs 31: 10
The Women’s Meeting had begun exactly at 8 p.m.
Thirty-two women sat in a loosely formed circle in the
basement meeting room of the minister’s house. First
the minister’s wife stood up and everyone was suddenly
She held her Bible in front of her, briefly looked
around the room, and then started reading: “Romans 8
verses 16 and 17: The Spirit itself beareth witness with our
spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then
heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we
suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. My
name is Nancy and I am a Child of God,” she said, then sat
The elderly woman next to her rose. “My name is
Alice and I am a Child of God,” she said, then sat down.
Around the circle the process continued. “My name is
Faith and I profess to be a Child of God.” “My name is
Madeleine and I am a Child of God,” an older woman said.
A young girl, barely twelve sitting next to Madeleine stood
up and quickly said, “My name is Ruth and I profess to be a
Child of God.”
“My name is Rachel, and I profess to be a Child of
God.” She blushed and sat down as quickly as she’d stood.
“My name is Desiree and I am a Child of God,” a very thin,
frail-looking, elderly lady said in a squeaky high-pitched
voice. “My name is Laura…My name is Marianne….My
name is Gayla…My name is Esther…around it went, until
it came to another teenager who stood, “My name is
Kathleen and I profess to be a Child of God.” She glanced
around the room as if gauging the reaction and then sat
From the eldest, Desiree, to the youngest, Ruth, each
took their turn rising and announcing who they were and
sitting back down.
“Welcome to the women’s ministry,” Nancy said, still
sitting. We have been instructed to read Proverbs 31
tonight. Each woman took her Bible and turned to the
designated passage. Nancy started reading, “Who can find
a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.”
Nancy nodded to Alice who read the next verse, and then
Nancy nodded to another woman and so on until they had
read the entire chapter.
“Does anyone have any questions?” Nancy asked.
Ruth, the precocious young girl with short naturally
curly blonde hair raised her hand. Nancy nodded to her.
“Did they sell girls back then?” Ruth asked.
“Excuse me?” Nancy said.
“It says her price is far above rubies. Does that mean
that girls were sold for rubies?”
Nancy frowned. “Well, in the Old Testament days life
was different. Sometimes the families of women received
dowries or compensation for losing their daughter when
she married. It was different back then.”
Ruth persisted. “But, does that mean it’s okay to sell
“If it’s in the Bible it must be okay,” Nancy answered
Madeleine, Ruth’s mother, pulled her daughter back
down to her seat and gave her a stern look.
“Shhhh…”.she whispered loudly. “You’ve asked enough
Nancy looked around. “Any other questions?”
Esther, a young recently married woman raised her
hand timidly. Nancy nodded to her.
“I am confused,” Esther said. “I was told that women
didn’t talk about their husbands’ service and yet I find a lot
of us seem to do that. What are the guidelines?”
Nancy studied her for a moment, and then answered
succinctly. “Women are to remain silent in The Church
and their husbands’ service is not to be discussed in any
way that might cause division or competition. We all
know that women tend to be very competitive, especially
in the services they seek. Not all are called to be leaders
or serve in higher roles.”
The young woman looked confused. “But I thought
seeking service was a godly thing and something we should
“Strive for silently,” Nancy stated. “We must not
gossip or criticize our husbands or any other man’s
service. Our whole role is to serve. Can you give me an
example of what is confusing you?”
Esther shifted nervously. “Well, at services, while
talking with Laura and Marianne, they were telling me how
their husbands were assigned to different tasks that didn’t
fit them and that they were sure it was a mistake, it would
be better to let them do the tasks that were more natural
and compatible to their talents and education.”
Nancy looked at Laura and Marianne who were sitting
beside each other, and now both women blushed
nervously. “You have asked a good question that allows
us to clarify gossip, Esther. It is not the place of Laura or
Marianne, or any of us to decide which position of service
our husbands hold. It is presumptuous of us to believe we
are wiser than those chosen by God to lead and make
these decisions. It is disrespect for authority and
disruptive to the good of The Work.”
Faith and Kathleen ritualistically studied their Bibles
every evening after dinner. They would spend half an hour
each morning in secluded prayer.
Rachel saw this and wanted to comply as well. She
reviewed her notes from Mr. Robert’s sermon on
Saturday. She looked up each scripture he’d quoted, and
he’d quoted many scriptures.
One struck her, I Timothy 4:1. It read: “Now the
Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some
shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits,
and doctrines of devils.” Rachel decided to pray about it,
asking God to help her keep the faith and protect her
from seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.
She was sure that other churches, some of the very
churches that her mother had dragged her to in the past,
were in fact such seducing spirits and devils. It was all
beginning to make sense, despite the teaching that one
could not understand The Truth without the Holy Spirit
which was only available to true Children of God, attained
when accepted by the ministers and baptized. Only adults
could be members.
Rachel hoped to soon be baptized so that she could
receive the Holy Spirit and then fully understand The
Truth. It was her all-consuming goal and she studied her
On Wednesday nights, Jeanette, another Deaconess,
came by to pick the three girls up for the women’s
ministry meeting. Jeanette was older than Audrey, also
single, the product of a divorce from a nonbeliever. She
had left her two teenage children with her ex-husband
when she joined The Church.
This was Rachel’s third such meeting having attended
while at Audrey’s. The topic was once again Proverbs 31.
While all of these scriptures were well-known to most of
those present, to Rachel they were wonderful revelations
of truth. They were jewels she treasured. She couldn’t
get enough. The more she learned, the more she desired
to know about The Truth.
When Esther asked the question about gossip last
week, Rachel took notice. She understood the harm of
gossip. She’d experienced it firsthand. Still, this was
different. What did the minister’s wife mean, women
were competitive? And what was this about service?
Were there roles specified for the brethren? Rachel was
curious and eager.
That Saturday, Mr. Critchett once again gave the main
morning sermon. He raged on about the roles of service
in the church. An hour into his sermon he announced that
two sisters had been suspended for gossiping about their
husbands. It was Laura and Marianne. Rachel was
astonished and puzzled. She realized that someone, most
likely Mrs. Roberts must have told the ministers about
their comments at the women’s meeting. She looked at
Faith and then at Kathleen who sat quietly and somberly.
“What does that mean, suspended?” she whispered.
Mrs. Andrews shushed them.
Faith whispered back, “it means they can’t attend
services for a while.”
Faith shrugged. “Usually three or six months,
depending on the severity of their bad attitude.”
All the women were somber that Sabbath. Their
usual bustle was gone. The hugs were a little harder and
more silent. It was as if they didn’t dare to speak lest they
say the wrong thing. Rachel struggled to understand this.
Pastor Roberts spoke in the afternoon about the role
of women in the church. Roberts pointed out that false
churches are referred to as whores in the scriptures. It
was Eve who seduced Adam leading to expulsion from the
Garden of Eden. But there was hope. It was faith. Faith
in God and his Truth would save women. Rachel was
determined to have such faith. She was determined not to
be one of these wicked women.
Roberts lecture continued. Women were not
allowed to speak in the church. They must have long hair
as a veil to cover their heads. They must obey their
husbands who are the head of the wife. He quoted
scriptures that assured that women would be saved in
childbirth if they were faithful.
After the service ended, Rachel asked, “What does
that mean that women are saved in childbirth?”
“You’d better be faithful since medical care is not
allowed,” Faith answered.
“Midwives are okay,” Kathleen added. “But it’s hard
to find someone. They don’t like to do home deliveries.”
“There is a doctor some of the brethren use,” Faith
said. “But he has come under scrutiny since Marianne’s
“She began to hemorrhage…they had to rush her to
the hospital. She didn’t want to go, but the doctor
insisted. He isn’t too popular I guess and since then he’s
been reluctant to deliver other babies at home.”
“Jeanette has helped several women,” Faith pointed
out. “She was a nurse before finding The Truth. She had
to give that up of course, being that we don’t believe in
“I never read about this in the literature,” Rachel said.
“Of course not. We shouldn’t be telling you all this.
You should hear it from the ministers. They know when
people are able to handle such information,” Kathleen said.
“I can handle it.”
“I’m not sure I can,” Faith answered.