empty promises

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Herbert Armstrong wrote a lot of booklets which made promises — actual and implied. When we go back through and review the booklets he and his staff wrote in the light of what has actually happened, it is clear that the great swelling promises and prognostications were profoundly empty. Looking back, the booklets now seem crassly hypocritical. The Radio Church of God, Herbert Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God never measured up to the very standards they set. The slide show includes only 39 of the booklets:

  • Answers from Genesis (1973)
  • Are We Living in the Last Days (1971)
  • A True History of the True Church (1959: ‘Dr.’ Herman Hoeh)
  • Ending Your Financial Worries (1959)
  • Has Time Been Lost? (1952)
  • Hippies, Hypocrisy and Happiness (1968)
  • How to Have a Happy Marriage
  • How to Understand Prophecy (1972)
  • Is this the End Time (1971)
  • Just What Do You Mean Conversion? (1972)
  • Life After Death (1973)
  • Military Service and War (1967)
  • Never Before Understood: Why Humanity Cannot Solve Its Evils (1981)
  • Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days? (1976)
  • Seven Proofs of God’s True Church (1974: Garner Ted Armstrong)
  • The Bible: Superstition or Authority? …and can you prove it? (1985)
  • The Incredible Human Potential (1978)
  • The Key to the Book of Revelation (1952)
  • The Mark of the Beast (1952)
  • The Middle East in Prophecy (1948)
  • The Missing Dimension in Sex (1964)
  • The Modern Romans (1971)
  • The Plain Truth about Child Rearing (1963)
  • The Plain Truth about Healing (1979)
  • The Proof of the Bible (1958)
  • The Real Jesus (1971: Garner Ted Armstrong)
  • The Seven Laws of Radiant Health (1955: Roderick Meredith)
  • The Seven Laws of Success (1961)
  • The Truth about Make-Up (1964)
  • The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy (1964)
  • The White Horse: False Religion (1976)
  • The Wonderful World Tomorrow: What Will It Be Like? (1973)
  • This is the Worldwide Church of God (1971)
  • To Kill a People (1971)
  • What Is the True Gospel (1955)
  • What Science Can’t Discover About the Human Mind (1978)
  • Why Were You Born? (1957)
  • World Peace: How Will It Come? (1978)
  • Your Awesome Future: How Religion Deceives You (1978)
  • 1975 in Prophecy (1956)

Moral Mazes aptly describes what is represented by this list of Armstrongist publications:

From the standpoint of public relations, the journalistic ideology closely resembles the social outlook of most college seniors — a vague but pious middle-class liberalism, a mildly critical stance toward their fathers in particular and authorities in general; a maudlin of championship of the poor and the underclass; and especially the doctrine of tolerance, open-mindedness, and balance. In fact, public relations people feel, the news media are also constructing reality. They are always looking for a “fresh” and exciting angle; they have an unerring instinct for the sentimental that expresses itself in a preference for “human interest” rather than substance; and they arrange facts in a way that purports to convey “truth,” but is in fact simply another story. In reality, news is entertainment. And, despite the public’s acceptance of journalistic ideologies, most of the public watch or read news not to be informed or to learn the “truth,” but precisely to be entertained. There is no intrinsic reason, therefore, why the constructions of reality by public relations specialists should be thought of as any different from those of any group in the business of telling stories to the public. Everyone is telling stories and everyone has a story to tell. Public relations men and women are simply storytellers with a purpose in the free market of ideas, advocates of a certain point of view in the court of public opinion. Since any notion of truth is irrelevant or refers to at best what is perceived, persuasion of various sorts becomes everything.

And there it is. Armstrongism isn’t about truth; it is simply about manipulating perceptions to evoke responses to their story telling. Herbert Armstrong was an ad copy writer, after all. As such, he lined up some facts, threw in some colorful descriptions and weaved his fictional stories. The booklets in the slides presentation above is representative of this magical world of the ‘magic lantern’, creating illusions illustrating imaginary constructs of perceived ‘reality’. There is neither truth nor reality in any of it. It is all fake.

Moreover, it isn’t just about Herbert Armstrong and his ‘public relations’ advertising hirelings, it is also about The Journal, which is exposed for what it is in the brief description given by Robert Jackal; to wit: the pursuit of a “fresh” and exciting angle with an unerring instinct for the sentimental that expresses itself in a preference for “human interest” rather than substance; and the facts are arranged in a way that purports to convey “truth,” but is in fact simply another story — in reality, it is merely infotainment. The editor reveals his true self when he speaks of the doctrine of tolerance, open-mindedness, and balance — while secretly harboring contempt for the “farmer theologians” who deign to advertise in its pages.

Moral Mazes has framed it and nailed it in the landscape of the church cult corporate of lies, deceits, conceits, fiction, fantasy — all parading as religious truth — which, if it be told, can be demonstrated as pure rubbish if you but stand back and look at the chaotic mess it represents.

Dr. James Milam, in his book, Ending the Drug Addiction Pandemic: Discovering the Liberating Truth, in Chapter 2: Core Evidence (page 17), says:

Within the big lie all of the component falsehoods have been carefully crafted to support each other in concealing the whole truth. To assemble the abundance of decisive scientific and clinical evidence comprising the biogenic paradigm it is necessary to identify, define, and disentangle each piece of the truth from the corresponding part of the shroud of disinformation that has so carefully hidden for so long. Surrounded by the support of the others each falsehood has become an inarguable given truth. It is therefor necessary to confront and discredit them one by one until the whole fabric of disinformation is disposed of.

He adds this sentence in Chapter 3: The Language of Denial (page 34):

The familiar comes to seem normal and every big lie develops its own familiar language of deception that conceals the truth while purporting to represent it.

In the end, Armstrongism promises the truth and fails to deliver. What it delivers instead is empty promises which can never be fulfilled.

Suits

The Suit is an important part of Church Cult Corporate
The Suit is an important part of Church Cult Corporate

Herbert Armstrong insisted that men wear business suits to Sabbath Services, the Feast and to Spokesman Club. Why? The stated reason was to show respect for God. Was that the real reason? Was that the primary reason? Or were there other forces at work?

Above all else, even above the belief that he was an apostle, Herbert Armstrong considered himself a businessman. Whether it is true that he was a businessman or not does not matter — it is his belief that he was which drove him. He started his career as a copy ad writer. Whether or not he ever progressed beyond that is a question for debate. Nevertheless, he did have extensive experience with many highly placed businessmen and learned to move within those circles before he found religion. His early years shaped his ultimate future and formed the core of his being: Within that being was the core of a business executive within the corporate bureaucratic structure. Without understanding the nuances of corporatism, it is impossible to understand Herbert Armstrong, the Worldwide Church of God and Ambassador College. In fact, it is impossible to understand unless you know the vagaries of the upper echelons of the Fortune 500 multinational corporations of today because what went on within the Church Cult Corporate of Herbert Armstrong was a reflection and echo of the modern secular corporation. The Corporation of God™ was the real organization that Herbert Armstrong founded: Soulless, without empathy, without conscience and as a legal “person”, a total psychopath.

Moral MazesFor the benefit of those who have never been a manager or above in a major Fortune 500 Corporation, we will draw upon Robert Jackall from his book, “Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers”. For those uninitiated, the outside view of a modern corporation looks as if it is nothing more than a business to produce goods and / or services, run by reasonable smart competent people, using reasonable tried and true processes. Nothing could be further from the truth. The modern corporation is a chaotic irrational social and moral terrain, an hybrid ‘organization’ of patrimonial bureaucracy. Furthermore, the modern corporation has only one goal — one ethic — which supplants any other and overrides any social responsibility: Making a profit. This orientation is mandated by law in chartering corporate business by the Government. In fact, doing ‘nice things’ can get corporate managers prosecuted if it does not add to the bottom line. If breaking the law makes more profit, even after paying penalties, then the corporate officers are obligated to judicious law breaking to sustain that profit. They may pollute the land, steal, lie and do any other what we would consider a heinous thing to make profit. All decisions are framed this way. If it so happens that if charity suits making a profit, the corporation will do that with the side benefit of positive public perception. Of course, the internal ‘discussions’, alliances and deal making within the corporation itself may be extremely complex as managers and directors ‘network’ to find optimum solutions for profitability.

There are many factors which contribute to the upward mobility and viability of corporate executives. One of these is how the corporate shill is dressed. Robert Jackall comments:

One can, however, discern several criteria that are universally important in managerial circles. Bureaucracies not only rationalize work; they rationalize people’s public faces as well. A person’s external appearances, modes of self-presentation, interactional behavior, and projection of general attitude together constitute his public face. Large corporations create highly standardized rules to regulate the public faces of lower-level white-collar workers, for instance at the clerical level. In a large bank that I studied some years ago, these include a formalized dress code, regularly updated, that prescribes the details of clothing down to skirt length for women; manuals with a whole variety of sample conversations to guide interactions with customers; and detailed evaluation procedures that place a great premium on displaying cheerful cooperativeness toward coworkers and supervisors. Aware of the importance of the bank’s public image toward customers and the need for smooth, harmonious work relationships in the pressure-packed, highly routinized contexts, bank managers try to establish and control the prinicpal aspects of workers’ public faces. For their part, workers chafe under the faces the bank prescribes and experience as little control over the presentation of themselves as they do over the sea of paperwork that engulfs them. But managers both at the bank and in all the corporations I studied more recently see the matter of public faces differently. For them, the issue is not  a reluctant donning of organizational prescribed masks but rather a mastery of the social rules that prescribe which mask to wear on which occasion.

Note that this lesson was certainly not lost on Herbert Armstrong who also prescribed the length of women’s skirts at church.

Robert Jackall continues:

Such social mastery and the probations that test it begin early in managers’ careers. Every spring at elite colleges and universities throughout the land, a small but instructive transformation takes place when corporate recruiters from a wide variety of large companies descend on campuses to screen graduating seniors for entry-level managerial jobs. The jeans, ragged shirts, beards, mustaches, and casual unkeptness of youth that typify college life, particularly in rural areas, give way to what is called the corporate uniform — three-piece, wool pin-striped suits or suited skirts; button-down collars or unfrilled blouses; sedate four-in-hand foulards for men and floppy printed bow ties for women; wing-tipped shoes or plain low-heeled pumps; somber, straightforward hues; and finally, bright well-scrubbed, clean-shaven or well-coiffured appearances. It is, in short a uniform that bespeaks the sobriety and seriousness appropriate to the men and women who would minister to the weighty affairs of industry, finance, and commerce. Perhaps he only noteworthy aspect of this unremarkable rite is that underclassmen and seniors evaluate it quite differently. Underclassmen, surprised and bemused by the symbolic intrusion of the real world into their youth ghettoes, see seniors’ capitulation to the norms of managerial milieu as a callow moral compromise, as a first but ominous step toward de-individualizing conformity. Seniors, however,approach the crisis more pragmatically, though not without ironic self-deprecation and biting sarcasm. They know that managers have to look the part and that all corporations are filled with well-groomed and conventionally well-dressed men and women.

Such small probations are the stuff of everyday managerial life. Businesses always try to epitomize social normality, and managers, who must both create and enforce social rules for lower-level workers and simultaneously embody their corporation’s image in the public arena, are expected to be alert to prevailing norms. Managers in different corporations joke with bemused detachment about the rules that govern their appearances — the rule against sport jackets (too casual); the rule against leaving one’s floor without one’s suit jacket (improper attire in a public area); the unspoken rule against penny loafers (comfortable-looking shoes suggest a lackadaisical attitude); the suspicion of hair that is too long or too short (there is no place for hippies or skinheads); the mild taboo against brown suits (brown is dull, a loser’s color; winners choose blue); the scorn for polyester suits (strictly lower class, wool is better); the preference for red ties or red on blue (red symbolizes power and authority); the indulgent tolerance for the person who slightly overdresses if this is done tastefully (classy); and the quiet but forceful admonition of the person who does not dress properly or is in some way unkempt. Anyone who is so dull-witted or stubborn that he does not respond to social suggestions and become more presentable is quickly marked as unsuitable for any consideration for advancement. If a person cannot read the most obvious social norms, he will certainly be unable to discern more ambiguous cues. At the same time, managers also suspect that clothes and grooming might indeed make the man. The widespread popularity of recent self-promotional literature on this point — I mean the Dress for Success books and the like, even though its principal role is probably to disseminate techniques of image management to less fortunate social classes — underlines knowledge taken for granted among managers. Proper management of one’s external appearances simply signals to one’s peers and to one’s superiors that one is prepared to under take other kinds of self-adaptation.

 This perspective was highly ingrained in Herbert Armstrong’s thinking as CEO of the Worldwide Church of God Corporation and the Chancellor of Ambassador College Incorporated. Those going through his established worldly influenced program of transformational social normities became clones of his wolf in sheep’s clothing ethic — an ethic so ingrained that it continues to be the dominant driving force within the fragmented sects of his one-time hirelings.

The Corporate world was the only way of life Herbert Armstrong ever knew in spite of any influence from the Church of God Seventh Day. The CoG7D does not have such a dress code in place. Herbert Armstrong joined himself temporarily with that church organization, only to recreate the corporate environment and mores that he knew and understood when he discovered that he had little or no common ground with the Church of God Seventh Day.

So now men are stuck with corporate business suits as they join the Church Cult Corporate.

It doesn’t matter, though, if you dress up in sheep’s clothing: If you are a wolf, you will remain one, no matter how well dressed for corporate success you are.

The Corporation of God™

I AM CEO, there is none beside ME
I AM CEO, there is none beside ME

Herbert Armstrong claimed that he was the very first to bring the gospel of the Kingdom of God to this earth in over 1,900 years. The gospel Herbert Armstrong brought was far different from the one described in the New Testament — the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”  and told the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” The gospel of Christ was one of redemption. Herbert Armstrong brought a far different gospel — not of the person of Jesus, but of a kingdom of laws, rulers, power and a fierce hierarchy with little room for sinners. To attain this ‘kingdom’ of power, glory and authority, you would have to be absolutely PERFECT! In fact, there was so little latitude for those with flaws, Herbert Armstrong had the perspective that only he had a lock on salvation and that the members of the Worldwide Church of God did not: The only use he had for them was related to how well they served and supported him as God’s Apostle and they might have salvation on his coattails depending on how well they fulfilled their subservient role. He saw the members as lesser ciphers which he held in contempt.

He had this attitude early on in his ministry as he told the story of when he met the leaders of the Church of God Seventh Day: He did not sense in them greatness and power — they were too ordinary, after all, he had dealt with multimillionaire Corporate CEOs and highly placed executives in major American Corporations. He viewed those not exuding the personal high power of Corporate Executives as being beneath him. In fact, when he was reduced to financial hardship, he was not only embarrassed to do manual labor, he was embarrassed to associate with the ‘simple folk’ of the Church of God. He was just out of place, having to deal with the lowly and humble, particularly since he had not only associated with the high powered Corporate types, but also since he spent so much time at the Central Library in Portland, Oregon where he had found the writings of G. G. Rupert, which in his mind — with its focus on Old Testament physical rituals, such as the feasts and British Israelism — was an enlightenment far beyond what the simpletons of the Church of God Seventh Day knew. He, as a novice, attempted to enlighten them without success, their having rejected his wrong-headed heresies.

This was too much for Herbert: He was great, he knew he was great — and superior too — and they didn’t have his understanding, wisdom and vision. At the same time, for the first 10 years from the beginning of his ministry, he committed incest with his daughter, which, undoubtedly, gave him the feeling of power with the complete domination of another human being who was at his mercy. It is fairly clear that Herbert Armstrong never really repented and did not have anything which could be deemed to be conversion. Add to that the record of his being difficult and uncooperative with the other ministers of the Church of God and the record is complete. In Chapter 23 of his book, The Journey: A History of the Church of God (Seventh Day), Robert Coulter clearly demonstrates that Herbert Armstrong was a liar and he also broke his pledge with the church. Herbert Armstrong insisted that he broke away from association with the Church in 1933, but actually continued until 1938 as one of the Salem Church’s seventy evangelists and reports in The Advocate show this very clearly. Mr. Coulter added this observation in “Demise of Armstrong’s church empire”:

But Armstrong, like most autocrats, reigned over his religious kingdom. Unilaterally he always had the last word! And as usually happens with autocrats, he failed to develop a plan for the succession of leadership in his church. During his lifetime, Armstrong assumed that the title of apostle and may have become a victim of the speculation of some of his members and clerics who reportedly speculated he would “live until Christ returned to establish his kingdom”.

Mr. Coulter adds:

God forbids gloating over the calamity of an individual. But if one believed in church eras, Armstrong’s church of his assumed Philadelphia era was short-lived and now looks more like the Laodicean church. It was advised, “You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17, NIV).

Armstrong’s Philadelphia church has disappeared, while the Church of God (Seventh Day), which he described as Sardis, never experienced the “flash in the pan,” wealth or prominence he enjoyed. But it still lives! It continues to travel toward God’s eternal Kingdom proclaiming the gospel of Christ. It had no allusions of grandeur for itself. Its pace, while slow and faltering at times, never has been flashy, but its worldwide membership is approaching four hundred thousand, which matches or exceeds that of Armstrong’s church at the height of its glory.

As for the glory Herbert Armstrong enjoyed, he was a Corporate CEO of a multimillion dollar world wide enterprise with a central headquarters with some impressive facilities, including an IBM Mainframe and full scale printing presses. While it was a small to medium corporation, it had the trappings of a major modern corporation, replete with all the internal politics and problems.

Moral MazesThose who have not experienced life as a manager in a Fortune 500 company as I have as a Manager at Weyerhaeuser simply cannot understand what it is like. The best guide is Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers. It isn’t just about the fact that what is right and moral is what the guy above you wants from you — it’s a whole superstructure hierarchy geared to amoral preservation of existence whose central core is that the end justifies the means. The book contains:

  • Introduction: Business as a Social and Moral Terrain
  1. Moral Probations, Old and New
  2. The Social Structure of Managerial Work
  3. The Main Chance
  4. Looking Up and Looking Around
  5. Drawing Lines
  6. Dexterity with Symbols
  7. The Magic Lantern
  8. Invitations to Jeopardy
  • Moral Mazes and the Great Recession

It’s appalling and I’ve experienced it personally. There is a certain surreal quality to what can be laughingly called reality — an interaction of dysfunctional environment with distorted perception. If you experienced this for yourself, you would seriously be questioning your sanity — not that it made any difference because as a sane person among crazies, you simply aren’t any better off in such a disturbingly chaotic insane asylum. You should pay attention to The Magic Lantern which is used to shape people’s opinions about the unreality of the Corporation: Every effort is made to make truth disappear to supplant it with feel-good emotions evoked by image making. A good example of this is the Ethyl Corporation making Carbon Tetraethyllead to prevent engine knock as an additive to gasoline, ending up progressively poisoning the world. We can all appreciate the the quote from the THE JUNGLE by Upton Sinclair that “It’s nearly impossible to convince a man of anything when his paycheck depends on it being otherwise”. Corporations do appalling things to survive and it’s especially bad when the corporation is headed by a wrong-headed autocrat. The Magic Lantern in the hands of an expert advertising marketer such as Herbert Armstrong can make the crazy, dangerous and expensive look benign and appealing — consider the topic of three tithes in lesser hands.

 If there is one thing we know about The Corporation, it is that it is soulless without a conscience, a non person person which is relentless in its goals without regard to humanity. This is what the Worldwide Church of God became under Herbert Armstrong with the ever expanding goal to influence more and more people. It is what the core of the Armstrongist churches is about today. Make no mistake, I gave United Weyerhaeuser corporate documents which were incorporated into their ‘governance’ — which is why the Council’s endless discussions of exactly the right word and phrase in their organizational documents made the minutes of the meetings look like Novocaine in print. Along with the other sects of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia, it is The Church Corporate with little internally to even imply there is a spiritual side to the business.

What Herbert Armstrong was pushing as the Kingdom of God was nothing more than his vision of The Corporation of God™ replete with God as CEO, Christ as President, himself as one of the high ranking executive vice presidents and a very strong powerful hierarchy of laws, standards and procedures very much like a modern American multinational corporation — or maybe the 1800s version of the same. Be sure that it has a dress code. You can be assured that there are definite classes in a highly defined class structure. Unlike modern politically correct corporation (that way because it’s easier than dealing with litigation from the government), women are lesser creatures relegated to Their Place as are those of races other than whites. There certainly are favorites.

God as CEO isn’t that nicey-nice, lovey-dovey, kind, grandfatherly type of warm and fuzzy deity. He’s harsh, hard, implacable, nasty, arbitrary, touchy with a vile nasty temper and you never know what will set Him off to send floods to Texas, drought to California, earthquakes, tsunamis, lightening strikes for forest fires, mud slides, volcanoes or even an asteroid or two. He’s a God of Power and He exercises it in a reign of terror. As CEO of The Corporation of God™ He knows His brand of justice and fires people (as in the lake of fire) when they do not measure up to His impossible and secret standards of perfection. His Office is a place where even angels fear to tread.

And as it is in many corporations and as I have seen for myself, there is going to be a great deal of boozing going on. The Corporation of God™ doesn’t just allow alcohol, it promotes it. Wine cheers the hearts of God and man, don’t you know. Herbert Armstrong won’t have to give up Dom Perignon as it will be a staple in his diet, unless there is a higher quality vintage that’s more expensive. Know too that those in the upper echelons will have the nicer stuff, not available to the ones on the lower rungs of the God Corporate (“Hurray, we’re on the bottom” as Gerald Waterhouse would say). Rank, privilege and power along with heaps of lots of narcissistic source attention will be granted to such as Herbert Armstrong by the rest of the few of us who make it, albeit by accident. (I’ve seen the corporate drinking parties first hand and it’s just another reason I abstain — note that the old guard Church of God Seventh Day ministers are not in favor of drinking alcohol, which might have been another minor incentive for Herbert Armstrong to jump ship.)

What is the real reason Herbert Armstrong would promote The Corporation of God™ instead of the Biblical Kingdom of God?

It’s the only thing he knew.

Image

Michael

Michael stood alone in the middle of the foyer of the Seattle Masonic Hall, people swirling around and past him without interacting with him, a solitary island in the midst of a sea of people. I noticed he was new and that apparently, no one was interested in getting to know him. It made me feel sad. I went over and introduced myself to him and began learning about him. Over the next few weeks and months, I had him over to dinner with my family several times and we even went and worked out together at the gym. I learned about this “good guy” and he had a lot of depth that most people would not expect.

Michael shared with me his story about how he entered into the Marines at the age of 30. It was a matter of honor that his mates referred to him as “the Old Man” because they respected the fact that he stayed in there with them even though they were mostly a decade younger than he. He wanted to be a Marine. His father was a Marine.

Before the Passover I had broken my toes and at the Passover Service it was Michael who was to wash my feet. He looked me in the eye and said, “I ain’t gonna mess with no broken toes,” whereupon he washed my one foot without the broken toes. I washed his feet.

It was during the Days of Unleavened Bread that he showed up in our apartment complex in the parking lot. My wife and I looked at each other in dismay at him on the heavy duty motorcycle he had ridden on. He was all excited about it. He was a sincere believer who was going to take his brother out in the woods and talk to him about his new faith. We didn’t say anything and hoped for the best.

It was shortly after this that we learned that he was on his way on his motorcycle to prepare to go out to the woods when he got clipped on his head with the mirror of a semi. It removed the top of his head and he ended up in a coma in the hospital. His face had not been affected so it looked like he was in a peaceful sleep.

Each day for nearly 40 days, I would go down to the hospital after work in the afternoon and would sit with him and talk to him because I had heard that those in a coma often heard those talking to him. I would describe the Spring afternoon and the sun shining. At the last, I was not able to get to the hospital and he had changed doctors. He died shortly afterward from the trauma. I believe it was about 40 days.

What I did not know is that Michael had shared our friendship with his family: His dad, mom, sisters and brothers. I was the only one from the church in to see him at the hospital. I had talked with his family when they were there and we got to know one another as best strangers could under such circumstances.

Because Michael was a Marine as was his father, he was given a funeral with full honors with Marines in dress uniforms giving the gun salute with rifles.

Afterward, I prepared an obituary for the Worldwide News. I learned that I had to give it to the minister. It was a paragraph and told part of his story of being in the Marine Corps.

It turns out that I gave it to Dennis Luker after services on the Sabbath. He told me that he had met the family and when they told him about me, he said to them, “Oh, he’s so quiet!”. This produced laughter from Michael’s family and they instantly knew that Dennis Luker knew neither Michael nor me. He was attempting to cash in on an opportunity by pretending to be someone and something he wasn’t and got caught at it.

Eventually, the obituary made it to the Worldwide News. It was a sentence long. It was a brief sentence at that. Michael _____ died…. That was about it. Name, no rank, no serial number. It was crisply impersonally efficient.

During my brief discussion with Dennis Luker, he did something odd: He stroked my stomach as if it were a bowling ball. It was weird and creepy. Very weird and creepy. Very very weird and creepy. I just stood there and allowed him to do it. After all, this was God’s Evangelist of the Worldwide Church of God — the very Work of God. Many of us had been conditioned to be subjected to authority without question — to accept what was truly unacceptable, because the Very God of the Universe would support them even if they were wrong.

I vaguely felt as if I had been raped.

The important thing here is for the alpha male Corporate Executive to assert his superior dominance over an underling to maintain Corporate Order and insure the proper image for the Corporate Executive in the hierarchy of the Corporate “monkey tree” where all the executives are striving to be “top banana”.

The Magic Lantern

Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers by Robert Jackall covers the ground occupied by the Armstrongist Worldwide Church of God and their Church Corporate spinoffs — not specifically, but in practice, since all the participants follow the same thinking and practices of those in the Corporate 200. Chapter 7, The Magic Lantern, covers the aspects of image creation for the purposes of public relations:

The need for symbolic dexterity, particularly the ability to fashion, quickly and readily, appropriate legitimations for what must be done, intensifies as one ascends the corporate ladder. Since the success of large commercial bureaucracies depends to a great extent on the goodwill of the consuming public, ambitious managers recognize that great organizational premiums are placed on the ability to explain expedient action convincingly. Public opinion, of course, constitutes one of the only effective checks on the bureaucratic impulse to translate all moral issues into practical concerns. Managers not only face the highly specific and usually ideological standpoints of one or another “special-interest” group but, even more fearsome, the vague, ill-formed diffuse, highly volatile, and often irrational public opinion that is both the target of special-interest groups and the lifeblood of the news media. Those imbued with the bureaucratic ethos thus make every effort to mold public opinion to allow the continued uninterrupted operation of business. Moreover, since public opinion inevitably affects to some extent managers’ own conceptions of their work and of themselves, public goodwill, even that which managers themselves create, becomes an important part of managers’ own valued self-images. In this sense, both moral issues and social identities become issues of public relations.

Dennis Luker had been in the Corporate World before his induction into the Church Corporate and had obviously learned the lesson of being a triumph of image over substance. An examination of his Master’s Thesis yielded a window into this world, confined by the strictures of the lessons of being a Regional Pastor: It was not anything like the Master’s Thesis next to it on the shelf, Dr. C. Paul Meredith’s Satan’s Great Deception, which could be described as having intense spiritual content, but instead dealt with the purely physical aspects of deciding whether or not a visiting minister was to stay in the home of the Regional Pastor or at a motel nearby and making sure that the car was washed before sunset on Friday. People forget the mechanisms driving the engine of the Armstrongist Churches of God are the tactics of modern corporations, not the “Spirit led” assemblies of Christian ministers, disciples and apostles of the distant past: It’s business. Businesses are for the purpose of making a profit. To do this, the end justifies the means — the end being making profit, both in money and membership (used as a tool to sustain the ego of the narcissistic leader(s)).

This creates a new virtual world which is nowhere near the one the rank and file live in. Robert Jackall explains:

In fact, bureaucratic contexts typically bring together men and women who initially have little in common with each other except the impersonal frameworks of their organizations. Indeed, the enduring genius of the organization form is that it allows individuals to retain bewilderingly diverse private motives and meanings for action as long as they adhere publicly to agreed-upon rules. Even the personal relationships that men and women in bureaucracies do subsequently fashion together are, for the most part, governed by the explicit or implicit organizational rules, procedures, and protocol. As a result, bureaucratic work causes people to bracket, while at work, the moralities that they might hold outside the workplace or that they might adhere to privately and to follow instead of the prevailing morality of their organizations situation. As a former vice-president of a large firm says: “What is right in the corporation is not what is right in a man’s home or in his church. What is right in the corporation is what they guy above you wants from you. That’s what morality is in the corporation.”

This explains well why Roderick Meredith and Dennis Luker tolerated the behavior of Garner Ted Armstrong without saying one word or leaving: They were loyal to the corporation and their morality revolved around what Herbert Armstrong wanted from them. A good part of that was the image making part of the coverups to insure that the Corporation continued and prospered. In this world, what mattered was not the good of the members, but the good of those in the “middle management” and above, specified by rank. Dennis Luker would favor those in congregations who were wealthy — especially those were millionaires. His own children, in fact, married the children of a millionaire in his congregation. He could be close “friends” who could further his agenda, pursuing his career in the Armstrongist Churches of God along with the salary and the hoped for retirement it would bring. In fact, many have commented about his sermons over the years filled with his concerns about this very topic. Many times, those who were “different” or “lowly” may not have had such favor in his eyes, but he was able to maintain a calm demeanor which belied his true feelings, making it seem that he was personable and a concerned pastor.

Moral Mazes includes a comments from executives relevant to truth:

Everyone out there is constructing reality. We and our clients have perceptions too. Who is telling the truth? Is there anyone out there who has the time and inclination to sit down and truly evaluate the many situations.

That’s a good question, especially considering “The Present Truth” of many of the leaders of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong.

Truth? What is truth? I don’t know anyone in this business who talks about the “truth”.

That’s actually true: Perceptions are transformed so people believe they have the truth. Anyone who has seen the many “prognostications” of Herbert Armstrong and others should eventually come to the conclusion that they don’t have anything even close to what we could call “truth”. There is no reason to trust such people. They have proved their lack of integrity.

It should be noted that the chapter after The Magic Lantern is Invitations to Jeopardy.

In the end, we should all observe the aphorism of G’Kar in Babylon 5: “Let me pass on to you the one thing I’ve learned about this place. No one here is exactly what he appears.”

In fact, in the world of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong, nothing is exactly as it appears, including the smarmy image of those who portray a deeply caring persona.

Anyway, those who are wise will make it quite irrelevant by leaving the entirely dysfunctional environment where there is no real benefit to sacrifice resources and sanity to the Corporate Executive image makers conducting little more than a PR campaign for ego and money: It’s not worth it.

For those of you in the process of leaving the Cult of Herbert Armstrong, a piece of advice: Set boundaries.