Herbert Armstrong created a cult of sociopaths.
Herbert Armstrong created a cult of sociopaths.
Mr. Davis stood there with Mr. MacFarland discussing the repairs Mr. MacFarland had made for Mr. Davis. Mr. MacFarland was a remarkable man, since he was blind from action in a foreign war, but was still a top flight mechanic. He was remarkable in other ways. For example, he was giving his wife grief because she could not park the car. She said, “Fine, you park it!” not expecting he could respond. He got out of the passenger’s seat, measured off the distances between the auto and the two other cars in relationship to the parking space between them, got in the driver’s seat and proceeded to park the car perfectly. She certainly didn’t have much response to that. Our illustrious Mr. Davis handed Mr. MacFarland three one dollar bills and thanked Mr. MacFarland for the excellent work he did, and Mr. MacFarland thanked him for the $30 dollars owed, thinking it was three ten dollar bills. He was blind you know.
Swindlers have been an endemic epidemic within the Cult of Herbert Armstrong since the 1950s: It isn’t just the leaders and ministers, it’s the members. One estimation is that about one-third of any given micronanocult of Herbert Armstrong may be swindlers. Dr. Robert Hare and Dr. Paul Babiak give us a clue in Snakes in Suits: Psychopaths are attracted to unstable environments that lack controls for process — and even lack process. A group that is in stages of development or drastic change are particularly vulnerable, since swindlers take advantage of the lack of standards by which “right” and “wrong” within the group are measured. They marginalize what rules there are through doubt and casting aspersions, making people within the group vulnerable to their inevitable psychopath games.
A girl named Cara, a member’s daughter, came home one day with the rest of the family from Sabbath Services and proceeded to tell them about her best friend in church: Marta was 12 years old and her father had been committing incest with her. The family also found out that Jan, Cara’s other best friend, had a father who was a psychopath with an interesting story. Barto had come into the church from the Philippines and promoted the idea he was a doctor, but because of United States rules, he could not be certified — or so he said: The real truth is that he was a swindler with a con game who had no medical training at all. Barto became best friends with Dr. Johansen, a church member who was a real licensed practicing physician. Barto proceeded to dupe Dr. Johansen into promoting him as a physician. The end result of this game was that the real doctor, Dr. Johansen, lost his license, his practice and was disgraced while the psychopath Barto dumped Dr. Johansen to leave him fend for himself after Dr. Johansen was ruined, lost his license and his practice — forced to change careers. Barto remarried. His daughter, Jan, and Cara, the daughter of the family in view here, went to meet with the psychopath’s wife, Jan’s stepmother, who just happened to have schizophrenia. They knocked on the door and from inside a voice said, “You are here to kill me! No wait, that’s not reality!” The three girls, Cara, Mara and Jan, often went off together to Nordstrom’s to shoplift expensive scarves. They never got caught.
Recently, the elder pedophile who had a penchant for young boys in the church died and had his funeral, which brought up the memory of the leading lady in the church who informed the father of the young son what the man who was his YOU teacher had been doing. She related at the Night to Be Much Observed that the leading ladies in the church tried to bring the matter to the Headquarters at Pasadena but were rebuffed. The best they could do is “keep an eye on him” during services and particularly on the Holydays.
Many are familiar with the stalkers in the cult who declared to their obsession, “You are mine!” after their obsession was married to someone else. Imagine the embarrassment of a married man returning from his honeymoon having the lurker in the church spring from behind a column where she hid herself to declare this.
There have been all manner of scams, swindles and cons, not just by the Takers who are leaders in the church with their ministers, but the members as well. The cult is a dangerous environment and that is because of what Dr. Phil in his book, “Life Code” describes as the BAITERS:
Though virtually invisible to most naive sheep members, these BAITERS lurk in the background like the crows at the neglected Ambassador College before it was sold to Harvest Rock. They are dark evil beings at what may be thought of at the fringes of the cult, but are very active and very much a part of it — it’s just that people don’t recognize them.
Last time, we examined the Evil Eight properties of these BAITERS:
This time we will examine the Nefarious 15 “tactics,” behaviors, or strategies BAITERs will use to “get to you,” hurt you, and take what is yours:
Our pilgrimage would be incomplete if we did not mention the methodology used by Herbert Armstrong — the one still in use today by all the cult leaders: To reduce the prospective members to think of themselves as worthless.
Those of us who were in the cult in the 1950s and 1960s remember well this indoctrination. As we came to “the truth” (which was nothing of the sort), we were taught that nothing we knew was worth anything, nothing we ever did amounted to anything and we were convinced that we were so worthless that we had to start from the very beginning to rebuild from the ground up.
Herbert Armstrong, of course, knew everything that was worth knowing — he was the Apostle and no one could trump him! He was the one that God chose who was the only one through whom any truth could be revealed — from the top down. No one could tell him anything, and if they tried… well, he had a temper and he was used to getting his way. He was the top dog and he was the only one who had the quality to take the message of Corporate Christ to the leaders of this world (by using vague stupid references to the two trees which meant absolutely nothing). He was the only one who could go to evil despots and dictators to present them with Steuben Crystal from tithed blood money. All the rest of us were pathetic nothings who needed to know our place in the hierarchy, which was pretty much to supply this egoist with $2 Billion to $4 Billion to provide for his excessive personal life style. He was so close to God, no one dare oppose him.
By the put down and treatment with contempt, the people fell into line, devoid of what might be laughingly called self-esteem.
This was doubly bad because the children of the church members were treated the same way: They needed to know their place among the gods — playing less than any insignificant role as less than anyone else, save for the domestic companions of the family. As serfs and slaves to the serfs and slaves, having absolutely no rights, knowing nothing and having not one shred of power in their insignificance, they were prepped for a future slavery of underachievement, discouraged from ever aspiring to the dreams and goals of their schoolmate peers. Many of them thought that this dysfunctional family life was the norm and everyone lived this way, not realizing that it was a profound aberration designed to keep them captive to a slave mentality system of the peasants.
You are nothing.
You will be god.
Be satisfied with that.
Or you’re out.
There’s nothing like intimidation on the worthless to keep them in the prison especially designed by the swindlers of the cult.
The Cult of Herbert Armstrong employs all of these methods. They are evil. They corrupt.
And again, there is not one reason in this world you should give them the benefit of the doubt. None. They are not worth your time, let alone your money and other resources.
To be clear: Herbert Armstrong was a failed ad copy writer with barely an eighth grade education with delusions of greatness, plying lies, deceptions and fantasies as reality upon duped naive sheep type followers. He had no real worth. The only thing he really understood was “quality” things, possessions; and his great swelling ego making him above and beyond those of accomplishment, talent and achievement who could have been great, but were ruined by his selfish meddling. He was a swindler — a BAITER.
And all his followers now making themselves leaders are also BAITERs.
This is the time to understand who these people are, understand how they work and guard against them, lest they take who you are and destroy it.
Abandon the swindlers and don’t let them claim ascendancy.
The Joe Schmo Show is a funny near reality show on the Spike TV involving an innocent honest unsuspecting participant, unaware that the entire scenario is a total deception and scam.
Here’s the setup from the show’s website:
The Joe Schmo Show is a one-hour, 10-episode series featuring a real guy who believes he is on an over-the-top reality show looking for America’s next bounty hunter and the chance to win $100k. What he doesn’t know is the entire show is FAKE. For over a year his entire world was carefully planned by a team of writers, producers, and actors all performing for him. His “competitors” are actually actors representing every classic reality show cliché, including the Buddy, the Jerk, the Model, and even Lorenzo Lamas, playing a washed-up version of himself. The actors must do their best under these insane circumstances to follow a pre-determined script.
The actors around Chase Rogan, the Joe Schmo for this series, have to keep the deception going for this 28-year-old all around nice guy to convince him he is a viable contestant to change professions from groundskeeper to a full fledged Bounty Hunter. This is harder than you might think, because Chase is a really smart guy who catches on to stuff really quick. One actress is pretending to be deaf with her own “interpreter” but has had three muffed incidents where it’s clear she can hear. The whole production crew has had to cover up and convince Chase it’s all “normal”. None of the production crew know anything about being a bounty hunter beyond watching “Dog”, including the supposed top Bounty Hunter conducting the contest and the actress playing his blonde bimbo wife. There’s slip up after slip up and Chase is getting suspicious.
Chase should have been suspicious since the beginning because the situations are preposterous. Moreover, the language and the little speeches, particularly those at the insane Eliminations replete with a giant gold Blind Justice lady the “contestants” enter to “vote” who will be ejected from the contest after communing with their spirit guide. Chase has a llama as his spirit guide.
This is all done in fun and Chase will be “rewarded” at the end of the show, though it will never satisfy his adventurous nature by bringing him closer to be a Bounty Hunter.
Those of us who have been in the Cult of Herbert Armstrong have lived through our own Joe Schmo Show: It is all fake — the joke is on us.
Sure, none of us like the idea that we are a clueless Joe Schmo, but there’s not much of an excuse these days since the deception is so obvious.
You know, it might be OK if Herbert Armstrong missed one or two of his “prophecies” and we could have given him a free pass, but since they all went south, we should have known we were duped Schmos. The same can be said about the CoG-PKG concerning Ronald Weinland — he’s in Prison now as a convicted felon for five counts of Income Tax evasion to serve 42 months. Hello?!?!
As entertaining as it was every time Gerald Waterhouse came to town, after a few times through everybody should have realized that he was the master of fantasy spin. British Israelism: Fake. Church History: Fake. An apostle: Fake. A prophet: Fake.
Paying up to three tithes should have been a dead giveaway.
If you are honest with yourself, you’ll admit that you have been a contestant on The Joe Schmo Show.
In his new book, Life Code: The New Rules for Winning in the Real World, Dr. Phil McGraw points out that the old value of giving everyone the benefit of the doubt is an unworkable ethic and will make you a Loser. He describes the people who are out to cheat you as BAITERS:
Dr. Phil points out that you need to know these people because they certainly know you. He lists the “Evil Eight” Identifiers of the BAITER:
This list pretty much describes the leaders of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong.
These people are out to take what you have for their own benefit. They may pretend to care about you, but, in the end, you are but a means to their ends and their ethic is always that the end justifies the means. The end is the end they plot out for themselves.
You cannot give these people the benefit of the doubt.
It is deadly.
The bottom line of getting real is to pay attention when the warning bells go off. We tended to trust and turned off our defenses to the people working to harm us all and take advantage of us, while turning on the RADAR to those who might actually alert us to the danger of engaging with the BAITERS before they could turn our world into dysfunctional chaos.
Next time, we will look at bad guy’s BAITER secret playbook.
Symptoms can be described as follows:
– Dramatic/Traumatic loss of self identity
– Feeling of having been mentally abused
– Social isolation as a result of having been cut off from all contact with the outside world
– Difficulty in finding the way back into a normal social surroundings
– Depression as a result of the loss of ones own identity
– Recurring nightmares
– And the list goes on …
PTRS usually arises in that aftermath of:
– having left a religious sect or cult
– being excommunication by a religious sect or cult
– end of a religious sect or cult
– rescued from a religious sect or cult
– being unwilling forced into a religious sect or cult as a child or spouse
Discovering that someone suffers from PTRS is often very difficult. In almost all cases the individuals can hid their experiences behind a world of indifference. Most people avoid contact with religious sects and are therefore immune to the idea that they can be so harmful, it’s what I call public indifference. You could almost say they feel ashamed to have been part of an religious sect, raped by it, and they just don’t want to talk about it. It’s difficult for a victim of this abuse to “Out themselves” since society cannot imagine that it’s possible to suffer in anyway as a result of bad religious practice. Religious sects and cults do damage to people, it’s a fact that nobody want to believe.
The buried emotional state of mind of a PTRS victim results in some very strange behavior that is often misunderstood by family, friends, and the world in general. The outing process is difficult, often with an imagined stigma, that isn’t all to imagined but very real. You get labeled, therefore you begin to hid even more behind a facade of underlying emotions. These can often span throughout the whole of a life span. Younger victims can have lasting side effect right up till their deaths.
It takes a lot of persuasion for a PTRS victim to connect back into the main stream of daily life. Detoxification is a form of deprogramming that requires a willpower that would seem for others as super human. Most give up, since the effort is simply to big. The result is a return to another religious group in most cases a little less extreme. The sheltering effect is returned and the stigma not so hard to bare. For those who do discover the can make the jump back the experience is almost intoxicating, a new found self, a world of freedom and hope for a self defined life.
It goes without saying that although there are no statistics with respect to suicide rates of victims of PTRS, the number of deaths whether mental or physical are there. For an outsider to pick up on the trauma that is brewing under the surface that is so well hidden, very difficult and almost impossible for an untrained eye. We live in a world where shutting out anything thing that isn’t in the norm is the norm. Discussion seems useless since for most the idea of being tricked into joining a sect or cult is out of the question. How can anyone fall for this trap? Therefore discussion is out of the question. Faced with a world of indifference the victim of PTRS is now even more isolated then before. Breaking the isolation is the most important step to escaping to a more balanced way of life, a way of accepting the past and putting an end to it. Only then can a Victim truly live a normal life and avoid the depressions that can lead to suicide.
I’m not sure how help groups would function with this problem. The programing by religious sects is often very difficult to decode. The brain is not easy to wash clean from years of indoctrinated programming. The coding is so deep in some instances that it would be nearly a miracle (if you believe in miracles) for someone to walk away without having permanent side effects. I would go so fare as to call it a form of Programmed Brain Damage, or PBD.
Since we are in life designed to be influenced by ones self and by others the question is, who is to be taken account of for the influences we experience? Is it the person who’s been misguided, or the persons who are misguiding? Our brains are hard-wired to accept new programing, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to evolve through life. This in itself is proof enough that nothing is static in our world and that we can influence change in more ways then one. Religions can use this instinctive human drive to grab at anything that will provide a victim with a satisfactory answers to their basic instinctive need to understand why we are. Religions plug in on and transfer their idea directly into the victims mind, burring it deep inside, with roots that grow deeper the longer the exposure.
It’s is strange but educating people about the dangers of cults and sects is of little priority in our world. Religions get to much freedom to act without any form of self control that truly puts the facts on the table. We’ve simply rule out any form of self critic with respect to the abuse of peoples rights when it comes to sects, cults and religions. Without allowing for critic there is no way that you can make any of these organization accountable for their actions today. There is not real policing of religion, it’s taboo to question.
So in the coming years the explosion of religious extremes in America will continue, and many more children and adults will suffer from PTRS should they leave the closed surrounding of a religious sect or cult. As long as America and the rest of the world tolerates the spreading of lies under the disguise of religious freedom, we shouldn’t wonder why there is so much social unrest and division within the populations of the world.
II Timothy 3:1 says —
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
In Apostolic Incest, Jon said:
“Why would the Armstrong crowd care about incest? Incest to them is nothing to sneeze about. It is normal to them. They approve of it and by endorsing the old pervert they endorse his ways. All of them.
Moms and dads, don’t forget to have the elders of the church babysit your kids. They might not be the same ever again but heck, you need a break!
Soon the feast of booze will be upon us. The members of the so called churches will imitate Herbert and drink themselves silly. Those who run the hotels will be busy cleaning out the empty bottles and cans. Maids and janitors will be busy indeed. Cleaning up puke, spilled drinks off carpets, but hopefully they can make a little more money doing their mundane jobs and return these bottles and cans for the deposit.
The feast is a bore, the sermons painfully repetitive. The fun starts at family day where your children can mix with a selection of ministerial brats and the local pervert can have his way when your not looking. Again, your children may not be the same, but it is your church. You own your decisions lock, stock and barrel.”
Jon’s comment might seem a little over the top: After all, from the external view, the Armstrongist Churches of God seem benign, if not warm and cuddly — well, cuddly might seem to be stretching it a bit with Roderick Meredith and the Living Church of God, but if you look at say, United’s Muppet type videos for the kids, it could seem like you have finally found a church home. That is sort of a point of view because the ACoGs don’t seem to have many church buildings nor do they seem to have much presence in the community, because they are now TV based and Internet based church groups renting places for their services and various rare occasions. The point is that they don’t seem that extreme and bizarre on the surface. Be sure you don’t scratch because what lies just beyond the surface is ugly and often deadly.
One could argue that many events lay in the past with Herbert Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God, but the tie to those times is far too tight with today because the same people, Roderick Meredith, Dennis Luker and some of the minor leaguers like Jim Franks, John Rittenbaugh, David Pack, Gerald Flurry and Ronald Weinland are still running things and the same problems keep cropping up over and over and over and over.
Back in the days of the WCG in Seattle / Bellevue, Washington while Dennis Luker was in charge as Regional Pastor, there was a lot going on. Chuck Harris was showing his pistol to folks under his suit coat in the holster after Sabbath services and trying very hard to date and marry Brenda James. At the same time, an elder and his wife in the church were pursuing The Tracker — an outdoors survivalist type of guy — with great enthusiasm, even mentioning him in Sabbath services. Glenn White was also tapped into this. It seems as if The Tracker was sort of an extension of the last days mania where people were stocking up for the Great Tribulation and the horrible things to come (while living in faith, we suppose). The elder spent a lot of “outside time” with The Tracker. His son was spending a lot of “outside time” with Chuck Harris and so was another teen of a prominent and respected family in the church.
A number of things all seemed to happen at the same time. I remember the nice summer afternoon when my wife and I went down to the Seattle Center by the fountain from the World’s Fair and met the elder and his wife. We had a pleasant chat for a few minutes and headed off to the cat show. What none of us knew at the time is that the two teens who had been BFF with Chuck had been with a drug dealer the night before. The drug dealer wanted more than money and when he proceeded to attempt to seduce them, one of the teens whipped out the gun and shot the dealer dead. Subsequently, the elder’s teenage son went to prison and so did his friend, who wanted to be with Chuck Harris in prison where he had been sentenced after shooting Brenda James and several other people in the church. Chuck Harris was black and Brenda was white and the WCG was still in racist mode and would not permit them to marry. What Dennis Luker failed to fathom was that Chuck was already married to a woman in Canada who showed up rather unexpectedly.
Meanwhile, my daughter was BFFs with two other girls in the same congregation. One of them was the daughter of a psychopath and routinely took my daughter and the other girl on shoplifting tours of places like Nordstroms to take expensive items like scarves from the store. Her other friend shocked our daughter by revealing that her father had been committing incest with her and had raped her for years. These and many other events have scarred my daughter so horribly that she is terrified of attending any Armstrongist church again, even though it has been decades past: She just couldn’t stomach it. The sermons about demons didn’t help much and neither did the graphic descriptions of death, destruction, dystopia of the soon to come last days.
Somewhat earlier, a brilliant young teen with an unwed mother in the church experienced the benefits of having a WCG parent by ending up in a Juvenile Hall and being raped there by the other teens. He had done nothing, but his mother just wanted him to learn to stay in line. The situation ended up so bad that the State of Washington gave guardian custody rights to a single man in the church.
After dinner at the Night to Be Much Observed, the host sat with me and told me about the elder in the church who was a pedophile favoring young boys. He taught the Sabbath School. She told me the leading women in the church reported him to the local ministry. When they did not respond, they reported it to headquarters. Headquarters and Herbert Armstrong did nothing. She told me that the only thing left to them was to “watch” him on the Sabbath and the Holydays. I wondered what moves he may have tried to put on my son.
By this time, nearly everyone is familiar with the UCG stalking case where the ministry, supported by Dennis Luker, defended the protagonist instead of following Scripture and putting him out of the church. The couple had to pursue getting a court to issue a restraining order. What many people did not know is that there were other stalkers in United. One weird and creepy woman stalked a young man up until he married and left on his honeymoon. When he returned, she confronted him and told him (and this should sound so very familiar to people who have been stalked), “You are mine!”. A single woman in the Midwest had a man stalk her, also under the watchful eye of Dennis Luker, and he had the gall to sign her up secretly with an insurance agent for life insurance, with his wife and him as the beneficiary! We are all familiar with the Philadelphia Church of God under Gerald Flurry where young women are pushed into a relationship with weird creepy older bachelors.
We are also familiar with Terry Ratzmann and the Living Church of God in 2005 when he entered into Sabbath Services and shot the minister and several members. Attending church could very well be hazardous to your health (not that the other stories here diminish from that concept). Roderick Meredith’s little group isn’t particularly impressive in the realm of the fruit of the spirit and neither is the apologist Robert Thiel.
The positioning of the “leadership” in the hierarchy makes the following scenario believable:
The minister in Topeka has committed murder.
Do we think he can get away with it?
Yes, I think so.
Good! What can we do to cover it all up?
Byker Bob had an interesting comment in the last PT blog entry:
“I think this issue is simply too mind boggling for stalwart Armstrongites to even consider, let alone believe and react accordingly. The greater majority chalks it all up as persecution, and considers Satan to be the author.
The period of incest coincides with the time period when Herbert alleges that God was revealing to him the restored truths, which are the backbone of Armstrongism. Anyone who reads the Bible knows that the God described in its pages did not work directly through individuals involved in ongoing and systemic sin. Sin whores up the spiritual channel, so to speak. God does convert evil, kind of like spiritual karate, and turns it against itself, ultimately producing good, but in every case of perennial sin in the Bible, it had to be cleared up and corrected before God worked with and through different individuals as His spokespersons. Even the most diehard Armstrongite would recognize that basic truth, which is why there is such a wall of denial. To acknowledge ten years of this type of sin, they’d have to question and ultimately reject the so-called restored truths.
BTW, incest is an example of “mala in se”, an act considered so totally evil by all society, that a perpetrator is automatically reduced to non-person status, and anything that person had to say, or any good activities throughout his or her life are totally invalidated.”
Herbert Armstrong was the source of this mess: His actions were so totally evil that by the standards of all society, that he would be automatically reduced to non-person status, and anything that he had to say, or any good activities throughout his life would be totally invalidated. Yet here we are. He is thought to be a great man. People idolize him. They call him, “Mr. Armstrong”. They say (in excusing his behavior): “But he brought us the truth!”. The reality was that Armstrong was responsible for warping and twisting the thinking of his followers — and worse, his ministers — so badly that they accept the weirdness and the risk of attending church in a completely dysfunctional environment fraught with danger. It might not seem so, but lurking behind those smiles and quality wool suits, there is a darkness that would never accept a message from any Holy Spirit.
Here we are, just days away from Ronald Weinland of the CoG-PKG being sentenced for 5 felony convictions of Income Tax Evasion by the Justice Department.
We also have other history, such as the minister who ended up in John Rittenbaugh’s Church of the Great God. The man was originally in the WCG where, as was related to me by Rex Sexton in the United Church of God, an International Association over lunch at Azteca, he raped 16 teenage daughters and 8 of their mothers. The man went from the WCG to Global under Roderick Meredith where he eventually was fired and he went with John Rittenbaugh and the Church of the Great God. In 2003, at the Feast of Tabernacles in Redmond, Oregon, I talked with John Cafourek — who, incidentally, has a degree and certification in counselling — who told me that he was the first one to report this man to headquarters in Pasadena. Their response to Mr. Cafourek? “Oh, but he gives such great sermons!” We’ll wait while you roll your eyes.
The reason I met with Rex Sexton in Azteca was to present to him my “Ministerial Guide to Mental Disorders” and discuss it with him: I knew that there was a dearth of material from which to draw and there were many problems in the Armstrongist Churches of God in this regard. (Later, I sent information and a link to the leader of every major church of God about the solution to the problem of alcoholism in the church — Rational Recovery — which was also ignored and rejected, particularly by Gerald Flurry.) He proceeded to tell me about a woman in his congregation who was married and had a job with a governmental agency. Once a month, she received her paycheck and disappeared for three or four days: She went binge drinking and sleeping around with other guys; then she would go back to work, to start the whole cycle over again. I’m not certain why he told me this in front of the other patrons and the wait staff.
Part of the reason I presented my Guide was because I knew of the terrible problems with mental illness in the church, not just among the members, but the ministers as well. One of these ministers wrote an article in the Good News about The Bible Keys to Mental Health. I knew that he had a mental illness when I met him — people in the church told me that he was just not coming to grips with his problems with mental illness, which is certainly clear in the Good News article. If you read it and know something about the issues, the advice to just be positive conveniently sidesteps the potential danger of not having the disease treated. Scripture claims that those with the Holy Spirit have the power of a sound mind. If that is true, there is something very wrong with the Armstrongist Churches of God. Do you really want to have mentally ill ministers giving you sermons and then advise you about mental health, when they have unresolved issues themselves and their advice (of non treatment from mental health professionals) could lead to your death?
It’s hard to write this: It brings such pain. If it were just history, I wouldn’t mention it, but it never really gets any better. The only thing that happens is that there are fewer opportunities for the sociopath and psychopath ministers and members who do such things — but make no mistake, they still go on and that’s the point! The injustices go on and on and there is no real advocate. Joyce, whose husband is the Living Church of God, related the tragedy that her husband has become a terror in following Roderick Meredith: She wanted to know what she should do? Their long term marriage was falling apart. The only real advice I could give her was to try to find what she needed in “Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships” by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias. Though the book as a resource is not specific to Armstrongism, you will certainly find that it has all the elements of it and does a good job on how to escape and recover from such cults as Armstrongism.
So while it may seem like Jon was over the top in his comment, the truth lies in the horror that many people face in the mean spirited practices of the ministry and membership of the Armstrongist cult. As a side note, the man whose father was the publisher of a sacred names newspaper who also debated with Herbert Armstrong in the 1940s, told me that he had an inside memo from Squaw Valley, telling the Church to clean up the bottles and cans of booze the members had left around. Jon’s comment, “Those who run the hotels will be busy cleaning out the empty bottles and cans. Maids and janitors will be busy indeed. Cleaning up puke, spilled drinks off carpets, but hopefully they can make a little more money doing their mundane jobs and return these bottles and cans for the deposit.”, may be sarcasm, but it is on spot. Armstrongism has a history and that history has taken us into the new millennium — but certainly not the millennium the Armstrongists were promised, and they should all think really hard about that.
If there is one thing we should have learned is that people in the WCG absolutely did not know one another. We may have been told, “We are family,” but it simply was not true — it was all artificial. When the WCG began changing the doctrines and when it all came to a head, people went their separate ways: People who sat together in services for decades simply did not know what their “brethren” in the church really believed. When it was all said and done, people were spun off in all sorts of directions and certainly did not speak the same things.
The reason that everyone stayed together as long as they did should be evident: It was, as Herbert Armstrong said, the Worldwide Church of Gossip. People were addicted to curiosity to find out what was going on. Many think it was because they had a social connection, but it is clear that they wanted to get the goods on their church “neighbor”. That yellow sheet journalism experiment, The Journal, continues the stupidity with Dixon Cartwright knowingly maintaining a newspaper filled with strange articles, with stranger advertising, written by extremely strange people, all in an effort to make the entire Armstrongist community seem genteel and civilized when it is nothing of the kind. People are addicted to infotainment involving perceived celebrities at the center of their eschatology with a slavish dedication to watch church news so they can be counted worthy of attention of their associates in the church. If people left, they would sorely miss the continuing soap opera of “as the church turns”. They just can’t leave — they are slaves of their passion to get all the news of the other church people that can fit in their minuscule minds. It’s like a small town, best described by Bob Hope: People are so narrow, their ears overlap.
If you are disfellowshipped, you will learn instantly that you really didn’t have any friends in the Armstrong community, particularly if you brought to light something the cult wanted to keep hidden. It could be worse than that: In some of the extreme Armstrongist cults, people have found themselves stalked or worse. Many have had repeated phone calls late at night with those who hang up immediately when they answer. Some have had to contact the police and the FBI. A few are threatened in other ways, such as being threatened with lawsuits or other forms of extortion. If you leave, it depends, but under some circumstances, you might just want to drop off the grid when you leave.
Indeed perilous times have come.
So yes, we do seem to be in the last days.
The last days of Armstrongism.
And we’re just fine with that.
In response to your excellent essay PTSD:
Douglas Becker writes: “BUT, many battered wives, many abused employees, many former religious believers eventually come to the point where they accept that – quite literally – no matter what happens in the future, it is not going to be worse than this. And that realization is what sets them free. Free to begin working on learning a new way to live, with no guarantee of where the new path will lead.”
What should we expect from people in mass centralized society after the illusions of its stability and fairness are demolished? The impact of the central bank on society, and all its ramifications, is criminal. Criminality is implicit any time power is centralized in “few hands”. What our society suffers from is a structural problem. When people are awake to the abuses of mass centralization, and the profound damage they suffer consequent of hierarchical systems of control, then, they are ready to undertake their autonomous organization, of necessity, the opposite of centralization; organization where in power is shared equally among all members.
The idea that the opposite of mass centralized society can be another type of organization, rather than chaos, is something few people have considered. That type of organization, described in my book, Decentralized Economic Social Organization, DESO, and Neo-New World, is precisely the way to prevent centralized power from dominating, and impoverishing the lives of people.
Organized Religion in Mass Centralized Society
Some church organizations do things to help the less fortunate in appreciable ways. There are many types of religious groups with their respective agendas. I will not elaborate the topic here. The fact remains that not all churches are entirely altruistic, and some are entirely deceptive.
When a “church” is the means by which its “leaders” earn a living, or enjoy opulence, at the expense of their congregations, then it is not a church, but, rather, it is a conniving business that “sells” promises; promises of subjective experience for the member with the most “faith”.
When a “church” is a business …it is a means to power, power for the few people that manage it. Such systems may become autocratic bureaucracies expanding influence, and encouraging members to recruit new members. …By contrast, there are congregations that stagnate, and remain close knit groups, under the control of their chief, and principle acolytes. …A “matured” powerful, religious institution like the Catholic Church manipulates the mentalities of its members to over populate. The Mormon Church uses different deceptions, but with the same result.
Douglas Becker writes: “This blog entry began with an example of fear in the PKG Weinland CoG. Even after Weinland’s 2012 Pentecost prophecy went bust, proving he is certifiably a false prophet, followed by his conviction as a felon for evading the Federal Income Tax, his followers are still… well… following him… mostly because of fear. It may be fear of suffering or the fear of losing out. The bottom line is fear.”
Systems of control, by whatever name, are attractive targets for unscrupulous, psychopaths and sociopaths. See my essay on that topic at: http://decentralizationblog.wordpress.com
“My favorite line from the movie “Shawshank Redemption” is (paraphrased), “You can get busy living, or get busy dying.” It just seemed like the members we saw (except for Ron and his family) were so busy preparing to die, that they had forgotten how to live.”
Unscrupulous “church leaders” do not share the “faith” of those whom they dominate.
Douglas Becker writes: “Complex PTSD applies to people who have been subjected to totalitarian control over a prolonged period (months to years), for example, hostages, prisoners of war, concentration camp inhabitants, victims of domestic battering or prolonged sexual exploitation and abuse, and cult members. Symptoms include persistent negative feelings of anxiety and / or sadness, chronic suicidal preoccupation, self-injury, explosive or extremely inhibited anger (may alternate), compulsive or extremely inhibited sexuality (may alternate), reliving or ruminating over experiences, a sense of helplessness or paralysis of initiative, a sense of defilement or stigma, a sense of complete difference from others (specialness, utter aloneness, a sense that no other person can understand, or not feeling entirely human), and preoccupation with the perpetrator *(includes preoccupation with revenge or unrealistic attribution of total power to the perpetrator). Complex PTSD is sometimes called Disorder of Extreme Stress. “As adults, these individuals often are diagnosed with depressive disorders, personality disorders, or dissociative disorders. Treatment often takes much longer than with regular PTSD, may progress at a much slower rate, and requires a sensitive and structured treatment program delivered by a trauma specialist….”
Analytically, you can correlate what you describe here with the overall socioeconomic – structures – that the members of mass centralized society are obliged to adapt to, and react to. Humanistic psychiatrists including Erich Fromm, and C. G. Jung, and even more explicitly Alfred Ribi, among others, have made it clear that alienation, the consequence of conformity within hierarchies of centralized power, is itself a life depleting, mental pathology.
People in Secular Psychopathological Civilization
Competition is natural, since the quality of goods and services varies. To base a civilization on competition alone is nonsense, because competition alone becomes petrified by monopoly. Bogus competition in monopolized systems includes the fight among too many applicants for too few positions. That mentality is reflected in the televised game shows that choose one winner from thousands of competitors. By contrast, a high civilization is mutualistic, a structural feature, as well as competitive, a natural feature of production.
There are few, or no, options for most members of a stratified, competitive, power-based society. Extreme conformity includes the expense of adequate training in order to compete for entry levels in for-profit corporations, or in public services. Not having credentials or due to one’s inability, or refusal, to conform to authoritarianism can result in a life-long, day by day, struggle for money.
Conformity to the behavioral standards of systems of control causes fear; fear of disapproval, of ostracization, banishment, or punishment.
In a competitive, stratified society fear is used to form “union,” the fear of an enemy that “threatens” the “well being” of all. The enemy can be the members of a competitive group, a contrived enemy, or an imaginary one.
When the Soviet Union ended, the fear among the American megalomaniacs in positions of control was that in the absence of FEAR, the people might discover each other and initiate dialogue! The new enemy, a contrived enemy, was “terrorists,” mostly blamed on radical Islamists. That was convenient, because, as in any witch hunt, the accused could not prove that she was not a witch, a communist, or a “terrorist,” and untold numbers of them could be anonymous and at large.
The nail that drove the point home was 911. That was the contrived, the engineered, demonstration that brought the “reality” of real danger into the minds of Americans. All of the inner workings of that particular, wicked machination may never be known.
There are many ways oppressors create enemies for their oppressed to fear.
With 911, the powers that be killed two birds with one stone. They enforced fear among most Americans, and they fueled the mass hysteria consequent of 911 with propaganda, and stirred up the working psychopaths among us to enforce support for the Iraq invasion, and so on.
Fear is a contributing factor of PTSD. A society that is grounded on domination uses fear to weaken its members, so they cease being critical, and become all the more susceptible to mass hysteria.
Of course, there are exceptions. Some people become effective, critical non-conformists. And, yes, too, there are people from humble beginnings who become humane, noteworthy folks, who can be kind.
And, there is a “narrow slice of society,” wherein children are born into loving, imaginative families that have the means to educate them generously, and widely. Among those people there are well adjusted independent sorts that have some idea of culture and history, as well as a better view of society and its machinations. And, they may even have the luxury of discretionary time …coupled with the skill of thought.
Organized people are sincerely, passionately, dedicated to conserving the natural environment while, at once, they witness its mass destruction caused by industrial conglomerates.
Kind people create businesses that treat the ills of people in a sick society, not suspecting, or not admitting, that the society itself is the cause of the widespread, generalized, malaise.
Many people seem to comprehend the problem of centralized power, and understand, to varying degrees, its negative impact on people. Most of those people have real difficulty imagining pragmatic, structured solutions to the problem. Marcin Jakubowski has made significant inroads relevant to needed solutions, as have John Seymour, and E.F. Schumacher, among others. But, the organizational principles needed to assimilate all humane contributions that enhance our well being are only now beginning to surface.
Nonetheless, the preponderances of our society’s members are not well. According to Abraham H. Maslow, “Though, in principle, self-actualization [full metal health] is easy, in practice it rarely happens (by my criteria, certainly in less than 1% of the adult population). For this, there are many, many reasons at various levels of discourse, including all the determinants of psychopathology that we now know. …” (Toward a Psychology of Being, P. 204)
The few people born into the actual class of wealth do not focus on “accomplishment,” since they own everything. As children, and as young people, they are taught that they are among that, unexplained, ““Special” ten percent.” They are taught to “rule,” which, for the most part, alienates them from their humanness, and ruins all sense of community.
Psychopathy and Sociopathy
Psychopathy is a form of retardation, not intellectual impairment, but empathetic impairment. There are law abiding psychopaths, as well as outlaw psychopaths. Individually, their intelligence varies. …Psychopaths dislike pain, and they avoid the conditions that they remember had caused it, but they don’t have fear. …They are born into every level of society, 4% of births.
If poor, they may learn, as do members of their class, skills to make money, or become welfare recipients. Being liars, cheats, and coning-people, is characteristic, some become “religious” leaders. They get what they want from whomever they influence.
When born into more favorable circumstances, psychopaths may learn to live off others legally, or otherwise, and, may, or may not, assimilate enough education to manage professional positions. Within their capacities, psychopaths strive to control other people.
Sociopaths, however, are not born, but are “made.” They are people for whom the pursuit of wealth and power is the primary objective in life, and they use any advantage to get it.
Of course, to varying degrees, the unscrupulous in positions of control instill fear in others, which is terrorism, as well as make use of deceit …conflict, murder, and rape whenever they perceive doing so can strengthen their position of dominance, or increases their pleasure in the moment.
The spectrum’s of mental pathologies relevant to PTSD reduce personal productivity, and impoverish lives.
The theme of western society is domination (Paulo Freire). That is the theme sociopaths live by, and conveniently for them, society is structured so that the few benefit from the efforts of the many.
A competitive, profit-based society is invariably monopolized, because it is the nature of power to “fall to ever fewer hands”.
I think that all stratified societies are sick.
Douglas Becker writes: “Naturally, if a person was born or raised in a group, the cult-shaped belief system and behaviors may be all she ever knew.”
Erich Fromm said that, “A sick society produces sick people.”
For-profit institutionalization caters to self-centered opportunism, which is the “drive” of psychopaths. The claim that self-centered opportunism is at the heart of “human nature” is the hollow rant of psychopaths, because they can’t fathom otherwise.
While, at once, the world over, loving parents would like very much for their children to have the support they need for unencumbered growth, even though, sadly, more often than not, that support is unattainable.
There is something that can be done about that …humane pragmatism. Genuine community structured without hierarchies of power, without sociopaths, is well within our capacity to bring into realty. What about psychopaths? In real community, people would deal with psychopathy effectively, and humanely.
From the standpoint of the Memorial Day Weekend in the United States, May 26 – 28, 2012, many former members of the Armstrongist Churches of God have questions: How does an obviously insane lying false prophet con men become so entrenched in a cult like the PKG and why do people continue to follow him even though it should be obvious that he has failed spectacularly.
As we introduce the answers anticipated by puzzled people, we call attention to the Armstrongist Venn Chart above. Some people may say, “Are you serious?” and “That can’t possibly be true!”. We are quite serious and it is true, but it does require an explanation.
Venn Charts are graphic representations of the intersection, overlap and exclusion of mathematically based sets. In this case, we represent the intersection of the Abuser, the Narcissistic Psychopath and Liar. At the region these three sets intersect, we find the Armstrongist Church of God Minister. While an initial skepticism is anticipated, we will go through the reasoning process to explain the conclusion.
First, we want to make it clear that every major problem in the Armstrongist Churches of God came originally from Herbert Armstrong. These problems are rooted in the narcissistic personality disorder of Herbert Armstrong where he had no empathy for his followers. It should further be noted that he had a set of delusions now thoroughly disproved which formed the “collective conscience” of the basic church cult. At the center of the delusions was British Israelism, the proposition that the United States and British Commonwealth are supposed lost tribes of Israel and that British Israelism is the Key to Prophecy for the understanding of all key events to follow. This heresy of a preposterous science fiction style alternative earth history was and is indeed the Key to the failed prophecies of the Armstrongist ministry and leaders from the very beginning in the Radio Church of God starting with Herbert Armstrong, following down to this very day, where Ronald Weinland has prophesied that Jesus Christ will return this weekend. British Israelism is at the heart of it all and it completely invalidates all the teachings of the Armstrongist Churches of God.
The delusions were extended through the silly history of the church stolen from Dugger and Dodd who plagiarized it from Ellen G. White who just made up the whole thing. We know and can prove that the Waldensians considered themselves good Catholics and nothing more, never kept the Sabbath, let alone the Holydays. This “True History of The True Church” was nothing of the kind. It is thoroughly debunked and has been long rejected by the original Church of God Seventh Day. In fact, The Church of God Seventh Day had an article showing the folly of British Israelism in The Bible Advocate in this past year.
Unfortunately, the mind set is obsessive and the current members of the Armstrongist Churches of God simply refuse to look at the truth, let alone accept it, particularly those following Ronald Weinland in the CoG-PKG.
A regular contributor to this forum mentioned in a posting that the military made him a psychopath. This stems from the misunderstanding of the difference between a psychopath and sociopath — a distinction which is important to make because the goal of all major entities today, including the Military, Corporations, Academia, Government and Religious Corporations is to produce sociopaths to run them.
A psychopath has three major components [those who are interested in the details may check Snakes in Suits by Dr. Paul Babiak and Dr. Robert Hare]: Narcissism encompassing a complete lack of empathy, being devoid of conscience and game playing. Psychopaths have a cycle of three acts: Assessment, Execution and Abandonment. The first step of Execution is to wreck the credibility of those who can expose the con for what it is. Psychopaths love to play games and cut it close in brinkmanship to see just how far they can push their “mark”.
Sociopaths, by contrast, usually don’t actively play games, but more important have something called a “conditional conscience”. This “conditional conscience” is extremely important because it sets the bounds of what the Sociopath generally will do and won’t do. An example of this is the Mafia where any illegal or immoral act may be committed from prostitution, murder, drug trafficking to identity theft, upon those outside the Mafia. The “conditional conscience” is endemic to protect the Mafia itself and such activities are severely proscribed from being transacted against the internal members of the Mafia.
This is important, because of issues of loyalty which underlie the core basis of a group. In the military, for example, the soldiers have their conscience suspended to go out and kill the enemy, but if the military goes too far and produces psychopaths instead of sociopaths, there will be a discipline problem and internal chaos will result. The same principles apply to Corporations, Academia, Government and particularly Cult Religions. Certainly, the end justifies the means, but the Leader is sacrosanct, raised to the level of a saint or even a god; his lieutenants also have a great deal of prestige for the purposes of group survival and stability.
Thus it is that Herbert Armstrong established Ambassador College for the effective generation of Sociopaths. Given the characteristics of Sociopaths and having had Herbert Armstrong as the first Mafia Don, the success of a consistent generation of Sociopaths to “do the Work” is consumate. It was an amazing job to take moral, even decent students entering the machine in their freshman year and to have their consciences turned and burned into conditional ones in four short years. Delusion, fear, guilt, avarice and many other clever devices were used to transform simple students into polished socially ept attractive Sociopaths.
The real problem was that the world has changed and eventually, the one holding the entire cult together with the force of his will died. The 700+ cults are having difficulty with the competition from Sociopaths within and outside the Armstrongist “community” in at “dog eat dog” world of survival of the fittest. Evolution has left Armstrongists in entropy.
Sociopaths and psychopaths traditionally have poor behavioral controls. This is well exhibited in the temper of Roderick Meredith or Don Haney. This is further degraded precipitously by temptations: Both money and narcissistic appealing ego stroking are nearly irresistible to those who have been brain washed into the thinking “quality” of things is superior to actual intangible values. It is no accident that there is a heavy dependence on rigid rituals: What to wear to church, what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath and Feast Days, what percentage of your income you give and for what purposes, what you can and cannot eat and so forth. These are set as limits for the Sociopath “contextual conscience” because making real moral and ethical choices can be quite confusing to the Sociopath. When in doubt, have an explanation for every little thing and have rules which can be remembered easily (or better, written and posted by the door).
As the personal restrictions were lifted from those who were under the Draconian and arbitrary control of Herbert Armstrong after he died, those who had sufficient power threw off the shackles to indulge themselves to wallow in the new freedom from behavior controls and restrictions. There was War. As things sorted themselves out, many became leaders in their own right with a fiefdom of their own to be absolute gods over the hapless and often clueless sheople.
Abuse abounds in such venues as both assault and neglect. Abuse may simply be a matter of collateral damage of self serving self interest amongst the narcissists in power who really don’t care much about anyone but themselves.
Whether conscious of it or not, those in power have been liars from the beginning. Since those of us in an Anti Armstrongist role have exposed the fraudulence of the lies, particularly in the last two years, the ministry and administration has no excuse and at some level know the truth, but they continue to lie to you and take your money.
These are only part of the temptations they face and they yield to them, thus passing from Sociopath to the games playing psychopath role.
There is one more factor to complete the picture of our Venn Graph: A new term known as “Psychopath by Day”.
This should be familiar — at least in principle — to those who have read “Moral Mazes” by Robert Jackall. As a mid manager said in an interview for the book, what is right and moral is what the guy above you wants from you. That is to say, a “conditional conscience” loyal to the leadership in the hierarchy.
This is made possible by bracketing misdeeds through compartmentalization. Thus a CEO can lie, steal, even murder, pollute the world, outsource, destroy careers and the competition, then go home, be a wonderful father, husband, sit down to tea with the utmost social graces and recycle. Make no mistake: Many of the Armstrongist Ministers are monsters, but can appear pleasant and affable to those who may have impact on their agenda. It should also be pointed out that neurology research has demonstrated that those who deliberately lie actively destroy portions of their brains to make it into white mental mush. This, in turn, makes it easier to practice deception effectively. Being able to practice deception and lie convincingly is called “Executive Ability”. In recent studies, it has been shown that these “Executive Abilities” stem from childhood and set when children learn to lie effectively. So remember, the higher the rank of the minister, the more “Executive Ability” he has, and it is likely you can determine exactly how much he has if you were able to be privy to his brain scans (which would also reveal tangibly whether he is a psychopath or not).
Thus we validate our Venn Diagram.
The Venn Diagram also explains such people as Ronald Weinland.
But what of the followers?
We will cover that next time in Part II.