It’s clear that Ronald Weinland committed fraud: He was convicted of 5 counts of felony Income Tax Evasion and sent to prison for 42 months; in addition, he must pay what he owes with penalties. He was legally convicted by a jury of his peers, but members of his cult, the Church of God, Preaching the Kingdom of God (CoG-PKG), believe that it was persecution not prosecution. Objectively, he committed a crime, the evidence was against him and his sentence was just (if a bit lenient).
The question here is why do the members of the PKG give Ronald Weinland the benefit of the doubt, even though he committed fraud and, thus, violated the precept that a minister should have a “good reputation of those who are without” — non members — meaning that it is inappropriate that he should be a minister (/ apostle / prophet / evangelist / [____] General)? This question arises other places. For example, there is a southern conservative that was voted out of office because he embraced the evidence that global warming is being caused by human beings. This became too much for his constituents because it threatened a way of life! People would have to examine how they live and make new choices about how they acted. Moreover, it would threaten their social status. This is consistent with the sociology we find within the Armstrongist churches of God.
Thus it is that Herbert Armstrong could be a total fraud — making false prophecies as a false prophet as he did for decades and preach the thoroughly debunked stupid idea of British Israelism — and people in the WCG would defend his ‘honor’ vociferously because they just ‘knew’ he had brought them the ‘truth’. Some of knew and now know that he committed incest with his daughter for the first ten years of his ministry, and that is just fine because he brought them the ‘truth’. They can know that he plagiarized all of his major doctrines from G. G. Rupert — including the Feasts — and still accept that he was ‘personally taught by Jesus Christ’. Some even knew of his practices which would have gotten him into the same sort of trouble with the Internal Revenue Service as Ronald Weinland, if only he had been caught spending church funds on his family sailing on a yacht on the Mediterranean. It’s all good because if members admitted the truth, they would have to give up following him, lose their status in their little WCG social club and lose access to the Feast where they could booze it up with their fellow alcoholics. It would be too much to change in their lives and would have been an unacceptable disruption to their dysfunctional chaos.
I have never made any secret of my admiration for Garner Ted’s good qualities. But, in a restrictive religious environment, living under what was often called the ultimate honor system, his behavior should raise some very disturbing questions for devout Armstrongites past and present.
We were taught in the WCG to take every word a minister utters as if it had come directly from Jesus Christ. It’s kind of like the old trust exercise where participants are expected to fall backwards, knowing their fellow members in the class will catch them. How can a practicing serial adulterer be a trustworthy vessel for carrying and transmitting the words of Jesus? And yet, not only was his father, HWA, complicit, but also, as age set in, his son, GTA, was arguably the most effective and convincing speaker in the WCG. Didn’t we all hang on his every word, “knowing” them to be inspired? So, if the primary characters are acting, in no way validated by Jesus Christ, all the supposed end time gospel efforts supported by impoverished tithe payers would be nothing more than a sophisticated scam. (They were!)
Think about this. Hypothetically, what if you were God? We know now, that this just can’t be, but what if you, as God, had actually chosen a father and son team to warn the world that the end was coming in 1975? What if you watched both as they totally botched the commission by giving in to their prurient appetites, failing to live the life they were preaching, lying and cheating to get the gospel out, participating in incest and adultery, drunkenness, and gambling along the way, and lying to cover it all up? If you were God, you simply couldn’t make it appear that these types of people were your messengers, so you would need to make them appear as false messengers (which they actually were, they had nothing to do with God or anything supernatural). Even if you had scheduled the end for 1975, you would need to postpone it, and start from scratch, using a whole new group to do the job. I no longer believe in any of the major details of the Armstrong prophecy mold. Those are every bit the farce as are the incest and adultery. However, in the dubious and remote event that that mold ever had a scintilla of truth behind it, a Godly scuttling for plan B is the only thing that makes any sense. Truly, the Armstrongs embodied the phrase “Judas priest”. And, those taught by them are unfit messengers as well, and now dying off just like the Israelites wandering aimlessly in circles in the desert for 40 years.
Other disturbing questions should be raised concerning his illegitimate children: He abandoned them. Should we give GTA a free pass because he was charismatic and a fun guy to be around? The children (not to mention the A.C. coeds he raped who became minister’s wives) are very much diminished by this view.
David Pack is a fraud: He predicted several years back that three of the leaders of the ‘major’ [Armstrongist] churches of God would die and the people in those churches would come flocking to him. It never happened. But people are amazed at his apparent skills of leadership and building a church headquarters facility, replete with a Steuben Crystal piece in his office. The city of Wadsworth has also been sucked in. Nevertheless, reports of the misery (not to mention YouTube posts) illustrate the hubris of the man who is unsympathetic to any of the needs of those in his congregation. Heaven help you if you MUST go to the bathroom during his sermon!!!! People just live with it (with a bit of grumbling) but are still certain that he’s going to get them into the luxury suites in Petra when they leave for the Place of Safety. Good luck with that: The preponderance of the evidence more than suggests that going there under his domination would be fatal.
Then we have Gerald Flurry… a total fraud and complete failure as ‘that prophet’ — the incarnation of Jesus Christ in this age. His online DUI suggests differently as does his failed prophecies. Redfox over at Living Armstrongism has blog after blog detailing the stupidity of the Philadelphia Church of God. The latest is the PCG compared with the 14 points of Fascism. It is one of the most factual ignored blogs within the anti-Armstrongist movement.
After awhile some people may conclude that, yes, certainly the leaders of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia sects are nothing but frauds, but that perhaps the time of giving the followers sympathy has long passed.
Concerning Prophet’s Prey, the documentary about Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, Michael O’Sullivan, critic for the Washington Post had this to say:
There isn’t much here that hasn’t already been made public. Yet among many appalling things cited by “Prophet’s Prey,” the most troubling conclusion may have nothing to do with Jeffs at all. It’s the sinking realization, as Krakauer points out, that there are still thousand of FLDS faithful who continue to revere Jeffs, even after his conviction. What this says about human nature, and our ability — even willingness — to be led astray by an unscrupulous shepherd is the most depressing discovery of all.
When it comes to cults, we’re not talking about shepherds, we’re talking about wolves, which people are all too willing to not just follow, but to give every part of their lives over to. The outrageous acts of the FLDS controlled by Warren Jeffs is also documented in I Escaped a Cult. What is really amazing is how followers of cult leaders are so loyal and quick to come to the defense of the cult leaders. They can be defiantly dedicated to blindly defend the cult leaders with irrational excuses. For those watching Prophet’s Prey, this is underscored by the cinematographer’s camera operator taking video from a moving vehicle, filming people on side of the street: Women and children gave a middle single-finger salute.
Closer to home, Yisrayl Hawkins, leader of the House of Yahweh cult has much the same profile as Warren Jeffs: performing polygamous weddings and forcing children – some as young as 11 – to work jobs at his 44-acre compound. Make no mistake: Yisrayl Hawkins is directly from Armstrongism, having split from the Worldwide Church of God in 1980. The House of Yahweh keeps the Feast of Tabernacles. The above video on YouTube shows that Dr. Phil exposes the House of Yahweh as a fraud. People comment on how his prophecies fail and he keeps making changes to his prophecies as they fail. He cries continually how he needs more money, but he’s very wealthy. Here again, the members of his cult vociferously defend and make excuses for Hawkins. The excerpt on Dr. Phil demonstrates that Hawkins can’t pronounce ‘nuclear’ correctly:
Rick Ross calls the House of Yahweh a ‘destructive cult’ and that there is no accountability. Hawkin’s followers live in poverty in trailers while he has millions. What happens with the mind control is that the other members of the group installs a sense of identity, completely isolating an individual so all ‘truth’ comes only from the group. At the same time, Hawkins claims he is being unfairly persecuted — and the loyal members support him in this allegation.
For persecution, Ronald Weinland of the Church of God — Preaching the Kingdom of God (CoG-PKG); in his Site Bio, there is this entry:
As with so many whom God has called as prophets and apostles, most all have been imprisoned and/or killed by the governments of this world. Although some history has different accounts, it is believed that all the original disciples who became God’s apostles, including Paul, were all imprisoned and killed, except for John. John was imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos by the Roman government, and it is there that he was given the Book of Revelation to write.
In like manner, and as his counterpart, Ronald Weinland was falsely imprisoned by the government of the United States for evading to pay taxes.
This does not reflect reality. Two jurors at the Weinland trial have testified that it was not persecution, it was prosecution. The evidence is clear. The man isn’t just a lying false prophet, he’s also a convicted felon currently serving his prison term. Nevertheless, PKG members continue to support Weinland and make excuses for him — displaying their loyalty to him.
In fact, this pattern of loyalty is exhibited across the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia, with profligate leaders with bad behavior being defended by their supporters, members of the cult sects.
Why do cultists exhibit such loyalty in the face of facts debunking their beliefs and exposing their leaders?
Dissonance and consonance are relations among cognitions — that is, among opinions, beliefs, knowledge of the environment, and knowledge of one’s own actions and feelings. Two opinions, or beliefs, or items of knowledge are dissonant with one another if they do not fit together — that is, if they are inconsistent, or if considering only the particular two items, one does not follow from the other. For example, a cigarette smoker who believes that smoking is bad for his health has an opinion that is dissonant with the knowledge that he is continuing to smoke. He may have many other opinions, beliefs, or items of knowledge that are consonant with continuing to smoke but the dissonance nevertheless exists too.
Dissonance produces discomfort and, correspondingly, there will arise pressures to reduce or eliminate the dissonance. Attempts to reduce dissonance represent the observable manifestations that dissonance exists. Such attempts may take any or all three forms. The person may try to change one or more of the beliefs, opinions, or behaviors involved in the dissonance; to acquire new information or beliefs that will increase the existing consonance and thus cause the total dissonance to be reduced; or to forget or reduce the importance of those cognitions that are in a dissonant relationship.
The Armstrongists all know that Deuteronomy 18 says that the false prophet shall be put to death. They know the Scripture in Revelation 22 that says that liars will not inherit the Kingdom of God… and yet, they observe their cult leader lying and being a false prophet — and still they show loyalty by supporting him and ignoring what they know to be true: The man is a fraud. They have to. If they don’t, they will have to admit they are wrong and to do so would cause great pain.
Warren Jeffs was shown in a video where he said, “I am a liar. I am not a prophet.” Those are hard facts. The FLDS members simply ignore his statements as some sort of test. He had rousted his followers in his compound at 6 A.M. to stand in a field because he told them that they were to be taken up. They stood for 12 hours. At 6 P.M. he told them that they weren’t taken up because it was their fault for not being righteous enough. Cult leaders can play all sorts of games to give their membership premade excuses they can use to salve their cognitive dissonance.
We don’t have to pursue the cognitive dissonance generated within the membership following Roderick Meredith, David Pack, Gerald Flurry, Robert Thiel and the whole host of others because they are all well known false prophets and liars. The real problem is loyalty.
It is time to abandon loyalty to those who are cult leaders — they are not worthy of our time and attention.
Only when inappropriate loyalty is abandoned can sanity begin.
When Prophecy Fails is a study of what happens to individuals when their belief system has been shown to be in error (disconfirmed).
A review by William E. Adams at Amazon.com says:
This work first saw print in 1956. It is the story of a UFO cult in a large city in the Midwest…how it developed, how the leaders recruited followers, how predictions about the coming end of the world started flowing from the psychic members who allegedly channeled messages from the spacemen/pilots. The cult members were told they would be saved, picked up by saucers on an appointed date. The members quit jobs, sold possessions, and gathered, only to be disappointed. Did they all quit in a huff? No way. The first failure only made them more determined they were right, more anxious to be ready for the next announced departure date. Then a second failure. A few members fell away, a few suffered doubts, a few challenged for leadership themselves. The point of this book is that it takes “three disconfirmations” to kill a movement of true believers, and even then, some still hang on to the discredited “theology” by grasping at excuses. I found this book by accident about 30 years ago, and have read it at least four times. I find it fascinating. In the 1970’s I knew two women in Albuquerque who were amateur psychics. They started bringing forth “space brethren messages” and eventually, although they failed to attract a following, they went up into the nearby mountains one night sure they would be lifted off before the coming unspecified disaster. They waited, but no ship appeared. I think people inclined toward UFO beliefs haven’t changed much since this book was published. The basic data shown in this study can apply to religious or political groups as well. I am sorry it is out of print, but if you have an interest in this field, get a used copy…the prices are reasonable and the book will not disappoint!
Support for the study was obtained through the Laboratory for Research in Social Relations of the University of Minnesota and help received through a grant-in-aid from the Ford Foundation to one of the authors. The study is to answer the how and why people take on new fervor when they have contradictory evidence which they should not be able to avoid. There are five conditions under which the authors would expect to observe the increased fervor:
A belief must be held with deep conviction and it must have some relevance to action, that is, to what the believer does or how he behaves.
The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it; that is, for the sake of his belief, he must have taken some important action that is difficult to undo. In general, the more important such actions are, and the more difficult they are to undo, the greater is the individual’s commitment to the belief.
The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world so that events may unequivocally refute the belief.
Such undeniable disconfirmatory evidence must occur and must be recognized by the individual holding the belief.
The first two of these conditions specify the circumstances that will make the belief resistant to change. The third and fourth conditions together, on the other hand, point to factors that would exert powerful pressure on a believer to discard his belief. It is, of course, possible that an individual, even though deeply convinced of a belief, may discard it in the face of unequivocal disconfirmation. We must, therefore, state a fifth condition specifying the circumstances under which the belief will be discarded and those under which it will be maintained with new fervor.
The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of dis-confirming evidence we have specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, we would expect the belief to be maintained and the believers to attempt to proselyte or to persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct.
Luckily, the authors found a group they could observe during the study. A woman of a very religious persuasion began writing messages she just ‘knew’ was from a contact in outer space. This ‘source’ warned her to tell the world that there was going to be a great flood to purge the world.
Along the way, she was told that those within the inner circle of her group would be rescued by flying saucers.
And in the end, we all know how that turned out. They waited again and again to be picked up, but, alas, there was no saucer shuttle and no flood. Yet, many of the group continued to believe even after a number of disappointments, illustrating the workings of the 5 premises. The people really did hang on to their beliefs even after they had been demonstrated to be patently silly.
Of course, those of you currently in the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia know perfectly well there are no such things as flying saucers and the whole thing is patently silly on the face of it.
Just in case you Armstrongists get off the hook because you don’t believe in flying saucers, think again! The authors of When Prophecy Fails spend over seven pages of the first chapter on William Miller! The CoHAM should be getting mighty nervous. After all, those of us blogging to refute Armstrongism have shown that the Worldwide Church of God and its successors are cults. We’ve debunked British Israelism and shown up the same sort of ‘prophecies’ ‘disconfirmed’ by the book. There are no excuses. You Armstrongists are doing exactly what the study predicts you would do. For example, consider the British Israelism Church of God: It has the gall to just make up excuses why DNA doesn’t disprove British Israelism. The problem is that Y-Chromosome DNA has been found to be stable over thousands of years and just doesn’t magically morph to some other haplogroup. Idiots.
Major fail. Again and again. And yet, people keep believing and making up excuses, just like the study says. If you really want to be embarrassed by what you believed, re-read 1975 in Prophecy:
Herbert Armstrong made some pretty bold prophecies. They simply didn’t come to pass. Did you make excuses for the failure in 1975 when the disconfirmation was too intense to ignore?
If there is any group that illustrates the truth of When Prophecy Fails, it is the PKG. Ron and Laura Weinland — the two witnesses of the Church of God – Preaching the Kingdom of God (CoG-PKG) — have conned the PKG to continue giving them money even after their major prophecies failed… again… and again. What’s worse, Ronald Weinland is currently serving his sentence for felony Income Tax evasion, but the PKG membership sticks with him and continues to make excuses.
Others, such as David Pack continue to exhibit hoof in mouth disease — Dave prophesied a specific date that three major leaders in the other churches of God would die and members of all the ACoGs would come flocking to him. That was years ago and still… nothing.
Now it is true that the Armstrongist Churches of God have something that little group in the Midwest in the 1950s didn’t have. It would have been so much better after the flying saucers failed to show and take them away from the flood that didn’t happen if they had some way to find out how the various members of their group fared after The Great Disappointment. They should have had the benefit of some sort of periodic newspaper which had stories and articles about the group and the individual members. They could keep up much better, even if the editor didn’t particularly believe in the tenets of the group and held the ‘floodists’ and ‘farmer UFOlogists’ in contempt. He could still publish something called The Journal. Maybe out of some town like say, Big Sandy. What’s important is not what the group believes — what’s really important is to keep the social group together in its completely delusional dysfunctional existence.
Herbert Armstrong established an empire which could only end in the stagnation of fetid rotten pockets of stale sluggishness where even revenue flow is stagnant. The stench of stagnation with entropy drifted everywhere among the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia sects in 2014 and trends indicate that 2015 will continue the stagnation. No one should expect the return of the Laodocean rich and increased in goods in need of nothing prosperity of the 1970s Worldwide Church of God because it is never coming back. Frankly, it may well be that 2015 may not even be as good as 2014 was and 2014 just wasn’t all that good.
After 80 years of Armstrongism, you would think they would have gotten somewhere. Instead, Armstrongism is predicated upon stagnation, constantly reinventing wheels, and misguided attempts to “really get serious this time.” As a result, “depth” is something no one has ever achieved. Armstrongism’s idea about “going deeper” is to double-down on strategies that have proven to lead only to failure, and to go around in an old, familiar circles yet one more time.
How “deep” or “exhaustive” has any COG minister or member’s attempt to understand the bible or live like Jesus ever been? Armstrongists keep on using words like “deeper” or “more exhaustive,” but the fact is, these now-trite sayings are incoherent. Either something is exhaustive, or it is not. It is not possible to do a job “more exhaustively.” All this means is, “We were wrong about saying we did it ‘exhaustively’ last time (like every other time) and we’ll probably be wrong this time too. The reason why they can’t even come up to “the world’s” standards is because, for all their talk about “mooring” they’re completely unmoored from reality. Everything they say is without any objective referent to anchor it. The only thing that’s possible is more pie-in-the-sky talk and meaningless platitudes. They’ve never been serious before and they’re not about to get serious now.
The trouble is, when one really does make the personal decision to “get serious,” it winds up in that person realizing that he needs to leave Armstrongism behind, because the COGs, in and of themselves are an imposition to “getting serious.” Acceptance of the tenets of Armstrongism bind you with shallowness and stagnation. They make the abandonment of seriousness incumbent upon the believer. Instead, they divert any “seriousness” they might have had into useless old testament rituals like “deleavening” their homes. Ritualized “progress” takes the place of any actual “progress.” The only thing ministerial types like Robin Webber have ever been “serious” about is coming up with that extra 5 inches.
Perhaps we can expect statements of the state of the Work by the various cult leaders again this year. It may be that David Pack will issue Pastor General Yearly Letter again this January as he did last year with glowing reports of explosive growth for the Restored Church of God, but in reality the operative word here should be ‘implosion’. It looks like he’s been buying more property without sufficient resources to pay for it and that Steuben Crystal at the office looks like it will collect dust. Meanwhile, Davey will keep his member abuse program going in high gear, but that’s hardly an effort which will create an enthusiastic energy for his compound.
David Hulme learned something about tampering with British Israelism last year and it is very likely he will not recoup his losses.
The Living Church of God continues to have a name that it is Living, but it’s in the stagnant doldrums and the only possible excitement in 2015 could be the death of Roderick Meredith. There would be a great deal of frenetic activity temporarily, overriding the stagnation, but if it were to occur, the ultimate result would be even more stagnation from entropy, with possible help from a major split or two.
Robert Thiel has been off to a slow start and it does look like it’s going to decline from there: Expect stagnation.
Gerald Flurry keeps making noises about how good things are going at the Philadelphia Church of God, but a word of advice: When your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall. Flurry has been spending money he doesn’t have and has bought a new campus in England which may well have as many as 8 students and it may well be the British may require diversity classes. Brad MacDonald will be moving in to be headmaster of a glorified high school called ‘college’ or ‘university’. It’s too bad he couldn’t get Bricket Wood and this is certainly not the same level of culture being represented, but it made him feel better to buy it and after all that’s said and done, raising the dopamine levels in a geriatric Armstrongist leader is what’s important here. It’s tempest in a teapot time and the water in the teapot has stagnated.
Ronald Weinland continues his prison term, so the PKG can’t expect much progress — it’s stagnation squared, while Weinland issues doltish daft decrees from his cell. He will continue to do so, and the troops in the trenches will continue to get the manure falling from heaven.
James Malm will continue to more or less accurately portray the faults and evils of his compatriot competitors without ever looking in the mirror.
The United Church of God, an International Association will have all things continue as they have from the beginning… of 2014. They have noted that their average congregation size is 20 to 30 people (that’s an average — some are hundreds and some could fit in a phone booth). That is not cause for optimism, because there is a bottom line. In the stagnation, there really isn’t much new blood and ministers continue to retire. In this long slide of entropy toward irrelevance, the average rank-and-file member will have less in the way of personal ministerial contact, not that has ever been a priority in the Armstrongist churches, but it will get ever worse… slowly. Changing the name of the flagship magazine from The Good Newsto Beyond Todaycan do nothing but lend itself to stagnation. It was about time to change, though, since the UCG hasn’t really come up with much good news, although… there may not be much beyond today for them — eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you could retire. It’s truly unfortunate that The Originals have passed from the administration, taking their expertise and vision with them, so in the interest of helping out the Council of Elders, we highly suggest this book for their support:
Hope it helps. The members have received the very last Good News they will ever get from United.
If the UCG is having challenges, one can only suspect that it will be worse for the clowns at the Church of God Worldwide Association. Everybody is aging out on the average from senior to geriatric in Armstrongism and the CoGWA certainly isn’t going to be exempt from stagnation. The dream of establishing a college or university just isn’t in the cards and they likely overestimated the possible prosperity on the way out of United. There are not a few people wondering why they are in CoGWA at this point, because, except for the name on the door, you really can’t tell much difference from the UCG. Their flagship magazine is One Accord. Ha, ha, ha! That’s really funny when you consider they split with the UCG. One Accord. Is that all they have left of their transportation fleet?
The House of Yahweh with Yisrael Hawkins isn’t going anywhere. It is likely that HoY will be featured again as an expose on Dr. Phil and legal problems will continue, but at a low level, befitting the state of stagnation into which it has fallen.
The Church of God in Truth with James Russell? He said himself that “we haven’t learned anything new in 40 years”. He does claim that because the other Churches of God don’t keep the Feast Days at the right time, they will be those described in Revelation 3:9, “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.” Yes, friends, all the other Armstrongists are the synagogue of Satan saying they are Jews but are not, will suffer in the Millennium while CoGIT members will be God as God is God, lording it over everybody else. With this ‘holier than thou’ attitude, there is no chance that there’s going to be much change: Expect stagnation. If there is an afterlife, someone is in for a BIG surprise! You should all get their flagship magazine, Prove All Things. It’s worth it for the misprints in every issue. For example, a favorite is “Herbert Armstrong Pasture General”. Replete with manure? Watch where you step? They have something every issue. It’s hilarious! They should Proof Read All Things.
And there are the Rittenbaughs of the Church of the Great God fame. Oh, maybe you’ve not heard of them? Perhaps fame is too strong a word? Let’s just say that they are of the same conservative ilk as the rest of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia, except no one much notices them or their flagship magazine, Forerunner Magazine. If you didn’t know better, you’d think it had something to do with Toyota. Prognosticate that they will see stagnation in 2015? It’s a little late for that. Try obscurity instead. We wonder what happened to their minister who raped 16 teenage girls and 8 of their mothers? Still preaching or not with them? Who cares? This sect doesn’t even rise to the level of apathy and will continue that way through 2015. The founder was a welder at U.S. Steel for 16 years. It’s like Johnathan and Martha Kent at their Smallville farm setting ecommerce up from their farmhouse living room to market organic produce to the Luthorcorp employees cafeteria, except in this case, there’s not really much of a product and not much of a market.
We’d mention Mark Armstrong and the Intercontinental Church of God, but if you look at their website, you’d swear that Garner Ted Armstrong was still alive, so what’s the point?
Dixon Cartwright will continue reporting about the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia in The Journal as a journalistic exercise in irrelevance in the modern world for those addicted to the preposterous idea that it’s all one big happy family of specialized believers when he knows very well it is nothing of the kind, with some of the weirdest ideas ever being promulgated in the ads while some of the real news is being covered up: It’s an impressive effort to ‘report’ on the stagnation where everything is presented in such a positive light when the underlying core is utter garbage, much of which is generated with people who have severe mental disorders. It wouldn’t be half as bad if he didn’t know better and didn’t pretend everything is OK. It’s called enabling; Dixon Cartwright is a enabler. He has The Touch: He can make the daft seem respectable; just don’t think about it too long.
In all of this, Herbert Armstrong will continue to remain very dead all the way through 2015.
The Worldwide Church of God transformed itself into Grace Communion International in 2009. Originally, Joseph Tkach, Senior ‘inherited’ (hostile takeover) from Herbert Armstrong when Herbert Armstrong died in 2006. After Joseph Tkach, Senior died, his son, (Dr.?) Jo(seph)[e] Tkach (,Junior) finished taking the WCG into pseudo mainstream Christianity replete with Christmas, Easter and the Trinity which was much less mainstream than it may have appeared — retaining the autocratic nature of the ‘leadership’ but projecting a more benign ‘liberal’ religion. It became stagnant long ago as masses of people left either for the more traditional cult Armstrongism or became atheists and agnostics. Congregations shrank significantly to pathetic little groups, some of which kept Sunday, others keeping Saturday still and still others kept both Saturday and Sunday. Feasts were slowly but surely eradicated, but not before the Feast of Tabernacles was kept in August so it was more convenient to get time off work and school children (the few that attended) wouldn’t have to miss any school. The ‘headquarters’ was sold to provide riches for the few at the top and the ‘administration’ moved to Financial Street in a nearby city. To tell the truth, there’s so much stagnation that those still left would be better off in local mainstream Christian churches with the people, doctrines and facilities and sever their connections with GCI once and for all. GCI has become totally irrelevant and those with the beliefs espoused by the GCI would be better served by going elsewhere. It seems unlikely that 2015 will change much for them.
Unfortunately, stagnation cuts both ways. There was a time not too long ago that those of us working to expose the sects of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia had an impact. Expect that to slow in 2015. Herbert Armstrong originally created the Pavlovian response by getting members conditioned to respond to prophecies of death, doom, destruction, devastation, deviancy (in the world) so whenever they heard or saw news reports, particularly those which engaged British Israelism in their heads, it invoked belief, strengthening their faith in the prognostications. Of course, Herbert applied a layer of snow on top of the toxic dump to make it attractive by plying his wiles to create visions of a brave new world of prosperity where the members were to become God as God is God: Ring the bell and the salivation began.
Rex Sexton of the UCG wrote in a church bulletin that church members were like dogs being trained by the Master, Jesus Christ. He has something there: Doggie members have two basic rules for their control — keep them on a short leash and don’t let them bark. It is useful to let them out free to romp in a dog park once a year to socialize at the so-called “Feast of Tabernacles”, and if you’re with the right trainers, you might even get out to play at the so-called ‘Winter Social’ which is really the Winter Solstice Social. There will be fun exercises and special doggie treats — for the ‘good dogs’. The one thing every mutt fears is the minister calling them ‘bad dog!”. That will bring about howling. No, the leaders must be careful in their regimen. Every dog has his day. And being in the Restored Church of God gives new meaning to ‘running with the Pack’. Dogs. They’re all dogs. Care must be taken not to mention Revelation 22:15.
The spit-offs have continued to ring the bell and the salivation continues, but the dogs are old and can’t do a much as service animals any more. For one thing, because of the decline in membership and the fact that the seniors are becoming geriatric, the bell has to be rung ever so more loudly for a response. The pooches are finding it harder and harder to hear and even more difficult to get around.
On the other hand, the old dogs aren’t getting up and roaming any more. Youth is gone and so is the spry. The Armstrongist Churches of God are beginning to realize that they have to let the dogs lie because their get up and go has gotten up and gone. This means that members don’t become strays much any longer. They lost their curiosity (and a lot of other things). They aren’t that swift on the uptake any more and the cultists have a captive audience in their little dog pounds. One would hope that the leaders — the hounds of hell — would be bitten by their mother when they return home to the kennel.
The implication of this is clear: Disorganizations, such as the PKG with Ronald Weinland, have had most of those who are going to leave, leave. The rest just stay and stay, no matter how little sense it makes, and continue to wait until Weinland rings the bell again from Terre Haut, Indiana.
The COGS attract narcissists who lust for power and glory so the COGS are where they flock to. And then when they start seeing the real evil that Weinland and Flurry and all the other maggots do they use their intelligence to explain it away as if it is GOD’s Will or a righteous way to behave. They love the idea of a hierarchy, a place where they can treat everyone like they are already GODS because they are now in a highly ranked system. The Gospel of Christ and Heaven are not enough for a COG member. They want more. Power! Riches! Planets! GOD at THEIR right hand side!
The COG members that stay in these fake churches LOVE thinking they are better than everyone, and to leave the PKG or PCG or whatever is to lose their justification for bullying, lying, theft, misogyny, and all the other things they love to inflict on others to feel like they are GODS.
COG leaders are merciless, greedy, arrogant narcissists who reward their followers with the chance to share in this greed and lust and brutality – in the abuse of others (in the name of God) as long as these aspiring anti-Christs keep the tithes coming to the lead anti-Christ! And once you invent a reasonable story in your head to justify what you know DEEP DOWN is wrong, you get intelligent people acting unwise (evil). It is so easy to see that the Fruits of the Spirit in these COG leaders are CLEARLY Satanic, you MUST fool yourself in order to think they are godly!
It’s easier if you remember that dogs are the descendants of wolves. It’s a dog eat dog society — a result of bad breeding.
Stagnation has set in, in a big way and the dogs of war don’t much give as much as a woof any more — and it looks like that’s the way it’s going to stay in 2015: It’s all going to the dogs. The ACoGs should buy new deck chairs for the Titanic so they can constantly rearrange them — if only they could afford them!
2015: Stagnation — one implication is that a mediocre equilibrium of evil will be achieved by the Armstrongist leaders who will continue to act like 9 year old schoolyard psychopath alcoholic boozing bullies extorting lunch money so they can have prime rib with Dom and those who they have robbed will continue to dig in the trash bin to find something — anything — to eat. The glass ceiling between the elite and the Proles will become thicker and more opaque than ever, ever more impenetrable to the peasants as the Oriental Potentate and his henchmen continue their oppression upon the helpless who they see as social misfits who the elite have made that way.
There may (or may not) be more ministers / elders who are convicted of pedophilia in 2015.
It will be OK: The mediocrity will not bother you as long as you remain clueless.
Do we really have to say it? Stagnation means that the old guard will remain because you can’t teach old dogs new tricksor science, for that matter.
Just watch where you step.
Grow in grace and knowledge?
Because they all stopped accepting correction a very long time ago.
“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.
Douglas Becker, Mr A[valokiteshvara] and others have referred to psychological concepts and models to help explain and understand the steadfastness of their addiction to the PKG and to Weinland. I agree with them, and there are other psychological models and insights that are relevant as well. Even so, I would like to add the following for consideration. I have seen this principle in operation many times over the years although I have seen no formal models based on the observations. It is not offered as a “one size fits all” analysis, obviously.
Many people in difficult situations continue to put up with their torment “simply” because they are even more afraid of what will happen to them if they make a move to change the status quo. A job you dislike with a boss who is a bastard is better than unemployment, living with a violent, abusive spouse is better than being homeless and leaving the children with a violent partner, being in a loveless relationship is better than being alone or joining the ranks of the divorced. Holding onto a belief in Millennial Happiness is better than living in a real world of real problems. I am even persuaded that there would be more suicides if people were not fearful that they might find themselves in an even worse situation as a result of their suicide. Holding on to what you once thought was the true religious faith even though you now entertain reasonable doubts is better than being wrong, and burning in hell if you make the wrong decision. A form of suicide, if you will, in the minds of believers.
Sometimes these fears are realistic and safeguard us: it is better to live consumed by hatred of someone who wronged you than to take revenge, kill the offender and spend the rest of one’s life in jail.
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 realisation 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.
To fear what will become of one in the future is a primal response to threat, real or imagined, and the loss of the certainty, the crumbling of the foundations which held up the edifice of one’s whole worldview can be an extremely upsetting and fear-inducing experience.
There are many websites, blogs and forums where these ex-believers work through their changes and are supported by others who have trod the path ahead of them – and survived. I want to emphasise that, by ex-believers I do not assume there will be a loss of religious faith. Some may go that way, others find a different set of beliefs but retain their faith in god.
I would exhort any COG PKG members who recognize the above dynamics in their own lives to take courage, take heart, and take responsibility. Leave Ron, he has no authority whatsoever. That much is certain. Is proven beyond reasonable, and even beyond unreasonable, doubt.
Ron has you believing that you are drinking living waters of truth. You are not. It is as Mike (DDTFA) describes it, it is poisoned Flavor Aid. So come and join the Non-Ron version of life again. It isn’t as bad as you have been persuaded, it isn’t as bad as you may remember, and it certainly isn’t as bad as where you live at present.
This is an important observation about fear and it has been addressed in the last chapter of Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships, “Former Cult Members and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” which has this to say:
Sociologist Laurie Wermuth notes: “PTSD takes its toll on health by overreacting the body’s alarm system; stress chemicals flood the bloodstream, triggering changes in tissues and organs. Over time, too much of this stress reaction causes increased wear and tear on the body and in particular contributes to plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries.” A variety of adverse physiological and psychological effects may ensue….
Members of violent and extremely abusive cults are likely to be exposed to similar events. Yet even in groups or relationships lacking in overt violence, the constant stress, anxiety, and theats inherent to a cultic environment can have a lasting and traumatic effect on devotees. Counsellors would do well to explore the possibility of PTSD when working with clients who are current or former cult members. Sometimes the client will not make the connection to their cult involvement, so the savvy therapist may have to do some sensitive an careful probing.
The carrot-and-stick manipulation central to cultic social systems carries with it a toll of chronic anxiety and, at times, utter fear. It may be difficult for some mental health (and other) professionals to understand that the threat of spiritual annihilation or group condemnations can be so fierce a psychological danger as to engender physical pain.
The authors go on to quote the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder fact sheet:
Many people have long-lasting problems following exposure to trauma. Up to eight percent of individuals will have PTSD at some time in their lives.
Many adults who have grown up in the WCG have told me that they have recurring nightmares of suffering the Great Tribulation and being thrown into The Lake of Fire, decades after their childhood. There has been a tremendous impact of those children on their blankets hearing sermons about jack-booted Germans taking over their country, being sold into slavery, tortured, tormented, visions of mushroom shaped nuclear blasts, having their own homes, schools, parents and friends being ripped away, living in poverty and want, living out of garbage cans, sleeping under bridges in a bombed out smoking community being subject to radioactive fallout. It is not beyond imagination that those at 3, 4 and 5 years old, subjected to such virtual horrors are especially vulnerable and the horrors never go away. Meanwhile, those responsible for this trauma have not the slightest idea of the insidious nature of the collateral damage they do — for a life time in the lives of their victims.
I was a participant in the situation where a member was stalking another member in United, all the while the regional pastor was promoting the situation as a revenge against the victim who had offended his sensibilities. I heard the terror and trauma of someone who could never know when the stalker would show up in the parking lot to spy — being vulnerable to this outright outrageous behavior — all the while the Council of Elders would not give one shred of relief, nor obey Scripture to put the man out of the fellowship. I even went to Robert Dick, then, not only the Chairman of the UCG, but also the Chairman of the Ethics Committee, who told me to go to the regional pastor who was responsible for the situation in a “that’s not my department” stance, the ultimate in frustration (yes, go to the fox guarding the chicken house, and don’t bother me!). A restraining order in civil court was the only relief.
I am reminded of Richard Pinelli, at one time, a young man who was a director in the Canadian work giving a sermon in Spokane: He told the story of a farmer on the prairie who had a grass fire headed for his property and called Pinelli. The fire burned his neighbors’ fields, but burned around the farmer’s property line, leaving his farm completely untouched. That year, the harvest yielded a substantial return, since the price of the product was pushed up considerably by demand on a limited supply.
At first, I was inspired by the story of God’s Intervention, but as time went on, something bothered me about that story. I realized that what Richard Pinelli did was commit an act of self-aggrandizement to establish the ministry as a priesthood between the members and God: The real message — don’t talk to God, call us ministers so we can talk to God, because we have the pull, and you don’t.
Saturday, September 9, 2001, Richard Pinelli came to Tacoma to give the sermon. The sermon was about God “tipping over the barrel”. By that he meant that God would be patient with us, but at some time, there would come a time that God would have enough with us, and “tip over our barrel”. The person being stalked and I talked and agreed that he was actually threatening us for trying to stop the stalker! That if we didn’t fall in line with the ministers and cover the whole thing up, God would tip over our barrel and punish us. It was a maddening cringe-worthy sermon.
I personally remember the next two days extremely well: Sunday, a fine technologist from IBM spent the day working with me setting up LINUX on our IBM OS/390 Mainframe. We worked past midnight, so the next morning we were a little late getting into the County-City Building. There were long lines of people. I had to go through security and have my stuff x-rayed, even though I had a security card which should let me in. We didn’t know what had happened until we got upstairs to the Computer Center: People were in the conference room and break rooms watching 9/11 on television. I thought how ironic it was for Richard Pinelli to give a sermon on God “tipping over the barrel”, having a great opportunity to actually predict something that was supposedly fulfilling prophecy, but missing it by a country mile.
These are not the only accounts of Richard Pinelli installing fear amongst the members of the CoGs. He was also responsible for covering up the elder fondling a teenager in the UCG. But not to worry, since he was also behind the split between United and the Church of God, Worldwide Association, where he is now Pastor of the CoGWA .
Sometimes the fear inducing exercises by the ministry of the Armstrongists is subtle, but more often than not, it is PTSD inducing, creating near panic and long term devastating effects — all to keep the members in line.
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.
Juror #215 from the Weinland Felony Trial had this to say:
That’s an interesting question and I’m glad that you asked it. As a juror, we had sworn to remain impartial when presented with religious views that were different than our own, and were asked during jury selection if we felt that dealing with a minister of an “alternative religion” would affect our impartiality. So, the different beliefs expressed by Mr Weinland and the PKG members did not affect our consideration of the evidence or the charges.
On a personal level, my own beliefs are more accepting of those with different views. I feel that no one religion has a monopoly on religious truth, rather that each person must make their own choices when searching for meaning in their life, and each religion has validity in its own way. However, the “culture shock” did make me feel sad for these PKG members that instead of spending their time celebrating life, they chose to follow a path that seemed to be concentrated solely on the end of life and waiting around for the end of the world to hurry up and happen. It just didn’t seem like a happy way to live, and I don’t know why someone would choose to do that to themselves.
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 . I know that the Judgement Day is important to many people, but if you spend all of your time obsessing over it, you’re missing the boat on why God put you here in the first place. It’s like walking into a concert by your favorite musician or band, and then spending the whole time looking at your watch, wondering when it’s going to be over. Relax and enjoy life a little bit!
Maybe I’m way off base, but that was just my personal impression.
It is the fear that the ACoG church members to concentrate solely on the end of life and waiting around for the end of the world to hurry up and happen, rather than spending their time celebrating life. Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias have this to say:
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….
Through cult recruitment and indoctrination, a person’s core beliefs are dramitically changed. In some groups, fear tactics and traumatic events (sometimes called “tests”) are deliberately used and even accepted by devotees as necessary for spiritual and psychological growth. Naturally, if a person was born or raised in a group, the cult-shaped belief system and behaviors may be all she ever knew.
The authors of Take Back Your Life conclude:
Perhaps most difficult of all is coming to terms with the idea that when abuse occurs, it is the perpetrator’s fault, and not the victim’s. Yes, cult members have some responsibility for the events and decisions that were made while they were seduced and entrapped in the group or relationship, and yes, some even became perpetrators themselves. In these cases, forgiveness–of others and self–plays and important role in healing.
Presuming, of course, that the perpetrators actually want to change their diabolical methods.
Nothing in Armstrongism is particularly benign.
PTSD is just another trauma from which to recover and we wish those on the path to recovery well and wait for others to begin the journey.
It’s so amazing that the world of the intelligent laugh at them as being stupid fools and they can’t see it: They assume that the ones who don’t adopt their religious beliefs are “unconverted” without “understanding”. The Armstrongists actually mock people who are educated, scientifically brilliant and knowledgeable. It is a tragic mistake for them to do so — to treat those who could help them out of their superstition with such contempt. It is a defense mechanism.
A moron has an IQ of 50 to 70.
An imbecile has an IQ of 25 to 50.
An idiot has an IQ under 25: Mental age of 3 (or less).
A fool can have any IQ.
The Armstrongists mock the intelligent as a defense mechanism — defense against truth, reality and sanity.
Consider the fact that Herbert Armstrong, born in the 19th Century, barely made it past eighth grade, but became the profound guru filled with all spiritual understanding and knowledge. Just how does that happen? In a word: Advertising.
Create your myth cobbled together from unreliable sources like Ellen G. White and John H. Allen, not to mention William Miller, flesh out the eschatology with impressive sounding credentials including Biblical proof texting, put up your shingle, be patient to wait awhile and the money will come rolling in. Be sure to sell, sell, sell your idea with tenuous connections to current news filtered through hyperbole based prophecy and it is sure to make you a success — especially if you make empty promises of supernatural rescue in false prophet style “the end is coming” prognostication.
Establish a religion. Send out booklets. Put up a Magazine. Clutter the airwaves with your claptrap. Make sermons. Get a social group together to support each other in their stupidity. Make it sound reasonable and attractive and you can sell any kind of kooky crap to the weak minded careless fools. Make it so they will agree with some of your major points without reservation and then they will swallow the rest, hook, line and sinker. Then prepare to live in a mansion, eat the best, wear the best, associate with the best and travel the world. It hardly matters that the religion makes no sense at all and can be readily proved objectively with science. Make empty promises and they will come with money in hand, ready to pay for the privilege of being duped and abused.
Just be prepared to dumb yourself down to their level.
Anyone who is suspicious about all this may want to examine the evidence provided by Ronald Weinland who represents all of Armstrongism in a microcosm. His prophecies about the end of the world were proven false. Moreover, he is now a convicted felon. Yet, a widow in his church provided $300,000 out of the collateral of her home to insure his freedom for four months when it has been amply demonstrated that his trustworthiness is less than stellar. His Evangelist dupes are still supporting him without one shred of any evidence that they have two active brain cells left to rub together to support a spark of intelligence. His infantile followers lap up his swill with abandon.
Take note that Ronald Weinland is very little different from the original Herbert Armstrong who did much the same things — using income of the church as his own personal cash machine to use as he saw fit for his own personal lust fulfilment. Gold, diamond rings, travel, staying at posh hotels, taking vacations, spending money on his wife and children: Except for the name on the door, you can’t tell whether we are talking about Herbert Armstrong, Ronald Weinland or any of the other host of 700+ cults of Armstrongism. They are all pretty much the same. For example, United spends 80% or so on minister’s salaries, retirement and other maintenance and some of the percentage left is used for evangelism. The UCG doesn’t have local church buildings for the greater percentage of their congregations and renting halls hardly inspires confidence in the abstract notion of stable churches. In fact, they have had split after split after split over who knows what — mostly “governance”. This, in turn, seems to be reduced to the concept that only the money is important, but that may not be fair: Egos also must be considered.
Given that British Israelism as the core belief of Armstrongism and their Key to Prophecy has been disproved and that their church history has been shown to be a fraud, it is a wonder that anyone with half a brain is left hanging on to the dying proposition of false prophecies and false hopes of a world which will never come. It would be better if they all grew up, left and got a life. Alas, that does not seem to be happening because it appears that people get some sort of enjoyment in being terminally stupid: This is not an issue of faith, it’s an issue of intelligence.
Armstrongists can be fat, dumb and happy, believing that they are rich and increased in goods (but are, blind, naked, poor and going bankrupt supporting their cultmeister in the lifestyle to which he wants to become accustomed) as long as they don’t look at the environment around them and see reality.
Consider the realities of SIGMA, for example. Arlan Andrews, Senior presents the article, “SIGMA: Summing up Speculation,” in the September 2012 Analog Science Fiction and Fact, with the subheading:
In a fast changing world, who’s best qualified to anticipate future problems–and solutions?
Certainly, not the Armstrongists who have a dismal record of such things — failed on all accounts.
Dr. Andrews writes:
As a science fiction writer speaking to U.S. government authorities at meetings in 2008 and 2009, I had said that dictatorships would fall when people had cell phones and texting and other communications devices: “Think of the revolutionary social changes, spreading around the world at the speed of light.” I used the term “flash mobs” back in those ancient days.
As founder of the science fiction thhink tank SIGMA, making such forecasts is one of the things I am privileged to do. My forty SIGMA colleagues, science fiction writers all, do the same thing.
Armstrongists are having their own experiences of having their dictatorships undermined by modern technology.
Dr. Andrews continues:
I wanted to provide this new service to government bureaucrats who never had the opportunity or the mindset to appreciate science fictional ways of thinking. Too busy worrying about their funding and the political aspects of their decisions, they seldom ventured far from the straight and narrow. Never did I hear any of them discuss disruptive technologies, destructive political events, or widespread natural calamities. Linear thinkers, all.
Not unlike the Armstrongist leaders with their “linear thinking”. They may talk about disruption, destruction, doom and death, but they offer not one whit of thought to preventing it or dealing with it in a productive way — other than making money off of it.
The original SIGMA team started by Arlen Andrews included, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Doug Beason, Dr. Charles Sheffield, Dr. David Brin, Dr. Geoff Landis, Dr. Robert Forward, NASA astrophysicicist Dr. Yoji Kondo (“Eric Kotani”), Dr. Stanley Schmidt of Analog and Dr. Gregory Benford.
Some may wonder what these and other highly qualified luminaries did for the United States since the establishment of SIGMA?
Over the intervening years, though not acting as a group, individual SIGMA members were called upon to participate in government projects, some brainstorming for DARPA on new technologies for education; other members maintained paid consulting arrangement with other agencies. I even lobbied unofficially for the Air Force’s DC-X Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) project in the White House, bringing in Air Force officers to brief the new Administration on it, and continued that effort for several more years. While at OSTP, I also wrote the first White House endorsement of molecular nanotechnology, published in The President’s Report to Congress on Science and Technology in April 1993….
…We made other suggestions to DHS (Department of Homeland Security), many along low-tech lines, items that would help first responders in emergencies, ideas for border security, comments about how the chemical/biological detectors in cell phones that DHS was proposing should be utilized. The ideas and comments were technical, social, cultural, and political….
…Other government agencies, some that prefer not to be named or even mentioned, have called on SIGMA to brainstorm on future developments in communications, computer applications, politics, sociology, demographics, and culture.
These forward thinking futurists were the first to introduce NATO planners to the concepts and importance of social networking and texting. They also predicted the potential for drastic overnight, overwhelming social change, facilitated by handheld devices in the hands of disatisfied or revolutionary “flash mobs”. Further, the influence on government has been to affect the thinking patters of those SIGMA has worked with to think realistically about the future and has produced tangible benefits.
Contrast this with the “stick in the mud” thinking of Armstrongism: A vision of the dark ages unleashed upon the people with a tightly controlled government preceded by anarchy and followed by a static rigid society making no social progress whatsoever. It isn’t just the false prophecies of Armstrongism based on their “Mythunderstanding” using the Key to Prophecy, the thoroughly discredited British Israelism and their insistence upon deceiving people with their fraudulent church history, it’s the ugly missteps of people like Roderick Merdith writing such stupid crap as The Shocking Truth About Queer Men and claiming that Hitler is still alive, ready to usher in the Fourth Reich. All of Armstrongism is centered on fears, uncertainties and doubts with an eye to building empires with lots of money and power for those at the top — certainly not as a public service to do what can be done to make the world a better place today. In place of futurists like SIGMA helping build the future and find solutions, Armstrongism is a degenerate cancer undermining the very fabric of society, causing it ultimately to deteriorate wherever it goes. The 700+ splinters should have taught us that.
Armstrongism has also brought us something else for which we need to find a new term: Herbert Armstrong was one to take advantage of those at the bottom of the social pyramid to put himself near the top. Ronald Weinland has followed in his footsteps along with his peers, such as, but certainly not restricted to David Pack, Gerald Flurry, Roderick Meredith, John Rittenbaugh, Don Haney. People have been searching for the words to describe these reprehensible people and we now have our suggestion from the Urban Dictionary.
1) leech, or in other words a total lack of responsibility to provide for oneself. Relies heavily upon friends, neighbors or anyone really for sustenance. a slacker through and through.
2) a loser who profits from the fortunes of others. A low or despicable person.
5) The absolute lowest and filthiest form of life, that is so much of a scumball that every living and non-living piece of matter would benefit from it’s/their death.
8) One of higher social standing, attractiveness, or intelligence level whom chooses to prey on those whom are poor, weak, or vulnerable.