There was an article (pg-3) in the latest Journal titled ‘United Pilgrim Crusade based on old WCG’. The author of this article wrote
The episode, titled “Charlatan,” starring Ed Asner, who plays newspaperman Lou Grant, deals with a fundamentalist Christian ministry based in Rosemead, Calif., noted for its beautifully landscaped campus and extensive expensive art collection, as well as a grand auditorium, among other things. I won’t overly delve into the plot but will point out interesting parallels that indicate where the episode’s writers may have gotten their inspiration: headlines in L.A.-area newspapers of the time.
King Herbert Marries.
After the king’s first wife died, he thought of himself and his beastly urges, saying to himself: ‘I am in need of a queen for my urges are many and my need are unfulfilled’. One day while walking among his sheep, the king spotted a women whom caused desire in his loins. And the king courted the women and the women the king, for he had riches and she had none. The future queen accompanied the king on many trips to different lands. One morning, the king found all that he had wished for came to pass. The king began to pave the way for the people to accept his impending marriage. He began relating how God allowed the first queen to die, because she could not have kept up such a grueling pace, could not have remained a companion and wife to him in this new phase of his kingship. He took the women half his age in marriage, and the pretty became the second queen who would sit with him at many banquets in other lands.
Wealth of a Nation.
Over time the king and all the kingdoms leaders demanded supreme respect, because they had the most gold and silver. As long as their empirical selves and power base was not shaken, the king could do as he pleased. While the governors of the land did what they wanted and ripped off everyone, the king kept the people happy with wonderful scenarios of a coming world kingdom. Day after day he served up to the people a dose of mush, brainwashing the people into thinking that the land of milk and honey was soon to materialize.
The king thought that the people would continue to fear him and that they would never break the laws of the land, and thus the civil and ruling authorities would be safe from any rebellion or coup and could continue their criminal activities against the people. It was the perfect setup. And for this, the governors were allowed any gold or silver that they could shake from the general masses of people in the name of God and king. Both the governors and the king lived happily together, as each needed the other. For the king had a legislative board to pass laws that suited his purpose and had those who were willing to crackdown and brutally enforce such legislation at the point of a sword. As wealth is an instrument of power, force is the instrument of policy.
Disenchantment in the Kingdom.
And it came to pass that many of the people became more and more disenchanted with the lifestyles of those who ruled over them. They came to see the hypocrisy of the king and that of his henchmen. The king could now no longer placate the mesmerized masses that formerly rocked together with arms raised and eyes closed in a hypnotic stupor within the court of the king! The lavish quarters of the king, expensive chariots, luxurious homes, costly clothes, and the finest cuisine caused the people to grumble. For the people lived in squalor and drove chariots that would lose their wheels, their clothes tattered and worn, and their food was of the lowest quality. The king had even forbidden the use of shamans when illness was to strike a family member, yet the king was exempt when he himself was afflicted.
Divorce and Scandal.
After some time, the king became increasingly disenchanted with his marriage. The mighty ruler had grown disgusted with his queen, and it was his belief there had been a plot to remove him from his kingship and place him into a mental institution. But what could he do to save face?
The king had wanted it to appear that the queen was committing a lawless offense so he could invoke the scripture of old which said: “If the unbeliever depart, let him (her) depart….” As king he could change the laws of the land on a whimper. And change the law he did! The king disallowed the women of the kingdom the one luxury that they had to hold onto their self esteem. The king outlawed the painting of faces! An old custom that the king made legal in order to please the queen before they married!
So it came to pass that the court of the law was to grant the king and his queen a decree of divorce. The queen had disclosed to the court that the king had boasted of an incestuous relationship with his daughter from the first queen. The court not wishing the king to suffer, forbade the telling of the incest to the people of the kingdom. But not all wished to protect the king, for there was found within the kingdom a governor who spoke truth. A man who had moral direction.
Michael stood alone in the middle of the foyer of the Seattle Masonic Hall, people swirling around and past him without interacting with him, a solitary island in the midst of a sea of people. I noticed he was new and that apparently, no one was interested in getting to know him. It made me feel sad. I went over and introduced myself to him and began learning about him. Over the next few weeks and months, I had him over to dinner with my family several times and we even went and worked out together at the gym. I learned about this “good guy” and he had a lot of depth that most people would not expect.
Michael shared with me his story about how he entered into the Marines at the age of 30. It was a matter of honor that his mates referred to him as “the Old Man” because they respected the fact that he stayed in there with them even though they were mostly a decade younger than he. He wanted to be a Marine. His father was a Marine.
Before the Passover I had broken my toes and at the Passover Service it was Michael who was to wash my feet. He looked me in the eye and said, “I ain’t gonna mess with no broken toes,” whereupon he washed my one foot without the broken toes. I washed his feet.
It was during the Days of Unleavened Bread that he showed up in our apartment complex in the parking lot. My wife and I looked at each other in dismay at him on the heavy duty motorcycle he had ridden on. He was all excited about it. He was a sincere believer who was going to take his brother out in the woods and talk to him about his new faith. We didn’t say anything and hoped for the best.
It was shortly after this that we learned that he was on his way on his motorcycle to prepare to go out to the woods when he got clipped on his head with the mirror of a semi. It removed the top of his head and he ended up in a coma in the hospital. His face had not been affected so it looked like he was in a peaceful sleep.
Each day for nearly 40 days, I would go down to the hospital after work in the afternoon and would sit with him and talk to him because I had heard that those in a coma often heard those talking to him. I would describe the Spring afternoon and the sun shining. At the last, I was not able to get to the hospital and he had changed doctors. He died shortly afterward from the trauma. I believe it was about 40 days.
What I did not know is that Michael had shared our friendship with his family: His dad, mom, sisters and brothers. I was the only one from the church in to see him at the hospital. I had talked with his family when they were there and we got to know one another as best strangers could under such circumstances.
Because Michael was a Marine as was his father, he was given a funeral with full honors with Marines in dress uniforms giving the gun salute with rifles.
Afterward, I prepared an obituary for the Worldwide News. I learned that I had to give it to the minister. It was a paragraph and told part of his story of being in the Marine Corps.
It turns out that I gave it to Dennis Luker after services on the Sabbath. He told me that he had met the family and when they told him about me, he said to them, “Oh, he’s so quiet!”. This produced laughter from Michael’s family and they instantly knew that Dennis Luker knew neither Michael nor me. He was attempting to cash in on an opportunity by pretending to be someone and something he wasn’t and got caught at it.
Eventually, the obituary made it to the Worldwide News. It was a sentence long. It was a brief sentence at that. Michael _____ died…. That was about it. Name, no rank, no serial number. It was crisply impersonally efficient.
During my brief discussion with Dennis Luker, he did something odd: He stroked my stomach as if it were a bowling ball. It was weird and creepy. Very weird and creepy. Very very weird and creepy. I just stood there and allowed him to do it. After all, this was God’s Evangelist of the Worldwide Church of God — the very Work of God. Many of us had been conditioned to be subjected to authority without question — to accept what was truly unacceptable, because the Very God of the Universe would support them even if they were wrong.
I vaguely felt as if I had been raped.
The important thing here is for the alpha male Corporate Executive to assert his superior dominance over an underling to maintain Corporate Order and insure the proper image for the Corporate Executive in the hierarchy of the Corporate “monkey tree” where all the executives are striving to be “top banana”.
The Magic Lantern
Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers by Robert Jackall covers the ground occupied by the Armstrongist Worldwide Church of God and their Church Corporate spinoffs — not specifically, but in practice, since all the participants follow the same thinking and practices of those in the Corporate 200. Chapter 7, The Magic Lantern, covers the aspects of image creation for the purposes of public relations:
The need for symbolic dexterity, particularly the ability to fashion, quickly and readily, appropriate legitimations for what must be done, intensifies as one ascends the corporate ladder. Since the success of large commercial bureaucracies depends to a great extent on the goodwill of the consuming public, ambitious managers recognize that great organizational premiums are placed on the ability to explain expedient action convincingly. Public opinion, of course, constitutes one of the only effective checks on the bureaucratic impulse to translate all moral issues into practical concerns. Managers not only face the highly specific and usually ideological standpoints of one or another “special-interest” group but, even more fearsome, the vague, ill-formed diffuse, highly volatile, and often irrational public opinion that is both the target of special-interest groups and the lifeblood of the news media. Those imbued with the bureaucratic ethos thus make every effort to mold public opinion to allow the continued uninterrupted operation of business. Moreover, since public opinion inevitably affects to some extent managers’ own conceptions of their work and of themselves, public goodwill, even that which managers themselves create, becomes an important part of managers’ own valued self-images. In this sense, both moral issues and social identities become issues of public relations.
Dennis Luker had been in the Corporate World before his induction into the Church Corporate and had obviously learned the lesson of being a triumph of image over substance. An examination of his Master’s Thesis yielded a window into this world, confined by the strictures of the lessons of being a Regional Pastor: It was not anything like the Master’s Thesis next to it on the shelf, Dr. C. Paul Meredith’s Satan’s Great Deception, which could be described as having intense spiritual content, but instead dealt with the purely physical aspects of deciding whether or not a visiting minister was to stay in the home of the Regional Pastor or at a motel nearby and making sure that the car was washed before sunset on Friday. People forget the mechanisms driving the engine of the Armstrongist Churches of God are the tactics of modern corporations, not the “Spirit led” assemblies of Christian ministers, disciples and apostles of the distant past: It’s business. Businesses are for the purpose of making a profit. To do this, the end justifies the means — the end being making profit, both in money and membership (used as a tool to sustain the ego of the narcissistic leader(s)).
This creates a new virtual world which is nowhere near the one the rank and file live in. Robert Jackall explains:
In fact, bureaucratic contexts typically bring together men and women who initially have little in common with each other except the impersonal frameworks of their organizations. Indeed, the enduring genius of the organization form is that it allows individuals to retain bewilderingly diverse private motives and meanings for action as long as they adhere publicly to agreed-upon rules. Even the personal relationships that men and women in bureaucracies do subsequently fashion together are, for the most part, governed by the explicit or implicit organizational rules, procedures, and protocol. As a result, bureaucratic work causes people to bracket, while at work, the moralities that they might hold outside the workplace or that they might adhere to privately and to follow instead of the prevailing morality of their organizations situation. As a former vice-president of a large firm says: “What is right in the corporation is not what is right in a man’s home or in his church. What is right in the corporation is what they guy above you wants from you. That’s what morality is in the corporation.”
This explains well why Roderick Meredith and Dennis Luker tolerated the behavior of Garner Ted Armstrong without saying one word or leaving: They were loyal to the corporation and their morality revolved around what Herbert Armstrong wanted from them. A good part of that was the image making part of the coverups to insure that the Corporation continued and prospered. In this world, what mattered was not the good of the members, but the good of those in the “middle management” and above, specified by rank. Dennis Luker would favor those in congregations who were wealthy — especially those were millionaires. His own children, in fact, married the children of a millionaire in his congregation. He could be close “friends” who could further his agenda, pursuing his career in the Armstrongist Churches of God along with the salary and the hoped for retirement it would bring. In fact, many have commented about his sermons over the years filled with his concerns about this very topic. Many times, those who were “different” or “lowly” may not have had such favor in his eyes, but he was able to maintain a calm demeanor which belied his true feelings, making it seem that he was personable and a concerned pastor.
Moral Mazes includes a comments from executives relevant to truth:
Everyone out there is constructing reality. We and our clients have perceptions too. Who is telling the truth? Is there anyone out there who has the time and inclination to sit down and truly evaluate the many situations.
That’s a good question, especially considering “The Present Truth” of many of the leaders of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong.
Truth? What is truth? I don’t know anyone in this business who talks about the “truth”.
That’s actually true: Perceptions are transformed so people believe they have the truth. Anyone who has seen the many “prognostications” of Herbert Armstrong and others should eventually come to the conclusion that they don’t have anything even close to what we could call “truth”. There is no reason to trust such people. They have proved their lack of integrity.
It should be noted that the chapter after The Magic Lantern is Invitations to Jeopardy.
In the end, we should all observe the aphorism of G’Kar in Babylon 5: “Let me pass on to you the one thing I’ve learned about this place. No one here is exactly what he appears.”
In fact, in the world of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong, nothing is exactly as it appears, including the smarmy image of those who portray a deeply caring persona.
Anyway, those who are wise will make it quite irrelevant by leaving the entirely dysfunctional environment where there is no real benefit to sacrifice resources and sanity to the Corporate Executive image makers conducting little more than a PR campaign for ego and money: It’s not worth it.
For those of you in the process of leaving the Cult of Herbert Armstrong, a piece of advice: Set boundaries.
Beware Ambassadors’ Bearing Gifts!
The letters below in colored print have been reproduced and added to this article.
Are you frustrated? Is your life in turmoil? Is your marriage a disaster? Are your finances in shambles? Are you turned off by the sham of popular religion? Are you nauseated by the phoniness that dominates today’s society? Are you seeking for answers? Are you now ready to get yourself involved in truly purposeful and worthwhile endeavor?
If your answer is, Yes, look out! You’re in dangerous territory. Your immediate decisions and actions could be extremely hazardous to your wealth, not to mention your future spiritual well-being
You are a prime candidate for suckerdom!
If you presently find yourself in the position described above (and don’t we all at one time or another in our lives?), you may possibly find yourself attracted to the television program that is presently at the top of the religious program charts: I refer to The World Tomorrow program.
Watch out! It could be a fatal attraction!
It is easy to see why this slick, well produced program would attract the attention of many people who are concerned about the present state of our nation, The World Tomorrow appears to offer solutions to the great questions of the day. If you call (toll free, of course) the sponsors or the program, the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) headquartered at Ambassador College, in Pasadena, California, they will graciously send you a free subscription to their monthly publication, The Plain Truth magazine. Upon request, they will also send you (“free” of course) vast collection of glossy publication on a multitude of religious and other topics, topics that will stimulate your mental processes and encourage you to seek the “answers” that are presently lacking in you life.
These “answers,” naturally, are only available from one source -”God’s one true church,” which conveniently happens to be the Worldwide Church of God.
Beware ‘Ambassadors’ bearing “free” gifts!
CO-WORKERS AND THE “GREAT COMMISSION”
Many recipients of this “free” material, impressed by its quality and apparent truthfulness, begin to feel guilty for not having paid for it.
They decide to “help out” by sending in a check.
By return they receive a letter of thanks addressing them as “co-worker’s in THE Great Work of God.” If they continue to contribute money, they receive lengthy “co-worker letters” extolling the alleged virtues of “the Work” and telling of the grandiose plans being implemented to “spread the gospel” still further afield.
With each passing “co-worker letter” it is heavily implied that the Great Creator God of Heaven and Earth has Personally led you into direct contact with His “one true church.” You should now “obviously” want to join the “select of the elect” (WCG), attend church services, and play your God ordained part in the fulfillment of the “great commission.” Obviously!
The ploy is subtle. It’s very attractive, It appeals to the ego. It seems to be logical and make sense, gives you a sense of “worth,” Who, after all, would be spiritually dumb enough to turn down the Creator’s direct and Personal invitation to become one of His “elect” and have “a part in His great end time Work”? Few indeed!
After all, who wishes to commit spiritual suicide?
AN ADDED BONUS
Stop! There’s more. As an added bonus, you are personally guaranteed that, in “the glorious and wonderful World Tomorrow,” you PERSONALLY will have a direct part in straightening out this sin sick world. Who could ask for anything more?
Heady stuff, this exclusivist religion!
Let’s face it! There is a great emptiness – a yawning void – in the hearts and lives of most people. This vacuum cries out to be filled!
But there is a problem! Most people have little interest in being free and independent. Such a prospect frightens them! Most have a burning desire to “belong,” to be part of the “in” crowd, to be where the “action” is. They want to hitch heir wagon to a “cause,” or to a religious or political guru – a leader who will at least lend a sense of purpose to their otherwise miserable existence. As a result, many are ripe to become “true believers” in a political or religious cause!
THE CHURCH WAS THEIR LIFE
Mr. Garnet Hill of Miami, Florida, was one such true believer. In the early 195O’s and nearing retirement, Garnet and his wife happened to stumble across The World Tomorrow radio program. They were impressed. It seemed to be what they were looking for. They responded, and were later baptized Into the Radio Church of God later to become the Worldwide Church of God).
From the beginning the Hills were totally identified with its alleged purposes and goals. The church was their life!
Like all “good” church members, the aging Garnet Hill and his wife gave at least ten percent of their meager income’ to Worldwide Church of God. Every third year they gave an additional ten percent to the church for the sustenance of the widows and others in dire need, In addition to this horrendous financial burden, the Hills (like all “good” church members) repeatedly gave sacrificially as instructed by their new guru, “God’s one true apostle,” Herbert W. Armstrong. He always said the money was “desperately needed” to do “God’s Work.”
SELLING HIS LAND
In 1970, Garnet Hill (then in his late seventies and with his wife ill with cancer) responded in his usual whole-hearted manner to yet another of Armstrong’s urgent pleas for more money to keep “the Work of God” moving ahead.
In additional to his home, Hill owned six plots of land in Hollywood, Florida, valued at $35,000. In his zeal to comply with Armstrong’s relentless demands, Hill decided to sell the land and give the lion’s share of the proceeds to “the Work.”
The sale of the six plots was left in the hands of Armstrong’s local representative, Brent Curtis, and his assistants. Later, Hill was told that the sale realized $30,000, or $5,000 less than the land’s assessed value. Of this, Hill gave $20,000 to “the work.” He asked for $10,000 for himself, so that he could meet any emergencies that might arise in his old age.
When, after a number of months, he had failed to receive a receipt for his generous donation Hill began to ask Curtis and Armstrong’s other agents in the Miami area for an explanation. Although his queries went unanswered, Hill was accused of being a trouble maker. He was told to “be patient.” He was also told he needed to “repent” of his “bad attitude.”
Hill was then ordered to “keep quiet” about the apparent theft of his $20,000. His reply was that it would be “a sin to cover up sin.”
FOLLOWING CHRIST’S ADMONITION
Four years later, Hill decided to follow Christ’s admonition in Matthew 18:15-17. On February 10, 1981. ins “personal” letter to Herbert W. Armstrong, he took his $20,000 problem to “headquarters” in Pasadena, California. Hill expected, in all good faith, that the problem would be immediately corrected.
On November 9, 1973, Bob G. Seelig of the accounting department at Pasadena “headquarters” had written Mr. Hill. Seelig stated that they had “checked all (their) donation records and other sources of information (and)… there seems to be no knowledge or record here of your donation.”
Three years and three months later, on February 14, 1977, in a letter from “the legal office at God’s work,” and signed by Benton Nesmith, Hill was informed that his funds had been somehow “mis-applied.” Nesmith went on to explain that “we recently succeeded, after a protracted effort, in obtaining $5,000.00 for the church. This represents a portion of the funds from the sale of your lots which were not sent to headquarters…”
[In the words of Neville Gilbert, a close friend of Hill, “the Pasadena crooks had apparently put the ‘heat’ to the Miami crooks, who had in turn come through with 25% of the stolen loot”].
This blatant admission of deceit and fraud was followed by a request that he (Hill) send the church the deeds to his remaining property. Also enclosed was information on how to bypass probate for savings accounts. The church obviously wanted all his savings when he died!
NO LONGER WELCOME
Late in 1981, Hill, now 87, in rapidly failing health and legally blind, received a phone call from Al Kersha, Armstrong’s new head man in Miami. Kersha was angry: “You are not welcome (at services). I am putting you out of the church for talking about it” (the theft). Hill later told friends that Kersha then slammed down the phone with such violence that it hurt his (Hill’s) ear.
Garnet Hill was devastated by his excommunication from Worldwide Church of God. He now found himself alone, with no family or friends. His former “brethren in Christ’ were forbidden to speak with him, for fear of being contaminated by his “sin.”
A few lay members in the Miami Worldwide Church of God congregation tried to give Hill moral support, phone calls etc. but feared to do more for him lest they, too, be excommunicated on orders from the Pasadena Pope.
The Armstrong cult has a diabolical grip on its adherents
NO MERCY AND COMPASSION
During the months following his excommunication Hill, broken, disillusioned, emotionally destitute, and now legally blind, cried out for help. Only one Worldwide Church of God deacon had the courage of his spiritual convictions. He heard Garnet Hill’s cry, and helped him.
TREATED WITH CONTEMPT
It would, perhaps, be logical to assume that “God’s true church” would respond, as Jesus did on similar occasions, with mercy and compassion. Wrong again!
Mr. Hill’s personal letter to “God’s one true apostle,” Herbert W. Armstrong, protesting his excommunication was treated with the same contempt that has consistently characterized the cult that has become known an ‘The Worldly Church of God.”
February 10, 1981
Dear Mr. Armstrong:
I was put out of the Church for TELLING THE TRUTH. I am 87 years old and can hardly see.
In 1970 I received your letter how bad the Church needed money. My wife
had cancer, and I didn’t have much cash. But I did own six lots so I gave
those to the church. The lots sold for $30,000. I got $10,000 and $20,000
was to go to the church.
I GOT NO RECEIPT. I ask [ed] Mr. Curtis minister at the time and he said
don’t worry about it. He kept telling me the same thing. AFTER A LONG
TIME I wrote Pasadena about the $20,000. They NEVER RECEIVED IT.
This is where my troubles started because I started asking what happened to the $20,000. I WAS TOLD TO KEEP QUIET and told don’t talk about it. You said it was a SIN TO COVER UP A SIN. I HAVE BEEN MISTREATED BECAUSE I WOULD NOT COVER UP.
Last Penticost [sic] Mrs. Witte a church member ask me about the problem. I told her I felt terrible about the COVER UP. She said I don’t believe a word you said. The next day Mr. Kersha the new local minister called on the phone and said ‘You ARE NOT WELCOME, I am putting you out of the church for going around telling people about it.’ I was standing by the wall. SHE CAME TO ME. MR. KERSHA WOULD NOT LET ME TELL HIM TRUTH. Mrs. Wittle sought me out I did not seek her.
My friends no longer call me. After Mr. Hill was disfellowshiped
Someone must have SPREAD EVIL ABOUT ME. I am not the one who had
done evil. Mr. Pearson a deacon, later promoted to elder has not liked me because I would not sell him my deceased wife’s rings for $700. After I had already had them appraised for $1850 at House of Diamonds of Miami. He got angry with me because I turned them into the church. Mr. Armstrong I ask you WHO DID THE WRONG? . . . WHY HAVE ALL THE MINISTERS TREATED ME LIKE I WAS THE THIEF? . . . . Mr. Armstrong I am getting along in years and am angry and LONELY since being put out of the Church and TREATED LIKE A THIEF.
I want to know if you approve of the way I have been treated? Please let me know. God knows the truth.
Mr. Hill’s “personal” letter to Armstrong was answered by Joseph Tkach, an Armstrong assistant, on April 9, 1981. Tkach fully approved of the cult’s mistreatment of Hill.
Dear Mr. Hill:
Your letter was forwarded to me by Mr. Hunsberger of the personal correspondence department. I have REVIEWED OUR FILES and received additional information regarding the background of your situation FROM OTHER PEOPLE IN OUR LEGAL DEPARTMENT AND MAIL PROCESSING CENTER. I feel I understand what happened.
Also, I have verified with Mr. Kersha the circumstances leading up to your being disfellowshipped. After all this review, my conclusion is that Mr. Kersha has performed this duty as God would have him to.
It is regrettable that the sale of your property was mishandled like it was, but you must come to realize that THE PEOPLE INVOLVED HAVE REPENTED of their wrong doing. When God forgives He forgets. YOU MUST LEARN TO DO THE SAME. Mr. Kersha has given you several warnings about talking against the ministry of the church. You shouldn’t have continued to harbor this ill will.
The action of being disfellowshipped is used to show you the gravity of your sin — unwillingness to forgive and forget. Upon PROPER REPENTANCE Mr. Kersha would be very happy to welcome you back to the church — with open arms. It’s my sincere hope that you will be able to return.
AWESOME HUMAN WRECKAGE
Shortly thereafter, 89-year-old Garnet Hill died. He was just one hideous example of the awesome human wreckage strewn in the wake of Herbert W. Armstrong in his diabolical lust for fame, fortune and raw power. There are tens of thousands more!
A few days prior to his death, Garnet Hill received his final letter from “God’s one true church.” No, the letter didn’t inquire about Mr. Hill’s health and spiritual well-being. No, it didn’t offer him spiritual or financial assistance. It asked if Worldwide Church of God was still named in his Will.
And the moral of this true story? Beware ‘Ambassadors’ bearing gifts. The life you save may be your own!
Mr. Hill’s humble home can be found here.
Herbert Armstrong can be seen as bad source code of particularly malicious aggressive religious malware, difficult to detect and even more difficult to remove.
On the False Prophet Ronald Weinland blog, an anonymous contributor commented:
I am ashamed for becoming caught up in this. I am very naive and trusting, and was really hoping for a better more just world, and excited to have a sound framework to live by. But that leaves people open for being taken advantage of. I have learned now to be yourself and trust your instincts no matter what anyone says, I just hope it is not too late to rebuild a life.
Those of us who have been infected with the Armstrongism malware understand and empathize with this perspective. We can heartily recommend Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias from Bay Tree Publishing as a recovery and guard against cult malware. It has the best in-depth coverage of the religious cult malware of any resource and can serve to inoculate unwary users from the nasty effects of religious malpractice hackers, such as Roderick Meredith, Dennis Luker, Jim Franks and others dedicated to spreading debilitating religious viruses and worms to the public.
The original source code for this religious malware stems from Herbert Armstrong, who used snippets of script from various religious hackers of previous decades and centuries. He was no Biblical coding expert, but he was able to cut and paste from various illicit sources like some novice teenager unqualified to produce viable products but plagiarized source in order to create havoc and chaos. Although, at first, he set upon his discoveries in the Portland Public Library, his repertoire, as we will see later, was built upon a foundation of another whose influence can be seen in his works and was expanded by the pseudo-intellectual, Dr. Herman Hoeh.
Some may wonder how the Source Code is built. It’s not that difficult to understand, even for the naive novice unfamiliar with the processes to create illegitimate applications destructive to their users. The basic process is to build on snippets that are created out of the imagination. Once someone creates the snippet, another comes along and quotes the first “creator”. Then the first creator quotes the second source, forming a double-bond of self-referential substantiation with no substance at all. This is scalable to a much larger community of sources.
John D. Keyser at Mysteries of the Bible website, in the article The Coronation Stone — Jeremiah in Ireland, debunks the whole idea of Jeremiah being in Ireland, ably assisted by Dr. Greg Doudna’s Showdown at Big Sandy: Youthful Creativity Confronts Bureaucratic Inertia At An Unconventional Bible College in East Texas. John Keyser debunks the myth that Jeremiah was in Ireland, establishing that the premise that he (in the company of his scribe Baruch) took King Zedekiah’s daughter to Ireland where she founded a line of Davidic kings that has continued on down to this day. It never happened. Herbert Armstrong wrote in The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy wrote:
Then, in 569 B.C. (date of Jeremiah’s transplanting), an elderly, white-haired patriarch, sometimes referred to as a “saint,” came to Ireland. With him was the princess daughter of an eastern king and a companion called “Simon Brach,” spelled in different histories as Breck, Berech, Brach, or Berach. The princess had a Hebrew name Tephi — a pet name — her full name being TEA-TEPHI.
Modern literature of those who recognize our national identity has confused this Tea-Tephi, a daughter of Zedekiah, with an earlier Tea, a daughter of Ith, who lived in the days of David.
This royal party included the son of the king of Ireland who had been in Jerusalem at the time of the siege. There he had become acquainted with Tea-Tephi. He married her shortly after 585 — when the city fell. Their young son, now about 12 years of age, accompanied them to Ireland. Besides the royal family, Jeremiah brought with them some remarkable things, including a harp, AN ARK, and a wonderful STONE CALLED “LIA-FAIL,” or “STONE OF DESTINY.”
….many kings in the history of Ireland, Scotland, and England have been coronated over this stone — including the present queen. The stone rests today in Westminster Abbey in London, and the coronation chair is built over and around it. A sign beside it labels it “Jacob’s pillar-stone” (Gen. 28:18).
The royal husband of the Hebrew princess Tea was given the TITLE HERREMON upon ascending the throne of his father. This Herremon has usually been confused with a much earlier Gede the Herremon in David’s day — who married his uncle Ith’s daughter Tea. The son of this later king Herremon and Hebrew princess continued on the throne of Ireland and THIS SAME DYNASTY CONTINUED UNBROKEN through all the kings of Ireland; was OVERTURNED and transplanted again in Scotland; again OVERTURNED and moved to London, England, where this same dynasty continues today in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II….
In view of the linking together of biblical history, prophecy, and Irish history, can anyone deny that this Hebrew princess was the daughter of King Zedekiah of Judah and therefore heir to the throne of David?
Well, yes we can!
It’s all nonsense.
Here’s the answer from John D. Keyser:
No References! In preparation for the writing of this article, and several others on the royal house of Britain, I searched out and read literally DOZENS of books written by British-Israelites in order to more accurately understand the BASIS for the Jeremiah/Tea-Tephi legend so eloquently penned by Herbert Armstrong. I also consulted primary and secondary sources on the Irish and Scottish annals.
To my surprise, I found that the British-Israelite books all REPEAT the same Tea-Tephi story (with slight variations), each aggressively claiming that the story is found in the ancient annals. In my research I have NOT FOUND a single British-Israelite book that actually gives a REFERENCE to WHERE in the Irish and Scottish annals the supporting material may be found! Armstrong’s booklet does not — nor does Joseph Allen’s earlier book on the subject.
As also discovered by Greg Doudna (former Ambassador College student, now with the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University), “they all seem to draw from previous British-Israel writings. They speak so confidently it sounds like there must be something in the annals to which they refer. The NAMES mentioned in the Tea-Tephi legend appear in the annals, true enough, but I have discovered they are TOTALLY DIFFERENT PERSONS IN THE ANNALS than the British-Israel legend makes them out to be. The annals simply don’t say what the British-Israel literature, or the Worldwide Church of God, SAY they say. It is a LEGEND that someone somewhere within British-Israel circles began, stated it as fact, and it has been repeated as fact within British-Israel circles ever since, down to the present day in which the Worldwide Church of God repeats it to millions. It may make an interesting story, but IT IS COMPLETELY FABRICATED.” (“Afterword on British-Israelism”, p. 121).
The bottom line here is that one “expert” historian quotes another and that one quotes the first and a third one quotes the previous two and so on and so forth. It’s like an urban legend where you can never find the original source. Scratch that — it’s not like an urban legend — it is an urban legend. This is a #1 law for religious malware: If you don’t have the source, just make something up, then find someone else to quote you and then quote that as a legitimate source to make the whole thing legitimate. No dishonesty has been harmed in the making of the myth.
British Israelism is another example of this phenomenon. As nearly all Armstrongists know by this time, originally — and though there may have been a few others who threw around the idea previously — Richard Brothers was the primary source of British Israelism. Oh sure, there were predecessors as is told by The True and Noble Origins of the Anglo-Israel Message, but Richard Brothers was a focal point, with his first publication, released in 1794, The Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies & Times. The prologue had this to say:
First wrote under the direction of the LORD GOD & published by His Sacred Command, it being the first sign of Warning for the Benefit of all Nations; Containing with other great and remarkable things not revealed to any other Person on Earth, the Restoration of the Hebrews to Jerusalem by the year 1798 under their revealed Prince and Prophet. London, Printed in the year of Christ, 1794.
He only had 4 years to wait before his prophecy failed. The rest of us have had to wait a lot longer.
It should be noted that Richard Brothers, in connection with his odd ideas of British Israelism, was committed to an insane asylum as being a danger to himself and others. Thus it is that British Israelism was popularized by a kook madman.
It took John Harden Allen with his Judah’s Scepter and Joseph’s Birthright published in 1902 to truly give Herbert Armstrong the fodder he needed as he preached the True Gospel as The End Time Apostle and Great False Prophet, the source code basis for the Key to Prophecy. Low and behold, major portions of it were plagiarized for The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, all of which has the curious propensity to prompt us to recall the riddle posed by Professor Maximillian Arturo, played by John Rhys-Davies, in the science fiction television show, Sliders:
Why doesn’t the sun set on the British Empire?
Because God can’t trust the British in the dark!
British Israelism was the source code to set the stage for the angst ridden prophecies of hyperbole, aptly described in the November-December 2012 Church of God Seventh Day Bible Advocate article, It’s Doomsday Again!
Written into the folk memory of all peoples is the concept of an “end”. It may be a subconscious memory of the worldwide destruction of the great Flood. But disasters do happen and failed predictions of such an end abound.
The article notes:
Such fearsome factors can be found in Scripture and are highlighted by most who write about prophecy, often with a barely suppressed sense of glee!
As it turns out, fear of gloom and doom are big business:
Many prophecy buffs are excited by the thought of the end.
If you are still wondering about the source code which produced Herbert Armstrong, one might consider “Questions and Answers” in the latest Bible Advocate:
Andrew N. Dugger became editor of the Bible Advocate magazine in 1914 and a popular president of the General Conference (1921-27; 29-30). He injected futurism into the Church’s prophetic interpretation, and championed futurist doctrine amid the controversy that led to the 1933 division between Stanberry and Salem.
In Summary, Elder Dugger believed 1) the two-horned beast would be a revival Roman Church, enforcing its mark of Sunday keeping on Sabbath observers; 2) the Church of God’s main task was to give the third angel’s message, warning believers against the mark of the beast; 3) the seven plagues were literal and future judgments upon those who received the mark; 4) the giving of the third angel’s message and the outpouring of the plagues would lead to Christ’s return; and 5) Christ’s descent from heaven to receive His kingdom would occur in the midst of Armageddon.
Elder Dugger’s argument for the imminent fulfillment of his end-time prophecies in the 1920s, 30s and 40s led the Church to become disinterested in his failed version of them. For more than a generation, the Church struggled to recapture its true mission to preach salvation in Christ and His grace alone, rather than serve as a prognosticator of events.
The Church’s return to its heritage of preaching Christ and His advent without enigmatic add-ons was reflected in its doctrinal revisions of 1994 and 2006, which dropped the futurist predictions and suppositions that prevailed for much of the past century.
— Elder Robert Coulter
It is difficult to imagine that the fiery preachments of Andrew N. Dugger did not impress the impressionable Herbert Armstrong as he began on his quest for ministerial truth. The extremism of futurist ideas of Andrew Dugger impressed on Armstrong’s impressionable young mind was enough to provide the source code upon which to build the religious malware foundation of the heretical extreme cult religion. Apparently, the Church of God Seventh Day eventually outgrew it, while Armstrongists remained trapped in the eternal childishness of seeking the thrills of thinking they have special knowledge of what comes next. This foolishness has spun off over 700 versions of the original malware, just waiting to infect the uninoculated unsuspecting innocent.
Protect yourself: Prevent damage by avoiding downloading any more malware from the Internet pages of the UCG, LCG, CoGWA and the whole host of religious malware servers.
And for heaven’s sake, don’t allow them to charge for the service.
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.
Mantayo says (over at the False Prophet Ronald Weinland blog):
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.