Email To The Editor
(Mail from Kooks, Nuts and Loonies is on another page)
I left the church and school in 1975. I had not looked back although there was much I had to do to assimilate my experiences. Today was the first time I inquired into this religion since then. At one time I was going to write a novel (still probably will) using my experiences in the cult. I came upon your book and could not stop reading it. It echoed my experiences so closely. I knew most of the people you mentioned in the book.
I came to the realization that it was absurd that only a few "special" people had the true perspective on life and that everyone else was a poor dumb fool left out in the dark. Cultism is a symptom of a state of mind. But I had such a state of mind at one time and I lived through the experience to find a more mature view of life. But it is even more than simply a better view of life. Our views are also symptoms of our inner being.
One of the ways to go beyond cultism is to find a heart, realize compassion. This comes to each of us when we are ready to open up to it. I studied comparative religion, philosophy, mythology, etc. as I found my way to what is common to all of humanity, not just what makes us different. The "perennial philosophy", the deeper ground is where I was taken by my need to find a healing from my cult experience.
When I first left the church I suffered deep anxiety. My foundation was gone. That was the dark night of the soul for me. And this journey toward a sense of wholeness was very gradual and difficult for me in the first years after leaving. I was amazed as I discovered for myself how the tricks and the appeal to my fears played me like a violin. But I was a willing accomplice or none of that would have been possible. I was angry at first but this kept me stuck to the cult and did not give me freedom, even though it was a necessary phase.
I remember when I finally felt gratitude for my experiences there. At the time in my life when I went to Ambassador College, that was a step up for me because of the state of consciousness and level of development I was at the time. I was asking for what they gave me. I wanted to be special. I wanted to feel more important than other people because I actually felt less important than other people. And the price for this luxury was my loyalty and support so those to whom I was giving my power could use this pool of unused personal power to become drunk with more power than they could have ever acquired on their own. It is true that I was anxious to doubt the church for fear of divine retribution. But that fear was a threshold guardian keeping me restrained in a tiny field of consciousness in which I was capable of living until I grew strong enough to go past my fears to a larger view of life.
When I first started to read your book I was afraid it was an attack piece, but I read on hoping it was more. You wrote it with compassion even though it dealt with necessarily critical investigation. I could not stop reading on and my unspoken experiences found a release and a validation. And my own relationships and contacts with nearly everyone in your book made it intensely personal for me. I have an encyclopedia of personal experiences regarding all of your points and most of those personalities. Reading your book helped bring to the light of consciousness many of them and perhaps heal some of them as well.
Thank you for your book. I honestly never thought I would read a book about that church. I don't believe in living in the past. But I don't think this was living in the past. I am not looking to churn over this stuff like one would do if one were resentful. Rather, I am grateful for it all. And I see it all with a different mind and a different hearth than before.
I remember well a sermon that was given in the early 1980s in a small congregation by Worldwide Church of God minister. The topic was faith and the expected return of Christ. At the time, I was gullible enough to suck in anything that came through print, radio, tape or from the pulpit as coming from God. I look back at one particular comment that was made in that sermon that seems totally absurd today.
The minister yelled, "many members are actually saving for retirement. It's as though they have no faith that Christ will ever return. Mr. Armstrong has said on many occasions that the coming of Christ is near." The implication was that all extra funds should be diverted to the church to get the message out before the end of the world. Retirement should not be a priority.
Now, nearly 20 years later and with social security in trouble, I wonder if the current Worldwide Church of God leadership will share the property proceeds with the membership who did not set aside funds for retirement?
I'm new to the Painful Truth site, but not new to the COG teachings. This will probably seem like a really silly question, but did anyone ever know why the Worldwide Church of God( the split-offs ) never had real churches or at least buildings for meetings? Why always rented halls & rented rooms in cheap motels?
A small building rented monthly , would surely be less expensive in the long run. Was ( is ) this just another control thing? It seems that an organized group would attract more people than a floating crap game type meeting.
Anyway, thank you for your time.
"Floating crap game," a fitting analogy, to be sure. I'll post your message and maybe one of the readers can give a logical answer, if there is one.
Probably it was a control thing. Kind of like the Federal government today where they take our money and then dole it out, little by little, back to the States, as long as the States do what the Feds want. Helps keep the rebellions down. Its the golden rule: He who has the money, rules.
One of the so called restored truths that I always struggled with was tithing. It was not that giving 10 percent on ones income to support a church seemed unreasonable since Malachi #3 and many Old Testament passages alluded to tithing. It was all of the additional tithes and offerings that Worldwide Church of God consistently demanded from the members. HWA made it a point that the tithe was on the GROSS, not net. Add to that the second tithe which most of that was sent to H.Q. and third tithe took the cake. But wait there was also the high pressured holy day offerings which were above and beyond the three tithes.
Oh, and also there were special sacrificial offerings that members were pressured to make through out the year. By the time the Gov't & Worldwide Church of God got through with your bank account, you were lucky to have 20 percent to live on. What bugged me about the triple tithe and high pressured offering tactics was that this was never a doctrine or teaching that the church announced to the public. When I was baptized, I was questioned on my loyalty to HWA and a basic understanding of the Sabbath, holy days.. etc. Tithing was not a topic of discussion. I would learn of this teaching from other members who complained about their third tithe year coming up, and how difficult it would be for them to make ends mean. This was difficult for me to swallow, but like a good foot soldier, I fell into the trap of guilt giving for the 12 plus years that I attended Worldwide Church of God.
It was like a burden was lifted from me when the OC doctrinal change occurred in 1995. But like many others, I could not understand how Mr. Tkach could make an around about change and emphasize tithing again as a minimal standard of giving for Christians. My family & left in 1996 and began church hunting. We found a mainstream Christian church that talked about grace/love and Jesus a lot. The church seemed to be okay. We began attending became involved and eventually became members. Unlike Worldwide Church of God, this church did not ask for money all the time. An offering basket was passed and little pressured was put on members for giving. Well, this was all fine until the annual November steward ship drive started. Members were given cards with your name and address and were asked to pledge for the upcoming budget year. What was very offensive on the card was the three choices: #1. I do not tithe but will work towards a tithe; #2. I already tithe & #3. I will not tithe. The text for the day was of course Malachi #3 and the pastor went on to say that those who do not tithe on their GROSS income were stealing from God. He then sternly challenged everyone to sign a pledge that we would all begin tithing faithfully from that point on. I felt like the hair on the back of my neck had been yanked. But it got worse. I soon found out that this church also takes up a sacrificial holy day offerings on Christmas & Easter. In there words, the gift should be a sacrifice, not given by logic. In other words, give what does not seem reasonable and trust God in faith to take care of the rest.
There is also a special offering taken up for the poor in the church and special funds to take care of Church camp grounds. But wait, there is more, now this church has decided to build a $5 million dollar expansion to the already $5 million dollar structure. The church is seeking to raise $3 million dollars over three years.
With only about 700 families attending there, I did not have to be a genius to figure out that my contribution would require a home equity loan. We received a phone call and we were cornered into attending a small group meeting to discuss how much we might be able contribute. At this point we had had enough and decided to leave. Don't get me wrong, here the pastors disclose their salaries, there is a local building to enjoy and the church does a lot of good work. But we had had enough. This church was beginning to SAP us of all that we had.
So we ventured out and attended another large mainstream Christian church to see how that would go. Wouldn't you guess that on the second sermon, the minister challenged everyone to begin tithing as a way to combat materialism.
Is there a Freewill Offering Church of God by any chance?
I think the best way to handle tithing and offerings is where you draw a circle on the ground and stand in the middle. You throw your money up in the air and whatever stays in the air belongs to god, the rest belongs to you.
Enjoy your money and your life.
2 the Editor/s:
Thanks for the expose on the sale of HWA's ostentatious, gaudy, and disgustingly overpriced personal belongings. At the very least, this must be heartbreaking for all the people who really suffered to get this type of "religion" to the world, and who now see the real fruits of preaching the "gospel."
In light of the recent stuff on the Pasadena Star News (PSN) website, there still arises some questions in my mind about the hundreds of millions of dollars still unaccounted for. According to the PSN, the sale of the campus was made in January, and the escrow apparently closed in early October, or before. There has been no disclosure on the details anywhere from what I can see. Therefore, there are some questions in my mind - and undoubtedly with many other folks.
(1) Where are the proceeds from the campus sale? Who gets them?
(2) Where are the pocketed billions already milked from the tithepayers over the last 50 years?
(3) Since the proceeds of this recent auction go to the "money fund" that paid for all this paraphernalia in the first place, then won't the proceeds (as I read it) go right back to the Worldwide Church of God top brass, or their legal reps?
(4) Who's gonna get the profits or holdings for all that
This auction only scratches the surface, and while - it seems - the leadership of Worldwide Church of God will profit from the sale, the rest of this ungodly business venture - in the billions - has all been carefully hidden somewhere.
And the tragedy of this whole Worldwide Church of God experience is that the cultmasters actually got away with it.
I ran across your site by mistake and thought you should know. The God you originally set out to serve and served for so many years, loved you then and He loves you now. He died to save the good and the bad. That includes you, me and everyone who have led you astray. I hope this encourages you.
I have read through your site on several occasions and have found it helpful and informative in regard to insight into HWA's reign of arrogance and foolishness. I was a member for 19 years. However, I'm beginning to find the philosophy behind your sight as a mirror image of his arrogance and foolishness. You say, "..you can't use the Bible to prove that it's the Word of God, that would be illogical..", but then you turn right around and claim you have proved the Bible isn't the Word of God by using the Bible! Who's being illogical here? You can't have it both ways gentlemen. You come across just like Herbert-slam the opposing view with allot of hype and ridicule in the subconscious hope that no one will see the gaping hole in your own logic.
Just who do you think you guys are? No don't get me wrong, HWA and the Worldwide Church of God was an evil enterprise in my view-tantamount to the "Man of Sin" instead of a man of God. But you.. A puny man in the 20th century, no real experience or knowledge of the complex history of sacred literature (as is called in anthropology) or how it works, or much of anything when it comes to the mysteries of this universe. How dare you make sweeping conclusions about things you can't possibly really know about for sure. You guys act just like he did.
Well James, you really do know how to hurt a guy, saying I am like herbie.
Regardless, the only reason that the Bible is used by this website is to show Bible believers that, if they base their beliefs on the Bible, that very Bible refutes their beliefs and condemns their hypocrisy. It is to show how illogical they, and you, are. I think that is very obvious and not "a gapping hole in logic."
If I want to prove that the telephone book is not the word of God, I would just proceed to show that it is not by the errors in it as confirmed by reliable sources and the fact that the numbers do not connect properly. This is not an illogical way to prove something.
Would you continue to insist that the telephone book is correct and it must be my lack of faith that the numbers don't connect to the right people or don't connect at all? God would not make a telephone book with errors in it and then expect me to use it to call the right numbers and, indeed, base my whole eternal life on trying to sift out the good numbers from the bad numbers. I guess, using your lack of logic, you would continue to use the book and not believe your eyes, after all, can all these believers be wrong? My answer is YES.
How would YOU prove that the telephone book was not written by God? Would you just quote the numbers to me and tell me that I must believe? That is what you want to do by proving the Bible is true by quoting verses to me. Doesn't prove a thing.
How can I make sweeping conclusions about anything I don't know for sure? You are the one that makes sweeping conclusions based on things you don't know for sure. I am the one who will not accept your assumptions, presumptions, illogical and unprovable beliefs without any proof. You have no proof at all that the bible is from any "God" yet you expect me to accept this book, full of errors and evil, as "holy and sacred."
Sorry, I have better things to do with my life.
This is Larry Pritchett's reply to our latest email exchange.
REPLY: It would be good if you would apply this criteria to your belief in the Bible. There is a lot more proof that these assertions are true than there are that the Bible is true or that Jesus even lived.
Not that I have in my possession.
And, just so you can see that these are all separate questions that beg an answer, I will number them: Yes or No will suffice except for Question number nine.
Asking for just yes or no answers to loaded questions is unreasonable, but I will answer them as best I can.
1. Do you ever think that it is immoral for you to continue to support a group that has a foundation of so much evil?
Supporting any group that has done a great deal of wrong would always seem to be wrong, but what group formed by humans has not been a foundation of evil? Have you never done anything evil? Have I? Applying your criteria I could support no group on earth, not even myself.
2. Do you really think that your Jesus would do the same? I know that you can rationalize it by saying that you are just trying to help the people not the leadership but it is still the same thing; you are perpetuating the organization.
See the answer above.
3. Do you think that Jesus was wrong when he said that a tree with bad roots cannot bear good fruit?
What are the roots of Christian churches? Is Jesus a bad root? Errors made along the way can be repented of and changes can be made by any person or any group.
4. Can any sane person deny that the roots were bad?
This is essentially a question designed to guide an answer to the above question.
5. Do you think that the present day Worldwide Church of God owes more than an apology for all the damaged lives over the years?
Yes. An apology by those who did the damage, most of whom have left and formed other churches, and a commitment to not do damage again are both owed..
6. Do you think that the present-day, full time or retired "ministers" should be using the "old money" that paid for the Big Sandy and Pasadena properties, for their own present prosperity and retirement.
There is no other reasonably equitable use for it.
7. Should it be turned over to an independent entity to distribute to the people who had their lives irrevocably changed for the worse by this cult?
If it was done, there would be millions of people filing for a share most of whom had never entered the doors of the Worldwide Church of God.
8. Do you think these men deserve a retirement while the people that they blackmailed the money from have no retirement?
What do any of us deserve? Again most of those who used emotional strong arm tactics to get more donations have moved on to other churches. I have received no letters from the current leaders begging for more money nor instructing me to somehow make the members of our church in Tuscaloosa send more money.
9. Tell me: What would Jesus do?
If He was still part of the church, I think Jesus would be glad that changes had been made and work to help those who are still in the church heal. I think He would put the past behind Him if He was a former member, forgive those who had hurt Him if He had been hurt while in the church and go forward doing a new work other than attacking the group that He had left.
I can tell that you have been hurt. I have asked for you to forgive us the Worldwide Church of God as a group. So far you have not said that you do. Almost any mental health specialist would tell you that the first step toward healing is to forgive those who hurt you. You should try it. Tell me or tell the church or someone who represents the church "I forgive you."
I'm afraid that, after seeing your answers, you will have to be removed from the Ministerial Apology page. You are disqualified. You are not repentant and are not even close to it.
Go fast and pray about it. And give some big offerings.
I'm sorry you feel that way. You seem to assume that in every judgment you have made you are right and everyone else is wrong. I don't worry about whether men think I qualify as having repented. God knows my heart, as He knows all of our hearts. I have fasted and prayed, but giving offerings doesn't bring repentance. I prayed for a long time before I sent my last response. I notice that for my last response you have no specific reply, just a blanket condemnation. I thought at first we were going to have an honest dialogue of two people who respected what each other had been through. Your last response reminded me of the kind of condemning from on high correction in which so many of our former pastors engaged. It made me feel like you think you are better than me and higher than me and have some kind of divine authority to judge my heart. I have had those feelings before due to the kind of pastoring that you condemn so correctly and enthusiastically. It seems ironic that you would make statements so identical in tone and attitude as those that you condemn. Once again, for whatever pain I may have caused, I ask your forgiveness. That is all I can do. No one can force you to forgive others.
Sorry but you can't just say you are sorry and keep doing and supporting evil. Your answers to my questions are just tap-dancing and not very good at that. I don't think Joe Jr. will be very proud of you as a "minister." You really have to get better at this if you want to remain in the loop.
Yes, I do condemn you. The questions were not "loaded" for anyone that can know the past and all the evil that has been done in god's name. I can give yes or no answers to all of the questions. It is easy. What is not easy is to answer them truthfully and still remain a minister or member in the church.
My reply to your latest list of "answers," above.
1. That is just stupid.
2. See answer above.
3. I see that you do not agree with Jesus in this matter.
4. See above answer.
5. I said "MORE THAN AN APOLOGY," not just an apology and a commitment not to hurt other people in the future, maybe.
I think the commitment not to hurt others would be assumed.
6. Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh............ How about give it to the Red Cross or to some homes for orphaned children? Let the criminals keep the money because you can't find any better use for it?
7. Regarding there not being any way to know who the members were and how much they had blackmailed out of their bank accounts is just ridiculous. Ever hear of computers? Ever hear of member records? Ever hear of accountants? This is really stupid.
8. We deserve justice. We deserve truth. We deserve to be made whole, as much as possible, by those that harmed us or those that continue to support and perpetuate the organization that harmed us. The US government paid reparations to those Japanese Americans that they wronged during WWII. The people in our federal government, just a few years ago, decided that the right thing to do was to pay these reparations to these people or even their descendants. Most of us alive today are not even the ones who made these decisions way back then but even our government saw that a grievous wrong had been done to a people and tried to right a wrong. We former members are still here and alive, at least some of us. There is still time not to pay reparations but to just give back what was stolen. But you and your cohorts in crime can't even see that, or more likely, you don't want to see it or you would be convicted in your hearts and then what would you do?
9. I'm not talking of Jesus as a member but of Jesus as the head minister in charge of your corrupt church. The guy in charge of all the stolen money. Would he continue to use this money for his evil gang of thieves or would he return it to those whom they stole it from? Hmmmmm? If you can think of any reason for Him to keep it, you must be worshipping a different Jesus that I ever did. Isn't this the same Jesus who told his disciples to take nothing with them but to go and preach his word? Luke 9:1-3 "Take nothing for [your] journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece." (Bible quotes for your benefit, not mine. Only to convict you with the book you SAY you believe in.) Even Judas had enough conscience and principles in him to take the blood money and throw it away.
The organization can never be forgiven. Individual ministers and members can be forgiven when they are in a true spirit of repentance. You and they are not.
Yes, if there is a God, he can see your heart; be very afraid my friend, very afraid if you truly believe in God.
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