Disappointment, Part 1: Hypocrisy

Did you know that there is a group of Sabbath keeping Mormons?

Certainly, the Armstrongists do not have a lock on claiming to keep the Sabbath as a part of keeping the Ten Commandments as a part of keeping God’s Law. Certainly, there is the Church of God, Seventh Day — several of them, in fact — so many of them you might not be able to keep them straight. There is the Seventh Day Church of God, which not only keeps the Sabbath, but has kept the Holydays since 1919: They took notice of Gilbert G. Rupert early on — long before Herbert Armstrong was taught personally by Jesus Christ to keep them [the author hopes that those reading this have a finely honed sense of irony]. [In case you are wondering, and do not have access to the Herald of Truth, Paul Woods produces the Holyday Calendar for the Seventh Day Church of God presently.] There are also those who actually don’t much deserve mention, such as the Seventh Day Baptists and the Seventh Day Adventists. In a totally illogical way, these two groups manage to keep the Sabbath (?) and Christmas and Easter — and to the Armstrongist mind, that’s just wrong.

One wonders with all the claims and counter claims of those keeping the Sabbath, and some of them managing to declare themselves holier than thou in spite of some nagging inconsistencies in their actual practices, just how deep the sincerity of committment might actually be? As one, myself, who lives on a good example of others, it certainly gives me pause to observe people coming into Sabbath services with an obviously fresh latte they just purchased at a drive through; it gives me pause to hear talk of their plans to eat out immediately after services and long before sunset, at Denny’s, Sherri’s or something even more upscale. There are those disturbing accounts in Ezra and Nehemiah about related commercial enterprises, after all.

Now mind you, Grace Communion International, A.K.A WCG, if only they could get the State of Washington to recognize their name change, corporately speaking, really doesn’t have a problem. Any day and every day is good to worship the Lord and spend time with him. Last Sabbath, Larry Pate pointed out while giving a sermon on I Thessalonians that we should have Jesus Christ as our Lord. It was his perspective that in the old Armstrongist Worldwide Church of God, it was far too often that the Law was our Lord, not Jesus Christ. Even if I don’t agree with the Grace Communion International, I have to admit that Mr. Pate has a point.

Nevertheless, this is not a discussion of religion, per se. It is not a discussion about theology. It is not a discussion, even about the Sabbath, per se. This is about hypocrisy. Let me just say that the examples that I see among all the Churches of God — and not just the Armstrongist ones — is a tad disappointing. I don’t care myself if you keep the Sabbath or you don’t keep the Sabbath. My concern is about people who claim to keep God’s Law, the Ten Commandments and claim to keep the Sabbath, and, yet, offer irreconcilable contradictions in their practices.

I’m not the only one to wonder about this issue. Art Bradic and Dennis Fischer coauthored a book called “A Sabbath Test” where you can find over at the Eternal Church of God Website: http://www.eternalcog.org/ecgbooks/stdirectory.html Their approach was just to lay out the case that we should not engage in commerce on the Sabbath by eating out on the Sabbath — if we’re going to keep the Sabbath, anyway. Their approach is something like: we’re comrades at arms, spiritual brothers — we’d like you to consider this. It isn’t in the typical Armstrongist take-no-prisoners, you’re-headed-for-the-lake-of-fire, cut-off-from-God approach. But for all that, the reaction, particularly amongst the ministers and leadership of all the major Armstrongist Churches of God is nothing short of astonishing: Everyone of them is vehemantly opposed to the Bradic / Fischer approach and have universally condemned them for their efforts. Dennis Fischer documents this fairly well over at his website: http://www.blowthetrumpet.org/HonoringGodsSabbath.htm 

There’s stiff opposition from United, Living, Restored and the Church of the Great God. John Rittenbaugh, Director of the Church of the Great God, declared that the authors of A Sabbath Test were, at minimum, demon influenced, if not outright possessed, making that conclusion without reading a single word of the text.

It was just a few years back, three or four, I think, if I remember correctly, that Dennis Fischer told me at Sabbath services at the UCG in Redmond, Washington, that many of the brethren were beginning to consider the questions brought forth in the booklet. At the time, he was good friends with Dennis Luker and often gave Bible Studies in his own home. The leadership in Cincinnati, as they do, set forth to study the issue. Usually, such commissions to the Council of Elders drags on for years, what with their bureaucratic processes of governance and all, but this time, the retribution decision  was as swift as it was decisive: Dennis Luker [the next president of the UCG, presently packing his bags] had to tell Dennis Fischer that even though they were friends, well… you know…. Bible studies in Mr. Fischer’s home soon were dropped mysteriously from the UCG church schedule and finally, he moved away to Montana, to be in more direct contact with Art Braidic and the members of the Eternal Church of God there.

United, for sure, uses the ad hominum argument that Art Braidic has done something which would prevent them from allowing him to be a minister in the UCG. I would like to remind the UCG that they have some much more dirty laundry in their closet which I disclosed a while back and their performance was less than stellar. I paid the lawyer’s fees for the stalked couple and I sat in the courtroom after all. I really don’t think that United has any cause to cast the first stone, so to speak, but, then that’s ancient history, as is the events which they recount in United concerning Mr. Braidic. If they’d like to use that as an excuse, then they probably don’t have much to say about the coauthor. What a bunch of hypocrites.

But there’s more.

There wasn’t just opposition. There were excuses. Can you imagine how many excuses the Armstrongist Churches of God could possibly give for breaking the Sabbath by eating out in a Restaurant? Would you say 5? 10? 20? 25? Nope. Thirty excuses. As my friend Wally Hensen in the Seventh Day Church of God says, “If you need an excuse, any one will do”.

I am well known for being that take-no-prisoners, in-your-face approach to hypocrisy. I’d probably be fighting along side the Maccabeean brothers. If you remember, the last thing I said to the Armstrongists, particularly to the UCG, was: judgment, if any, awaits. I figure that after all of those years of being yelled at as being evil and wicked and made to sing Psalm 51 year after year at the “Passover”, while considering that great and perfect stellar example of the ministry and the Armstrong lead Worldwide Church of God — and the even worse judgmental Radio Church of God — it is high time that the Armstrongists get a taste of their own medicine, particularly since they seem caught up in their own self-righteous narcissistic universe. It is something they long richly deserved.

On the other hand, is the kindness and gentle, if not genteel, loving approach of Art Braidic. He just wants his brothers in the church and ministry to have the blessings of God.

I plan to see Art Braidic this September in Montana. I might even consider singing The Holy City again at the Feast after a four year hiatus from the Red Lodge site. And I have a question for him — albeit a rhetorical one: Just which approach has worked with the leadership and ministry of the major Armstrongist churches of God — mine or his? We all now know the answer, but it will be fun to ask just the same.

Speaking of the Feast, has anyone considered that $832+ and on up to $1,552 cruise out of Seattle to Alaska, offered by the Church of God, Big Sandy? They meet the first two days of the Feast of Tabernacles at the Edgewater Inn in Seattle. On Friday afternoon, they board the Holland America Cruise Lines ship, the M.S. Zaandam, arriving at their first port of call in Juneau, Alaska that following Sunday. Services will be from 8 to 9 AM daily except for Wednesday, September 29th, when services are not planned. The Last Great Day will aboard ship as they arrive in the evening in Victoria, B.C. Canada. Sounds fun. Not too much religion at one hour per day — but it is awfully early. And on the Sabbath and the Holy Day, the manservants and maidservants of the Holland America Cruise Lines will be at your beck and call to cook up and serve you anything you want. Even if you choose buffet, the Captain and First Mate are in the wheel house on the Sabbath and Last Great Day, sailing the ship. The Church of God, Big Sandy, as you recall is one of the 40+ churches split away from United, and the CoG, BS is growing a lot faster and have a lot of fun programs (like the Boy Scouts) for participating members. One wonders if Ezra and Nehemiah are rolling over in their graves.

The CoG, BS cruise is reminisent of the single’s United Cruise down to Mexico. On the Sabbath, the ship was in port. Most of the members went out on the beach to go parasailing, while the minister hid on board ship. I’m guessing that the UCG has to keep the fun stuff for the 20 somethings to keep them interested, keeping the Sabbath be damned. …and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. Or maybe United is a bit closer to the Grace Communion International folks than we would have surmised. Given United’s recent woes, the time may be ripe for some sort of corporate merger — if only the Chairman of the Board can somehow be persuaded to embrace less conservative values. 

Beware of the leaven and all that. Like so many corporate sociopaths, they’d like you to accept what you are told and go your way. I have for the past 2+ years [and had great peace, finally walking away from the Armstrongist cultists], but every once in awhile it’s good for folks to have a reality check again — particularly with people we all know are about as far from reality as their high concepts can take them. They can hearken back to Herbert Armstrong, but I’ve had side conversations with his personal chef awhile back and as sure as death, taxes, revenge and the fury of a woman scorned, cannot, for the life of me, understand how anyone can claim to be keeping the Sabbath while demanding that his man servant cook something up for him on the Sabbath because he has a hankering for some food morsel or other. Perhaps, someone should do an investigation of what ever happened to that peacock on the AC campus. Delicious, was it? Cooked on the Sabbath? We wouldn’t wonder.

Meantime, I’m just as puzzled as ever: The claims about keeping the Sabbath make no sense at all — the behavior and bad example confuse me. The excuses anger me. If you’re going to keep it, keep it; if not, just give up making any claims about it.

I just had a thought: I wonder if I could find some Sabbath keeping Scientologists to visit. It makes about as much sense.

Next week: Disappointment, Part 2: Stench.