"2016: What’s Ahead?"
By Douglas Becker
We examine the trends again to try to determine what the future might hold for the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia. Given the back pedaling, entropy and weak pathetic attempts of the CoHAM Armstrongists, we can certainly look forward to another year of mediocrity. The culture of the elite has produced depressive dissatisfaction in a less than stellar showing of activity. In 2015, United again spent a lot of time, effort and money on a failed extensive media campaign turned flop. Now there will be no Good News Beyond Tomorrow. It seems so very pointless, particularly if you have seen Beyond Tomorrow. The UCG can barely see beyond today. The one thing they have as an absolute is that the United Church of God, an International Association exists solely to provide the first and second tier ministers with a salary and retirement. Robert Dick has retired. Of course, it was all downhill the moment he stepped down as chairman of the board, since those at Homequarters do not have the competence to grow the cult. Many of the first tier ministers have retired… now all United has to do is get all the second tier ministers retired and then the UCG can go out of business, since there is no other reason for its existence. The Living Church of God continues to provoke their membership with inequities, Ronald Weinland missed yet another prophesied Great Tribulation, Robert Thiel has resorted to using his dreams to prove he is a prophet, the PCG keeps losing ground in spite of its spiteful recruiting measures, David Pack continues to be an embarrassment to the Restored Church of God (just where is Dale Schurter anyway?). Moreover, Davie is buying up property with money he doesn’t have. This is typical of people with Manic Depressive Illness: They go into a funk and spend themselves out of it and then go manic, making questionable decisions. It’s important to boost those dopamine levels when you’re depressed, but manic mode can be a killer wherein, the bipolar must find additional funds from somewhere to make up for their profligate spending. At least David Pack is following the time honored traditions of Herbert Armstrong who seems to have had the same problem. Eric King seems to have fallen off the grid (maybe whisked away by those demons piloting those flying saucers?) , Apostle / Prophet James Malm continues to have financial problems — the list goes on and on. One word could be used to describe this — mediocrity — but it’s more than that (or less, depending on your point of view).
The future of Armstrongism in 2016 seems to be that of mediocrity in all its infinite variations, but the mediocrity road to nowhere results inevitably in something else — something we are seeing more and more of all the time. The trend of elitism seems destined to overtake the entirety of all the congregations of the cult. Armstrongism is doomed to incompetence.
At the Feast of Tabernacles, at least a couple of years running the minister in charge of the proceedings said words to this affect in his sermons:
I had just been ordained an elder and was attending the Feast in the Poconos. The ministry had a meeting with Garner Ted Armstrong. I sat at a table with a woman across from me. She asked me when I had attended Ambassador College. I told her that I had not attended.
She then turned her nose up into the air, talked to the person next to her and ignored me for the rest of the meeting.
The story of this man is interesting in that Armstrongists in his area asked him to be their minister. With great gladness, they attended the Feast of Tabernacles with him in 2010. It was a glorious time. As with many of these more benign version of the cult, there was great happiness that there was finally a(nother) place for refugees of the despotism of United and the other church cult corporates that grace the dystopian alternative universe of Herbert Armstrong. It was quite the site: Away from much of the worldly stuff, but with just the right balance of the perks of Corporate Conference Culture: There was an indoor water park for the kiddies and waterlogged adults with a gondola ride just a few feet away. 2011 was also a joyous time with many, particularly those from Canada, rejoicing in their triumph to be free of their warfare with the United Church of God an International Association Council of Elders. There was also a refugee from the megalomania of David Pack — who invaded their home for a weekend and spewed hurtful nonsense at them the whole time. It was a time of peace and harmony with happiness along with bike riding and hiking.
The hint of trouble began in 2013 when many of the singles opted to go to other feast sites — there just wasn’t enough ‘social’ to keep them interested. For one thing, there were only two viable restaurants in the town and one of them was closed for the month during which the feast was held. The nearest real grocery store was two miles down the freeway. In 2014, the problem was even worse where virtually no singles attended and there was nothing to keep them there — they went for greener pastures.
2015 came and went. People have been agitating for a ‘better’ feast site. The festival coordinator is out looking for prospects.
At the same time, the Seventh Day Church of God (Caldwell, Idaho) with Pastor Paul Woods had another glorious Feast near Deer Lake Washington. This joyous group focused on Jesus. As it was in the past at Fruitland, everyone got together and had lunch together each day, with the ministers doing some of the cooking and serving. There was special music, events for the adults and children, all far away from the distractions of industrialized civilization. They were quite happy with it because their focus was religious not on frivolous activities devoid of spiritual content. There was harmony. They were not bored nor agitating for more exciting digs. And as Paul Woods told me, the typical cost of going to the Feast with them is around $20 a day — not thousands of dollars for the whole feast. The people go there not out of obligation but because they love Jesus and want to be closer to God the Father — not for a glorified hot spot vacation and shopping spree, replete with the free flowing alcohol so endemic, pandemic and epidemic for Armstrongist Feast sites (expect long lines at the liquor stores — if there are liquor stores).
Boredom seems to be the watchword for 2016. Sure the election for the President of the United States will be taking place and there’s a lot of stimulation for the non political Republican Dog owners of the Armstrongist churches of God watching Fox News, but as far as the cult itself is concerned, it’s I’m bored, bored, bored out of my gourd. And why not? Decades of failed prophecies, demands for more and more money, no growth, no church facilities as a center of a church community all add up to apathy in entropy.
Meanwhile, the Church of God, Seventh Day — ten times larger than all the Armstrongist churches combined — keeps right on going in its own social context, having just successfully transitioned in the leadership and moving forward with their own work. It’s a venue Armstrongists simply cannot understand and the Armstrongists think that the CoG7D is just like them minus the Feasts. The fact the Armstrongists don’t understand is that the CoG7D is so very different from Armstrongism that there is no way to contrast the social structures. For one thing, the focus is not on the leaders and the individual congregations are largely autonomous. It’s not vertically integrated and simply does not have The Man in the High Castle. Armstrongists are uncomfortable with the CoG7D because of a lack of hyperbole and stimulation for them — the Armstrongists are addicted to chaos and constant disruption of dystopian futures impinging on their sensibilities from every direction — every news report is construed as a fulfillment of prophecy — a stimulation to high energy for the end just around the corner. As so many Armstrongists have said, “I can’t wait for it to all be over”. The statement is reflective of clinical depression, which the CoG7D avoids by concentrating on what is spiritual, not physical.
There is such a thing as over stimulation. The constant bombardment of potential prophetic fulfillment raises adrenaline levels, but at some point the body just plain wears out after decades of impact to the endocrine system. The pancreas, pituitary, thyroid and adrenals just don’t continue at the same levels of production over time when they are abused. Dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine production diminishes. With Armstrongism, the additional impact of alcoholism also has devastating effects on the body of the Armstrongite. You can’t just abuse your body with delusions and false prophecies without paying the price. Your get up and go will have gotten up and be gone.
The only real viable solution to this problem is to leave the stressors causing it. Unfortunately, cult living is addictive. Every day requires a new fix. Every year that goes by, the doses have to get greater and greater. As a junkie, you have to pay more and more to your dealer and it never delivers the same high. Never.
And that’s the way it looks for 2016.
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