A collection of Facts, Opinions and Comments from survivors of Herbert W. Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong,  The Worldwide Church of God and its Daughters.
Updated 02/27/07 10:58 AM PDT

The painful truth about Herbert W. Armstrong, Garner Ted Arrmstrong and the Worldwide Church of God

Articles Pertaining To Herbert W. Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong and The Worldwide Church of God

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Ambassador College Baptismal Pool
By Retired Prof

Back in the 1950s, when Mad Magazine was exhorting readers to “fight the rising tide of conformity,” my circle of high school buddies and I proudly professed to be nonconformists. We didn’t do anything flamboyantly rebellious, the way today’s punk or Goth youth do; we just didn’t go along with mainstream fashions unless they happened to suit us. My friend Eddie wore a British-style porkpie hat to school, and I wore a homemade ‘possum-skin cap. Most male and some female teens at our school took up cigarettes, but in our group Eddie smoked a pipe and the rest declined to smoke at all. We didn’t care for Elvis Presley’s music and didn’t copy his hairstyle. I did get a pair of blue suede shoes, but just because I thought they were cool—who cared if Elvis had started the fad? Instead of sports and social events, we talked about art and literature. Since we were all nonconformists anyway, my friends didn’t care that my family flouted the Sunday norm by attending church on Saturday, or that we deprived ourselves of certain culinary pleasures by refusing to eat pork and shrimp. Because of stories we had heard, my buddies and I all agreed that when we went to college we would never join a fraternity. The stories all implied that fraternities bullied members into conforming to their norms.

Both my mother and father, who divorced when I was ten, took it for granted that I would apply to Ambassador College, and I went along with their wishes. Way back in the early days of Ambassador, my father had said he would pay my way there. He had started listening to The World Tomorrow at least by the time I was four; one of our family rituals was to sit respectfully around the battery-operated radio in our two-room cabin listening to the program. My mother kept on listening after the divorce, and sometimes so did my sisters and I, though Mom didn’t insist we always sit with her in respectful silence. After the divorce we lived in rented places with electricity and didn’t depend on a battery-powered radio.

We started attending WCG services when a congregation was established at Springfield, Missouri, and she was baptized when I was fifteen or sixteen. She never told my sisters and me not to associate with friends “in the world.” The church didn’t put much pressure on members to withdraw from “the world” at that time. But even after they clamped down and said we were not supposed to form close friendships with outsiders, Mom didn’t encourage us to follow the rule. She never said why; perhaps she was thinking that if Jesus ate with publicans and sinners, surely her offspring could associate with unconverted friends. When Ambassador College accepted my application, I was disappointed, but I thought, “Oh well, at least it doesn’t have fraternities.” From church services, I should have foreseen what Ambassador would really be like, but then (nonconformist or not) I was only a callow, trusting youth of seventeen.

My father reneged on his plan to cover my college expenses and stopped even sending any spending money during the first of my two Ambassador semesters (1959-60). We children were fortunate not to live with him, because he was much more zealous about enforcing church doctrine than my mother. Ironically, however, he was never baptized, because he flunked the interview and got turned down. I’m sure the minister saw that my father wanted to BE the authority, not submit to it. Come to think of it, maybe I inherited my nonconformist tendencies from him. Be that as it may, as anyone knows who ever enrolled in Ambassador College, attended WCG services, or read very many pages on this Web site, the campus was a very paragon of conformity. Not mere garden-variety conformity, either. Conformity distilled and concentrated.

One way we had to conform was to attend all the social events planned for us. We males felt added pressure: we were all supposed to get dates, because it would be terrible if any girls (remember when college women were “girls”?) had to sit alone in their rooms during a dance or banquet for want of an escort. Before one dance, somebody made a rule that any guy who didn’t have a date would get dunked in the baptismal pool. The plan was probably hatched by a group of upperclassmen, but it enjoyed the sanction of faculty and administration. Official opinion was that such boisterous hijinks would unify everybody and promote loyalty to the group. It promoted the opposite of loyalty in me: alienation. This was exactly the kind of bullying horseplay that made me loathe fraternities.

My buddy Fred Kellers and I were among the many freshmen who had no date. For the girls, though, the campaign was a rousing success; all of them were spoken for. So now guys without dates were denied any chance of getting one. First, Fred and I railed with each other about the unfairness of it all. Then we hatched a plan. We were just reacting intuitively and didn’t bother to work out any ethical rationale, but if we had, it would have gone like this: If somebody is about to pull a practical joke on you, you are then completely justified in thwarting it with another practical joke. Turnabout is fair play. Eye for an eye.

We decided to drain the baptismal pool.

The drain in the bottom of the pool was plugged with a vertical overflow pipe to maintain a constant level. If water rose too high, it would spill into the open end of the pipe and down the drain. If the pipe was removed, all the water could go down the drain. We removed the pipe.

We watched with satisfaction as the water level fell, but our satisfaction didn’t last long. The water had gone down less than a foot when an upperclassman trotted toward us wearing a severe expression. He was led by a freshman who had heard us conspiring. The upperclassman made us put the pipe back, and then he chewed us out for unauthorized tampering with school property and disrespect for authority. He stopped short of accusing us of demon possession, but Fred and I figured we were in big trouble anyway. He would report us, and we would be called in by a minister for counseling. We dreaded counseling even more than we dreaded being thrown into the pool.

Oddly enough, nothing came of our prank. Nobody else ever mentioned it, and it’s possible the four of us standing beside the pool when Fred and I replaced the pipe were the only ones who ever knew about it. Likewise, nobody threw any dateless reprobates into the pool that evening. I kept the threat in mind, though, and it was a good thing I did, too. The perpetrators were just biding their time.

A couple of weeks later, in the cafeteria, I noticed that a lot more guys were hanging around after supper than usual. Fred wasn’t there that evening; the freshman classmate I was eating with was William Dankenbring. I eyed the action in the room and saw upperclassmen standing guard at the exits. They were letting females leave, but males about to go outdoors were getting turned back and kept inside. The game, as Sherlock Holmes would say, was afoot. I made up my mind to evade the planned bullying if I could find a way.

I said, “Bill, did you have a date for that last dance?”

“No, why?”

“They’re rounding us up so they can dunk us in the pool. When we finish, let’s take our trays up just like always, but then turn around and go out back here.” I indicated a door that led out to a sort of high porch at the back of the building. It was really more like a balcony without rails; there were no steps leading down from it. Nobody was guarding it because nobody considered it an exit.

We returned our cafeteria trays, then turned around and walked casually back toward our former seats as if we planned to continue our conversation. Instead we kept walking straight to that door. As I grasped the knob, I thought, “Well, if it’s locked, we’re sunk.” It was not locked. Bill and I stepped outside, trying not to look surreptitious; we acted as if we were doing the most normal thing in the world. As I closed the door, I looked back inside. One guy guarding a different door was looking in our direction, but what was happening didn’t seem to register with him.

We jumped off the platform, which was maybe as high as the ceiling in an ordinary room. On my way down, an image flashed through my mind of what could happen if the flowerbed below had stakes in it, and I puckered involuntarily. It didn’t have stakes in it. We landed okay, then jumped up and ran in different directions to throw off pursuers. It turned out there weren’t any; apparently that exit guard really hadn’t noticed what was happening.

I hid in the darkness of the citrus grove, where I could watch hapless victims get dragged off, yelling in protest, across the illuminated campus. The groups weren’t going toward the baptismal pool, though. I learned later that the perpetrators had modified the plan. They realized the weather was too cold for an outdoor dunking, so they threw the guys fully clothed into showers instead. I also learned later that Fred Kellers had gotten wind of the plot and avoided going to the dining hall at all that evening; he regretted not being able to get a warning message to me. There may have been others who avoided that soaking, but I know for a fact that Fred and Bill and I did.



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