Blast from the past…
Down through history, empires have waxed and waned. Empires have always existed and probably always will.
In practice, if not by definition, an empire is built over the backs of the common people. Whether it’s the Babylonian, Roman, British, Communist, or Nazi empire, an empire always exists at the expense of the lower classes, the less fortunate. Empires are run by those who consider themselves elite, and who have the power to enforce their rule. Usually this force is military, but it can also be ideological, as in the case of the “Holy” Roman Empire (which was also backed up by armies, just in case).
But empires seem to have a fatal flaw — though many have existed and some reigned for centuries, every single empire to date has fallen into decline or obscurity, leaving behind only crumbling ruins as witness to the greatness they once enjoyed. Even the holy Roman church, as powerful as it is, has faded to only a shadow of its past glory.
Why is that? How can a powerful organization that rules over millions suddenly, unexpectedly, collapse almost overnight? I can think of three basic reasons.
Why Empires Fall
The first and most obvious reason empires fail is that another, bigger, more powerful empire decides to take it over. Many empires during biblical times were subjugated by Rome, for example, and even today, corporate empires sometimes fall to hostile takeovers.
The second reason is that empires become complacent. Those on top decide they have it made and no longer need to remain vigilant. They become corrupt, soft, self-indulgent; or the most powerful leader dies, and the empire becomes brittle.
The third reason (which may coincide with the second), is that after decades or even centuries of oppression and abuse…the people at the bottom of the pecking order just get fed up and decide to revolt.
Popular uprisings can be surprisingly successful. Those filthy peasants out in the field who carry pitchforks and don’t even have armor, in great enough numbers, can overwhelm a legion or a cohort, can stampede through the streets of a gleaming capital city, and they can wreak some havoc. More than one empire has succumbed to peasant revolt, but those with imperial mindsets never seem to learn — they just don’t understand that you can’t deny basic human freedom and get away with it forever.
So what does all this have to do with The Painful Truth?
Just this: The Worldwide Church of God was once a global empire. It rose to worldwide prominence over half a century, and once the powerful leader died, collapsed in less than a decade. The Worldwide Church of God today is only a shell of its former self, with neither the resources nor the prestige it once enjoyed. But that’s not the end of the story.
In the rubble that remained of Worldwide Church of God, many who had once held a little power began competing to become Someone Important. They scrambled to persuade the few peasants who remained to join their fledgling flocks, to convince them that they still had the “Plain Truth” of the Kingdom of God. A handful actually managed to accumulate a few hundred or a few thousand dazed, disillusioned believers; most only managed to con a few dozen, but as long as they were tithe-payers, it was enough to pay the bills.
Then something interesting happened:
Al Gore invented the internet!
Suddenly, the straggling congregations faced a threat that not even Herbert Armstrong could have imagined — disaffected former members with the ability to actually reach people with a warning message…not about the imminent end of the world, but about the danger posed by religious con men who would rape your soul to get to your bank account.
How do you fight the internet? It’s invisible. It exists in every country, and when you visit a website, you have no idea if the server is located across the street or somewhere in Tibet. Anyone and everyone can use it, and with a simple search engine such as Yahoo or Google, you can find almost anything about almost anyone. For a renegade preacher, the internet is like a minefield — his unwary followers could step on the truth at any time, and every time one does, that particular source of income is cut off.
So…how do you fight the internet?
There is a way, and now certain religious leaders are trying to use it. Once you locate a server, you threaten it with a lawsuit. The server will generally yield to such a threat, since most servers claim no responsibility for the content of the websites they host. Such servers will often suspend the website, making it unavailable to the public, and thus muzzling the message. (The lawsuit doesn’t even have to be real — just get a lawyer to write a letter, and you win. Nothing chills the blood like the phrase “pending litigation”.)
Herbert Armstrong was well known for his propensity to litigate. He loved to sue people, sometimes spending millions to hammer an opponent who posed no threat to him, simply because the individual refused to bend a knee (case in point: Leona McNair). Apparently some of those who purport to follow in his footsteps admire this particular character flaw of Herbie’s, as they are using the same tactics to try to shut down the various websites that dare warn people to avoid them.
According to the biblical record, Jesus did not seek to silence his enemies, or “get even” with them. Rather, he taught people to turn the other cheek, to forgive those who offended them, to pray for those who persecuted them.
Keeping the Record Straight
Just to clarify: I can’t speak for other websites, but The Painful Truth does not, and has never, persecuted anyone. It has never harassed anyone. This website stands for one thing only (okay, two things): To publish the true experiences of those who were once subjects of the Armstrong empire; and to provide a refuge for those wounded souls still trickling out of the splinter cults.
It has been stated before and it will be stated again: If anyone can provide any proof that any article or personal experience on this website is untrue or did not happen, the offending article will be removed. That offer has always stood, and so far, not one email has ever been received with proof of error.
Let Freedom Ring!
It’s an undeniable fact of life that every human being yearns for freedom. You can’t oppress someone, take away their basic rights and freedom of thought, and keep them in chains forever. Sooner or later, they will revolt.
To those still trying to enslave those they consider inferior, I say this: The peasants are loose! They are rampaging across the countryside, and they’re so happy to be free that they want to spread the message of freedom to those still enslaved. You can shut down some websites, you can even murder a few people, but you can’t stop the spread of freedom.
The United States has something called the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech (as long as it’s accurate), and many other countries have similar laws. If you try to fight that, you will lose. If you want to hold on to what you have, it might be in your own best interest to just keep your head down, crawl back under your rock, and hope we go away.
Like the great empires of the past, your little kingdoms are doomed.
By John B