Olive Branch May 18, 2011

Having recently registered and found great interest in the new (and beautifully designed) website www.ambassadorbigsandyalumni.com for AC Big Sandy students of the distant past, I wanted to insert comments here to introduce my Painful Truth blog posts.  If anyone catching up with my life through the marvelous site recently launched by Tom & Nancy Williams should want to read what I have posted here, welcome to more of my writing.  I do hope you’ll go to Feb 1, 2011 post to begin.

Please understand one over-arching truth about me: I am a Live-and-Let-Live Humanist.  Noticing that several of my long-time friends and acquaintances from ACBS have included in their new website profiles, comments as to their faith, beliefs, pains, wanderings, etc., I need to say to all of you that nothing I have posted here was ever intended to be incendiary or purposely off-putting.  It isn’t even personal!  I often state flatly my philosophical views just to put something out there that may be of help in any way to anyone reading.  There is nothing judgmental in anything I say or in how I relate to others.  If anything seems too harsh for your tastes, I am sorry for any ill effect on you.  I certainly would not want anything to prevent our having new conversations and the opportunity for a casual friendship.   I am always pleased to see that someone has found peace and happiness in any way; these are difficult to attain and no one’s views need be similar to mine for me to still be called “friend.”

Mark (Salyer) Manning, California –  5/18/11

Lilies of the Fall


New note added 2/26/11

In the event someone I know from my early years, maybe an AC friend, happens to go back to read my posts here, I wanted to say a cheerful “Hello” and encourage you to make contact, if my entries here are not too upsetting.  I’m also on facebook, so go there if you prefer.

Now the original post:


Does this fit under “legalism?”

This being my final post as guest editor for February, I thought I’d have a little more fun with words and meanings before concluding with a few sincere personal thoughts.

No, I’m sure the above heading doesn’t strictly relate to the term legalism as typically used, but I thought I’d toss it out there. The reason the odd header came to mind goes back to 1963 and my introduction to the way the RCG treated words. It was a cavalier approach to the words others had written and a kind of abuse of copyright. This is probably why I see it as bordering on the legal field.

When I began attending church services, I suddenly had to learn to sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic with a change in lyrics. This was merely the first time I noticed the fix-the-words phenomenon within the true church (I speak as a fool), but it instructs me more today in retrospect. Almost as jarring to a person who loved singing and had spent some early childhood time learning lots of songs while going to Baptist and Nazarene church services, was the change applied to Onward Christian Soldiers. In the CoG, we had to sing “With the word of Jesus …” in place of the originally written “…cross of Jesus” because it was HWA’s very pointed instruction that the term “cross” in the King James Bible was a mistranslation of the word for “stake;” therefore, we couldn’t sing about a cross… going on before, as the song phrase concludes.

[Re-reading this now I wonder if memory serves me correctly on where I ran into the Battle Hymn “fix.”  It could have been while singing this song with the Ambassador Chorale a year after I began to attend services.  Someone with access to the gray paperback hymnal from RCG days could correct me on this.]

So Herb had a thing about semantics. This was something I shared – still do today – and my interest in semantics was well established prior to my interest in the CoG.

In the Battle Hymn (a revolting oxymoron as a title, but legally the choice of its Civil War period composer), it was the [lack of] the word lilies that caught my attention. More than that, the words born and borne. They were completely and absurdly misused and blown out of proportion by either HWA himself or his brother Dwight or other devoted follower, perhaps Dr. Bogdancik at the Big Sandy Campus.

When I found myself singing the well-known old song and stumbling over lilies as others sang the printed replacement word of autumn, I didn’t know what to think. Someone later explained that Jesus wasn’t born in spring, when there would be lilies about, therefore the word was simply changed to autumn to fit with when He was actually born. Even as a minimally educated teen, I found this incredible. Yet if it was the way this wonderful church wanted it, so be it! Yuk! Sickening now to even reveal my blind acceptance of all that crap back then.

Just think of this! If the leaders of the church were going to take liberties with composers’ written words, which was unethical and probably illegal, at least it should never have been done without clear and meaningful reason. This very subject of changed lyric lines was a huge part in my excitement over the new hymnal that came out in the early 1970s.

To the blog participant who goes by PurpleHymnal, my sincere apologies.  I realize now that you might have been one of those toddlers on the floor during some of my own rousing sessions of song-leading, then were probably forced to stay on the drafty floor next to that purple monster placed at your mother’s feet during the sermons.  No surprise you have a far different perspective!  The same shout-out goes to all others who began your developmental years on the drafty floors of WCG meeting halls.  Hopefully you developed much more than colds and hatred for the hymnal! 

My reason for liking the new hymnal was that most of the lyrics of the many new songs were fairly direct quotes of biblical passages (which I thoroughly approved of at the time) and no longer so many strange aberrations of old protestant songs.  Of course, many of the old songs remained, just fixed and reprinted (illegally) in the new book.  But back to words. Borne being mistaken for born? How utterly foolish! The context didn’t even make any sense with that slant.

Even back in high school choir (prior to my conversion) when we had performed this song in four-part harmony, I was aware that the word borne meant carried. I probably wasn’t aware that the idea was related to the “Lord” being carried on the back of a donkey and brought to the place where he “died to make men holy.”  But when we singers in the choir reached that moment of beginning the last verse, we were coached in the need to retard the tempo and slip into a reverent pianissimo to begin the phrase, “In the beauty of the lilies…” and I somehow understood it had to do with the biblical reference to the traditional time (in spring) when the crucifixion had taken place.

Imagine my surprise to find that someone had decided the line needed fixing because it was important to avoid any connection between spring and the likely time when Jesus was born. Amazing misapplication and lack of logic!

Many such examples of correcting texts or lyrics could be cited, and most of them are now quite as laughable. That’s right, Mr. Becker, I choose to laugh about it all now. Because I can! We can and probably should laugh at much of our past foolishness if we want to find any sanity. Were we all, in the WCG, guilty of many misguided actions and ideas? You bet. Did we all follow too willingly without enough intellectual curiosity? Oh, yes! Was I personally guilty for being so caught up in what I perceived to be right when I was in my late teens, that I should apologize to all who even knew my name back then? Okay, again, I am very sorry. Not only to PurpleHymnal but to thousands of others who might have seen in me a solid connection to truth which later crumbled and ceased to exist. Our connection is what crumbled; it did so because I finally discovered that the truth I wanted so much apparently had never proven to exist.

Insert:  A just-added comment from admin has suggested I sign an apology page.  Maybe this is the same thing Becker’s note was suggesting by placing a link for me.  Never checked out the link; don’t do blanket apologies for anything!  Part of being a complete independent is not adding my name to lists. There are also degrees of guilt; my offense was like a misdemeanor in the scheme of things.  A duped kid, groomed to be a minister, preached at others for eight years and then said “forget it.”  I readily and openly apologize for anything I actually do or have done that may ever hurt anyone.  This has been evident throughout my writing in this blog, though it appears some have missed the apologies because they weren’t couched in heavy language of loathing, hating myself and those who abused me.  I do not wallow in hatred and I do not do sack cloth and ashes!  If my involvement in this “dumping ground,” as admin has named it, is to be of any benefit, I can see no route more hopeful than to reveal myself as a survivor who can speak from a new, happy place.  Pushing someone up from quicksand is quite difficult; far better to lift from a footing on solid ground.  

If we could learn to laugh at ourselves and our past delusions, we would all likely be happier. Yet those of us who are managing to do this come under criticism of some who cannot or will not laugh. In your own words, Mr. Becker, in a comment following my previous post: First, there is nothing true about Armstrongism. It is stupid. Everything based on British Israelism is stupid. No one here seems to care about which Armstrongist group survives over another. They should all fail. They are wrong. Some of us here are actively working to hasten the fall of Armstrongism. [You have my total agreement and appreciation! – markman]
Now if it were only for the fact that Armstrongism is wrong, then a great approach is to just walk away. But that’s not all there is. What there is, is a great deal of abuse going on, as a legacy of what Herbert Armstrong started.
Abuse is the real reason Armstrongism should die permanently.

My sincere effort has been (from the beginning contribution to this blog) to be of help to anyone who might find something positive in my words. That includes the encouragement for anyone capable of taking that step (as a fish with new-found legs) to completely reject the black fishbowl and all its environs. It is your own admission that “a great approach is to just walk away.” This approach could become a reality for you and many others. I have tried to give everyone the handle on my life of freedom by pointing out that though Armstrongism is quite unquestionably wrong and damaging, it’s merely a tiny part of the massive blight on a humanity that looks to phantoms.

An apparent need still exists to punish HWA, GTA, RCM, the WCG, UCG, and/or others from the alphabet of madness, because there is still “abuse going on.” Ending all abuse at the hands of crackpots and their legacies would be truly wonderful. I hope there are people (other than myself) actively working to end the abuses begun by Ellen G. White, Oral Roberts, Billy Sunday, Pat Robertson, Joseph Smith, Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Jerry Falwell,  Pope Benedict, all the former popes, Saul of Tarsus, Jimmy Swaggert, Mary Baker Eddy, Mohammed, John Calvin, Ron Hubbard, Martin Luther, etc., etc., ad nauseum. From my perspective, now free of the tyranny of belief, they are all part of the one insanity.

[There are actually many people trying to help others to better understand life and humanity. Bob Kuhn, former Armstrong follower, as many of you know has an impressive website called closertotruth. Three other websites I appreciate are longhighsurvival, ageofreason, and thebrights. And many sites relating to Humanism are quite interesting.]

Later in your own comment to me, Mr. Becker, you seem to want me to be a personal extension of Armstrong so you might have someone still living who can be blamed and cursed in some way – perhaps wanting to see me also “die permanently.” Alas, I shall eventually satisfy that desire and be dead permanently. As will we all. Living for today, however, is something I intend to continue with pleasure and not wallowing in guilt. You think I should be apologizing more, which I thought I did in proper measure.

To sum up, let me use a simple analogy. Religion, to me, is a disease, of which Armstrongism is a minor strain. As with physical maladies, some people contract virulent strains and die; others fight off major illness and live long, happy lives. Some are exposed to AIDS or other horrible strains and suffer no ill effect; others get germs through simple blood transfusions (are totally innocent) and die painful deaths.
I fought off the ill effects of Armstrongism and the experience inoculated me against other belief germs. My life is peaceful and strong because of the fight and the recovery. Some of you have not been so fortunate. I have deep compassion for you, but I did not infect you. That was just the luck of the draw, as it was with me. No point in blaming my late mother who was a carrier. I possessed free will; I made my own decisions. In the last few weeks here I have tried to share my story of recovery with any who want to hear it. No single remedy works for all, but you’re welcome to mine if you can use it.

Hasta lumbago,

A View From Afar

How I see the whole CoG milieu, as though visiting a museum

This blog is all about and for survivors of Armstrongism, RCG, WCG, etc., so I will dive in again with more comments about myself and others in that shared relationship.

If I am to continue contributing to this (or any religion-based) blog, I want to make a clear statement up front: I am an unbiased, detached observer in all this. Don’t misunderstand. In a discussion of the concept of religion vs. no religion or god vs. no god, I am very biased indeed. To me the whole pool of belief systems could be drained and we’d have a solid starting point for humanity to thrive. To those who care to read any more of my thoughts then, be advised that I care nothing whatsoever about who is “right” or “wrong” within the context of believers slogging through the muck of confused and time-wasting searches for the truth. All I can do is offer a view from afar.

I am a positively oriented individual. An optimist. To my way of thinking, there are incredible numbers of ways to be right. The most egregious way of being wrong is in mistreating one’s fellow humans. I don’t give a damn about trying to please any god!
* *

The names of some old acquaintances from my WCG years will be brought up in this post. This is due to my continuing amazement at the interest being shown for the bad old days by many who are apparently still in turmoil.

Interesting to me is the amount of rapt attention given UCG, on the Painful Truth website and several more blogs. Otagosh from New Zealand seems to cover it almost continuously, as do others. Is this interest and microscopic observation based primarily in United’s take-over of maybe half of the original WCG membership in the mid 1990s?  Or is it perhaps in the minds of many that UCG might be the so-called “true” church? It does appear obvious that folks making up the general format and readership of the PT site believe there is some true church carry-over concept. I wonder where that true church is perceived to have resided earlier. Was it ever in the WCG, now so maligned?  Or maybe in its progenitor, the RCG, before corruption set in?

 When I was introduced to this site, I was surprised to see the banner just below the heading on the opening page – the one with the picture of a broken seal, the strike-over line of “Preparing a People” and the replacement wording of “Splitting the Church.” What can this even mean?

Is it not clear to everyone that the very idea of the church, which connotes a singular institution, would have to refer to some organization established many centuries ago? If there ever existed such a singularity, surely it wasn’t what we were taught – purely Armstrongism via direct feed from a supreme being, bypassing millennia of false prophets. Yet that must be what is meant by accusing the UCG group of splitting “the church.” Or else the term church here means something more fundamental and far pre-dating HWA, in which case (since UCG split from Armstrong’s WCG body) Armstrongism can lay as much claim to having been part of that original church as can Catholicism, Lutheranism, any other Christian organization, or for that matter, the self-appointed apostle named Paul.

That being the case, surely the group of dedicated WCG followers who scrambled (or even pre-planned, as has been claimed by some writers) to incorporate under the “United” banner are still carrying on the same work as the old WCG, no matter how well or weakly. After all, wasn’t it the direct aim of the founders of UCG to try desperately to unite believers under the faith once delivered as they were having the original CoG rug pulled out from under them? So how can it be said that they “split” anything any more than Ted caused division by his corruptions? Or more than any disgruntled minister or even HWA in his reportedly corrupt end? No doubt the Tkach debacle (by Sr. & Jr.) split things pretty well and, if we’re to believe what we read, young Joe is now dividing the notable spoils among his friends. So I wonder what is meant by that accusation of “splitting” leveled at UCG. And why did there appear to be some I told you so vitriol being spewed at floundering and frustrated UCG leaders during late 2010 when it appeared the group might disintegrate? Where’s the Christianity in all this?

Any chance Rod Meredith might be the one representing the church? After all, his was about the strongest drum-beat heard in the HWA band when I was involved in the nineteen sixties and seventies. Or was he guilty also of splitting something sacred? Pardon my lack of insight here; I didn’t hang around to witness the demise.

Do you get where I’m going with all these questions? Isn’t it about time everyone takes a step back so the intrigue and the futility of it all can be seen in perspective? Your life is worth more than this, is it not? Mine certainly has been worth more since dumping the whole shootin’ match!

From the WHO CARES? Corner:

In the various blogs I’ve been reading there are articles, letters, comments and rebuttals, etc. galore. It’s a bit weird for me, without context, to read about people and events.  One post was a very serious and strained letter from a fellow named Joel Meeker to some legal eagle. I know nothing at all about Joel. Perhaps he’s related to George, maybe a son who was very young when George and I were colleagues. Then there’s the Ken Treybig update to his website that shows how devoted he and his friends are in the effort to work out kinks in a new splinter from another UCG splinter; very important stuff about how best to “care for those God calls.” I don’t believe I know Ken. Seems I once knew a member named Harold Treybig; probably they’re related. Then I notice (through many a listing on a number of sites) the names of prominent men (are women still unacceptable as leaders within “the true church”? How very Pauline!) who are resigning from UCG – men such as Les McCullough and Leroy Neff who were strong in the RCG/WCG in the 1960s. I certainly knew them pretty well. Don Waterhouse I knew casually; I knew his older brother Gerald better because he taught me some valuable golf techniques. And Lyle Welty, a fellow who went through AC Big Sandy with me – nice Indiana boy who, if memory serves me, was in the car with two or three others of us Hoosiers driving to Texas in 1964 to begin college.

Then there’s Dick Thompson, a delightful southern boy who also attended when I did – apparently he has resigned the UCG ministry and a notice credited to him simply states “Follow Me.” Well if he’s one of those bright ones who is opening a new HQ in Florida rather than snowy and cold Ohio, seems like someone you might follow. Climate seems a better reason than many others in choosing a true church nowadays! And so many other familiar names of fellows who went through AC when I did (again, no females here!) – Roy Demarest, Greg Sargent, Dave Register, Jim Haeffele, Jim Servidio, Larry Neff and yet more are in the wind, lacking a place to hang their spiritual hats.

My point in all this? Well, it’s just another excuse to say how shocked I am at all this information. For all I personally have known over the last three decades about the activities of these and hundreds of folks like them, they might have A.) died; B.) gone to prison; C.) gone into hiding; D.) formed a singular new congregation of the Infinitely Faithful (the IF church) and set up shop in Zimbabwe. Yet they have apparently been plodding along in the trenches of this-or-that branch or splinter of something that used to be, and their motives could all have been perfectly godly, whatever that means. For all they have accomplished*, in my estimation, they might just as well have tried A, B, C or D!

This goes for thousands of other erstwhile Armstrongites, possibly including you, the reader, and it certainly goes for billions of decent people who live and die all over this planet without ever knowing the peace that freedom from religion offers.

* Note: allow me to detour here to explain this perhaps harsh criticism. It is aimed at me, first and foremost. I have found myself at times asking the deep question of “What did I really accomplish?” Most of us surely do this self examining, but our answers to ourselves come back highly slanted toward whatever bias we are currently harboring. No doubt Les McCullough, Leroy Neff and thousands of other present and past ministers (of all religious groups, Christian and otherwise) – would usually answer themselves in a positive way that best suits their beliefs.

Without the cocoon of belief surrounding any questions, I now can perceive quite different answers. Now I have to wonder whether anything I did from 1963 to 1976 was of real value in any way. Frankly, I doubt it. Then again, that word “anything” deserves more leeway. Surely a few things I did or said in those thirteen years can still be credited in some small way as good things. However all has to be suspect. It would be easy to conclude that some past actions or words of mine were accomplishments if it could be made clear that a benefit to humanity was involved. For example, if a member of one of my congregations from way-back-when were to contact me today and tell me of having been brought back from the brink of a planned suicide by my caring or counsel, then I would have to admit I did some real good. If that person might have been inclined to take a weapon to work or to a public place and wipe out several others on the way to a police-assisted suicide, then my timely help obviously did even more good.

But the type of clear message given in the above scenario is typically missing. So practically all of us can, on a particularly dismal day of feeling negative, say that our lives have been meaningless. Most days of my life have not been so negative, and even now I can feel that many people were likely somewhat better-off for my words or deeds back in my ministerial days. However, the question then becomes, “Were my helpful actions enough to override the burden I placed on people?” Burden; yes, I said burden. My job was to thump people hard with the hand of God. If any members of my former congregations are still believers, it’s apparent I did considerable damage! Would that they might listen to me as intently today. Yes, I remember the old biblical advice, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” but my firm conviction today is quite simply that fear of almost anything, especially phantoms in the heavens, is the most egregious limitation placed on the progress of mankind. My former active devotion to the dogma promoting that fear places me in the ranks of the most detestable and guilty.

I am compelled here to add, without braggadocio, that at least as many good results have come of my words and efforts to help others since I dropped the cloak of religion.
* *

Reading through only portions of the enormous amounts of CoG fall-out information found online, I am dumbfounded. Again, I do not sit back and laugh; I commiserate. Please recall that I was once a deeply dedicated (the deeply being my assertion, but with living witnesses who could testify to some of the dedication) minister in the old WCG. I recall well that at the time I was in that dedicated mode, nothing said from without could impress me in the least! Some yokel who tried (as this writing is now doing), to get me to look at my beliefs in any other way than that view to which I was already solidly committed […come to you and bring not this doctrine, blah, blah, etc.), would be ignored with iron-clad resolve. We humans cannot even hear our own ludicrous words clearly when we are in this lock-down mode of operation. Witness the last paragraph of the Ken Giese post of November 26, 2010. I do not personally know this man but I’ve heard of his devotion and strength, his Godliness. Yet this letter did, in fact, force laughter from me. The man could not hear his own words ringing in his ears as he wrote glaring contradictions into his resignation letter.

So you likely cannot hear my words either as I speak from a platform of post-belief, but imagine this, if you will:
You join a military unit with absolute conviction it’s a life-or-death need to go into battle on behalf of your nation. (A detestable concept but I’m stuck with it for the analogy.) The top general speaks in front of your vast army and relates that his orders come from a supreme commander who is elsewhere. He finally admits, the “elsewhere” is somewhere beyond the clouds, beyond the atmosphere, beyond the solar system – yes, beyond anything possible to describe. He’s just “out there” in the beyond! And the general can’t actually talk to the supreme commander in a war room or in real conversation, as in hearing direct answers to his questions of what to do next, but the Supreme commander does guide everything, you are told with conviction. “Trust me” the general says to his army. “Follow me as I follow Him.” “Wow!,” you gush with confidence. “Nuff said! Hand me my gun; I’m going out to kill or be killed!”

Sure, the premise is completely foolish – today!  But since a concept of belief in a supreme commander (with ten commandments and countless amendments) began for all of us thousands of years ago, we actually accept the foolishness and somehow let it pass for reason.