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Michael

Michael stood alone in the middle of the foyer of the Seattle Masonic Hall, people swirling around and past him without interacting with him, a solitary island in the midst of a sea of people. I noticed he was new and that apparently, no one was interested in getting to know him. It made me feel sad. I went over and introduced myself to him and began learning about him. Over the next few weeks and months, I had him over to dinner with my family several times and we even went and worked out together at the gym. I learned about this “good guy” and he had a lot of depth that most people would not expect.

Michael shared with me his story about how he entered into the Marines at the age of 30. It was a matter of honor that his mates referred to him as “the Old Man” because they respected the fact that he stayed in there with them even though they were mostly a decade younger than he. He wanted to be a Marine. His father was a Marine.

Before the Passover I had broken my toes and at the Passover Service it was Michael who was to wash my feet. He looked me in the eye and said, “I ain’t gonna mess with no broken toes,” whereupon he washed my one foot without the broken toes. I washed his feet.

It was during the Days of Unleavened Bread that he showed up in our apartment complex in the parking lot. My wife and I looked at each other in dismay at him on the heavy duty motorcycle he had ridden on. He was all excited about it. He was a sincere believer who was going to take his brother out in the woods and talk to him about his new faith. We didn’t say anything and hoped for the best.

It was shortly after this that we learned that he was on his way on his motorcycle to prepare to go out to the woods when he got clipped on his head with the mirror of a semi. It removed the top of his head and he ended up in a coma in the hospital. His face had not been affected so it looked like he was in a peaceful sleep.

Each day for nearly 40 days, I would go down to the hospital after work in the afternoon and would sit with him and talk to him because I had heard that those in a coma often heard those talking to him. I would describe the Spring afternoon and the sun shining. At the last, I was not able to get to the hospital and he had changed doctors. He died shortly afterward from the trauma. I believe it was about 40 days.

What I did not know is that Michael had shared our friendship with his family: His dad, mom, sisters and brothers. I was the only one from the church in to see him at the hospital. I had talked with his family when they were there and we got to know one another as best strangers could under such circumstances.

Because Michael was a Marine as was his father, he was given a funeral with full honors with Marines in dress uniforms giving the gun salute with rifles.

Afterward, I prepared an obituary for the Worldwide News. I learned that I had to give it to the minister. It was a paragraph and told part of his story of being in the Marine Corps.

It turns out that I gave it to Dennis Luker after services on the Sabbath. He told me that he had met the family and when they told him about me, he said to them, “Oh, he’s so quiet!”. This produced laughter from Michael’s family and they instantly knew that Dennis Luker knew neither Michael nor me. He was attempting to cash in on an opportunity by pretending to be someone and something he wasn’t and got caught at it.

Eventually, the obituary made it to the Worldwide News. It was a sentence long. It was a brief sentence at that. Michael _____ died…. That was about it. Name, no rank, no serial number. It was crisply impersonally efficient.

During my brief discussion with Dennis Luker, he did something odd: He stroked my stomach as if it were a bowling ball. It was weird and creepy. Very weird and creepy. Very very weird and creepy. I just stood there and allowed him to do it. After all, this was God’s Evangelist of the Worldwide Church of God — the very Work of God. Many of us had been conditioned to be subjected to authority without question — to accept what was truly unacceptable, because the Very God of the Universe would support them even if they were wrong.

I vaguely felt as if I had been raped.

The important thing here is for the alpha male Corporate Executive to assert his superior dominance over an underling to maintain Corporate Order and insure the proper image for the Corporate Executive in the hierarchy of the Corporate “monkey tree” where all the executives are striving to be “top banana”.

The Magic Lantern

Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers by Robert Jackall covers the ground occupied by the Armstrongist Worldwide Church of God and their Church Corporate spinoffs — not specifically, but in practice, since all the participants follow the same thinking and practices of those in the Corporate 200. Chapter 7, The Magic Lantern, covers the aspects of image creation for the purposes of public relations:

The need for symbolic dexterity, particularly the ability to fashion, quickly and readily, appropriate legitimations for what must be done, intensifies as one ascends the corporate ladder. Since the success of large commercial bureaucracies depends to a great extent on the goodwill of the consuming public, ambitious managers recognize that great organizational premiums are placed on the ability to explain expedient action convincingly. Public opinion, of course, constitutes one of the only effective checks on the bureaucratic impulse to translate all moral issues into practical concerns. Managers not only face the highly specific and usually ideological standpoints of one or another “special-interest” group but, even more fearsome, the vague, ill-formed diffuse, highly volatile, and often irrational public opinion that is both the target of special-interest groups and the lifeblood of the news media. Those imbued with the bureaucratic ethos thus make every effort to mold public opinion to allow the continued uninterrupted operation of business. Moreover, since public opinion inevitably affects to some extent managers’ own conceptions of their work and of themselves, public goodwill, even that which managers themselves create, becomes an important part of managers’ own valued self-images. In this sense, both moral issues and social identities become issues of public relations.

Dennis Luker had been in the Corporate World before his induction into the Church Corporate and had obviously learned the lesson of being a triumph of image over substance. An examination of his Master’s Thesis yielded a window into this world, confined by the strictures of the lessons of being a Regional Pastor: It was not anything like the Master’s Thesis next to it on the shelf, Dr. C. Paul Meredith’s Satan’s Great Deception, which could be described as having intense spiritual content, but instead dealt with the purely physical aspects of deciding whether or not a visiting minister was to stay in the home of the Regional Pastor or at a motel nearby and making sure that the car was washed before sunset on Friday. People forget the mechanisms driving the engine of the Armstrongist Churches of God are the tactics of modern corporations, not the “Spirit led” assemblies of Christian ministers, disciples and apostles of the distant past: It’s business. Businesses are for the purpose of making a profit. To do this, the end justifies the means — the end being making profit, both in money and membership (used as a tool to sustain the ego of the narcissistic leader(s)).

This creates a new virtual world which is nowhere near the one the rank and file live in. Robert Jackall explains:

In fact, bureaucratic contexts typically bring together men and women who initially have little in common with each other except the impersonal frameworks of their organizations. Indeed, the enduring genius of the organization form is that it allows individuals to retain bewilderingly diverse private motives and meanings for action as long as they adhere publicly to agreed-upon rules. Even the personal relationships that men and women in bureaucracies do subsequently fashion together are, for the most part, governed by the explicit or implicit organizational rules, procedures, and protocol. As a result, bureaucratic work causes people to bracket, while at work, the moralities that they might hold outside the workplace or that they might adhere to privately and to follow instead of the prevailing morality of their organizations situation. As a former vice-president of a large firm says: “What is right in the corporation is not what is right in a man’s home or in his church. What is right in the corporation is what they guy above you wants from you. That’s what morality is in the corporation.”

This explains well why Roderick Meredith and Dennis Luker tolerated the behavior of Garner Ted Armstrong without saying one word or leaving: They were loyal to the corporation and their morality revolved around what Herbert Armstrong wanted from them. A good part of that was the image making part of the coverups to insure that the Corporation continued and prospered. In this world, what mattered was not the good of the members, but the good of those in the “middle management” and above, specified by rank. Dennis Luker would favor those in congregations who were wealthy — especially those were millionaires. His own children, in fact, married the children of a millionaire in his congregation. He could be close “friends” who could further his agenda, pursuing his career in the Armstrongist Churches of God along with the salary and the hoped for retirement it would bring. In fact, many have commented about his sermons over the years filled with his concerns about this very topic. Many times, those who were “different” or “lowly” may not have had such favor in his eyes, but he was able to maintain a calm demeanor which belied his true feelings, making it seem that he was personable and a concerned pastor.

Moral Mazes includes a comments from executives relevant to truth:

Everyone out there is constructing reality. We and our clients have perceptions too. Who is telling the truth? Is there anyone out there who has the time and inclination to sit down and truly evaluate the many situations.

That’s a good question, especially considering “The Present Truth” of many of the leaders of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong.

Truth? What is truth? I don’t know anyone in this business who talks about the “truth”.

That’s actually true: Perceptions are transformed so people believe they have the truth. Anyone who has seen the many “prognostications” of Herbert Armstrong and others should eventually come to the conclusion that they don’t have anything even close to what we could call “truth”. There is no reason to trust such people. They have proved their lack of integrity.

It should be noted that the chapter after The Magic Lantern is Invitations to Jeopardy.

In the end, we should all observe the aphorism of G’Kar in Babylon 5: “Let me pass on to you the one thing I’ve learned about this place. No one here is exactly what he appears.”

In fact, in the world of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong, nothing is exactly as it appears, including the smarmy image of those who portray a deeply caring persona.

Anyway, those who are wise will make it quite irrelevant by leaving the entirely dysfunctional environment where there is no real benefit to sacrifice resources and sanity to the Corporate Executive image makers conducting little more than a PR campaign for ego and money: It’s not worth it.

For those of you in the process of leaving the Cult of Herbert Armstrong, a piece of advice: Set boundaries.

Blast From the Past: "To Dump Or Not To Dump"



By Stinger

During my first year in the church (1974) I had a roommate we’ll call John. We shared the rent on a large house in a town that will go nameless. Now John was not the most fastidious guy in the world, but U.L.B was approaching and we knew we had better get busy with the deleavening. So we rolled up our shirtsleeves, did the vacuuming, washing, etc. and got all of our “leaven” into one large trash bag.

Now the question arose as to what to do with the trash bag. We made a few phone calls to some of the brethren and, at that time, the more conservative ones told us we had to get the leaven completely off our property. Leaving it in the trashcan was not good enough. Besides, trash pick up for that week was not until the middle of the feast. And we had better unload that stuff quickly. Passover would begin at sundown.

Of course, if we had just read the scriptures and taken you know who’s advice to, “Don’t believe me, believe what you read in the Bible” (yeah, right) we wouldn’t have even bothered with all of this:

“ON THE FIRST DAY REMOVE THE YEAST FROM YOUR HOUSES, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. DO NO WORK AT ALL ON THESE [two] DAYS, except to prepare food for everyone to eat that is all you may do.” (Ex. 12:15-16, NIV, emphasis mine).

We would have waited until the next day, the first day of U.L.B., grabbed any bread or yeast cakes lying around, flushed them down the garbage disposal and been done with it. We could have deleavened the entire house in about 30 seconds, or less. But that’s another topic for another time. If the ministry had found out we actually followed what the bible said to do instead of following all their added traditions, I might not have been in the church long enough to be telling you this story now. The big guns would have thrown our unleavened butts out of the church pronto.

Anyway, I wasn’t certain what to do at this point, but John opted for the local Burger King dumpster. So I went along with the idea. We pitched the trash bag into John’s trunk and off we drove to the Home of the Whopper. We parked in the lot as close to the dumpster as we could. I was the lookout and kept a wary eye on people that might spot John dumping our illegal cargo. At this point John lost his nerve. He just couldn’t bring himself to do this sneaky and cowardly act. I was going to dump it myself but he talked me out of it. He just didn’t think it was the moral thing to do. So we drove back to the house with our deadly cargo still in the trunk. By now it was becoming spiritually radioactive and I thought John’s car might start glowing at any moment. I could just see the cops following us around, wonder what these two dudes were up to, and what was in that trunk.

After mulling it over for awhile we got what we thought was a bright idea we’ll just bury the trash! We had a very long, wooded lot behind the house and figured that if we went far enough into the woods we could safely bury the sinful stuff. So off we went, the loathsome trash bag slung over John’s shoulder and me in tow with pick and shovel. Down over the hill we secretly tramped to a spot about 50 yards behind the house.

Digging in that clay soil was more work than we had anticipated. After several minutes we still hadn’t made much of a hole in the ground. And sundown was not far off. Not only that, we had to have time to get ready for the service that evening and drive to the meeting hall. I started to get a little panicky.

Meanwhile, the next door neighbor was watching us from his back yard, up on the hill. We hadn’t noticed him until he began calling down to us, “Boys, boys, just what are you doing there?” We tried to ignore him, not wanting him to think we were disposing of a dead body or something. But he started down the hill to further investigate what these two guys were doing out there, digging in the ground in the middle of the woods on a cold March afternoon.

When he finally arrived at the diggings we started to explain to him we were just burying some trash, that’s all. The neighbor got this puzzled look on his face and then asked us why we didn’t just put the stuff in our trash barrel like normal people do. We tried to explain to him in the most diplomatic way we could that that just wouldn’t work. No, we had to get this trash off our property and we had to do it NOW. We could see his look of consternation. The neighbor then told us he did not understand what we were up to or why, but we could not bury anything on his property. Without noticing, we had inadvertently strayed over the property line during our trek and were now on his side of the line!

At this point I’m thinking, “Well, it’s a fine mess you’ve got us in, Ollie.” So I tell John that the neighbor is right. We can’t bury the trash on his property. And it is getting too late to start digging another hole on our side. Sundown is approaching. Let’s pack it up and head back to the house. We’ll figure out something else.

We finally ended up putting the deadly trash bag in our trashcan and prayed for forgiveness. Man, that was a very solemn Passover service that night! I thought God might strike us two unleavened schmucks dead at any moment, but somehow we survived. Hey, I lived to tell the story, didn’t I?

And please do not report me to Burger King.


 

Blast From the Past: "The Roly-poly Apostle"


So fat people won’t enter into the Kingdom of God!
What about your Roly-poly Apostle?

Source

 

 

Setting The Standard

 

 If you want to enter into the Kingdom of God, the very first and foremost priority is to be fit.

 You need to get down to Bally’s Total Fitness and get buff, because if you are fat you will not be able to get through the Pearly Gates even turned sideways.

Your lard will be burned up in the Lake of Fire along with “… dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie”. (Revelation 22:15)

 People were amazed during the Feast of Tabernacles in October, 2002, when the minister declared loudly, “Brethren, the Bible says ‘Gluttons will not enter into the Kingdom of God'”.

 

 

Yes, brethren, you must get your priorities straight or you will be toast–or more accurately toasted!

All these years you thought praying for the Apostle, his Immenseness, and paying your tithes would be enough.

You thought attending church faithfully, entertaining strangers [and people in the church were stranger than anybody], fellowshipping, following all the rules and being subject to “The Government of God” would get you a high position in the Millennium.

Wrong, fatso!

It’s because you set the wrong example!

We need people who have flat abs to represent the coming World Tomorrow.

We need good looking people who are a triumph of image over substance to entice others into our beautiful churches with appealing brethren as represented by our beautiful and colorful flagship Magazine.

The minister himself sets a very very fine example: He pointed out himself in the Festival Film as the one with those great–what were they, 18 inch?–biceps; he was obviously quite proud of the fine manly figure he cut in his brief appearance in the video.

Oh, there were skeptics in the crowd: The man sitting in front of us from the Home Office Church area was saying out loud what we were thinking–“That’s a lie! He’s wrong!”.  They left in disgust. But then, there’s always someone who is sour grapes about attractive deceptions! Another bad Fatitude!

Get your priorities straight, people!

Seems to ignore the Bigger issue!

Let’s face it–those pictures of Herbert Armstrong just don’t do him justice!

Because he knew instinctively as an old advertising man that fat businessmen need to have well-tailored suits [as advised by modern public relations consultants], Herbert Armstrong had those Armani Suits fit to make him look–in this case–smaller than life.

So it’s really difficult to gauge exactly his dimensions: Was he five foot six at 255 pounds? 300 pounds? It’s so hard to tell.

He definitely looks like if you took a tape measure he would be as big around as he was tall.

He hid it well with his vivacious aggressive personality.

It’s not clear whether he lost a lot of weight after his heart attack–undoubtedly brought on by some of his… um… excesses; maybe he had to and had no choice.

It’s hard to say, because he mostly stayed out of sight for the remaining 7 years or so [talk about a perfect number of years!].

The Roly-poly Apostle can be forgiven, we suppose, because he was so important! No time for the gym for him–gotta talk to those World Leaders at those lavish banquets!

Those extra pounds added weight to what he said!

So that’s probably why the ministers mention reverently “Mr. Armstrong” in those sermons where they also lambaste the people of substance for their substance abuse of food.

Those sermons are spreading too! There is a concerted effort to drive the fatted herd from among the fit flock!

Little does it matter that some of the fatties are poor [can’t pay gym fees], have no time to work out, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and sleep apnea, slow metabolism, actual–like real–hormonal problems: We don’t want them in our congregations, and when they repent and look like Brad Pitt, they can come back–but only then. You just don’t fit our image of what a church member should be.

Meanwhile, they praise Mr. Armstrong, the most substantial who ever waddled among them.

A modest [fat-free] suggestion

Here is a modest [fat-free] suggestion: Cut the fat from your sermons and nurture the beached whales among you that they may be encouraged to overcome.

Fill their lives with the love they are lacking, to fill the void now filled by food–if you ministers have any love at all to give, that is.

“Wherefore seeing we are also are compassed about with so a great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every[over]weight…” (Hebrews 12:1) And we could continue, “and the fat which doth so easily beset us, and let us run [to get fit] with patience the race that is set before us”. Well, that’s the way more than one minister would read it. In fact, we hope that you ministers will let the portly take the Passover, because without lifting the weight of sin, it is clear the God will not lift the burden of fat either! Forgiveness will have to come as a change to the spirit before it is reflected in the flesh–or some such; whatever you ministers believe.

Oh Ye of little fat!

Point out in your sermons, if you absolutely must remind us of the Roly-poly Apostle, that he was so far from perfect; that his terrible example should give us all hope that maybe some of us will be able to overcome lift over drag as spirit beings, though we be as corpulent today as the Roly-poly Apostle was in his time. In the very least, you might be able to counsel us where to buy quality well-tailored suits for not too much.

In the mean time, we hope that the ministers who are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and love and make a lie, will lose some spiritual fat.

A Word on the Talmud

talmud

The following contribution is

by “Hoss Cartwright”


For what it’s worth, here is a small piece on my experience with the Talmud, and a couple of graphics.

I mentioned that HWA should have used Talmud in his research. Ralph commented about a book that paralleled the Talmud with Paul’s letters. I’ve heard of a few books that make similar analyses, for example, showing Jesus as a typical Jewish rabbi.

 

While part of the Talmud is the written version of the Oral Law (and that’s a whole kettle of gefilte fish) it contains collection of Torah commentary, which I heard described as a “600 year long Bible study”.

 

Part of the Talmud derives 613 commandments, positive commands (thou shalt) and negative commands (thou shalt not) from the Torah. How many times had “God changes not!” been used by HWA to show we should keep a select, modified subset of the Law? Why were we told not eat unclean meat, but not told to wear tzitzis (tassels)? Both laws appear in the Torah as equally binding. The overseer of a new COG once wrote he would, time permitting, analyze each of the 613 commandments and tell us which ones we must still keep, and which were no longer required. There was a time when that would have put him between a bunch of rocks and a hard place, and Jesus’ comment on those who teach breaking “the least of my commandments.”

“Binding and loosening” was not authority given to Apostles to change laws; it gave authority to make judgements on how laws apply. Pharisees maxwellhad their Halachah (“walk”) that determined how they kept each law; Jesus accepted some of these customs and rejected others. For example, giving thanks before a meal was a Pharisaic tradition, in addition to the biblically-implied command is to give thanks after a meal. He rejected ritual hand washing before eating bread, and pointed out the “Biblical incorrectness” of abuses of Korban (Offering).

In Paul’s dealing with Gentiles, circumcision most likely referred to ritual conversion to Judaism, which the Talmud called the “Eighteen Measures” (not the Eighteen Truths). Ritual conversion required, amongst other things, circumcision and was concluded with immersion; following immersion the convert was “born again as a Jew.”

These are a few of the examples I came across (new truth!) that helped me put aside nagging vestiges of WCG doctrinal baggage.

(Note: rabbi, Judaism, etc, were words of convenience; in the first century these terms were anachronisms.)

When I first saw the first graphic on the PCG website,I felt it was just censoredbegging for this… And to borrow another line from the Simpsons, “If Flurry sues, we’ll claim Fair Use…”

herb ad

*Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. -John 14:6

This includes Gerald Flurry and the other “wannabee apostles”