The Joe Schmo Show is a funny near reality show on the Spike TV involving an innocent honest unsuspecting participant, unaware that the entire scenario is a total deception and scam.
Here’s the setup from the show’s website:
The Joe Schmo Show is a one-hour, 10-episode series featuring a real guy who believes he is on an over-the-top reality show looking for America’s next bounty hunter and the chance to win $100k. What he doesn’t know is the entire show is FAKE. For over a year his entire world was carefully planned by a team of writers, producers, and actors all performing for him. His “competitors” are actually actors representing every classic reality show cliché, including the Buddy, the Jerk, the Model, and even Lorenzo Lamas, playing a washed-up version of himself. The actors must do their best under these insane circumstances to follow a pre-determined script.
The actors around Chase Rogan, the Joe Schmo for this series, have to keep the deception going for this 28-year-old all around nice guy to convince him he is a viable contestant to change professions from groundskeeper to a full fledged Bounty Hunter. This is harder than you might think, because Chase is a really smart guy who catches on to stuff really quick. One actress is pretending to be deaf with her own “interpreter” but has had three muffed incidents where it’s clear she can hear. The whole production crew has had to cover up and convince Chase it’s all “normal”. None of the production crew know anything about being a bounty hunter beyond watching “Dog”, including the supposed top Bounty Hunter conducting the contest and the actress playing his blonde bimbo wife. There’s slip up after slip up and Chase is getting suspicious.
Chase should have been suspicious since the beginning because the situations are preposterous. Moreover, the language and the little speeches, particularly those at the insane Eliminations replete with a giant gold Blind Justice lady the “contestants” enter to “vote” who will be ejected from the contest after communing with their spirit guide. Chase has a llama as his spirit guide.
This is all done in fun and Chase will be “rewarded” at the end of the show, though it will never satisfy his adventurous nature by bringing him closer to be a Bounty Hunter.
Those of us who have been in the Cult of Herbert Armstrong have lived through our own Joe Schmo Show: It is all fake — the joke is on us.
Sure, none of us like the idea that we are a clueless Joe Schmo, but there’s not much of an excuse these days since the deception is so obvious.
You know, it might be OK if Herbert Armstrong missed one or two of his “prophecies” and we could have given him a free pass, but since they all went south, we should have known we were duped Schmos. The same can be said about the CoG-PKG concerning Ronald Weinland — he’s in Prison now as a convicted felon for five counts of Income Tax evasion to serve 42 months. Hello?!?!
As entertaining as it was every time Gerald Waterhouse came to town, after a few times through everybody should have realized that he was the master of fantasy spin. British Israelism: Fake. Church History: Fake. An apostle: Fake. A prophet: Fake.
Paying up to three tithes should have been a dead giveaway.
If you are honest with yourself, you’ll admit that you have been a contestant on The Joe Schmo Show.
In his new book, Life Code: The New Rules for Winning in the Real World, Dr. Phil McGraw points out that the old value of giving everyone the benefit of the doubt is an unworkable ethic and will make you a Loser. He describes the people who are out to cheat you as BAITERS:
Dr. Phil points out that you need to know these people because they certainly know you. He lists the “Evil Eight” Identifiers of the BAITER:
They see the world through a lens of arrogant entitlement and frequently treat people as targets
They lack empathy
They are incapable of feeling remorse / guilt and don’t learn from situation to situation
They are irresponsible, self-destructive and disregard the well-being of others
They thrive on drama and crisis
They brag about outsmarting other people
They have a pattern of short-term relationships
They live in a fantasy world marked by delusion
This list pretty much describes the leaders of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong.
These people are out to take what you have for their own benefit. They may pretend to care about you, but, in the end, you are but a means to their ends and their ethic is always that the end justifies the means. The end is the end they plot out for themselves.
You cannot give these people the benefit of the doubt.
It is deadly.
The bottom line of getting real is to pay attention when the warning bells go off. We tended to trust and turned off our defenses to the people working to harm us all and take advantage of us, while turning on the RADAR to those who might actually alert us to the danger of engaging with the BAITERS before they could turn our world into dysfunctional chaos.
Next time, we will look at bad guy’s BAITER secret playbook.
– Social isolation as a result of having been cut off from all contact with the outside world
– Difficulty in finding the way back into a normal social surroundings
– Depression as a result of the loss of ones own identity
– Recurring nightmares
– And the list goes on …
PTRS usually arises in that aftermath of:
– having left a religious sect or cult
– being excommunication by a religious sect or cult
– end of a religious sect or cult
– rescued from a religious sect or cult
– being unwilling forced into a religious sect or cult as a child or spouse
Discovering that someone suffers from PTRS is often very difficult. In almost all cases the individuals can hid their experiences behind a world of indifference. Most people avoid contact with religious sects and are therefore immune to the idea that they can be so harmful, it’s what I call public indifference. You could almost say they feel ashamed to have been part of an religious sect, raped by it, and they just don’t want to talk about it. It’s difficult for a victim of this abuse to “Out themselves” since society cannot imagine that it’s possible to suffer in anyway as a result of bad religious practice. Religious sects and cults do damage to people, it’s a fact that nobody want to believe.
The buried emotional state of mind of a PTRS victim results in some very strange behavior that is often misunderstood by family, friends, and the world in general. The outing process is difficult, often with an imagined stigma, that isn’t all to imagined but very real. You get labeled, therefore you begin to hid even more behind a facade of underlying emotions. These can often span throughout the whole of a life span. Younger victims can have lasting side effect right up till their deaths.
It takes a lot of persuasion for a PTRS victim to connect back into the main stream of daily life. Detoxification is a form of deprogramming that requires a willpower that would seem for others as super human. Most give up, since the effort is simply to big. The result is a return to another religious group in most cases a little less extreme. The sheltering effect is returned and the stigma not so hard to bare. For those who do discover the can make the jump back the experience is almost intoxicating, a new found self, a world of freedom and hope for a self defined life.
It goes without saying that although there are no statistics with respect to suicide rates of victims of PTRS, the number of deaths whether mental or physical are there. For an outsider to pick up on the trauma that is brewing under the surface that is so well hidden, very difficult and almost impossible for an untrained eye. We live in a world where shutting out anything thing that isn’t in the norm is the norm. Discussion seems useless since for most the idea of being tricked into joining a sect or cult is out of the question. How can anyone fall for this trap? Therefore discussion is out of the question. Faced with a world of indifference the victim of PTRS is now even more isolated then before. Breaking the isolation is the most important step to escaping to a more balanced way of life, a way of accepting the past and putting an end to it. Only then can a Victim truly live a normal life and avoid the depressions that can lead to suicide.
I’m not sure how help groups would function with this problem. The programing by religious sects is often very difficult to decode. The brain is not easy to wash clean from years of indoctrinated programming. The coding is so deep in some instances that it would be nearly a miracle (if you believe in miracles) for someone to walk away without having permanent side effects. I would go so fare as to call it a form of Programmed Brain Damage, or PBD.
Since we are in life designed to be influenced by ones self and by others the question is, who is to be taken account of for the influences we experience? Is it the person who’s been misguided, or the persons who are misguiding? Our brains are hard-wired to accept new programing, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to evolve through life. This in itself is proof enough that nothing is static in our world and that we can influence change in more ways then one. Religions can use this instinctive human drive to grab at anything that will provide a victim with a satisfactory answers to their basic instinctive need to understand why we are. Religions plug in on and transfer their idea directly into the victims mind, burring it deep inside, with roots that grow deeper the longer the exposure.
It’s is strange but educating people about the dangers of cults and sects is of little priority in our world. Religions get to much freedom to act without any form of self control that truly puts the facts on the table. We’ve simply rule out any form of self critic with respect to the abuse of peoples rights when it comes to sects, cults and religions. Without allowing for critic there is no way that you can make any of these organization accountable for their actions today. There is not real policing of religion, it’s taboo to question.
So in the coming years the explosion of religious extremes in America will continue, and many more children and adults will suffer from PTRS should they leave the closed surrounding of a religious sect or cult. As long as America and the rest of the world tolerates the spreading of lies under the disguise of religious freedom, we shouldn’t wonder why there is so much social unrest and division within the populations of the world.
“Why would the Armstrong crowd care about incest? Incest to them is nothing to sneeze about. It is normal to them. They approve of it and by endorsing the old pervert they endorse his ways. All of them.
Moms and dads, don’t forget to have the elders of the church babysit your kids. They might not be the same ever again but heck, you need a break!
Soon the feast of booze will be upon us. The members of the so called churches will imitate Herbert and drink themselves silly. Those who run the hotels will be busy cleaning out the empty bottles and cans. Maids and janitors will be busy indeed. Cleaning up puke, spilled drinks off carpets, but hopefully they can make a little more money doing their mundane jobs and return these bottles and cans for the deposit.
The feast is a bore, the sermons painfully repetitive. The fun starts at family day where your children can mix with a selection of ministerial brats and the local pervert can have his way when your not looking. Again, your children may not be the same, but it is your church. You own your decisions lock, stock and barrel.”
Jon’s comment might seem a little over the top: After all, from the external view, the Armstrongist Churches of God seem benign, if not warm and cuddly — well, cuddly might seem to be stretching it a bit with Roderick Meredith and the Living Church of God, but if you look at say, United’s Muppet type videos for the kids, it could seem like you have finally found a church home. That is sort of a point of view because the ACoGs don’t seem to have many church buildings nor do they seem to have much presence in the community, because they are now TV based and Internet based church groups renting places for their services and various rare occasions. The point is that they don’t seem that extreme and bizarre on the surface. Be sure you don’t scratch because what lies just beyond the surface is ugly and often deadly.
One could argue that many events lay in the past with Herbert Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God, but the tie to those times is far too tight with today because the same people, Roderick Meredith, Dennis Luker and some of the minor leaguers like Jim Franks, John Rittenbaugh, David Pack, Gerald Flurry and Ronald Weinland are still running things and the same problems keep cropping up over and over and over and over.
Back in the days of the WCG in Seattle / Bellevue, Washington while Dennis Luker was in charge as Regional Pastor, there was a lot going on. Chuck Harris was showing his pistol to folks under his suit coat in the holster after Sabbath services and trying very hard to date and marry Brenda James. At the same time, an elder and his wife in the church were pursuing The Tracker — an outdoors survivalist type of guy — with great enthusiasm, even mentioning him in Sabbath services. Glenn White was also tapped into this. It seems as if The Tracker was sort of an extension of the last days mania where people were stocking up for the Great Tribulation and the horrible things to come (while living in faith, we suppose). The elder spent a lot of “outside time” with The Tracker. His son was spending a lot of “outside time” with Chuck Harris and so was another teen of a prominent and respected family in the church.
A number of things all seemed to happen at the same time. I remember the nice summer afternoon when my wife and I went down to the Seattle Center by the fountain from the World’s Fair and met the elder and his wife. We had a pleasant chat for a few minutes and headed off to the cat show. What none of us knew at the time is that the two teens who had been BFF with Chuck had been with a drug dealer the night before. The drug dealer wanted more than money and when he proceeded to attempt to seduce them, one of the teens whipped out the gun and shot the dealer dead. Subsequently, the elder’s teenage son went to prison and so did his friend, who wanted to be with Chuck Harris in prison where he had been sentenced after shooting Brenda James and several other people in the church. Chuck Harris was black and Brenda was white and the WCG was still in racist mode and would not permit them to marry. What Dennis Luker failed to fathom was that Chuck was already married to a woman in Canada who showed up rather unexpectedly.
Meanwhile, my daughter was BFFs with two other girls in the same congregation. One of them was the daughter of a psychopath and routinely took my daughter and the other girl on shoplifting tours of places like Nordstroms to take expensive items like scarves from the store. Her other friend shocked our daughter by revealing that her father had been committing incest with her and had raped her for years. These and many other events have scarred my daughter so horribly that she is terrified of attending any Armstrongist church again, even though it has been decades past: She just couldn’t stomach it. The sermons about demons didn’t help much and neither did the graphic descriptions of death, destruction, dystopia of the soon to come last days.
Somewhat earlier, a brilliant young teen with an unwed mother in the church experienced the benefits of having a WCG parent by ending up in a Juvenile Hall and being raped there by the other teens. He had done nothing, but his mother just wanted him to learn to stay in line. The situation ended up so bad that the State of Washington gave guardian custody rights to a single man in the church.
After dinner at the Night to Be Much Observed, the host sat with me and told me about the elder in the church who was a pedophile favoring young boys. He taught the Sabbath School. She told me the leading women in the church reported him to the local ministry. When they did not respond, they reported it to headquarters. Headquarters and Herbert Armstrong did nothing. She told me that the only thing left to them was to “watch” him on the Sabbath and the Holydays. I wondered what moves he may have tried to put on my son.
By this time, nearly everyone is familiar with the UCG stalking case where the ministry, supported by Dennis Luker, defended the protagonist instead of following Scripture and putting him out of the church. The couple had to pursue getting a court to issue a restraining order. What many people did not know is that there were other stalkers in United. One weird and creepy woman stalked a young man up until he married and left on his honeymoon. When he returned, she confronted him and told him (and this should sound so very familiar to people who have been stalked), “You are mine!”. A single woman in the Midwest had a man stalk her, also under the watchful eye of Dennis Luker, and he had the gall to sign her up secretly with an insurance agent for life insurance, with his wife and him as the beneficiary! We are all familiar with the Philadelphia Church of God under Gerald Flurry where young women are pushed into a relationship with weird creepy older bachelors.
We are also familiar with Terry Ratzmann and the Living Church of God in 2005 when he entered into Sabbath Services and shot the minister and several members. Attending church could very well be hazardous to your health (not that the other stories here diminish from that concept). Roderick Meredith’s little group isn’t particularly impressive in the realm of the fruit of the spirit and neither is the apologist Robert Thiel.
The positioning of the “leadership” in the hierarchy makes the following scenario believable:
The minister in Topeka has committed murder.
Do we think he can get away with it?
Yes, I think so.
Good! What can we do to cover it all up?
Byker Bob had an interesting comment in the last PT blog entry:
“I think this issue is simply too mind boggling for stalwart Armstrongites to even consider, let alone believe and react accordingly. The greater majority chalks it all up as persecution, and considers Satan to be the author.
The period of incest coincides with the time period when Herbert alleges that God was revealing to him the restored truths, which are the backbone of Armstrongism. Anyone who reads the Bible knows that the God described in its pages did not work directly through individuals involved in ongoing and systemic sin. Sin whores up the spiritual channel, so to speak. God does convert evil, kind of like spiritual karate, and turns it against itself, ultimately producing good, but in every case of perennial sin in the Bible, it had to be cleared up and corrected before God worked with and through different individuals as His spokespersons. Even the most diehard Armstrongite would recognize that basic truth, which is why there is such a wall of denial. To acknowledge ten years of this type of sin, they’d have to question and ultimately reject the so-called restored truths.
BTW, incest is an example of “mala in se”, an act considered so totally evil by all society, that a perpetrator is automatically reduced to non-person status, and anything that person had to say, or any good activities throughout his or her life are totally invalidated.”
Herbert Armstrong was the source of this mess: His actions were so totally evil that by the standards of all society, that he would be automatically reduced to non-person status, and anything that he had to say, or any good activities throughout his life would be totally invalidated. Yet here we are. He is thought to be a great man. People idolize him. They call him, “Mr. Armstrong”. They say (in excusing his behavior): “But he brought us the truth!”. The reality was that Armstrong was responsible for warping and twisting the thinking of his followers — and worse, his ministers — so badly that they accept the weirdness and the risk of attending church in a completely dysfunctional environment fraught with danger. It might not seem so, but lurking behind those smiles and quality wool suits, there is a darkness that would never accept a message from any Holy Spirit.
Here we are, just days away from Ronald Weinland of the CoG-PKG being sentenced for 5 felony convictions of Income Tax Evasion by the Justice Department.
We also have other history, such as the minister who ended up in John Rittenbaugh’s Church of the Great God. The man was originally in the WCG where, as was related to me by Rex Sexton in the United Church of God, an International Association over lunch at Azteca, he raped 16 teenage daughters and 8 of their mothers. The man went from the WCG to Global under Roderick Meredith where he eventually was fired and he went with John Rittenbaugh and the Church of the Great God. In 2003, at the Feast of Tabernacles in Redmond, Oregon, I talked with John Cafourek — who, incidentally, has a degree and certification in counselling — who told me that he was the first one to report this man to headquarters in Pasadena. Their response to Mr. Cafourek? “Oh, but he gives such great sermons!” We’ll wait while you roll your eyes.
The reason I met with Rex Sexton in Azteca was to present to him my “Ministerial Guide to Mental Disorders” and discuss it with him: I knew that there was a dearth of material from which to draw and there were many problems in the Armstrongist Churches of God in this regard. (Later, I sent information and a link to the leader of every major church of God about the solution to the problem of alcoholism in the church — Rational Recovery — which was also ignored and rejected, particularly by Gerald Flurry.) He proceeded to tell me about a woman in his congregation who was married and had a job with a governmental agency. Once a month, she received her paycheck and disappeared for three or four days: She went binge drinking and sleeping around with other guys; then she would go back to work, to start the whole cycle over again. I’m not certain why he told me this in front of the other patrons and the wait staff.
Part of the reason I presented my Guide was because I knew of the terrible problems with mental illness in the church, not just among the members, but the ministers as well. One of these ministers wrote an article in the Good News about The Bible Keys to Mental Health. I knew that he had a mental illness when I met him — people in the church told me that he was just not coming to grips with his problems with mental illness, which is certainly clear in the Good News article. If you read it and know something about the issues, the advice to just be positive conveniently sidesteps the potential danger of not having the disease treated. Scripture claims that those with the Holy Spirit have the power of a sound mind. If that is true, there is something very wrong with the Armstrongist Churches of God. Do you really want to have mentally ill ministers giving you sermons and then advise you about mental health, when they have unresolved issues themselves and their advice (of non treatment from mental health professionals) could lead to your death?
It’s hard to write this: It brings such pain. If it were just history, I wouldn’t mention it, but it never really gets any better. The only thing that happens is that there are fewer opportunities for the sociopath and psychopath ministers and members who do such things — but make no mistake, they still go on and that’s the point! The injustices go on and on and there is no real advocate. Joyce, whose husband is the Living Church of God, related the tragedy that her husband has become a terror in following Roderick Meredith: She wanted to know what she should do? Their long term marriage was falling apart. The only real advice I could give her was to try to find what she needed in “Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships” by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias. Though the book as a resource is not specific to Armstrongism, you will certainly find that it has all the elements of it and does a good job on how to escape and recover from such cults as Armstrongism.
So while it may seem like Jon was over the top in his comment, the truth lies in the horror that many people face in the mean spirited practices of the ministry and membership of the Armstrongist cult. As a side note, the man whose father was the publisher of a sacred names newspaper who also debated with Herbert Armstrong in the 1940s, told me that he had an inside memo from Squaw Valley, telling the Church to clean up the bottles and cans of booze the members had left around. Jon’s comment, “Those who run the hotels will be busy cleaning out the empty bottles and cans. Maids and janitors will be busy indeed. Cleaning up puke, spilled drinks off carpets, but hopefully they can make a little more money doing their mundane jobs and return these bottles and cans for the deposit.”, may be sarcasm, but it is on spot. Armstrongism has a history and that history has taken us into the new millennium — but certainly not the millennium the Armstrongists were promised, and they should all think really hard about that.
If there is one thing we should have learned is that people in the WCG absolutely did not know one another. We may have been told, “We are family,” but it simply was not true — it was all artificial. When the WCG began changing the doctrines and when it all came to a head, people went their separate ways: People who sat together in services for decades simply did not know what their “brethren” in the church really believed. When it was all said and done, people were spun off in all sorts of directions and certainly did not speak the same things.
The reason that everyone stayed together as long as they did should be evident: It was, as Herbert Armstrong said, the Worldwide Church of Gossip. People were addicted to curiosity to find out what was going on. Many think it was because they had a social connection, but it is clear that they wanted to get the goods on their church “neighbor”. That yellow sheet journalism experiment, The Journal, continues the stupidity with Dixon Cartwright knowingly maintaining a newspaper filled with strange articles, with stranger advertising, written by extremely strange people, all in an effort to make the entire Armstrongist community seem genteel and civilized when it is nothing of the kind. People are addicted to infotainment involving perceived celebrities at the center of their eschatology with a slavish dedication to watch church news so they can be counted worthy of attention of their associates in the church. If people left, they would sorely miss the continuing soap opera of “as the church turns”. They just can’t leave — they are slaves of their passion to get all the news of the other church people that can fit in their minuscule minds. It’s like a small town, best described by Bob Hope: People are so narrow, their ears overlap.
If you are disfellowshipped, you will learn instantly that you really didn’t have any friends in the Armstrong community, particularly if you brought to light something the cult wanted to keep hidden. It could be worse than that: In some of the extreme Armstrongist cults, people have found themselves stalked or worse. Many have had repeated phone calls late at night with those who hang up immediately when they answer. Some have had to contact the police and the FBI. A few are threatened in other ways, such as being threatened with lawsuits or other forms of extortion. If you leave, it depends, but under some circumstances, you might just want to drop off the grid when you leave.