Disillusionment, Bewilderment and Despair
By Bob W.
In the early 1950's there was a popular children's TV program that I thoroughly enjoyed. It made me laugh and giggle with delight. It was, "The Howdy Doody Show", perhaps some of you will remember it. For those that don't, two of its main characters were puppets, Howdy Doody and his faithful friend Cecil the sea sick sea serpent.
When ever Howdy was about to tell a story, Cecil would interrupt and ask, "'Is this story "Funny Ha Ha", or is it "Funny Peculiar"?"' Now the "Funny Ha Ha" stories we all laughed at until we could laugh no more. However the "Funny Peculiar" stories, well, they had an unusual twist to them. They created a puzzlement in our minds. While they may have been fun at first their end was something that caused us to think.
It was more than thirty years later that this story unfolds. It"s a "Funny Peculiar" one. At first there was excitement and joy. Life was fun and enjoyable. But in the end, this situation was one that we really don't laugh at, it is one that turned into a bewildering oddity, one that we, myself included, had to wonder how we could have allowed this to happen. It is a puzzlement and a bewilderment that our minds could have been so clouded that we failed to see what was really taking place.
Now that is not saying everyone did nothing, those that did simply disappeared into the never never land of disfellowshippment. These were the ones that possessed true courage, and had an insight that was ahead of their time. They were not smarter, or more intelligent than the rest of us, they simply saw the need for change while the rest of followed, like loyal and faithful sheep, the leadership that were leading us into oblivion...
As spring gave way to summer there was a hustle and bustle of activity as the students at Ambassador College began to prepare for the summer break. For some, this meant summer jobs on campus as a preparation for the coming fall term, and a step further up the ladder of status and authority. For others it meant their days at college were coming to an end. It was time to move on, a new beginning for them was about to start. Some of the graduates would be going into the field ministry, while for others it would be full time employment working for either the church or college. It was one of the greatest times of excitement in their lives.
For the graduating seniors, four years of hard and sometimes grueling work was coming to an end. There would be no more nightmares concerning some inept minister trying and pushing the student to see if he could break the them down emotionally and reveal some hidden sin or bad attitude. They had paid their price for the authority that was about to be handed down to them. For us in the local congregation, God help us all.....
Their rewards for obedience and submission would be power, honor and authority. Having proved themselves worthy, they were about to become commissioned officers of HWA's militia. In spite of the radical and abusive training, some would truly become servants of the people, (Some actually did serve their congregation with love and kindness, they were the few. These would care for and watch over their congregations with living concern. Most, however, would become rulers, using their great power and authority over the lives of their subjects for personal gain.).
For some of the graduating seniors it was a double time of excitement. They would be getting married as well. Life was beautiful, full of hope and sunshine, The Worldwide Church of God's future looked wonderfully secure for the new perspective minister or college employee. It was a wonderful time to be young. So during the days ahead, before graduation, there would be a great deal of planning to be done. Eager anticipation filled their days as the following weeks unfolded before them.
One couple in particular was about to enter the twilight zone where circumstances would forever alter their lives, and the lives of those close to them. Their excitement and joy was about to become an experience in terror, despair and bitter disillusionment....
Both were seniors, and very much in love. It was well known among the rest of the students that after graduation they would be married and serve in the field ministry together as a life time team.
This couple was a Godly example of honesty, sincerity and purity. All the students looked up to them as a role model, and rightfully so. Even the faculty recognized their contributions and positive influence among the student body, and some were even jealous of their influence and Godly character.
It was early evening when they decided to go out to dinner. There were so many details yet to be taken care of concerning their wedding plans, they needed to get away by themselves for awhile. Going out to dinner proved to be the perfect opportunity. As young couples do, they sat and talked for hours, not paying any attention to the time. They talked about their hopes and dreams for the future, their hopes and dreams for a family and a home before the end of the age. (Which according to HWA, would happen almost any time now.) They talked and teased about where they would go for their honeymoon, the sights they would see, the places they would visit.
Together they would be facing the future as husband and wife. They were the perfect couple and together they would live the perfect future....
Time just slipped away as they sat in a restaurant eagerly and excitedly talking, making their plans. Before they knew it the hour was late, very late, it was now after midnight. Suddenly their excitement turned to fear. Anxiety struck hard as they realized what they were faced with. Breaking curfew so close to graduation could destroy their dreams of the future they had so intimately planned. If they went back to campus now they would incur the wrath of the dorm monitor. Once their crime, the only thing they had done was to break curfew, had been reported to the ministry they would certainly face severe disciplinary action.
Their hearts became very heavy with what to do. She became upset and began to cry, he tried to console her, telling her everything would be OK, when in reality he knew the situation was far from a simple infraction of college law.
Keep in mind that they were good kids, they were admired, respected and loved by all their peers. They had done nothing wrong. There was nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. None the less they were filled with anxiety and fear, they were in deep trouble, not because of what they had done but because of the hour. They knew all to well what the consequences would be for not obeying the colleges laws. It did not make any difference why they were late, the only thing that mattered was the fact that they were late. And now there was a price to be paid.
Unfortunately they panicked. Under the stress of the moment they decided to stay out all night at a coffee shop. In the morning they could quietly and unnoticed return to campus for breakfast, and then go on to their classes as usual. They had nothing to be embarrassed about or apologize for. The only thing they were guilty of was being in love, losing track of the time and not getting back to campus before curfew.
It was in the early morning hours when a minister just happened to walk into the coffee shop and found the students. He was not looking for them, he just happened to see them there. (I have often wondered what the minister himself was doing out at 3:00 am.)
The rest of the story is history, a sad commentary on a not so loving and compassionate ministry. I think sometimes we forget that there were many students at Ambassador College that were sincere and naive, all too trusting in the ministry that trained them. It was only later, as they grew older that the power and authority went to their heads and they too became abusive, little Hitters.
Both students were kicked out of college, just a few weeks short of graduation, and disfellowshipped from the church. Keep in mind they did nothing wrong, but because of circumstances they panicked, the panic was the only thing they were guilty of. It did not make any difference, they broke the college's law and they paid the price!
Their lives, hopes, plans and future were shattered and forever ruined. They were disgraced and discarded as some evil trash. All of this was so unnecessary. The ministry could have shown a little understanding and compassion. They could have seen the humor of the situation, and just for once have had a heart that was soft and tender toward a young couple in need. But this was not to be. Those blood thirsty suckers seemingly took pride in destroying the lives of sweet and innocent young people.
The '80's were a time of strong arm tactics. All of HWA prophesies had failed, the only way the ministry could hold things together was through fear and intimidation. They were experts at it. The incident above generated an enormous amount of fear and silent anger among the student body, which in time they passed on this same intimidation down to their local congregations. Fear and intimidation had been their way of life at Ambassador. After being immersed, surrounded, and spiritually and emotionally beaten during their four year boot camp training, is it any wonder they turned on us with an unrighteous vengeance. It was a self feeding and destructive process. It got worse as time went on, the church leaders became better and more skilled in their ability to deceive, distort and intimidate. After all they reasoned, we could not handle the truth. Contrast that with what Jesus said, "....the truth shall set you free."
It is interesting to note that in the '50's and '60's the power play of intimidation had a different focus. The prophecies of HWA were still future. The ministry kept the people in line for fear of disobedience would place them right in the middle of the Great Tribulation, or worse yet, eternal death! This fear gave the ministers the power and authority they needed to regulate, govern, more accurately, rule our lives. They would even invade our homes looking for white sugar, or flour, which was considered a serious sin. They would search the cabinets and drawers for anything they felt was inappropriate. And they would even brag about their findings.
But as the church moved into the '80's and beyond the emphasis and method of intimidation changed. All of HWA'S prophesies had failed, and miserably so. The membership and students now were being manipulated by different strategies of intimidation....as one evangelist said it in a sermon, "...just shut up and believe!" While the intimidation was different it was none the less damaging, and hurtful, not only to the college students, (our future rulers) but to the membership as well.
The one ideal that is present through all this and carries on even into the present is, the authority and power of the ministry. What they teach today is dramatically different, how they treat their congregations has not changed significantly. It is still an iron fisted rule. The only difference is, they now have put beautiful sheep skin gloves over the blood stained brass knuckles that they sill wear. They are still tightly clinched around their fingers just waiting for someone to challenge their authority.
The church will continue to diminish, unless it changes its tactics it will die a painful, pitiful and slow death from within. As soon as the excitement and notoriety of the new covenant change becomes old hat and they no longer receive the adoration from the media, they will, if they are going to survive as an organization, like a dog returning to its vomit, return to the old ways of rulership. Only instead of being hidden it will be out in the open. We can watch and see what the next several years bring. One thing is for sure, they can not continue as they are currently going, economically or spiritually...
I think it is important for us to pray for the membership, these are the children of the King. They are the ones getting hurt in the cross fire. The leadership? It is unlikely they will change, there is too much power, adoration by the media and money at stake.
While Christ instructed us to forgive our brothers more than 70 times 7, that does not mean we should allow them to continue to hurt us so we can forgive them. Back off and move away, get out of their reach. Then you will not only be beyond their ability to hurt you, but you will also not have to go through the emotionally distressing process of having to forgive them. You will then be free to help them in the greatest way possible, and that is being no help at all. What they need is to be left to themselves, if we interfere by giving them support, then it could well be we are robbing them of their opportunity to discover how rotten they really are. For if we keep supporting them in their abusive behavior, then they may never see, or worse, understand the hideousness of their situation. Think about it!
The young couple? They were married, and have lived an abundant life, separate and apart from Herbert's' militia. They have several children and grandchildren. While their marriage has not been perfect, like us all, they have had their hills and valleys, it is one that has lasted. They still are looking forward to a beautiful future together.
Life on campus, sometimes it could be hazardous to ones health. There were many situations that were 'Funny Peculiar". But I do not know anyone who is laughing now. Looking back we can see the hurt and destruction of untold thousands of lives. The legacy Ambassador College and The Worldwide Church leaves behind is one of disillusionments, bewilderment and despair.
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