Stephen: The Kid That Didn't Get Away
The article by "Stephen" was extremely interesting from two points of view. It told of another face of suffering introduced by Worldwide Church of God to which we can all relate. It actually tugged at all our heart strings, until - as the Editor said - we read the last part. After reading that section, I personally think that Stephen is somewhat confused.
Let's go to the bottom line here. There is NO basic difference to what Stephen did and what each of us did. So, there is no reason to point fingers. We all went into Worldwide Church of God, saw the problems, and exited. That's the real bottom line.
However, because each of us is psychologically different, our time cycles are different. Some enter early, and leave late, or visa-versa. Because of heredity and background, we make different decisions. This is NOT to say that any such decisions are wrong. Simply that each must make his/her mind up in their own time. For one person from one background to criticize another, is tantamount to a massive self righteous delusion on the part of the critic.
"Never judge a man until you walk a mile in his moccasins."
There are several factors that will determine when and if a person ever leaves any cult. Please check out any number of cult references, both on the PT Site and the Internet. There are a plethora of reasons as to why people act the way they do, and it's triggered by the activity around all of us. And we will all act differently.
No one, to my knowledge, is avoiding personal responsibility for going into Worldwide Church of God. If Stephen had read more of the site, its email, and its articles, then that overall flavor should have been obvious. Since he didn't, the matter probably needs explaining.
In article after article, in email after email, the writers have pounded away at the same theme. "I was duped, and in that, I was responsible. But Worldwide Church of God must also be held accountable for their part in all the deliberate lies, deceit, the ostentatious life styles, and the destructions of marriages, finances, and peoples' sanity. No one is avoiding personal responsibility here. But the responsibility is twofold. People on the PT Site are only telling their stories and pointing the blame at Worldwide Church of God where applicable, and only because Worldwide Church of God has NEVER repented.
True, all we had to do was be wise enough to openly look at Worldwide Church of God, and we might have seen the problems and exited. But the problem was, that we didn't know HOW to look. In essence, we were ignorant, and Worldwide Church of God took advantage . . . as do most religions against those folks who do not know the inner working of the dark minds of religion's upper echelon. We must all learn.
Unfortunately, this is a world of law, and the law has a saying: "Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law." That could apply to murder, but it could also apply to being five miles over the speed limit. But, in essence, that statement is stupid in its fundamental reasoning. If a person is really ignorant of some minor infraction of the law, then some common sense should prevail with most judges. Unfortunately, it does not, and this article by Stephen reminds me of some hard headed judge that says: "Just because you don't have all the facts about the law, you're still guilty, as you should have known." Rubbish.
Whereas most people automatically know how to follow a code of moral conduct, following theology is much more difficult. With so many churches, honest, seeking people will look around and find massive confusion. In the end, most will follow the theology that seems to be the right one, and that conclusion (together with the charisma of the leader) will usually be based on a seeker's heredity and environment.
Let's face it. If we'd all been Biblical scholars when we came across Worldwide Church of God, then none of us would have ever followed Apostle Herbie. We'd have immediately concluded that that little turtle was really a shark. If we'd have known the theology of the Bible (even though we now know it to be in gross error), then Worldwide Church of God could never have held us. I'd be willing to lay odds that none of us knew our Bibles when we approached Worldwide Church of God. That cult did our Biblical teaching and thinking for us.
All our lives, we've been conditioned to listen to our respective teachers, and believe them. Unfortunately, as many have learned, teachers can be "full of it" too. Growing up with a more independent approach to life, and having access to the proper materials, will suddenly help us - a lot easier - to stand apart from the cult, examine their teachings, and reject them.
I'm glad to see that Stephen had the upbringing he did. It actually made him more independent, and since he had access to the proper materials, he found it much easier than most of us to stand apart from the cult, examine their teachings, and reject them.
Now, the question comes down to whether or not we should "magically" have access to the proper teaching materials that would, indeed, set us free.
Stephen had an enormous advantage. He had a set of Harvard Classic's on the bookshelf in his own home. I sure didn't. He had the opportunity and time to read them, as well as Aristotle's logic, so in essence, it would have been negligent of him not to have, at least, perused these books. How much different would it have been with the rest of us, if such an opportunity were available to us in our early teens?
The only materials that most had in their homes were Bibles and Sunday hymnals.
Since most of the Western world lives in a cesspool of spiritual ignorance, it's very easy for religion to sneak in, tell us what's in the Bible, and get us hooked. If each of us had a true opposing point of view, then an examination would reveal that the Bible and religious theology made NO sense, and no cult would ever capture us.
A big key here to our being trapped - and Stephen's freedom - was simply ignorance. We didn't have the facts to stop our cult entry. He did. But - and that's a big BUT - when we found out the right information, we left. In this, Stephen is no different to us, which is the "bottom line" that I mentioned at the beginning of the article.
There is never any condemnation to a slow learner. They make take longer to get the message, but in time, they get it. Even Einstein was considered an idiot at school, and was often relegated to the corner of the schoolroom wearing a "dunce" cap.
To quote from Stephen's article: "You had only to look. If you did not discover these things, it can only be because you were extra-ordinary fools or because you chose to avoid the knowledge." The third possibility here (and the one that really applies) is, what if that knowledge was not available to us? Since we did not know it existed, then why would anyone seek it? Stephen misses this obvious point.
This is similar to a person seeking to find the size of a circle. Since they don't know the formula is available, they might try to measure it in a primitive way. But wouldn't it be cruel for a mathematician to enter and say: "You fool. What are you doing? Don't you know the answer is Pi X Radius-squared?" People who have knowledge would do better to teach it, rather than scoff or criticize those who don't yet have it.
Another thing that Stephen is obviously missing here is the average member's approach to fear. Since Stephen was blessed in that he had an independent upbringing, this can change a person's whole perspective to fear. An independent person is a less fearful person. Most of the "religious" Western world is raised with the concept of "Fear God." Stephen does not seem to have ever had that problem. While that's good for him, it was bad for us.
Most of us were brainwashed from childhood that there was a God over all, and the Bible was His word. He also (supposedly) had true ministers throughout the world, but this was the only variable in the equation. If we did not do what "God's ministers" instructed, then "God would get us." So, like the Editor/s said, we were simply obeying God while we followed the church rules and laws. Stephen fails to understand that our thinking was of such that to disobey Worldwide Church of God was disobeying God. And, as such, our eternal salvation was in jeopardy. This was a genuine inbuilt fear which our critic simply does not understand.
I don't believe Stephen was ever a part of the Worldwide Church of God cult. This type of cult thinking involves the surrender of our minds, something to which Stephen never subscribed. If Stephen was really a part of the cult - he would never have questioned it. Questioning always comes later, and for other reasons, but I'm personally glad he avoided the cult "regime," and went on to live a normal life.
The old saying: "Knowledge puffs up," still holds true. If we criticize those who know (or had known) less than us, then our position is one of arrogance and vanity. That's why, as I see it, is one big reason to have the PT Site. It's not to laugh at, criticize, or blame those still in the cult of Worldwide Church of God+, but to offer a helping hand, because we now know more.
Stephen apparently sums up his points in the following: "*My* whole point is that just because people took advantage of you does not make you blameless for what you individually and collectively did to others."
No one's saying it does. So, why doesn't Stephen go back and re-read the PT Site, and see what it's really all about? It's possible with slip-shod reading, that one could possibly derive Stephen's incorrect viewpoint. But a deeper reading, and with a little knowledge of human behaviour and psychology, would prove his conclusions to be quite different. I believe he's completely misunderstood the intent of the site and its message.
How easy it is for someone who has the proper fore-knowledge to criticize those who don't! How easy it is for someone who's had the opportunity to gain freedom to criticize those who have not! How easy it is for someone who saw the cult errors at an early age to blame those of us who could not! How easy it is for anyone to become self-righteous at doing and accomplishing all this! How easy it is for anyone - in accomplishing the above - to think that they're better than others!
We accept full responsibility for our being fooled, but Worldwide Church of God must also shoulder the blame for their outrageous part. And the BIG point here, is that the Worldwide Church of God refuses to take any responsibility for their criminal behaviour. We've admitted our ignorant part in this whole scenario. We're still waiting for the Worldwide Church of God response.
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