Charles F. Hunting
1988 Radio Interview by Clyde Thomas
WKIS, Florida Talk 74
Thomas: The church itself, I couldn't quite categorize it as a church because it doesn't have earmarks, but it does have "church" in its title. What is the official title of the organization?
Hunting: The official title of the church is the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) and that announcer, by the way, that you've mentioned, has been with them for over 35 years. His name is Art Gilmore. He's a professional out of Los Angeles. He used to announce Dragnet, I think. He's a real veteran.
Thomas: So it's called the Worldwide Church of God and it has a radio and television program that I'm sure everyone has seen. Many may have seen The Plain Truth magazine. It is an eye-catcher. Beautiful, full-color, clay-coated paper. It's a top-of-the-line publication.
Hunting: Well, it's changed quite a bit over a period of time. You'll find it doesn't quite have the same quality since the death of Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA). But it still has a tremendous circulation. I think that they claim around 9 million. I've noticed they changed the header's circulation number from 20 million readers. That must mean that they are putting out around 5 million magazines each month, although sometimes it comes out on a two-month cycle. It's a big organization.
Thomas: What made it difficult to figure where they were coming from was that they (a) weren't asking for funds, and (b) didn't come on and say they were going to save you or show you how you can find peace in Christ or any religious theme. It doesn't seem like they come on and talk about sacred matters. They usually come on talking about secular matters-drug problems, business cycles. So tell me, what is the core belief of this religion?
Hunting: It's a rather fascinating thing. This was one of the primary things that attracted me to start with. It doesn't sound religious. It sounds down to earth, addressing everyday type of things. It makes the Bible have practical applications and solve all of the problems that mankind faces today. What the Worldwide Church of God primarily does is it has a particular message. That message is one of a coming world government under the leadership of Jesus Christ. That is the main difference today between the main Christian religions and the World Tomorrow broadcast-saying that Christ is going to return to this earth at a particular time in history at some time in the near future. At one time they said he was going to return in 1975, which shook up quite a few of the faithful, but not to discourage many of the faithful enough to leave. But this is the main thrust that Christ will return and that his government will be set up in Jerusalem and then we're going to have a World Tomorrow of peace and happiness, just as mankind always wanted and strove for and deeply desires in his innermost being. This is the primary thrust. Additionally, they believe today that all the laws that were incumbent upon ancient Jews are also incumbent upon us, with the exception of the sacrificial ideas. There are the holy days and tithing, of course, which is one of the stronger things and is really the backbone of the organization. The fact that all members tithe one tithe and every third year they put in another tithe and hold out another tithe for themselves every year that they use for the Feast of Tabernacles. They meet at one large assembly hall at different places throughout the world.
Thomas: Then the church seems to be based on a belief in biblical prophecy. The message is produced as if you were watching the 6:30 network news on television. You'll have a good-looking spokesman in a business suit, just like a news anchorman at a news anchorman desk with a projection board behind him, . . . excellent visuals. He'll discuss world events as if it were the 6:30 network news. And that's why you can watch it and not know that you're watching a religious broadcast.
Hunting: Well, yes. That's the main attraction to it. What their main projection is, is there is going to be a United States of Europe arising as the Beast Power. It will rise and take over the United States. It is not Russia, but rather the ten nations of Europe. They go back into biblical prophecy and extrapolate certain ideas. There is a tremendous amount of information that they bring to bare on this particular idea. They'll show the rise of the European Common Market and show the economic power and stability and potential of that market. And then they will tie that in with the group that is headed up by Germany. Germany, who they call "ancient Assyria," always heads it up. Of course the fact that this presents some major problems to anyone who understands history, which some of us had, to equate Germany with ancient Assyria, didn't fit too well. But it hasn't stopped the ideas of the prophecies.
Thomas: It does start out as if it's a news show. The gentleman is sitting there as if he were an anchor, and he is making an appeal to investors, saying that before you believe your next investment newsletter, you should look carefully at the things developing in Europe. There are pictures of European stock exchanges, people walking in the streets of Paris. They go on to explain that the power seems to be congealing in Europe. These nations are coming together. They'll give you examples-stock trades and meetings of ambassadors. It isn't like Jimmy Swaggart standing up in front of 10,000 people waving his arms. It is like Dan Rather and the evening news. It's most disarming.
Now I want to ask you about the one great mystery I have always had understanding, pertaining to the World Tomorrow radio and telecast and The Plain Truth magazine. Unlike any other minister, there is no appeal for money. I even saw HWA making (not more than 3 years ago) a big point of the fact that he would never ask you for funds. He never has. If that's true, where do they get the millions of dollars to buy television time and produce this expensive and slick magazine which is free in vending machines without coin slots.
The big question is, and I've never been able to figure this out. You can always recognize a sales pitch because sooner or later they will always talk about money. As many times as I've heard the World Tomorrow broadcast and television show and looked for little ads in their publications, I've never seen one inkling of a commercial or request for funds. Where do they get their money?
Hunting: That is one of the strengths of the organization. You are intrigued by the fact that there is tons of free literature. But what happens is that once you're interested and the literature begins to flow, most everybody begins to feel an obligation, or at least contributing something. You keep getting their literature and the magazine. Then you begin to get a sense that you should be sending money in. You begin to become very interested in what they're saying. You begin to take the correspondence course.
Thomas: Is that free?
Hunting: Oh, yes. It's all free. Then you decide that you are going to contribute. Once you have contributed on two separate occasions, although the policy now may have shifted somewhat, they begin to send out what they call a "co-worker" letter. Of course if you keep reading and studying more and go on, you will notice that there is a big emphasis on the biblical principle of tithing-10% of your income. Now if you figure that about 100,000 people, usually wage-earners, all of them tithing on their gross income, not the net, that adds up to a great deal of money. You have this in the Mormon Church. You have this called the tithe. And in almost all cases they state it in such a way as if it were a law. The Worldwide Church of God does pretty much go down that line. So you have this huge fund of money coming in every month, with no expenses for churches. And it's a tithing systems plus you have letters sent out that are very well written with great appeals for money. These go to anyone who has contributed. The response rate would be relatively high to these letters.
Thomas: You don't even send these letters to people that haven't, out of their own free will, already given twice, right?
Hunting: That's exactly right, and it does produce some tremendous amounts of money. In the accounting office, it was part of my first job as the business manager over in England. It was a lot of money. You would have $10,000 checks coming in. Actually, for every monthly co-worker letter that went out, they figured that $1 million would be sent in based on the letter, plus all the other money that would be coming in from the appeals directly to the local church members. It is unique because they have taken ancient myths, theories, and stories out of the book of Revelation and the Old Testament and they have dressed it up in the most advanced journalistic technology. As I've said many times, it's as if it were the 6:30 news. It's kind of like the McNeill-Lehrer NewsHour. There are no commercials. It is basically a very primitive or traditional old biblical group of theories. We're not used to seeing ancient religion dressed up in modern technology.
Thomas: I'd like to know how they came onto this style? It must be tempting when starting a religion to do it like it's traditionally done-to get up and start preaching and ask people for money. But they didn't do any of that. Why is it that this Worldwide Church of God is so different? Who is responsible for that?
Hunting: Well, to start off, the one who actually founded this organization, HWA, was an advertising man. This was his profession. He was a very good writer-a prolific writer. He wrote books and articles. He understood very much the psychology of individuals. As an advertising agent he realized that there were certain things that could be done and certain ways of appealing to the public. For instance, he would never take a small ad in Reader's Digest. He would take full-page ads. They had taken full-page ads in The Wall Street Journal. He would never take a small ad. He would always take a large ad that was striking, done in the very best of techniques. They would do it in England and all over the world, as a matter of fact. The advertising techniques and the psychology were the basis of the image projection of the whole organization. So the image appeared as a very modern idea, which has great appeal to a large number of people who were totally non-religious. They began to listen to the broadcast.
Thomas: The ads, . . . they don't talk about religion, do they?
Hunting: No. They talk about world economic trends or something like that, which would pull in a commuter from New Rochelle to Manhattan, reading The Wall Street Journal. The man was an absolute genius, apparently.
Thomas: How long ago did he begin all this work, HWA?
Hunting: That part of it, probably about fifty years ago. But you want to remember that they also had a very strong biblical orientation that ordinary churches have. In talking about the normal established religions, they addressed very vulnerable points. Like with all small religions today, whether the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, the Worldwide Church of God, etc. it is a very easy thing if you are biblically oriented and point out the errors of traditional Christianity. Even with a very small knowledge of the Bible, you can see where these things just don't make sense. They don't add up. As a result of that the people are intrigued by the ideas. If you had seen the broadcast last week, where they were talking about death and what happens to the individual-about the soul or whatever it is-it makes a lot more sense because it is based upon words that we all understand. We all understand what death means and what life means. They seek to project areas of great vulnerability to the churches.
Thomas: Do they ever have a Bible on the desk?
Thomas: They do?
Hunting: Yes, almost always. They turn to it prolifically and use it, and they consider that they are returning to the knowledge that was given to the original church. They sketch the belief that a world government is coming, headed by Jesus Christ. Any plans or investments that you will be making had better take this into consideration. They are just giving you advance advice on how to plan your family strategy and economic strategy based on this government.
Thomas: So we now know what their overall thesis is. You've told us the style. You've also told us how immensely successful all this has been with the World Tomorrow and The Plain Truth. The millions and millions of dollars. Now, the crack appears, and it appeared on the 6:30 news. There was a schism in the church between the founder, HWA, and his son, Garner Ted Armstrong. It apparently was in California. There were allegations of great fraud and sexual improprieties that were hurled. Were you in the church when all of that was happening?
Hunting: No, I wasn't. I had left by about three years before this all broke.
Thomas: When you heard about it, did it surprise you?
Hunting: Well, there were certain elements of it that surprised me, but not the corruption itself. When you have an organization with one man in charge who exercises total control, whose board members are nothing other than a rubber stamp for anything that is done . . . it was just a rubber stamp because if you questioned anything you would no longer be a member of the board. So we didn't have independent control. There was no accounting for any finances or any money of any of these organizations, even by government law. In fact, when they went in because of a citizen's suit that had been filed against the organization, they had filed it with the attorney general that at that time was George Dukemajin, now the governor. Because of political pressure from churches and because at that time he was already having political aspirations for the governorship, he was prevailed upon by the church, the attorneys and the political power of the organization itself to get out and to remove that suit. They came in, the State of California, and took over the whole organization and tried to run it. There was no accountability for the money that had been sent in. The people who had sent in money for special projects were extremely irate over the fact that money was being used for the personal aggrandizement, objects of art, huge expenses and personal expenses.
Thomas: In this we're getting into a tax matter. California is apparently a heavily taxed state, and if the religious groups-the Armstrongs-were taking millions of dollars for personal use and not paying taxes on it, that opens the door for a criminal investigation by the State of California. I'm fascinated by the comment of yours that the attorney general was pressured to "lay off." Dukemajin was thinking of his own political future. And other churches not affiliated with the Worldwide Church of God didn't want that door opened. They figured they had back doors, too.
Hunting: It could have caused embarrassment to a large number of organizations. Otherwise, they would have been very open with their books and what was happening to their money. They also prevailed upon the legislature of the State of California to no longer go in and investigate the books and the financial records. So by law in the State of California you can no longer do that.
Thomas: The law passed?
Hunting: Oh, yes.
Thomas: We're taking a look at the Worldwide Church of God from the point of view of someone who was high in its superstructure. He now lives in central Florida. The split that took place between the father and the son brought in the interest of the State of California. What was the reason for that split? Why did the son finally confront his father publicly with theft of money and immoral behavior?
Hunting: I'm not sure that Ted himself was the one that confronted his father with that as such. But whatever the problems were, they were problems that HWA was experiencing early in his ministry. Apparently the church tried to stop a book that was going to be published, which spoke to very unsavory things that might have happened to Mr. Armstrong and his daughter. Ted, I think, did confront his father at one time. And of course that led pretty much to his being expelled. That seems to have been the reason, if my information is correct. The fact that they went to the law to try to stop a book that was going to be published by one of the insiders means that they must have gotten it from Ted.
Thomas: Was it originally the case, though, like with Oral and Richard Roberts, that Garner Ted was going to inherit the ministry? Was it going to be that way with Garner Ted?
Hunting: Without any question. He was quite capable in terms of projecting himself.
Thomas: What about the personal lifestyle of the old man, HWA? Was he a devout person? That's the impression you got on the television show. He used to be the man at the desk on camera. Very intense, articulate. He looked like the president of a corporation. That's what was impressive-he had such a command of the language and could stare right into the camera. You got the idea that if he wasn't a puritan, he was at least leading a very disciplined life. What was he really doing?
Hunting: I think that's an unfortunate problem that you see over television. You see it with almost any of these leaders that their image there is quite different from their personal lives. HWA was very flamboyant. He did like to drink. He was also tremendously interested in art objects-paintings and the very fine things of life. I remember he went into Harrod's of London. It was one of the world's finest stores. Within fifteen minutes-and I told this to the attorney who was representing Mr. Armstrong, Stan Rader, that this had got to be a new World's Record in terms of expenditure of money-he spent forty-five thousand dollars, which included solid gold dinnerware among other things. This was the use of money which many people were distressed at. When he bought an airplane, he bought a $10 million G2. His general idea was, he told me one day, "Charles, most people in the church don't realize what an airplane is. They think it's like an expensive automobile. They don't think that it costs $1,600 per hour to operate." The extravagances were, I'd say, monumental. That would be an understatement.
Thomas: Did he live day to day in that same style?
Hunting: Oh, yes. His house was one on millionaire's row on Orange Avenue in Pasadena. There was Perino's Restaurant. Wherever we went to stay-wherever-we stayed at the most expensive suite. We stayed at the very best suites in all of the biggest hotels of the world. There was never a time when money was viewed as something that should be saved, hoarded, or taken care of. It was to enjoy while we could while we were in the service of God. God wouldn't have expected his servants in this day and age to ride around on donkeys.
Thomas: You mentioned earlier that one of the great expectations of the religion was that you should tithe. With this type of personal income and residence, was he tithing 10% of what he was making back to the church?
Hunting: I would say undoubtedly that he was. But the point is that I will work for any organization in the world if it is a charity and they will pay just my "expenses." Because I can live like no sheik in Arabia can live if they just pay my expenses.
Thomas: Which can be quite considerable, I guess.
Hunting: Well, $1-2 million a year. There was a $2 million allocation that was given to him, but there was no need for him to have a large salary.
Thomas: What about his son, Garner Ted Armstrong? You said that he questioned his father in the beginning about the allegations that were made about the wasteful monetary practices and the sexual improprieties with the daughter or granddaughter. Was the son a puritan Armstrong?
Hunting: Well I would say "puritan" would not be a word to describe Garner Ted. Ted was actually expelled from the organization at one time for, as HWA put in his euphemistic way, "personal and emotional problems." Of course that was just a fortunate, or unfortunate, cover story. He was having problems that Jim or Tammy has had. It's just the same.
Thomas: Did he have a big home, too, the son?
Hunting: Yes, he did. But that wasn't Ted's main objective. He liked the outdoors and would go hunting and take his plane to Colorado and Alaska. That was more of what he enjoyed. More than just the accumulation of art objects.
Thomas: You told me a story and I'm not sure if it was the father or the son. It was after a letter had gone out to the faithful, saying that the church really did need money and that there was a real cash shortfall. You said you had been visiting the father and he said he had a little purchase to show you . . .
Hunting: Oh, yes. I had just stepped off the plane from England. I had just read a co-worker letter that was handed to me as I stepped off the plane. The work was in dire straights and money was needed so badly that the people were asked to dig deep down or even to borrow money, if they had to, to send in because the work of God had to progress and the members just had to sacrifice. Well, I went into his home and he said, "Charles, come here! I've got to show you something." He took me into his dining room and showed me a silver piece that was an ice bucket that he had just purchased for $8,000, which I thought was rather unusual in view of the dire straights.
Thomas: An ice bucket?
Hunting: Yes, an ice bucket for champagne for $8,000.
Thomas: Why wouldn't you have said to him that you had just read in the co-worker letter that the church was in so much need of cash? Why didn't you ask him how he could have bought an ice bucket for $8,000?
Hunting: Well, I'll tell you. You begin to think in a very unusual way, particularly when you are benefiting by the system. I was living very well at the time. My house was furnished by Harrod's. I was driving around in a Jaguar. I was living very high. I had an unlimited expense account. I could have hired a 747. I could only say to myself, because of my great obedience to God, I was being prospered by it. If Mr. Armstrong was making mistakes, then that was his responsibility, not my responsibility to correct the one and only apostle who was right under Jesus Christ in projecting this End Time message. Just like Elijah was supposed to come before Christ's return to this earth, you thought to yourself, "My, it's good that he can afford these things." But you never had the qualm of conscience relative to it.
Thomas: That seems reasonable.
Hunting: So, no, it wasn't a matter of offense. We could get along well with anyone who totally objected to what we believed.
Thomas: Well, it is totally reasonable that there could be a Second Coming of Christ and a world government set up, I suppose. If you are naive enough to believe it. So why did you leave the church? Well, I'm putting the cart before the horse. Why did you stay in it so long?
Hunting: Well, I had risen to a very high level in the church itself. The reason for it was that I was sincere in my beliefs. I had started out as an individual who searching, who was looking for something. I had three children. I wanted to bring them up in some kind of Christian religion. I took them to one of the local churches and saw that the children were learning nothing. I decided that this was not the way to go. So I searched. Look, all of us have searched for a meaning to life or a reason for existence. I was talking to a man two nights ago in Vero Beach and he said, "Tell me there is something I haven't lived for beyond this life." So the idea of looking for meaning in life and looking for a place to rear my children with an ethic that would be somewhat compatible with what I had learned as a child. You begin to hear this voice that is very compelling.
The church always challenged us to look up and challenge to see if what they said was true. We did learn this, and this part is quite true, what they said. Christianity as we know it today has gone through such a metamorphosis and such a change from what the original church had that it bears small resemblance to it, and some people might take offense at this. The idea that an amalgamation of Jewish, Roman, and Greek mythology and paganism has become a great part of the Christian religion is a sound idea. You can go back and that part of it is true. The idea, for instance, of the immortality of the soul. The idea of hell and that people burn forever. It makes God out to be the most cruel, unbelievable monster that the mind can possibly imagine. A being that decided that because of someone's 70 years of sinful life he is going to burn in hell forever-it makes God into a monster.
Thomas: They said that this was not part of Christ's Christianity.
Hunting: That's right.
Thomas: The idea of Trinity, too, is not in the Bible, is it?
Hunting: The Trinity, quite obviously, is something that was imposed by the Emperor Constantine more as a political thing back at the Nicean Conference. He got the priests together and said, "Boys, now we're going to come to a decision as to whether Christ is really God or whether there was a pre-existent God." Well the point is, . . . I just have to digress for just a second. If you look at the great competing philosophies of the world today, you have the religion of Christianity which was originally based on the idea that it was based on only one God, just one person in that God head. I just have to quote this one part of the Bible. I never heard a minister give a sermon on it where they asked Christ, "What is the main point of your philosophy?" And he said, "Oh, behold, oh Israel. Our God is one Lord." And the scribe, of course, who was deeply involved in the religion at that time and believed in one person, one God, said, "You're right. It is true." In other words he passed the test of the Judaic religion that there was only one God. Well, 300 years later, just as you take the Constitution and look at it now 300 years down the road, because the Greek mind had taken over the philosophy of the church, there was this idea infused that there were three gods. Now if I said to you, "Clyde, now you've got to live a religion you can neither explain nor understand," you would say, "Just hold on a minute," and start questioning it. If you would go to a judge who says that you have three wives, and you would say to the judge, "No, I do not have three wives. These three wives constitute one wife." Now the judge would say to you first of all that you would be well advised to get the help of a psychiatrist and to find out if you were mentally stable.
Thomas: I follow you.
Hunting: Three wives constituting one wife is illegal. This is absolutely true when Christianity asks you to believe that God is three persons, but only one God-God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It's bad language and it's bad theology.
Thomas: This is what the Worldwide Church of God taught then?
Hunting: The Worldwide Church of God only eliminated one of the gods. They eliminated God the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ was a pre-existent God. What they taught was that you die and you are dead until the resurrection. You don't have an immortal soul. This is true. This was all part of the Greek concept that came into religion. And when they explained these things to you and you looked them up and checked if this religion was wrong, things fell into place.
Thomas: But everybody likes to say that they have the true religion. And what the Worldwide Church of God was saying was that all this clutter about hell and everything was wrong.
Thomas: Purgatory. All this has been added. We can take the original source and if you question, go to the library and see what the scholars have written. We did.
Hunting: That's exactly right.
Thomas: I would also understand how important it would be for your children, too, if you really found a faith that you could believe in. The beauty of the Worldwide Church of God and the World Tomorrow programs was that they didn't seem to appeal to the emotions but rather to the logic. It was thus a mature, an adult, a comfortable religion. As Jimmy Swaggart says on his show, he wants his audience to become babbling and frothing. The Worldwide Church of God doesn't operate on that plane. It operates on the 6:00 evening news sort of plane. That's why it was attractive to you?
Thomas: When did you begin to notice the incongruencies between what the leaders said and did? What was the straw that broke the back of the true believer? What was it after all these years devoting your whole career to this church to get out? It must have been difficult after all these years. Was it a difficult decision?
Hunting: Well once the decision had been made, I felt that I had no choice. I think most of us grow up with a certain degree of integrity. I had gone into the church with the idea that it really was something worthwhile. I had risen up in the ranks, gone to their college, and become one of their principal speakers around the world. I was living very well. Yes, and I believed what I taught. What I learned from this was that we all learn things from people that we believe in and the tendency is that once we prove certain things we go on to accept the rest of the story without checking it too closely.
Thomas: I've fallen into that myself.
Hunting: We all have. As I said before, everyone is looking for a way of life or a certain thing to believe in. We believe things deeply. The more you believe it and teach it, the more you become emotionally and intellectually involved in it. You will start looking for more and more evidence to prove that what you're saying is correct. It's like that with the broadcasts. They want to prove that ancient Assyria is Germany and that the ten nations will rise up again, and they bring in all the information and evidence they can to support the idea. I went down that line and for some reason there was a great deal of questioning started in Pasadena because there were some of the doctrines being questioned. I was pretty much out of the mainstream, being among people that were involved over in England. I didn't realize this until later. But there were changes. They changed the day of Pentecost from Monday to Sunday and they made some changes in the divorce and remarriage doctrine. There were just enough changes that gave you an inkling that there was something that isn't all that inspired necessarily. How could God's true church be missing all of these ideas and all of a sudden we have to change on all of them? One of the big things that bothered me in particular was the matter of healing. We did not permit people, if they were going to take the Passover, because the relationship with God would be terribly distressed, to go to doctors. You could go to the dentist. You could have dental work done, but for some reason the other parts of the body were much more sacred.
Thomas: Almost like Christian Science?
Hunting: Yes, like Christian Science. The fact that my wife died at the age of 54-she died on the day of her birth-refused medical attention as had others in the church.
Thomas: She was a true believer?
Hunting: Yes, in fact I tried to get a doctor. In fact, Ted Armstrong at one point called me on the phone and said, "Well can't you get a doctor and have that just cut out?" Of course he denied it later, but he said it. This was while it was still official doctrine. He just said off the cuff, "Well, if your wife has this problem, then go ahead and just send her to a doctor." By that time I had told him that it was too late.
Thomas: Oh, boy.
Hunting: So you stayed loyal to the tenets of the Worldwide Church of God and you had not sought a doctor for your wife's terminal cancer at all, right?
Thomas: Yes, that's right. As the spiritual leader, Ted was the second in command. And on the side, after it was already too late, he said, "Just go ahead!" The cancer had already gone too far.
Hunting: Yes. That was one of the problems that I faced. People who were in charge of the theological concepts really didn't believe these things and began to question them-without telling the followers. When I found out about these things I began to make a list of questions and make a careful inquiry and find out what the Bible really said about these things, not just what we believed or taught. But what did the early church really believe relative to these things? We began to find out that we had serious reservations about a number of things, many of which the church was in agreement with. But I was warned specifically not to in any way do anything that would cause me to be in confrontation with HWA. I brought my objections to the ministry and was taken back to the ministry in Pasadena under a rather unusual set of circumstances. I explained what my reservations were. It wasn't that I thought that something wasn't right. This time I knew that some things were absolutely and fundamentally wrong and everybody there agreed about what we were teaching.
Thomas: Including the business about not seeing a doctor?
Hunting: Yes. Because ten years later, this was April 1987, the church completely changed its doctrine on the matter of healing. You are now allowed to go to a doctor as a result of the church's decision. The people that have in the meantime died-they died under the old dispensation that you couldn't go to a doctor. But now you can go.
Thomas: Did you tell me, too, that one of the Armstrongs, while it was still prohibited, had his wife treated by a doctor?
Hunting: Oh, yes. Well Ted did. HWA had doctors around him all the time.
Thomas: Good heavens!
Hunting: One of the last days of his life he was continually under the care of doctors and nurses. As a matter of fact, HWA "died" one day. One of the nurses resuscitated him. That, of course, has been referred to as his having been resurrected, by the way. Resurrected so that he could resume this great End Time work until it was finished.
Thomas: It sounds as if they consciously felt that there was a double standard. If they felt that they were Christ's representatives, they didn't have to follow the same doctrine that applied to everybody else? Is that the way they looked at it?
Hunting: Yes, in many cases that was unfortunately true-although there were many ministers who did maintain a very solid doctrinal belief and practiced what they believed. I can say there were a number of us who did that. However, after we began to look at doctrine and question it and believed that it did not make sense, we had difficulty practicing it. You couldn't question doctrine, except in cases where it was something relatively mild like in this matter of healing. You have one choice or the other-to either accept things or get out. You could either stay in and change or get out.
Thomas: And you got out?
Hunting: Yes. I knew that I would have to do that if I were to be able to live with my conscience. It's not just like a job, though, because it meant so many friendships for so many years that I'd been part of it.
Thomas: Now even though you're out of the church, can you still enjoy the company of those who are still in? Can you discuss matters with me on the show today with those that are still in the Worldwide Church of God and still have a relationship?
Hunting: Well that's one of the unfortunate problems that you face with any one of these groups, whether it's Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, or whoever it is-or even a local church, Pentecostal or otherwise. Once you have begun to question, the first thing that comes into the minds of people, because we put it into the minds of people, is that when someone starts to questions these doctrines it is because they are starting to come under the influence of Satan. As a result, very quickly you are separated from the church and the people you had been very good friends with. Nobody makes any attempt to keep you out of the hell you are supposed to go to. They say, "You are going to go, so go." The people that you have known, helped, and spent your lifetime with are immediately separated from you because they do not want anyone to start thinking because then they will also be removed.
Thomas: I am now going to start to take some calls. Is it possible that maybe now some members of the Worldwide Church of God will call you and attack you on the air?
Hunting: I doubt that. I doubt that they would even listen. They will not read anything that is adverse, and they will not listen. We trained them to shut their minds off. We trained them to think in the direction that we told them to think. When they began to deviate from that thinking, we warned them that they were tampering with a world that could be extremely dangerous to them that would bring them out of the one and only true church.
Thomas: I have a suspicion that this is not unique to the Worldwide Church of God. There are a lot of Baptists who do that, too. There are a lot of fundamentalist Jews who do that, too. If you have a question for this remarkable man, Charles Hunting, who had been for years affiliated with the Worldwide Church of God, please call us.
Call-in Questions and Answers
Caller #1: I'd like to make one comment. Being a Christian, this comes from a Bible verse. I don't remember the exact quote or verse, but it says that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but of God. I think that is one aspect that each and every individual with a relationship with Christ should take in order not to be deceived.
Hunting: Frankly, I don't know what that means. Maybe it's none of my business. Let me say something. When Christ was asked about what was the main point of his religion, one part of that statement he made is too often overlooked. We don't stand in man's wisdom; we stand in God's wisdom. You are to worship God with your whole heart, your whole soul and with your mind. There is a continual call in the Bible, whether you talk about the apostle Paul or not, to use reason. There is a statement in there, "Come, let us reason together." The mind cannot be blanked off. Sound reason has got to be everyone's approach to God. You must trust your mind a little bit to see, to think, and to add up one and one is two. You have missed the whole point, because you are instructed by law to worship God with your mind.
Caller #1: What I'm really trying to say is that there are a lot of people who just sit and listen. They listen to a man talk instead of looking into the scriptures for themselves what Christ's true message is, and therefore are being deceived.
Thomas: Jimmy Swaggart is great at that on Sunday mornings. While he'll spend 50 minutes telling you what the gospels say and how you should look at religion, he will end by saying not to believe other churches out there that tell you something different. He wants you to agree with him. Don't think for yourself, agree with me.
Caller #1: I teach a Sabbath school class. I teach a 7th Day class. When I teach these youngsters, 13 or 14 years old, I tell them not to believe every word I say. Look into it yourselves. How do you know that I'm not deceiving you?
Thomas: That's very healthy. You don't find too many like you, Sir. He might be an endangered species.
Hunting: He might be like the radio telescope. Carl Sagan has sent out to see if there's any intelligent life in other parts of the universe. You wonder why they don't turn that radio telescope around and point it to earth to see if there is still intelligent life on earth, when you're talking about the religious world.
Caller #1: Yes, Sir.
Thomas: That may be one specimen of it there we just encountered.
Caller #2: I'm not what you could call a Christian, but I've been interested in the Armstrongs for years, although they're sometimes more personable at times than anyone has a right to be. But this fellow, Garner Ted, are you familiar with the bear story?
Hunting: Yes, Sir. Very much.
Caller #2: What is it? The way we heard it on the west coast was that Garner Ted went into Alaska with a plane and shot a bear right after his arrival. Now Alaskan laws had it that you couldn't shoot a bear right on the day of your arrival, you had to wait a day. Garner Ted pled not guilty in court. He said that from Friday night through Saturday was his Sabbath, so he couldn't possibly shoot one on Saturday. Is that about what happened?
Hunting: Well, Ted is very quick. The problem is that they came in and that's it. They wouldn't let you shoot a bear because you could track that bear and see it from your airplane. So this is why they had that law.
Caller #2: That's what he did.
Hunting: Yes. Ted is a little bit of a rascal, and it was a very bad sign as far as the church was concerned because it had to happen at a time just after sunset. Ted was not supposed to be out hunting after the Sabbath started. So he had a very difficult problem. I think he wound up having to pay a $500 fine.
Caller #2: Well, also you said that there were differences between Ted and his father, but we on the west coast heard that before Ted was removed from the church, they had trouble keeping him from taking that plane to Las Vegas to spend a few days living with the call girls. That's why the old man had to kick him out.
Hunting: Well, that's something that I wouldn't know.
Caller #2: Well, that's not really a church story. Also, we heard about one of these meetings where the old man spoke of there being only two or three approved sexual positions for members of the church. Are you familiar with that?
Hunting: I'm familiar with that. That was his teaching, yes.
Caller #2: Some character there in the governing body stood up and asked if he could explain them and HWA looked right at him, pointed, and said, "You're out of the church!" Do you suppose that happened?
Hunting: Well I think some of these things might be a little exaggerated but it has some possibility. But I don't have any first-hand knowledge of it.
Caller #3: Yes, I'd like to ask Mr. Hunting about the source of the information. I've heard over the past ten years, and it is unsubstantiated, that HWA used material published by the Watchtower and the 7th Day Adventist Church. I'm wondering if you could confirm or deny whether he's been plagiarizing over the years.
Hunting: There's no question that there were a number of things. In fact, the one booklet they put out on healing I believe they borrowed from the 7th Day Adventists. I don't think HWA ever got anything from the Watchtower, although there was a very strong affinity between the understanding that we had about the Kingdom of God and the messages that the Jehovah Witnesses bring. I don't know 100% for certain whether there was any direct plagiarism, although there were some books that we had obviously borrowed from other churches.
Caller #4: I'd like to ask Mr. Hunting a question. If he was in there that long, he has to know about this. Why did the church of Armstrong ask the President of the United States for safe passage out of here, leave everything behind and going to Jerusalem? I'd like to ask him if he knows anything about that.
Hunting: The idea was that there would be a future time when the church would have to flee. It was before the return of Christ and the coming of the new world government in Jerusalem.
Thomas: That sounds fascinating. How do you get where the new seat of world government will be? I think what the caller is talking about is that someone in the Worldwide Church of God is putting some pressure on her to become a believer. Probably a friend or someone in the neighborhood. But it has something to do with what you are going to do physically at the beginning of the worldwide government headed by Jesus Christ-getting out of the country easier, because it won't be based in the United States. We're going to fall under the pressure of a united European government, and then the worldwide government will supplant that, huh?
Hunting: What I think the lady referred to was that before the return of Christ, there's supposed to be a great worldwide upheaval. Tremendous, cataclysmic events are going to happen. All churches have some type of an idea about what's going to happen during this era. For instance, a normal Christian teaching now is that everyone who is a Christian is going to be raptured out of the great holocaust that's coming and going to escape all this. Christians who have lived historically have had to suffer, be burned and martyred. These were all living at the wrong time. But at the end time, all the Christians are going to be whisked away to some place where they're never going to have to suffer all this end time activity that's going to take place on earth. The Worldwide Church of God taught at one time, whether they still teach it or not, is that during this period of time of upheaval and destruction on earth they are going to be taken to a place of safety, and the place was called Petra. Petra is a place that I've visited on two or three occasions. It is in the land of Jordan right now and is the old Rose City. Maybe you've seen it in National Geographic. But this is the place that the Worldwide Church of God was going to flee to, not quite like the Jonestown thing. But we were all going to flee and go to this place of safety to escape this great End Time destruction that will visit this earth. I think they probably still teach a type of that. It's really equivalent to the normal Christian church teaching of people being raptured away. It's about as unbiblical as you can possibly get.
Thomas: Was there ever anything in that about passports being prepared, providing easy passage? That sort of thing?
Hunting: We heard stories about how all this was going to be worked out because of the close contacts that HWA had with the other world leaders. He had met with them on a number of occasions, like King Hussein in Jordan. So he was in a very good position being in a friendly relationship as well as being in good standing in the world of the Israelis.
Caller #5: What would happen if a person became concerned with the way funds were being used and asked for an accounting by the church hierarchy? If some lowly member of the church questioned the appropriation of funds how would that be responded to? The other question is are you going to write a book about all the things you have learned during the years in the church?
Hunting: To the first question I would say that if you were a member of the church in good standing and you began to question and to ask for an accounting of the funds, you would be told that it is not your responsibility. You give your money to God. And what God does with that money or what his appointed representatives do with that money is none of your business from there on in. You only have one responsibility-to pay and pray. So that the idea of asking for any accounting would be disrespecting the very authority that you are supposed to be loyal to in the church. That would probably lead to your being excluded and separated from the society and the group. If you persisted in that questioning, you would obviously be determined to have a bad attitude asking where the money was going and asked to leave the church. You would probably be told that nobody in the church is to visit with you again.
As to the second question, I'm in the process of writing a book right now, not attacking or exposing as such the Worldwide Church of God. This is a problem that is indigenous, unfortunately. I have involved myself over the last 11 years looking into all the major Christian religions extensively. I'm writing a book about what is probably one of the lynchpins of the whole activity of Christianity itself based on the idea of the Trinitarian doctrine.
Caller #5: Very interesting. While I'm on the subject, you may remember, Clyde, that I questioned the building of a certain chapel in Orange County on a prior show?
Thomas: You mean the big expensive church building that never seemed to have a service in it?
Caller #5: Yes. They indicated that anytime you wished you could ask them to reveal how they spent their funds. That's surprising that they would respond to it even if you're not a member of it.
Thomas: Well, they're a different type of church.
Caller #6: I want to ask Mr. Hunting a question. Did you get the impression in your connection with this church that HWA claimed that he was a true prophet of God, just as Elijah was to come before the end, or even equating a claim of infallibility, especially in the creation of doctrines. I heard him say that unless you believe the doctrine of the crucifixion, Anglo-Israelism, the use of intoxicating liquors at the communion service, you are a heretic.
Thomas: Does any of that sound familiar?
Hunting: Well, yes. You've asked about three or four questions there. The first was whether HWA thought he was an End Time prophet. You also asked about him being Elijah. The problem with that is he denied being the one who was supposed to come before the great and terrible Day of the Lord and Second Coming of Christ as you know. The story went out in the church that he really was Elijah, fulfilling that End Time commission that was Elijah's. I went into one of the churches. Somebody invited me back in, and someone got up there and announced, "We know that he is Elijah."
Caller #7: I'm a college student and I want to ask this guy why is it that you don't believe that Jesus Christ is God and could you give me some scriptures?
Thomas: Well, we're not really going to do a theological show here, but you can talk about what the Worldwide Church of God taught. Well, he's got an answer here for you.
Caller #7: Well, you're supposed to be writing this book on the Trinity. He's telling people that Jesus is not God. If Jesus is not God, then all the Protestant denominations are doomed. I want to know why he believes that Jesus is not God.
Hunting: It's a very interesting question. I think the problem that you have is that most people, who are Protestants, Catholics, or from other smaller denominations for that matter, all have been taught the Trinity. What you've learned and what you hear other people saying and believing you are quite likely to accept and believe. The problem that you run into on it is this. Biblical scholars today, and I'm talking about Catholic scholars and Protestant scholars, have done a careful search through the Bible and have come to a careful conclusion that the idea of the Trinity was imposed on the Christian church in the 4th century by the Emperor Constantine. He was the one who boiled his own wife in her bath to get rid of her. He was also the one who caused the imposition of the idea of the Trinity on the Christian church. Now if you leave your telephone number with whomever is here, I will send you a booklet on what the Bible says was written about it. It's a very plain and easy thing to understand. You can look at the evidence yourself and see why some people have taken the opposite point of view. There have been literally thousands of people who have died, who have considered themselves to be Christians, through being killed by other Christians just because they didn't believe that there was anything besides one Supreme Creator God. The very unfortunate part of this is that the persecutors, who always get angry and feel threatened, are those who believe in the Trinity itself. I can never understand the phenomenon of thousands of people dying at the hands of other Christians who sincerely believe something. Why do people feel so threatened? If you look at the evidence that is available to you, be my guest. If you want to weigh the evidence and listen to both sides of the story that you have never heard in your life, go ahead. Then you, too, may find that there may be a reasonable question of a doubt as to what is really Christianity.
Thomas: Let me ask you in closing to look at the 21 years that you've spent, Mr. Hunting, with the Worldwide Church of God. That's a long time. You were a teacher, right?
Thomas: You ran the Ambassador College? Would that be a wasted 21 years? Did you get anything or give anything to others or was it just one big 21-year mistake?
Hunting: I think that one of the unfortunate things about life is that you learn by experience. I can sympathize and empathize with millions of people today who have been brought up in a certain idea who find out the idea is wrong and have no other alternative in mind. I can assure you that if the person continues to make an honest search, he can discern fact from fiction. You can find out what is truth from error. We are not left to our own devices to wander about like a group of tadpoles not knowing where anything is coming from or knowing the end from the beginning. This is regardless of background.
I have lost very much. But I think I've gained a great empathy for people who stop thinking for themselves and start believing what they hear, have heard, and are hearing over and over again. People can believe almost anything. This includes a student I had at Ambassador College who had been taught from his youth that the world was flat. This was in the age of merchant marines and Sputnik. His father had taught him and it was so deeply ingrained in his mind that the earth was flat that he still had a difficult time with it. I have learned this one thing. We have learned so much by habit pattern, and thinking in that habit pattern makes the world a lot simpler to live in. If you continue in that line of thinking and never question, then there are plenty of people out there who can tell you how to think, how to spend your money, and there's no guarantee of what happens to it from there on in. "Just trust me, have faith in me."
Thomas: Well, we've seen a lot of that lately. If I had you on a year ago before the PTL scandal had broken, people probably wouldn't have paid a lot of attention. They would have thought maybe you were too critical of your own religion or you were just wrong. But Tammy and Jim offered a great service to the rest of us, that is, to prove on a gigantic scale such hypocrisy and greed that we couldn't have otherwise believed possible. It's pretty well documented what happened there. Now people can probably believe what you tell us about the Worldwide Church of God. So in a sense, Tammy and Jim have done us all a great service. Thank you, Charles, for being here this morning.
Charles Hunting has subsequently co-authored the following book:
Anthony F. Buzzard, Charles F. Hunting. The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound. International Scholars Publications, 1998.
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