The "Layman" Stands Up
That is exactly what I was for 27 years in the Worldwide Church of God (Worst Church Going). A layman. I learned from past experience that advancement had to be earned and dignity had to be maintained. During my lifetime (I believe I'm older than most of you) My Worldwide Church of God episode has to be the most traumatic that I have ever experienced. Past hitches in the army, Civilian Conservation Corp., workhouse guard, blue collar jobs, etc. pale in comparison to what my wife and I endured under Armstrong. Those jobs required only muscle and common sense. Plus 8 hours daily of our time. The rest of the time we could think freely and do as we pleased. Armstrong demanded and received our body, soul and mind on a 24 hour basis. We were being trained and educated to be Gods. No less.
Nature being what it is, we had our share of suck ups, boss pleasers, snitches etc. But they paid dearly for it from the rest of us. And the higher ups respected us for that. During my torturous tenure in the cult, I have never seen it SO rampant. From headquarters on down. Each time we had a new minister, you could count on a certain segment to run to him like a puppy dog to make itself known. (Sound familiar, guys?) Being older and wiser, I learned from experience to never volunteer.
Once, in the CCCs our top sergeant lined us up for a ditch digging project. He asked if anyone knew how to drive a truck. Over half the line stepped forward. They were each given a "Georgia buggy". (wheelbarrow.) The snitches and brownies were either short-sheeted, found snakes in their bed or taken on "snipe" hunts. Under the pretext of trying to find a "snipe" deep in the woods. The victim was taken there then discreetly abandoned, one by one. He was left there alone, literally holding the burlap bag, still calling ,"Here snipey--" It took hours to find his way back to camp. Yeah, we had those kinda guys. Until they were "reformed." We would have had a ball with "those kinda guys" from Worldwide Church of God! In the first place our superiors were men of integrity hired by the government to mold us into "men" not rats or suck ups. In the 2nd place they wouldn't have lasted a week.
So, with that background, upon joining Worldwide Church of God, that was the very first thing I noticed. Peer pressure. the passion to get ahead no matter what. Each sabbath when the minister entered, he was swamped like flies on dung. He basked in the glory of his importance. They aimed to please. (Reminds me of the time I was standing in front of a urinal with a sign above it that read: "WE AIM TO PLEASE, YOUR AIM WILL HELP--Management) I tried to pass this weekly butt kissing ritual off and keep my mind on the "Overview", my calling---.
There's a song that goes, "Breaking up is hard to do", and like Br'er Rabbit trying to become unstuck from the tar baby, breaking away from Armstrongism is also very hard to do. The stigma, like skunk odor, is difficult to remove. The mind set lingers. Pork is still pork and the sabbath is still the sabbath.
The exhilaration of a recent Alaskan cruise included a pig sausage breakfast that I downed with just the slightest hesitation We discoed aboard ship on Friday night (We teach ballroom). If it's good enough for Herbie, it's good enough for us. But by the same token, a 27 year layer of twisted religious learning has to be, like onion skin, peeled off, one by one.
Many of us stumbled into a briar patch of confusing doctrines from the old and new testament taught by an equally confused egomaniac who equated himself to an apostle. Svengali like, he had us mesmerized, hypnotized and traumatized. He put the utter fear of God into us. We did his every bidding.
We died for him. Went bankrupt for him. Paid him generously in tithes and offerings. Broke up our families for him. Molded our minds to his way of thinking. After years and years of mind warping, quite a few of us are undergoing deprogramming. Not to mention the effect it's having on the children. Herbert's horrible legacy, like Chernoble, is going to last a while. Long suffering spiritual abuse has to be overcome. Minds have to mend. We must view "Satan's world" differently. It's no longer "us" versus "them". God plays no favorites, in spite of what Worldwide Church of God still preaches. We're all in this together. After years of demonizing the Catholic and Protestant churches, Joe jr. says he's sorry and strives, like the ugly duckling, to be accepted by mainstream Christianity. In spite of the fact that he still practices a modified form of Armstrongism giving his adherents a little more leeway and putting them on a longer leash. Trying to satisfy both factions of what's left of Worldwide Church of God, he dips into the old testament and new testament at will to keep his boat afloat. The expert fence straddler. What's that saying about a house divided?
After the Nazis were defeated, the privates frantically donned civilian clothes and merged Into the crowd. The officers, non-coms and the SS fled. Some to Argentina, others elsewhere. The ones who were caught by their victims, were literally torn apart. Mussolini, together with his mistress, were slain and both hung ignominiously upside down In a public square and spat upon. Most Nazis living today remain unrepentant, as do some in and out of the Worldwide Church of God ministry.
In my 27 years in the Columbus Worldwide Church of God, I have rarely seen a display of compassion, remorse or concern for the local brethren from incoming and out going ministers. It was just the other way around. The brownies would bust their butts to help with moving out or moving in. Each minister was trained, brained and educated to be headquarters oriented. Before these sheriffs were sent into the boonies, it was drilled into them that Pasadena had top priority in matters relating to local churches. Headquarters was to be informed about anything and everything that went on in the locals. The hierarchy had the final say-so.
It was a given that a small percentage of any proceeds from any fund raising event was to be sent to headquarters. Many of you in the Columbus church will remember that particular Memorial day when we had a giant garage sale in the Woolco parking lot. We sold practically everything imaginable: furniture, clothes. books, refrigerators, and someone even donated a car. The sale was a huge success. We collected around $7,000 and planned to use it for a big church social. When Pasadena heard of it, they demanded all of the money. So, being trained and brained to do so, Bob Dick sent it all in. I can still hear his scathing announcement from the pulpit. "If you don't like it, there's the door." I know many of you can recall that remark also, and the big let down. Too bad we didn't make a mad dash for the exit then.....
Herbert Armstrong is dead. Whether we like it or not, his religion is still being kept alive in the splinter groups and in a more liberal way in Worldwide Church of God. They believe God called them. That Is their right. I will not criticize them or any other former Worldwide Church of God layman. They are not at fault. God will be the Final Judge of us all. Exception is the existing ministry some of whom are arrogant and still in Armstrong's oddball religion. Protecting their pocket books and shattered self-esteem. It will be interesting to hear their answer when God asks them:
"You read the bible, you knew the REAL truth, You knew your duty, why didn't you practice, preach and teach MY Gospel instead of Armstrong's?"
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