A second resurrection was to take place one thousand
years later. This event was for those who, throughout
history, had never heard of Herbert Armstrong, his Radio
Church of God, or God either for that matter. These
biblical illiterates would then be brought back to life
as mortal humans. That this resurrection also gave
otherwise unemployable kings and priests a ready supply
of serfs and oafs to rule over was not lost upon the
chosen. Under the stern (but loving!) governance of the
"first born", these heathens would be taught
to lead moral and productive lives. After a respectable
but unspecified period of time, a judgment regarding
them would then be entered into the heavenly ledgers.
Successful graduates of this worldwide version of
Ambassador College would then be graduated as vassals
second rate and given minimal positions of subservience
under the holy rule of the first born, and this was
completely understandable. After all, they were there
Resurrection number three was reserved for creatures
such as myself, pagan swine who knew the truth about
Santa and the Easter Bunny, but liked them anyway.
Besotted beings who had begun to notice girls' legs (and
other even more unmentionable anatomical landmarks which
there were, as yet, no technical names for) and
wondered, "Do these luscious creatures possess the
same interesting attributes as the dusky ladies of the
The mere contemplation of such depraved concepts was
proof, and I knew it, that I was bound for hell on a
B-52. One's tender years or lack of baptism were not
considered mitigating factors in cases such as mine.
Anyone who had sat through Church services year after
year obviously did so because God was working with them,
offering them front row seats in his kingdom. That they
were forced to do so against their will was
inconsequential. Those who had heard the word and the
truth were responsible for such knowledge and the
penalty for failing to heed such a high calling was
final. Eternal death.
But before this merciful gift from above could be
bestowed upon the incorrigible, one last ritual remained
to be performed: the third resurrection itself. The only
group brought back to life for this final and last
goodbye were the bad guys. They would be paraded before
the saints who would passed swift and certain judgment
upon them. They would then be cast into that lake of
fire and brimstone reserved for Satan and his demons and
all burned up.
When the words "incorrigibly wicked"
appeared together in the same sentence, I knew they were
talking about me. After all, during my tenure as a
preadolescent I had lied, cheated and stolen; shown
disrespect (from a safe distance) to my parents;
embarked upon tantalizing anatomical explorations with
the neighbor girl in our hay barn; smoked, cursed and
played hooky. Who else could they mean? I was wretched
and despicable, the very epitome of sin itself. I had
committed so many unpardonable transgressions in the ten
long years of my life that for me there was no hope.
That being the case, I was tempted to just say, "F__k
it!" and quit trying. If I was going to burn
anyway, it might just as well be for a worthwhile cause.
But worthwhile causes were hard to come by, especially
for wicked ten year Olds, so, for a time, I had to
content myself with causes which were not so worthwhile.
Following the Feast of Unleavened Bread, there was a
fifty day dearth of festivities until Pentecost. But the
way it was written up in the Bible made it hard to
decide whether Pentecost should be observed on the
fiftieth day following the last Day of Unleavened Bread
or whether one should count fifty days and then
celebrate it on the fifty-first day, or if it really
began at sundown on day forty-nine. Fortunately, God at
last revealed to Herbert the proper day (for the decade
of the fifties at least) and the matter was temporarily
The were three other feasts the first born were
required to attend, Trumpets, Atonement and the Feast of
Tabernacles. The Feast of Trumpets was celebrated more
or less like all the previous feasts. Four hours of
sermon in the morning, a two hour reprieve at noon and
four more hours of listening to what abominable little
bastards human beings were in the afternoon, after which
everybody went home and waited for the sun to go down so
life could be begin again in earnest.
Atonement was unique however, so much so that many of
the unconverted, including myself, often wondered how it
came to be called a feast in the first place. To start
with, no one was allowed to eat or drink anything from
sundown preceding the feast to the sundown following.
There was, unfortunately, no shortage of spiritual meat
at this festivity. If ever there was a clear cut case of
insult not only being added to injury but of
insensitively violating her as soon as the lights were
out, this was it.
Sermons of any type are a drag, that's why people
have to be threatened with hell and damnation to sit
through them, but Atonement Day sermons were the worst.
The subject matter of which always reflected the meaning
of the day itself. On this Great Day we were told where
sin came from and reminded that since Adam had sinned,
all had sinned. Transgressions were geometrically
progressive in Herbert's version of God's view on
things. Any budding hope I might have had for a merciful
deity overlooking my world class transgressions was
annually dealt a low blow at these proceedings.
As humans we were God's children, now doubt about
that, but we were also carnal, filthy and altogether
depraved. We were, we were told, worthy only of a
screaming death in that great Christian barbecue coming
soon to worldly neighborhoods everywhere.
It didn't matter how good we tried to be, or for that
matter if we had personally never committed a single sin
in our entire lives, we were liable for Adam's screw ups
as well. This was well nigh intolerable, in my
estimation. It was bad enough to be sentenced to death
for my own voluminous iniquities, but to have to pay for
the sins of people who had f__ked up and died centuries
before I was even born, was incredible.
Fortunately, sermons such as these usually offered a
glimmer of hope near the end. If we were all as good as
we could be (which wasn't too damned good in the best of
times), if we dutifully obeyed those omnipotent
twenty-three year old shepherds whom the Lord had chosen
to rule over us, if we faithfully surrendered thirty
percent of our gross unadjusted income God, just maybe,
would grant us salvation. But there were no guarantees.
At any such sermon's end, the faithful were worn to a
frazzle. It was tough enough for anyone to have to sit
for hours and listen to what a hopeless piece of shit
they were, but to have to do it on an increasingly empty
stomach while suffering from the debilitating effects of
rampant dehydration was torture. Brotherly love was
always at a low ebb on this day. The after services glad
handing and gossiping which usually passed for
fellowship was almost entirely absent. Brethren, for the
most part, just gathered up their Bibles, grabbed their
notebooks, kicked their kids and headed for the door.
That there was no one to stand in the middle of the
pathway to the refrigerator five minutes before the sun
went down and say, "Drivers, start your
engines," was just as well. For before that golden
orb had slipped into the boudoir of the night, the
jackals had descended, gulping down jugs of brown sugar
koolaid as if it were the nectar of the gods, insanely
cramming handfuls of potato salad into ravenous maws as
if it were the last supper, devouring cold fried
chickens whole until, at last, the feeding frenzy
abated, and all that remained were empty jugs, greasy
bones and upset stomachs outraged by the sudden
introduction of food where once was void.
There was an unspoken thought which was on every
child's mind on days like this which was sometimes
voiced by a parent who could get away with it.
"Thank God we only have to do this once a
year!" To which we were allowed to say,
Last in the annual series of feasts was the Feast of
Tabernacles. Of all the feasts, this one was almost as
eagerly awaited by children of the church as Christmas
was by children of the world and for the same holy
reason, personal gratification. God had inspired Herbert
to hold this feast in Texas, where cowboys came from. So
he bought some property near Gladewater, with church
money of course, and commanded all members to mosey on
down, rent motels, or stay in tents on his property for
a week and just kick back and enjoy the scenery and the
daily sermons. To finance this temporary trans state
exodus, members were to set aside ten percent of their
gross income for an entire year, every year.
Thankfully (Texas weather being what it is), this
last feast didn't occur in the summer but rather in late
September or early October. Children of the first born
thus were forcibly dragged kicking and screaming from
public schools and compelled to endure, in my case, a
cross country road trip from Washington State through
magical lands which other children could only dream
about. The great coastal forests of Oregon, the badlands
of Utah, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the colorful
landscapes of New Mexico and the Texas plains all
rushing by in kaleidoscopic color, and all I had to do
was sit and watch. Of course, there was that
disagreeable bit about a week's worth of sermons, but
the ride down and back seemed worth it. Not that it made
up for Christmas and Halloween, but it helped.