Mental Illness begins in the Church
The leadership of the various Churches of God have a guilty secret they do not want you to know. In fact, they may not know it themselves--though you should not bank on their ignorance and naivete . There is a disproportionate number of people in the churches who have certifiable mental illnesses right out of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and Shadow Syndromes. While spouting scripture about "the Spirit of God is not a spirit of fear, but of love and the power of a sound mind," the ministers themselves suffer as much or more than the people they are supposed to comfort.
There is an uneven dispensation of "truth" when a minister stands up in front of a congregation and admits: "My mother is a drunk, and my father is an alcoholic." This is not only a clear violation of the dictum of the Fifth Commandment, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the earth," it is also unethical, immoral, hurtful, self-serving, and down right destructive. And apparently a formula for a short life. For someone.
The destructiveness comes in engaging an entire congregation for years and years to participate in the guilty family secret to the point that everyone is entirely comfortable in feeling sorry for the man. He is validated. He is loved. He is comforted. He is satisfied that his descriptions of abuse during his childhood and teenage years will "help" others to come forward and condemn their parents. They can admit their sins. They can then explain why they have no choice why they behave the way they do. They are adult children of alcoholics, and may be alcoholics themselves. Their childhoods explain their dysfunctional behavior. They can be vindicated and forgiven because they were abused. They can form support groups and be supported by recounting their miserable fortunes.
Not only that, but they are paving the way for severe mental illnesses.
Consider the baptized son of a prominent evangelist who was complaining of having severe problems, and was "in counseling." Not a problem. Just pray, study, fast [Fasting increases your mental health!?! Not in my experience!] His mother came home one afternoon to see the shotgun on the living room floor, the legs, the torso, the blood.
Most mental illnesses are marked by extreme selfishness. Egocentricity causes a complete breakdown of good judgement. Self-will leads to extreme abuse in the form of either assault or neglect. A minister pandering to a na
But then, by the Worldwide Church of God doctrines and teachings of the past, doctors are evil practitioners of Satan's malevolent witchcraft.
Consider that the Worldwide Church of God attracted mentally ill people who hoped that they would get something for nothing. They were attracted to the power from a helpless and powerless existence.
Ministers by their definition are supposed to, well, minister to the needs of others. To abandon this duty is insanity.
It was late 1975, a year of prophecy for sure, that a 38 year old man called a minister in pain and terror. Envision the telephone conversation: "Mr. Perfect (sic), this is Bruce Becker and I need help." "What's the problem, Bruce?" "I think I have a blood clot and it is travelling up my leg. It is very painful and I can barely stand it." "Well, now, Bruce, it may not be that big a problem." "Mr. Perfect (sic--and you know who you are), I think I'm going to die!" "Bruce, if you think that, perhaps you should go to the emergency room...." Bruce called for a taxi, for you see, he could not drive because he had tunnel vision. This fact was known to the minister. He went to take a shower. He never finished. In the autopsy, the medical examiner found no uncoagulated blood in his heart: He died of a massive cardiac infarction so pronounced there was no part of the heart that did not have a blood clot.
What happened shortly thereafter, was truly amazing.
Bruce was well known to the members of his church in that area. He had been a roommate of one of the deacons at one point. He had supported a church family sponging off of him in his apartment while he had no job himself, and the man of the family was too lazy to get work. He helped the widows and fed the fatherless. He helped people financially and with service in various ways, even when he was on unemployment.
This is not say that he was perfect, even after his one year at Ambassador College, but he had a sincere dedication to his church and loved the people in it.
He was very generous and gave people the fruit of his hobbies: He gave people polished stones from the polisher he had built, he loaned people his telescopes that he built himself by actually starting with the glass and forming and polishing it by hand, he served people his home made wine made from the fruit and berries he gathered in the area by going about on his bicycle, he loaned people his cameras he had rebuilt. Bruce also loaned all of his retirement funds and savings to his church for a period of time. He had also loaned his 35 millimeter slide collection of over 6,000 incredible slides, some of which were used in the Plain Truth and the Good News.
He was a highly skilled technician--which was one of the reasons Garner Ted Armstrong himself suggested that Bruce could "serve the Work better by working in the world," rather than at Ambassador College, and thus sent him packing.
What happened when he died was that his mother came down to take care of the arrangements and while she was there, a long procession of church members who had known Bruce came by his apartment. They came by, not to give their respects, but to ask his mother for any stuff, like his cameras, precious stones he collected, his telescopes, his wine, or anything else she might be willing to give to them.
She also received a letter from the minister, Mr. Perfect (sic), outlining the telephone conversation he had with Bruce the night he died. Mr. Perfect (sic) never mentioned that he offered to help get him to the hospital, even though it was clear Bruce would need help. He didn't offer Bruce any support or sympathy. He didn't even offer to come and anoint Bruce. He did offer him some very good advice: Go to hospital emergency.
There were other letters from the leadership of the church to which Bruce belonged. They asked of his mother whether Bruce had left any will. They made it clear that they "knew" that Bruce had a lot of money squirreled away, and they were equally certain that he had left it all to them. It should be noted: No, and no.
Your head should, at this moment, be pounding with cognitive dissonance. Here is a Church that claims to care. It claims to be preparing people to lead in the world tomorrow in an environment of love and peace, of unselfish outgoing concern and sacrifice. It is a church which is supposed to teach people to be caring, after all, some day all the people who have ever lived will be brought up and have to be taught how to live, forgive one another, learning to overcome the abuse while living with the abusers--to live together forever in harmony and joy. Sounds crazy doesn't it?
It was, oh, about 1981 or so [could be a year off either way] that Herbert Armstrong blew into Seattle, huffing and puffing about makeup. None of us who were there could ever forget the sermonette by Robert Fahey about obedience to God's Apostle. The sermon itself was insignificant, all things considered in retrospect, and just about what you would expect. No, what was significant was what happened after the sermon in the x hours long meeting that Herbert Armstrong had with his minions, uh, make that ministers, for minions has an unfavorable connotation in this context.
Never let it be said that the ministers of the Radio / Worldwide Church of God lacked for lung power. If there is anything the leadership of the xCoGx[,xxx] can be proud of is their ability to speak loudly and carry a small stick. Several ministers commented that "it's what's up front that counts", which, these days, refers to their ample guts, not their diaphragm. Herbert yelled loudly for some hours at a particular minister for being so disloyal as to suggest that women could wear makeup. Ever. One needs to have compassion for this particular man, for his transition from the abuse of his alcoholic father to the abuse of the cult in which he became entangled. The ministry was highly trained to say, "Yes, sir!" to the most asinine accusations. This occasion was no exception. Herbert ranted and raved interminably, publicly humiliating a perfectly honest and dedicated sycophant, at least as far as was possible in this venue. For those not familiar with cults, "Combatting Cult Mind Control" by Steven Hassan should be enlightening as to how cults control their myrmidons through abusive guilt.
Later, of course, the whole doctrine was done away with and women were able to "paint their faces with colored dirt like whores!" again.
In fact, protestations about changes in fundamental doctrines in the Worldwide Church of God in the last, say twelve years [the minute the body of Herbert Armstrong was cold] are quite delusional. The Radio / Worldwide Church of God has always been changing its pathetic little mind about doctrines and what is really important. Could you wear clothes of wool and linen? Maybe. Maybe not. There were silly rules about mixed properties of cloth for man-made fibers: Could you wear polyester wool or polyester cotton? Just what did that Scripture about "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk mean"? Did that that mean mercy to a nanny who would be uncomfortable with all this milk if you killed the kid while it was still nursing? Or did it mean you couldn't fry meat in butter? The ministers could visit you in their Fury, which mightily polluted the air with leaded gasoline, but you couldn't eat white sugar or white flour. An important question was where you could get your raw honey. There were questions about where you could get raw milk [Brucillosis be damned!]
If you can picture the hilarious scenes of the Seattle Bible Study on Wednesday night at the Norselander, you will picture raw milk. Mr. Corth, being the servant he was, brought his flat bed truck every week with fresh raw milk direct from the farm. Listen to the clinking of the glass bottles in their wire carriers as members exchanged empty bottles for full ones. Money also exchanged hands. Mr. Corth was a good guy and never made a penny from the exchange. He just charged others what he had been charged. I really liked Mr. Corth--and his milk! This drama played for several years until the rattling and clanking became too much for the minister. He then invoked the scripture about making God's temple a house of merchandise and made the exchanges to cease without delay. The Norselander was a restaurant, for heaven's sake, not God's temple! Oops. Sorry to offend those with tender sensibilities. And anyway, everyone was quiet during the BS. It was just before and after that there was any noise. And make no mistake, the minister was an ex-marine and could shout with the best of them--except Herbert and a few evangelists had him beat!
The craziness continues.
In 1984, after the shouting session in Seattle, and much unpleasantness over the murder of a young lady by another church member, I wrote a letter to Herbert in my innocence. This was a time that potential future leaders of the Worldwide Church of God were apparently looking for ways to "get the goods" on the other ministers so one of them could arrange it to become the fourteenth apostle. One man apparently wanted to have blackmail material to prove to Herbert that only he was fit and qualified to take the lead. To this end, Mike Feazell and David Albert were sent to my home.
Come a midnight dark and dreary, came a rapping and a tapping at my chamber door. Actually, it was 2 AM. They worked and probed from 2 AM to 4 AM, poking and prodding to find out if I had any real dirt on a minister who was particularly threatening to the possible rise of ultimate power--whom I never mentioned in the letter at all. Then they left with a caution that I never tell anyone of their midnight, err, 2 AM visit on a week night. Well, sir, you can see how well that works--the truth will come out eventually, no matter how hard you try to hide it.
But even this was not to be the end of the craziness.
It seems on a certain venture, a man who will remain nameless, but who was prominent in the Worldwide Church of God, partly because he had attended West Point--the real one, not Ambassador College--wrote a 12 page letter accusing various people of a variety of disloyalties toward Armstrong. This was an environment of paranoia, fear, ruthless abuse, wild accusations, and downright skullduggery--by the leadership. The times that Herbert publicly accused ministers at the Feast of Tabernacles of being disloyal had merit [with those three fingers pointing back!]. There was a massive power struggle in Pasadena and Big Sandy, of the which we will not discuss here, but for those who want details, there is the complete history of the debauchery in "The Ambassador Report" [Thanks John!]. No this was a private little party, not seen by much of even the inner circle.
Many things happened as a result of this letter. One of the most significant was the story of a poor lady who had done nothing. She was brought into the second in command's office to be yelled at for five solid hours! Whether it was a nervous breakdown or a psychotic break she had shortly after this is not clear. What is clear is that she was devastated and was pretty much left as little more than a vegetable afterwards. The Pasadena ministry also got involved in the shouting matches with others. Some were only two hours. Others were one or three. A man of real lung power, went for at least three hours, one on one.
In the end, the man who wrote the letter was proved to be wrong. [So much for establishing accusations in the presence of two or three witnesses!] The ministry in Pasadena didn't just shoot themselves in the foot, they crippled others. Their motto seemed to be "Ready, fire, aim!". One is not sure whether they were half-cocked or not.
Then there was the craziness involving the CIA, world leaders, money, power politics, international intrigue, lust and human passion, murder, lies and secrets, betrayal, theft, powerful personalities and weak ones, the rich and famous, the poor and weak. If you want more detail, you can read the back issues of "The Ambassador Report."
For real craziness, bipolar [or perhaps it was monopolar hypomania--for further details consult Manic-Depressive Illness by Fredrick K. Goodwin and Kay Redfield Jamison] Herbert seems to have had a deal with the CIA--how else could he have flown directly from Egypt to Israel? Aren't the deaths of world leaders three weeks after his visits rather suspicious? There were lots of photo ops with world leaders. Sometimes the photo ops were replete with Herbert handing over a $100,000 check to a world leader who didn't need it, but was drooling over it--how's that for craziness! The Worldwide Church of God has taken an average of over $100,000 from each household since its inception. For Lust, one need go no further than Garner Ted Armstrong's crazy seductions of over 200 women in 20 years [a conservative estimate.] Theft: Where did some of the paintings from Rembrant come from--the Jewish Holocaust? This is all nuts! How do you bend explanations to account for the lavish spending to account for "doing God's work"! Remember the absolute craziness of 1975 in prophecy? All those predictions? That never, ever, came true! They were sinfully inaccurate.
Then there were the lies about a certain apostle's wife. She was reported by the prophet of the watermouth that "She had just bombed out from heavy duty counseling." From various reports she lived in abject fear of her strong-willed apostle husband, locked away in her own home. There was even a rumor that she stood in the middle of the Pasadena Campus naked. My wife observed that, if true, it was to get her husband's attention! All of this salacious nonsense does have a point. She seemed OK from the videotape taken at her husband's funeral, although it is difficult to tell how she COULD have reacted to one of the eulogizer's comment to his mistress that "He loved you very much." How does someone maintain sanity when it is widely known your husband leader of a significant number of people has openly committed adultery? Was this a sane act? How can a leader of a church get away with this?
Let's go back to local craziness.
In a particular area, which will remain nameless, there was a congregation of approximately 150 members. Remembering that severe bipolar disease involves at most one to two percent of the population, there were at least seven people with severe cases of manic-depressive illness. There was one highly schizophrenic person wandering around before, after, and during services. The alcoholism rate was 18%--10% is the national average [for more formation on alcoholism, read Under the Influence by Dr. James R. Milam and Katherine Ketcham and also visit the Rational Recovery web site at http://www.rational.org/recovery/index.html ] There is also the fascinating story about a wheeler-dealer psychopath who eventually ended up on the front page of the local newspaper--for making fake Maseratis! Unfortunately, there are no reliable statistics about psychosis.
But for self-delusion, believe it or not, to this day, people are still looking for the place of safety in their futures, and there is a resurgence of interest in prophecy! Of course, small groups are now meeting within churches to discuss disaster preparedness! Nothing like not taking anxious thought for the morrow for earthquakes, tsunamis, snowstorms, floods, power outages, the year 2,000 and the like. In this case you might blame it on the spate of disaster movies--maybe. Or prudence, perhaps. [Remember the days when we were encouraged to stockpile? And then the article in The Good News by GTA not to!?!] By the way, where is your faith?
The situation with the Worldwide Church of God was nuts! Absolutely crazy! There isn't one shred of a sound mind in any of this [including mine, but my memory is coming back, and the attendants here say that I will be able to have sharp implements to write with in a few more weeks, that I'm making real good progress!].
This is also frighteningly true--all of it! [Except that last part. I don't think they ever will let me have any sharp objects!]
There is a remarkable new book called When Smart People Work for Dumb Bosses--How to Survive in a Crazy and Dysfunctional Workplace by William Lundin, Ph.D. and Kathleen Lundin. Given the Corporate nature of the body politic of the xCoGxxx,xxxs, the description of dysfunctional abusive organizations and people in power is apt, and I quote: "Dumb behavior is motivated by self-love and ego, which block the capacity for empathy."
Funny thing about mentioning about self-love, ego, and empathy: That's just the description found in Without Conscience--The disturbing World of The Psychopaths Among Us by Dr. Robert D. Hare.
Many of the crazy and dumb behaviors exhibited by the ministry that are aptly described in When Smart People work for Dumb Bosses. The attempts to cope with the stresses of dysfunctional environments are a basic cause. How do ministers deal with their superiors yelling at them? In a loving environment!?!! How does it come that image is more important than caring? How do you deal with the outrageous coverups of people in power? When you believe that God, Almighty, Himself, is backing them up unconditionally, no matter what!?! Give us your money, or else!!! How do you react rationally in a completely insane situation?
And the most important question of all: How can you help others achieve mental health when you are mentally ill yourself?
I would submit to you that the ministry and leadership of the xCoGxxx,xxxs have not a clue. They are still trying with all their might to bring the craziness back! And they are reaping what they sow!
Never let it be said that you don't have some action items before you leave this forum. I wouldn't want ministers to be mad at me for whining and complaining without giving some constructive points. So here they are:
If you are a minister in the xxxCoGxxx,xxx and you no longer believe in God. I advise you to leave the ministry immediately. Many nice jobs await you, such as construction, gardening, and landscaping. Many who have left the ministry before you have been highly successful in the field of insurance sales. Some have even suggested while that they were ministers they were fire insurance salesman--meaning, of course, insurance from the fires of hell, gehenna, or the lake of fire. Pundits contend they were arsonists. Be that as it may be, you may also consider becoming a brewmaster by setting up a micro brewery making wine and beer, but do be careful, since so many of you are alcoholics, you could drink up all the profits [not prophets (sic)]. Please do not even consider continuing as a minister, since you don't even believe in God: That is the ultimate in hypocrisy and it is doubtful you could provide anything to your already ailing congregation.
You still believe in God, and you believe you have a calling. Shame be upon you. No, I really mean it! You probably knew about the shenanigans of Herbert Armstrong. How is it you did not have the Faith to quit and let God take care of you? Were you too afraid!?! Don't play games with us. You deserve excoriating rebuke. If this evokes a self-recognition, you may be perfectly miserable knowing how much harm you have done. Of course, if you did not know, you are better off, but then not knowing may mean that you are not qualified to teach the truth, since you are the last one to recognize it.
Here are my recommendations:
- Keep the Commandments and teach others to keep them. There is nothing wrong with honoring your father and mother, there is nothing wrong with not committing adultery--although some of the ministers raised to a high art form to the extent that it could shame our President--there is nothing wrong with doing no murder, nor is there anything wrong with not stealing, lying or coveting. The first four should be according to your conscience and to what your church formally believes in terms of doctrine.
- Humble yourselves and stop devouring your flocks--after all devouring your flocks eats up the profits.
- Learn what is REALLY wrong with you and stop assuming you are OK or think you might know what is wrong with you. You are in denial. Fix it.
- Get professional help. (We know you have a psychotherapist consultant associated with the church. Get one with more objective ties, please.)
- Take appropriate action and stick with it. Consistent habits are the only key to success here.
- Once you heal yourself, work to heal others.
- Abandon all self-delusion and seek the truth.
If you are the leaders of xxxGoGxxx,xxx and still believe in God. You'd better seek to join all the splitoffs right away. Do you want to face the judgment day and have to explain why you led your little group when you could have given up all power and privilege and led your flock to refuse to join together with other true believers? How are you going to answer for the pain separation has created in those for whom you are to give account!?! If you really believe, you'd better work fast, you may not have much time. If what you believe is true, you are really, really, really going to pay for what you have done.
Now see, I'm not advocating division at all.
Think for one moment: How has the Worldwide Church of God and it's offspring contributed to your mental health?
Some of you have written about how miserable and guilty you feel about even thinking about leaving the xxxCoGxxx,xxx. Is God going to get you? Are you going to lose out on salvation? What if these things are really true? What will I miss?
First of all, you WILL miss many things. You will miss bondage. It is uncomfortable to leave slavery and be free. How will you be spiritually fed? How will you live your life now? Who will comfort you?
There are two ways to answer this. First of all, you have probably been severely, and I mean SEVERELY abused. Some have been publicly humiliated. Some have been physically and mentally assaulted. Remember that neglect is abuse. Did you EVER get the feeling that ANY of the PAID ministry really, truly cared about you? If so, you were a rare aberration! You probably need healing. Your minister cannot help you--he, his wife, his whole family, and most of his friends need professional help. They were abused too. The guilt you feel for thinking about leaving is a normal function of being brainwashed. You have been conditioned. Consult "Combatting Cult Mind Control" by Steven Hassan. Purchase all of the back issues of "The Ambassador Report". Satisfy yourself that there was not one shred of sanity in the ravings of the lunatics at Pasadena. Look at the evidence of failed prophecies, then compare what is said in Scriptures against what you have experienced.
Then conclude this: They didn't teach the truth. It's that simple. They didn't teach the truth. Oh, there may have been grains here and there, but it was all perverted and corrupted. Know and accept the fact that they didn't teach the truth. If it was not reality, and you believe the lies, you have NO basis for sanity! Expose the lies and demons for what they were!
The next thing depends upon whether you believe in God or not. If you do not believe in God, just quit. Find something better to do with your time. Visit the fatherless and widows. Go to nursing homes and visit the abandoned. If you have a family, seek comfort in dedicating the rest of your life to them. What every you do, abandon self-delusion. It wasn't real and it never will be. Focus on what is important. If you have no one, then get a pet. Write a horror novel. Bank your retirement. Invest. Do something! But don't go back. It's insanity to go back!
If you believe in God, then sincerely, humbly, without seeking any selfish motives at all, ask for guidance. Pray for the truth. Ask God to show you the boundaries of the continuum of mental health between the medical and the spiritual. Seek to discern between the moral and the physiology wrapped in the biology. Realize that you are probably mentally ill, at least to the extent of having a shadow syndrome and that you may need to do research or seek professional medical mental health. [There are a few professionals out there who really do care--seek them with great care.] Realize that the Worldwide Church of God aggravated and magnified anything that might be wrong with you. You can also visit my web site at http://mind-set.com Reject delusions. Expose the deceivers. Get off drugs and booze, stop abusing others, lose some weight, get some exercise, sleep and eat right, get your finances in order, and care about others.
Above all, realize it was NOT YOUR FAULT!
As you realize that, you must also take ownership--take responsibility. It is your life [in spite of your conditioning] and only you are going to be able to go forth and initiate solutions to your problems. You have to build consistent successful habits. You need to acknowledge and tightly embrace the truth.
At this site, we keep saying, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
For your own sanity, isn't it time you did something about it? After all, once you lose your mind, you've lost everything.
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