Nobody Held A Gun To Your Head
I'd like to make a few comments in response those who would mock former members of the Worldwide Church of God. Get over it, they say. Nobody held a gun to your head.
I left the Worldwide eight years ago after enduring one of the most grueling events of my life; a thorough six-month analysis of Herbert Armstrong's theology. Using the references which Armstrong cited to support his doctrines, one will easily determine that his way of life was a crock. It is based on false premises, faulty scholarship, laughable suppositions, material taken out of context.
It was a turning point in my life; knowing that, after twenty-five years as a true believer, I was free to leave the warm embrace of the one true church with a clear and educated conscience. This new beginning was made possible NOT because I had the church's permission to question and review its theology critically; rather it was done in spite of continuous pressure, cautions and veiled threats from the Worldwide ministry.
It takes tremendous courage to stare into the face of the powerful forces that have threatened you for decades to not stray, or even listen to views that were other than what we "heard from the beginning" from Herbert Armstrong.
Nobody held a gun to my head?
You know what, Ed...that's not true.
It seems to me that the work of the cult is accomplished in stages. I believe that the shaming of others in the group (and God knows there are stories we could tell on that account) is the classroom wherein all other members learn one thing. What is that one thing? It is what perpetuates the cult itself -self-control via other-control. In other words, the believer learns quickly that to differ from the group is to elicit undesirable results: public shaming, public expulsion from the group, isolation from the group, cut off from God, fear for your eternal life. The believer learns early on in this period of exposure that he needs to be very, very careful how he expresses himself because the consequences could be (or so he is told by his loving ministry) in terms of eternity, quite literally FATAL. Self-exposure is to be avoided at all cost. Hyper-vigilance prevails.
It is this shaming work of the cult that I believe is most powerful and cruel. This evil work of the church and ministry eventually is taken on by the believer himself (stage two)...beating himself up inwardly for even thinking something the ministry would frown on, working himself up into so perfectly submitting to every mandate and whim of the ministry (realigning his thoughts and actions to keep in concert with the ever moving and shifting theological direction), so perfectly portraying and exemplifying (inwardly and outwardly) what the leaders want. The believer has witnessed that it is far better and less painful to do this work on HIMSELF (self-discipline), than suffer exposure as a weak fool at the hands of an unhappy ministry. In conjunction with stage two is stage two PLUS...where this believer (who is no longer individual, but realizes his relevancy only by virtue of his group status), takes on the shaming of others in the group, quite happily...thereby participating actively in the perpetuation of the cult mindset (and deflecting shaming attention from himself...self-preservation).
This, Ed, was a gun to my head.
It occurs to me that some might characterize this cult indoctrination -this discipline of the flock, and self-discipline of each member -much as a mother teaching her child right from wrong. Well, let me just start by saying that the church don't hug, it don't kiss, and it don't cuddle, it don't even bleed. It ain't your ma. It, in fact, interfered with your relationship with your ma...
Key to understanding how the believer was setup in the cult system of shame is the perverted mother-child analogy (and by extension, the family of God analogy) which was used in so many clever ways to depict the relationship between the ministry and the believer, the believer and God. It has done SO MUCH DAMAGE. The church, its ministry, and God...none of them is your parent. Your parents are the ones that bore you, and reared you, and it is in the confines of that relationship that children should be disciplined in love, in the embrace of loving parents who stand firm in defense of their young's best interests (most particularly, especially when parties OUTSIDE that loving home would act against their child's best interests).
Well, some would say that essentially this is what the church did...discipline the membership in the best interest of the believer.
Before I puke, let me just remind you that the membership isn't made up of children. The membership is grown up and adult. The miss-use of this mother-child analogy which has been incorporated as a method of discipline within the cult serves NOT the best interests of the believer, rather the best interest of the cult itself...perpetuation of the cult. This isn't a discipline in love. It is a discipline entirely without love.
I gather that most of the mocking (get over it, nobody put a gun to your head) comes from those who have chosen to remain inside the Worldwide and embrace the new covenant teachings. As such, it is probably helpful for the rest of us to consider where they're coming from. They've been isolated all their lives in the warm confines of the one true church. There wasn't much thinking necessary, and apparently the same is true today. The truth used to be defined by the whim of Herbert Armstrong. Now it is defined by the another guy who holds to an entirely opposing view. But that's ok for these folks, just as long as somebody else does their thinking for them, then the world is a swell place. As long as they can perch all huddled together in their little itty bitty nest and be fed little itty bitty spiritual worms by their mama, then all is right with the world.
They don't want to hear about Herbert Armstrong's sexual escapades. For crying out loud...WE DON'T WANT TO KEEP HEARING ABOUT THEM EITHER. But we want those stories to go away for entirely different reasons.
I am repulsed by these stories, but am equally relieved that now I understand the profound sexual shaming my generation endured under Armstrong's reign. He passed on to us his own sexual shame.
They, on the other hand, don't want to hear it because it shakes the tree where their little nest abides. You see, to expose these things is to threaten them on a comfort level. I mean, so then you have to ask yourself how this ever happened if the man was filled with the holy spirit. And then you start asking who knew about it and find out that virtually the entire ministry was privy to these details for literally decades. And then you start wondering what spirit it was that took up residence in Armstrong's life, and what impact that might have had on your own growth and development spiritually speaking, and then you're embarrassed as hell, and disappointed beyond your wildest imagination. And then that warm cozy nest would start to feel kind of soiled and cold.
So, it's easier for them to just say get over it, and instead just imply that we're just bitter, and that it's all lies, and that we're just making it all up to hurt their poor little mama. But we need to have compassion on these little itty bitty birds...you see, they are thinking and reacting just like they learned in the cult...to be mindlessly afraid.
These poor people are still living the effects of the cult experience. They still can't think on their own, they still don't have the mental stamina to conduct thorough critical review of Armstrong's theology...hell, they can't even do it with the easy new covenant material. They need church literature to guide them to the latest version of the truth of God. And the new ministry of the Worldwide is just real happy to continue playing middle-man between the flock and their God. They just need to be needed, cause they don't know how to do anything else but feed off the flock (er, uh, isn't that feed the flock?)...
Well, for all the cybervoyers from the outside looking in on the miserable wretched lives of those who contribute to Ed's site, I say this: the first stage to undoing what was done TO us is simply admitting that it happened. I can hear all the Global and Flurry supporters getting their panties in a bunch, going "oh my God, people are saying bad words, and blaspheming, and turning into god-haters and they're so vile the way they talk about the true believers and MRRR. grrrrrrrrrrrrreetings bbbbbbbbbbbrethren Armstrong....what an UNappealing and distasteful display of insanity."
Yes...and your point is???????????
The work of the cult IS insanity...and ya gotta start where ya is!!!! The cult's work is by definition a work designed to center people outside of their own selves, rather than from within. And the cult's destruction of the individual is accomplished by masterful intimidation.
I would suggest that the venting, the expression of pain, the naming the losses is part (simply one of the stages) of the process of undoing the work of the cult. Clearly the voyeurs expose their own illiteracy regarding the issue of mental and emotional health by ignorance of this process. But we're like really surprised by how little they know of the workings of mental health, aren't we??? It is so fitting that the defenders of "the way of life" would be shaking their fingers in our faces, either saying it never happened that way, or get over it, nobody put a gun to your head.
Frankly, Ed, we NEED them to shame us this way -and I'm not yanking your chain. This is therapeutic. We NEED to hear their shaming words...because their words provide an important contrast -a point of reference. It reminds us how WE used to think, where WE used to be, how We used to shame others (doing our part). It's a powerful point of reference for those on their journey to freedom and reclaiming our minds. And most of us, no matter how little progress we may have made in our recovery, can clearly see we've come a loooooooooooooooooooooong way from where these mind-numbed voyeurs are.
What I find so telling, as they shame us for what we're saying, for expressing our opinions, telling our truths...they even have the audacity to shame us for HOW we're doing all this hard work (now where did they learn to do that?)...well, that wagging of self-righteous fingers in our faces gives us lots of good FOOD (finger food) for thought and reflection...and it is a well of comic relief.
If you have anything you would like to
submit to this site, or any comments,
email me at:
CLICK HERE FOR EMAIL ADDRESS.
Back to "Painful Truth" menu
The content of this site, including but not limited to the text and images herein and their arrangement, are copyright © 1997-2003 by The Painful Truth. All rights reserved.
Do not duplicate, copy or redistribute in any form without prior written consent.