A View From Afar

How I see the whole CoG milieu, as though visiting a museum

This blog is all about and for survivors of Armstrongism, RCG, WCG, etc., so I will dive in again with more comments about myself and others in that shared relationship.

If I am to continue contributing to this (or any religion-based) blog, I want to make a clear statement up front: I am an unbiased, detached observer in all this. Don’t misunderstand. In a discussion of the concept of religion vs. no religion or god vs. no god, I am very biased indeed. To me the whole pool of belief systems could be drained and we’d have a solid starting point for humanity to thrive. To those who care to read any more of my thoughts then, be advised that I care nothing whatsoever about who is “right” or “wrong” within the context of believers slogging through the muck of confused and time-wasting searches for the truth. All I can do is offer a view from afar.

I am a positively oriented individual. An optimist. To my way of thinking, there are incredible numbers of ways to be right. The most egregious way of being wrong is in mistreating one’s fellow humans. I don’t give a damn about trying to please any god!
* *

The names of some old acquaintances from my WCG years will be brought up in this post. This is due to my continuing amazement at the interest being shown for the bad old days by many who are apparently still in turmoil.

Interesting to me is the amount of rapt attention given UCG, on the Painful Truth website and several more blogs. Otagosh from New Zealand seems to cover it almost continuously, as do others. Is this interest and microscopic observation based primarily in United’s take-over of maybe half of the original WCG membership in the mid 1990s?  Or is it perhaps in the minds of many that UCG might be the so-called “true” church? It does appear obvious that folks making up the general format and readership of the PT site believe there is some true church carry-over concept. I wonder where that true church is perceived to have resided earlier. Was it ever in the WCG, now so maligned?  Or maybe in its progenitor, the RCG, before corruption set in?

 When I was introduced to this site, I was surprised to see the banner just below the heading on the opening page – the one with the picture of a broken seal, the strike-over line of “Preparing a People” and the replacement wording of “Splitting the Church.” What can this even mean?

Is it not clear to everyone that the very idea of the church, which connotes a singular institution, would have to refer to some organization established many centuries ago? If there ever existed such a singularity, surely it wasn’t what we were taught – purely Armstrongism via direct feed from a supreme being, bypassing millennia of false prophets. Yet that must be what is meant by accusing the UCG group of splitting “the church.” Or else the term church here means something more fundamental and far pre-dating HWA, in which case (since UCG split from Armstrong’s WCG body) Armstrongism can lay as much claim to having been part of that original church as can Catholicism, Lutheranism, any other Christian organization, or for that matter, the self-appointed apostle named Paul.

That being the case, surely the group of dedicated WCG followers who scrambled (or even pre-planned, as has been claimed by some writers) to incorporate under the “United” banner are still carrying on the same work as the old WCG, no matter how well or weakly. After all, wasn’t it the direct aim of the founders of UCG to try desperately to unite believers under the faith once delivered as they were having the original CoG rug pulled out from under them? So how can it be said that they “split” anything any more than Ted caused division by his corruptions? Or more than any disgruntled minister or even HWA in his reportedly corrupt end? No doubt the Tkach debacle (by Sr. & Jr.) split things pretty well and, if we’re to believe what we read, young Joe is now dividing the notable spoils among his friends. So I wonder what is meant by that accusation of “splitting” leveled at UCG. And why did there appear to be some I told you so vitriol being spewed at floundering and frustrated UCG leaders during late 2010 when it appeared the group might disintegrate? Where’s the Christianity in all this?

Any chance Rod Meredith might be the one representing the church? After all, his was about the strongest drum-beat heard in the HWA band when I was involved in the nineteen sixties and seventies. Or was he guilty also of splitting something sacred? Pardon my lack of insight here; I didn’t hang around to witness the demise.

Do you get where I’m going with all these questions? Isn’t it about time everyone takes a step back so the intrigue and the futility of it all can be seen in perspective? Your life is worth more than this, is it not? Mine certainly has been worth more since dumping the whole shootin’ match!

From the WHO CARES? Corner:

In the various blogs I’ve been reading there are articles, letters, comments and rebuttals, etc. galore. It’s a bit weird for me, without context, to read about people and events.  One post was a very serious and strained letter from a fellow named Joel Meeker to some legal eagle. I know nothing at all about Joel. Perhaps he’s related to George, maybe a son who was very young when George and I were colleagues. Then there’s the Ken Treybig update to his website that shows how devoted he and his friends are in the effort to work out kinks in a new splinter from another UCG splinter; very important stuff about how best to “care for those God calls.” I don’t believe I know Ken. Seems I once knew a member named Harold Treybig; probably they’re related. Then I notice (through many a listing on a number of sites) the names of prominent men (are women still unacceptable as leaders within “the true church”? How very Pauline!) who are resigning from UCG – men such as Les McCullough and Leroy Neff who were strong in the RCG/WCG in the 1960s. I certainly knew them pretty well. Don Waterhouse I knew casually; I knew his older brother Gerald better because he taught me some valuable golf techniques. And Lyle Welty, a fellow who went through AC Big Sandy with me – nice Indiana boy who, if memory serves me, was in the car with two or three others of us Hoosiers driving to Texas in 1964 to begin college.

Then there’s Dick Thompson, a delightful southern boy who also attended when I did – apparently he has resigned the UCG ministry and a notice credited to him simply states “Follow Me.” Well if he’s one of those bright ones who is opening a new HQ in Florida rather than snowy and cold Ohio, seems like someone you might follow. Climate seems a better reason than many others in choosing a true church nowadays! And so many other familiar names of fellows who went through AC when I did (again, no females here!) – Roy Demarest, Greg Sargent, Dave Register, Jim Haeffele, Jim Servidio, Larry Neff and yet more are in the wind, lacking a place to hang their spiritual hats.

My point in all this? Well, it’s just another excuse to say how shocked I am at all this information. For all I personally have known over the last three decades about the activities of these and hundreds of folks like them, they might have A.) died; B.) gone to prison; C.) gone into hiding; D.) formed a singular new congregation of the Infinitely Faithful (the IF church) and set up shop in Zimbabwe. Yet they have apparently been plodding along in the trenches of this-or-that branch or splinter of something that used to be, and their motives could all have been perfectly godly, whatever that means. For all they have accomplished*, in my estimation, they might just as well have tried A, B, C or D!

This goes for thousands of other erstwhile Armstrongites, possibly including you, the reader, and it certainly goes for billions of decent people who live and die all over this planet without ever knowing the peace that freedom from religion offers.

* Note: allow me to detour here to explain this perhaps harsh criticism. It is aimed at me, first and foremost. I have found myself at times asking the deep question of “What did I really accomplish?” Most of us surely do this self examining, but our answers to ourselves come back highly slanted toward whatever bias we are currently harboring. No doubt Les McCullough, Leroy Neff and thousands of other present and past ministers (of all religious groups, Christian and otherwise) – would usually answer themselves in a positive way that best suits their beliefs.

Without the cocoon of belief surrounding any questions, I now can perceive quite different answers. Now I have to wonder whether anything I did from 1963 to 1976 was of real value in any way. Frankly, I doubt it. Then again, that word “anything” deserves more leeway. Surely a few things I did or said in those thirteen years can still be credited in some small way as good things. However all has to be suspect. It would be easy to conclude that some past actions or words of mine were accomplishments if it could be made clear that a benefit to humanity was involved. For example, if a member of one of my congregations from way-back-when were to contact me today and tell me of having been brought back from the brink of a planned suicide by my caring or counsel, then I would have to admit I did some real good. If that person might have been inclined to take a weapon to work or to a public place and wipe out several others on the way to a police-assisted suicide, then my timely help obviously did even more good.

But the type of clear message given in the above scenario is typically missing. So practically all of us can, on a particularly dismal day of feeling negative, say that our lives have been meaningless. Most days of my life have not been so negative, and even now I can feel that many people were likely somewhat better-off for my words or deeds back in my ministerial days. However, the question then becomes, “Were my helpful actions enough to override the burden I placed on people?” Burden; yes, I said burden. My job was to thump people hard with the hand of God. If any members of my former congregations are still believers, it’s apparent I did considerable damage! Would that they might listen to me as intently today. Yes, I remember the old biblical advice, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” but my firm conviction today is quite simply that fear of almost anything, especially phantoms in the heavens, is the most egregious limitation placed on the progress of mankind. My former active devotion to the dogma promoting that fear places me in the ranks of the most detestable and guilty.

I am compelled here to add, without braggadocio, that at least as many good results have come of my words and efforts to help others since I dropped the cloak of religion.
* *

Reading through only portions of the enormous amounts of CoG fall-out information found online, I am dumbfounded. Again, I do not sit back and laugh; I commiserate. Please recall that I was once a deeply dedicated (the deeply being my assertion, but with living witnesses who could testify to some of the dedication) minister in the old WCG. I recall well that at the time I was in that dedicated mode, nothing said from without could impress me in the least! Some yokel who tried (as this writing is now doing), to get me to look at my beliefs in any other way than that view to which I was already solidly committed […come to you and bring not this doctrine, blah, blah, etc.), would be ignored with iron-clad resolve. We humans cannot even hear our own ludicrous words clearly when we are in this lock-down mode of operation. Witness the last paragraph of the Ken Giese post of November 26, 2010. I do not personally know this man but I’ve heard of his devotion and strength, his Godliness. Yet this letter did, in fact, force laughter from me. The man could not hear his own words ringing in his ears as he wrote glaring contradictions into his resignation letter.

So you likely cannot hear my words either as I speak from a platform of post-belief, but imagine this, if you will:
You join a military unit with absolute conviction it’s a life-or-death need to go into battle on behalf of your nation. (A detestable concept but I’m stuck with it for the analogy.) The top general speaks in front of your vast army and relates that his orders come from a supreme commander who is elsewhere. He finally admits, the “elsewhere” is somewhere beyond the clouds, beyond the atmosphere, beyond the solar system – yes, beyond anything possible to describe. He’s just “out there” in the beyond! And the general can’t actually talk to the supreme commander in a war room or in real conversation, as in hearing direct answers to his questions of what to do next, but the Supreme commander does guide everything, you are told with conviction. “Trust me” the general says to his army. “Follow me as I follow Him.” “Wow!,” you gush with confidence. “Nuff said! Hand me my gun; I’m going out to kill or be killed!”

Sure, the premise is completely foolish – today!  But since a concept of belief in a supreme commander (with ten commandments and countless amendments) began for all of us thousands of years ago, we actually accept the foolishness and somehow let it pass for reason.

markman

13 Replies to “A View From Afar”

  1. Another good offering. Your balanced view is most refreshing. I just hppened to check the blog before getting on to other things and found it most enlightening on the approach that leads most to peace with oneself.

    I must admit that my turmoil was greatest just after opting out but still feeling that there had to be a “truth” out there. Once that quest was discarded, life became much more simple and rewarding.

  2. Mark,

    The following of the UCG sideshow is basically amusement for most of us. The claims by the UCG and the men who break off from the group for whatever petty reason is immaterial. What we all look for is the same old time worn excuses for the division. It is so predictable! It can be so amusing! It is indeed, so sad.

    We might hear in a sermon or read on a web-site, a claim that some new cult is following the truths HWA proclaimed. Perhaps we will be humored to be presented with the claim that this or that man is chosen by God to lead the new era of “Gods Church.” God it seems has appointed not one, but many successors to the Armstrong mantle.

    However a serious side effect is developing. The Armstrong groups are getting more desperate to sell themselves. With all these groups splitting and competing for dollars, the membership becomes more divided. The competition is fierce. The stakes are high! The sales pitch become more desperate than ever! The mantle of Armstrong-ism crumbles further into oblivion! It seems that God is divided.

    If truth is to be known, Armstrong-ism is a religious movement that exists without any credible evidence as to its claims. Some recall his prophecy about a United Europe and cite articles from his flagship magazine, the Plain Truth. Herbert had a grasp on the necks of the membership through fear. The fear of another Germany arising from the ashes. These prophecies, made for an audience that just finished experiencing a world war, incited constant turmoil (mental noise) that kept the member in a state of constant anxiety. This is called conditioning. The EU pronouncement was history repeating itself. Predictable.

    “are women still unacceptable as leaders within “the true church?”
    Not a chance they have a say in anything. The Armstrong version of Sharia Law for the lesser female is still enforced. The man is to be dictator, and loving fuhrer in order to learn how to rule in the world tomorrow. Beat those children, slap the wife around, all in the name of a kind and beloved God, who personally instructs the wise and humble leader, as to His will. Even if the leader has a DUI under his belt!

    At what point does the insanity of Armstrong-ism end? How will legalism in the cog’s evolve? Just where might it end?
    httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOIbgd5qcrg

  3. Admin asks: “At what point does the insanity of Armstrong-ism end?”

    Back to my dream – all the madness ends when education overcomes religion. That day cannot come too soon. Good that you show the video of the particular insanity within Sharia law, but if you’re likening this to Armstrongism alone, I fear the major points I have been espousing are basically falling on deaf ears. It is ALL religious endeavor that hampers the development of humankind. The loudest voices of godly fear in our own country (where Sharia law is being banned by vote in several states – some of the very same states where providers of legal abortion services are murdered!) come from the heavy-handed Christian communities where the seeds of our own theocracy are sown. Oppression is oppression in whatever form. The differences among them are in style, not intent. ALL religious endeavor, under ALL headings, is intent on controlling ALL of mankind.

    markman

  4. Amen to that. The obvious intent of all religions, especially the Abrahamic ones, is to reign supreme and do away with any philosophy that stands in their way. The hypocrisy of “tolerance” is only a sham. Give a Robertson or Falwell the chance, and they would become overbearing tyrants overnight.

  5. Mark,

    The religion we all have in common here is Armstrong-ism. As it evolves the nuttier it gets. At what point does this religion or another become enforced either by state or the guru in a group? The end point is what the video shows. When religion is enforced by the state you get the results above. When Eric Hoffer wrote his book the “True Believer” he had a grasp on the chaos that mass-movements can cause.

    “The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.”

    I am of the opinion that religion, racism, and fascism will never end on this earth. Man seems to be programed for constant conflict. It is at this point that education for some can end the destructive circle. For fanatics, education is worthless.

    Your point was not lost on us here at the PT. What we have here is the history and testimony as to Armstrong-ism. When someone stumbles across this site, we not only validate their pain, we confirm that their suspicions about the cult(s) were correct. Some of the other folks have sites that expose other Armstrong related gurus. Our purpose is to protect the general public from being harmed by these groups.

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
    -Edmund Burke

    httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6I4UNu8VtWY&feature=related
    “Staying silent is not an option”

  6. First, there is nothing true about Armstrongism. It is stupid. Everything based on British Israelism is stupid. No one here seems to care about which Armstrongist group survives over another. They should all fail. They are wrong. Some of us here are actively working to hasten the fall of Armstrongism.

    Now if it were only for the fact that Armstrongism is wrong, then a great approach is to just walk away. But that’s not all there is. What there is, is a great deal of abuse going on, as a legacy of what Herbert Armstrong started.

    Abuse is the real reason Armstrongism should die permanently.

    Unfortunately, Armstrongism has enslaved people in ways they just can’t escape. This is particularly true of those who are now growing up in it: They have no where to turn because they are still with their parents.

    The Painful Truth is an act of mercy by concerned citizens who know and understand the damage done to tens of thousands of people. Although it is difficult to find adequate definitive definitions of PTSD, it does appear that far too many people who have been enslaved by Armstrongism, really do have symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, if not full-fledged PTSD. They need help. Some of us will be offering help in the next few weeks on this topic.

    It is interesting that you would be able to just walk away from the ministry of the Worldwide Church of God without any feelings of guilt or remorse for, at minimum, you were a part of a cult which has resulted in suicides, date rape of the members by the ministry, stalkers, fondlers, robbery of money from members through deception, fraud and extortion: There were real civil crimes committed. Being an officer in the abusive community does not excuse anyone from responsibility, just because they were following orders. [Oh, I can’t say anything, I’ll lose my salary!]

    And yet, you are in the position of being seemingly innocent of anything within a mostly benign venue, when your posts make it abundantly clear that it’s not like that at all: The portrayal paints a picture of down and dirty politics and dirty tricks which have become so evident through the efforts of the Painful Truth and other sites and blogs, one of which, incidently, is Otagosh.

    Focus on the UCG is appropriate at this time, because they are just as filthy as the WCG was, but on a somewhat downsized scale. Our interest in them is that the same men responsible for the unjust and unmerciful illegal, immoral and unthical behavior as the WCG are there. The same goes for Living and all the rest of the gaggle of the alphabet soup of the CoGs. And what’s worse is that some of the WCG skipped town to join the CoG7, only to make life there miserable for those members.

    It’s a poisoned pond.

    It should be cleaned up.

    It’s appalling to perceive someone who was a great part of all that evil wickedness be so optimistic that the whole thing is now irrelevant.

    Some crimes have an expiration date, but most of those abuses of the Armstrongist leaders and administrators do not.

    Perhaps you should sign up for the Painful Truth Ministerial Apologies:

    http://hwarmstrong.com/apology.htm

  7. I can’t speak for Mark, only for myself, but I think I know a little of where he is coming from.

    I never was an ordained minister with WCG, but I still feel great responsibility for the lives I helped mess up as a letter answerer for the organization. I didn’t realize what I was a part of at the time and was innocent of malicious intent. I can’t even be sure who might be guilty of such maliciousness. Deception is after all deception.

    All I can say in my defense is that as soon as the realization of what a scam it all was sank in, I walked away from it all and stayed away. It was a repugnant thought to me to become involved in some other religious scam just for the money, prestige and control I could perhaps gain.

    Life is full of regrets, usually over things we did in ignorance or weakness. I don’t know how others cope with the realization of their somewhat innocent culpability. I cope by doing my utmost to fight such horrible teachings and organizations and distance myself as far as possible from them — all of them — including all churches. As Mark so aptly pointed out, they are all cults. They are all travesties.

    I can’t turn back the clock. I wish I could. Life just doesn’t work that way.

  8. Mark, you wrote:
    “Were my helpful actions enough to override the burden I placed on people? Burden; yes, I said burden. My job was to thump people hard with the hand of God. If any members of my former congregations are still believers, it’s apparent I did considerable damage!”

    As you can see Mark, people have not recovered. It stays in the mind working on you night and day. When you find that you have been screwed, your family members screwed or dead because of some son of a bitch that created a heavy handed mind control religious cult, just how do you move on? You don’t. You live in desperate guilt and depression the rest of your life. Some chose not to acknowledge this and continue in the hope that they can receive some fictional crown for their continued idiocy.

    Post traumatic sets in. You obsess over the years of abuse by the ministry. You see the damage you did to your family because you trusted in the ministry. You see your child like innocence destroyed by the experience. You never trust again.

    What we have here is a dumping ground. Armstrong and his cronies enticed us with their “free” glossy booklets, promises of peace, power and an eternity with a god. What we really have is a toxic waste dump for humans. Armstrong used the people until they could give no more. When questioned, the old man or one of his henchmen would disfellowship you. That was a death sentence in the mind of the believer.

    So Mark, in light of this, would you be willing to sign the apology page?

  9. I’d just like to add a little more to this apology thing. I think everybody who had any involvement with Armstrongism could apologize for being a stupid dumb ass. In the final analysis, every human being could apologize for just being human, but that’s basically what the stupid Christian religion already demands of everyone, so I get a little impatient with this approach.

    I think Mark and I have made it abundantly clear that we have regrets about our past stupidity and how long it took for us to come to our senses. That is the way life works, after all. You come into this world helpless and dumb and a plethora of influences and forces begin to work on you from day one. It’s a wonder, when you look at it objectively, that any of us managed to straighten ourselves out as much as we have. Surely that has some bearing on our overall characteer and motivation.

    We this desire to see someone grovel?

  10. Ex-Purple, your about face is puzzling, but I wish you well. How you can swallow anything that ridiculous hodge podge of a book says is beyond me, but it’s your life.

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