Herbert Armstrong certainly had hubris, but we don’t have to recede into the past to find it: It’s right here in 2013 amongst the founders and leaders of the various sects of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong, including, but not restricted to, Davey Pack (Restored Church of God), Roderick Meredith (Living Church of God), Gerald Flurry (Philadelphia Church of God), John and Richard Rittenbaugh (Church of the Great God), Ronald Weinland (Church of God-Preaching the Kingdom of God), Robert Thiel (Continuing Church of God) and so many others, such as E. W. King and David Malm.
This is a response prompted by a comment by Bob Dixon in a previous blog entry, Monster’s Inc.:
We need a follow up story by P.T. editors to remind us of the mechanics of these monsters, as is applied to the faithful, to bring them to such condition that normal safety, reason, and logic are ignored.
In my view, it’s the fear of death, that is the root cause of all WCOG faithful. Fear of mortality. Fear is the root.
Mr. Dixon has a good thought there, and perhaps there is fear associated with the initial entry into the cult, but it is more than fear that keeps them in over time, because it is very difficult to sustain constant continuous fear over time: It’s a good initial motivator, but breaks down over time as people get used to the fear — it becomes more of a discomfort.
The thing that really does it is extreme pride and arrogance — as in “we have the truth and God will protect us and make us Kings and Priests to lord it over others in the Kingdom with power, more power than we could ever hope to have in this life time”. This arrogance is self-sustaining: Just like teenagers, there is a belief that you will live forever! Nothing can ultimately hurt you! You are going to be a winner! In spite of all the copious evidence to the contrary, you think you will come out on top: All you have to do is pay tithes, attend the Feasts and keep all those silly laws and rules your cultmeister gives you — you know, like dumping your disabled child at a shopping mall. It’s all going to work out, no matter what you do or say. That is hubris:
Hubris, also hybris, from ancient Greek, means extreme pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.
Here we are: Half of 2013 is over with already and we are heading into the hot summer of meltdown, with these cult leaders standing up and declaring how they are the greatest and how they are going to defeat all the other contenders as if they were pro wrestlers at WWE Raw. Each one struts his stuff. Davey Pack loudly declares that he’s going to be the last man standing in the churches of God, come August 30, 2013. All the rest are making similar, if not as specific claims.
This narcissism inspires confidence in the followers, just sure, in their own hubris, that they have picked the right winner. They just know that their leader is the one and only leader, bar none.
Sometimes it’s good to get the outside view from someone who doesn’t know diddly-squat about the Armstrongists — here’s a comment from one of the jurors from the Income Tax Evasion trial of Ronald Weinland:
Martin, Yes, he sure did with arrogance. It might not be verbatum but that is exactly what was expressed and or implied by Ron in his own words and actions, etc; and others in their words, whichever words he and they used in particular. Especially, in regards to being asked about how the “church money” gets distributed and spent. Obviously, the jury understood how God and “God’s money” worked. So did the judge, prosecutor, and the IRS. Fortunately, Ron forgot about Ceasar and is now paying up. Hasn’t Ron preached about the Ceasar thing? Those same principles do not apply to King Ron the God though. Do they?
Johnny H. & Steve D. both stated they just give God “God’s money” and they did not worry about how it was spent. “It’s in God’s hands.” Along with other followers on the witness stand.
Audra’s explanation on “God’s money” was “ummmm,,, huh,,, ummm, whatever my mommy or daddy tell me to do with the money.” “Whatever they tell me to pay out of whichever account.” May not be exact words, but I think the picture is clear.
Ron and others, basically stated that God told him how to spend the “church money and the jewelry and high ticket items were for bargaining in “end times”. Who in the hell needs to bargain when it is GAME OVER? What are you going to bargain for? There should be no worries or needs. Remember, it’s GAME OVER! Coincidence that Ron and Laura wind up with all the money and goodies? I think not.
All the other numb nut “church” witnesses also repeatedly stated the King Ron chain of command. #1. God followed closely with “whatever Ron says goes, because God tells Ron so.” I could see Ronnie Boy’s head swelling with a smirk in a prideful manner as they stated this. He is one ugly bald headed bastard and I would pay money just to slap the smirk off of face. If he was green he would look like an upity and cocky UFO riding alien. Wonder if BMW produces UFO’s yet?
This was established by the prosecution to show everyone how high and mighty and in charge Ron truly is in “RON’S CHURCH.” To make it very simple, Ron and/or Laura are in charge of EVERYTHING INCLUDING THE “CHURCH MONEY” AND HOW IT IS or WAS SPENT. They decide who stays and goes within THEIR CHURCH. They decide who gets the “church scholarship money.” They decide where “God” tells them to vacation and what to buy while jet setting. They decide which personal expenses God has OK’d for them to pay. They decide who the elders and what-not are. They decided God told them to install alarm systems and buy Victoria Secret panties. So yes, the chain of command is God then Ron. God was unable to show up to testify. I am not exactly sure if Laura does not out rank Ron in the Kingdom though. She was declared one of the two witnesses. Just another coincidence? Probably.
It was very clear that Ron and God made all of the decisions together, especially when it was related to money. Remember, Martin, God reveals all to Ronnie Boy. Guess Ron figured the two witness deal, and end time prophet junk so why not lay it out there. I think Ron and his legal defense team thought this might help him to show how devoted and crazy he really is. The thought crossed my mind wondering if Ron truly believes his own bullshit and he really was that crazy. Nah, he is just a lying, money grubbing con-artist that knows exactly what he is doing while disguising it with God told me so religion, but still trying to lie his way out of it all. Shear acts of desperation from a thief con who got caught.
No one else in the court room could believe the crazy sh!t we were hearing either. Unimaginable. Bottom line, we didn’t believe it as the results show. Ron’s will…… Opps! I mean God’s Will was completely simple regarding the God in Ron’s head yet utterly unbelievable and bank account shuffling complex at the same time. Ron thinks he is God. The Money God anyway. Buzz…… eerrrnt….eerrrnt! WRONG ANSWER! NOW GO TO JAIL!
It should be noted here that the PKG members continue to follow Ronald Weinland, even though he has been proved to be a false prophet beyond a reasonable doubt and is now in Federal Prison as a felon for Income Tax Evasion. Many have been puzzled why more PKG members simply don’t leave, but it appears that they are quite comfortable with the arrangement of his being their “pastor” even though he is locked up for committing a crime. They are just sure when Jesus returns on Pentecost, they will be big winners. It’s hubris.
Herbert Armstrong did start all this, of course. In his manic state, he would go out and spend $68,000 on tableware from Harrod’s and then send out a coworker letter proclaiming that THE VERY WORK OF GOD IS GOING DOWN AND THE WORK NEEDS YOUR MONEY!!!!! No money would have been needed if he hadn’t spent it on worthless baubles — well, not worthless worthless, but you know what we mean. He typically took $50,000 in cash with him on his forays. His family wanted to go sailing while they were on the Riviera, so he rented a yacht for them. Then there was the $5 million divorce which helped Herb on his spending spree of $2 billion to $4 billion during his lifetime — and now, nothing is left of all he spent. By 1979, some of the WCG members had had enough and John Tuit initiated a lawsuit which led to the receivership. The idea was to bring accountability to the Worldwide Church of God, but in the end, Herbert Armstrong lied, circled the wagons and won.
That’s the thing: Herbert Armstrong carried on outrageous behavior and won. In his hubris, those who followed him saw that he was a winner — a sort of “underdog” — and saw him as their leader and champion. Thus it was that they inherited hubris and those who followed on in his footsteps — whether it was the Tkaches or the Cult of Herbert Armstrong spitoffs, they all carried on the hubris — starting with the leaders, flowing down to the members who became all too comfortable in their extreme pride and arrogance. It’s no wonder they all throw rocks at each other and declare the others as “Laodocean”, rich and increased in goods, while the accusers of the “brethren” are so confident in their hubris that they and they alone are “Philadelphian” — when they are actually nothing at all and not even Christian in their Olde Testament Christianity.
Into this mix came Ronald Weinland, who, in his hubris, decided he could follow the outrageous example of Herbert Armstrong to spend millions of dollars that weren’t really his (or more accurately, did not declare that were his on his income tax returns). He bought a BMW for his son in the United States and shipped it to Germany where his son was on a “scholarship” from the PKG (the only one ever issued). He bought another BMW in Germany and had it shipped to the United States. He also bought another BMW for his daughter and paid for her apartment — all on church money, undeclared as income tax. His wife bought from Victoria’s Secret. Ronald and Laura went on cruises at a time they were pushing for “the end of the work” and demanding that their followers make sacrifices to send more money. They lived it up in Las Vegas, five star restaurants and accommodations. Meanwhile, Weinland had written a book, “The Final Witness” declaring false prophecies which would certainly have caused normal people to leave in droves. It may have been hubris for Ronald Weinland and his family to spend $3.5 million of church money on themselves, but it is hubris for the members to continue the Weinlands even after Ronald Weinland was proved to be a false prophet, no fewer than three times (oops! missed the date again… well, maybe next year), and after he was convicted of felony for evading Income Taxes. The jurors at his trial were outraged by his hubris.
There isn’t much that will ignite the fire of indignation better than being defiant with arrogance in the face of civil authorities. Those of us who sat in the court room for the hearing to provide relief from a stalker in United were appalled at the behavior of the two deacons, deaconess and elder from the UCG as they treated the judge with contempt as though he was a nothing underling they could push around as if he were a lowly church member: The judge would have none of it, threatened them with clearing the court room and they almost ended up with a charge of contempt of court. They had no fear.
The leaders of the CoHA have no fear, but if they really believed Scripture, they would be terrified! They would fear for their lives! They would know for a certainty that they were headed for the Lake of Fire! Nonetheless, they act as if they are Special and as if there is no God. This applies to the members as well as the leaders: They think they can get away with their extreme arrogance and pride. They are filled with hubris.
Occam’s Razor prompts us to lean to the most simple explanation: In this case, it is not fear, it is hubris.
As long as the members of this cult association possess hubris, they will never leave, for they feel they can safely ignore Scripture when it says: “From Such Turn Away!”
The problem is that these extremely arrogant members are filled with pride and will continue to stay, no matter what, in their hubris.
It’s not In God We Trust, it’s In Hubris We Trust.