Death Sentence

by John B

 Dear John B.:
This email may be 6 or more years too late, but here it is. I am approximately your age and have experienced the “fullness” of the WCG and all its aftermath. Your interesting article “Death Sentence”, ends with the concern about the “children”. My daughters grew up, they have nothing to do with any WCG offshoot, and they are doing well in their lives. But I have always been a believer in God, and still am, despited all the “Worldwide” phenomenon. I
did not believe half the crap that was pushed in WCG, including “Petra”. All this stuff to a realist is just donkey kong. Going to Jordan in 1972, on Boeing 7ss, where are 150,000 people (men, women, and children) going to live???

My belief is in God, not in Armstrong or any of his offshoots. Thus, I went thru a period of self examination, but I continued my life. The world today is nothing like the world that Armstrong or any of his followers  believed was possible. The question is, where is this world going?

David Froloff

 The Article “Death Sentence”

In 1965, when I was 16 years old, I was told I only had seven years to live. 

It isn’t what you think — there was no doctor, no diagnosis (we didn’t even go to doctors then), nor was I sick in the traditional sense.  Rather, I was told, loudly and repeatedly, that the Great Tribulation would begin on January 7, 1972.  It was explained to me, loudly and repeatedly, that anyone who wasn’t “ready” when the Great Tribulation started, would have to endure the most horrible suffering anyone has ever experienced this side of hellfire. 

At the tender age of 16, I knew I wasn’t “ready”.  I also knew that I would never be ready.  Not because I was rebellious, because I wasn’t.  It was just that the standard, as laid down by the ministry, was so impossibly high that I knew I was incapable of attaining it. 

I had seven years to live, if I was lucky.  Because I knew, without a doubt, that I would die in the Great Tribulation.  I even entertained the idea of exposing myself to German machine guns so I could go quickly, without lingering in a concentration camp. 

I had these thoughts in 1965, and for many years afterward.  I was worried about Germans! 

It may be difficult for some to believe, but there are people alive today, some of them reading this website, who still believe that Herbert Armstrong and his legion of ministers caused no one any harm.  It was our own fault, they tell us, because we chose to follow him. 

Well, I didn’t choose to follow him.  I was raised to believe that he was the only man on earth who understood the “truth”, and I believed it because the adults around me believed it.  They were a lot smarter than I, having the wisdom of many more years than I, so who was I to question their judgment?  If they said Mr. Armstrong was right, then it must be true. 

So I believed everything Mr. Armstrong said, and by extension, (almost) everything his ministers said.  And they said the Tribulation would begin in 1972.  It would be over in 1975, when Jesus would come back.



Can you imagine what life was like for a teenager who only had seven years to live?  Seven years did seem like a long time, but that was very little comfort.  I knew that I would never get married, never have kids, never own a home, never have a career.  I would never experience sex (and that’s big when you’re 16). 

In short, I had no future.  As my classmates made plans for college and careers, I pitied them, because they also would never achieve any of their goals.  The only difference was that they didn’t know it and were happy in their ignorance.  But I did know it, and happiness eluded me. 

There was no point in going to college, unless I could get into Ambassador.  Why study for a career that you wouldn’t have time to work at?  Maybe, if I could get into Ambassador, I might be able to improve my chances of survival. 

But in 1966 my application to Ambassador College was rejected.  And the Selective Service was breathing down my neck.  If I went to Vietnam, I might not even make it to 1972. 

I should have gone to Vietnam.  I’ve wished many times that I had, because I avoided the military for all the wrong reasons.  I did it because Mr. Armstrong said I had to.  I sat down with my draft board (the single most terrifying experience of my life) and convinced them that I was truly a conscientious objector.  They reclassified me, and I was ordered to work in a civilian capacity for two years.  Lo and behold, I ended up at Ambassador College anyway, not as a student, but as an employee. 

Living in Pasadena was a reprieve for a time, but the anxiety did not abate.  I was in the lion’s den, and pressure about 1972 was intensified.  We heard about it every week, and now it was only four years away.  By 1969, Joe Tkach, a low-level low-life local elder, went so far as to suggest (on numerous occasions) that the tribulation might actually begin in 1969! 

And no one contradicted him. 

It didn’t come in 1969, of course, but it was only three years away.  I had three years to live. 


Can You Say “Brainwashed”?

Needless to say, 1972 came and went.  Nothing happened.  There was no Tribulation, no German invasion, no Nazi nukes.  The church did not flee.  I should have been relieved.  Any sane person would have been relieved.  But I wasn’t relieved, I was even more frightened.  The Great Tribulation was overdue!  It must be close.  It had to be close.  It could start at any minute.  

It didn’t happen.  Years passed.  I was out of the church for awhile, I did get married, I did get a career (thanks to trade school — I never did get that college education), and I had kids.  Fear for the fate of my children drove me back into the cult, where I wasted 15 more years, still waiting for the Great Tribulation, still sacrificing on the Altar of Armstrong, sending in any “spare” money (none of which we could really spare — I’m still deep in debt because of that). 

In 1981 Armstrong told us why the Great Tribulation hadn’t started yet.  He had made no mistakes, but it was our fault!  “CHRIST HAS DELAYED HIS COMING BECAUSE YOU PEOPLE AREN’T READY!” he squealed. 

And I believed it. 

Five years later (and fifty years too late) Armstrong died.  The church stopped talking about the Great Tribulation.  They just continued to collect the money.  In 1992, thanks to the overt and undeniable corruption of Joe Tkach, I finally woke up.  And got the hell out. 

I was 44 years old. 


Seven Years to Live

As I approach age 60, it is entirely possible that I now really do have only seven years to live, more or less.  My parents barely made it into their seventies, so that wouldn’t be an unreasonable expectation.  My death sentence from 1965 has had one hell of a reprieve; but my entire life was on hold up until 1992, waiting for something that was “sure” to happen, but never did.  What might I have accomplished if I hadn’t been sentenced to life on Death Row? 

What’s done is done.  The last 16 years have been wonderful.  My kids have turned into fine adults, they all have college degrees (thanks to student loans — I was unable to help them), and promising careers.  I woke up just in time to spare them a life sentence.   

But the point of this article is not about them, nor about me.  The point is about those poor children who are just now growing up in the toxic atmosphere of Armstrong cults, those poor kids whose parents have “proved” that Armstrong theology is “true”.  It doesn’t matter which minor dictator they live under, nor which “church of god” they belong to; what matters is that those kids also believe they only have seven years to live (or maybe four, depending on which date their particular fuehrer has chosen as the “end”).   

What despair runs through their minds on any given day?  What sleepless dread chills their bones every time they look at the TV news?  What kind of future do they face?  Will some of them rebel and make their way in the world anyway, feeling guilty and ashamed for the rest of their lives for turning their backs on the “truth”? 

Or will they sit there, waiting, fearing, dreading, wasting their only chance at a decent life? 

It’s those kids I worry about.  Who is going to save them?


11 Replies to “Death Sentence”

  1. All the leaders of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong care about is people worshiping them… and giving them money, of course.

    Children are only important if they contribute in some way to the leader’s ego, power, prestige an money. Otherwise, they are useless. Some children have a long term potential to stay with the cult and continue the support of the cult leader, but the rest… well, the leader could care less.

    Worse, the children are a drain on resources. That’s why one PCG minister advised a member with a disabled child to drop it off at a shopping mall because someone else would surely take care of it and there would be so much more for the Flurrys. Having children, especially disabled ones, are such a drain on the leader’s lifestyle and the kiddies just have to go.

    The best of all is to make the children feel threatened and insecure so they can become the next generation of Proles in Oceana to support Big Brother and the inner circle in a dystopian cult.

  2. “All the leaders of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong care about is people worshiping them”

    Seems that is true after reading David Barrett’s book “The Fragmentation of a Sect” They chose leader over doctrine and doctrine over leader in other break-off cults.

    Well if doctrine is important, is the character of the one who came up with it in the first place, is that important? Sure the hell is. Ask yourself, does God use child molesters to spread “His” word?

    Those who control cults in the Acog spectrum reveal one hell of a lot about their own character by supporting criminals who abused the defenseless among us. The legacy of Armstrongism is packed full of these cretan’s. Why is that? Anyone?

  3. Those who control cults in the Acog spectrum reveal one hell of a lot about their own character by supporting criminals who abused the defenseless among us. The legacy of Armstrongism is packed full of these cretan’s. Why is that? Anyone?

    Snakes in Suits by Dr. Paul Babiak and Dr. Robert Hare makes a statement we should all be cognizant of and remember — that instability makes for fertile environments for psychopaths to prosper. When a cult has loose definitions and controls, it is easy for the psychopaths to manipulate the environment. As long as there are strict controls, tight definitions and an active administration of laws, rules, standards, there isn’t much leeway for the psychopath to gain a foothold.

    During the 1970s, when Herbert Armstrong was at his most “prosperous”, things spun out of control because there was just a too great influx of people to control the people as the Radio Church of God did in the 1950s and 1960s. It was also a time when Herb wasn’t around much because he was playing with world leaders and couldn’t be bothered until some crisis loomed that couldn’t be ignored.

    In this rich environment (in both senses of lots of loot floating around and prosperous ministers and administrators having virtually no oversight), it was possible to pull all sorts of experiments and scams and get away with it. The Dean brothers were spying using surveillance equipment, Rader was making hay with the financial accounts, GTA was dallying with coeds — everything was spinning out of control and so many people could get away with lots of things. Students at AC were making out (some making out same sex), there were beer busts and pot parties.

    Once these things get rooted, they’re pretty hard to weed out. Sure, Armstrong came back and started cleaning house, but then there was the receivership in 1979, Armstrong had a heart attack and there was a slight pause while confusion reigned. Then he died.

    Joseph Tkach, Senior, a well-qualified psychopath managed to take control of the whole thing and everything went to hell in a handbasket. It was at this point that some of those wanting power for themselves, like Roderick Meredith, decided to go out on his own. He promptly went out and created Global, bankrupted it and created Living.

    Well, if Meredith could do it, so could… well, pick your names and name your group. With the fragmentation, the psychopaths found even richer fields to mine and we have examples like Ronald Weinland who took advantage of the venue that was set forth and modified it for his own schemes — rather successfully until he became a convicted felon and went to prison.

    These days people aren’t setting standards, abiding by them nor are they enforcing them. It’s like dividing by zero in math: You have undefined results and people can play with it to make things anything they want them to be. Because we’ve become such a liberal bunch, people just accept the extremes because it starts to look normal to them.

    There is nothing sane nor normal about what, say, David Pack is doing — issuing de facto death threats and making promises he can’t possibly cash — but it’s OK because we don’t have any standards nor do we have any definitions… at least any that people would want to enforce. People are blindly accepting things that just don’t make sense because it appeals to their need for personal power and it just sounds right.

    Behind the scenes, it’s all about unempowered people wanting some Nimrod hero to lead them into a land of prosperity and plenty with not much to do and not much effort to get them there, except follow the leader and give their money away. They live on the empty promises of psychopaths which posit a future (of Assertive Incompetence. It’s like smokers know the stats that smoking can give you lung cancer, heart disease, a bad back and lower your I.Q. 10 points, but the thing is, it applies to the other guy. The smoker thinks, “I’ll be fine”. In the same way, the Armstrongist knows intuitively that what he is doing and subjecting himself too is really really bad for him, but stifles the warning alarms by concentrating on the idea that he is going to become God as God is God and will be able to have power to make people he doesn’t like suffer in his vengeful revenge, made to follow his rules for a change and he’ll live in splendor with riches like, well, a god. It’s a trade of the present for a non existent future.

    It’s a scammer’s paradise: Just put up a shingle, tell familiar lies your little group believes in and live the life until you die. Treat your members as a cash machine, neglect them, abuse them. Not to worry: They are completely loyal… just like the Proles in 1984.

    1. Good analysis, Douglas. It was in the seventies that everything began to fall apart. Herb finally had the income he needed to fly high, literally, around the world and pretend to be someone great and respected. It was all shamelessly purchased pseudo-respect. By ’76, I was completely out and soon cast off all the theological nonsense piece by piece. I really feel sorry for those who couldn’t see through it all and just walk away. I haven’t shaken the world with tremendous success, but I’m free from all that control garbage and living a happy and satisfying life.

  4. Amazing. That could just as well be my story, point for point, becoming a conscientious objector and ending up working at Pasadena. Same thoughts. I do remember this one dark skinned lady ou there who was a near double for Sophia Loren. I worked construction on the Imperial School in 1969, and she would rop around at lunch time to talk with me. Really beautiful woman, but I felt i was too young for marriage, and we weren’t supposed to just have meaningless sex. Damn!

  5. My first eight years of life were spent in a then typical American small town family. The family acted as families did back then, as a buffer against some of the more difficult situations in life. There were lots of loving aunts and uncles, and wonderful grandparents, and we were always doing things together. We were Protestant, went to church or Sunday School, and church school during some of the summer weeks. If there were occasions when some of us children were fearful, the family calmed that out of us, stressing something positive, or pointing out that what we feared was unlikely to happen. Everything would be just fine, or we would make it become just fine.

    Then Armstrongism hit, and everything became much the same for my siblings and myself as my buddy John outlined in his article. On a sunny Saturday afternoon (which we were beginning to learn to call the sabbath), the sun figuratively disappeared behind the clouds as my dad read “1975 in Prophecy” to us on the front porch. I asked many questions, and drawing upon what my family instilled in me, proposed antidotes and solutions. But, alas, I was told that this would be God’s punishment, and the only possible way out would be through becoming part of God’s one and only true church, and being counted worthy to escape to Petra. Goodbye loving family, and don’t be like Lot’s wife looking back. Unless the family is also called by God, they’ll have to deal with the Germans.

    It was indeed a death sentence, imposed by Mr. Fear Motivation himself, Herbert W. Armstrong. How could a young child, ungrounded in scripture, or anything else including life itself, defend against such incredible shit? One uncle used a word which I was corrected for repeating, but which I later learned really said it all: fanatic. When I was an insurance agent, my clients wanted to discuss many things. One time, while discussing a local case of rape in which the woman was killed, one client opined that his advice to any woman who found herself in such a situation would be to relax and enjoy it. Crude. Very crude. However, as children facing spiritual rape by a false religious cult, basically that’s what we had to do. We knew instinctively that there was something deeply wrong, but we went along with it trying to enjoy some of the less negative aspects. Never fully drinking the KoolAid, there was often hell to pay. I got to the point where I actually looked forward to the pain.

    If anything, HWA’s wannabe successors have upped the fear ante. Despite forty years of failure, they still invoke the Germans. They no longer speculate that Hitler is alive in Argentina, but they play numerolgy games with the names of people in German royalty, or the names of the latest pope. Hell, they even rattle their sabres against one another, forecasting death or Laodeceanism amongst one another’s leaders. Herbie was seriously onto something with all of the fear.
    It is guaranteed to work on a certain percentage of the population, and that percentage pays better than a hot slot machine at your local Indian casino! Gripped in perpetual terror, what choice do they have?


  6. Bob,

    This is the price you paid as a child for your parents ignorance. Your still paying for it, and if your parents are alive still in a Acog cult, they too are still paying for the ignorance. In the end we all lose.

    Even those who never heard of the accursed name Herbert W. Armstrong wanker apostle, they too as a member of society pays the price. It is after all, as you said, the gift that keeps on giving!

  7. David said: Lo and behold, I ended up at Ambassador College anyway, not as a student, but as an employee.

    Was the pay satisfactory with a full benefit package, including lifetime pension? Time and a half for overtime, two and one half times regular pay on all statutory holidays and triple time for church (religious) holidays?? What about family and social services, and mental health care to cover the stress enduring such a establishment establishment?

  8. Bob, I qworked on construction of the Imperial schools from foundatio to finishing. My fathe rbuilt houses and i was kowledgeable in building. That was the biggest bunch of pricks i ever worked for. There was a superintendent who didn’t seem to k now how to smile at anybody, and e saw his main function as trying to scare employees into working harder. Ha ving grown up in construction, I learned to deal witrh assholes quickly by letting them know how much shit I was going to take in the name of “progress”. The superintendent and foreman cared little for anything except kissing ass of the ministers and jumping on ours. People were fired constantly because they didn’t perform up to expectations, and there was always some starry eyed member reasdy to do his sacrificial part. Kinda like the “Grapes of Wrath” story. That’s when I started thinking “If this is going to be the kingdom of God, to hell with it”.

  9. That was the way ambitious employees vied for position, Ralph. Slave drivers, who kissed their supervisors’ and ministers’ asses, and they were always cognizant of their employees’ “attitudes”. I ran into one or two of those types during my tenure in Pasadena as well.

    I was out of the church for a while in 1969, so am having a hard time remembering the sequence of all the construction that went on. I had a hotrod ’58 Impala convertible that my wife and I would occasionally pick up her sisters in when Imperial let out. Some of my former AC classmates were around the grounds there, and driving that thing around campus with the top down was one of my ways of making my presence known. They were still the good little boys and girls who were probably worried whether they’d be able to get married and have sex before the end, and I was already getting mine. I do remember several years later, we had our church services in the Imperial gym. Later, some of those Imperial buildings were condemned and torn down because they were on the lands for the the freeway extension that was supposed to connect the Long Beach Freeway with the Foothill Freeway. South Pasadena fought that, based on losing historic buildings in its path, and I don’t believe it ever got completed.

    That section of town was always a kind of a funny area. On Orange Grove, you had these incredible mansions that made up the main AC campus area, then, at the bottom of the hill you had the College gym, the Student Center, and later Ambassador Auditorium and the Hall of Administration, and then proceeding another block east, you’d come up on Imperial Schools, an old railroad warehouse, and the old press building. Across the railroad tracks was a small African American neighborhood. During break, some of the gardeners who worked on that part of the campus used to go to a small, corner fast food restaurant owned by an African American family, called the Green Buck. It was an unusual thing for white people to do during that era, but I think that family appreciated the business. So did the owners of the liquor store down the street from the old brick Baptist Church.

    That era was probably the apex of the smog situation. There were very few environmental controls, and on the bad days when you couldn’t even see the mountains, if you had to work outdoors, at the end of the day, you’d feel as if you’d smoked about three packs of Camels.


  10. I remember in working constriction that i had to learn “shallow breath” breating. If i breathe dnormally, as I did in the NC mnountains, it was like taking a deep ‘draw’ on a cigarette. I’d be coughing every few minutes. I just did an essay for another group that I sent to James, dealing with competition among ambitious people in what was supposed to be an altruistic system.

    Unfortunately, when a group starts defining what ought to be altruistic, there evolves a leader who is the “decider’ of what should be done. Basically, no matter how good or sweet the people at the “bottom”, the biggest “assholes” must always rise to the top. We actually reward the biggest sociopaths while trying to maintan a more loving organization. The more we stray from our ideals, the greater the rewards for the sociopaths who struggle to the top. hat’s why I encountrered the contradictin at pasadena to the very nce peole in the A sje ville, NC, church. Everywhere I went in Pasadena, my spider sense kept saying “here’s an asshole”.
    Same thing happened in the marines.

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