Blast from the past…
By Bill Fairchild
In the late 1960s at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jekyll Island, Georgia I heard “Dr.” Herman L. Hoeh give a sermon telling us of his travels in Russia. The most memorable quote from his sermon was his saying “People get the government they deserve.” He meant to apply this aphorism to the Russians at that time. After telling us of all the evils in the Russian government, I thought this was a pretty harsh, uncompassionate statement coming from a minister of God.
Many years later when living near Washington, DC and reading the local scandal about Mayor Marion Barry of Washington, DC (more correctly called “Mayor Barely”), I began to suspect that Herman had been right all along, especially when the fine citizens of the nation’s capital city decided to re-elect their former mayor Barry after he had been released from prison for charges resulting from his being caught in the act of smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room in the middle of the night with a woman who was not his wife. Since Hoeh was one of God’s true ministers, was subject to peer review by his fellow evangelists and to being corrected by the “primacy of Peter” apostle himself, and was also backed up by God even if he was wrong, he therefore must have spoken correctly. At least that’s what we were all led to believe way back then. It certainly applied to the people who voted Barry back in. They got the government they deserved.
Today I believe even more strongly that Hoeh’s basic law of government was universally true, even when applied to the “dumb sheep” who got sucked into the WCH. That’s my acronym for the Worldwide Cult of HARMstrong. I prefer now to call him Herbert W. HARMstrong for all the industrial-strength HARM he did to so many, including me.
We deserved the government we got in “God’s true end-time tyrannical Pharisaical cult”. We got our bellies full of “God’s government”, didn’t we? I don’t remember exactly where or when Herbert W. Armstrong may have called us dumb sheep, but I clearly remember its happening some time long ago. I also clearly remember thinking at the time that I really was a dumb sheep. That’s why I needed HARMstrong to help me know how to live and think.
His dumb sheep apparently needed to be brutalized, chewed up and spit out, spiritually abused, and mentally raped. Since Herbert W. Armstrong was the spiritual father of his “church” and we were his spiritual children, perhaps we could even say he was committing spiritual incest with us all those years when he was raping our minds. Hmmmmm. Where have I heard something like that before? Could it be…? But I digress. Someone else with more understanding of human behavior than I have can pick up on analyzing that obvious and intriguing parallel.
All human beings have the same basic inner needs. Apparently there are many of us who by virtue of the accident of our birth, upbringing, or life experiences also come to where we are drawn to heavy-handed authority figures. My own dad was that way. He could be quite authoritarian, but he didn’t do it very often. Some of us also like easy answers to life, where there is only black and white, Satanic and godly, wrong and right, etc.
The problem with many of us who were drawn to Herbert W. Armstrong is that we are cult-seekers. We need to be in a cult for some perverse reason, just as certain pathetic women losers on sicko TV talk shows tell how they have been living with now the third brutal man in a row. Then Dr. Laura yells at them to move away from the scumbag and stop finding new scumbag boyfriends. DUH! When I finally left the WCH in 1996 I turned my back on all organized religion, which I defined as any group with more than one person in it. I wanted to have nothing to do with any religious group, especially one which had anything in common with the WCH. I spiritually vomit at the thought of getting involved with any splinter group, let alone the original mother of all splinters. What are we supposed to do with a splinter, anyway? We pull it out, throw it away, and let nature heal the wound where the splinter entered our body.
Many people who are still in the WCH are there because they are true believers and gullible to the end. Or perhaps they feel the need to socialize with people they have known for a long time even though they now reject or question all the Worldwide Church of God’s alleged “teachings”.
But what about those who leave the WCH and then go into a splinter group? They are apparently cult-seekers who will not change. They correctly reject the mother of all splinters, fail to understand their own perverse nature that makes them seek out another destructive cult, and then get sucked into a splinter cult which has just the right mix of “correct” cult teachings that feel comfortable to them. Their real problem, which they must come to recognize and repent of, is their need to belong a cult. They are cult slaves who must stop being cult slaves rather than being a slave to just the right cult.
There are plenty of destructive cults out there for all different types of humanity to get sucked into. Some are religious in nature, then there are political cults, UFO cults, conspiracy cults, etc. John Trechak did a yeoman’s job for two decades in helping to decult as many others as possible. In his Ambassador Report he published a wealth of information on the characteristics of destructive cults and on becoming deprogrammed from their mental grip on us.
Herbert w. Armstrong taught us from his infallible “ex cathedra” position that we should obey human governments, pray for our human political leaders, God had set up the rulers of this world as it pleased Him, etc. (Let’s not get into the obvious hypocrisy of HWA’s not obeying the human government when it placed his lucrative cult business in receivership in 1979.) I swallowed this stuff, too. So during the late 1960s I studiously avoided wanting to know anything at all about the United States’ war in Vietnam. All I knew was what HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG wanted me to think, which was that Uncle Sam was not necessarily always right but that God wanted the United States to win that war over there. And I especially hated all those evil hippies that were revolting all over the United States, yelling anti-government slogans, and burning their draft cards. I worked at Duke University in those days, and I really got upset one day when so many students were rioting against the War in Vietnam that police fired tear gas at the crowd. I had to breathe a little of that tear gas. Very upsetting. I would have gotten far more upset if I had lived in a village in South Vietnam and the “make the world safe for democracy” government of the United States had spread flaming napalm all over my little house and killed many close friends and relatives.
Shortly before the great disillusionment of December 1994 when Joe Tkach Sr. told us that everything we believed in was wrong, I had just finished reading Neil Sheehan’s epic book “A Bright Shining Lie” about what our government really did in Vietnam. Let me summarize his book by saying (my opinion) we went in there with benign motives at first, made major mistakes, then could not admit the mistakes, and stayed in the war much longer than we should have with resultant terrible damage to the American society. He said very little that I now remember about the terrible damage we did to Vietnam. His book was pretty disillusioning about the human government which Herbert W. Armstrong had assured me was being upheld by the same god that upheld the government in God’s “church”.
Well, since I got out of HARM’s way I have started reading the published works of Noam Chomsky. He is a brilliant professor of linguistics at MIT who began writing and speaking out about the evil consequences of our American foreign policy way back in the early 1960s. He heavily documents the sources of all his facts. My summary of his world outlook is this: (1) all humans are corruptible and corrupting; (2) governments and businesses are the same since they are composed of fallible and corruptible humans; (3) the American government is a major offender with heinous atrocities as its legacy; (4) since the rulership of the world fell into our hands in 1945, the USA has been surreptitiously manipulating and extending our control wherever possible; (5) we speak great lofty words of human rights, democracy, and new world order, but our hypocritical media is going along with the program and fails to investigate or publicize what is really going on, which is the business control of all nations who will let us get away with it; (6) if they are too strong for us to control and they object, we make them either our trading partner or enemy; (7) we never really attack our enemy but just use his existence to whip up support for our military-industrial-congressional alliance; (8) if they are too weak to resist our control but they object to it, we crush them; and, most disillusioning of all, (9) we did not go into South Vietnam (or anywhere else, either) with benign motives but rather with the most cynical motive imaginable, which was to crush a spontaneous, indigenous attempt at real democracy before it could succeed, other nearby nations might try to emulate their example, and then we would lose our business control over vast areas from which we get our raw materials very cheaply. This is a simplified summary of his meticulously documented worldview.
I understand that I am attracted to Chomsky’s writings for the same reason I was attracted to Herbert W. Armstrong’s originally. He says some politically unpopular things that almost no one knows about or believes. And the more I read the more it all makes sense. I have to watch myself so I don’t start letting Chomsky do all my thinking for me and become my new cultmaster.
That’s just one more example of why we might have been attracted to Herbert W. Armstrong. For me, there were a lot of intellectual attractions. I have always loved studying foreign languages, and as I got into the teachings of the WCH I found myself doing more and more Hebrew and Greek word studies. I loved it. The “occult” part of the cult is probably what sucked me in most strongly. There was all this knowledge that almost nobody else knew about.
So much for how we get into cults. What goes on in our minds when we get out, or in some cases when the cult self-destructs?
I have always thought it quite curiously coincidental that the WCH really started to melt down around 1989-1991 when the doctrinal revisionism began swinging us every which way but loose. This is also the same general time when the USSR began rapidly unraveling, Communism began to be universally recognized as a total failure, the Soviet bloc in eastern Europe broke away from their masters, the Berlin Wall was knocked down, and the two Germanys reunited. So many unthinkable events were happening everywhere. I did a lot of thinking about my mental state after leaving God’s true end-time destructive cult in June, 1996. I had been feeling very confused, the once-stable earth was moving under my feet, and almost everything I had believed in all my adult life was now upside down and wrong. I thought about the 280,000,000 people who lived in the Soviet Union and what they must have been going through. For 70 years all they had known was the cult of international Communism. It publicly preached wonderful platitudes like “all men are brothers”, “workers of the world, unite! you have nothing to lose but your chains”, “strong, bronzed laborers clapping each other on the back as they walk up the people’s way into the sun”, etc. etc. blah blah blah. The theoretical teachings of Marx and Engles had fired the imagination of so many young idealistic people in all nations. There had even been a rapidly growing Communist movement here in the USA.
Then I read a book about the history of the Soviet Union, a biography of Stalin, and Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago”, and I began seeing the total hypocrisy of their leaders and the brutal tyranny they forced on their idealistic followers. I read how the original ideals of Communism had been subverted by an actual conspiracy of only about a dozen men who were members of the Bolshevik faction of the Communist party. They took control of certain key parts of the city of Saint Petersburg, Russia at a moment when the actual government was very weak and the whole nation was at war. Almost no one in Russia then cared who or what the government was as long as it would be stable and the war would end. They took control, ousted all the non-Bolshevik Communists, then one of them came to preeminence (Lenin), he got sick and died, then another ruthless Bolshevik took over (Stalin), he proceeded to kill everyone who had been close to him in the early days of their Bolshevik revolution, then he began to murder tens of millions of Russians in his insane purges designed to keep everyone else in a state of constant terror.
Is this similar to what happened in the Cult of HARMstrong or what? I imagined what it must feel like to be an adult now in the former USSR if you had been an idealistic Communist in your youth. Everything you believed in all your life is now a shambles. The teachings were all wrong, the economy is ruined, the environment is ruined with pollution, no one will pay anymore for you to live in a subsidized home and eat subsidized food and ride on subsidized subways to and from your make-work job. The hypocritical gangsters who once ruled the country and were called Communist commissars are still in charge. They are now called gangster businessmen, or just plain gangsters. The same exact people are still in charge, ripping off the economy, sending their money to overseas bank accounts, forcing people into penury, living fat and high on the hog, etc. The more I thought about the Soviet Union and its aftermath the more it looked EXACTLY like the Worldwide Cult of HARMstrong and all its successor splinter cults through all their history going back to its origin in the 1920s. It helped me greatly in my state of mental confusion to know there were hundreds of millions more disoriented, ex-culters around the world.
I am still searching for truth, but not “the truth”. I have read all the online issues of John Trechak’s wonderful Ambassador Report. It is such a great loss that John is no longer with us, no longer able to publish anything. He joined Herbert W. Armstrong in death in SEP 99. I’ll join them both some day. But meanwhile I must look, read, think, and learn.
I am now reading all the online web pages of the Painful Truth. Many readers email him to ask why he is doing this. I am reading these web sites and adding my own two cents’ worth because I find it therapeutic and cathartic for me to get things off my chest, to relate certain church anecdotes I know about that might help others, and to read of others’ experiences. Real therapy is out of the question even if I need it (I’m not sure I do), since I still have the residual feeling, thanks to Herbert W. Armstrong, that psychologists are of the Devil. I agree with the Editor’s philosophy that there is no absolute truth there is only today’s version. Tomorrow we will learn a little more that may be different. All we can do is search, learn, grow, and think for ourselves. There is no ultimate truth that we can know while still in human form, just as there is no one, true, perfect church, government, or business enterprise.
What is it that the great Being of Light and Peace tells people who have near-death experiences when they find out they must return to this life? The Being tells them there are some humans who need their help and that they themselves need to learn a few more things. So they reluctantly come back to life on the operating table or wherever they were when their heart stopped beating, share with the rest of us their amazing memory of what happened when they were “dead”, and then they stop fearing death and start joyfully living and learning.