The Suit is an important part of Church Cult Corporate
The Suit is an important part of Church Cult Corporate

Herbert Armstrong insisted that men wear business suits to Sabbath Services, the Feast and to Spokesman Club. Why? The stated reason was to show respect for God. Was that the real reason? Was that the primary reason? Or were there other forces at work?

Above all else, even above the belief that he was an apostle, Herbert Armstrong considered himself a businessman. Whether it is true that he was a businessman or not does not matter — it is his belief that he was which drove him. He started his career as a copy ad writer. Whether or not he ever progressed beyond that is a question for debate. Nevertheless, he did have extensive experience with many highly placed businessmen and learned to move within those circles before he found religion. His early years shaped his ultimate future and formed the core of his being: Within that being was the core of a business executive within the corporate bureaucratic structure. Without understanding the nuances of corporatism, it is impossible to understand Herbert Armstrong, the Worldwide Church of God and Ambassador College. In fact, it is impossible to understand unless you know the vagaries of the upper echelons of the Fortune 500 multinational corporations of today because what went on within the Church Cult Corporate of Herbert Armstrong was a reflection and echo of the modern secular corporation. The Corporation of God™ was the real organization that Herbert Armstrong founded: Soulless, without empathy, without conscience and as a legal “person”, a total psychopath.

Moral MazesFor the benefit of those who have never been a manager or above in a major Fortune 500 Corporation, we will draw upon Robert Jackall from his book, “Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers”. For those uninitiated, the outside view of a modern corporation looks as if it is nothing more than a business to produce goods and / or services, run by reasonable smart competent people, using reasonable tried and true processes. Nothing could be further from the truth. The modern corporation is a chaotic irrational social and moral terrain, an hybrid ‘organization’ of patrimonial bureaucracy. Furthermore, the modern corporation has only one goal — one ethic — which supplants any other and overrides any social responsibility: Making a profit. This orientation is mandated by law in chartering corporate business by the Government. In fact, doing ‘nice things’ can get corporate managers prosecuted if it does not add to the bottom line. If breaking the law makes more profit, even after paying penalties, then the corporate officers are obligated to judicious law breaking to sustain that profit. They may pollute the land, steal, lie and do any other what we would consider a heinous thing to make profit. All decisions are framed this way. If it so happens that if charity suits making a profit, the corporation will do that with the side benefit of positive public perception. Of course, the internal ‘discussions’, alliances and deal making within the corporation itself may be extremely complex as managers and directors ‘network’ to find optimum solutions for profitability.

There are many factors which contribute to the upward mobility and viability of corporate executives. One of these is how the corporate shill is dressed. Robert Jackall comments:

One can, however, discern several criteria that are universally important in managerial circles. Bureaucracies not only rationalize work; they rationalize people’s public faces as well. A person’s external appearances, modes of self-presentation, interactional behavior, and projection of general attitude together constitute his public face. Large corporations create highly standardized rules to regulate the public faces of lower-level white-collar workers, for instance at the clerical level. In a large bank that I studied some years ago, these include a formalized dress code, regularly updated, that prescribes the details of clothing down to skirt length for women; manuals with a whole variety of sample conversations to guide interactions with customers; and detailed evaluation procedures that place a great premium on displaying cheerful cooperativeness toward coworkers and supervisors. Aware of the importance of the bank’s public image toward customers and the need for smooth, harmonious work relationships in the pressure-packed, highly routinized contexts, bank managers try to establish and control the prinicpal aspects of workers’ public faces. For their part, workers chafe under the faces the bank prescribes and experience as little control over the presentation of themselves as they do over the sea of paperwork that engulfs them. But managers both at the bank and in all the corporations I studied more recently see the matter of public faces differently. For them, the issue is not  a reluctant donning of organizational prescribed masks but rather a mastery of the social rules that prescribe which mask to wear on which occasion.

Note that this lesson was certainly not lost on Herbert Armstrong who also prescribed the length of women’s skirts at church.

Robert Jackall continues:

Such social mastery and the probations that test it begin early in managers’ careers. Every spring at elite colleges and universities throughout the land, a small but instructive transformation takes place when corporate recruiters from a wide variety of large companies descend on campuses to screen graduating seniors for entry-level managerial jobs. The jeans, ragged shirts, beards, mustaches, and casual unkeptness of youth that typify college life, particularly in rural areas, give way to what is called the corporate uniform — three-piece, wool pin-striped suits or suited skirts; button-down collars or unfrilled blouses; sedate four-in-hand foulards for men and floppy printed bow ties for women; wing-tipped shoes or plain low-heeled pumps; somber, straightforward hues; and finally, bright well-scrubbed, clean-shaven or well-coiffured appearances. It is, in short a uniform that bespeaks the sobriety and seriousness appropriate to the men and women who would minister to the weighty affairs of industry, finance, and commerce. Perhaps he only noteworthy aspect of this unremarkable rite is that underclassmen and seniors evaluate it quite differently. Underclassmen, surprised and bemused by the symbolic intrusion of the real world into their youth ghettoes, see seniors’ capitulation to the norms of managerial milieu as a callow moral compromise, as a first but ominous step toward de-individualizing conformity. Seniors, however,approach the crisis more pragmatically, though not without ironic self-deprecation and biting sarcasm. They know that managers have to look the part and that all corporations are filled with well-groomed and conventionally well-dressed men and women.

Such small probations are the stuff of everyday managerial life. Businesses always try to epitomize social normality, and managers, who must both create and enforce social rules for lower-level workers and simultaneously embody their corporation’s image in the public arena, are expected to be alert to prevailing norms. Managers in different corporations joke with bemused detachment about the rules that govern their appearances — the rule against sport jackets (too casual); the rule against leaving one’s floor without one’s suit jacket (improper attire in a public area); the unspoken rule against penny loafers (comfortable-looking shoes suggest a lackadaisical attitude); the suspicion of hair that is too long or too short (there is no place for hippies or skinheads); the mild taboo against brown suits (brown is dull, a loser’s color; winners choose blue); the scorn for polyester suits (strictly lower class, wool is better); the preference for red ties or red on blue (red symbolizes power and authority); the indulgent tolerance for the person who slightly overdresses if this is done tastefully (classy); and the quiet but forceful admonition of the person who does not dress properly or is in some way unkempt. Anyone who is so dull-witted or stubborn that he does not respond to social suggestions and become more presentable is quickly marked as unsuitable for any consideration for advancement. If a person cannot read the most obvious social norms, he will certainly be unable to discern more ambiguous cues. At the same time, managers also suspect that clothes and grooming might indeed make the man. The widespread popularity of recent self-promotional literature on this point — I mean the Dress for Success books and the like, even though its principal role is probably to disseminate techniques of image management to less fortunate social classes — underlines knowledge taken for granted among managers. Proper management of one’s external appearances simply signals to one’s peers and to one’s superiors that one is prepared to under take other kinds of self-adaptation.

 This perspective was highly ingrained in Herbert Armstrong’s thinking as CEO of the Worldwide Church of God Corporation and the Chancellor of Ambassador College Incorporated. Those going through his established worldly influenced program of transformational social normities became clones of his wolf in sheep’s clothing ethic — an ethic so ingrained that it continues to be the dominant driving force within the fragmented sects of his one-time hirelings.

The Corporate world was the only way of life Herbert Armstrong ever knew in spite of any influence from the Church of God Seventh Day. The CoG7D does not have such a dress code in place. Herbert Armstrong joined himself temporarily with that church organization, only to recreate the corporate environment and mores that he knew and understood when he discovered that he had little or no common ground with the Church of God Seventh Day.

So now men are stuck with corporate business suits as they join the Church Cult Corporate.

It doesn’t matter, though, if you dress up in sheep’s clothing: If you are a wolf, you will remain one, no matter how well dressed for corporate success you are.

3 Replies to “Suits”

  1. Prior to our WCG experience, my family attended the small, community Methodist church that my mother’s family had been involved with for years. Many of my parents’ high school friends were part of that church, and I suspect that this was a microcosm of American civilization in the 1950s and the first half of the 1960s, until suddenly, in the latter half of the ’60s, the nation’s youth began to reinvestigate all of the customs, traditions and social mores which we had been handed. We did, during our Methodist experience, wear our Sunday clothes to church. Even as a young child, that meant either a suit, or a sport-coat and nice slacks, some sort of tie (neck tie or bow tie), and well-polished leather, tie up shoes. There were other social functions to which we also wore this attire, but most of the family pictures which I have of us in our best clothes were taken shortly after church services. I don’t ever remember anyone questioning it, or making an issue of it, it was just a nearly universal custom of Americana from that era.

    Rationale, reason behind customs or commands, can be powerful modifiers. I am sure that most of us, when we began to attend WCG services, simply continued the customs regarding church attire of that day in which we had participated in our previous churches. The first time that I can recall sabbath clothing being addressed more or less from an edict standpoint was in the late ’60s, when the national clothing fashions had trended towards relaxed or flamboyant. Certain district pastors would not allow a visiting minister to be a guest speaker unless he was attired in a suit, and traditional white dress shirt. No leisure suits, no pastel dress shirts, always wear a proper tie. This is when they began emphasizing proper respect for God in matters of clothing.

    Actually, there was also a similar, more secular reaction from the traditionalists in the corporate world at that time. A Coldwell-Banker type who smoked marijuana with one of his girlfriends over the weekends would be immaculately dressed and coifed during the work week in such a way that totally fooled the establishment. He looked the part, therefore, he was the part during the work week, and was consequently trusted implicitly by managers and clients alike. I had a cousin who was pursuing his medical degree at that time, and, even in the medical field, he and his peers were required to wear traditional white shirts during lab day. That is what was deemed as being professional attire.

    The basic problem with attire is that as the gap has widened between liberals and conservatives over the past decades, clothing has become somewhat of an identifying badge. In a church where a conservative viewpoint is equated with God’s own mind set, the badges of the other faction will never be tolerated. Of course, one would think that in an organization providing spiritual guidance, that would be wrong, exclusionary, and elitist, but HWA always played to his own team. If you were not 100% part of that team, just as in the corporate world, you were viewed with suspicion, and could very quickly become persona non grata. Either place, you had to drink the corporate Kool Aid, and you were required to like it!


  2. Well this makes sense. In a way this is control like the control over what color car you bought, what you consumed, what you wear. You become dependent on what the cult teaches as if it is truth. It is like a family with the head guru being dad and you being the child.
    Image is a powerful tool but in the final event it is always profit over people. The cogs are but a profit generation tool for gullible fools. They are the suckers in a side show full of freaks.

  3. The point of all of this is that in Herbert Armstrong’s Corporation, just as in the Fortune 200, it was not about who you really were, it was not about your actions or achievements, it was not about how you thought or acted, it was about credibility based on appearances. Suits gave a person credibility for advancement and positioned many people for upper echelon positions in the God Corporation.

    In the early 1960s, there was a man who was a milk delivery man. In due time, he lost weight, buffed up, got contact lenses to replace his glasses and started dressing in expensive suits. As he did this in the company where he worked, he became a manager. In the Radio Church of God at the same time, he became a deacon angling for an elder position. He was careful about his appearance and even groomed his family to look like the well coiffured upper middle class appropriate to managerial position potential. He did become an elder and started flipping houses with his family: He’d buy a house, remodel it and then sell it at a higher price. From there, he developed his own construction company and employed church members. He became a millionaire.

    Now most of the people who visit here understand very well that those in positions of power — particularly Herbert Armstrong — very much respected those who dressed well and had the manner of the corporate that makes people feel comfortable. Material success equated to spiritual success. For anyone to gain attention to the high placed and powerful in the Worldwide Church of God, it was necessary for them to have the appearance of being, if not wealthy, at least well to do. Those who were lesser members of the lower class were usually ignored as not being worthy of the ministers’ time. No one paid attention to them or listened to them.

    Even though the hirelings went out and put up their own shingles and do not really understand the corporate world Herbert Armstrong established, they still follow the same guidelines of the original corporation because it is what they were taught and that is what they know. They still equate prosperity with spirituality and those who dress for success but commit heinous acts are defended and protected. In this, there is virtually no difference between the ACoGs and modern corporations. The Headquarters / Home Office is the center of the production as well as the center of the social norms with the various congregational churches being the remote location plants with their own plant manager.

    Unless one understands just how aligned the ACoGs are with the modern corporate world — adopting the worst of the corporate model and implementing it badly — no one can fully understand why things are the way they are.

    Thus it is that United is looking for a new public ‘face’ and spends many hours contemplating new logos — and this is just one example of the church cult corporate among so many.

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