Blast from the past…
Thanks to the good people at the Church of God, a group that split off from Gerald Flurry’s Philadelphia Church of God, much of the literature from the first 30 years of the Worldwide Church of God is now available on CD.
For example, one CD has all of the issues of the Plain Truth from 1934 to 1960. Legendary articles such as Herbert Armstrong’s “Hitler Did Not Die,” from the August, 1952 issue, are once again available free of charge. Another CD has all of Armstrong’s co-worker letters, along with all of his books and booklets.
A third CD has all of the issues of The Good News magazine from 1951 to 1969. It was on this CD that I found an article of interest, especially since gives us insights into the operations of the Worldwide Church of God ministry. Entitled “Help the Underdog!,” it was written by Roderick C. Meredith, and it appeared in the January, 1954 issue.
Meredith opens the article with, “HAVE you ever had what is known as a ‘suffering hero’ complex? Chances are, you probably have. Most of us have it once in a great while, but quickly solve our problem and get over it. “But with some people, this complex becomes a fixed mental habit. When these people are denied what they want -even though they don’t deserve it they begin to feel sorry for themselves and to place the blame on others. They usually set out immediately to win sympathy for their ’cause.’ They often lead a great many others into an attitude of bitterness toward those who are supposed to be persecuting them-the ‘underdogs.'”
Just what Rod is getting at is revealed a few paragraphs later: “But the fact remains that even brethren in God’s church are subject to all the temptations and deceits of human nature one of which is the tendency of some to regard themselves as persecuted ‘martyrs’ or ‘suffering heroes,’ if they are unable to have their own way in church matters or problems with their brethren. These people get their ‘feelings’ hurt and feel persecuted if they are not allowed to do as they please.”
Those who have grievances, legitimate or not, against the church or a minister are painted as selfish individuals who are pouting because they aren’t getting their way. They stir up trouble to gain sympathy for their “cause,” which is probably a smokscreen concealing selfish ambition.
“By making others feel that it is a personal disagreement, and that they are the ‘underdog,’ they win sympathy.
“Because nearly everyone tends to sympathize with an ‘underdog,’ and because too few people realize that in GOD’S CHURCH such disagreements are not between the people and a human ‘preacher,’ but actually against God Himself and the way of God! In plain language, anyone who sympathizes with such people is sympathizing with Satan the Devil!”
By this definition, if anyone sympathizes with a church member with a complaint against the ministry, he is actually sympathizing with Satan. If a person has a grievance, he is really using that as an excuse to promote a hidden agenda. The Christian thing to do is to sit back and do nothing, as Rod explains:
“If God’s ministers seem a little slow in appointing someone to an office in the church, or if they appear to have made a mistake in such an appointment –or in any other decision they may have to make, the truly Christian thing for you to do is not to criticize and condemn, nor to bitterly think that we are persecuting a so-called ‘underdog,’ but to get down on your knees before God and ask Him to show us His will, to rebuke and chasten us if necessary, and to guide us in directing His church as He has promised to do.”
A person with a grievance should just pray about it. He is out of line to complain. God’s ministers are usually right about these things, as Rod explains:
“And while you are at it, you had better ask God also to show you if You are the one who is wrong! The Bible reveals that when individuals disagreed with God’s called servants, they were nearly always the ones who were wrong.”
More likely than not, the problem is not with the church or the ministers; it is with the member. God wouldn’t allow his ministers to be wrong. In all probability, it is the aggrieved one who is at fault.
“So mistakes will be made. But God’s Word shows that those who criticize or accuse God’s servants of being unfair will probably be the ones in the wrong.”
He then goes on to explain a principle that is at the heart of the church of God ministry. It is probably the most effective technique they use to keep the membership in line. When confronted by an angry laymember, simply turn the tables and accuse him of being in a state of sin. Putting the laymember on the defensive is the most effective way to deflect criticism:
“Yes, you should help the ‘underdog’!
“Here is how. If you are careful to find the real cause of his grievance, you will probably find that the individual is in some manner going contrary to the government of God. He may be trying to disobey some point of God’s law. He may be holding a feeling of bitterness toward one of God’s ministers because he was unwilling to be corrected on some point; or he may feel ‘persecuted’ because he has not been allowed to appoint himself to some office or function in God’s work for which he is not qualified or prepared.”
“Whatever may be the reason, you will not help him by actively sympathizing with his supposed ’cause.’ This will only make him feel more secure in his error, and seem to substantiate his feeling of bitterness.
“If possible, you should try to point out his own mistake, help him get his mind off his own selfish desires, and warn him in a loving way that such an attitude among God’s people is one which Satan the Devil is working day and night to bring about (I Peter 5:8).”
A person would complain to his minister, and the minister would angrily criticize the member for daring to question the authority of the church. The minister would then follow up with the question, “What are you up to? What secret sin are you hiding?” I’ve seen the technique used many times during my 18 years of membership in the Armstrong cult. I was delighted to find it described in a church publication, especially in an article written by a man who was superintendent of ministers for 20 years.
Lay members were encouraged to report the disgruntled individual to the ministry:
“If you are members of a local congregation, you should discuss it with the minister and let him know the real situation so that he may help work out a solution before anything serious arises. If you are one of the many scattered brethren and such a problem should arise, write to us at God’s ‘headquarters church’ in Pasadena, and we will try to work out a solution, and will pray with you about it.”
Of course, there are dire consequences for those with grievances. It’s best for the aggrieved individual to ignore the problem and hope it goes away:
“The ‘underdog’ and his sympathizers may well be in danger of the lake of fire. It seems that if people allow themselves to become embittered and reject a minister, they also reject Christ’s message! It just doesn’t pay to fight God’s true servants.”
In summary, if you have a grievance against the church or a minister, it is probably because you covet a position, or are committing a terrible sin. The ministers are usually right, and the aggrieved member is probably wrong. It doesn’t pay to argue with the ministry; all you are doing is putting your eternal life at risk. If you have a grievance, you shouldn’t confront the ministry. You should not apply Matthew 18. Just pray about it. In the unlikely event that you are right, God will take care of everything in His own time, and you needn’t interfere. But since you are probably wrong, God probably won’t correct the problem, except to put you in the lake of fire because you are the problem.
(c)Copyright 1999 by Marc A. Mojica. All rights reserved