Disappointment, Part 2: Stench

Years back, I had the responsibility to do some work to prepare the Weyerhaeuser Mill in Valliant, Oklahoma for the Year 2000. I wasn’t certain what to expect. What I found was most unexpected.

The then Weyerhaeuser Mill was the largest mill of its kind in the world. In scale, you might think of a gear the size of one inside a old style Swiss watch or even a gear in a car. In the mill, a gear was typically a minimum of 6 feet across (about two meters for you in the rest of the world). Everything there was huge!

Paper mills work using wood pulp “digested” and pressed into kraft paper using 430 degrees of heat. The “digesting” part causes sulphur, turpentine and chlorine to be airborne and quite pervasive. The smell of the place was not unlike a hospital surrounded by a forest in hell. It got into everything. The way to survive it was to go to the mill to do the work, return to the motel room and take a shower. Taking a shower in the morning before leaving for the plant was useless. Before the shower, I would put my clothes I wore that day into a black plastic garbage bag and put that bag inside another black plastic garbage bag.

One of my colleagues had travelled by jet back to corporate headquarters. He had papers from the office at the mill in his brief case. All he did was open the briefcase. Immediately, the smell was all over the jet cabin and many people on board became sick.

I thought I would be smart: When I arrived home, I got the washer started and dumped my clothes on the bed, thinking to put them in the machine presently. Immediately, everyone in the house wanted to know if the sewer had backed up. I should have dumped the clothes directly from the garbage bags into the washer, but it was far too late. It took two hours to air out the house — with the plastic garbage bags outside in the garbage.

The mill controller told me that a very clean living Mormon family man had worked at the mill for 20 years and retired. He moved away and shortly died of cancer. The controller told me that he was convinced that the chlorine, sulphur and turpentine had killed him. It was difficult to see it any other way.

The remarkable thing was that after almost exactly six months, people who worked continuously at the mill stopped smelling the chlorine, sulphur and turpentine. Anyone who suddenly told their coworkers that they couldn’t smell it anymore had their coworkers go, yup, he’s been here six months.

In 2009, I went to the first day of the days of unleavened bread with the UCG in Tacoma. It had been over three years, and I was only there for my wife’s sake. I no sooner walked through the door than the minister came by and told everyone in hearing range that I was stubborn. He later told my wife to force me to return to United. Her reaction was that she couldn’t make me do anything. Besides, who was the minister to make such outrageously presumptuous demands? I remembered very well the circumstances with my last contact with the minister: He lied to me, broke his promises, falsely accused me and lied to others about me [I can ruin my own reputation just fine on my own without help from a UCG minister, thanks loads]. Besides being vain to the point of considering taking group photographs of himself, he engineered some of the most illegal, immoral and unethical acts I have seen outside corporate America.

In order to make the whole stalking case go away, he offered the UCG couple a bribe. What do you want the most,he asked? “Oh, I’d really like to go to the Feast in Alaska,” was the reply. So instead of doing the I Corinthians 5 thing and putting the immoral stalker out of the church for a time until he, well, stopped stalking church members, the minister offered a bribe to keep the whole thing out of court. He issued a check out of third tithe, taking it from whatever hapless widows and orphans there might be, and gave it to the stalked. Before the ink dried, they deposited it and got tickets to Alaska… and filed suit in court. It was a win-win for them. United, not so much. You must admit it was a clever ploy, though. I think the minister more than met his match.

So when I walked into the UCG services in 2009, the arrogance of the minister hit me every bit as hard as the stench of the Weyerhaeuser mill. It stinks, it really does. I realized then that I had been in the stench since 1964 when I first attended with the Radio Church of God. I was 17 and naive. My sense of discrimination was simply not present. I could not sense the arrogance. I thought these people were gods — a simpleton from the hinterland of a farming community subjected to the sophisticated city folk. I was, in that environment, under those circumstances, extremely poor and cut off from my own folks, subject to the tender mercies of those godlets in sheep’s clothing, persuaded to commit the best and the rest of my life to Herbert Armstrong with no hope of being or achieving anything in this life. Hooray, I was on the bottom. The lowest of the low. I had no status whatsoever. I lived as best I could on less than minimum wage. Often, I fasted because I actually had nothing to eat. I paid my full tithe on my gross income before anything else and “Second Tithe” as well. At the best of times, I had $3.25 to last me a fortnight until the next paycheck. Needless to say, I lost a lot of weight and was quite gaunt. It wasn’t really that healthy, but I thought I was happy, giving my life to God and all.

It was only later — much later — that I realized that I was giving my life to a parasite who never even knew who I was: Just another face in the crowd of 6,000 people for the two hours he stood at the podium at the Feast of Tabernacles. I was dirt poor and he was wealthy beyond the hopes of avarice. Because I grew up in a Catholic Parochial school, I thought Herbert Armstrong had a vow of poverty and chastity, just like the Catholic Sisters. After all, he said he didn’t really own anything.

It was later that I began to see the arrogance of Herbert Armstrong. I got to perceive the arrogance of Roderick Meredith. I’ve gotten experience first hand with the arrogance of Joseph Tkach, Senior.

It stinks. It all stinks. It stinks to high heaven.

Well, you know. After being out of the stench of Armstrongism for a few years, you don’t appreciate what you are missing, until the day you walk back into it. Then it hits you. It is overpowering. But then, I didn’t and don’t have to put up with it. I don’t attend United any longer. I don’t attend any Armstrongist church. Oh, a visit now and then for reasons other than spiritual health, because they don’t offer much in the way of anything spiritual. They don’t recognize the fact that they are empty. If you attend services with the Armstrongists, it is highly likely you will hear about their support programs, or, Scripturally, be regaled with the minutia and unnecessary details of the weights and measures of utinsels in the Arc of the Covenant.

They are utterly devoid of spirituality, let alone humanity, because they are used to they way they are treated: With dignity, honor and deference. They don’t seem to realize that I’ve very much outgrown them and have no need for them any longer. They never had that much to offer in the first place and they have nothing to offer now.

I also have the benefit of the experience of the non Armstrongist Sabbath keeping churches of God. You’d be surprised how like the Armstrongist churches of God are at first glance. There’s not much difference in the doctrines, but there is a very great difference in the way people are treated. The minister is an unpaid volunteer who has a day job. I can actually talk to and relate to the minister. He’s just a regular bloke without the “halo glow” about him. There’s equality among the people. The standards are quite different. After awhile, you recover from the stench of the Armstrongists and wonder what you ever saw in them. They no longer seem bigger than life. The Armstrongists merely seem terribly pathetic.

The arrogance of the Armstrongists hit you when you come through the door. You can smell the stench when you read their magazine. You get the stench from their website. You can see the stench from the telecasts and podcasts. And heaven fore-fend, you can really get the stench at the Feast of Tabernacles when they declare the Word of the Lord and how the Statutes, Laws and Judgments of God are going to be applied in the Millennium and in the Second Resurrection: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, as the judges determine. You can get the stench of nuttiness from their arrogance from their sermons — they are right and you are wrong and THEY ARE IN CHARGE! THEY HAVE THE POWER!

Not anymore.

In case you were wondering about that Weyerhaeuser Mill in Valliant, Oklahoma? Weyerhaeuser sold its entire Containerboard Packaging Business in 2008, replete with over two dozen plants and several mills, including the one in Valiant, to International Paper Company. International Paper was under-capitalized and nearly immediately closed one of the three lines at the mill and laid off 60 people — a hard hit in an already depressed part of the country. I presume that the stench continues, just at a diminished capacity, for a mill that opened in 1982 and decreased the adult illiteracy rate from 55% in that area to 45%. I’m thinking that illiteracy will go even higher than original. It’s sad that the buffet 14 miles from the mill, featuring deep fat fried catfish will have fewer customers. By the way, if you ever go there, or anywhere in Valiant, be sure to bring cash, because no one accepts credit cards, not even Visa. But the King’s Motel still accepts paying guests by the hour.

So I hope you learn something from this: There is a stench to the arrogance of the Armstrongists. But beware: Stay with them for six months and you won’t notice it any more. But it could kill you.

Next time: Lies

Herbert Armstrong, Spiritual Mafia Godfather

I have to admit that sometimes I can be pretty dense, although, in my defense, even highly qualified experts who should know better sometimes miss the point. It was only last year did something come clear to me because of an experience I had with a young man who was not exactly who he seemed to be. As a result, it would seem time to clarify the distinctions between the pure narcissist, psychopath and sociopath.

My introduction to the concept of narcissists came from William D. Meyer over at the main website for the Painful Truth:


It was very helpful to me, personally. I wondered about some people I knew personally, and this helped me immeasurally in my personal and professional life. It suddenly made sense to me when I dealt with people who were the center of their own universe and could in no way relate to others in a personal way or even acknowledge other people’s worth except for what they did personally for the narcissist himself or herself. I also had unfortunate interactions with Dr. Sam Vaknid and bought his book. I can agree with one thing he said in his book, Malignant Self Love — Narcissism Revisited: “My disorder is here to stay, the prognosis is poor and alarming”. The Narcissist has no empathy for others. The Narcissist will never change. Everyone else who comes into the life of the Narcissist will probably end up to be collateral damage.

So I thought Narcissists were really bad. But there are worse things in this world. I was in the locker room at Balley’s Pac West after a workout when a retired doctor who also worked out there told me about Dr. Robert Hare and  his book: Without Conscience — The Disturbing World of Psychopaths Among Us. “It’s a fun read,” the retired doctor said. After my experiences with them, and especially a Church of God psychopath leader [well documented by a psychiatrist], I conclude that the read might be fun, but actual experience with them, not so much. I’ve never been so miserable in my life as when I’ve been forced to deal with psychopaths. Dr. Hare wrote another, more useful and useable book with a colleague: Snakes in Suits — When Psychopaths Go to Work. Snakes in Suits unveils the basic patterns of the Psychopath: Evaluation, manipulation, abandonment. They are the risk-taking game players. Ironically, a story in the book tells of how a psychopath ripped off a church. It appears to me — and this is just my thinking — that the highest concentration of psychopaths are in Jails / Prisons, Corporations, Government and Churches. Otherwise, they are 2% or so of the general populace. However, statistics are hardly comforting if you end up being on their radar. You are going to be toast. They have the talent to con just about everybody and rip them off royally.

Along the way, people have asked me whether Herbert Armstrong was a psychopath. I have told them universally that I did not know. For one thing, anyone with a high vocabulary is not easy to spot as a psychopath, and, although, as with everything with Herbert Armstrong exaggerated to be bigger than life, and although perhaps his vocabulary was not as high as he’d like to have believed, it still would certainly cloud the issue.

Two years ago I encountered a young man who seemed sincere and quite religiously pious. He said and seemed to do all the right things. He had quite a family history which many would find somewhat disturbing, but he seemed OK. My radar was on for Narcissists and Psychopaths, but I was missing the final piece. I could not for the life of me figure this guy out. I wondered what was going on. He seemed to familiar to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

After quite a bit of research, I discovered the rather unexpected answer: He was a sociopath. Before you begin jumping to any conclusions, let me say that Dr. Robert Hare says that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) is wrong. It confuses the distinction between sociopaths and psychopaths. A little more research revealed the difference: While psychopaths are narcissistic, have no conscience and play games with people, the sociopath is narcissistic, has a situational conscience and is an opportunist.

What is a situational conscience?

A situational conscience is a conscience which is activated within a sociopath for a particular venue. That is to say that a sociopath may very well have no problem at all murdering, lying and theft with the general public, but for his particular social association, he may hold it anathema to do so with a particular segment of his social group. For example, the sociopath I knew hates all other men and he would have no problem hurting them — even killing them, but he would NEVER even think of hurting or doing anything bad to the women of his own family.

A perfect example of sociopaths is represented by the Mafia: They may murder, steal, lie, run illegal gambling and prostitution rings, cheat and sell drugs. Nevertheless, Mafia members would never do that to other Mafia members. It would probably mean death. Their sociopathic behavior is compartmentalized to the world outside of their own social group. And, of course, the one who holds the whole thing together is the Godfather.

If you view Herbert Armstrong as the Spiritual Mafia Godfather, it explains a lot. In the Radio Church of God and later in the Worldwide Church of God, his behavior was not that far off the mark as a sociopath acting as a Godfather. He generally took care of his family. He protected his son, even as GTA committed reprehensible acts. He took care of his wife and daughters, albeit there seems to be some aberrations in that regard. He took care of his closest lieutenants, as long as they did what he wanted them to do. He viewed the rest of us as the sort of plebians which carried out the operations and supported the main Family. At this point, Tkatch’s “We are Family” just doesn’t seem that appealing. It would be natural for him to fall prey to a sociopath who made outrageous claims of being connected to the Mafia.

The Worldwide Church of God was filled with outrageous anomalies. Men who became ministers married coeds who had been date raped by GTA. Some of them made it all the way to be Evangelists — all the while knowing the truth. It was natural that Roderick Meredith would be seen by Herbert Armstrong as his loyal “enforcer” — hard, harsh, cruel, but loyal to the Godfather himself. People ended up engaging in and subject to all sorts of conduct that was illegal, immoral and unethical. Herbert Armstrong himself said it was OK to lie to the general populace in order to bring them to “the truth” whatever that was. Personal opinions of the Godfather became doctrine, just as does in the Mafia. He had all the control and power. No one could oppose him.

Herbert Armstrong could be very nice to those he though were “important” and could be of use to him. I think, though, as aggressive and manic as he was, Herbert Armstrong was an opportunist. He didn’t aggressively play games and play people, but he wasn’t above engaging in opportunities when they came his way. For example, he honored and held up his eight Japanese “Sons” and even threatened to leave us all in favor of them. Stanley Rader was an opportunity he could not pass up, particularly because Rader straightened out the business end of things. But to make him an Evangelist after baptizing him in a bathtub? Well, you know, it’s important that Godfather makes it clear what kind of treatment of honor and respect someone gets in doing his work and providing him service. After all, the end justifies the means, just as it does in the Mafia. As long as the Godfather and his work was promoted, all else could be forgiven.

So now my training is complete and I have the trinity of narcissim well defined and nailed down: Good enough for practical use in daily life. My advice to you is the same as I take myself: As much as lies within us, avoid Narcissists, Psychopaths AND Sociopaths. Our lives are better off for it. Unfortunatly, I work for them, so there isn’t that much escape, but at least I understand their deviant nuttiness.

I hope that my experiences will be of practical benefit for you.

Keep your radar on.

Disappointment, Part 1: Hypocrisy

Did you know that there is a group of Sabbath keeping Mormons?

Certainly, the Armstrongists do not have a lock on claiming to keep the Sabbath as a part of keeping the Ten Commandments as a part of keeping God’s Law. Certainly, there is the Church of God, Seventh Day — several of them, in fact — so many of them you might not be able to keep them straight. There is the Seventh Day Church of God, which not only keeps the Sabbath, but has kept the Holydays since 1919: They took notice of Gilbert G. Rupert early on — long before Herbert Armstrong was taught personally by Jesus Christ to keep them [the author hopes that those reading this have a finely honed sense of irony]. [In case you are wondering, and do not have access to the Herald of Truth, Paul Woods produces the Holyday Calendar for the Seventh Day Church of God presently.] There are also those who actually don’t much deserve mention, such as the Seventh Day Baptists and the Seventh Day Adventists. In a totally illogical way, these two groups manage to keep the Sabbath (?) and Christmas and Easter — and to the Armstrongist mind, that’s just wrong.

One wonders with all the claims and counter claims of those keeping the Sabbath, and some of them managing to declare themselves holier than thou in spite of some nagging inconsistencies in their actual practices, just how deep the sincerity of committment might actually be? As one, myself, who lives on a good example of others, it certainly gives me pause to observe people coming into Sabbath services with an obviously fresh latte they just purchased at a drive through; it gives me pause to hear talk of their plans to eat out immediately after services and long before sunset, at Denny’s, Sherri’s or something even more upscale. There are those disturbing accounts in Ezra and Nehemiah about related commercial enterprises, after all.

Now mind you, Grace Communion International, A.K.A WCG, if only they could get the State of Washington to recognize their name change, corporately speaking, really doesn’t have a problem. Any day and every day is good to worship the Lord and spend time with him. Last Sabbath, Larry Pate pointed out while giving a sermon on I Thessalonians that we should have Jesus Christ as our Lord. It was his perspective that in the old Armstrongist Worldwide Church of God, it was far too often that the Law was our Lord, not Jesus Christ. Even if I don’t agree with the Grace Communion International, I have to admit that Mr. Pate has a point.

Nevertheless, this is not a discussion of religion, per se. It is not a discussion about theology. It is not a discussion, even about the Sabbath, per se. This is about hypocrisy. Let me just say that the examples that I see among all the Churches of God — and not just the Armstrongist ones — is a tad disappointing. I don’t care myself if you keep the Sabbath or you don’t keep the Sabbath. My concern is about people who claim to keep God’s Law, the Ten Commandments and claim to keep the Sabbath, and, yet, offer irreconcilable contradictions in their practices.

I’m not the only one to wonder about this issue. Art Bradic and Dennis Fischer coauthored a book called “A Sabbath Test” where you can find over at the Eternal Church of God Website: http://www.eternalcog.org/ecgbooks/stdirectory.html Their approach was just to lay out the case that we should not engage in commerce on the Sabbath by eating out on the Sabbath — if we’re going to keep the Sabbath, anyway. Their approach is something like: we’re comrades at arms, spiritual brothers — we’d like you to consider this. It isn’t in the typical Armstrongist take-no-prisoners, you’re-headed-for-the-lake-of-fire, cut-off-from-God approach. But for all that, the reaction, particularly amongst the ministers and leadership of all the major Armstrongist Churches of God is nothing short of astonishing: Everyone of them is vehemantly opposed to the Bradic / Fischer approach and have universally condemned them for their efforts. Dennis Fischer documents this fairly well over at his website: http://www.blowthetrumpet.org/HonoringGodsSabbath.htm 

There’s stiff opposition from United, Living, Restored and the Church of the Great God. John Rittenbaugh, Director of the Church of the Great God, declared that the authors of A Sabbath Test were, at minimum, demon influenced, if not outright possessed, making that conclusion without reading a single word of the text.

It was just a few years back, three or four, I think, if I remember correctly, that Dennis Fischer told me at Sabbath services at the UCG in Redmond, Washington, that many of the brethren were beginning to consider the questions brought forth in the booklet. At the time, he was good friends with Dennis Luker and often gave Bible Studies in his own home. The leadership in Cincinnati, as they do, set forth to study the issue. Usually, such commissions to the Council of Elders drags on for years, what with their bureaucratic processes of governance and all, but this time, the retribution decision  was as swift as it was decisive: Dennis Luker [the next president of the UCG, presently packing his bags] had to tell Dennis Fischer that even though they were friends, well… you know…. Bible studies in Mr. Fischer’s home soon were dropped mysteriously from the UCG church schedule and finally, he moved away to Montana, to be in more direct contact with Art Braidic and the members of the Eternal Church of God there.

United, for sure, uses the ad hominum argument that Art Braidic has done something which would prevent them from allowing him to be a minister in the UCG. I would like to remind the UCG that they have some much more dirty laundry in their closet which I disclosed a while back and their performance was less than stellar. I paid the lawyer’s fees for the stalked couple and I sat in the courtroom after all. I really don’t think that United has any cause to cast the first stone, so to speak, but, then that’s ancient history, as is the events which they recount in United concerning Mr. Braidic. If they’d like to use that as an excuse, then they probably don’t have much to say about the coauthor. What a bunch of hypocrites.

But there’s more.

There wasn’t just opposition. There were excuses. Can you imagine how many excuses the Armstrongist Churches of God could possibly give for breaking the Sabbath by eating out in a Restaurant? Would you say 5? 10? 20? 25? Nope. Thirty excuses. As my friend Wally Hensen in the Seventh Day Church of God says, “If you need an excuse, any one will do”.

I am well known for being that take-no-prisoners, in-your-face approach to hypocrisy. I’d probably be fighting along side the Maccabeean brothers. If you remember, the last thing I said to the Armstrongists, particularly to the UCG, was: judgment, if any, awaits. I figure that after all of those years of being yelled at as being evil and wicked and made to sing Psalm 51 year after year at the “Passover”, while considering that great and perfect stellar example of the ministry and the Armstrong lead Worldwide Church of God — and the even worse judgmental Radio Church of God — it is high time that the Armstrongists get a taste of their own medicine, particularly since they seem caught up in their own self-righteous narcissistic universe. It is something they long richly deserved.

On the other hand, is the kindness and gentle, if not genteel, loving approach of Art Braidic. He just wants his brothers in the church and ministry to have the blessings of God.

I plan to see Art Braidic this September in Montana. I might even consider singing The Holy City again at the Feast after a four year hiatus from the Red Lodge site. And I have a question for him — albeit a rhetorical one: Just which approach has worked with the leadership and ministry of the major Armstrongist churches of God — mine or his? We all now know the answer, but it will be fun to ask just the same.

Speaking of the Feast, has anyone considered that $832+ and on up to $1,552 cruise out of Seattle to Alaska, offered by the Church of God, Big Sandy? They meet the first two days of the Feast of Tabernacles at the Edgewater Inn in Seattle. On Friday afternoon, they board the Holland America Cruise Lines ship, the M.S. Zaandam, arriving at their first port of call in Juneau, Alaska that following Sunday. Services will be from 8 to 9 AM daily except for Wednesday, September 29th, when services are not planned. The Last Great Day will aboard ship as they arrive in the evening in Victoria, B.C. Canada. Sounds fun. Not too much religion at one hour per day — but it is awfully early. And on the Sabbath and the Holy Day, the manservants and maidservants of the Holland America Cruise Lines will be at your beck and call to cook up and serve you anything you want. Even if you choose buffet, the Captain and First Mate are in the wheel house on the Sabbath and Last Great Day, sailing the ship. The Church of God, Big Sandy, as you recall is one of the 40+ churches split away from United, and the CoG, BS is growing a lot faster and have a lot of fun programs (like the Boy Scouts) for participating members. One wonders if Ezra and Nehemiah are rolling over in their graves.

The CoG, BS cruise is reminisent of the single’s United Cruise down to Mexico. On the Sabbath, the ship was in port. Most of the members went out on the beach to go parasailing, while the minister hid on board ship. I’m guessing that the UCG has to keep the fun stuff for the 20 somethings to keep them interested, keeping the Sabbath be damned. …and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. Or maybe United is a bit closer to the Grace Communion International folks than we would have surmised. Given United’s recent woes, the time may be ripe for some sort of corporate merger — if only the Chairman of the Board can somehow be persuaded to embrace less conservative values. 

Beware of the leaven and all that. Like so many corporate sociopaths, they’d like you to accept what you are told and go your way. I have for the past 2+ years [and had great peace, finally walking away from the Armstrongist cultists], but every once in awhile it’s good for folks to have a reality check again — particularly with people we all know are about as far from reality as their high concepts can take them. They can hearken back to Herbert Armstrong, but I’ve had side conversations with his personal chef awhile back and as sure as death, taxes, revenge and the fury of a woman scorned, cannot, for the life of me, understand how anyone can claim to be keeping the Sabbath while demanding that his man servant cook something up for him on the Sabbath because he has a hankering for some food morsel or other. Perhaps, someone should do an investigation of what ever happened to that peacock on the AC campus. Delicious, was it? Cooked on the Sabbath? We wouldn’t wonder.

Meantime, I’m just as puzzled as ever: The claims about keeping the Sabbath make no sense at all — the behavior and bad example confuse me. The excuses anger me. If you’re going to keep it, keep it; if not, just give up making any claims about it.

I just had a thought: I wonder if I could find some Sabbath keeping Scientologists to visit. It makes about as much sense.

Next week: Disappointment, Part 2: Stench.