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!
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