Herbert Armstrong vs Dennis Luker

Herbert Armstrong vs Dennis Luker
Herbert Armstrong vs Dennis Luker

It is impossible to be competent in a dysfunctional organization.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to insure the accuracy of the material here; it is possible that some details may be inaccurate, but the situations and data presented here are true in intent and as the big picture; any discrepancies brought to our attention will be corrected.

The Radio Church of God, the Worldwide Church of God and Ambassador College were extremely dysfunctional with preposterous situations, standards and beliefs. Herbert Armstrong was responsible for the grossly insane environment, made to look benign and reasonable through profound manipulation, lies, deceptions and cover ups. It did not matter how advanced or competent someone entering this environment may have been when they started, but by the time they were finished, they were ruined and compromised. Dennis Luker is one example of someone who was quite competent who found himself surrounded by those who compromised themselves, their colleagues, their followers and their integrity.

Herbert Armstrong did not even finish high school. He assumed that he was quite capable of being superior through self-education by ‘flying by the seat of his pants’. He didn’t want or need to have anyone to tell him what to do, and assumed, contrarywise, that he had wisdom, knowledge and understanding to carry him into success for whatever endeavor he chose for himself. No one could tell him anything. He thought that he was totally self-sufficient. He set out to build his vocabulary and was quite confident that he had the largest, complete and most accurate vocabulary, above and beyond anyone else. He decided that he didn’t have any peers and that he knew better than anyone else. His idea was that he would quit high school to become a high school teacher; that he could be buddies with the guys and he could subdue them with wrestling holds. Fortunately, his father stood in his way and he never went off to teach high school, even if he weren’t particularly qualified. His ambition and hubris caused him to believe that he was better than anyone else and that he was so much smarter that he could figure things out to be able to teach, even if he didn’t know the material.

Herbert Armstrong was quite devoid of the inherited talent known as structural visualization: He could have never been a mechanic, engineer, surgeon or scientist. He was a technological idiot. That set himself apart from his father who not only had structural visualization but apparently invented a furnace which he could have (and may have) patented. This meant that Herbert Armstrong simply could not have understood his father: He didn’t have the same talent that his father had and was devoid of being able to share many perspectives that his father had. It is likely that this factor was a part of his narcissism and put him in competition with this father: He would have been in the position of seeking approval from his dad for the rest of his life. His mother lacked structural visualization and so he would have been far more comfortable with her than he was with his father.

Herbert Armstrong wasn’t particularly adept at planning. He simply dealt with the world on his own terms as it happened to him. He never inherited the talent of foresight from his father. When he was bankrupted — having never planned his life for such contingencies because he had no prudence about the future — he drove out to Oregon where he stayed at his dad’s place — and marveled how his father could have a stable life, a home not just adequate for his immediate needs, but had accommodations that could put Herbert and his family up while Herbert tried to get back on his feet. This singular lack of foresight — the prudence of planning for the future — translated itself into faith — that you just lived life as it came, buying and acquiring what you wanted when you wanted it with no thought or concept of consequences. Thus, he would go to Harrod’s and spend $68,000 in one day on gold, silver and crystal place settings for his dining room: This was, up to that time, the most anyone had ever spent at once at Harrod’s. Of course, when the realization hit him when he got home, he had to send out emergency coworker letters insisting that everyone had to sacrifice for the sake of the ‘Work’. Not only didn’t Herbert Armstrong have foresight, he also had very poor behavior controls. It should also be noted that people who have inherited high foresight value higher education and generally pursue it as opportunity presents itself. Herbert Armstrong had a singular disdain for higher education.

Herbert Armstrong was also quite inconsistent. When a potential employer approached him with a job offer, he had to turn it down because he had ‘up’ days and ‘down’ days. On the periods of the cycle with his ‘down’ days, he could accomplish very little, if anything. He couldn’t afford to take a regular job because of this. It isn’t clear whether or not this was a result of his manic depressive mental disorder or his alcoholism — probably both. He couldn’t be trusted to be consistent. He claimed to have overcome this problem over time, but his protestations did not have much upon which to base them, particularly during his bouts being naked drunk in his hotel room.

Speaking of alcoholism, it wasn’t just that Herbert Armstrong was an alcoholic, but his whole family was a group of alcoholics, and where you have a family corporation founded and led by alcoholics, you can be sure that birds of a feather will flock together: The administration of the church and Ambassador College had quite the infiltration of boozers. Spirits of various brands were bandied about and filtered down, flowing to the people below in the hierarchy. Dr. James Milam in his book, Under the Influence, mentions that alcoholism is passed through the mitochondria. For anyone familiar with biology, this means that the liver disease which causes alcoholism is passed through the mother. We know that Garner Ted Armstrong was quite the boozing alcoholic, and, so, therefore, his mother was an alcoholic passing the genetics not just to him, but to his siblings. Most of us are familiar with the friendship Garner Ted Armstrong had with David Jon Hill — who had quite a problem with alcoholism. There were many who said they hoped that ‘he would get his head out of the bottle’. While there is practically nothing in sociological writings or studies about ‘the alcoholic corporation’, the facts reflect that the dysfunction of an alcoholic corporation, such as the Worldwide Church of God / Ambassador College, is not unlike that of the families of alcoholics, with the lies, broken promises, abuse and neglect. Now it should not be surprising that Herbert Armstrong would want to break away from the Church of God Seventh Day which had a strong bias against drinking: Herbert Armstrong would not at all want his freedom to booze it up bridled in any way. Although there were many reasons that Herbert Armstrong broke off from the CoG7, his addiction of alcohol may well have contributed to his assessments in pondering his rebellion.

Various church areas suffered from the alcoholism perpetuated by Herbert Armstrong. In the 1960s, an alcoholic ex Marine became a member and even though he was new to the environment, he fit right in: The booze flowed and he had quite the impact on the area — at one point he was the Spokesman Club President — always having big ideas and quite socially connected. A decade or so later, an alcoholic minister, Don Weininger became the church pastor. He, as well as most of the congregation, complained about hypoglycemia, which, in 90% of the cases is the result of the third stage of alcoholism — you know the one: It’s the stage just before death. His alcoholism was a part of his wife seeking a divorce after she had become a successful real estate agent. He met her in the hallway outside her divorce attorney’s office. He brought a gun. He tried to talk her out of the divorce. He then shot her and committed suicide. And the ex Marine? He had gotten a divorce and left his wife stranded with his sons. Spokane was devastated and it took a long time to recover.

Of course, Spokane wasn’t the only church where alcoholism was evident. During the 1970s, Dale Hampton came through Seattle and presented his message about his own alcoholism in the ministry with the appeal for people in the church to deal with their own problem. His estimate was that 18% of the members of the Seattle church were alcoholics. Experience suggests that this estimate was low, at least by one third. As Armstrongism has rolled out into myriad spit offs, many of the sects have a reputation for alcoholics at the top and not too fine a point on it, one leader is routinely called the six-pack prophet because of his online DUI — well, not driving exactly, but you get the picture.

Herbert Armstrong was the source of all this and given the hero worship idolatry, few Armstrongists want to even acknowledge the problem. Nevertheless, it’s there, and the irony is that so many people may have been alcoholics before entering the Radio / Worldwide Church of God but never had a problem because they didn’t drink alcohol. It was only at the urging of the WCG itself that they took up boozing and have been subsumed by the addiction. For those in Armstrongism: Stop drinking before you kill yourself, someone else or leave people you’ve affected permanently disabled.

Herbert Armstrong was quite delusional about his own place in the world and felt he was personally exempt from following standard ‘best’ practices. He liked to pretend that getting a brisk rubdown substituted for exercise. It doesn’t, of course, which is why he was morbidly obese — and became the roly-poly apostle, nearly as wide as he was tall. Lacking any sort of athletic skill was no limiting factor to him, since he assumed, for no particularly good reason, that he was popular in spite of the fact that he was stubborn, opinionated, obtuse, difficult, uncooperative and a real fatty. It is surprising that he made it to 93 with only one heart attack.

Dennis Luker was the captain of his high school football team. This meant that he could work with others, he was a real leader, he exercised and kept himself fit. He dated the cheerleader. Apparently, he had some sort of injury which prevented him from playing football on scholarship to the University, where he earned his degree — because he had high foresight and valued education — and began his career as an engineer for an aerospace company, where he learned about the corporate environment and gained organizational skills, both as a worker and learned from his leadership.

Somewhere in the early 1960s, he left his job to go to Ambassador College where he met his wife to be — the love of his life — and began his transition to be a minister in the church cult corporate. He rose in the ranks to eventually become an evangelist. He was posted for some time as the regional director of Australia. During his decades in the Radio / Worldwide Church of God, he used his socialization skills to form many relationships with various people in the church. His brother-in-law was the Data Processing Manager at Ambassador College in Pasadena for a time, which means that Dennis Luker had a thorough knowledge of the people, the hierarchy, and the administration of the entire operation, both within the headquarters environment and out in the hinterland. He was well aware of the problems as well.

When he came to Seattle, he worked with a minister there to set a program to help alcoholics in the church. One of the most helpful things he ever did is to announce to the Seattle congregation, If you say that you can do without it, prove it. It was ‘The Luker Challenge’.

It should be clear that with his structural visualization, foresight, high vocabulary, connections, executive ability, he should have been a shining beacon to the rest of the church. Unfortunately, he was overshadowed by those who had power without much ability or ethics and morals. In fact, at one point, we were shocked by an announcement in the Worldwide News that he was slated to take over the Quincy, Washington church. We all looked at each other and went, huh? Quincy, Washington was about as low as anyone could get (Gerald Flurry ended up there at one point). We wondered who he had offended among those in the higher echelons of the cult. Fortunately, it never happened.

After Herbert Armstrong died, Dennis Luker began to foresee what was ahead: The writing on the wall suggested to him that his career was about to tank under Tkach. Since he had high foresight, he planned to separate from the Worldwide Church of God. He was really behind the meetings that Victor Kubik held in his apartment and when push came to shove, he went to Tkach along with Jim Franks and Robert Dick to discuss an amicable split and sharing of the spoils. We know what happened: Tkach said no, and United was formed.

It should be clear from all this how absolutely inappropriate Herbert Armstrong was, and he was a fraud compared to Dennis Luker. Dennis Luker was the real deal.

In the end, the biggest fault Dennis Luker had was that he didn’t quit and just kept going in the Worldwide Church of God cult. It probably would have been so much better for him and his family if he had done the sane thing and left the chaos and insanity of the entire venue. Dennis Luker was buried in the fraud corporation disguised as a church. In all of this, he suffered fools greatly, proving once again…

It is impossible to be competent in a dysfunctional organization.



Michael stood alone in the middle of the foyer of the Seattle Masonic Hall, people swirling around and past him without interacting with him, a solitary island in the midst of a sea of people. I noticed he was new and that apparently, no one was interested in getting to know him. It made me feel sad. I went over and introduced myself to him and began learning about him. Over the next few weeks and months, I had him over to dinner with my family several times and we even went and worked out together at the gym. I learned about this “good guy” and he had a lot of depth that most people would not expect.

Michael shared with me his story about how he entered into the Marines at the age of 30. It was a matter of honor that his mates referred to him as “the Old Man” because they respected the fact that he stayed in there with them even though they were mostly a decade younger than he. He wanted to be a Marine. His father was a Marine.

Before the Passover I had broken my toes and at the Passover Service it was Michael who was to wash my feet. He looked me in the eye and said, “I ain’t gonna mess with no broken toes,” whereupon he washed my one foot without the broken toes. I washed his feet.

It was during the Days of Unleavened Bread that he showed up in our apartment complex in the parking lot. My wife and I looked at each other in dismay at him on the heavy duty motorcycle he had ridden on. He was all excited about it. He was a sincere believer who was going to take his brother out in the woods and talk to him about his new faith. We didn’t say anything and hoped for the best.

It was shortly after this that we learned that he was on his way on his motorcycle to prepare to go out to the woods when he got clipped on his head with the mirror of a semi. It removed the top of his head and he ended up in a coma in the hospital. His face had not been affected so it looked like he was in a peaceful sleep.

Each day for nearly 40 days, I would go down to the hospital after work in the afternoon and would sit with him and talk to him because I had heard that those in a coma often heard those talking to him. I would describe the Spring afternoon and the sun shining. At the last, I was not able to get to the hospital and he had changed doctors. He died shortly afterward from the trauma. I believe it was about 40 days.

What I did not know is that Michael had shared our friendship with his family: His dad, mom, sisters and brothers. I was the only one from the church in to see him at the hospital. I had talked with his family when they were there and we got to know one another as best strangers could under such circumstances.

Because Michael was a Marine as was his father, he was given a funeral with full honors with Marines in dress uniforms giving the gun salute with rifles.

Afterward, I prepared an obituary for the Worldwide News. I learned that I had to give it to the minister. It was a paragraph and told part of his story of being in the Marine Corps.

It turns out that I gave it to Dennis Luker after services on the Sabbath. He told me that he had met the family and when they told him about me, he said to them, “Oh, he’s so quiet!”. This produced laughter from Michael’s family and they instantly knew that Dennis Luker knew neither Michael nor me. He was attempting to cash in on an opportunity by pretending to be someone and something he wasn’t and got caught at it.

Eventually, the obituary made it to the Worldwide News. It was a sentence long. It was a brief sentence at that. Michael _____ died…. That was about it. Name, no rank, no serial number. It was crisply impersonally efficient.

During my brief discussion with Dennis Luker, he did something odd: He stroked my stomach as if it were a bowling ball. It was weird and creepy. Very weird and creepy. Very very weird and creepy. I just stood there and allowed him to do it. After all, this was God’s Evangelist of the Worldwide Church of God — the very Work of God. Many of us had been conditioned to be subjected to authority without question — to accept what was truly unacceptable, because the Very God of the Universe would support them even if they were wrong.

I vaguely felt as if I had been raped.

The important thing here is for the alpha male Corporate Executive to assert his superior dominance over an underling to maintain Corporate Order and insure the proper image for the Corporate Executive in the hierarchy of the Corporate “monkey tree” where all the executives are striving to be “top banana”.

The Magic Lantern

Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers by Robert Jackall covers the ground occupied by the Armstrongist Worldwide Church of God and their Church Corporate spinoffs — not specifically, but in practice, since all the participants follow the same thinking and practices of those in the Corporate 200. Chapter 7, The Magic Lantern, covers the aspects of image creation for the purposes of public relations:

The need for symbolic dexterity, particularly the ability to fashion, quickly and readily, appropriate legitimations for what must be done, intensifies as one ascends the corporate ladder. Since the success of large commercial bureaucracies depends to a great extent on the goodwill of the consuming public, ambitious managers recognize that great organizational premiums are placed on the ability to explain expedient action convincingly. Public opinion, of course, constitutes one of the only effective checks on the bureaucratic impulse to translate all moral issues into practical concerns. Managers not only face the highly specific and usually ideological standpoints of one or another “special-interest” group but, even more fearsome, the vague, ill-formed diffuse, highly volatile, and often irrational public opinion that is both the target of special-interest groups and the lifeblood of the news media. Those imbued with the bureaucratic ethos thus make every effort to mold public opinion to allow the continued uninterrupted operation of business. Moreover, since public opinion inevitably affects to some extent managers’ own conceptions of their work and of themselves, public goodwill, even that which managers themselves create, becomes an important part of managers’ own valued self-images. In this sense, both moral issues and social identities become issues of public relations.

Dennis Luker had been in the Corporate World before his induction into the Church Corporate and had obviously learned the lesson of being a triumph of image over substance. An examination of his Master’s Thesis yielded a window into this world, confined by the strictures of the lessons of being a Regional Pastor: It was not anything like the Master’s Thesis next to it on the shelf, Dr. C. Paul Meredith’s Satan’s Great Deception, which could be described as having intense spiritual content, but instead dealt with the purely physical aspects of deciding whether or not a visiting minister was to stay in the home of the Regional Pastor or at a motel nearby and making sure that the car was washed before sunset on Friday. People forget the mechanisms driving the engine of the Armstrongist Churches of God are the tactics of modern corporations, not the “Spirit led” assemblies of Christian ministers, disciples and apostles of the distant past: It’s business. Businesses are for the purpose of making a profit. To do this, the end justifies the means — the end being making profit, both in money and membership (used as a tool to sustain the ego of the narcissistic leader(s)).

This creates a new virtual world which is nowhere near the one the rank and file live in. Robert Jackall explains:

In fact, bureaucratic contexts typically bring together men and women who initially have little in common with each other except the impersonal frameworks of their organizations. Indeed, the enduring genius of the organization form is that it allows individuals to retain bewilderingly diverse private motives and meanings for action as long as they adhere publicly to agreed-upon rules. Even the personal relationships that men and women in bureaucracies do subsequently fashion together are, for the most part, governed by the explicit or implicit organizational rules, procedures, and protocol. As a result, bureaucratic work causes people to bracket, while at work, the moralities that they might hold outside the workplace or that they might adhere to privately and to follow instead of the prevailing morality of their organizations situation. As a former vice-president of a large firm says: “What is right in the corporation is not what is right in a man’s home or in his church. What is right in the corporation is what they guy above you wants from you. That’s what morality is in the corporation.”

This explains well why Roderick Meredith and Dennis Luker tolerated the behavior of Garner Ted Armstrong without saying one word or leaving: They were loyal to the corporation and their morality revolved around what Herbert Armstrong wanted from them. A good part of that was the image making part of the coverups to insure that the Corporation continued and prospered. In this world, what mattered was not the good of the members, but the good of those in the “middle management” and above, specified by rank. Dennis Luker would favor those in congregations who were wealthy — especially those were millionaires. His own children, in fact, married the children of a millionaire in his congregation. He could be close “friends” who could further his agenda, pursuing his career in the Armstrongist Churches of God along with the salary and the hoped for retirement it would bring. In fact, many have commented about his sermons over the years filled with his concerns about this very topic. Many times, those who were “different” or “lowly” may not have had such favor in his eyes, but he was able to maintain a calm demeanor which belied his true feelings, making it seem that he was personable and a concerned pastor.

Moral Mazes includes a comments from executives relevant to truth:

Everyone out there is constructing reality. We and our clients have perceptions too. Who is telling the truth? Is there anyone out there who has the time and inclination to sit down and truly evaluate the many situations.

That’s a good question, especially considering “The Present Truth” of many of the leaders of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong.

Truth? What is truth? I don’t know anyone in this business who talks about the “truth”.

That’s actually true: Perceptions are transformed so people believe they have the truth. Anyone who has seen the many “prognostications” of Herbert Armstrong and others should eventually come to the conclusion that they don’t have anything even close to what we could call “truth”. There is no reason to trust such people. They have proved their lack of integrity.

It should be noted that the chapter after The Magic Lantern is Invitations to Jeopardy.

In the end, we should all observe the aphorism of G’Kar in Babylon 5: “Let me pass on to you the one thing I’ve learned about this place. No one here is exactly what he appears.”

In fact, in the world of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong, nothing is exactly as it appears, including the smarmy image of those who portray a deeply caring persona.

Anyway, those who are wise will make it quite irrelevant by leaving the entirely dysfunctional environment where there is no real benefit to sacrifice resources and sanity to the Corporate Executive image makers conducting little more than a PR campaign for ego and money: It’s not worth it.

For those of you in the process of leaving the Cult of Herbert Armstrong, a piece of advice: Set boundaries.