Herbert Armstrong was certainly a bad neighbor. For the most part, he was a bad neighbor to the Church of God Seventh Day.
To picture this better, let’s compare this to the hit movie, Neighbors, where a young couple with a baby has a fraternity move next door. (The movie is so explicit that even some of the previews are rated ‘R’.) It’s what you might expect: The couple dotes on their new baby while the fraternity throws outrageous parties. The couple tries to “make nice” but the antagonist is not having any part of it. Delta Psi has a rich history of epic party moments. Teddy (played by Zach Efron) wants to have his picture on the fraternity wall of fame by throwing the most outrageous end-of-the-year party ever. What follows is a war between the couple and the fraternity.
Early on, Herbert Armstrong wanted his picture on the wall of fame as an apostle, seeking the most epic end-of-the-world party ever! To do this, he leaves the Church of God Seventh Day and begins his own fraternity replete with quite of lot of boozing and sex. The Church of God Seventh Day wants to live in peace with the Radio Church of God next door, but it’s pretty clear early on that there’s going to be war, even if it is a rather one-sided war with Herbert being the antagonist.
Here are a few quotes from Robert Garringer in the 1970s:
Here, perhaps are the real reasons why HWA left the Church of God as put forth by some of his fellow ministers:
John Kiesz: “The real reason seems to have been because of his uncooperative attitude…. Nobody can work with him.”
Brother Helms: “Herbert wouldn’t study…. Herbert was always the big man and everybody else was the little man.”
Elder Haber: “He [HWA] said that he didn’t have to pay any attention to anybody.”
Elder Straub: “Here was the point. We put him on the radio. It was the church…. But he wasn’t willing to study with the ministers, and what the Church of God was teaching…. There was no way of reasoning with the man…. He had his way, he ordered the people….
In 1935 the ministers offered him a study [of British Israelism], to sit together and study it out; they wanted to know. And he flatly denied and said, ‘There will be no study. I’m going to preach what I think should be preached.’ He’s definitely an independent man that takes nothing from nobody…. He won’t listen to any reasoning. What he says just goes. How can one man be so sure?”
It is obvious, then, from history and from the mouths of several different individuals that HWA did not receive his teachings from God by revelation and that he was both a member and minister of the Church of God-which he called the true church and which he left.
Furthermore, just being uncooperative was not enough: Herbert Armstrong decided that the Church of God Seventh Day was the Sardis Era of the church which had a name that it lived but was dead, while he, in his hubris, had concluded that he headed up the Philadelphian Era of the church known for its brotherly love. Herbert Armstrong made snide allusions to the Church of God Seventh Day as not living up to his expectations. He told of his encounter with the leaders and concluded that they did not “radiate power” — his expectation is that they were not ministers of Jesus but were Corporate Business CEOs, so by his evaluation, they weren’t important enough to be anything at all.
Herbert Armstrong was not the sort to love his neighbor as himself. For one thing, he committed incest with his youngest daughter starting at the beginning of his “ministry” continuing for 10 years until her marriage. Apparently, some of those in the Church of God Seventh Day knew of the incest. The incest has also been confirmed by his niece and grandson. This makes Herbert Armstrong the ‘X’ Rated Apostle — worse than the rating on the Neighbors movie.
If we consider the members of the Worldwide Church of God (represented as the fraternity, Psi Chi Gamma) as Herbert Armstrong’s neighbors, the picture gets even worse. Ambassador College may have looked impressive, but there are reasons that Herbert Armstrong himself called it “Satan’s College”, ironic since he was the high school dropout chancellor of the place. Many of the members did not know about the pot parties and beer busts the students of the 1970s era had, but it was not unlike the fraternities of the Greek System. To that add Garner Ted Armstrong who claimed he bedded 200 coeds in 20 years and you have a picture of campus life. Richard Roper of the Chicago Sun Times has to say about the antagonist of the Neighbors movie:
Zac Efron, shirtless through much of the film and sculpted to the point he looks like an entrant in Mr. Universe, Small But Mighty Division, plays Teddy Sanders, one of those guys who knows exactly how great-looking he is and exactly how to turn on the personality to seduce people, whether it’s for sex or “bromance” or to get out of trouble with authority figures. He’s one of those guys you want to despise, but then you meet him and you find yourself saying to the haters, “He’s actually not so bad.”
That pretty much sums up Garner Ted Armstrong: “He’s actually not so bad”. But he was. And not to put too fine a point on it, the same could be said of Herbert Armstrong — that he could be charming when he wanted to be but ruthless when he wanted to be, leaving people to say, “He’s actually not so bad”. But he was.
Now it may be that bad behavior of bad neighbors represented by reprehensible neighbors may be excused after they get through sowing their wild oats, but not so for Herbert Armstrong — his bad behavior persisted up until he died at 93 years old (in his 94th year). Richard Roper had this to say of the movie:
When Mac and Kelly are home, trying to catch sleep or cuddling in bed or spontaneously having sex (“This is happening!” cries Mac) only to be distracted by their newborn, “Neighbors” seems authentic. A couple of scenes between Teddy and Pete, where Pete tells Teddy it’s time to wake up and grow up and think about life beyond the frat house, also ring true.
Herbert Armstrong never did wake up, grow up and think about life beyond his frat house — the frat house was his life. He wasn’t above being vengeful to claim the glory of being right and proving other people who opposed him wrong. It was an ego thing.
Now new chapters of Psi Chi Gamma have popped up with their head frat guys wanting to have their picture on the wall of fame. Certainly, Ronald Weinland has left his mark partying on with his wife with her lingerie from Victoria’s Secret, paid for by the tithes of the PKG, having been convicted of five felonies for Income Tax Evasion. Then there’s bad neighbor, David Pack. He’s a real handful. It’s hard to imagine anyone but those on his payroll ever saying, “He’s actually not so bad!”. Gerald Flurry has his very own DUI online proving that he can party hardy, particularly on a Feast Day. The list goes on and on, but certainly Yisrael Hawkins over his little cult fraternity of the House of Yaweh takes honorable mention for having been featured on several episodes of Dr. Phil — a really bad neighbor, who has had boys 11 years old at labor with no pay for long hours a day (not to mention the polygamy, in some cases with minors). It’s just disgusting.
You’d think these people would grow up some day and abandon the sex, booze, noise, pranks and hubris of fraternity life. It should be inevitable. After all, the Scripture they claim their members should obey (and the hazing of initiation of the pledges is often excruciating) includes that part that false prophets shall be put to death. Each of them has a death sentence, yet they continue to party on other people’s money. They don’t seem to realize they are on probation. Don’t they fear God? Are they atheists?
In any event, they are bad neighbors. The fraternity has moved in next door. Don’t expect much peace. Don’t call the cops — they won’t help.
The best you can do is quietly leave and move away, because — unlike the frats in the movie — they are never going to grow up.