A View From Afar

How I see the whole CoG milieu, as though visiting a museum

This blog is all about and for survivors of Armstrongism, RCG, WCG, etc., so I will dive in again with more comments about myself and others in that shared relationship.

If I am to continue contributing to this (or any religion-based) blog, I want to make a clear statement up front: I am an unbiased, detached observer in all this. Don’t misunderstand. In a discussion of the concept of religion vs. no religion or god vs. no god, I am very biased indeed. To me the whole pool of belief systems could be drained and we’d have a solid starting point for humanity to thrive. To those who care to read any more of my thoughts then, be advised that I care nothing whatsoever about who is “right” or “wrong” within the context of believers slogging through the muck of confused and time-wasting searches for the truth. All I can do is offer a view from afar.

I am a positively oriented individual. An optimist. To my way of thinking, there are incredible numbers of ways to be right. The most egregious way of being wrong is in mistreating one’s fellow humans. I don’t give a damn about trying to please any god!
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The names of some old acquaintances from my WCG years will be brought up in this post. This is due to my continuing amazement at the interest being shown for the bad old days by many who are apparently still in turmoil.

Interesting to me is the amount of rapt attention given UCG, on the Painful Truth website and several more blogs. Otagosh from New Zealand seems to cover it almost continuously, as do others. Is this interest and microscopic observation based primarily in United’s take-over of maybe half of the original WCG membership in the mid 1990s? Or is it perhaps in the minds of many that UCG might be the so-called “true” church? It does appear obvious that folks making up the general format and readership of the PT site believe there is some true church carry-over concept. I wonder where that true church is perceived to have resided earlier. Was it ever in the WCG, now so maligned? Or maybe in its progenitor, the RCG, before corruption set in?

When I was introduced to this site, I was surprised to see the banner just below the heading on the opening page – the one with the picture of a broken seal, the strike-over line of “Preparing a People” and the replacement wording of “Splitting the Church.” What can this even mean?

Is it not clear to everyone that the very idea of the church, which connotes a singular institution, would have to refer to some organization established many centuries ago? If there ever existed such a singularity, surely it wasn’t what we were taught – purely Armstrongism via direct feed from a supreme being, bypassing millennia of false prophets. Yet that must be what is meant by accusing the UCG group of splitting “the church.” Or else the term church here means something more fundamental and far pre-dating HWA, in which case (since UCG split from Armstrong’s WCG body) Armstrongism can lay as much claim to having been part of that original church as can Catholicism, Lutheranism, any other Christian organization, or for that matter, the self-appointed apostle named Paul.

That being the case, surely the group of dedicated WCG followers who scrambled (or even pre-planned, as has been claimed by some writers) to incorporate under the “United” banner are still carrying on the same work as the old WCG, no matter how well or weakly. After all, wasn’t it the direct aim of the founders of UCG to try desperately to unite believers under the faith once delivered as they were having the original CoG rug pulled out from under them? So how can it be said that they “split” anything any more than Ted caused division by his corruptions? Or more than any disgruntled minister or even HWA in his reportedly corrupt end? No doubt the Tkach debacle (by Sr. & Jr.) split things pretty well and, if we’re to believe what we read, young Joe is now dividing the notable spoils among his friends. So I wonder what is meant by that accusation of “splitting” leveled at UCG. And why did there appear to be some I told you so vitriol being spewed at floundering and frustrated UCG leaders during late 2010 when it appeared the group might disintegrate? Where’s the Christianity in all this?

Any chance Rod Meredith might be the one representing the church? After all, his was about the strongest drum-beat heard in the HWA band when I was involved in the nineteen sixties and seventies. Or was he guilty also of splitting something sacred? Pardon my lack of insight here; I didn’t hang around to witness the demise.

Do you get where I’m going with all these questions? Isn’t it about time everyone takes a step back so the intrigue and the futility of it all can be seen in perspective? Your life is worth more than this, is it not? Mine certainly has been worth more since dumping the whole shootin’ match!

From the WHO CARES? Corner:

In the various blogs I’ve been reading there are articles, letters, comments and rebuttals, etc. galore. It’s a bit weird for me, without context, to read about people and events. One post was a very serious and strained letter from a fellow named Joel Meeker to some legal eagle. I know nothing at all about Joel. Perhaps he’s related to George, maybe a son who was very young when George and I were colleagues. Then there’s the KenTreybig update to his website that shows how devoted he and his friends are in the effort to work out kinks in a new splinter from another UCG splinter; very important stuff about how best to “care for those God calls.” I don’t believe I know Ken. Seems I once knew a member named Harold Treybig; probably they’re related. Then I notice (through many a listing on a number of sites) the names of prominent men (are women still unacceptable as leaders within “the true church”? How very Pauline!) who are resigning from UCG – men such as Les McCullough and Leroy Neff who were strong in the RCG/WCG in the 1960s. I certainly knew them pretty well. Don Waterhouse I knew casually; I knew his older brother Gerald better because he taught me some valuable golf techniques. And Lyle Welty, a fellow who went through AC Big Sandy with me – nice Indiana boy who, if memory serves me, was in the car with two or three others of us Hoosiers driving to Texas in 1964 to begin college.

Then there’s Dick Thompson, a delightful southern boy who also attended when I did – apparently he has resigned the UCG ministry and a notice credited to him simply states “Follow Me.” Well if he’s one of those bright ones who is opening a new HQ in Florida rather than snowy and cold Ohio, seems like someone you might follow. Climate seems a better reason than many others in choosing a true church nowadays! And so many other familiar names of fellows who went through AC when I did (again, no females here!) – Roy Demarest, Greg Sargent, Dave Register, Jim Haeffele, Jim Servidio, Larry Neff and yet more are in the wind, lacking a place to hang their spiritual hats.

My point in all this? Well, it’s just another excuse to say how shocked I am at all this information. For all I personally have known over the last three decades about the activities of these and hundreds of folks like them, they might have A.) died; B.) gone to prison; C.) gone into hiding; D.) formed a singular new congregation of the Infinitely Faithful (the IF church) and set up shop in Zimbabwe. Yet they have apparently been plodding along in the trenches of this-or-that branch or splinter of something that used to be, and their motives could all have been perfectly godly, whatever that means. For all they have accomplished*, in my estimation, they might just as well have tried A, B, C or D!

This goes for thousands of other erstwhile Armstrongites, possibly including you, the reader, and it certainly goes for billions of decent people who live and die all over this planet without ever knowing the peace that freedom from religion offers.

* Note: allow me to detour here to explain this perhaps harsh criticism. It is aimed at me, first and foremost. I have found myself at times asking the deep question of “What did I really accomplish?” Most of us surely do this self examining, but our answers to ourselves come back highly slanted toward whatever bias we are currently harboring. No doubt Les McCullough, Leroy Neff and thousands of other present and past ministers (of all religious groups, Christian and otherwise) – would usually answer themselves in a positive way that best suits their beliefs.

Without the cocoon of belief surrounding any questions, I now can perceive quite different answers. Now I have to wonder whether anything I did from 1963 to 1976 was of real value in any way. Frankly, I doubt it. Then again, that word “anything” deserves more leeway. Surely a few things I did or said in those thirteen years can still be credited in some small way as good things. However all has to be suspect. It would be easy to conclude that some past actions or words of mine were accomplishments if it could be made clear that a benefit to humanity was involved. For example, if a member of one of my congregations from way-back-when were to contact me today and tell me of having been brought back from the brink of a planned suicide by my caring or counsel, then I would have to admit I did some real good. If that person might have been inclined to take a weapon to work or to a public place and wipe out several others on the way to a police-assisted suicide, then my timely help obviously did even more good.

But the type of clear message given in the above scenario is typically missing. So practically all of us can, on a particularly dismal day of feeling negative, say that our lives have been meaningless. Most days of my life have not been so negative, and even now I can feel that many people were likely somewhat better-off for my words or deeds back in my ministerial days. However, the question then becomes, “Were my helpful actions enough to override the burden I placed on people?” Burden; yes, I said burden. My job was to thump people hard with the hand of God. If any members of my former congregations are still believers, it’s apparent I did considerable damage! Would that they might listen to me as intently today. Yes, I remember the old biblical advice, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” but my firm conviction today is quite simply that fear of almost anything, especially phantoms in the heavens, is the most egregious limitation placed on the progress of mankind. My former active devotion to the dogma promoting that fear places me in the ranks of the most detestable and guilty.

I am compelled here to add, without braggadocio, that at least as many good results have come of my words and efforts to help others since I dropped the cloak of religion.
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Reading through only portions of the enormous amounts of CoG fall-out information found online, I am dumbfounded. Again, I do not sit back and laugh; I commiserate. Please recall that I was once a deeply dedicated (the deeply being my assertion, but with living witnesses who could testify to some of the dedication) minister in the old WCG. I recall well that at the time I was in that dedicated mode, nothing said from without could impress me in the least! Some yokel who tried (as this writing is now doing), to get me to look at my beliefs in any other way than that view to which I was already solidly committed […come to you and bring not this doctrine, blah, blah, etc.), would be ignored with iron-clad resolve. We humans cannot even hear our own ludicrous words clearly when we are in this lock-down mode of operation. Witness the last paragraph of the Ken Giese post of November 26, 2010. I do not personally know this man but I’ve heard of his devotion and strength, his Godliness. Yet this letter did, in fact, force laughter from me. The man could not hear his own words ringing in his ears as he wrote glaring contradictions into his resignation letter.

So you likely cannot hear my words either as I speak from a platform of post-belief, but imagine this, if you will:
You join a military unit with absolute conviction it’s a life-or-death need to go into battle on behalf of your nation. (A detestable concept but I’m stuck with it for the analogy.) The top general speaks in front of your vast army and relates that his orders come from a supreme commander who is elsewhere. He finally admits, the “elsewhere” is somewhere beyond the clouds, beyond the atmosphere, beyond the solar system – yes, beyond anything possible to describe. He’s just “out there” in the beyond! And the general can’t actually talk to the supreme commander in a war room or in real conversation, as in hearing direct answers to his questions of what to do next, but the Supreme commander does guide everything, you are told with conviction. “Trust me” the general says to his army. “Follow me as I follow Him.” “Wow!,” you gush with confidence. “Nuff said! Hand me my gun; I’m going out to kill or be killed!”

Sure, the premise is completely foolish – today! But since a concept of belief in a supreme commander (with ten commandments and countless amendments) began for all of us thousands of years ago, we actually accept the foolishness and somehow let it pass for reason.

markman