If the Churches of God (COGs) are so wrong, why did I become a Worldwide Church of God (WCG) member in the first place? The answer, if we wish to analyze it from every angle, is somewhat complex, but it all comes down to one bottom line, one fundamental reason: I was tricked by dishonest literature.
It’s clear that Ronald Weinland committed fraud: He was convicted of 5 counts of felony Income Tax Evasion and sent to prison for 42 months; in addition, he must pay what he owes with penalties. He was legally convicted by a jury of his peers, but members of his cult, the Church of God, Preaching the Kingdom of God (CoG-PKG), believe that it was persecution not prosecution. Objectively, he committed a crime, the evidence was against him and his sentence was just (if a bit lenient).
The question here is why do the members of the PKG give Ronald Weinland the benefit of the doubt, even though he committed fraud and, thus, violated the precept that a minister should have a “good reputation of those who are without” — non members — meaning that it is inappropriate that he should be a minister (/ apostle / prophet / evangelist / [____] General)? This question arises other places. For example, there is a southern conservative that was voted out of office because he embraced the evidence that global warming is being caused by human beings. This became too much for his constituents because it threatened a way of life! People would have to examine how they live and make new choices about how they acted. Moreover, it would threaten their social status. This is consistent with the sociology we find within the Armstrongist churches of God.
Thus it is that Herbert Armstrong could be a total fraud — making false prophecies as a false prophet as he did for decades and preach the thoroughly debunked stupid idea of British Israelism — and people in the WCG would defend his ‘honor’ vociferously because they just ‘knew’ he had brought them the ‘truth’. Some of knew and now know that he committed incest with his daughter for the first ten years of his ministry, and that is just fine because he brought them the ‘truth’. They can know that he plagiarized all of his major doctrines from G. G. Rupert — including the Feasts — and still accept that he was ‘personally taught by Jesus Christ’. Some even knew of his practices which would have gotten him into the same sort of trouble with the Internal Revenue Service as Ronald Weinland, if only he had been caught spending church funds on his family sailing on a yacht on the Mediterranean. It’s all good because if members admitted the truth, they would have to give up following him, lose their status in their little WCG social club and lose access to the Feast where they could booze it up with their fellow alcoholics. It would be too much to change in their lives and would have been an unacceptable disruption to their dysfunctional chaos.
Garner Ted Armstrong was a total fraud: He was a sodden boozing alcoholic, womanizer who committed date rape, gambler and the illegitimate father to several children who grew up fatherless. Yet he has been seen as a sympathetic character:
I have never made any secret of my admiration for Garner Ted’s good qualities. But, in a restrictive religious environment, living under what was often called the ultimate honor system, his behavior should raise some very disturbing questions for devout Armstrongites past and present.
We were taught in the WCG to take every word a minister utters as if it had come directly from Jesus Christ. It’s kind of like the old trust exercise where participants are expected to fall backwards, knowing their fellow members in the class will catch them. How can a practicing serial adulterer be a trustworthy vessel for carrying and transmitting the words of Jesus? And yet, not only was his father, HWA, complicit, but also, as age set in, his son, GTA, was arguably the most effective and convincing speaker in the WCG. Didn’t we all hang on his every word, “knowing” them to be inspired? So, if the primary characters are acting, in no way validated by Jesus Christ, all the supposed end time gospel efforts supported by impoverished tithe payers would be nothing more than a sophisticated scam. (They were!)
Think about this. Hypothetically, what if you were God? We know now, that this just can’t be, but what if you, as God, had actually chosen a father and son team to warn the world that the end was coming in 1975? What if you watched both as they totally botched the commission by giving in to their prurient appetites, failing to live the life they were preaching, lying and cheating to get the gospel out, participating in incest and adultery, drunkenness, and gambling along the way, and lying to cover it all up? If you were God, you simply couldn’t make it appear that these types of people were your messengers, so you would need to make them appear as false messengers (which they actually were, they had nothing to do with God or anything supernatural). Even if you had scheduled the end for 1975, you would need to postpone it, and start from scratch, using a whole new group to do the job. I no longer believe in any of the major details of the Armstrong prophecy mold. Those are every bit the farce as are the incest and adultery. However, in the dubious and remote event that that mold ever had a scintilla of truth behind it, a Godly scuttling for plan B is the only thing that makes any sense. Truly, the Armstrongs embodied the phrase “Judas priest”. And, those taught by them are unfit messengers as well, and now dying off just like the Israelites wandering aimlessly in circles in the desert for 40 years.
Other disturbing questions should be raised concerning his illegitimate children: He abandoned them. Should we give GTA a free pass because he was charismatic and a fun guy to be around? The children (not to mention the A.C. coeds he raped who became minister’s wives) are very much diminished by this view.
Banned! has recently blogged, “Rod Meredith: Why is He Incapable Of Loving Servant Leadership?” It is because Roderick Meredith is a fraud. He doesn’t seem to be particularly converted but certainly does have the properties of a power grubbing sociopath. Living Church of God members have responded that he is a great and godly man who has spread the gospel to the world and has given the church growth. This is delusional nonsense that’s totally wrong at several levels. He’s been a false prophet for decades and has displayed aggressive tendencies consistent with the Warrior Gene in his DNA. He may be a controlling despot, but that doesn’t mean that LCG members are about to accept the fact that he has committed major sin since he was baptized. Why? Because they would lose significant portions of their dysfunctional lives and have to make changes.
David Pack is a fraud: He predicted several years back that three of the leaders of the ‘major’ [Armstrongist] churches of God would die and the people in those churches would come flocking to him. It never happened. But people are amazed at his apparent skills of leadership and building a church headquarters facility, replete with a Steuben Crystal piece in his office. The city of Wadsworth has also been sucked in. Nevertheless, reports of the misery (not to mention YouTube posts) illustrate the hubris of the man who is unsympathetic to any of the needs of those in his congregation. Heaven help you if you MUST go to the bathroom during his sermon!!!! People just live with it (with a bit of grumbling) but are still certain that he’s going to get them into the luxury suites in Petra when they leave for the Place of Safety. Good luck with that: The preponderance of the evidence more than suggests that going there under his domination would be fatal.
Then we have Gerald Flurry… a total fraud and complete failure as ‘that prophet’ — the incarnation of Jesus Christ in this age. His online DUI suggests differently as does his failed prophecies. Redfox over at Living Armstrongism has blog after blog detailing the stupidity of the Philadelphia Church of God. The latest is the PCG compared with the 14 points of Fascism. It is one of the most factual ignored blogs within the anti-Armstrongist movement.
After awhile some people may conclude that, yes, certainly the leaders of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia sects are nothing but frauds, but that perhaps the time of giving the followers sympathy has long passed.
Concerning Prophet’s Prey, the documentary about Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, Michael O’Sullivan, critic for the Washington Post had this to say:
There isn’t much here that hasn’t already been made public. Yet among many appalling things cited by “Prophet’s Prey,” the most troubling conclusion may have nothing to do with Jeffs at all. It’s the sinking realization, as Krakauer points out, that there are still thousand of FLDS faithful who continue to revere Jeffs, even after his conviction. What this says about human nature, and our ability — even willingness — to be led astray by an unscrupulous shepherd is the most depressing discovery of all.
When it comes to cults, we’re not talking about shepherds, we’re talking about wolves, which people are all too willing to not just follow, but to give every part of their lives over to. The outrageous acts of the FLDS controlled by Warren Jeffs is also documented in I Escaped a Cult. What is really amazing is how followers of cult leaders are so loyal and quick to come to the defense of the cult leaders. They can be defiantly dedicated to blindly defend the cult leaders with irrational excuses. For those watching Prophet’s Prey, this is underscored by the cinematographer’s camera operator taking video from a moving vehicle, filming people on side of the street: Women and children gave a middle single-finger salute.
Closer to home, Yisrayl Hawkins, leader of the House of Yahweh cult has much the same profile as Warren Jeffs: performing polygamous weddings and forcing children – some as young as 11 – to work jobs at his 44-acre compound. Make no mistake: Yisrayl Hawkins is directly from Armstrongism, having split from the Worldwide Church of God in 1980. The House of Yahweh keeps the Feast of Tabernacles. The above video on YouTube shows that Dr. Phil exposes the House of Yahweh as a fraud. People comment on how his prophecies fail and he keeps making changes to his prophecies as they fail. He cries continually how he needs more money, but he’s very wealthy. Here again, the members of his cult vociferously defend and make excuses for Hawkins. The excerpt on Dr. Phil demonstrates that Hawkins can’t pronounce ‘nuclear’ correctly:
Rick Ross calls the House of Yahweh a ‘destructive cult’ and that there is no accountability. Hawkin’s followers live in poverty in trailers while he has millions. What happens with the mind control is that the other members of the group installs a sense of identity, completely isolating an individual so all ‘truth’ comes only from the group. At the same time, Hawkins claims he is being unfairly persecuted — and the loyal members support him in this allegation.
For persecution, Ronald Weinland of the Church of God — Preaching the Kingdom of God (CoG-PKG); in his Site Bio, there is this entry:
As with so many whom God has called as prophets and apostles, most all have been imprisoned and/or killed by the governments of this world. Although some history has different accounts, it is believed that all the original disciples who became God’s apostles, including Paul, were all imprisoned and killed, except for John. John was imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos by the Roman government, and it is there that he was given the Book of Revelation to write.
In like manner, and as his counterpart, Ronald Weinland was falsely imprisoned by the government of the United States for evading to pay taxes.
This does not reflect reality. Two jurors at the Weinland trial have testified that it was not persecution, it was prosecution. The evidence is clear. The man isn’t just a lying false prophet, he’s also a convicted felon currently serving his prison term. Nevertheless, PKG members continue to support Weinland and make excuses for him — displaying their loyalty to him.
In fact, this pattern of loyalty is exhibited across the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia, with profligate leaders with bad behavior being defended by their supporters, members of the cult sects.
Why do cultists exhibit such loyalty in the face of facts debunking their beliefs and exposing their leaders?
When Prophecy Fails offers the following:
Dissonance and consonance are relations among cognitions — that is, among opinions, beliefs, knowledge of the environment, and knowledge of one’s own actions and feelings. Two opinions, or beliefs, or items of knowledge are dissonant with one another if they do not fit together — that is, if they are inconsistent, or if considering only the particular two items, one does not follow from the other. For example, a cigarette smoker who believes that smoking is bad for his health has an opinion that is dissonant with the knowledge that he is continuing to smoke. He may have many other opinions, beliefs, or items of knowledge that are consonant with continuing to smoke but the dissonance nevertheless exists too.
Dissonance produces discomfort and, correspondingly, there will arise pressures to reduce or eliminate the dissonance. Attempts to reduce dissonance represent the observable manifestations that dissonance exists. Such attempts may take any or all three forms. The person may try to change one or more of the beliefs, opinions, or behaviors involved in the dissonance; to acquire new information or beliefs that will increase the existing consonance and thus cause the total dissonance to be reduced; or to forget or reduce the importance of those cognitions that are in a dissonant relationship.
The Armstrongists all know that Deuteronomy 18 says that the false prophet shall be put to death. They know the Scripture in Revelation 22 that says that liars will not inherit the Kingdom of God… and yet, they observe their cult leader lying and being a false prophet — and still they show loyalty by supporting him and ignoring what they know to be true: The man is a fraud. They have to. If they don’t, they will have to admit they are wrong and to do so would cause great pain.
Warren Jeffs was shown in a video where he said, “I am a liar. I am not a prophet.” Those are hard facts. The FLDS members simply ignore his statements as some sort of test. He had rousted his followers in his compound at 6 A.M. to stand in a field because he told them that they were to be taken up. They stood for 12 hours. At 6 P.M. he told them that they weren’t taken up because it was their fault for not being righteous enough. Cult leaders can play all sorts of games to give their membership premade excuses they can use to salve their cognitive dissonance.
We don’t have to pursue the cognitive dissonance generated within the membership following Roderick Meredith, David Pack, Gerald Flurry, Robert Thiel and the whole host of others because they are all well known false prophets and liars. The real problem is loyalty.
It is time to abandon loyalty to those who are cult leaders — they are not worthy of our time and attention.
Only when inappropriate loyalty is abandoned can sanity begin.
A review by William E. Adams at Amazon.com says:
This work first saw print in 1956. It is the story of a UFO cult in a large city in the Midwest…how it developed, how the leaders recruited followers, how predictions about the coming end of the world started flowing from the psychic members who allegedly channeled messages from the spacemen/pilots. The cult members were told they would be saved, picked up by saucers on an appointed date. The members quit jobs, sold possessions, and gathered, only to be disappointed. Did they all quit in a huff? No way. The first failure only made them more determined they were right, more anxious to be ready for the next announced departure date. Then a second failure. A few members fell away, a few suffered doubts, a few challenged for leadership themselves. The point of this book is that it takes “three disconfirmations” to kill a movement of true believers, and even then, some still hang on to the discredited “theology” by grasping at excuses. I found this book by accident about 30 years ago, and have read it at least four times. I find it fascinating. In the 1970’s I knew two women in Albuquerque who were amateur psychics. They started bringing forth “space brethren messages” and eventually, although they failed to attract a following, they went up into the nearby mountains one night sure they would be lifted off before the coming unspecified disaster. They waited, but no ship appeared. I think people inclined toward UFO beliefs haven’t changed much since this book was published. The basic data shown in this study can apply to religious or political groups as well. I am sorry it is out of print, but if you have an interest in this field, get a used copy…the prices are reasonable and the book will not disappoint!
Support for the study was obtained through the Laboratory for Research in Social Relations of the University of Minnesota and help received through a grant-in-aid from the Ford Foundation to one of the authors. The study is to answer the how and why people take on new fervor when they have contradictory evidence which they should not be able to avoid. There are five conditions under which the authors would expect to observe the increased fervor:
- A belief must be held with deep conviction and it must have some relevance to action, that is, to what the believer does or how he behaves.
- The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it; that is, for the sake of his belief, he must have taken some important action that is difficult to undo. In general, the more important such actions are, and the more difficult they are to undo, the greater is the individual’s commitment to the belief.
- The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world so that events may unequivocally refute the belief.
- Such undeniable disconfirmatory evidence must occur and must be recognized by the individual holding the belief.
The first two of these conditions specify the circumstances that will make the belief resistant to change. The third and fourth conditions together, on the other hand, point to factors that would exert powerful pressure on a believer to discard his belief. It is, of course, possible that an individual, even though deeply convinced of a belief, may discard it in the face of unequivocal disconfirmation. We must, therefore, state a fifth condition specifying the circumstances under which the belief will be discarded and those under which it will be maintained with new fervor.
- The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of dis-confirming evidence we have specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, we would expect the belief to be maintained and the believers to attempt to proselyte or to persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct.
Luckily, the authors found a group they could observe during the study. A woman of a very religious persuasion began writing messages she just ‘knew’ was from a contact in outer space. This ‘source’ warned her to tell the world that there was going to be a great flood to purge the world.
Along the way, she was told that those within the inner circle of her group would be rescued by flying saucers.
And in the end, we all know how that turned out. They waited again and again to be picked up, but, alas, there was no saucer shuttle and no flood. Yet, many of the group continued to believe even after a number of disappointments, illustrating the workings of the 5 premises. The people really did hang on to their beliefs even after they had been demonstrated to be patently silly.
Of course, those of you currently in the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia know perfectly well there are no such things as flying saucers and the whole thing is patently silly on the face of it.
Just in case you Armstrongists get off the hook because you don’t believe in flying saucers, think again! The authors of When Prophecy Fails spend over seven pages of the first chapter on William Miller! The CoHAM should be getting mighty nervous. After all, those of us blogging to refute Armstrongism have shown that the Worldwide Church of God and its successors are cults. We’ve debunked British Israelism and shown up the same sort of ‘prophecies’ ‘disconfirmed’ by the book. There are no excuses. You Armstrongists are doing exactly what the study predicts you would do. For example, consider the British Israelism Church of God: It has the gall to just make up excuses why DNA doesn’t disprove British Israelism. The problem is that Y-Chromosome DNA has been found to be stable over thousands of years and just doesn’t magically morph to some other haplogroup. Idiots.
Then we need to consider Herbert Armstrong’s Prophetic Record:
Major fail. Again and again. And yet, people keep believing and making up excuses, just like the study says. If you really want to be embarrassed by what you believed, re-read 1975 in Prophecy:
If there is any group that illustrates the truth of When Prophecy Fails, it is the PKG. Ron and Laura Weinland — the two witnesses of the Church of God – Preaching the Kingdom of God (CoG-PKG) — have conned the PKG to continue giving them money even after their major prophecies failed… again… and again. What’s worse, Ronald Weinland is currently serving his sentence for felony Income Tax evasion, but the PKG membership sticks with him and continues to make excuses.
Others, such as David Pack continue to exhibit hoof in mouth disease — Dave prophesied a specific date that three major leaders in the other churches of God would die and members of all the ACoGs would come flocking to him. That was years ago and still… nothing.
Now it is true that the Armstrongist Churches of God have something that little group in the Midwest in the 1950s didn’t have. It would have been so much better after the flying saucers failed to show and take them away from the flood that didn’t happen if they had some way to find out how the various members of their group fared after The Great Disappointment. They should have had the benefit of some sort of periodic newspaper which had stories and articles about the group and the individual members. They could keep up much better, even if the editor didn’t particularly believe in the tenets of the group and held the ‘floodists’ and ‘farmer UFOlogists’ in contempt. He could still publish something called The Journal. Maybe out of some town like say, Big Sandy. What’s important is not what the group believes — what’s really important is to keep the social group together in its completely delusional dysfunctional existence.
It’s called journalism.