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Friday, March 11, 2016

God, Love and Deception

I have been accused by some of my former associates within the Armstrong Churches of God of harboring feelings of bitterness, resentment, anger and revenge toward them and the theology which they still hold dear. As a consequence, I'd like to address these accusations within the broader context of my current beliefs and attitudes. Moreover, I wish to make clear that I feel compelled to write this post in the spirit of exposing and explaining the motivations behind my posts, comments and other statements - NOT as some kind of feeble attempt at apologetics. Only God knows my heart, but I feel comfortable in allowing my readers to have a peek inside my head.

First of all, I wouldn't be honest with myself or my readers if I failed to acknowledge the hurt and disappointment which I have experienced as a consequence of the rejection of some of my former associates. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that my personal pain has not blinded me to the many fine qualities of my former associates or the benefits which I have derived from knowing them. Although I now regret some of the choices which I made in times past, I wouldn't eliminate those experiences or associations if I could - They have all helped to shape the person I am today (and I think he's better than he used to be).

My introduction to what would later become the Worldwide Church of God was listening to Garner Ted Armstrong on my father's little transistor radio as a child. And, for the record, those memories are still precious to me - not because of anything GTA was saying, but because I associate it with a time of closeness with my my father.

Although my father took me and my brother to services a couple of times over the years that followed, he was not ready to commit to the church at that time. Nevertheless, I began reading and studying the Bible on my own. I went through the church's Bible correspondence course, and later (as a teen) began attending services on my own.

The man who mentored me through this period was a local elder, who was thoroughly steeped in Armstrongism. I remember purchasing a copy of the Jerusalem Bible and questioning him about the Apocrypha. Needless to say, he didn't like the questions; and he "borrowed" the book and never returned it! Nevertheless, I had the opportunity to speak to him many years later as he was dying with cancer. He informed me that he had been afforded the opportunity to get reacquainted with Jesus Christ, and he apologized to me for the condescending way that he had treated me in the past. How could I feel anything but love for that man?

Back then, I had considered attending Ambassador College (Thanks to God that life and circumstances moved me to attend a real college). Nevertheless, something about our young minister (an Ambassador graduate) seemed incongruous to me. How could this nice young man be qualified to give advice on child rearing and finance to men and women who were twice his age? He was a good speaker and seemed to have a kind disposition, but I could never quite get my arms around the concept of him as an authority on life.

Later, when I was disfellowshipped for dating someone outside of The Church (at least it was a female!), my father and Bill Watson helped me through a very difficult time in my spiritual life. I will ALWAYS be grateful to them for their compassion, support and generosity during that trial. In fact, Bill Watson rebaptized me and my wife (at our request), blessed my oldest daughter when she was born and preached my grandmother's funeral. Moreover, I have to say that I feel nothing but gratitude for the good friend that this man (Mr. Watson) has been to my father.

Unfortunately, the sentiments which I just expressed will seem inconsistent with the criticisms which I have directed at some of the teachings of these men to some folks. They simply cannot separate the personal from the religious. However, I believe that it is possible to strongly disagree with a person on some topic(s) and still sincerely love and respect that individual.

I happen to believe that their stance on homosexuality and British Israelism is bigoted and wrong, but I don't hate them for taking that position. Did God hate me when I was deceived and shared those views? Oh yes, unlike some of my fellow bloggers, I'm ashamed to say that there was a time when I fully embraced British Israelism. Fortunately, I believe that God showed me that I was wrong. I am so vociferous in attacking and condemning the teaching because I realize that people can grow, repent and change (I'm proof of it).

Prejudice and bigotry are bad and ugly things, but they don't make the whole person bad or undeserving of love and respect. I had a great aunt who once proclaimed "I'm not prejudiced against n_____s as long as they stay in their place!" That is an awful, ignorant and reprehensible statement, but I never stopped loving her. She was a deceived bigot, but she was also kind, affectionate and very charitable.

We are all a mix of good and bad. If the Bible is to be believed, then everyone of us is deceived to one degree or another. Good people make mistakes and occasionally do bad things. That doesn't mean that they should be rejected, ignored or abhorred.

Anyway, that's the premise and experience behind what you see here. This is what motivates me to identify and criticize certain teachings in the strongest terms possible. If you want to make that personal, that's your business.

3 comments:

  1. A public thank you to my friends for all of the private comments on this post.
    For the record: My comments about Ambassador College were not intended as a personal insult towards anyone. I know several folks who attended/graduated from that institution who are easily head and shoulders above me!

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