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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Armstrongism without Herbert or Garner Ted?

Several of the Armstrong related blogs have speculated about the long term viability and survival of the descendants of the Worldwide Church of God. Although I do not consider this blog to be one of those, as a former member, I do feel entitled to wade into the debate and offer my own observations/opinions.

RationalWiki defines a personality cult as "a system in which a leader is able to control a group of people through the sheer force of his or her personality and is often portrayed as a god-like figure." It is the opinion of this blogger that this describes the former Worldwide Church of God perfectly, and it goes a long way toward explaining the phenomena that we have observed playing out within the various offshoots since the deaths of Herbert and Garner Ted.

After all, Herbert continually pointed to himself as God's Apostle. He was the ONE whom God was working through in the end time. God had used HIM (and him ALONE) to restore TRUTH to His Church. Herbert was God's representative on earth. He was the human head of God's government in the Church. Whatever he said was the LAW. It was his prerogative to make all of the decisions and dictate what everyone else believed. It was the job of the lay membership to support him and his work. Likewise, when Garner Ted came of age (and after the death of his brother), he was the heir apparent. What an orator! All of the ministers looked to him as the ideal of public speaking.

For those groups who have embraced Herbert and his teachings (Philadelphia, Restored, Continuing, Living, etc.), we see that no one has emerged with the personality and talent to replace him/them. Moreover, any "new" folks who express an interest in their teachings are quickly put off by their obsession with Herbert Armstrong. When these folks read their material (books, booklets, magazines, etc.) and listen to their sermons, most of them are wondering: "Who in the hell is Herbert Armstrong?" "Why do these folks keep talking about an old dead guy?" or "I don't remember seeing his name anywhere in the Bible!"

For those groups who have sought to put some distance between themselves and their founder (United, International, Big Sandy, etc.), like their sister groups, no one has emerged who has been able to garner the support, devotion and loyalty of everyone within them. They are consumed by trying to satisfy everyone, or at least refrain from offending very many. Moreover, when outsiders express some interest in the groups, they are often met with explanations of how they differ from their parent organization. "What are they talking about?" the newbie wonders. OR They are presented with teachings that can easily be shown to be false (like Anglo-Israelism) and appear to them to have little relevance to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Their left wondering: "Where did they get this stuff from?"

Either way, it just doesn't work! A personality cult doesn't work without the personality who inspired it all. What do you think?


  1. https://www.amazon.com/Messianic-Legacy-Startling-Evidence-Influential/dp/0440203198

    I do in no way recommend this book as presenting true history.
    However the authors had been in contact with the pr department of wcg and it contains some interesting chapters on the CONTEXT in which cults can thrive.

    Some personality types thrive better in certain circumstances. Atavistic warior types during war and peacemakers in times of peace.

    Cult leaders like Savonarola, Jim Jones, The Munster uprising of the anabaptists and others thrive in times of great confusion.

    hwa and gta reinvented their religion at least three times. During the 30's economic crises years, in the years of the ascend of the american empire, riding the wave of the cia powered radio stations around the world fighting the imminent threat of the communist empire and after the 1970's debacle into the humanitarian empire donating millions to extremely good causes in the cause for human progress and one world ideology in the service of the united nations for which hwa was awarded many times.

    Yes the church collapsed when hwa passed. But it is no coincidence either that the collapse of the church coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ending of the cold war.


  2. I don't want to kidnap this topic in any way.
    My point is entirely contextual. Not about persons or cult leaders. Would it be possible to understand the sixties without understanding the repressive fifties?

    The sixties and seventies were confusing times for many born into certainty. I don't have to go into that. I see people writing articles for the youth in pcg about the times in which gf wrote mal message. How difficult would it be for such youth to understand the fear for 3500 atomic bombs pointed at your homeplace that pervaded society in the sixties. A president being impeached for fraud. Each week airplanes being hijacked and flown from Damascus to Aden to whatever. A wave of youth and its accompanying culture of nihilism. 12% inflation every year.

    To make my point. Even wcg recognized that a "Christ" like figure was widely expected in Roman times. They were confusing times too under opression of a foreign culture and army.
    And guess what. Such messianic figure suddenly appears.

    We better keep our eyes open for the next Attractive Package that promises to save us from opression and leaves our temple ruined.
    Especially the political saviors with their easy solutions we so much crave and ask.

    There are no easy solutions. One needs to pay off their credit card debt to be free. That is my answer. Or sell your house. But don't go for "the attractive one" who promises deliverance through the taking of your freedom to think and act.

    That goes for Miley Cyrus. (For pity sake put some clothes on, that goes for the next election, that goes for your daily choice in information)

    So yes OTHERS will come since it is the same process every time. But you or yours don't necesseraly have to fall victim. Just be exceptionally careful when an easy solution is offered to a major problem by a single leader. That person should be checked every step of the way even if he/she is doing the right thing.


  3. nck, your point about the context of the times in which HWA operated is a good one. He certainly did take advantage of the circumstances and skillfully manipulated those "facts" to suit his own ends. But aren't most cult leaders expert in using fear to control people and advance their agenda? The point that many have made about the absence of the internet during that time is also a good one (people now have a greater ability to fact check). Even so, my suspicion is that an HWA/GTA operating in today's world wouldn't have much difficulty adapting to new circumstances (new tools - new opportunities). Proof? Look at how Putin's and Trump's personality cults are thriving in 2016! The sheep instinct is strong in humankind (and some are more susceptible to it than others).

  4. Thank you Miller for looking for what I am saying through my prose that on other blogs is usually misinterpreted as coming from a madman.

    I spend most of my days among those that know months in advance what you are going to buy for food, clean your toilet with, decide for the color of your clothes and car that at least you are going to talk about and perhaps even buy.

    In that case not much fear is involved. Or it must be a personal fear of standing out from the crowd in the shirt with the wrong color.

    But yes people like to be told what to do and have their decisions taken. Even if we let them make the final decision themselves in the shop we train the salespeople to even help them decide that last bit.

    That's ok for your socks. But probably not for cigarettes or sugar.

    My theory is that there must be a carrot too.
    For hwa and gta it was the look for a better world. The sixties and seventies were terrible from an environmental perspective and millions were starving.

    It is my theory that today the world tomorrow they spoke of is nigh. Or at least all the statistics show that we are entering a world far better than the past.

    The link below is not an endorsement, of the merger or to buy stock. It is just to show how far mankind has advanced to erridicate hunger that was so rampant on our tv screens in the seventies (and also part of the world tomorrow intro and pt pages)


    I could provide a hundred more examples on how an agenda to achieve lasting prosperity for mankind is advanced and how humankind will forever long for a better tomorrow than it is today.

    My point is it will take time and effort. Everyone showing you the shortcut is a false prophet and one should better direct ones energy toward putting the time and effort in for the betterment of all than the betterment of one.