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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Would My Life Have Been Better Without My Worldwide Church of God Experience?

Like many of the folks who have left the Armstrong Church of God movement, I have had many years to contemplate that experience. Yes, I have thought about the what ifs - What if I had never heard the World Tomorrow? read The Plain Truth magazine or taken the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course? What if I had never allowed the Sabbath, Holy Days or other church teachings to interfere with my career choices? What if I had had the full use of my entire income? What could I have done with that other 20-30% of my financial resources over the years? What would my friendships and familial relationships have looked like without Armstrongism?

The problem with that kind of thinking becomes obvious when we realize that our list of what ifs could go on and on, and that such thinking often leads to feelings of bitterness - the sense that one has been cheated out of better things. Martin Luther King Jr. warned his followers to "never succumb to the temptation of bitterness." Maya Angelou compared bitterness to a cancer that consumes its host. Robert Menzies observed that "It is a simple but sometimes forgotten truth that the greatest enemy to present joy and high hopes is the cultivation of retrospective bitterness."

In thinking about writing this post, I was drawn to an old post on philosiblog entitled "Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely." (12 Nov 2012 - taken from a quote attributed to Auguste Rodin) And I have found that it is exactly this kind of thinking that has proven to be the most useful to me in evaluating my experiences in Armstrongism. What did I learn from those experiences? How have I used those experiences to forge a better life for myself in the present? In short, would I be the person that I am today without those experiences?

I have always liked Garth Brooks' The Dance. The lyrics are about a romance that ended, but they could just as easily be applied to life in more general terms. I hear those words, and I think about the things I experienced directly and indirectly as a consequence of my affiliation with the Worldwide Church of God.
"And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance" --The Dance
Yes, I could have skipped the pain, but I'm fairly certain that I wouldn't be where I'm at today without every bit of it.

Was it an expensive lesson? Sure. Aren't most of the things in life that are worthwhile expensive? (and I'm not just thinking about money - I'm also thinking about investments of time, effort and emotion)

But I guess that's part of it too, isn't it? You have to believe that you are better off today for having escaped the cult and having been forced to reexamine what you believe and reorder your life priorities (and I do believe that I'm better off today). As for me, one thing is certain: this blog would not have been possible without my experiences in Armstrongism. What do you think?      


  1. Many turned out for better.


    If the real question is, "would our lives have been better without": Marrying ones first wife at 19, socialist opression in eastern europe, smoking, poor fast food lunch habits, living during the civil war, the russian revolution, having the unplanned 4th kid or whatever poor choice a man can make.

    I'd say. It comes as it comes.

    What is one to do to prevent poor choices then learn, learn from others experiences, always get the best education available and "work and pray", preferably not at a japanese railroad during wwII.


  2. To be a bit more exact.

    My kin joined wcg since they had learned " the basic truths" in 7th day adventism, but wanted to escape the cultic aspects of sda (we are talking 1960's as sda is a respected protestant church today) and eacape its culture of simplicity translating in poverty and chaos.

    Thus they joined a church with similar teaching, which was vibrant, young, young families, start up culture, quality media, quality everything, aspiration, clear answers, swag and charisma. AND still COMPLETELY bypass the surrounding revolutionary changes and culture of the sixties and seventies.

    That "start up" church did manage somewhat to reach the "scale up phase" but at "maturity stage" faltered since the company changed its product from selling meat to vegetables and stated that the meat they had been selling for ever had been pork anyway.


  3. Of course a true critic of my personal musings would point out that a) the culture of the seventies WAS cultism or perhaps one big cult because of the insecurities the revolution had intoduced and regarding wcg's maturity stage that was never reached, that it had been the result of the stifling influence of the founder born in the victorian age.

    One should not over analyze ones past life. One should build a life with the material available at any time.


  4. My own perspective is that there really are some experiences in life which can cause permanent damage, and would therefore be better missed. Obviously, the survivor's creed kicks in, as we say to ourselves "It made me who I am today", but the truth is that in most cases we could be in better condition today if certain positive experiences were had as opposed to the negative things which actually were.

    The classic WCG, as presided over by its founder, caused permanent damage from which it has taken an entire lifetime to overcome and repair, and there is still more distance to travel. You just don't get rid of PTSD, prophecy paranoia, elitism and condescension, desensitization towards "outsiders", distrust of professional help, separation disorder, and poor self-value overnight. The longer in, the worse the state upon leaving. 19 years was bad enough. I can't even begin to fathom 35-50 years or more.


  5. BB is right. I know many "perfect people" in a limited circle. EVERYTHING was perfect from day one till now raking in huge bonusses and giving part away as charity. The annoying fact is. They are very nice, kind and smart and beautiful too. Just stroll along the boats in Monaco. Some will say sorry if they are in your way on the jetty.

    I compare to the manority and averages.
    I see George Bush jr momma not praising him after a game, just asking: Did you win! He became an alcoholic before turning into a puppet to mass murderers.

    Others of a certain generation suffered in Vietnam. Many beautiful people became drug addicts.

    Child stars had miserable youths. Marilyn Monroe and Monica Lewinsky suffered intense injustice by just being funny.

    What are the odds of having a perfect life. (unless one lives where I live)

    Epstein. I guess he was a "lucky" guy for many years. Yet is found wounded in a corridor of a prison.

    Others walked on a beach in france on a june morning and thought they d rather be in Abilene with sweet Eileen.

    Do I disagree with BB.

    Not at all.

    I just watched some footage of Utoya and reminisched personal memories of youthcamp life.

    What are the odds of having perfect parents, perfect pedigree, perfect social standing through the State approved Church.

    Life sucks. And we can only pull through and IF one is strong enough, please extend a hand and help another through.

    As a matter of fact. It is scientifically proven that one has a better chance of survival if one cares for others too.

    At least this is what I mean with, "the experience made me who I am". Although NO veteran I know feels their experience was in any kind helpful to their personal wellbeing.

    Its really odd how people are often not able to relate to sick people until they suffered themselves. Again I wish no suffering for anyone.


  6. Some good and valid points. This post was not meant to minimize the real hurt and harm that HWA and GTA inflicted on those of us who were unfortunate enough to be a part of their movement. I also wish to make clear that this blogger (along with thousands of others with a similar background) continues to experience/suffer the consequences of being affiliated with the WCG.
    I do, however, believe that it is our choice as to how we react to what life throws our way. Like Paul, I believe that we can learn/decide to be happy and content. There is a sense in which we choose to be victors or victims - the old notion of that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger!
    My recovery from this experience has happened over a long period of time and will probably continue till I have exhaled my last breath! Even so, I am proud and confident of the fact that I'm in a better place now. I like the man I see when I look in the mirror now (not that there isn't still room for improvement), and I know that he would be very different if he had not experienced all of that stuff (and not necessarily different in a good way). Does that clarify my position and make any sense?

  7. Miller Jones

    The regulars on the blogs do not need extra clarification for me. :-)

    My lengthy contributions are so lenghty because I want to be kind to many people, believers, non believers, victims etc etc

    However, if I would summarize my philosophy in just one sentence it would be this.

    (spoiler alert it is very cruel and darwinistic do not continue if you do not want to be affected)

    Man's conscious notion that either this life is not enough or a failure at worst prompted the need and initiation for religion in the first place.