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The Oldest Books in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible

As anyone with even a cursory familiarity with the Judeo-Christian Bible knows, that book is composed of a collection of writings which were...

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Bible: You Don't Know As Much As You Think You Do!

"Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out." Job 36:26

"Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding." Isaiah 40:28

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?" Romans 11:33-34

"For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." I Corinthians 13:9-12

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Making God and Religion into Something They Aren't!

Without even thinking about the implications of their theology, many Christians demand moral and doctrinal certitude. For them, the entirety of God's plan and will MUST be clearly revealed in the pages of the Bible. They are uncomfortable unless everything is delineated in black and white - without any shades of gray.

The problem with such thinking (even when it's on a subconscious level) is that it doesn't reflect reality! The truth is that the Bible doesn't come any where close to revealing all of God's plans, intentions and will. The reality is that God lives and governs in COLOR.

The real world - the world that God created - is full of complexity and nuance. And how can we have the audacity to demand from God that which God has refused to supply! Haven't you ever noticed that the quest for greater understanding seems to be inherent to human nature? In other words, it appears that we have been designed as curious creatures embarked on a grand quest.

That may not be what some of us want. That may make some of us extremely uncomfortable. Nevertheless, if we are honest with ourselves, that appears to more accurately reflect the world in which we live.

Binding and Loosing

Banned by Hwa recently generated an interesting discussion regarding the Philadelphia Church of God's views on the human authority to bind and loosen relative to the church. see https://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/2020/07/gerald-flurry-upset-not-all-pcg-members.html According to PCOG, this authority is expansive and is largely confined to the "chief apostle" of the church.

But was the authority to bind and loosen intended to cover all of the teachings and work of the church? Does a human leader (or council) have the authority to change Divine directives, rituals, callings or mission statements? In short, does this authority give a human leader (or council) the power to supersede or change what God has commanded?

First, let's notice what Jesus told Peter after he had acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah and God's son. We read: "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." - Matthew 16:19 For our purposes, it doesn't matter whether we interpret this passage as applying to a single man or group of men. Instead, we want to examine the parameters of this authority.

In this regard, it is interesting to note the narrow circumstances that Jesus attached to this teaching the next time he mentioned it. After pointing out how precious each one of the saints are to God, Jesus outlines the proper way to handle disagreements among them. In the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, we read: "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." - Matthew 18:15-20

In this passage, the authority to bind and loosen is clearly limited to resolving conflicts between God's people, and it is also implied that this authority is to be shared among those people. Notice too that there isn't any suggestion within this passage that this authority was to extend to other areas or give carte blanche to any human authority within the church to amend God's edicts or set policy.

Moreover, we know that an expansive interpretation of this authority is inconsistent with what Christ is reported to have told the Scribes and Pharisees just a few chapters prior to this. These religious leaders asked Christ why his disciples violated the traditions which their predecessors had enjoined on God's people. Christ responded: "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." - Matthew 15:3-9 In other words, human traditions (even those instituted by authorities designated by God) cannot supersede or change God's commandments!

In this connection, it is interesting to note that the Armstrong Churches of God would be among the first to point out that no man (or group of men) has the authority to change the day of worship, Divinely mandated rituals or nullify other directives of Almighty God. And, if this understanding applies to one of the chief proponents of a broad interpretation of the authority to bind and loosen (specifically, the Roman Catholic Church), it is hard to see how one could reasonably justify such a broad interpretation of this authority within any ACOG! Likewise, the ACOGs are quick to point out that it is God who calls and places people into His Church. They love to quote John 6:44 in this connection, and then turn around and claim the authority to put that person out of the church!

In the Old Testament, it is recorded that God instructed His people to do exactly what He told them to do, and to be very careful NOT to add to those instructions or take anything away from them (see Deuteronomy 12:32). Moreover, Christ is reported to have instructed his apostles: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." - Matthew 28:19-20

Hence, while the authority to bind and loosen enables the Church to deal with disagreements and conflicts between people, it does not confer on that body (or any individual) the power to supersede, change or negate God's clear instructions on a whole host of topics. And, any interpretation of this authority which confers such powers clearly contradicts the spirit and intent of the Scriptures that inform us about it.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

God's Servant: John Lewis

You have to tell the whole truth, the good and the bad, maybe some things that are uncomfortable for some people.
Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/john-lewis-quotes

The civil rights movement was based on faith. Many of us who were participants in this movement saw our involvement as an extension of our faith. We saw ourselves doing the work of the Almighty. Segregation and racial discrimination were not in keeping with our faith, so we had to do something.
Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/john-lewis-quotes

I believe race is too heavy a burden to carry into the 21st century. It's time to lay it down. We all came here in different ships, but now we're all in the same boat.
Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/john-lewis-quotes

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Promises and the Birthright

In one of their recent "web chats," the Church of God International hosted a discussion about "What is the Birthright Promise?" https://www.cgi.org/armor-of-god-web-chat/2020/7/15/what-is-the-birthright-promise Like most Armstrongites who embrace Anglo-Israelism, CGI conflates "the promises" with "the birthright." Then, in a classic example of circular reasoning, they use the "birthright promise" as the principal proof that the U.S. and Britain represent modern-day Israel. Likewise, an important corollary to this "proof" is the assertion that some of the promises are "spiritual" in nature, and some of them are "material/physical" in nature.

What about these claims? How do they square with what is recorded in Scripture? Does a Divine "birthright promise" demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt that the English-speaking peoples of the world represent the fulfillment of such a promise?

First, it is important to establish precisely which promises we are talking about. After all, most students of the Bible know that God made a number of promises to a number of different people(s). Hence, for the purposes of this discussion, we are specifically focused on the promises that God made to Abraham and his offspring.

We find these promises initially mentioned in the twelfth chapter of Genesis. We read there: "The Lord had said to Abram, 'Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.'” -Genesis 12:1-3 Summarizing, God promises: 1) to make him into a great nation, 2) to bless him and make him famous, 3) to make him a blessing to others, 4) to bless those who treat him well and curse those who abuse him, and 5) to bless all of the families on earth because of him. Later on, in verse seven, God adds that he would give the Land of Canaan to his descendants (Hence, the Promised Land). In the fifteenth chapter of Genesis, God also promises Abram a son (an heir) to inherit the land which "He" has promised him.

Later still, God confirms the promises which "He" has made to his faithful servant. We read: "This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude <assembly/congregation> of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them! I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.” -Genesis 17:7-8

Having nailed down the "promises," the next question that comes to mind is "Did God fulfill all of these promises?" And, if you think that the answer to that question is a simple "yes" or "no," you may not be as familiar with Scripture as you thought you were!

To be sure, there is certainly a sense that God fulfilled these promises to Abraham. Scripture informs us that Abraham's descendants grew into great nations (Judah, Israel, Edom, Midian, etc.) Likewise, we read in I & II Kings and I & II Chronicles about all of the kings who descended from Abraham. Scripture also informs us that Abraham was famous in his own day and has certainly been made famous to all succeeding generations by the account we have in those same writings. Finally, we know that Abraham's descendants eventually inherited the "Promised Land" and did often serve as a blessing to other nations. Can we, however, say that these promises were actually fulfilled, knowing that the Israelites eventually lost their independent kingdoms and were carried away into captivity? What happened to "It will be their possession forever"?

Even so, in the twenty-second chapter of Genesis, we are informed that God tested Abraham's faith and reconfirmed "His" promises as a consequence of Abraham's performance. We read: "This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me." Genesis 22:16-18

We ask again: Did God ever fulfill these promises to Abraham? In the New Testament book of Hebrews, Abraham is held up as one of the great examples of faith in God. -Hebrews 11 Nevertheless, we are informed: "All these people <examples of faith> died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." -Hebrews 11:13-16 Hence, from a scriptural perspective, whatever happened with the Israelites doesn't appear to have fulfilled the promises God made to Abraham!

Notice too, that this statement includes all of the promises made - it doesn't differentiate between "spiritual" and "material" promises! In other words, there is a definite sense that ALL of the "promises" were spiritual in nature and were to be fulfilled in the FUTURE.

Going back to the account in Genesis, we notice just a few chapters later that Isaac (Abraham's son and heir) has two sons of his own (Esau and Jacob). - Genesis 25 In this same account, we are also informed that Esau was the firstborn - the one who according to the law of primogeniture would inherit the bulk of their father's estate. In biblical parlance, it was Esau's birthright (because he was born first) to inherit whatever their father had inherited from his father (Abraham). Even so, the chapter concludes with an account of Esau selling his birthright to his younger brother (Jacob) for a bowl of stew!

Later, we learn that God appeared to Isaac and reiterated the promises which "He" had made to Abraham. We read: "I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants, just as I solemnly promised Abraham, your father. I will cause your descendants to become as numerous as the stars of the sky, and I will give them all these lands. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed. I will do this because Abraham listened to me and obeyed all my requirements, commands, decrees, and instructions." -Genesis 26:3-5 Again, the promises are repeated and attributed to Abraham's obedience. In other words, because Isaac is Abraham's heir, the promises are passed on through him.

In the next chapter, we learn that Jacob stole Esau's blessing from their father. -Genesis 27 Apparently, Isaac intended to bestow an extraordinary blessing on his eldest son, but the younger son tricked him into believing that he was his older brother and secured the blessing in his stead. -Genesis 27:1-40

Later still, God makes a similar promise to Jacob in a a dream. God tells him: "I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” -Genesis 28:13-15

In this connection, it is interesting to note that the previously referenced eleventh chapter of Hebrews includes Isaac and Jacob as examples of the faithful. We read there: "It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise." -Hebrews 11:8-9 And, just so that there could be no misunderstanding the message of this chapter, the author repeats: "All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised." -Hebrews 11:39

Continuing with the account, we are later informed that God changed Jacob's name to Israel (see Genesis 32). Then, after thinking his son Joseph was dead for many years, God revealed to Israel that he would be reunited with his favorite son in Egypt and die there (see Genesis 46). Finally, just before he dies, Israel blesses Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and adopts them as his own (see Genesis 48). For Armstrongites, the all important scripture here is Israel's statement to Joseph about the boys recorded in verse nineteen. He said, "Manasseh will also become a great people, but his younger brother will become even greater. And his descendants will become a multitude of nations."

For the hosts of the CGI web chat, the scripture that ties all of this together is found in the fifth chapter of I Chronicles. We read there: "The oldest son of Israel was Reuben. But since he dishonored his father by sleeping with one of his father’s concubines, his birthright was given to the sons of his brother Joseph. For this reason, Reuben is not listed in the genealogical records as the firstborn son. The descendants of Judah became the most powerful tribe and provided a ruler for the nation, but the birthright belonged to Joseph." -I Chronicles 5:1-2 For Anglo-Israel Armstrongites, this scripture proves that the promises were divided into the "spiritual" scepter and the "material" birthright. One promising Christ, the other promising physical wealth and preeminence to the physical descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh.

Unfortunately, this scripture does NOT do what Armstrongites claim it does! If we carefully reread this scripture, we see that it is quite simply an explanation of why Reuben does not appear in the genealogical records as the eldest son of Israel! According to the law of primogeniture, he should have been the heir to the birthright. However, because he "dishonored his father," he forfeited his right to that inheritance; and Israel designated Joseph's sons as the legitimate heirs to his estate!

Now, most modern Armstrongites are willing to acknowledge that the scepter promise is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Even so, Herbert and some of his followers have pointed out that the promise was at least partially fulfilled through David and God's promise to him. Was it though? Wasn't David merely a component of the ultimate fulfillment of this promise? Herbert claimed that God physically kept "His" promise to Abraham and David about a kingly line by continuing that line through the Irish, Scottish and British kings and queens.

Even so, serious students of the Bible understand that the Old Testament clearly records the downfall of the Davidic dynasty, and the New Testament gospels of Matthew and Luke take great pains to record that Jesus was a descendant of David! Moreover, secular history makes plain that the Irish, Scottish and British thrones passed through several females and contained numerous gaps (thus negating the promise that "David will never fail to have a man sitting on the throne of the House of Israel" -see Jeremiah 33:17).

As for the promise of land and wealth, I suppose one could say that those promises found fulfillment in the ancient Israelites (though I've already pointed out that they lost their land and wealth because of their defeats by the Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians). And, YES, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh possessed the most land area within Israel; and God did eventually give Jeroboam (of the tribe of Ephraim) ten of the tribes of Israel to rule over.

Once again, however, the author of the book of Hebrews clearly treats this history as not fulfilling the promises made to God's children. We read there that the Israelites did NOT enter God's rest, and that the promise of that rest consequently still stands! (see Hebrews 3 and 4) Moreover, the Israelites clearly did not abide by the terms of the Old Covenant - that's why we have a NEW one (and that doesn't mean that those Israelites are permanently excluded)!

And, in his letter to the saints at Rome, the Apostle Paul makes plain that physical descent from Abraham does not make one an heir of the promises made to him. Paul tells them that it is the folks who have accepted (or will accept) Jesus Christ as the Messiah/Savior who will receive the promises. Indeed, he wrote to the saints of Galatia: "For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you." -Galatians 3:26-29

Hmmm, when you put it that way, it's a bit ridiculous to suggest than any nation(s) or people(s) have yet inherited the promises made to Abraham. For those of us who are truly Christians, we know that God will completely fulfill these promises someday - not in times past or today, but someday God will keep those promises made to Abraham so long ago.


Monday, July 13, 2020

The Aim of Life

Have you ever thought about the fact that all living organisms are preoccupied with the perpetuation of life? From a single cell to the most complex plants and animals, all of the organelles, organs and systems within an organism are focused on the perpetuation of life. Of course, the ability to reproduce is the most obvious manifestation of this phenomenon - where life perpetuates itself from generation to generation. And, within this system, we know that the characteristics of the organism are controlled by genetics. In this regard, it is interesting to note that even ecosystems (made up of many different kinds of organisms) seek to perpetuate themselves, and that the process of evolution is concerned with the adaptation of living things to their environment for survival.

What does this impetus toward self-perpetuation tell us about ourselves and the world we live in? Does all life in the universe follow this pattern? Is life always in the process of riding on some asteroid, meteorite or other celestial body to introduce life to some new planet or moon somewhere else? Does the evolutionary cycle repeat itself, over and over again, throughout the universe? Did life on earth arrive here from some other planet? Has life from here already begun again somewhere else? Was the development of self-awareness and reasoning part of this process of self-perpetuation? Did God/Nature intend for us to someday have the ability to manipulate genetics?

It is also interesting to note that human religions are very much concerned with the concepts of immortality and eternity. Why? We read in Scripture that God has planted eternity in the human heart (see Ecclesiastes 3:11). And, if we backup to the beginning of this chapter, we read that there is a time for every activity under heaven (see Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Does that mean that death, war and destruction are also part of the process of self-perpetuation? We wonder, and yet we read in that same verse (Ecclesiastes 3:11) that we simply cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.

Call it what you will: God, nature, universe or cosmos. Immortality and eternity seem to be valid concepts, and the evidence suggests that there is more going on here than meets the eye! What do you think? 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Coming to terms with our past

"The past is never dead. It's not even past. All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born, webs of heredity and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity." --William Faulkner

"To know nothing of what happened before you were born is to remain forever a child." -- Cicero

Our present is a product of our past, and our future is influenced and imagined by both. Hence, as individuals and nations, it is incumbent upon us to be aware of our past and come to terms with it. Likewise, we must be cognizant of the fact that humans tend to portray themselves in the best possible light - that we tend to avoid things that are unpleasant or illuminate our failures.

As a former member of Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God, I have had to come to terms with the fact that I surrendered (and actively suppressed) my intellectual curiosity. I have had to come to terms with the fact that I once accepted the racist and bogus teaching of Anglo-Israelism. I have had to come to terms with the fact that I missed several opportunities and suffered financially because of my affiliation with that organization. I have had to come to terms with the fact that I was arrogant and believed that God had revealed his truth to my mind and had hidden it from most of my fellow Christians. I have had to come to terms with the fact that I tortured myself and others with false and hypocritical notions about human sexuality. And, finally, I have had to come to terms with the fact that I can't do anything to earn my salvation - that Christ and his grace are the only things that can save me.

In similar fashion, the United States is currently wrestling with some unpleasant parts of its past. Statues have been coming down that were erected to honor Confederate generals and politicians, and discussions have been generated about Founding Fathers who owned slaves. Likewise, Native Americans have recently had the audacity to remind everyone that Christopher Columbus did not actually discover America, and that his arrival here wasn't good news for indigenous peoples.

For many folks in other parts of the world, the United States' preoccupation with Confederate statues and flags is bewildering. They don't understand why a people would honor and memorialize an ideology which they defeated - an ideology that had once threatened the very existence of government for and by the people. There aren't any statues of Nazi generals and politicians in Germany. In fact, swastikas and other Nazi symbols are outlawed in that country. Moreover, Germans have decided to memorialize and educate their citizens about the horrors of the holocaust.

We obviously don't want the past to weigh us down and destroy us, but we do want to be aware of mistakes so as not to repeat them. Wallowing in depression is not constructive, and the Apostle Paul warned against it. He pointed to what Christ had done for him and told the saints at Philippi: "I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us." (Philippians 3:12-14, NLT) In short, the past must not be allowed to destroy our hope for the future. Nevertheless, an integral part of becoming a better person is recognizing and acknowledging our many sins and failures in our former life.

If people and nations are going to improve, there must be a willingness to face the ugly things we have done in times past. Fairytales and golden age nostalgia might make us feel good, but they do not offer much help in discerning the right path forward. Indeed, our perception of the world around us will be skewed and inaccurate unless it is based on a truthful and comprehensive survey of the entire landscape.

Scripture is filled with examples of the good and bad behaviors of our spiritual forefathers. We are instructed to imitate the good and avoid the bad - to learn from their failures and mistakes. It seems to me that this line of thinking represents very good advice for humankind - individuals and nations. What do you think?    

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Armstrongism and Trumpism

The Armstrong Churches of God have always taken a dim view of higher education, science and traditional religions. Likewise, their familiarity with (and support of) racist ideology is an integral part of the history of the movement. Even so, the heirs of Herbert Armstrong have taken his views to a whole new level of ugly.

It is ironic that something that once purported to be apolitical has devolved into something that is wholly in the camp of Donald Trump. Don’t believe me? Go to any ACOG website and peruse their offerings on current affairs OR just read some of the commentary regarding the posts on Banned by HWA! The vast majority of these folks are deniers of climate science, multiculturalism, globalism, progressivism, environmentalism and historical revisionism. Like their favorite president, they are anti-immigration, rabid nationalists, pro-authoritarian, protectionist, paternalistic, misogynistic and anti-mask wearing (Covid-19).

In recent months, I’ve written about the Church of God International’s extreme views on race and Covid-19. Likewise, Gary has posted numerous pieces that reflect the views of Pack, Weston, Flurry and Thiel on these topics. In short, the evidence for rampant Trumpism within the ranks of the Armstrong Church of God is overwhelming. Most of these folks no longer even bother to offer any pretense that they are attempting to appeal to a wider audience.

Even so, I must admit that I am still surprised at the degree to which some of these folks have gone down the rabbit hole. Take for instance, the United Church of God’s Melvin Rhodes’ latest post on his blog, The African Solution (see https://melvinrhodes.wordpress.com/). After a brief discussion of the policy of some African nations limiting white immigration, Rhodes writes: “In the West, our emphasis is different. In 1971, Canada was the first country to officially adopt multiculturalism. Other nations in the western world quickly followed. Diversity became all the rage. In spite of the fact that it obviously doesn’t work, whenever there are riots or tensions between ethnic groups, leaders respond by saying that we need more diversity, not less. It’s also impossible to achieve full equality between ethnic groups. People clearly want to live with people of their own culture. It’s only natural.”

He continues: “Enforcing diversity is only going to backfire. Separation is perfectly acceptable. Africans have long been saying ‘Africa for the Africans.’ So why not ‘Europe for the Europeans’? And America for the . . . ?  (That’s a question for the Supreme Court!)” He goes on to suggest that perhaps its time for African Americans to consider returning to Africa! Rhodes concludes: “Separation of the races is likely to be considered ‘racist’ in today’s western World. But can it be racist when African governments themselves are embracing the idea?” If you think I’m making this stuff up, go to his website and read the article for yourself!

And then there is the Armstrong heir apparent, Mark Armstrong. In his latest “Weekly Update” from Tyler, Texas, Armstrong writes: “Has it occurred to anyone that the same people lecturing us about how racist our country is, how racist we are, and how the mob has a righteous cause, are the same ones hyperventilating because there's no mask mandate? Well, our Texas governor has fixed that in what was once presumed to be one of the freest states of all. Now you will be warned, and after that fined up to $250.00 for each infraction of entering a public space without your ‘face-covering.’ It's about ‘keeping everyone safe,’ of course.”

Mark goes on to tell his followers that the current increase in Covid cases is due to folks going back to hospitals and doctors for other conditions after a virus induced hiatus. He writes: “There's your spike. People are going to the hospital or clinic, and they're reported as corona-virus cases even though that has nothing to do with their doctor visit. It's all a little too convenient for those who want America destroyed. Don't expect the ‘news’ people to ever let this virus go.  It's made these big demonstrations possible. After all, nobody's in school, and in most of the major population centers work has been canceled.” Armstrong continues: “For whatever reason, everyone seems to want to appease the mob. Nobody, save the president and a tiny handful of voices, has dared stand firm against the mob and its demands. Instead, appeasement is all trusted conservative officials are doing. The communist insurrection is the virus that is bringing down the formerly greatest nation, and it wouldn't be happening without the virus. For years they claimed NO FEAR. They have no fear of breaking God's Commandments. But you? You better fear to go in public, and obey all MANDATES, or the state will get its pound of flesh.”

Really? This stuff is CRAZY! African Americans are an integral part of America’s story. The first Africans arrived in what is now the U.S.A. the year before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth! African American labor and expertise helped to build America. These are the facts of real history. Slavery happened. Jim Crow and discrimination happened. Lynchings happened. This is all part of our history. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were great men, but they also owned hundreds of human beings made in the image of God! Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were great generals, but they were also traitors to the United States of America!

Yes, we are going to have to learn to live with Covid-19 – at least, until we have an effective vaccine. However, that will NOT be accomplished by ignoring face coverings and social distancing – these are the very things that will help us to live with this new threat. In my humble opinion, the most pernicious thing that Donald Trump has done since taking the oath of office is to politicize mask wearing. And, just for the record, most of us folks who wear masks and practice social distancing have NO desire to see America destroyed.

The Armstrong Churches of God can have Donald Trump and all of his policies. And I hope their fortunes continue to decline with those of their favorite president!