Tuesday, 28 November 2006

10 Bad Reasons to go "Bah, humbug!"

Unlike some of the articles the GN crew write, I usually take time to read Scott Ashley's stuff. Not to say I agree with him much, but judging from past correspondence he's a polite and generous spirited fellow. Melvin Rhodes I avoid. If I wanted right-wing rhetoric and Gingrich quotes (oops, sorry Mel, I mean MISTER Gingrich) I could read WorldNetDaily.

Anyway, in the latest GN Scott has reworked an ancient article from Tomorrow's World (the WCG one, not the pallid imitation from LCG) on why reasonable folk should shun the seasonal festivities of Xmas. I could be wrong, but I believe David John Hill churned out the original version in the early seventies. At the time I was mightily impressed.

So here's Scott's updated Ten Reasons, with some impertinent personal comments attached:

(1) Christmas is driven by commercialism. Indubitably. But so is Mothers Day.

(2) Christmas is nowhere mentioned in the Bible. Very true. Nor is Independence Day, Queen's Birthday, Labour Day or Waitangi Day (feel free to choose whichever relates to your jurisdiction.) Oh, and nor is Mothers Day.

(3) Jesus wasn't born on or near Dec. 25. Agreed. Then again, those of us in the Dominions loyal to Her Majesty (God bless 'er) officially celebrate her natal day on a date other than her actual birthday. Is that a problem?

(4) The Christmas holiday is largely a recycled pagan celebration. Absolutely. But so are the Old Testament Holy Days. Agricultural festivals were deeply rooted in the culture of the Middle East, and versions of Tabernacles, Pentecost and so forth all had their parallels in older fertility celebrations: check out any half-decent reference work. If it was good enough for God to recycle those dubious events, what's the beef with Mithras' birthday? Plenty of precedent!

(5) God condemns using pagan customs to worship him. Yes indeed. But if you take a pagan custom (an agricultural festival in the Autumn perhaps) and retread it with new significance, then it obviously isn't a pagan custom any more.

(6) Christmas is worshipping God in vain. Um, no. Not unless you believe worshipping God with genuine motives is capable of being in vain. If you think that, then you've confused means with ends. Can honest, loving acts of praise and thankfulness ever be in vain?

(7) You can't put Christ back into something He was never in. This is just slogan splitting. "Let's put Christ back into Xmas" is a PR line, probably dreamed up by an American ad agency, and I agree with Scott that it's not a very good one. But hold it, what if we said "let's put Christ back in the center of our family life"? Sound any better? But Christ was apparently a bachelor who on one occasion snubbed his dear old mum and siblings (Mark 3:31-35.) Does that mean that the thought behind the saying is wrong? If people "regard the day" in the sense Paul speaks of, who's to say Christ isn't there for them?

(8) The Bible nowhere tells us to observe a holiday celebrating Jesus Christ's birth - but it clearly does tell us to commemorate His death. The Bible nowhere tells men to wear suits and ties to Sabbath services - but this doesn't worry Richard Pinelli overmuch. The Bible nowhere mentions Winter Sports festivals for teens, SEPs or talent shows. Setting Christmas in opposition to the Lord's Supper is sheer sleight of hand: the two go together quite nicely.

(9) Christmas obscures God's plan for mankind. Oh, come on. If the festivals so clearly portray "God's plan", how come Judaism seems to have missed the obvious? Anyone who thinks this argument holds water should do a little reading on the significance Jews find in their festivals. Regrettably, to quote Scott out of context, the COG festivals are "a hodge-podge of unbiblical customs and beliefs thrown together with a few elements of biblical truth." I mean, does even Scott erect a booth in his back yard to celebrate Tabernacles the Biblical way?

(10) I'd rather celebrate the Holy Days Jesus Christ and the apostles observed. Okay, first valid reason. It's a choice, a preference, and fair enough. However I'm not so sure you could argue that Paul continued to observe the Holy Days, but that's opening up a whole extra issue.

Actually, I'm not fussed about Xmas. Those carols in the stores drive me nuts. But I recollect Xmases past when, as a kid, the extended clan would gather, the smell of pine needles in the house, the excitement of waking early on Xmas morning, shelling pea-pods as my part in the feast of home grown produce accompanying a roast meal, the pulling of Christmas crackers and the cautious consumption of Xmas pudding drowned in custard and cream (cautious because there were "thruppences" buried in that thing and you could break a tooth!) Pagan? C'mon Scott, get a grip.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Ronnie warns the world

"The end-time has come. Hundreds of millions will die in the worst time of tribulation the world has ever known. You need to be informed so you can know how to respond."
(Ronnie Weinland's COG-PKG website)

Weinland claims that "this coming year (2007) is the preparation year for the church (His Church), he claims that 2008 is the year of the final witness to the world."
(WCG Alumni post)

The End is nigh! Prophecy is being fulfilled!

Yeah, right.

Since the disappointment of 1972, any number of self-appointed "watchmen" have been waggling their tonsils and announcing the impending tribulation. Take Willie Dankenbring for example. "His latest significant failure was in stating that Bill Clinton would be successor to Kofi Annan as the U.N. Secretary" (WCG Alumni post)

The method of preference is "strongly suggested possibility." The typical Herbal Prophet begins with tentative phrases such as "could it be that next year will see X happen?" ... then they proceed as if it's a dead certainty before exhorting the sheep to "dig deep" for the final push.

Then they blame the sheep for jumping to conclusions when nothing happens!

But back to Ronnie. The former UCG elder, now running his very own designer sect, COG-PKG, has written a book all about 2008. And lo, he doesn't seem to be prevaricating about his chosen dates. Thus saith Ronnie:

"From now until the latter part of 2008, many prophecies are going to begin to be fulfilled, especially the Seven Thunders of the Book of Revelation, which the apostle John saw but was restricted from recording. Those thunders are revealed in this book, as well as detailed accounts of the final three and one-half years of man's self-rule on earth, which are recorded in the account of the Seventh Seal of Revelation.

"Some of these prophecies concern the demise of the United States over the next two years, which will be followed by man's final world war."

But let's cheat and flick to the last page of this insightful opus:

"As the spokesman of God’s two end-time witnesses and as His end-time prophet, I have fulfilled my responsibility in placing the contents of this book before you. What you do with it is up to you. Indeed, only a very short time remains before it will be evident that I am who I say or that I am not [Yes, it's all about Ronnie - GR]. In the past 1900 years, have you ever read or heard of a publication from any religious leader who has made such claims, laying out such a precise pattern for the near future with such precise timelines? You have not! [Yes we have! - GR] This is the evidence (witness, testimony) of the true God of Abraham!"
And pretty shonky evidence it is.

To his credit he's not selling the thing. You can get a copy for free either in hard copy or via download, and hey, I suggest you do. A perfect demonstration of the blind stupidity of the "prophecy marches on" mentality. Drag it out in 2009 and, once you've checked your kneecaps*, rejoice in the knowledge that the world is still here and that, despite all our human failings, the Super-Fascist Kingdom of Ron has not arrived.

Now THAT'S Good News!

*"Every knee shall bow," which led the Armstrong exegetes to speculate that the returning Christ might need to use his "rod of iron" to smash a few kneecaps in order to achieve the desired outcome.

Monday, 20 November 2006

Ranking the COGsters

It's been almost a year since anyone, to my knowledge, has been silly enough to try ranking the popularity of the various COG-related websites. To tell the truth, that was me then too, just before I pulled the plug on the old website.

Okay, so call me crazy, but here's the current list from No.1 down, using the services of Alexa.com. Stats were sampled November 20, PM NZST. Beside the website name is the current 3-month ranking, and in brackets the ranking on November 19 last year (rounded to the nearest thousand.) To state the obvious, the lower the number the better the ranking. And, good grief, is it just me who's disturbed to see who Alexa has as the big enchilada?

01 RCG (Pack) 87,517 (125k)
02 UCG 107,423 (73k)
03 Good News (UCG) 161,876 (110k)
04 Born to Win (Dart) 163,410 (NA)
05 Real Truth (Pack) 173,739 (635k)
06 Trumpet (Flurry) 174,179 (298k)
07 WCG (Tkach) 183,529 (86k)
08 Bible Study 205,410 (124k)
09 Reluctant Messenger 223,244 (189k)
10 Beyond Today (UCG) 259,007 (NEW)
11 Tomorrow's World (LCG) 277,266 (250k)
12 CBCG (Coulter) 374,673 (577k)
13 AW Blog (hey, that's us!) 486,180 (NEW)
14 COGwriter (Thiel) 537,292 (575k)
15 Key of David (Flurry) 556,799 (936k)
16 CGG (Ritenbaugh) 713,755 (287k)
17 CCG (Cox) 752,166 (632k)
18 ICG (Armstrong) 772,562 (1574k)
19 PCG (Flurry) 952,958 (1010k)
20 Vision (Hulme) 972,049 (1675k)
21 ASK (Martin) 1,016,661 (553k)
22 The Journal 1,053,687 (709k)
23 PTM (Albrecht) 1,113,268 (375k)
24 LCG (Meredith) 1,203,741 (210k)
25 GTA (Armstrong) 1,247,213 (570k)

Poor old Rod! Outgunned again by the wiley Packatollah. And as for Greg Albrecht, he really should give up all the self promotion (check out the amazing greg-o-rama currently featuring on his site... eeeech!) and take up a nice retirement hobby.

Saturday, 18 November 2006

"None of these diseases"

A very long time ago I remember reading a book called "None of These Diseases." The author, S.I. McMillen, set out to prove just how good those ancient regulations in Leviticus and Deuteronomy were in keeping the Israelites healthy through, among other things, superior sanitation.

Now along comes James Tabor and blows that particular thesis right out of the cistern.

Tabor will be known to most readers as one of the few genuine Biblical scholars to come out of the WCG. Now he's brought new light to the vexed "Essene hypothesis" at Qumran, and in the process buried the McMillen book with its own paddle (as in Deut. 23:13 KJV).

The Essenes were super-strict about following the Pentateuchal laws. Bodily wastes were buried outside the camp, and the members were required to go through a cleansing pool before reentering the community.

Sounds sensible: thoroughly enlightened in fact. McMillen certainly thought so. And it probably is, anywhere except the desert around the Dead Sea.

Now Tabor and colleague Joe Zias have found the latrines of Qumran just where they would be expected in conformity to those Old Testament regulations. This in itself supports the consensus that Qumran was an Essene community rather than a fort or villa (as some have suggested.)

But Tabor has dug deeper, if you'll forgive the pun, to get to the real dirt.

Take that obsession with cleaning up in the pool. This wasn't just a rinsing of the hands, the Essenes climbed right in, baptism style. The water became a source of cross infection.

And those latrines, placed at a healthy distance from the camp, were even worse. The Essenes, in burying the waste, aided the parasites in their quest for survival. Along came the next devout Essene, carried the parasites away on the soles of his feet (it was a largely male order) and straight into the dipping pool. The savvy Bedouin, in contrast, simply left their waste out in the desert sun where it would quickly be zapped by the rays and rendered harmless. Smart Bedouin.

Says Zias: "The graveyard at Qumran is the unhealthiest group I have ever studied... the figure for people surviving to 40 falls to 6%..." These righteous, observant folk were afflicted with "Ascaris sp. (human roundworm), Taenia sp. (a human tapeworm), Trichuris sp. (a human whipworm) and a human pinworm, Enterobius vermicularis, that had not previously been reported in the ancient Near East. The soil sample from the stable contained the eggs of Dricrocoelium sp., a common parasites of ungulates. The control samples from the surrounding desert areas contained no parasites, human or animal." (Tabor, see blog link below)

Over in Jericho, where the attitude to such things was more relaxed, the evidence points to much greater health and longevity. Sure proof of the adage in Ecclesiastes (7:16) about not being overly righteous.

Tabor notes: "As a group, the men of Qumran were very unhealthy, but I think... they would have seen their infirmities as punishment from God or their lack of purity..."

Which is truly sad.

Related links: Stories in The Independent (Britain) --- The NZ Herald --- Jerusalem Post --- James Tabor's Blog

Friday, 17 November 2006

Clyde comes-a-callin'

Okay, so there's this "confidential" email in the in-tray today. A COG insider - connected with either the LCG or UCG - who has some observations to share about the recent entente between the respective bodies. You'll recollect that the Latter-day Nehemiah came down to kiss Papa Smurf's papal ring in Charlotte a few weeks back. Considering all the subsequent blather intended to squelch rumors of merger, you'd have to wonder why it happened at all.

For what it's worth, here's the gist of it. Fact or fiction, you decide.

Dateline: "South of the Border" (we're talking tacos here.) A UCG minister is screwed around by the Ohio oligarchy. He thinks he's going to be honorably retired, but his alleged wrongdoings are spilled out from the pulpit while he and his family are right there in the congregation. Not a good look. Result? Unhappy campers.

Unhappy campers then forge contacts with local LCG as they're severely hacked off. Hiring a minister across the Siegfried Line of organizational borders is discussed. Members start turning up at LCG services. We're talking LEAKAGE brethren. "I think," says the source, "the UCG tried to head it off at the pass."

Yes, dear readers, if the report is accurate this was a boundary dispute. The UCG poodle wandered into the neighbours' back yard to water their cucumbers and sniff the back end of the crusty old fox terrier.

Again, that is simply my version of the tale told (the original was poodle-free), and I'm happy to hear from anyone in the UCG willing to "set the record straight." One can only observe that it makes a tad more sense than the prim press statements from UCG or the "nothin' ain't happ'nin'!" protestations from Charlotte.

Believe it - or not...

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Death watch

It seems incredible now, but the Worldwide Church of God was once, in the not-so-distant past, a vital religious movement with a growing membership, distinctive customs which intrigued outsiders, a massive media ministry, a small university operation and an intellectually vibrant dissident tradition snapping at its heels.

The early 1990s was in some ways "the best of times." The church had survived the death of its founder, and even prospered. Ambassador College in Big Sandy had finally been accredited and emerged as AU. A past generation of troublemakers were receding in the consciousness of the brethren: Garner Ted, Ernie Martin, Ken Westby et al. The only hint of disquiet came from the blazing guns of John Trechak's Ambassador Report, a continual irritant, but determinedly ignored.

Then all hell broke loose and the WCG exploded.

In 2006 the dust has largely settled and the ruins are exposed for all to see. The harvest fields are a wasteland. In place of an impressive, monolithic, money-rich empire are a thousand feuding, ineffectual warlords, each turned inward and focused on the squatter in the neighbouring paddock. A gaggle of pathetic imitators try to raise the flag here and there, but their best efforts to defy fate seem futile. The hand of God seems to have dashed the proud dreams and deceits of Herbert Armstrong and his myrmidons* to the ground.

For a while it made a rivetting soap opera. Who would split from whom? What would happen when leader X died? What nonsense would evangelist Y next declare "new truth" as he chased the declining tithe dollars?

The fire has died out. Only the ashes remain. The machinations of Rod Meredith, the Flurrys, Mark Armstrong, David Pack and others are a pathetic caricature of times past. The splinter sects have no credibility even among their peers, let alone the general public. The decline is terminal. Even the mothership has downsized and moved to Glendora where its Pastor General (salary undisclosed) can't even manage to effect a simple name change.

From the halcyon days when John Trechak battled the Armstrong Empire, through the comedy of errors and unparalleled incompetence that followed Armstrong's death, we have finally arrived at the End Times of Armstrongism. The Plain Truth once proclaimed that, in the Great Tribulation, the unfortunate non-members would practice cannibalism to survive. That was partly right: today, in a ironic parody, the various schisms feed on each other.

Welcome to the death watch.

*myrmidons: a favourite term used by John Trechak to describe the besuited army of yes-men that fed off the tithes. The New Penguin English Dictionary defines myrmidon as "a subordinate who carries out orders unquestioningly."

Sunday, 12 November 2006

Showdown review - British Israelism

Greg Doudna is no slacker. His name should be familiar to anyone interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls beyond the “Michael Baigent level”. In fact, I tripped over his cognomen quite by accident in the notes to a recent text on that subject (along with fellow WCG alumnus Lester Grabbe.) So, imagine for a moment an academic of this calibre turning his attention on the time-dishonoured theories of British Israelism.

Imagine no longer, but pull on your coat and gumboots, because the blood is up to the fetlocks and rising!

There are four chapters on this theme in Showdown. Doudna begins with a surreal tale surrounding a student paper he wrote in the 1970s at Big Sandy, where he tried to show that the church had things back to front: Ephraim was America, not Great Britain, and the English/Australians etc. were Manasseh. The paper was ignored at the time.

Fast forward to the late 1980s, and Greg was looking for a publisher for the first edition of Showdown. A copy of the manuscript was sent to William Dankenbring, including an outline of that original paper, now a curiosity piece set amid a thorough deconstruction of the BI doctrine. Willie however was converted to the tribal reassignment on the spot, and eagerly began to proclaim the “new truth” - much to Doudna's consternation. But lo, more was to follow. Ken Westby adopted the theory (without crediting its source), Norm Edwards championed it for a while, there was coverage in The Journal, while an upstart New Zealander (modest bow) opined that the whole idea was totally absurd either way. Doudna notes:

“In my dreams I would rather see myself credited with helping to put the Anglo-Israel idea in the grave where it belongs. The idea is factually untrue as an historical claim and has borne bad fruit...” (p. 227)

So it is that Greg is responsible for an Armstrong heresy without even trying. Providence obviously has a droll sense of humour!

The other chapters constitute a focussed discussion of BI that deserves to be read by anyone even remotely drawn to the Lost Ten Tribes theories. To cut to the chase, the historical sources used to justify the doctrine were abused and misused and sometimes created out of the whole cloth. Doudna spends some time demolishing the Tea-Tephi/Jeremiah fiction. “It may be an interesting story,” he writes, “but it is completely fabricated.” And then he proceeds to demonstrate just that in merciless detail.

As an aside, Greg relates how he once asked the great Doctor Hoeh whether he'd ever publish a new edition of his Compendium. The good doctor replied no, giving the reason that he didn't want to contribute to the world's paper shortage!

But back to the demure princess Tea-Tephi for a moment. It seems even that grand old dame of Biblical jingoism, the British Israel World Federation, no longer regards TT as a historical character. The whole story was a fiction from the beginning, and the supposed references in ancient Irish annals about as traceable as a leprechaun's pot of gold.

Having stripped the finery from the fair princess, Doudna takes a pneumatic drill to the Lia Fail Stone, and, barely pausing for a chapter break, asks “Were the Scythians Israelites?” Another fascinating anecdote: AC instructor Allen Manteufel taught Ancient World History using the legendary Compendium, but his other source materials were conveniently unavailable. Greg provides the following verbatim snippet from one of Manteufel's classes:

“Noah took his sons on a world tour to show them the world around the Mediterranean in 10 years. He began by the Black Sea, circled the Mediterranean, and left a colony on the Tiber River in Italy. Noah then retired to Armenia... He took another world tour in 2210 BC and spent 9 years in Spain. Then Noah arrived in Italy, found Gomer had died and the Italians were being corrupted by Ham. Noah kicked out Ham and ruled Italy himself. Noah died and gave the land to Saturn and one of Joktan's kids.”

Such was the depth of scholarship at AC!

Doudna, on a roll, proceeds to demolish the work of Anne Kristensen (cited by BI enthusiasts as a credible authority) and then turns to Herbert Armstrong's assertions that Adam and Eve were white (Mystery of the Ages, 148.) Next to feel the heat is Raymond McNair's loopy thesis Key to Northwest European Origins. He concludes with some apt observations on the dark side of BI: GTA referring to the Inuit peoples as “grunting savages”, and Bryce Clark calling Native Americans “heathen savages” who were therefore quite rightly dispossessed.

There are other books dealing with British Israelism, but this one has the benefit of coming from the keyboard of an incisive thinker and genuine researcher who has actually walked a mile in the moccasins of this “hallucinogenic” delusion. In short, it's priceless.

(Link: Showdown at Big Sandy)

Thursday, 9 November 2006

Showdown review ... Part 1

Did you know that:

*The opening of the Ambassador Auditorium was marked by the appearance of streakers?

*Herb Armstrong claimed to be related to US president Richard Nixon?

*GTA proposed cancelling the 1975 Feast of Tabernacles so the members could send in their second-tithe direct to Pasadena?

*Rod Meredith held a shouting match with Black WCG elder Tom Hall over racial matters in a Doctrinal Committee meeting?

*AC Pasadena refused to recognise many of the courses taught at its Big Sandy sister campus?

Well, I didn't, and I'm indebted to Greg Doudna for plugging a number of gaps from the WCG's past. More specifically, the way the world looked from Big Sandy in the Seventies.

The WCG can probably be grateful that Greg wised up and found better things to do, for it's just plain scary to imagine what he would have got up to if he'd stayed and risen through the ranks. Just reading through his doctrinal papers from that time – positions he has long since moved beyond – indicate that this guy would have raised more than a little hell along the way.

The book in question is Showdown at Big Sandy, and the subtitle says it all: “Youthful Creativity Confronts Bureaucratic Inertia...” Doudna provides insight on a number of characters from the times: Dean of Students Ronald Kelly, for example, who is described as a hard working “company man”... one of many “yellow pencils” cut from the same mold... [who] did not try to disguise his lack of interest in things intellectual.

There are also anecdotes involving Herman Hoeh, Kenneth Herrmann, GTA, Charles Dorothy and other characters. The chapters on tithing and creationism are excellent, the treatment of healing and medicine is downright sobering, and the discussion of the old God Family doctrine is simply fascinating. (Let's all not tell Bob Thiel about that chapter, as he'd probably misunderstand it and gloat insufferably.)

But my favorite section of Showdown deals with the British Israel teachings. This is the best discussion of the subject I've seen yet, and it begins with Greg, in his youthful enthusiasm, floating a brand new theory which was later to be adopted by Willie Dankenbring, Norm Edwards, Ken Westby, Old Uncle Tom Cobbly and all. Only trouble being that Greg had already abandoned the idea and was amazed to find it being trotted out again long after leaving WCG behind. More details in part two of the review.

Greg can be restrained at times. He makes only passing reference to Armstrong's alcohol problems and steers clear of the incest allegations altogether. At other times his critique can be biting (you can almost see the tooth marks.) I read the 500 plus pages of Showdown over three days, and was left wanting more! There are some slower moments as, for example, he explains how he once tried to make all those numbers in Daniel add up to apocalyptic significance, but I guess this just goes to show that there's hope for even the most dogged date-setter.

If you're interested in the story of the church, or you still secretly wonder whether the church had some things right when it taught that the English-speaking countries were descended from Ancient Israel, this is one volume you really should add to your bookshelf. More details at www.scrollery.com.

(Part 2 will follow in a few days time.)

Turning the lights up on Six-Pack

This item was forwarded from the WCG Alumni board.

We've been asked by a very longtime COG member to post his sad but heartfelt request for help by we ezboard members. Perhaps some of you may know him. Here's his message:

My father has been a member of PCG (Flurry's church) for over 10 years. During that time he has maintained contact with me. Since my mother died almost six years ago I have called my father regularly on a weekly basis even after he remarried four years ago. He is now 80 years old and just before the feast he told me that PCG has threatened to put him out of the church if he does not break off all contact with me. Since he believes that PCG is the true church and he doesn't want to be put out of that church he has stopped taking my phone calls since shortly before the feast. My dad knows this is wrong but he has no way to do anything about it.

I am not a member of Flurry's church and I can do something about this. I have started an effort to protest to PCG and Gerald Flurry about this policy by writing them letters and by writing letters to the news media in the Edmond, OK area. One response I've gotten from the religion editor of one of the newspapers is that mine is not the first such letter but that he needs to contact some members or ex-members so he can get first hand information on this situation. If there are any current or any ex-PCG members who are willing to talk about the abusive policies and dictates of Mr. Flurry and his ministers please contact me by e-mail or by phone. My e-mail is
horstw@juno.com and my phone number is (919) 242-6273.

Thank you,
Horst Obermeit

Sunday, 5 November 2006

Ted is feeling haggard

The shade of Garner Ted Armstrong smirked at me over the top of my computer screen the other day. There below was the gory tale of another preacher named Ted with his substantial reputation caught firmly in his zipper.

Ted Haggard is a prominent Evangelical poster-boy, a pal of George W. Bush, and on the record as being very "old testamental" about morality, and unyielding on hot topics like civil rights for gay people. Ted is a Bible thumper par excellence, but on the caring, sharing side of the Great Divide between Fundamentalists and their PR-enhanced brethren in the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals, of which he is president... now past president)

And Ted, it seems, has been a very naughty boy indeed. Ted says he just had a nice gay massage, and bought, but did not partake of, methamphetamine. Mike Jones, the other party to the incidents, claims it was a great deal more.

Now, to put things in context, does it really matter who does what to whom? If the used car salesman I picked up my Toyota from is an adulterer, it doesn't bother me. If the woman who fields phone enquiries at the bank is doing a spot of moonlight bonking, that's her business. And why all the fuss over a gay guy (who has been scrupulously honest about living in a longstanding committed relationship) being ordained as a deacon in the New Zealand Anglican church (actually, that one makes sense: all that flowing Anglican clerical garb...)

But Haggard's alleged homosexuality and drug use isn't the issue. His actions may be unwise and amoral, but in the normal course of events, so what?

The problem with Ted Haggard is the sheer, blatant, bloody-minded hypocrisy. To moralistically hold up one standard to the world while you're indulging in the exact opposite behavior - is plain despicable. He isn't selling cars, and he isn't fielding calls on savings plans. He has been brutal in passing moralistic judgment on those who see the world in a different light from his own.

The other Ted, the late "son of the legend" one, might not agree. William B. Hinson, a WCG minister of times past, related a little-known incident in his book Broadway to Armageddon in which the young Evangelist was picked up by LA police for, shall we say "questionable activities" involving a fellow member of the male persuasion. It took, Hinson suggested, a lot of effort for Dad to pull his errant heir's chestnuts out of that particular roasting pan. From that point on, granting the veracity of Hinson's account, Ted set about creating an impregnable reputation for red-blooded heterosexuality. Most people would agree that he mightily succeeded beyond all reasonable measure (and then some!) In fact, it explains a lot... But that's a digression.

Haggard has now been booted out of his New Life pulpit. That only seems just, if only barely adequate. The question remains, once he has adequately repented (or should that be spelled with the middle vowel as an "a"?) will he do what his namesake failed in so miserably, learn a little humanity and humility before casting about in indignant judgment on others? At the moment Haggard's website lists among his beliefs this sociopathic assertion: "After living one life on earth, the unbelievers will be judged by God and sent to hell where they will be eternally tormented with the devil and the fallen angels." Too bad if he finds himself in the VIP preachers' section along with the other hypocrites gnashing their molars (Mt. 24:51.)

Related link: (BBC) Top US pastor sacked amid sex row