Thursday, 26 June 2008

Vision or Blind Man's Bluff?

I'm old enough to remember The Plain Truth in its heyday.

Slick, professional.

Most latter-day COG publications attempt to clone the formula. UCG's Good News is probably the most successful while LCG's Tomorrow's World is just plain ugly; even a rank amateur could improve the design with a judicious choice of fonts. But the truth - dare one say the plain truth - is that time has moved on, and so has the art of magazine design, and the slavish imitators have been left far behind the cutting edge.

There is some irony then in the fact that the most imaginative packaging of the the COG product you'll find between two covers comes from one of the most conservative groups: the Church of God, an International Community: the David Hulme sect.

Vision is without doubt the most impressive periodical from the COG stable. Produced quarterly, it's imaginative, visual, and even looks good on a coffee table.

And - almost unbelievably - the content is not too bad either. There is a veneer of learning, the intimation of competence, the suggestion of sophistication. If you didn't know better you might deduce that this was a mildly scholarly journal.

The latest issue - an anthology - reinforces that impression. But a casual reader will be left wondering: why is it so hard to get hard data on the unknown church behind the journal, and why does publisher Hulme ostentatiously wear his PhD on his sleeve? Insecure?

The more informed reader will have questions too: the carefully cultivated image and seemingly balanced journalism hardly mesh with a group that restricts outsiders from attending its services and appears to hide information from non-members.

In a catch-22 situation, Vision has marketed itself over the heads of most prospective members. Who is it trying to impress? Or, given the structural nature of the beast, who is Hulme trying to impress? Most restrictive religious sects actively avoid any dalliance with the world of scholarship.

The Plain Truth, even at the height of its influence and circulation, was an ad man's confection: a monument to form over substance. Far more effectively than the clones, Vision is The Plain Truth of the twenty-first century. Its Achilles' heel may simply be that it is addressing the wrong audience.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

You want UGLY? Try Alton Billingsley's COG-FF Philadelphia Remnant. Take a look at his latest issue:

http://www.cog-ff.com/TPR2008-MAY-JUN.PDF

It's hard to say which is uglier; its layout or its retro-Armstrongist content. Meredith's magazine may be sleepy, and Flurry's Trumpet may be a cluttered mess of cult apologetics, but Billingsley's magazine is beyond embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

A word about VISION. The thing about VISION magazine is that it's like putting lipstick on a pig. VISION is Armstrongism for Armstrongists embarrassed by Armstrongism. If you actually read the articles, they're as unpleasant as anything in the other COG magazines, but VISION tempts you to just sit back and look, without actually reading the disturbing contents. To my mind, that's a lot more dangerous than the other COG magazines.

Spare me that old time religion said...

I believe David Hulme suspects more about all things Biblical than he lets on. It often happens when you come to religion early in life, have a mind that asks questions beyond the in house pablum and keeps moving. By middle age, your views change but one is often stuck in a group or organization that won't o has no way to tolerate the growth in others. You know...Government from the Top down. It essentially is not so much Government as a lid.

You might also start one that attracts some like yourself, but still have old paradigms to deal with.

Gordon Feil said...

I am often curious about how those folks are trying to position Vision and their church. Do they have a strategy, or is it a matter of letting the chips fall where they may? I think I'll phone them and ask.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for the link to the Billingsley magazine. Compared to the Meredith rag, it looks professional. The Hulme magazine is bizarre.

Tom Mahon said...

>>>Vision is without doubt the most impressive periodical from the COG stable.<<<

Indeed it is. But if we continue the analogy, it looks like real equine thoroughbred, from fine blood stock, but it doesn't win any races.

Since 1998 Hulme's church has not attracted any new members, at least not in the UK. The UK membership has continued to decline as older members die, or become too infirm to attend services.

Hulme, of course, was the first chairman of UCG. He was removed for his inability to balance costs against revenue. Or should that be tithes and offerings against luxurious life styles?

After his removal, he conspired with the discredited UK ministry, who covertly changed UCG's bylaws, and re-registered the church in Hulme's name.

In 1995 I met him and Jim Franks in England. At a meeting in Leicester, I asked him, "Were you planning to employ ministers who did not speak out against the changes?" His reply was, "Things were very difficult for the ministers." Which means, they had to choose between a salary and God's elect and they opted for a salary, including Hulme.

His magazine, Vision, reminds of Saint Augustine's profound observation: "Good food can be served in bad dishes, and bad food can be served in good dishes."

Corky said...

"Blind leaders of the blind" comes to mind.

I somehow doubt that the leaders are all that blind though. They can rake in money and have a pretty cushy job and never have to do any actual work to earn a living. Maybe, just maybe, they're not blind at all but have a perfect vision of the future - theirs, that is.

Anonymous said...

I very much agree with your assessment, Corky - it's all about the "way of give," as long as the giving is always aimed toward maintaining the minister's comfortable lifestyles, that is.

Byker Bob said...

One aspect which occurs to me is that the traditional message of the PT, and Armstrongism has been somewhat co-opted by mainstream groups. Anyone who has recently watched TBN (Trinity Broadcast Network) will be surprised at the number of Messianic Jewish broadcasters, sprinkled in amongst your more traditional pastors and teachers.

We live in a time when Pat Robertson speaks of the Feast of Tabernacles, and Benny Hinn teachers tithing and appearing before the Lord 3 times per year during the Mosaic festival seasons.

And, then, there are the "Left Behind" novels, which even go to the point of naming Petra as the place of safety.

That those who have taken elements of Armstrongism are reaching huge numbers of people must be a constant source of anguish for ACOG church leaders who are still in the mode of imitating 1920's marketing techniques and using an antiquated Cold War beast model, rather than acknowledging the global Islamic threat, which bears more striking resemblance to what is described in Revelation than Europe or the Catholic Church ever did.

But, hey, at least this is another example of Armstrongism having become somewhat inert, possibly a bit more harmless, and basically emasculated in their efforts to scare people into the tithe farm.

BB

Anonymous said...

I feel CG7's Bible Advocate is the finest magazine. It often publishes various views on topics while still presenting articles on core pre-Herb COG beliefs.

Anonymous said...

This is too bad. David Hulme is living on fumes. He's a smart man, quite the intellectual, but I wonder why his church hasn't taken off. It must be the message. I was in awe of him at AC- Pasadena. He was the front man, the PR man, the one that put the church in the best light. He was a good communicator.
Of course, even the people who have the most talents can use them for means which aren't the best. His message his well hidden in the media, but make no mistake, he is still the ardent COG apologist.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that D. Hulme is trying to attract the more educated and wealthier individuals with "his" magazine. Hmmm... One can't help wonder "what would Jesus say" about that approach??

Anonymous said...

Sometimes when I get the Tomorrow's World mag I see articles in it that at first glance looks, interesting and likely to inform me about topics of current interest. I feel that I'm going to learn something. But after reading a few lines, these articles go on to describe the sins of this nation and how we're going to be punished quoting the same old bible verses and so on and so on. So month to month it's the same old drible. Nothing stimulating and I'm no better off.

Also, the reader's letter section convinces me that RCM's mag is trash. Just about every month, a letter will be posted stating something negative about LCG. Just general statements about how it's a disgrace to Christanity(maybe in regards to LCG not keeping Easter or Christmas)and a request to cancel subsription. I would love for Tomorrow's World to publish the hard questions and analysis that comes from Ambassador Watch.

Eddby

Anonymous said...

I guess those weak negative comments are published so that LCG can say they print what readers have to say whether good or bad.

What do you say about that bob thiel?

Eddby

Bamboo_bends said...

That's an anglo iris btw.

Kscribe said...

Visions is Davids ego. Nothing more.

larry said...

Don't you think it is fascinating that there is so much passion here about the WCG?

I am amazed. I mean, really...., do you think there is this much passion in a bunch of ex-Methodists? Or ex-Episcopalians?

I doubt it.

Why do you think that is? What is it about the Worldwide Church of God and subsequent splinter groups that could stir the hearts and minds of people after so many years?

I'll bet that some of you would say...blatant hypocrisy. But you would be wrong. That's not it.

Anonymous said...

Why do you think that is? What is it about the Worldwide Church of God and subsequent splinter groups that could stir the hearts and minds of people after so many years?

I'll bet that some of you would say...blatant hypocrisy. But you would be wrong. That's not it.

My comment: For the same reason that abused children seek out forums to interact with others that were abused. Or someone with an illness seeks out others who might have the same illness. It's as simple as that.

Don't play psychologist and make more of it than it is.

Tonny the liar........... said...

Tom Mahon said..

"Nothing you say is going to stop me from glorying in being reviled."

"When all my detractors can do is resort to abuse, then it is evident they have lost the argument. Or what is more likely, they are incapable of marshaling an argument in defence of their ill conceived opinions.

Shouting abuse might impress your fan club, but it can have no impact on those who are secure in knowledge of truth, and are above the approbations of the practice of vulgar."

Well Tommy, this detractor is calling you out. You are a Liar! You have as yet to post your picture as you have stated you would. You have no credibility, not to mention your nonsensible ramblings. Your sir are a fraud in the same sence as Ronnie Weinland is a fraud. Only diffrence is you are a proven liar!

A Spit in the Ocean said...

"And now, a reading from the dictionary..." (bring back any memories, Byker Bob?

"Drivel" - Definition drivel (driv′…ôl)

intransitive verb -·eled or -·elled, -·el·ing or -·el·ling

to let saliva flow from one's mouth; drool; slobber
to speak in a silly or stupid manner

Etymology: ME drivelen < OE dreflian, to slobber, prob. akin to draff
transitive verb

to say in a silly or stupid manner

noun

Now Rare saliva running from the mouth
silly, stupid talk; childish nonsense; twaddle

The word is "drivel", not "drible" or "dribble."

Sorry - I'm about to crack.

The Larry Church of God said...

Larry said, "Why do you think that is? What is it about the Worldwide Church of God and subsequent splinter groups that could stir the hearts and minds of people after so many years?

I'll bet that some of you would say...blatant hypocrisy. But you would be wrong. That's not it."

MY COMMENT - Larry, its probably because most of us were young, dumb, stupid, gullible and impressionable when we attended the WCG. We grew-up believing HWA was God's Apostle; believing that there is this wonderful world tomorrow coming right around the corner in 1975 as HWA told us; and believing there is a place of safety from the world's tribulation in Petra.

There is also the social aspect that we were all in this WCG cult that did not associate much with the outside world. People gave their all for "God's work" - their time, money resources and lives.

But, it all turned out to be a giant con job. We all lost our innocence with the WCG - it was all a huge lie. There is no wonderful world tomorrow, and there is no place of safety.

I really don't believe anything that comes from the WCG or its splinters and religion in general. The God of HWA and the WCG was a very cruel God.

Armstrongite ministers have cried wolf so often, that its now entertainment for me. I can't take them seriously anymore.

There is an old adage, "Lie to me once, shame on you. Lie to me twice, shame on me".

Richard

Anonymous said...

Tonny the liar........... said...
Tom Mahon said..

"Nothing you say is going....."

wasn't this from the last post? why the crap guys? really?

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DennisDiehl said...

There is an old adage, "Lie to me once, shame on you. Lie to me twice, shame on me".

Richard

No Richard, it's "'Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again'
George W. Bush.

Of course, this was spoken by the same man who just recently explained as clearly as he could...

"I want to tell you how proud I am to be the President of a nation that -- in which there's a lot of Philippine-Americans. They love America and they love their heritage. And I reminded the President that I am reminded of the great talent of the -- of our Philippine-Americans when I eat dinner at the White House." --

George W. Bush, referring to White House chef Cristeta Comerford while meeting with Filipino President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Washington, D.C., June 24, 2008

Hey! This guy can give sermons for WCG and comment on the Surprising Blog God if he is this good at explaining things!

Byker Bob said...

Our dictionary reader was obviously hanging around 80 South Crass during the '60s.

Seems our word choices for this ceremony were a bit more risque back then.... Como espirituel!

BB

Anonymous said...

Doubting Larry wrote:

"I am amazed. I mean, really...., do you think there is this much passion in a bunch of ex-Methodists? Or ex-Episcopalians?"

"I doubt it."

I could introduce you to some ex-Episcopalians who would change your mind.

On second thought, maybe not. There's little hope for someone who thinks WCG was never a cult.

I've noticed that, like Tom, you selectively answer questions so it's unlikely you would admit it if you did meet ex-Episcopalians who have the same passion that is exhibited here (and I do know some).

A Picture of Tom says a thousand words said...

A previous poster said, "Well Tommy, this detractor is calling you out. You are a Liar! You have as yet to post your picture as you have stated you would. You have no credibility, not to mention your nonsensible ramblings. Your sir are a fraud in the same sence as Ronnie Weinland is a fraud. Only difference is you are a proven liar!"

MY COMMENT - I am reminded of story I heard Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong tell us about publishing his picture in the Plain Truth magazine. In the early years, Mr. Armstrong related that he was reluctant to publish his picture as according to him he did not want to be the focus. But according to Mr. Armstrong, readers of the Plain Truth and listeners of the World Tomorrow radio program kept writing into Headquarters wanting to see a picture of the man who spoke so boldly and with authority. So, reluctantly, according to Mr. Armstrong, he relented and allowed his picture to be published in the Plain Truth magazine.

Tom Mahon can learn from Mr. Armstrong's example. Notice Tom, that Mr. Armstrong did not promise his readers/listeners that he would publish his picture, and then not follow through on it. Tom, you criticized Dennis Diehl's "mop" several months ago, and then you promised to publish your picture...but you haven't yet. Tom, do the right thing and follow through your words with action. Follow Mr. Armstrong's example.

Show us your mug shot. Let's see your mop.

Richard

Corky said...

larry said...
Don't you think it is fascinating that there is so much passion here about the WCG?

I am amazed. I mean, really...., do you think there is this much passion in a bunch of ex-Methodists? Or ex-Episcopalians?


No, but the ex-members of the Jehovah's witnesses, Mormons and other cults far outnumber and outshine the few people who are on Amassador Watch in protestation of their past delusions.

The reason you don't see the same thing from ex-Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians etc. is because they are real churches and not cults.

That is another sign of a cult, by the way, ex-members having their say on-line or in books accusing the cult of being a cult.

larry said...

Richard, you make it sound like the Church ruined your life. Get a grip.

Bamboo_bends said...

larry said...

Richard, you make it sound like the Church ruined your life. Get a grip.


Did it ever occur to you Larry that maybe, that's exactly what happened?

I don't know Richard.....but I do have a close friend who committed suicide because of the treatment he got from his pastor...

Yes, some lives were indeed ruined.

But you won't read about the casualties on the Suprising God Blog.

Most of us just carry on the best we can but we'll always carry the scars. Its when people tell us that what we experienced really wasn't that bad that we get truly annoyed. We lived through it.

Pirates, Cowards, Parrots said...

Larry,

We have our share of the brave and honest here, including Dennis Diehl.

As a former WCG cult minister, Dennis is willing to stand up and give his sincere unfiltered thoughts and opinions, and be as helpful as is humanly possible. This is in comparison to 99.99% of the Armstrongite ministry who disappeared after the changes rolled out, never to be seen or heard from again.

Dennis is refreshingly candid, so he isn't permitted by the WCG ministerial cowards at the Surprising God Blog to post his freely spoken opinions there. If they did allow for others in a moderated discussion, they might discover substituting in Karl Barth or Perichoresis for Harmstrong, doesn't glibly answer all of life's most persistent questions.

RB said...

Maybe this magazine is actually trying to do what a mega-church in my city says in its mission statement: "Reach the unchurched."

Instead of trying to round up stray sheep from other COG's, or even mainline denominations, Vision's (uh) vision is to persuade people who simply sit at home on weekends and don't worship anywhere.

If you think about it, that's a more Christ-like approach.

Tom Mahon said...

Richard said...

>>Show us your mug shot. Let's see your mop.<<

"Mug shot?" Isn't that term associated with criminals? You might be surprised to learn, that I have never been in trouble with the police; not even a ticket for speeding. So I won't have a "mug shot."

However, I did say I would post a photo of me. But I also said, that the timing is everything.

BTW, do you have anything to say about the magazine, Vision, that will help us to understand why other churches are growing and the COGs are in decline? Or do you think joining Douglas and shouting abuse is a constructive way of wasting your time?

If you need to contact me, I am at Shiloh, you won't be surprised to learn?

"Planet Earth To Tom Mahon" said...

Tom Mahon said, "If you need to contact me, I am at Shiloh, you won't be surprised to learn?"

MY COMMENT - Thanks for the good laugh Tom. What? Me contact you? Why would I contact you? And how - by phone or e-mail? That's a riot!

Oh, yes! Of course self righteous Tom would be at Shiloh. Where else would you be?

Perhaps someone can take a mug shot of you at Shiloh, and you can post it on your website that no one ever visits or reads. Who knows? Perhaps your promised mug shot posted at your website will increase internet traffic to your website.

Richard

AggieAtheist said...

"Yes, some lives were indeed ruined."

I Survived Armstrongism, anyone?

Lori Johanson said...

If you talk to Vision members very long (and I still get together occasionally with ex-WCG friends of all persuasions, including Vision) they'll tell you the reason the magazine isn't aimed at a market that can be "converted" is because they actually aren't trying to round up members or convert anyone. They believe they're just supposed to let the world know there's hope for the future. So if that's true you'd just aim the magazine at the people who can pass ideas along that can help the world's quality of life, instead of aiming it at people who are likely to join the church.

A lot of the Vision articles talk about ways you can apply biblical principles in life and profit from it now--but I think the fact that they don't try to pull you into a church through the magazine is because they really believe what they say they believe about not trying to convert people.

Wasn't the WCG belief supposed to be that this isn't the only day of salvation? There was a pamphlet, called that, I'm pretty sure. If you believe that, why would you work so hard at converting people? The WCG didn't always operate from that belief, and a lot of the groups now sure don't--but it could be Vision really believes that.

Anonymous said...

'...Wasn't the WCG belief supposed to be that this isn't the only day of salvation? There was a pamphlet, called that, I'm pretty sure. If you believe that, why would you work so hard at converting people? The WCG didn't always operate from that belief, and a lot of the groups now sure don't--but it could be Vision really believes that...'

Read the efforts - often personally life-threatening - of the apostle Paul to 'persuade'

Anonymous said...

I agree with Gavin on this one. Vision is the "new" Plain Truth. The spirit of the original Plain Truth was as the parable of the sower suggests, scatter the seed and it will fall on various ground. Some will react to it, some will not, but the important thing was and remains that God determines which ground is fertile. In my oppinion, Vision is the only post WCG publication whose audience is not intended to be ex-WCG members. Likewise, it appears that the publication is not the vehicle for educating the church on doctrinal issues. Vision has also introduced something called foundations that serves as an educational tool for doctrine. These folks seem to be doing things much differently than the other post WCG groups. I like their stuff.