Friday, 10 April 2009

Dreaming in Arabic

Travel writing. It's not my thing. Bill Bryson is the exception. So the idea of an AC-Big Sandy student from the eighties writing about her experience in the Middle East - and we're talking "Big Dig" here - didn't exactly press all my buttons.

Jennifer, I repent of prejudging your writing. It's excellent, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And as it turns out, there's a lot more than travel writing involved. You might find yourself saying "snap!" as often as I did as Jennifer and her husband dealt with their post-WCG issues. You might also be challenged by her advocacy for the Arab people, and the history of Palestine which she relates.

Jennifer Armstrong's free online book, Dreaming in Arabic, was drawn to my attention by an old Pasadena-based friend of AW who keeps tabs on WCG's Internet legacy with much greater thoroughness than I'm remotely capable of (yeah, I know, hard to believe, but still true.)

Over the Astarte weekend, if you're at a loose end, or looking for strength to avoid chocolate eggs or marshmallow bunnies, you could do worse than dip into Jennifer's story.


Jethro said...

"There was such an emphasis on rules that I think most of us never got to the essence of the big things like faith and love and obedience to God. The only rule was, don't get caught."

I read Chapter 1, wherein is contained the above quote. It is extremely unfortunate that some people got that impression in the Worldwide Church of God. That was never my experience. It is fascinating how people in the same organization have had such radically divergent experiences. What's the difference?

Leonardo said...

Jethro wrote:
"It is fascinating how people in the same organization have had such radically divergent experiences. What's the difference?"

I very much agree with your observation here, Jethro. I've pondered the same one for many years, and still have a hard time coming up with an all-encompassing explanation for it.

Maybe it all comes down to the simple fact that we so often experience the same events in life from such completely unique perspectives, and thus sometimes give these experiences radically differing interpretations. Also, our interpretations are heavily influenced by our individual temperaments, and this too can result in some seeing the glass half-filled, while other see it half-empty, so to speak.

And yet while these may play a part in an overall explanation, I realize they still seem entirely too overly-simplified.

There was a guy and his sister I knew from the Pasadena area. Both raised in the same family, which had been raised in the WCG, both having gone through Imperial Schools and then onto AC. When the split in the WCG occurred in 1995, he fairly quickly jumped over to the UCG - she opted for all the new changes the WCG was promoting. He saw his experiences within the confines of the WCG as mostly positive and life-promoting - she started complaining about how being raised in the Church had limited and completely ruined her life.

So go figure!

On the personal level, my experiences within the WCG, on the whole and in general, were very positive. Although I can certainly understand that such was NOT the case for many, many others. But I came into the Church based upon my own free-will choice at the age of 19, a major difference from having been born and raised within it, thus having no choice in the matter whatsoever.

I remember having the distinct impression when I arrived as a na├»ve Freshman at AC Pasadena in 1976 that a fairly large percentage of the students who had been raised in the Church (which was about 90% of the student body then) seemed to have had a lot of pent-up anger within them. But I had only been baptised just six months previously, and at that time I was fairly ignorant about the Church’s almost total lack of proper child-rearing methods. So I think that a lot of these young people at AC were products of the “spank-the-rebellion-out-of-them” mentality so ardently promoted and practiced in the Church during the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, especially out in Pasadena, since they felt they had to set the proper example for all the other field congregations.

But the overall question is an interesting one to consider.

Anonymous said...

don't get caught

I can relate to that - bornderline cases of what constituted sin and what didn't. GTA once remarked he heard a rule "Seven minutes in a swimming pool to cool off on the Sabbath was okay".

I know of a few times local churches crossed the border -
. In a church road rally/scavenger hunt, we were told if stopped by the police for any reason, don't tell them anything, they don't approve of road rallies.
. After a church service in a rented school - if you drink alcohol, don't let anyone (outside) see you, we're not permitted to drink on these premises.
. Members visiting from overseas (usually young men) were told of jobs they could find to earn some money - the jobs the illegals usually do.

Etc ...

Jethro said...


larry said...

Leonardo, your observation has merit.

My children were raised in the Church and are now grown, adult, baptized members (one with children of his own). But, and this is a big BUT, I did not force (probably the wrong word) my children to adhere to the WCG. All their lives I emphasized that their membership in the Church would have to be their own choice, as it was for me, and I could not and would not make it for them.

As all parents, we would like for our children to follow in our footsteps and learn from our mistakes (so they do not repeat them) and benefit from our difficultly-gained accumulated wisdom. But, such is not the way of the world, and never has been. One of the shortcomings of the WCG has always been that certain leaders felt that they could change the rules that affect human behavior and decision-making. It just isn't the case.

My oldest and smartest set out on his own investigation, to check out other religions and denominations. He came back somewhat disillusioned. He discovered that other groups were distinctly lacking in the basic knowledge and understanding of God and the principles and Christianity. My kids have discovered in their own way that many Christian groups, including the Catholics, are just now coming to the realization of ideas that we had and published long ago.

Many of you on this board do not like and/or respect Herbert Armstrong or Joe Tkach,Sr., but these men were ahead of their times. Comtemporaries often do not recognize greatness when they are in its presence. It is a VERY rare great man who is recognized as such in his own lifetime.

Jethro said...

Larry said...
"Many of you on this board do not like and/or respect Herbert Armstrong or Joe Tkach,Sr., but these men were ahead of their times."

Herbert Armstrong was definitely ahead of his time. It's too bad he didn't realize it until shortly before his death. I think the tendency of human beings to predict the imminent return of Jesus Christ has to do with human vanity. It's as if people are saying, "Okay, God, I'm here now, so you can wrap things up." Of course, it doesn't work that way; God is on no man's timetable. Paul thought Christ would return in Paul's lifetime, various others have thought the same thing, and Herbert Armstrong thought the same thing. Even today, some in the Sabbatarian Church of God tradition are saying Christ's return will be in "five to seven years." Someday someone who says that will be right, but nobody knows when, and in the meantime an awful lot of credibility is lost. It is better to just accept the fact that no one knows when. Most of us will have our own personal end-time event before Jesus Christ returns, and that comes soon enough for each of us.

larry said...

Yes, part of that is vanity, but part of it is a yearning to see the end of the misery and suffering that has been humanity's lot for thousands of years.
What is truly amazing is that every generation thinks that things could not possibly get worse, and then they do.

One of the most impressive articles ever written was called "The Coming Anarchy" by Robert Kaplan of The Atlantic Monthly. Kaplan is the most traveled person in the history of the world, and has literally seen it all. His conclusion is that civilization as we know it, will collapse. And, the collapse is not far off, but he does not put a date or time line on his predictions. His analysis is enlightening though, and worth reading.