Saturday 8 August 2009

Question of the Week

Welcome to the first AW "question of the week," a concept I shamelessly stole from UCG blogger Mike Bennett. Fair's fair, so do toddle over and check out Mike's QW.

So, let's begin.

You're sitting on the bus, taking the free seat next to a teenager - thirteen to fifteen - who is reading a magazine intently. With a start, you realize that it's not the usual teen fare but The Good News.

Would you attempt a helpful conversation? If so, what approach would you take?


jack635 said...

I'd say:

Be careful kid, that magazine is from a proven cult. They are only interested in controlling your life and taking 20% of your paycheck. If you don't pay them they will send you to hell.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gavin,

I was sitting in the train one time and a high school student was engrossed in reading a respectable magazine.

His fellow students pried into what he was reading and it soon transpired,that behind the veneer of respectability, was a PLAYBOY magazine.

I could understand Playboy being read behind "THE STRUMPET",so why not the "GOOD NEWS"?



Anonymous said...

I'd grab it from them, ball it up, and toss it out the window. If they protested, I'd tell them I was trying to save their lives.

Mr. Scribe said...

Tell the brat to google HWA. From that point on it is in his hands to be stupid like us or smart like the rest of the world that wouldn't touch the filth of Armstrongism!

Byker Bob said...

I probably would assume that he was one of the Zombies' kids and pretend I didn't recognize the magazine as being different in any way.

Sometimes, you could accidentally drive a kid deeper into cultism by attempting to be helpful. Most kids are going to make up their own minds right about the time they leave home for college or to be on their own. If what they have been taught just doesn't feel right or has an aura of bogusness, they're going to have the good sense to make some changes.


redfox712 said...

Ideally I would try to tell him what this organization is. First one should never appear hostile. Always present yourself as a person in control of yourself who simply wants to help him. Give off a friendly

But first of all I would see how far into Armstrongism he or she is.

"Oh. You're reading The Good News?"

At first appear neutrally interested. Don't make your opposition known at first.

"Do you know much about who produces that magazine?"

If the answer is no, then you can tell them that they are the offshoot of this man, HWA, that he predicted Jesus Christ would return in 1936, then 1975. That these people always believe the end is very near and get it wrong.

Or you could tell about the Three Tithes. I am unaware if they are more honest in this matter then LCG has been.

However I have never been in the situation of running into a person who is a believer, or raised up in the church, or a member. That will be a lot harder. I have no personal experience in that situation. It will be harder to get your message across. May the Lord save them.

I feel somewhat uncomfortable discussing that since I have not had any personal experience in that situation.

They need to know there is life outside the COGs. That God is not working through them. That you can find God outside the COGs.

But if they are anything like I was I would just dismiss them as people who didn't know what they were talking about. But need to hear this.

Also many people raised up in cults often leave so they need to know getting out is an option and it can work.

Just don't be openly hostile.

Speakerbox said...

I'd say to be careful; b/c once in the group, they'll tell you how you are more Holy than other "professed christians" but at the same time, make you feel unworthy and beneath the minister. Do members still have to call the minister "Master" I mean, "Mister?"

Anonymous said...

"Be careful kid, that magazine is from a proven cult. They are only interested in controlling your life and taking 20% of your paycheck."

So you would lie to them and tell them that 20% of their paycheck goes to the church. Interestingly, if the person is attending and becoming interested, he would wonder what you are talking about, no third tithe anymore every third year and ten for the Feast.

Actually, protesting too much actually may cause someone more interest initially. It is deeply okay to be honest. Alleged cult instead of proven? Maybe. But more people 'buy' on the internet when looking at negative reviews. Why? People are honest and they know the good and the bad. Someone reading may be even more interested if you are too negative.

Corky said...

I wouldn't say anything, one cult of Christendom is about as good as another. It all depends upon what you are willing to put up with and for how long.

Gullible is gullible as far as I'm concerned. They deserve what they get.

Mel said...

I'd say, "Oh, the Good News! I grew up in Herbert Armstrong's church. In my parents' home, we had baptisms in the basement and exorcisms upstairs!"

I'd just see how the conversation would go from there. Maybe it would turn out that we had some acquaintances in common.
If he didn't want to talk, I might scribble my number down on a piece of paper, and when we parted ways, hand it to him and whisper to him, "if you ever feel you need an exorcism, give me a call, kid."

ED said...

I would tell him that a distructive religious cult puts out that magazine. If he dissagrees I would leave it at that. There is not much you can do if someone was already been brainwashed into Armstrongism.

I would ask him if I could read it and if he says I can have it to keep I would take it home and shred it in my paper shredder.

angel said...

I would try to strike up a conversation about the magazine, casually. If he seemed interested in discussing it, I'd ask what he thought about it, and about Armstrongism. If he didn't seem to know much, I'd tell him to be careful and share what I know.

If he was already involved in it; I'd tell him the problems I see with it, not in such a way that it seems I'm trying to argue with him or change his mind, but in a mild and caring way so he wouldn't feel threatened and more inclined to listen.

After that, it's up to him. All I can do is plant the seeds, God must do the rest.

Anonymous said...

If God is opening up his mind then nothing can stop him from finding truth

Anonymous said...

I would reach over, slap the kid on the head and tell him that a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

King Midas of Pessinus said...

I would try to find out if he is riding the bus because his car's transmission is broken.

If that were the case, I'd gently tell him that his life will totally suck unless he embraces the transmission-prosperity-gospel.

Anonymous said...

i'd commend him on his choice of reading material. then i'd tell him to compare everything in that magazine to the bible, and to stick with it if it matches his bible.
i'd also tell him not to be worried by detractors who will try to demonize some dead people that used to be associated with the publisher of the magazine.
i'd tell him that God sees his efforts to learn His ways and live by them, and will reward him for that.

Anonymous said...


Trash Armstrong said...

Another question comes to mind? At times I find JW's trash along with Armstrongism trash in waiting rooms. I admit to defacing these cult magazines, writing "cult" on each page as I thumb through the rag.

What do you folk do when encountered with these evil propaganda magazines? Leave them alone, trash them, walk out with them??

XCGMouse said...

Maybe, show her the previous responses to this one; because the creep factor of the majority is amazing.

Then, point out to her to that all these responders were in her same shoes at one time.

But doing the above would be cruel too.

I wonder, what is the percentage of xWCG'rs, who shouldn't be allowed to interact with young teenagers?

PurpleHymnal said...

I'd ask the kid who his parents are; odds are very high, in my neck of the woods, I would either know them or know of them.

None of the commenters here are looking at the equation from the other side; namely, to the teen in question, any conversation with a stranger, is going to be parlaying with the worldly.

Not absolutely verboten, but if the kid is already even close to sucked in, any talk of religion is going to be diverted or misdirected; as Dick-head instructed his minions at the GCE this year, they must "let their lives evangelize".

And if you say you're an ex-member of the church, you will find the conversation rapidly comes to a close (again, if the kid is a true believer, likely if they're reading the GN), or you may alternatively get a "why did you fall away from gawd's truth" line of questioning.

We can't make these gross generalizations based on an entirely presupposed kid, however; I suspect that, were I the 15- to 16-year-old in the other seat, I would react as above; that's not to say my reaction would be typical, even of church members, or of all teenagers still in the church.

Taking it on a case-by-case basis, it might be a good opportunity to answer some questions an inquisitive teen looking to broaden their horizons, might have; it might also come to no fruition whatsoever, depending how entrenched the CoG mindset is in the child.

I think the responses offered here, give more insight into ourselves, than any indication as to how we would react in a real life situation of same.

Byker Bob said...

King Midas,

You can laugh at my blessings, and answered prayer if you like. It doesn't offend me in the least, because I did that with others during my years of disbelief. Of course, you could also ask God to walk with you, and prove for yourself whether or not He blesses people. He'll even wait for you, until you feel ready in your own mind.


        AMERICAN KABUKI said...

"...could drive children away from God"

Wow there's an oxymoron!

What dimensional portal could you possibly go into where God would not be present? I thought God was omnipresent?

What kind of insipid "God" needs protection from evil public school teachers? You know they do separate God from your child! So withdraw from your "fallen" neighbors, they don't love you anyhow, school at home with creationist myths and stories of how the world will be so wonderful when we all live in a theocracy - just like Iran!

And don't forget to stock pile those hollow point bullets, and plant your gold underneath a small tree deep enough so gold seeking radar penetrating New World Order satellites can't find your secret stash of loot!

And of course tell your children about the "Curse of Ham" - the black man who allegedly cornholed Noah and got his entire race cursed by God - which is why we can't have a Black President who wants to give poor sick people with lots of tubes in their bodies some health care. Can't have the government triage patients, that's socialism! We need greedy insurance companies to do it instead!

I think I will vomit now.

Just more mindless evangelical bloviating. You'd think if Sabbatarians were gonna continue trashin' mainstream Christians, they'd at least come up with some original verbage.

angel said...

If I came across literature like this lying around, I might thumb thru it, out of curiosity, then I'd definitely trash it.

If, as has been pointed out, this fictional kid was unwilling to have a discussion, you have to leave it alone; having given him the opportunity, that's all God would expect us to do.

When I have the chance to speak with someone in a cult, I try not to pass it up. A few months ago I was headed home after some shopping and encountered a young Mormon, on crutches no less, but out there trying to earn godhood.

He tried to strike up a conversation, but I told him I was in a hurry, and moved on.

It bothered me, though, so I said, okay Lord, I'm feeling like You want me to go back and talk to him, so here goes. I found him seated, and we talked for awhile.

I told him why I had problems with the Book of Mormon, Mormon prophets, Joseph Smith, etc. and although he had some programmed responses, he really had no answers and he knew it.

After about 20 min., HE was ready to move on. Having planted some seeds of doubt, I could then go on home knowing I'd done all I could do.

Corky said...

Byker Bob said...
King Midas,

You can laugh at my blessings, and answered prayer if you like.
Do you seriously not know about self-fulfillment? When a person "prays" about anything it helps them to concentrate on the subject of the prayer.

If it happens, then the prayer has been answered and viola! You have found proof of a god? No, you have found proof of nothing but positive thinking.

It's not a proof BB, it's a delusion.

If you want a positive proof of a God and of prayer, you should pray for a limb to be restored on an amputee. If it happens, even I will convert.

Bill said...

Some here even managed to answer the question...

I would start asking him/her questions. What do you know of this organization? Are you a member? Your parents? My questions from there would be based on the answers I got. What other magazines of a religious nature do you read? If warranted, I would divulge my background and let them know that a lot of people left that organization and others like it only after a lifetime of dedication to them, and regretted ever getting involved. The trick is to get them to converse without triggering the pop up of the defensive mechanisms that they are indoctrinated with.

Anonymous said... fast as you can!

Byker Bob said...


I know plenty about psychology. I immersed myself into it thoroughly during my agnostic days. Cybernetics, Maslow, existential thinking, self hypnosis are but a few of the fields in which I've dabbled. It all left me in an Ecclesiates state of mind, though, with no permanent fulfillment. So, yes, I know about self-fulfilling prophecy, enough to know the difference between it and answered prayer. My mind is open more than you might imagine, in fact probably wider than yours, since I am open to God, while you are not.

I've heard this example of amputees being used as an acid test for answered prayer or healing. I have no video evidence for this, but am assured that it did happen at least once at an A.A. Allen healing revival meeting. The gentleman who was healed had had his arm severed in a construction accident involving a pane of glass. People in Allen's audience that night actually watched the arm regenerate. The healed gentleman began his own very successful ministry, retired, and is living in Scottsdale, AZ. I suspect that there are other examples, but the media and general public treat such incidents in much the way as they treat UFO sitings.


Corky said...

...but the media and general public treat such incidents in much the way as they treat UFO sitings.
And for good reason, Bob, for very good reason.

I've already been down that "open for God" road, I won't be making that mistake again.

"Fool me once, shame on you - fool me twice, shame on me"

You should have kept that adage in mind. Unfortunately, some people have to learn the hard way.

Ed Mellin said...

I'm not sure but I hope BB is referencing A.A. Allen as a "windup" there is more than enough material out there to have faith in the fact that A.A. Allen was just another religous conman. Having seen BBs journey over the years I hope he is "having a laugh"
From one on your friendly lurkers.
Ed Mellin

Mr. Scribe said...

If all these TBN ministers were to step foot in a old folks home Biker Bob, there would be a lot of disappointed people.

camfinch said...

"I've heard this example of amputees being used as an acid test for answered prayer or healing. I have no video evidence for this, but am assured that it did happen at least once at an A.A. Allen healing revival meeting. The gentleman who was healed had had his arm severed in a construction accident involving a pane of glass. People in Allen's audience that night actually watched the arm regenerate. The healed gentleman began his own very successful ministry, retired, and is living in Scottsdale, AZ. I suspect that there are other examples, but the media and general public treat such incidents in much the way as they treat UFO sitings."

If that did happen, it should be easily found on a Google search. I did an admittedly very brief search, and found nothing about it. Here is the biographical information on the life of A.A. Allen:

Mel said...

A.A.Allen was quite a huckster, and many of the modern hucksters have adapted his techniques.

I have listened to his "exorcisms",(iirc) from his "Crying Demons" and "I am Lucifer" albums.
He claimed to be able to converse with the devil and demons.

Not sure, but he may have been the first to do the "growing longer" leg trick.

Byker Bob said...

When I heard of this healing, the first thing I did was to spend a couple of hours on my computer, Googling AA Allen, and related topics.

One of the unique things about our discussions on WCG dissident blogs is that on occasion, even current non-believers have shared that they know they experienced miracles and healings while they were part of WCG. Some even shared the details!

Jesus had 100% success with His miracles. His human servants today do not enjoy 100% success, and for various reasons. HWA destroyed our, or our parents' faith in everything not related to him and his ministry. This included faith healing by other evangelists. He wanted us to believe that only his were authentic because he was "God's Apostle" and kept the sabbath!

The anecdote I shared about the amputee's healing came from a friend of mine, a minister who worked for many years for the Don Stewart Association, which had taken over AA Allen's assets and ministry following Allen's death. My friend knew a handful of the old timers who had assisted and supported Allen. That is the source of the information which I posted.

While I could not find anything on this on the internet, a surprising amount of information covering Allen is available. In one case, a primary care physician actually signed an affidavit confirming that one of his patients had had a lung and several ribs regenerated. This doctor was not part of Allen's group, and apparently was totally blown away by the miracle.

Also, there is some old footage of Allen's healings on Youtube. Is it real? I don't know. I suppose it's up to whoever watches the videos to make that call. It's the sort of thing that would strengthen the faith of some, or prompt the derision of others.

As a Christian, I have to be ever vigilant. There are so many distractions, so many charlatans, and so many people that attempt to trip up a follower of Jesus Christ. One thing we know for a fact. People do attempt to fake the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and this does quite a bit of damage. But, I do believe that when it suits His purposes, God does heal people and perform miracles today. It's just that it's not the private domain of one particular group that thinks it has the magic decoder ring.


Duracell said...

Hi Bob,
I hope you realize that many "incredible stories" come with any cultish believers.

For instance, after I was out of WCG, I listened to a gal who claimed to be channeling an 'ascended master', and met some of her(/his)followers.
There was no shortage of totally unverifiable anecdotes about stuff such as people being late for meetings and that their affirmations actually "turned back time", so that that they arrived on time.

I have heard of many "miracles" - some from non religious groups, and some from religious orgs.
Heck, they can make one's spine tingle.
It doesn't mean they are real.

Byker Bob said...


No they have to be examined on a case by case basis, and separated from agenda.

I'm class of '75. I've had a lot of time to examine many of the placebos that the members of the class of '95 are even now exploring, and, yes indeedy, it is fine that they are doing this. Yes, I do know all about the Ascended Masters, crystals, Cayce/reincarnation, paganism (Wicca), and other topics, because I delved into them, still searching for the the eternal and pure elements and truths which Armstrongism had failed to deliver.

I use a pharmacist's parable to describe what has happened in the Armstrong movement. In this, HWA drops out of university after a couple of semesters, but decides that he wants to work with pharmaceuticals anyway. So, he takes a prescription medicine, analyzes it, and bootlegs it through bathtub chemistry, adding his own improvements. When he markets it, after some time, those who use it discover many side effects, and its basic toxic nature.

Some ignore the detrimental effects, and continue using it. Others become totally outraged, and swear off all medications and supplements for life. Some resort to placebos which end up doing nothing at all for them. A few find the original formulation which existed before HWA perverted it, begin taking it, and realizing the benefits that HWA had falsely proclaimed would result from his adulterated concoction.

Life is, as Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia sang in the Dead's "Truckin'", a long strange trip! Too bad about all of the speed bumps and obstacles that are thrown our way!