Friday 29 April 2016

Beyond Today - Clinging to the mold

(This is the first in the current series reviewing various COG publications)

The May-June issue of Beyond Today is out. If you thought the lads in UCG were interested in breaking the mouldy old mold by rebranding their flagship magazine, you must be hugely disappointed.

BI is back (not that it ever left) with a major back cover ad for the awful booklet some of us hoped UCG was quietly trying to drop.

Misogyny reigneth again. Not even one token woman listed in the staff box. There is an article by Janet Treadway though. Just a one-page reflection on the birth of a grandchild (congratulations Janet, lovely photo). But it still seems clear the lads wouldn't be happy having a female byline accompanying a big-boy-type article (you know, prophecy, tithing...)

The rest of the issue is pretty predictable. Scott Ashley editorialises his literal reading of the magic millennium. A "final crescendo" is building. The end-times armies will gather to Jerusalem to be wiped out by the armies of heaven. Happy days!

That well-known expert on the Middle East, Darris McNeely, pontificates on why Jerusalem is so very important. Darris was involved in "the big dig" in 1971, so he's clearly a pundit without peer.

Scott Ashley is back with an imperious bit of American exceptionalism, a flag-draped article about "The Global Power Vacuum". Let me get this straight, Scott doesn't vote, belongs to a supposedly apolitical sect, and yet races around his office on a mobility scooter chanting U.S.A.! U.S.A.!? The reason is - should there be any doubt - "Bible prophecy", which Scott naturally understands in great detail. The article concludes:
America is heading down a dark and dangerous path, and so is the rest of the world. Bible prophecy reveals where this path will lead—to a terrifying conclusion where, if not for God’s direct intervention, human life would be exterminated from all the earth (Matthew 24:21-22). 
You don’t need to tread this same path. You’re offered a much different way, a far better way, revealed in the pages of this magazine and your Bible. Instead of a vacuum of purpose in your life, you can fill your life with the understanding and real power that comes only from God. 
We hope and pray that you’ll choose wisely!
Then there's a nice little ad for their BI booklet to help make it all clear.

Apparently the US is heading toward some kind of election - who would have guessed it? - so Mike Kelley has radically rewritten the old chestnut article on voting. Mike assures us that "God doesn't oppose wealth", which is comforting given all the counterindications in the New Testament about eyes of needles and suchlike. But no, be ye reassured.
Helping those in poverty is often viewed as a hallmark of liberalism. But genuine concern for the poor seeks to alleviate their plight permanently through different means—by encouraging private charity and reducing wasteful human government programs and regulations to allow economic freedom leading to wealth creation and greater prosperity for all, including the poor.
Moreover, Jesus compared himself to a wealthy man. So there! The Koch brothers must love this guy.
The Bible does make a case for a liberty-oriented economy — what we would today call true capitalism or, perhaps better put, private property and free exchange.
Really? Can't wait for that booklet.

A number of readers may share Mike's weltanschauung, but it's hardly unbiased and is arguably inappropriate for a denominational publication. It does demonstrate the ongoing narrowing of COG engagement with the wider world, and a departure from the usual call for readers to disengage from the electoral process. I'm guessing - and I may be going out on a limb here - that Mike doesn't "feel the Bern".

Steve Myers writes about the Sabbath, "a precious place in time". Indeed, he describes it as "God's Sabbath benefit plan". Apparently it's the best thing since well before sliced bread.

Scott Ashley returns - obviously, he's been earning his salary this month - with an article on the Holy Spirit. Perhaps someone can explain why COG writers capitalize Holy Spirit when they believe it is a force not a person? Briefly, in the distant past, the WCG style guide seemed to flip on this issue and, for a very short time in the 1970s, it was holy spirit. Barely time to blink and it was back to capital letters "unto this very day".

Not to be outdone, Darris McNeely grabs his violin and pays a tithing sonata. Less said the better.

Someone who doesn't want to be identified by name has contributed an article called "The Valuable Benefits and Purpose of Bible Prophecy." As we say in this part of the world, "yeah, right!" Vince Szymkowiak writes about Pentecost and there's another anonymous bit of waffle about decision making.

This thing reads more like the Philadelphia Trumpet each month.

The PDF is available to download.

(Coming up next: Discern)


Anonymous said...

Just to be clear about "Clinging to the mold", is that the mold for casting or is that the fungus?

Gavin R said...

Mould, mold. The terms are interchangeable, so it could be either/or, or it could be both. I was thinking primarily of the impression into which plaster is poured, but the alternative seems equally apt ;-)

Christopher McNeely said...

Bravo, Gavin! Best COG lit review ever.

Unknown said...

A younger demographic might be reached if they had a 6 page pictorial of, and changed the magazine name to...


Unknown said...

I can't help myself, (and no offense meant to Christopher), but every time I see an article by Darris McNeely, I have a memory flashback to "MR. McFEELY" , a character on the old Mr. Rodgers PBS television program for kids.

Retired Prof said...

Mikey and Gavin, thanks for the mould/mold banter. That both readings are equally apt reminds us of one of the major benefits of what may seem a flaw in human languages: avoiding ambiguity is impossible, and exploiting it enriches communication. As I wrote once about a line in a country song with a similar double interpretation, "People who see it one way get pleasure. People who see it the other way get pleasure. People who see it both ways get twice the pleasure."

Too many Bible readers approach every passage looking for a single definitive reading. COG members were encouraged to do so by HWA's dictum that truth is singular, not multiple. Fundamentalists in all religions are subject to the same bad habit. About this problem I wrote over at "Banned":

The reason the holy scriptures of all religions provide their adherents so much material for fascinating arguments and consequent hurt feelings, altercations, shunnings, beheadings, stonings, bombings, and other entertainments is that all texts in all languages leave similar room, whether writers intend to or not, for readers to inflict their own opinions.

Anonymous said...

It is odd to me that Armstrongites take a political stand over with the right-wing: small government, pure capitalism, rejection of anything that looks like a liberal value, the usual. Yet they are enamored of the OT theocracy which was classical big government. It reached into every aspect of everybody's life in ancient Israel. And the support of private charity as a solution goes against the grain of the OT 3rd tithe - a governmentally collected, managed and distributed tax for social purposes. I guess some things are holy in the OT and some are not.

It is similar to the undercurrent and very carefully masked but nevertheless committed racism of Armstrongites. Yet the OT has admonitions against oppressing the "stranger" among you (which I never heard cited in an Armstrongite sermon or sermonette). If you were to give the average Armstrongite minister the assignment of building a sermon around that topic, I don't know what he would come up with.

Clearly, Armstrongites view the world and the Bible through a right-wing political lens. They pick over the OT for those things they like and reject those things that will not pass the political filter. If they were to reflect for a moment, Rush Limbaugh is a more important source of values for them that Jesus Christ. Or maybe they see no conflict between their "Jesus" and Rush. But then enters the proscription against voting. Paradoxical.

The principal purpose of these writers is to keep the tithing machine well-oiled and flowing. They must create in the minds of their readers a threatening world where there money is not going to do them any good anyway. They must emphasize law and punishment. They must stroke the ego with the racial superiority driven by BI.
And they must create the illusion that they are on an inner track with god. And of course some people, as we know, will stumble into this mire.

Christopher McNeely said...

Connie: no offense taken whatsoever. 'McFeely' was a common playground/court taunt throughout my grade school years. ;)

NEO: spot-on. I remember listening to hours of Rush radio (my father was best friends with Rusty Limbaugh in high school) in the late 80s and eventually wondering how his utterly unChristian drivel could be squared with what I found in the Bible. I read an article recently where the writer attended a Bible Study at his church in a large city, mostly attended by elderly women. At one point, the author got in a gentle disagreement about Jesus' attitudes toward the poor/downtrodden (i.e. 'losers' in GOP speak). One woman had enough and started yelling at the author, even saying 'well, Jesus was wrong!' I think that sums it up pretty well. The god of the Armstrongites is one of their making, culturally and historically-specific.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, I think it evidently clear that the ACoGs are currently in push back mode: They know very well that we have debunked British Israelism quite thoroughly.

It just seems an act of defiance on the part of the UCG to blatantly support British Israelism, but of course, they aren't the only ones. Everyone is crawling out from underneath their rock and slithering into the open.

LCG is the worst, offering a for credit course on British Israelism at Livid University.

Anonymous said...

Let me say a few words on behalf of Armstrongites:

1. Armstrongites believe in nearly universal salvation. And a god who has care for most all people. Most Evangelical Christians, whether Arminian or Calvinist, believe in a very small number to be saved - usually people who are like themselves only. And Evangelicals seem to gloat over the fact that they are among the chosen few. That is why the salvific theology of exclusivism is standard for most Evangelicals. And they exclude all the people they do not like - for instance, democrats, Jews, Catholics and non-Whites.

2. To their credit, many Armstrongites learned to love each other in an environment that was not conducive to this. This was an up-hill grind. They had to oppose the entire ministerial infrastructure to do it. John Robinson, when he interviewed men at BS who might go into the ministry, was concerned about their enforcement of the law instead of any committment to love they might have and told us so in a sermon. Don Ward taught that judgement preceded love. You could not love someone until you judged them first. Apparently, he did not believe the scripture that stated "God is love" but rather he believed in another god and would have rewritten the scripture as "god is judgement."

3. In spite of the white supremacy doctrine in the WCG, there were people who had a genuine feeling of empathy and fellowship for minorities members in the congregation.

There were some good people in the WCG. It was like this subset of people were not really hearing what the ministry was teaching. They followed their hearts. It is dismaying to think these good people were too often trampled on by the AC trained Gestapo.

Christopher McNeely said...

NEO: But we can say that about all cults...there are deluded people who are actually decent human beings DESPITE the inane religious groups they've yoked themselves (and their families) to. I loved Prince, and by many accounts he was generous and giving. But that doesn't mean he wasn't bats*&^ crazy to hitch up with the Jehovah's Witnesses.

It's key to stress that Armstrongites believe in 'nearly' universal salvation: those of us who rejected the 'faith once delivered' are bound for the Lake of Fire (see you again on the 4th of July).

The Skeptic said...

"We hope and pray that you’ll choose wisely!"

Oh, I'll choose wisely alright. I'll choose to stay as far away from these guys as is humanly possible.

Byker Bob said...

I'm tempted to call this a "Moldie Oldie" or "Golden Gasser" but they showed us too many films about the alleged "Assyrians" and their Holocaust era gas while we were at SEP and Ambassador College. More sickness, courtesy of the same system of false prophets who plagued our lives for as long as we chose to allow it.