Wednesday, 25 May 2016
Going for the package deal
My father had a story, too. His parents had not attended church and neither did he. He was not at all interested. However, while driving to work one morning, he turned on the radio and - Boom! - Mr. Armstrong's voice bellowed from the speakers and it grabbed his attention. He became hooked. Shortly thereafter he was reading the Plain Truth, WCG booklets, and the Bible. His mind had been opened and he began to understand the Bible even better than those who had been trained to become priests.
My mother followed his lead and their excitement soon rubbed off on us kids. During high school, the excitement had waned a bit as it had for many church kids. Early in my fourth year of college, a friend began to talk about how it was time for us to get off of the fence, one way or the other. This made sense. How could we keep going if it was merely to please our parents? Shortly thereafter, I experienced my own calling. On a Saturday morning, while searching for something interesting on the radio... BOOM! I heard a voice crying out of the wilderness and I was hooked. It was a familiar voice yet new at the same time. It was actually a young HWA (perhaps a re-run of a 1950's program) and this dynamic man had grabbed my attention. All the sudden 'the truth' became exciting once again. It was time to set the school books aside and work through the correspondence course and, what do you know, it all made sense! All those things taught to me as a child were actually true and I could prove it from the Bible.
During the same time period, about 30 miles across town, my uncle had been called. His mind was also opened, he learned 'the truth' and he had proved it from the Bible. And just five or six houses down the street, my friend was called. His mind had been opened and he now understood 'the truth'. Now the three of us all had something very important in common with each other - we had been called by God and could now understand the 'truth', unlike the vast majority of humanity. It is amazing how it worked and what are the odds?
Of course, our experience would not make sense to most people external to the 'true church' but, for those in it, it made perfect sense. We knew what we knew because we had been called by God, given special understanding, and we because we had proved everything that we believed straight from the Bible!
Oops. The was a small problem. Even though my uncle, my friend ,and I had very similar experience that led to a complete change in our lives, we also ended up with a few significant differences. I had been baptized into WCG. My uncle became a Jehovah Witness, and my friend became a Mormon.
Looking back, it would have been nice had the internet been invented 25 years earlier. Maybe we would have realized more quickly that not everything was quite what it had appeared to us initially. We might have determined early on that they were not actually joining the 'one true' church being directly led by God as the organizations had claimed. We might have realized that the neat little packages they had given us actually contained errors and half-truths, and had to be re-wrapped now and then to cover up erroneous prophetic predictions from the past and teachings that were conveniently reversed along the way.
My question to anyone still believing UCG, COGWA, LCG, RCG, or any of the other splinters from WCG to be the only churches with 'the truth', please explain to me how you can know that for sure. If we are dependent upon revealed understanding to make sense of the Bible and 99.9% of the world is deceived, how can we be sure that WCG's 'package of beliefs' had been the pure truth rather than merely a mix of error and truth? Because we liked it? Because it was wrapped up so well? Because it made sense to us?
Nearly every member of every cult had a nearly identical experience as to ours when we had joined WCG. They felt it, believed it, and proved it. Just like we did. Once we liked what we heard, we wanted to prove it. Once we believed that we had proved it, we did not want to let go of it. And then we surrounded ourselves with others that reinforced the fact that we had all proved it and that the worst thing in the world was to let go of that belief. No wonder we were so sure.
But what had we actually proven? Maybe just that we were human. We proved that we could be fooled just like the thousands of intelligent people that had been more recently fooled by Bernie Madoff. He was self-confident. He was convincing. He was connected. He gained people's confidence. Yet he was a con man.