Monday 22 August 2016

The Death-throes of Armstrongism

It's not every day - or even every decade - that an entire religious movement goes belly-up, but that's what happened to the Worldwide Church of God. It happened so long ago that whole generations have now arisen that have no idea who Herbert or Ted Armstrong were, and no knowledge of former brand names like The Plain Truth or The World Tomorrow. Those of us who still do are tracking up well beyond middle age into - I say it with deep regret - old fart territory.

Those with get up 'n go long since got up and went. Some, clinging to nostalgia and really bad Bible misinformation answered the siren calls of the tithe farmers who set up parasitical ministries.

There are at least two sorts of these derivative groups, let's call them the blands and the loonies. In the bland category are the UCG, CGI and COGWA. In their favor they're not one-man-bands, and there are some minimal checks and balances to keep Mussolini-like egos tied down. Unfortunately (for them) they're caught in a time warp several decades out of step with the real world, desperately trying to breathe life into a idealized version of the past before women became uppity, gay people began to be regarded as fully human, and evolution was a satanic delusion. The incongruity lies in the rapid adoption by these groups of new technology to promote this kind of intellectual deadwood. By and large these groups are congenitally incapable of connecting with anyone under forty, and the demographic collapse proves it.

Having said that, there are some good people in these groups trying to do the right thing the best way they know how. No future here though.

Then there are the loonies beginning with Meredith's LCG at the less extreme end of the spectrum (though, personally, I've always regarded Rod as certifiable) and going all the way to the flat-out nut jobs like Weinland at the furthest fringe. Slot in Pack, Flurry, Thiel and the others where you best think they fit on the sanity continuum.

These guys are legends in their own lunchtimes, one-megalomaniac operations. LCG is an interesting case in that it is being forced into some kind of ham-fisted transition due to Rod's increasing incapacity. It's no sure thing, though, that it'll survive that process. Any sane person sees these franchises for what they are - a joke. More-so, sadly, because the insiders are generally too thick to appreciate the humor, which is clearly at their expense. Few of these tin-pot sects will survive the passing of their pompous tithe-lords.

So are there any real victims in all of this considering that those who remain actively choose to remain and submit, which is their perfect right. As the decades have rolled by the corruption, manipulation and hypocrisy have become impossible for any honest person to deny. Knowing that, it's hard to feel much sympathy for the hangers-on.

The exception would be the kids in groups like PCG who are being raised within the walls of these pigpens of human oppression. The reality is that most of them will walk away in disgust when they can. Armstrongism has always had a problem retaining its young.

What, if anything will be left by mid-century?


Steve D said...

Is the situation much different in many mainstream churches? The millennials are the least religiously affiliated group in history. The growth in membership of the Methodists Church is coming from Africa, while the U.S. Methodist Church has been declining for the past forty years. They cling to their traditions much like the ACOGs do. Their goal is to maintain the system and for all the money that they take in, they have little impact on the world, much like the ACOG's. I think that all churches are in desperate need of another major reformation.

Byker Bob said...

Basically, Armstrongism will most likely end up as a footnote to the Seventh Day Adventist movement, or, assuming that COG-7 enjoys better survival, to COG-7. If historians in the future so much as examine the literature, they will realize that HWA, in his personality cult, didn't even bother to paraphrase many of the materials which he had received from COG-7.


Anonymous said...

As long as there are white supremacists with low self-esteem, Armstrongism will never become extinct. As long as there are people who want to believe they know something that everyone else doesn't, Arstrongism will not become extinct. It supplies a particular weird demand.

It may morph, however, but it will not abandon certain fundamentals like BI. The racism is what the Armstrongist base wants.

Anonymous said...

And you all are right. After I reconsidered Keller's story, I do have my doubts.
A little bit too much melodrama.

The Skeptic said...

Who's Keller and what does he have to do with this thread?

Pam said...

"A little bit too much melodrama."

Yeah, NEO. Ya know how women are...they are just so prone to making up melodrama just to get attention, ya can't trust it when they tell stories of men in positions of authority and power doing disgusting, reprehensible, ridiculous things. (Especially men with titles like "pastor" and "priest" in front of their name.) Why, how could they ever get away with such things? Too risky. No sensible man in a position of authority would risk his career and reputation to dabble in being a conscienceless, lecherous jerk.

I mean, who on earth would believe the melodrama of the President of the United states requesting a blow job RIGHT IN THE Oval Office? :) How silly is it that anyone would believe such a story? Nobody would buy the screen rights to such a script, even for a XXX rated movie because its just too outlandish.

And who would ever believe someone as famous and lovable as Bill Cosby could possibly expose himself stark naked to a young woman in his own home, with his wife in the house, and sexually attack her. Nah. Couldn't have happened.

And of course, who on earth could believe a man as famous and dynamic and productive in spreading "the gospel" as Herbert Armstrong, admired by potentates all over the world and adored by sycophants in his organization, could prey on his own teenage daughter and force her into a decade long sexual mess? WAY WAY WAY too melodramatic to believe.

You suppose Keller even invented the story of the death of her children? I mean, her life story is just way too tragic to really believe.

Yep. Way too much melodrama. (You must have led a very sheltered life. As a pastor's wife for a decade I heard WAY more melodrama than this ... verifiable melodrama. But suit yourself.)

Anonymous said...


Don't ask that kind of question ("Who's Keller"). You will be targeted for all kinds of gratuitous abuse.

Anonymous said...


Nothing you have cited bears on the issue. A lawyer would object to this as being "non-responsive" in court.

Since this event took place in private, nobody knows it is true except Wendy Keller and the alleged perpetrator. This is fine. I make statements all the time that are not something I can't prove to anyone because only I was a witness. but this condition is also open to disbelief as well as belief and in equal measure.

I knew a department manager at AC-BS who liked to touch AC coeds. One coed became fed up with this and went to the President of the College. The President told her that if she wanted him to, he would fire the man immediately. The coed requested that he be given another chance. This is an event that for me is hearsay. Other AC employees told me about it. But the department manager desisted in his touching. So something happened to change his behavior. This is a counterpoint to Keller's story and informs us that this kind of thing was not uniformly present through the WCG/AC community.

The Skeptic said...

OK, now I get it. It's Wendy Keller from the prior thread. Why are you carrying that discussion over into this thread. It seems like that thread got hijacked into discussing Wendy's credibility rather than the original point - why hijack this thread also?

Regarding your last point, perhaps your story and Wendy's simply involved different individuals. Not every higher-up at AC was evil. Some tried to do the right thing. That doesn't make Wendy's story untrue.

It could also be a difference in eras. Wendy's experience was probably widespread in the 1960's and 1970's. While there were still some aberrant individuals in the 80's and the 90's, I believe the church improved during that period in this one area. I'm no Tkach fan, but give Tkach some credit for this. We had an abusive pastor in my church area: people wrote to Pasadena and Joe Tkach Sr. called this man to Pasadena and read him the riot act. I can't imagine that happening under HWA. The Tkach regime definitely tried to address this type of problem area.

Anonymous said...


You got it. I made a comment that caused the thread to veer off-course. And to you it seemed like you walked in during the middle of the movie. But the original thread was also like walking into the middle of a movie - my whole point. So it doesn't make a lot of difference.

Anonymous said...

Now, now, if things go just right, there will be a swelling influx of membership. Look, we already covered this last year.

The truth is that Armstrongism is a collection of mostly boozing alcoholics. If there's one thing that will keep the sects of the cult together, it's the Feast of Booze and everything associated with it, like strong drink. The liquor stores never seemed to have enough.

By mid century, the Armstrongists will be reduced to the lowest common denominator and that will be drinking. It's a social club which is salubricated with alcohol. Most of the ministers are drunks and not necessarily closet ones either.

All the ACoGs need to do is to concentrate on what they do best and what keeps them together -- it's addiction -- and, darn it all, if they focus on priorities and their strengths, namely boozing it up, they will not only maintain but grow as the next generation of alcoholics inherit the reigns of what was started by Herbert Armstrong.

The future is bright indeed!

If a bit blurry, as the ACoGs stagger forward.