"what he said about Mr. Armstrong and the Church as a whole was completely incorrect and bogus--that only "Whites" would be in the Kingdom of God, that blacks were an inferior species, and on and on...I realize the WCG had its flaws but this is very unfortunate. Most of us in the academic field of Religious Studies object to the label of "cult" for any religion anyway--the problem is who is doing the labeling."
Completely incorrect and bogus? What's James been smoking? Technically you can indeed argue that "officially" WCG taught no such thing, but most of us know that the reality in the pulpit and pews was far, far different. The racist culture in WCG was undeniable, even as far away as Auckland, New Zealand where Frederick "Jack" Croucher made comments from the pulpit that demeaned Black people and Maori, delivered with a laugh. It was the "Israelites" who would have pride of place in the super-fascist World Tomorrow. Doesn't James remember what his onetime mentor Rod Meredith preached and wrote?
As for the use of the word 'cult', I tend to agree with Tabor. It's a loaded term with multiple meanings and scholars tend to avoid such pejorative terms, leaving them to popular writers who have an ax to grind. But Walker isn't a religious academic, and in the context of his personal experience I'm not about to tell him not to use it.
Racing in to back up Tabor - from the good lord knows where - comes a voice from the distant past, Gary Alexander, a former Plain Truth writer and author of a dismal little booklet called The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Alexander has had a checkered career post WCG, covered in some depth back in Ambassador Report 27 (April 1984), subhead "Alexander does prison time".
"In these days of high racial tension, fueled in large part by everyone taking pictures of everything and extrapolating each incident into an overarching trend, readers assume everything Jerrald [sic] Walker says must be true, but he was not in the belly of the beast, as we were. He didn't understand our teachings. He was, as the book excerpt cited above shows, a kid who peaked [sic] out the window on Halloween and wished that he were allowed to trick-and-treat, like any other kid."
And so Alexander, who like Tabor was part of the self-entitled elite "back in the day", demeans and devalues Walker's experience... he was just "a kid" who wanted to do trick and treat. That's a horrible and completely facile misrepresentation.
No, Jerald Walker clearly wasn't "in the belly of the beast." Excuse the French, but that's the whole bloody point. The vile influence on lay members - and especially kids - of church culture and teaching, especially given the off the cuff remarks and climate of contempt for imagined 'non-Israelites'. Walker is telling it as he remembers it, and as it impacted on his life and that of his family. His is an honest account of what it was like growing up in the Chicago church. Tabor and Alexander might want to hide behind official teaching, but what was official teaching in a time when the 'truth' was whatever was served up in the pulpit, in church magazines and booklets that were often re-edited, withdrawn and replaced?These were the days before the Systematic Theology Project (STP), and many of us remember what happened to that.
Alexander pleads for old timers to head off to Amazon and give a 'balanced' review of Walker's book. As I wrote a couple of days ago, I've heard a lot of folk deny that the Worldwide Church of God was inherently racist, let alone "white supremacist." But as I recollect, none of them grew up as African-Americans in the bonds of their parent's beliefs. Tabor isn't listening. Nor, obviously, is Alexander.
And that's a very different starting place from individuals who enjoyed a place of privilege and entitlement in the church. Dr. Tabor and Mr. Alexander might consider that carefully before continuing in knee-jerk mode.