Thursday 9 November 2006
Showdown review ... Part 1
Did you know that:
*The opening of the Ambassador Auditorium was marked by the appearance of streakers?
*Herb Armstrong claimed to be related to US president Richard Nixon?
*GTA proposed cancelling the 1975 Feast of Tabernacles so the members could send in their second-tithe direct to Pasadena?
*Rod Meredith held a shouting match with Black WCG elder Tom Hall over racial matters in a Doctrinal Committee meeting?
*AC Pasadena refused to recognise many of the courses taught at its Big Sandy sister campus?
Well, I didn't, and I'm indebted to Greg Doudna for plugging a number of gaps from the WCG's past. More specifically, the way the world looked from Big Sandy in the Seventies.
The WCG can probably be grateful that Greg wised up and found better things to do, for it's just plain scary to imagine what he would have got up to if he'd stayed and risen through the ranks. Just reading through his doctrinal papers from that time – positions he has long since moved beyond – indicate that this guy would have raised more than a little hell along the way.
The book in question is Showdown at Big Sandy, and the subtitle says it all: “Youthful Creativity Confronts Bureaucratic Inertia...” Doudna provides insight on a number of characters from the times: Dean of Students Ronald Kelly, for example, who is described as a hard working “company man”... one of many “yellow pencils” cut from the same mold... [who] did not try to disguise his lack of interest in things intellectual.
There are also anecdotes involving Herman Hoeh, Kenneth Herrmann, GTA, Charles Dorothy and other characters. The chapters on tithing and creationism are excellent, the treatment of healing and medicine is downright sobering, and the discussion of the old God Family doctrine is simply fascinating. (Let's all not tell Bob Thiel about that chapter, as he'd probably misunderstand it and gloat insufferably.)
But my favorite section of Showdown deals with the British Israel teachings. This is the best discussion of the subject I've seen yet, and it begins with Greg, in his youthful enthusiasm, floating a brand new theory which was later to be adopted by Willie Dankenbring, Norm Edwards, Ken Westby, Old Uncle Tom Cobbly and all. Only trouble being that Greg had already abandoned the idea and was amazed to find it being trotted out again long after leaving WCG behind. More details in part two of the review.
Greg can be restrained at times. He makes only passing reference to Armstrong's alcohol problems and steers clear of the incest allegations altogether. At other times his critique can be biting (you can almost see the tooth marks.) I read the 500 plus pages of Showdown over three days, and was left wanting more! There are some slower moments as, for example, he explains how he once tried to make all those numbers in Daniel add up to apocalyptic significance, but I guess this just goes to show that there's hope for even the most dogged date-setter.
If you're interested in the story of the church, or you still secretly wonder whether the church had some things right when it taught that the English-speaking countries were descended from Ancient Israel, this is one volume you really should add to your bookshelf. More details at www.scrollery.com.
(Part 2 will follow in a few days time.)