Thursday 8 February 2007
Chipper calls a Foul
And Horace begat Herbert, and Herbert begat Ted, and Ted begat Mark...
What would Great Granddaddy Armstrong, a moderate Quaker, have made of his son, grandson and great grandson's religious entrepreneurial skills? We'll never know.
But it seems Mark “Chip off the Old Block” Armstrong has some thoughts about his grandcestors. Here's what he wrote recently.
False prophets and dangerous “holy men” are emerging in greater frequency these days. And now as bad as it hurts to recognize it, for the deception falls closer to home, there are several church leaders who parade the likeness, or their purported previous connection to my Grandfather, Herbert W. Armstrong as justification to administer yet another type of theocracy and systematic brainwashing over their followers. Some have even claimed divine authority and taken divine titles upon themselves to demand absolute, unquestioning loyalty and obedience from their followers. This is, I believe, a very frightening and dangerous development. My Grandfather would never have approved of many of the things that have been said and done in his name.
It reminds me of the Jim Jones tragedy. Jones, who claimed direct communication with God, forced about one thousand followers to drink poisoned Cool Aid. It was a hideous disaster that should forever serve as a stark lesson.
You’ll also remember the terrible outcome of the David Koresh movement.
The prospect that my Grandfather’s legacy might be used to foster a cult of “man worship” is contrary to everything he stood for. It is contrary to everything we stand for, and contrary to what my Dad, Garner Ted Armstrong, taught. “Never check your brains at the door,” my Dad said many times. We are free moral agents with God’s Word as our guide. Any time someone begins to exalt himself above the Word of God, or twist scripture to elevate himself to the level of divine authority, you had better think twice. No, you’d better run!
If you look down through history, or look at the incredible corruption, treachery and bloodshed that has been perpetrated under the supposedly “divine authority” of those who claimed the “primacy,” it should be a chilling and lasting reminder.
As my Grandfather and my Dad faithfully taught the acknowledgement and honor only to Jesus Christ, so we still do the same today. My Dad’s book The Real Jesus has had a profound effect on most who have read it. That’s because it showed, from the Bible, that Jesus was a man’s man, contrary to the effeminate and strange way he has been portrayed by the mainstream “Christian” organizations. The truth, thankfully, is pretty plain and straightforward. The laws of God stand regardless of man’s attempts to change them, and regardless of any man’s, or organization’s attempt to enforce them. It is not up to man to make God’s judgments. It is not any man’s place to inflict punishments on anyone who fails to live up to God’s standards or some man’s interpretations of those standards, for that matter.
This organization, the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association, will never engage in “authoritarian” pronouncements or make demands upon anyone. When I see the Armstrong name being used for such purposes it makes me sick. And I fear for people who had such great admiration for my Granddad, that they would give their minds over to someone who claims to speak for him.
The actual apostles, who were taught by Jesus Christ Himself, warned against men who would claim divine authority and said, as did the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 1:24, that even the apostles themselves did not have “dominion” over the people’s faith, but were to be helpers of their joy. Look it up and read it yourself. It’s hard to find either much joy or any truth in the whacked-out pronouncements of today’s weird “holy men.”
We can be grateful that Chipper has publicly distanced himself from the tactics of Flurry et al. And there are some things in what he writes that many of us might utter an 'amen' to. Yet the fact remains that Grandpappy and Dad were ruthless manipulators par excellence. Mark's attempt to portray them as something else defies the facts. Is there any splinter group that doesn't require their members to “check your brains at the door”? Maybe I've missed something, but the Age of Enlightenment seems to have passed COGdom in a wide detour.
Mark Armstrong's assurances are welcome, but not particularly relevant. ICG is a blip on the landscape, a minor group which is irrelevant to most of Armstrong's inheritors. The politics of governance in ICG is hardly all sweetness and light either, the tiny group has been ravaged and torn under Chipper's own leadership; hardly the high moral ground.
(To suggest Ted's laughably facile book, The Real Jesus, had a "profound effect" is debatable, unless the effect was to misinform or misrepresent. The Armstrong Jesus was always a crude caricature, best suited for comic books rather than historiography.)
We all want to think well of our forebears, but reality can be cruel. While Mark Armstrong is still sponging a buck out of his father's reputation, it is scarcely credible when he summons a bowl of water to wash his hands in denial of the past.