Thursday 23 August 2007

Culture krieg - bring on Sinéad!

I'm a passionate aficionado of classical music. It's got me through some tough times. The affair began with an obscure recording of Handel's Messiah and I never looked back. I don't read music and I don't play, but Lord knows I can lose myself in a Tchaikovsky symphony.

The problem is that in the ex-WCG world such interests are viewed with suspicion given Herbert W. Armstrong's predilection for the arts. The guy was a major suck-up. His strategy: throw money at some European orchestra or pianist and grab the cultural kudos. The Ambassador Auditorium and the late, unlamented AICF were his ticket to credibility with the penguin-suited set, while the "grunts" in the pews tithed themselves into near poverty.

The only splinter sect that seems to share HWA's expensive tastes in generating faux-self esteem of this sort is the Edmond, OK Flurry cult, the curiously named Philadelphia Church of God. Like his idol, Papa Gerry enjoys playing the philanthropist (pronounced philan as in philanderer and pist as in, well, pissed.)

Which is my way of introducing a particularly cretinous bit of video PR from the Flurry camp (accessible from a menu on this page.) Obviously Gerry doesn't embarrass easily. If, like me, you appreciate the kind of music the six-pack prophet appropriates, why not send an email to the scheduled performers explaining why you're genuinely disappointed they're doing the Edmond gig. No need to give your life story, just a general indication that in your experience this is a high-demand sect with a dubious reputation.

While on matters musical, James Tabor is waxing lyrical on his blog about Sinéad O'Connor's recent album Theology. Yes, that's right, the Irish artist who has been excommunicated by Rome and has a reputation for colorful language. As I said, my poison is more Rachmaninov than whatever category Sinéad O'Connor comes under, but, after giving it a listen, hey, I can see his point. Now if Gerry was to bring O'Connor to Edmond, now that'd really be something special! Just imagine the follow-up sermons explaining that PCG will not be using her version of "Rivers of Babylon" and that it is not OK to refer to God as Jah in sermonettes!

Meantime I think I'll put some Mendelssohn on and pretend the cheap and cheeky little Aussie Merlot is actually Harveys Bristol Cream...


Lussenheide said...

I was a very young 17 when I volunteered on my own, (no one else is/was in the COG from my family except me) to join up with the cause. So I forgive myself for allowing HWA to dominate my choices in life as I was just a dumb kid who had, up to that point of time, had few positive role models in his life.

However, we hopefully all grow up, and I am amazed how my own natural and perfectly moral choices in life were allowed to be subjugated by a domineering religion, which stuck its nose into everything personal,... even the idea of what was "good music".

No "problemo" with me to this day about the basic ideas of the "Ten Commandments" , believing in God, and reading the Bible and praying. But that was not enough for the HWA culture. One had to read "US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT", enjoy sex in only two positions, disdain boxing, and like opera music, amongst many others, to be with the "in crowd".

So it is nice to be myself again, and enjoy the colors, music, clothes or whatever that my own moral common sense enjoys.

However, I would go to Flurry's Auditorium, pay full price for the ticket, and maybe even put an offering in at a passed around offering plate if the following acts showed up in Edmond...

*"The Cheech and Chong Reunion Show"

* Merle Haggard sings his "Best Of"

* Peter Noone and the "Hermans Hermits" Tour

* Elton John in concert

All in perfect "acoustical surround sound" in the best auditorium that the entire state of Oklahoma will EVER see in this millenia!


Anonymous said...

This piece of classical
music sprang to mind

Anonymous said...

I've always been a rock n roller, myself, but understand how folks can enjoy classical music.

It would be very poor logic to allow a church to spoil any kind of musical enjoyment, whether through guilt by association, or assuming Satanic or demonic influence. I feel that each individual must find a musical genre which speaks to his or her soul. It could be Country and Western, Rock, Classical, Polkas, Marching Music, Funk, Blues, in fact there are so many genres from which to choose that it boggles the mind. We allowed our musical tastes to be horribly narrowed while participating in the ACOGs.

It's just wonderful to have the freedom to choose, once again.


Anonymous said...


DennisDiehl said...

"It's just wonderful to have the freedom to choose, once again."

And they all said 'amen' BB!

I had to sit through "this music is evil so tell your church" seminars in Pasadena. They showed video after video of really cool stuff :)

The best sermon intro gone wrong with music I saw was Dr. Winnail giving a FOT sermon and used. "Born to be Wild" as the intro. I looooove that song! "Fire all of your guns at once...explode into space..." Well needless to say, what was meant to be an example of not cool....was soooooo cool and refreshing after having sung.. "Death shall them seize, and to the tomb alive they shall go down.." ha. I mean which song is worse???

At BJU (Bob Jones) just like at Ambassador back when, Oklahoma and Sound of Music were the top Christian ok things to watch. Argh!
They recently expelled four students who danced in the doorm and put it on Youtube. But they also just terminated a professor for complaining online about being tired. Great place...they don't like complainers.

Greenville is the only town I have ever lived in where one Baptist college is called BJ (Bob Jones) and the other FU (Furman University). Somehow that strikes me as Karmic...

Rob K said...

"We allowed our musical tastes to be horribly narrowed while participating in the ACOGs."

I never did. I have always listened to what I wanted to hear. I never stopped listening to music just because some minister said it was evil. There's plenty of stuff I chose not to hear because I don't like what it says, but I did it by my own choice. Pardon me if I sound harsh, but if you ever quit listening to some music only because some other man told you not to listen to it - not because you really believed you shouldn't - you deserved what you got.

camfinch said...

Such musical repression back in the day...I have related this story on one or more ex-COG'er sites in the past, but once more won't hurt:

Over thirty years ago, I had returned to my home area from my student stint at Pasadena. The minister back home was one of the more forceful and domineering of the ministry (although he never really got bossy with me, in the couple of years further I was there, before dropping out of WCG). His assistant, who was ordained, was someone I had known at Pasadena, two years ahead of me, one year behind Dennis. He was taking on some of the qualities of his boss, getting to enjoy authority.

When I returned home, I became good friends with a fellow I had only known slightly before finishing high school and going to AC. We shared a lot of interests, including music, not just generally, but we were both musicians; he played guitar, I played piano. (I played piano at church services.) But my friend had already been forbidden to attend church (he had never been baptized, and thus was not disfellowshipped). Why? Because a few months before I got back, the church band, of which he was a member, was set to play for a congregational dance. And his hair was getting, well, a bit long, as far as church standards were concerned. He didn't much like the increasingly authoritarian regime anyway, so he was already of an "attitude" (one that I think was perfectly healthy). The young minister saw the hair, and said to my friend, "Your hair is getting pretty long. You need to get it cut." My friend didn't need that crap, and replied, "Well, I might not like the color of your shorts." Needless to say, he was banned from church until his attitude "changed". Thankfully, it never did, at least not in the way the local Hitlers wanted it to change.

So: I got back, and because I was good friends with his sister and younger brother, really got to know him. I was at the time unemployed, and I worked a few days with him on his job installing baseboard, etc. And then we started to do a bit of jamming on Sundays along with another friend who played trumpet and sax. We met at the other friend's house. We played innocuous stuff like "Sunny" and "Wayfaring Stranger" and "Summertime". Nothing that even in church would be negatively construed. This jamming only happened two or three times.

One evening after a day working with my friend, I got home and my mom (I was living with my parents at the time) said that Mr. X (the younger minister) was coming by that evening. I wondered why. So he showed up along with the even younger ministerial assistant, who had been in my own class at AC. And the purpose for his visit was to warn me about playing music with my buddy! This demonstrates the psychologically tortuous thinking of some in the ministry: because my friend had sassed back at God's minister before a musical event, then clearly my buddy got his rebellious attitude in conjuction with music...and that his rebellious attitude, arising from music, could infect ME if I played music with him!!! So the directive, which I would imagine originated wtih his own boss, or at least was agreed from higher up, was that if I continued to jam with J, I would not be allowed to play at church. And this is the kicker: this all-of-24-year-old authority figure said that I could all of a sudden, while playing in church, break out and start playing "acid rock"!!! Yes, those very words...! He said that he really didn't see why I'd want to continue to associate with J, but he couldn't forbid it.

So that was that for the jamming; I was not yet in a position to "rebel" myself, and take myself out of participation in church music. But I continued my friendship with J; I went back to work with him the next day, to some consternation from my parents. But then the following Sabbath, they were talking about it to the Head Honcho minister, who said that it was good for me to hang out with J, as I could be a good influence on him!!! This perplexed my folks, who thought that the ministers were all suppoed to say the same thing!

Many years have gone by, and when I've mentioned this to J, he is very mellow and generally chuckles at the situation. Hey, it was what took him completely out of the church regime, and he is glad for that. I emailed the minister who paid the visit, a few years ago, and finally got all the anger about it off of my chest, and he did apologize, after a fashion. But shortly thereafter, an email I tried to send to him was blocked. He and his old boss are both ministers in LCG now, and I rather think that the old boss clued him in on my "attitudes", as once or twice some years ago I emailed HIM about some things rattling away with me.

Sorry for this very long post, but it's a good story, and shows the mentality and psychology of authoritarians and their regimes. Truth be told, the young minister probably felt in some way gelded by J's retort to the ridiculous warning for J to cut his hair. For the minister, then, music and rebellion and emasculation combined in his subconscious. At least, that makes sense to me, who likes a Freudian interpretation sometimes!

camfinch said...

"I never did. I have always listened to what I wanted to hear. I never stopped listening to music just because some minister said it was evil."

Same with me, from the get-go. I knew what I liked, it made me feel good, and no one really stopped me from enjoying the music I liked. When I got to AC in '71, HWA and others tried to crack down on the increasing tendency to listen to "hard rock" on campus. But we had headphones, and we used them. And in the right dorm situation, we just played the stuff openly. Although Bob Dylan is not considered hard rock, his mid-60s lyrics were really "out there", and I "got in" to Dylan in my freshman year dorm. An example of an "out there" verse, from Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited":

God said to Abraham
Kill me a son,
Abe say man
You must be puttin' me on;
God say no,
Abe say what?
God said you can
Do what you want Abe but, uh,
Next time you see me comin'
You better run..
Abe say where you want
This killin' done?
God say out on highway

Probably not an acceptable verse for Armstrongists...

DennisDiehl said...

Camfinch...Breaking out into a round of "The Hills are alive...." would be even worse! :)

No one has the right to tell anyone what their personal tastes should be. One can express preferences but life is decisions and WCG and the current COG's never have figured out that many things are simply none of their business.

Frankly, and to me, the Book of Revelation is obscene and promotes only religious lunacy and a fascination with the devil..which of course doesn't exist, even thought I know that's exactly what Satan wants me to believe. :)

camfinch said...

Wow, if I had stood up from the piano and broken out with "The hills are alive", that WOULD have been satanic! The "acid rock" would've been much better.

One of the regular special music singers and I decided to slightly push the envelope back in about 1976, by doing Carole King's "Way Over Yonder" one Sabbath. We wanted to get away from the usual stodgy stuff that was sung, get a bit more "poppish" (nothing against the classical ditties whatsoever ever, I'm a fan of classical music). But we wondered, in rehearsals, whether she should hold to King's flattened third note ("blues note") on "from hun-ger and cold", where the "hun" was bluesed. Janice, the singer, didn't blues it in practice, we thought maybe that was slightly too much. Imagine my nice surprise when, in actual performance, she went ahead and bluesed that note! She looked at me at that moment with a small grin. Everyone loved the performance, and the Head Honcho praised it as the best special music ever!

What a strange world...

Anonymous said...

"whether she should hold to King's flattened third note"

Pitch-perceptive Deacon: "Was that a flattened third I heard??"

DennisDiehl said...

"Pitch-perceptive Deacon: "Was that a flattened third I heard??"

....and could it have been Saaatan?

camfinch said...

" "Pitch-perceptive Deacon: "Was that a flattened third I heard??"

....and could it have been Saaatan? "

Hmmm...that satanic flattened third that Janice sang, to my obvious wicked joy...d'you think that minister who was not yet 25 was right about things? Maybe my jamming with J and hanging out with him DID provoke rebellion-through-music, not only from me, but also from Janice as a result of her singing to my playing!

Maybe I need to repent in dust and ashes...or smoke Keith Richards's ashes when he bites the dust in about the year, oh, 2043.

Anonymous said...

In response to Rob:

I never could "overcome" quite enough to stop listening to rock music. So, HWA did not narrow my tastes in music quite that way.

However, the fact that he rammed Classical down our gullets at every opportunity made me not ever even give it a chance. So you might say he limited my tastes in an unintended way. The furthest I'll venture into Classical is Ravel's Bolero. Somehow I always liked that composition, a crescendo.

BTW, I would love to have been in Sabbath services somewhere in the South during the '70s, only to hear Camfinch break into a "Jesus Christ Superstar" medley in the middle of a piano rendition of
"How Great Thou Art!" Our erstwhile 24 year old ministerial assistant would probably have suffered an apoplectic seizure!


camfinch said...

My old buddy byker bob writes, "BTW, I would love to have been in Sabbath services somewhere in the South during the '70s, only to hear Camfinch break into a "Jesus Christ Superstar" medley in the middle of a piano rendition of
"How Great Thou Art!" Our erstwhile 24 year old ministerial assistant would probably have suffered an apoplectic seizure!"

If BB had been there in person at any of those services with me, you know what? I just might have been tempted to do just that! Another undoubtedly satanic influence, that's you, byker bob! Ha ha!

"He's a man;
He's just a man.
And I've ha-a-ad so many
Men before
In very many ways...
He's just one more."

Yeah; that would've done it, all right. My exit from the church of gods would've come a couple of years earlier than it actually did!

XCGMouse said...

Nothing like Sinead exploiting high-minded idealism to make a few bucks off us, is there?

What's Tabor's angle? Put a blog out there so we buy his book?

Yea, we got it Tabor: Jesus is just a bag of bones. How about wrapping it yourself, buddy.

Stick your stuff in a museum and move on.

camfinch said...

To xcgmouse: do you have any factually based rejoinder to James Tabor, or are you just irritated? He doesn't do his research lightly and carelessly. If you have a genuine criticism, do it from a fact-based approach, rather than from spewn invective. That's the academic way. Open and honest debate is welcome. Name-hurling in this regard serves no purpose. He is also available by direct email contact, if you wish to question him.

        AMERICAN KABUKI said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
        AMERICAN KABUKI said...

Jah Love isn't for sissies like McFlurry.

I'd like to see a PCG'er get up, do special music and then rip up a photo of Armstrong! Ooh they'd be steam rolling CDs in no time.

Sinead is nothing if not ballsy.... wanna bet that's not tobacco she's smoking in Irish Town Jamaica?

Teen agers in my congregation just laughed at the ministry when they went through that "rock n' roll causes demon possession" phase in the 1970s.

When I got to AC Albrecht was busy banning "Twisted Sister" as the most evil band ever.

Their tune "We're not going to to take it anymore!" was the reason for the Albrecht mania. Its the ideal anthem for those leaving Armstrongism.

NO2HWA said...

When I came to Pasadena in 1975 we were listening to all kinds of rock music. Meredith routinely had coronaries when he dared show up at a college dance. Finally after much spitting and shouting he got his way when Herb was 'resurrected' from the dead and came back to whip the church and college back into shape. Rock music went out the door.

I also remember constantly being warned about what kinds of movies we should be seeing. Dave Albert had a fit over ET when it came out. In his words, ET was Satan himself being pictured in the movie. If we went to see it we were allowing Satan to enter our minds. That night a large group of us went to Hollywood to see ET. I am soooooo glad I had a rebellious streak in me and never bought into the worthless opinions of all those ministurds.

Anonymous said...

Must you be reminded: Not even classical music was safe. Not only was Ravel's Bolero banned, but Beethoven's "Let Me Come In, Let Me Come In" from the demons when he had had his Fifth.

This is all reminiscent of the Woody Allen 1971 movie, Bananas, where Woody is dumped by his activist girlfriend, travels to a tiny Latin American nation and becomes involved in its latest rebellion. He joins the rebels and eventually becomes President of the country.

A normally bumbling nice guy, the Woody Allen character becomes autocratic in a cult way. He began doing worse than his predecessor.

The last straw comes when he insists that the people change their underwear every four hours. In order to insure that they do, he makes them wear their underwear over their regular clothes.

The silliness of the Worldwide Church of God under Herbert Armstrong oft approached and in some ways exceeded the "wearing underwear outside" approach.

Talk about a sound mind?

The WCG was more mental than anything: The only one who had personal freedom was Herbert Armstrong and he enforced his opinions as doctrines. It all became so very silly.

Anonymous said...


As the sin of witchcraft!?

The only sane thing was to rebel.

Anonymous said...

Re byker bob:

"The furthest I'll venture into Classical is Ravel's Bolero. Somehow I always liked that composition, a crescendo."

Is it not surprising that the self confessed rebellious antithetical
AC student B.B should find enjoyment in listening to the demonic Bolero?

Beethoven was also highly suspect
--not only for the opening theme of his 5th Symphony, but the fact he continued composing after going deaf was proof positive that he
was in league with the devil!

It was common practice in the late
50's, early 60's AC student assemblies to have one of the more musically talented students to
perform some classical work.

On one highly memorable occasion
Ruth Myrick a fine pianist performed (under the tutelage of
'unconverted' Lucy Martin) Debussy's The Sunken Cathedral.
All hell broke loose: Debussy
was now added to the demonic list.
Benjamin Rea, minister and head of the Spanish Dept. and thus qualified Music Critic totally freaked. He was also the one who
originally recognized Bolero for the abomination that it was.

It was a lucky thing that H-dub
wasn't into opera. The librettos
would have given the self styled
critics schtt fits.

NO2HWA said...

..It was a lucky thing that H-dub
wasn't into opera. The librettos
would have given the self styled
critics schtt fits.<<

One of the biggest embarassments of the concert series was Herb's bvlow up when the opera Tosca came tot he Auditorium. Tosca has several scenes that take place in chapels and churches. For this opera the scenery included a huge 8 foot crucifix and other religious accoutrements. When Herb came down to the Auditorium to play the piano as he did many mornings, he walked in and saw the huge crucifix and went ballistic. He demanded that the opera be cancelled. It was already sold out for several evenings. Cooler heads prevailed and the show went on, albeit with out any religious symbolism allowed. Of course the newspapers had a field day with this. Just one more embarrassment in a long line of major blunders of the church lording it's self-righteousness over others. Kind of reminds me of the mindless idiotic comments of Bob Thiele and his absurd comments on the crosses at the Milwaukee murders. You have to wonder why Armstrongites were always scared of the cross!

Anonymous said...

Aw, Camfinch, it is just too bad that you left after getting your Masters at ASU! You just would not believe the scene here in Phoenix! Youngsters crowded around my old shovelhead at the bowling alley just waiting for it to be fired up! Imagine if you and I had been able to put on a real show for them, me on my Firebird doing all the Stevie Ray parts, and you on your Keyboards doing all the Reese Wynans parts!

The stuff that never was and should have been if only it hadn't been for the cult! Hope you're having a great life working with Dr. James! Always remember the wonderful times we had working at AC Press! Those were the best times of our lives.


camfinch said...

To byker bob's last post:

It's bringing a few tears to my eyes, BB. Yep, those still sharply-remembered times at the bindery are some of my fondest memories. Would've been great to chop out some blues-rock tunes for the young'uns out there in Phoenix.

But life is good in Charlotte. While the music is seldom performed now, the tune plays constantly in my head. Including those most precious melodies of the two of us crankin' out the mass mailing of the old PT, stalking around each other like a couple of Beatniks/hipsters. A time that, all told, was brief, but solid like gold.

Sorry, everyone else, for the personal stuff. But then again, we are all in a community, and this is sort of like 45 years ago, when the whole neighborhood was on one telephone party line. BB and I reminisce, but I would bet that all y'all can connect. Byker Bob, in many ways we wouldn't have minded staying in the Phoenix area, except for the need to have some sort of a true winter!

Oh,by the way, considering that some WCG ministers thought that Ravel's Bolero was demonic: even though I was classically trained on piano, I was unfamiliar with Bolero until I took Introduction to Music with Lucy Martin! I just love irony.

From the Beatles' "In My Life":

There are places I'll remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all


Anonymous said...

Well, Luciano "Yes Giorgio" Pavarotti just passed on and recently Beverly Sills too. Some of HWA's favorites who sang for him at the Auditorium. I wonder if the concert tapes melted down in some landfill by now.