Saturday 31 January 2009

Living In Denial

It gets tedious when the defenders of Herbert W. Armstrong demand proof for his incest. What kind of proof would they like? It was a family affair long hushed up. Among those who knew were HWA (deceased), Dorothy (deceased), son Ted (deceased), and a variety of insiders with good reason not to rock the boat. When David Robinson brought the allegations out into the open there were no denials. Not from HWA, Dorothy, or Ted... all of whom could have given the lie to it. Then there's the Ramona Martin legal settlement, which mentioned the incest and was widely published. The allegations are long past the point where they could be pursued in a court of law, and so, with cult-like logic, the naysayers maintain there is no proof, and therefore, abracadabra, it didn't happen.

The weight of evidence however is overwhelming. The following material appeared in the April 1984 issue of Ambassador Report.

HWA Confesses to Incest!

Many readers will recall that when David Robinson's book appeared in 1980 it contained numerous allegations shocking to even some of HWA's longtime critics. No accusation was more startling than that found in the book's last chapter. There Robinson charged that HWA had maintained an intimate sexual relationship with the younger of his two daughters for a period of approximately one decade beginning in the early 1930s.

The Armstrong organization, through surrogates, attempted to use the courts to block distribution of the Robinson book, but failed miserably (Ambassador Report, Sept. 1980). It is most remarkable, however, that in attempting to block distribution of the Robinson book, never once was it asserted that the incest allegation was untrue. Nor did Dorothy Mattson, HWA's younger daughter, ever come forth to deny the incest story (and she has repeatedly refused to respond to queries from the Report regarding the matter). In spite of all this, it seems there are still some who prefer to believe that the incest story was fabricated. Let us briefly review the facts.

In 1971 Garner Ted Armstrong paid a visit to his younger sister Dorothy. He had long been suspicious of the kind of relationship his father and sister maintained during his youth. They chatted over a few drinks and then Ted told her bluntly of his suspicions. She did more than admit the allegations. With candor she related detail after shocking detail.

For a number of years GTA kept the information to himself. But Dorothy did not. She divulged the same information to many others including David Antion (GTA's brother-in-law) and Lois Chapman (who had been married to the late Richard Armstrong, Ted's older brother).

Dorothy's story as related to Ted and others was that Herbert had begun fondling and heavy petting her in 1933 when she was thirteen years old - around the same time that HWA now claims God was using him to found the modern era of the only true church. But he did not begin to go "all the way" with her until three years later. One day Dorothy returned home from a date with a young bank teller to inform her father that she had just been "half-raped." To her surprise, Herbert was actually "elated" over the news. Herbert decided it was time to show her how it was really done. From then on Herbert went "all the way." The year was 1936; Dorothy was 16 years old. Strangely, Dorothy has claimed that Herbert later went on to become a good friend of the bank teller.

The incestuous relationship went on for years, but it was apparently not mutually enjoyable. Dorothy has related to friends how on one occasion in a hotel room she so strongly protested Herbert's abuse that the manager knocked on the door and asked what the reason was for all the noise. Herbert was quick to inform him that his "young bride" was a bit uncooperative due to inexperience. Satisfied with the alibi the manager left. Dorothy has claimed that Herbert then overpowered her, and after tying her to the bed and gagging her, proceeded to rape her. It's a pity Herbert neglected to include this incident in his book God Speaks Out on the New Morality.

During those years, besides taking her on supposedly church or ministry-related business trips, it was not uncommon for Herbert to take Dorothy out dancing on Friday nights. On one such occasion she asked him if he ever worried that one of his church members would see them. He told her no, because, in effect, they were too stupid to be out dancing on Friday night and that he had them well-trained (in keeping the Friday sunset to Saturday sunset Sabbath).

These incidents were but a part of the awful truth Dorothy related to Garner Ted and others. In spite of church upheavals, arguments with his father, personal emotional problems and considerable notoriety about his own sins, Ted said nothing about his father's shameful past. Not until 1978.

That year, during a heated argument between GTA and his father, HWA threatened to "destroy" Ted through making public certain information about his personal life. But Ted responded in kind saying he could destroy HWA with the information he had. Ted charged his father in no uncertain terms, yelling: "You fucked my sister!" Herbert, shocked at Ted's knowledge of the incestuous relationship, could only reply, "Well there have been times in my life when I have gotten far away from God." The conversation - overheard by GTA associate Benny Sharp - was the last face to face meeting between the two men. And Ted has since related how the hateful look he saw in his father's eye made him suspect they would never see each other again.

As was covered in great detail in our 1977 issue, during the early '70s Garner Ted Armstrong became highly infatuated with an Ambassador College coed. The resulting affair caused great confusion in the higher echelons of the WCG. Former WCG evangelist David Antion recalls how, at the time, he discussed the problem with HWA. Antion was for years perplexed by the almost Freudian analysis offered. HWA told Antion that Ted was simply fantasizing the younger woman as being his own daughter. The statement made no sense to Antion until years later. (As an aside, it is interesting how Ramona [HWA's second wife] has claimed that HWA has been, over the years, very jealous of GTA's supposed sexual prowess.)

The last meeting between GTA and his father in 1978 was not the only time HWA confessed to the incest allegation. In 1980 Henry Cornwall, then an aide to HWA, read the Robinson book soon after it appeared and asked HWA directly if the chapter on incest was accurate. HWA told him it was. He then instructed Cornwall that his wife Ramona was not to see the book or learn of the incest story. Unfortunately for Herbert, Ramona already had a copy of the book and was in the next room listening to the Cornwall-HWA discussion. Shortly thereafter, she too confronted HWA about the incest allegation. And once again, Herbert admitted it was true, but begged and pleaded with Ramona not to let this fact get in the way of their marriage. The cause of the problem, he said, had been Loma, his first wife. Considering the perversity of Herbert's past, is it any wonder Ramona's love would begin to wane?

One can only speculate on how much Herbert's first wife Loma knew of what had transpired for ten years between her husband and her younger daughter. but some individuals who were then close to the Armstrong family did notice that toward the end of her life Loma was not on good speaking terms with Dorothy and that during the last year or so of her life she appeared to have lost almost all will to live. She died in 1967 after an illness that many say could have been cured by medical science, had she availed herself of that help. It is interesting to note also that HWA's great preoccupation with world touring began right around that time.

Ramona has reported to friends how the Robinson allegations preoccupied HWA's mind for a considerable period. She has also reported seeing a typed statement intended for Dorothy's signature. It stated that she (Dorothy) had never had a sexual relationship with her father. The document was, and we'd be willing to bet still is, unsigned. Dorothy undoubtedly knows that to sign such a statement would prove financially costly, removing any leverage she still possesses over her father. (On a recent trip to Big Sandy, Texas, HWA was quoted as saying his daughters show him very little affection and care only for his money.)

Dorothy has stated that her sexual relationship with her father continued into the early forties. In 1943 Herbert officiated at the ceremony in which Dorothy was married to Vern Mattson, who soon afterward was to serve overseas in the U.S. Marines. We have no information that the incestuous relationship continued beyond that point. However, Dorothy has related to friends how, around the time of her engagement, Herbert told her that her marriage need not put an end to their own special relationship.

Shortly after Vern's discharge from the military, Herbert was able to provide him with employment within his growing organization. Although Dorothy drifted away from her father's church by around 1951, Vern continued his association. He was the organization's business manager before the Albert Portune era.

Even William Dankenbring is convinced!

A friend of mine, when he learned of these allegations years ago, went directly to Mr. Vern Mattson [photo], who had married Herbert Armstrong's younger daughter. He was a golfing buddy and friend of Mattson, so he asked him point-blank if the accusations and rumors were true. Mr. Mattson sadly informed him that they indeed were factual. In fact, when Mr. Mattson himself learned of the truth of Herbert having had sex with the woman who later became Mattson's wife, he was furious, and in a rage took a pistol, and burst into Herbert Armstrong's private office, waving the pistol around. Herbert, shaking like a leaf, apologized profusely and promised to never do such a thing again.

Sadly though, none of this will convince the idolatrous faithful, for whom Herb is the unassailable Apostle and vehicle of truth.

Finally, here's a brief excerpt from Robinson's 1980 book, Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web.

Incest is a terrible and unnatural crime, an extreme perversity. That is why I was shocked beyond measure to hear that Herbert Armstrong was, himself, guilty of this vile sin. I learned of this in the summer of 1979 from members of his own family. The story, sordid beyond imagination, was told in awful detail.

One family source was Garner Ted Armstrong. Last summer, as HWA attacked his own son in such savage fury, his son was in the depths of despair. His emotional mix included anger and deep hurt. In such a state he told family secrets that otherwise would have been locked within him forever. He said he had learned in 1971 of his father's incredible conduct during the '30s and '40s. The story came directly to him in lurid detail, but he kept it sealed in his own consciousness for all those years. But, in the spring of 1978 while in his father's house for the last time, his father had threatened to "destroy him." Ted, in response, replied, "Dad, I will destroy you. I know about you and -----." (He was speaking of the younger of his two sisters.)

His father had been on a high-handed autocratic binge. But at that comment he sat down quietly and responded, "Well, Ted, there have been times when I have been very far away from God." (Admittedly, this was a strange turn of events in the relationship of the two whom HWA had likened to God the Father and Jesus Christ!)

Ted has told many people that there was a look in his father's eyes he had never seen before. Ted knew his father was now determined to totally destroy any credibility he might have...

None who have objectively heard the incest story in its awful detail doubt it. This is a vital chapter left out of HWA's autobiography. This sin occured over a long span of years, a decade after his ordination to the ministry, according to his own family members...

Many of us have wondered why HWA was so forceful in covering up Ted's sins for so many years. Ted then seemed to be an extension of himself in his own mind and was not even a separate entity. It was like covering for himself. But when finally he knew he must cut his son off, he had to go all the way. It was either destroy or be destroyed...

... thousands who look to HWA, idolizing him as if he were God himself, must come to understand how dangerous such a view is. Thousands around the world have been hurt by blindly following this man. Now people must be given enough information to make an intelligent decision on whether this is the man who is going to lead them to safety during the "crisis at the close"...

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Jiminy Cricket

The Q&A section of Tomorrow's World carries many weighty queries. Here's the first one for 2009.

... why do some people object to such seemingly inoffensive outbursts as "gosh'" or "gee" or "Jiminy Cricket"?

The ponderous but unsigned TW response follows:

Because they are euphemisms for the names of God the Father and Jesus Christ - and those that use them are taking God's name in vain.

The proof text is, naturally, Exodus 20:7.

But, gosh, is that true? Let's check the Jewish Study Bible.

Assertions in court, in public affairs, and even in ordinary conversation were often backed up with conditional self-curses that would take effect if the swearer's assertion were false or his promise unfulfilled.

Gee, nothing about euphemisms there.

Let's haul out the HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism and see what it has to say.

The original purpose of this commandment is not clear. There is no textual reason to believe that it was an injunction against profanity, as it is popularly viewed today. Others ascribe to it the prohibition of a variety of sinful uses of Yahweh's name such as divination, blasphemy, imprecation, and magic. (Article: Commandments, the Ten)

Now let's think. If a preacher - Ronald Weinland for example - uses a form of divination (using proof texts rather than chicken entrails) to predict the Great Tribulation... that's taking the Lord's name in vain.

If a preacher - Rod Meredith for example - claims authority in God's name to collect tithes... that's taking the Lord's name in vain. Jeremiah 23:21 comes to mind.

I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied.

Now that's taking the Lord's name in vain!

Obviously these words in Exodus could apply in a number of ways, but euphemisms doesn't really seem to be one of them. On the other hand divination (nutty prophecies) and imprecations (e.g. Weinlandisms, Dankenbring and Coulter on the recent US elections) are rife in the Churches of God. The facile TW answer really seems to be straining at a cricket-sized gnat.

By Jiminy, maybe somebody should tell Rod!

Sunday 25 January 2009

Tucson Remembers Herb & Stan

Where were you in 1979? If you're too young to give an answer - lucky you! Those of us who were peons in the Empire remember it as the year of the receivership crisis and the ascendancy of Stan Rader, filling the vacuum left by the disgraced GTA. The High and Herbal One was prepared to relocate his entire operation to Arizona, far from the influence of the California Attorney General. The Arizona Daily Star last week cast a brief backward glance to those days in its Tucson Time Capsule feature.

When Herbert Armstrong, the patriarch of the Worldwide Church of God, was battling a court-ordered receivership of his church in California, he temporarily moved to Tucson. On Jan. 22, 1979, Armstrong held a meeting here for ministers of the church and vowed never to return to California. Armstrong, right, along with his top aide, Stanley Rader, received a card of support from a church member. Armstrong and Rader were considering moving their base of operations to Tucson, where they both owned property. But, eventually, the case was dropped and they returned to California. Armstrong died in 1986 at age 93.

So there's Herb, and there's Stan... and is the third bloke Rod?

In Bed With Evangelical Ted

Ted Haggard, fallen icon of the Evangelical counter-culture, is trying to make a comeback. Like another Ted of an earlier decade, he's "repented" ("I am guilty. I am responsible," ... "I got off track, and I am deeply sorry and I repent ... I'm moving along in a positive direction") while managing to slag off his detractors at the same time. It seems being caught with your pants down is OK as long as you're firmly clutching your Bible.

Haggard was the poster boy of judgmental sanctimoniousness until he got caught in a gay sex scandal. It was, of course, a one-off aberration, and the church treated poor Ted without adequate Christian compassion, yadda yadda yadda. Now it seems Ted is rebuilding his celebrity status with a side-order of martyrdom. There are interviews pending on Oprah and Larry King Live, and a doco called The Trials of Ted Haggard. Yes, Ted was a victim too, and who are we to cast the first stone?

The problem with that line of reasoning is that Ted is himself a world record holder in the sport of stone hurling. And now it emerges that Ted has been bonking more than a lone gay prostitute.

Somebody has been telling porkies.

Bonhoeffer talked about the perils of cheap grace, which is a message mainline Christians might do well to hear, but maybe the message biblicists - of whatever variety - need to hear instead is on cheap repentance.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Dear Ronnie

The inauguration of President Obama today marks another of your "crash and burn" prophecies for which we have impeccable evidence. The quotes are popping up again all over the place:

"... if we have the ability to elect someone, they will not take office… our country will be down the tubes by then."

"... there will not be a new president take office in January."

Word is out that you're now saying that it wasn't really a prophecy. Uh huh. Thing is, Ronnie, did the folk who heard you say that understand it to be speculation? Did you qualify yourself at the time by saying, "hey, this is just me rattling my tonsils, feel free to disagree or ignore this"?

Of course not. You appear far too narcissistic for that!

Initially Ronnie, I wondered whether you were actually convinced by your own arguments. Now I think, on balance, you were probably a shyster from the start. I'm sure you're well aware that religious movements survive disconfirmation. Branch Davidians were still meeting after Waco. The classic example from history is Shabbetai Zvi, the Jewish Messiah-pretender. Even after he converted to Islam there were lots of people who continued to believe that he was the promised one!

Confused people who have painted themselves into a corner rarely drop their paintbrushes immediately.

So while your income stream will slow, there's little danger it'll dry up. Financially I imagine that you're a whole lot better off than you'd have been staying with UCG, not to mention the globetrotting lifestyle. Talking up 2008 as the year of doom has doubtless set you and Laura up for life, congratulations.

But here's what you said less than twelve months ago:

If by Pentecost [June 8 2008] I’m just going to make this real clear to everyone. If by Pentecost it is not powerfully and abundantly clear that there has been a great deal of destruction that will clearly encompass a third of all plant life in the US and at least the clear results of this mingled with blood the death of very much animal life and the beginning of large numbers of human life then I will stop preaching. Just so all the critics and everyone out there will understand. I am true to my word in these things. OK? And for all the critics if by the end of July and for most likely around Pentecost if nothing has clearly caused great destruction and death I will make it very clear that I was a false prophet. I will do exactly what I said I would do on aaaaall those interviews that I have held. To do less. Well. Would be quite insane.” (Source)

It seems, in light of your subsequent actions, you were lying through your teeth. The only thing "down the tubes" here, Ronnie, is your credibility.

Maybe there's a warning you might heed in the end-tale of Elizabeth Claire Prophet (listen to an interview with her daughter on InterFaith Voices.) Maybe her early dementia has nothing to do with trying to block out her abject failure as the voice of the Lord, but then again maybe not.

Like you, she called the Pied Piper tune.

Like you, she got it very, very wrong.

Monday 19 January 2009

An ex-LCG convert speaks out

As we all know, everything is hunky-dory in the Living Church of God. We know that because, in addition to Pravda-like postings from HQ, Bob Thiel keeps telling us of the great work LCG is doing. New people are responding to the telecast and membership is up.

That may well be true I suppose, but here's a new blog to check out, started by one of those "new growth" members who seems to have wised up: it has the appropriate title Living Armstrongism. Here's the intro to the first entry.

From early 2000 until just last October I was a believer in Armstrongism. My specific allegiance was to the Living Church of God led by Roderick C. Meredith. Beginning last October I have come to the sad realization that I was tricked into believing Armstrongism and that it is little more than a mind control cult. After discovering it was false I have felt a terrible disappointment as this cult's teachings have caused me to place many unnecessary burdens upon those closest to me (particularly in regard to food) and I had been trying to conform myself to impossible ideals in vain. Because I finally was willing to start thinking for myself I discovered that God could not have possibly have worked with Herbert W. Armstrong or his successors, including Roderick C. Meredith, all my sacrifices to raise myself up to their ideals were in vain. I been following a false prophet. A dead end. May anyone thinking of embracing this religion think again and avoid the terrible waste of effort that I went through.

Good advice!

Saturday 17 January 2009

Dave Pack has competition!

On an unconnected theme, here's a nice little article out of Salem, Arkansas that puts Herb Armstrong alongside his true soul mates.

But ya gotta hand it to that Joey Tkach guy, he sure is holding the post-Herbal WCG together. Well, sort of... didn't seem to help one pastor, whose story appears in The New Jersey Jewish News.

Thursday 15 January 2009

I Believe: Commentary by Dennis Diehl

"Looking over the shoulders of the hundreds of hard working, dedicated, self sacrificing biologists who spend years enduring the harsh conditions in the field to observe evolution in action inspires admiration in us real scientists. This is in sharp contrast with Creationists who sit in their comfortable homes and write drivel about subjects they have never studied and do not understand."

Donald Prothero:
Evolution-What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters

My journey, while irrelevant to others, has been significant to me. I am not the same person I was at 14 when both science and religion fascinated me. For better or worse, I heard the call of science but succumbed to the lure of religion to answer all my questions. I have to live with that decision and trust that there was a reason for all that has transpired since I chose to follow the Biblical path, as understood at the time by the Worldwide Church of God, and not the path of observation and science.

If I had the opportunity to do it over, which I don't, I would have opted for science and discovery rather than religion and the promotion of mythologies over realities.

I remember in high school taking a geology and earth science course because "I had to." Now I realize that was the science that was calling me and yet at the time, I was reading "The Plain Truth" which I now know was neither plain nor true. I grew up soaking in a rather strict Reformed Dutch environment, in a small church I loved and is still the source of my closest friends. The die seemed to be cast for me to follow my emotional self rather than my inquiring self. Or maybe the inquiry was just in the wrong place.

I have changed little since I was a little kid with dinosaur books galore and who often went to spend a day at the library rather than go play hockey on the bays of Lake Ontario. I did plenty of that, but I'd rather had been in the library at times. I used to spend hours, when at Ambassador College, in the Fuller Seminary Library. Guess I missed the good books!

I remember sitting in first year Bible class where we spent a semester "studying" The Genesis Flood. Whitcomb and Morris was the source of the information I was given to show how the Bible matched up with true science and the Bible tells the truth. It does not. The Genesis Flood was bullshit, excuse me, less than satisfying, and the literal story of Genesis, including how hominids arrived on the planet, was mythology at its best. I got my topic explained to me in the reverse order of its truth. I know that now, and of course, did not know that then. I also remember mentally arguing with Garner Ted's "A Theory for the Birds," and "A Whale of a Tale," but of course, keeping on because I thought the Wonderful World Tomorrow was just around the corner and the Book of Revelation was true somehow along with the rest of it. Probably a bit God haunted myself as a kid.

At any rate, what's the point? Simply, on AW we all have our shared background, our journey and where we have, for the moment ended up. It has intrigued me that as far as I know, I am the only former full time minister who has moved on who comments on AW by name. I knew hundreds of ministers and have yet to hear or see any of them step up to the plate and tell their story of disappointment, change and lessons learned. I know you are out there. I am appreciative of the ones who keep in touch like Vic Kubik, but not the ones who won't write back. Speaking of Vic, there is no one in the WCG or it's splinters who has such a practical, "how can I help you" approach and life work as Vic.* I congratulate him for practicing the Sermon on the Mount...

At any rate, it seems we all are on different locations on what, to me, is the same path in life... understanding. That's all I want in life. I want to understand origins and meaning. That's all I want and I have taken this path since WCG.

Others of us don't know what to believe or have either simply moved into a simple replacement for the WCG past that mimics it, such as into another splinter rendition, or have moved back to what, perhaps, we have grown up with and feels good again. I have done neither. I can't and have been labeled as "atheist" for that.

I prefer "seeker" but in the final analysis, I don't do labels much.

But for the record, what have I come to believe? I know, who cares? No one. But I'd still like to put it down on in writing for my own benefit of simply stating what it is I feel to be true for me. It's the present truth not the plain truth.

Since I have made myself an expert at what I don't believe, through ten years of study and thought, let's start with that.


I don't believe the Bible is literally true, "God-Breathed" or inerrant.
I don't believe serpents and donkeys can talk... ever.
I don't believe in Satan or millions of demons as portrayed by religion
I don't believe in angels, based on way too many experiences
I don't believe many of the accounts of Old Testament exploits of the Israelites are true.
I don't believe the first 11 Chapters of Genesis are literally true or tell us anything about origins, geology or reality in the history of humankind.
I don't believe God, as portrayed in the Bible, is anywhere near how a real God would be.
I don't believe the Old Testament portrays a consistent picture of monotheism nor do I believe the Israelites, including Abraham and Moses were monotheists.
I don't believe the story of Jesus birth, life and death are unique in the history of the world.
I don't believe the Gospel Accounts are eyewitness accounts or harmonious in their portrayal of events.
I don't believe anyone had a clue about the birth circumstances of Jesus and the authors of Matthew and Luke had a need to make one up based on OT scripture and not facts.
I don't believe they chose the same OT scriptures to tell a consistent story.
I don't believe the Apostles, as portrayed in the NT, agreed with each other nor had a common faith and view of who and what Jesus was or was meant to be.
I don't believe Jesus ever intended to start a church.
I don't believe there ever was one true church, consistent in thought, word, practice and deed from the beginning.
I don't believe there is one true church to find.
I don't believe Paul was a team player nor that his gospel was the same as that of the direct students of Jesus, if that story is true.
I don't believe Paul wrote everything he is said to have written.
I don't believe the Book of Revelation has relevance anymore and is a failed first century "prophecy.''
I don't believe human beings should invest their life energy in those who use the Book of Revelation, which seems to need them to reveal it, to motivate others in fear, compliance and adherence to cultic behaviors and outcomes.
I don't believe a lot of things...

Theologically: (and this is tough with my background to put down.)

I don't believer in atonement by execution
I don't believe we bear any sin as a result of any Adam and Eve antics.
I don't believe in being piously convicted about anything yet marginally informed about everything.
I don't believe Jesus died the worst death of any human being ever. (Perhaps being burned alive and dying over months, by Israeli phosphorus bombs gets close.)
I don't believe in chosen people leaving others unchosen.
I don't believe (or understand)? why the weekend inconvenience of Jesus "death and ultimate sacrifice" is real if shortly after you get to come back better than ever.
I don't believe human beings are defective in a way that can be remedied by religion.
I don't believe the heart of man is mostly "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." It depends on who you hang with.
I don't believe without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. ("I forgive you" will do just fine).
I don't believe any God is three gods, or three gods revealed as one god, and is still not polytheistic in nature.
I don't believe in hell as punishment either by annihilation or eternal death.
I don't believe dunking, sprinkling or dabbing humans with water changes them.
I don't believe I have met a lot of humans have changed by being dunked, sprinkled or dabbed.
And I don't believe in a lot of other things I sincerely used to believe.

What do I believe literally?

I do believe humans are hairless, evolved hominids that arrived by the process of millions of years of evolution and suffering the right genetic glitches, can grow a tail or total body hair like we used to have.
I believe the earth is approximately 4.6 billion years old.
I believe Creationists are dishonest and in denial.
I believe you will never find Noah's Ark on any mountain where an elephant would fall to it's death trying to descend or a kangaroo would know how to get back to Australia, and no other place, from.
I believe the Discovery Channel and National Geographic Specials are more informative than the plain, present, current, restored, living, united, reconstituted, upheld, redacted, methodical, congregational, catholic, universal, united or revisited truth ever was.
I believe human beings can act out "prophecy" and attract evil to themselves and the planet and yet still get no Second Coming for all their trouble.
I believe most ministers I know teach one thing and believe another in their hearts.
I believe that most religious authorities, including Bible characters, prophets, priests and kings, suffer from delusions, illusions, imbalances and in some cases, outright mental illnesses.
I believe we have allowed the mentally unstable or ill to lead us down the wrong path.
I believe I have to take personal responsibility for having allowed that to happen.
I believe there are many very sincere balanced people in religion who just want to know the truth.
I believe the ego motivates many to an unreasonable and inaccurate view of themselves.
I believe these types of religious, and in some cases "God haunted" individuals, can rise to high positions in the world of religion.
I believe there are some reading this just itching to wish death upon me for not believing what they believe.
I believe we are all entitled to believe what we want or need to believe based on our own life experience, needs and ability or desire to look or not look outside the box we came in.
I believe it does not matter what I believe.
I believe if I understand, then things are as they are and if I don't understand, then things are still as they are.

What do I believe Spiritually?

I believe we are all one small part of the same one big thing.
I believe we became conscious and self aware for some reason I don't yet understand.
I believe I was born right the first time.
I believe whoever, or whatever God is, he/she/it is benevolent.
I believe that life is amazing and our true origins are incredible
I believe I have always been very, very sincere in what I believed or do believe.
I believe everything will be ok.

What do you believe?

* Kubik is founder of Lifenets, perhaps the only Church of God independent charity. The photograph shows one of Lifenets' projects.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

hulme size

Fall 2008 report written by David Hulme

What I’d like to give you today is a progress report that will explain what we’ve been doing in the Church and the Work over the last year or so…

In some parts of the world you will find that there are a lot of people coming into the Church. You find quite a multiplying going on in Africa at the moment. you don’t find it very much in the UK, but it’s not true of everywhere in the UK. You don’t find it everywhere in the US…

What has been happening in the Church? In the US and Canada we have 1150 people in regular attendance and we have 53 churches. If you do your maths you realize that a lot of these churches are rather small…

At the Feast last year we had about 1300 people in attendance. Let’s go to other parts of the world. In Australia we have 68 people and six churches. In the Philippines we have 156 people and seven churches. In addition we have 11 members in six countries, remote areas all around Southeast Asia who are looked after by Australia. Last year we had 77 people at the Feast in Bright, in Australia, and 132 in Iloilo, in the Philippines.

In Africa we have an interesting situation. We have English and French speaking brethren there numbering 700! So they are a sizable portion of our total numbers. They are scattered through 38 congregations. A recent report I saw has congregations in places that even I was not aware we had people! So there are some small groups forming in countries where hitherto we have not had anybody.

In the UK we have about 300 people in 14 congregations. The Feast there is one of our larger ones, about 320 there last year. In Germany we have two congregations and 20 people. We have people of the German language background in Switzerland as well. We have France and Switzerland represented in the French language: 21 people in two congregations. In Scandinavia we have about 10 people, mostly in Denmark and Norway and Sweden, I believe. (Hulme D. Feast of Tabernacles 2008 Progress Report. Church of God, an International Community)

Damned if you do and...

OK, I promise to get back to more relevant COG postings soon, but...

This is a bit more sophisticated than my earlier sideswipe at John Calvin, but it rings true (it's tempting to add "this is most certainly true," but I'd be giving away my bias), and you get free proof texts! Sorry Dennis, those Presbyterians are cultists, kind of, and there's no one who can demonstrate that holy truth better than Anthony Sacramone, bless his ascerbic pen. Luther had his problems, Lord knows, but at least he had a sense of humor - and knew the pleasures of a tankard of Wittenberg ale.

Do feel free to pass on the link to your Reformed friends and colleagues!

Saturday 10 January 2009

Calvin's Big Year

Calvin is one of the truly great figures who have impacted on Western civilization, as I'm sure you'll agree. Together with Hobbes they form one of the finest teams in comic strip literature.

It may surprise you to learn, however, that there's another Calvin. This fellow single-handedly wrenched the Reformation off course, blighted the history of Christianity across more than two continents, transformed the city of Geneva into a by-word for sullen, dour self-loathing, and turned a former colleague - Michael Servetus - into toast because he couldn't divide three into one.

Without this Calvin - a man whose approach to theology can be compared to a pedantic civil engineer on steroids - there'd have been no Puritans, Presbyterians, or any of the vile brood of Anglo sects that migrated like vultures across the Atlantic to roost in the Burned Over district. Hence no flow-on: no Mormons, Adventists, Plymouth Brethren... no pre-millennial Rapturists, no Left Behind novels, no Dallas Theological Seminary, Karl Barth, Southern Baptists and - not least for readers of this blog - no Worldwide Church of God.

There'd probably still be a Missouri Synod, but no alternate reality is perfect...

But there would be economic consequences too. The Industrial Revolution minus the Calvinist Guilt Ethic would have been the Industrial Adjustment. No "dark, Satanic mills," no class struggle, no Karl Marx, no Great Depression, no Hitler, no Cold War, Ronald Reagan would have kept his day job in the movies.

Of course, other things would have happened, but the endless chain of unfortunate events that Calvin unleashed was clearly a horrible mistake in the Divine Plan of the Ages: the archangels were obviously away on a team building weekend when the perfidious Frenchman popped up, and by the time they'd recovered from their hangovers on the following Wednesday it was too late to do much about it. Gabriel suggested creating Arminians, but Arminius was a confused post-Calvinist himself, and who can blame him?

Of course, the Calvinists would say it was all predestined, but being Calvinists they would have to, wouldn't they?

I mention this because this year is the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth. The fateful day was July 10, 1509. Mark it on your calendar and resolve to do something the old geezer would have hated: enjoy a glass of good wine, scoff down a decadent dessert, tell a humorous story, stay up till after eight o'clock (the hour the Calvinist thought-police demanded all good Genevans retire for the night), ask irritatingly sincere questions of your Presbyterian relatives about "total depravity," "double predestination" or the Westminster Confession, read an unedifying novel...

... or just settle back in a comfortable chair with a Calvin and Hobbes anthology.

PS. For a little light musical relief, click across to the Third Witness blog where there's a YouTube video called I think my wife's a Calvinist.

Wiener - Top COG

If Internet exposure is the measure of a ministry, then Ronnie Weinland can be well pleased. In the first Alexa rankings for 2009 the Witless One leads the pack, ahead of UCG's Good News. Here's the list. Numbers refer to thousands, so AW, listed as 541, has an actual ranking of 541,397. Twenty five sites made the top million on the Web. The lower the number the better the result.

(1) Ronnie Weinland's 84
(2) The Good News (UCG): 91
(3) Vision (Hulme): 116
(4) The Trumpet (Flurry): 120
(5) Alan Ruth's 127
(6) UCG official site: 140
(7) WCG official site: 163
(8) RCG (Pack): 165
(9) Bible Tools (Ritenbaugh): 173
(10) Bob Thiel's COGwriter: 181
(11) Tomorrow's World (LCG): 182
(12) ASK (Martin/Sielaff): 318
(13) Victor Kubik's site: 420
(14) CGG site (Ritenbaugh): 432
(15) PCG site (Flurry): 492
(16) LCG official site: 525
(17) Ambassador Watch blog: 541
(18) Beyond Today (UCG): 588
(19) Born to Win (Dart): 592
(20) PTM (Albrecht): 595
(21) Weinland's church site: 632
(22) LCG member site: 723
(23) Fred Coulter's CBCG: 855
(24) COG-Faithful Flock (Billingsley): 877
(25) World News & Prophecy (UCG): 982

CGI, ICG, The Journal, and COG7 were all outside the top million ranking.

Friday 9 January 2009

Fred's Historical Landmark, Part 3

Actually, I don't think the possibilities in Coulter's BAR ad could be exhausted even if this series extended to the lengths of War & Peace, but there certainly would be a danger we'd all end up as bored out of our minds as if we'd had to listen to one of Fred's interminably redundant sermons, so let's try and tie up the loose ends.

(1) The book that inspired it all, Ernie Martin's Restoring the Original Bible, is online. Coulter talks up Martin's reputation:

"Before his death in January 2002, Dr. Ernest L. Martin was recognized as one of the leading scholars and authorities of the canonical study of the Bible."

In reality Martin's doctorate was an unaccredited AC one, with the same validity as Meredith's, Hoeh's or Garner Ted Armstrong's. While a much-liked figure with a strong following among disillusioned WCG members, Martin had little clout in academia.

Martin's arguments on canonical order enabled him to pull this rabbit out of the hat. Impressed?

(2) No mention in the BAR ad of Fred himself, the glorious author/scholar/translator. For all the wide-eyed BAR reader knows, this translation has been prepared by a committee of scholars instead of one guy who pastors a series of living room congregations. Why so coy?

(3) What's the issue with the Stephens Greek text? Stephens (or Stephanus), whose proper name was Robert Estienne, was a printer in Paris. Among his claims to fame was to be the first to break the Bible text into bite-sized chicken McNuggets - the verse system we use today. Stephanus collaborated on the Greek text with the gifted Catholic scholar Erasmus, an achievement which became known (misleadingly) as the Textus Receptus. Erasmus himself recognized that the manuscripts available to him were defective, but he did the best with what he had. Better manuscripts have meant better Greek texts. Fred is nearly 500 years out of date, Masoretic red herrings not withstanding.

(4) As for an inspired or original order for the New Testament, Fred is out on a limb. His arrangement can't be justified chronologically (the first off the block may well have been Paul with 1 Thessalonians), or the earliest list of canonical books (the Muratorian canon.) Fred continues to bravely defend the primacy of Matthew's gospel, but he's spitting into the wind of Markan priority. The general epistles initially appeared together, for example, because they were obviously distinct from Paul's (and others wrongly attributed to Paul.) Anything particularly original and inspired in that?

But there's a more basic point. To restore an original order requires that there be an original order to restore. Sadly for Fred, there is no evidence that the early church produced its own triple-bound codex with handcrafted lambskin cover and gold lettering, or anything remotely resembling it. It isn't till the fourth century that complete NT manuscripts turn up. That's 300 years of Christianity without a New Testament - in any order.

Of course that doesn't stop Fred from arguing long and monotonously for his arrangement. Even if he's not very convincing, it's not a big deal... unless Fred himself makes it a big deal, which he does.

(5) A final aside. Also following Doc Martin's vision is James Tabor. This is a project that possibly predates Fred's efforts, and is still a long way off seeing the light of day. Tabor's Transparent English Bible will pack a lot more credibility than Fred's, assuming it ever gets into print (a PDF sample is available here.) I'm not sure whether Tabor intends to use the same NT arrangement, but if so one can only hope that the publicity doesn't overextend into the kind of wild claims Fred obviously relishes (the name "Original Bible Project" may indicate otherwise.)

Thursday 8 January 2009

Fred's Historical Landmark, Part 2

Fred Coulter's effort at Bible translation is at the very least different from most other offerings. Fred picked up his knowledge of Greek at Ambassador College (under the "private tutelage" of Charles Dorothy), and his views on the canon - in large part - from an AC professor, the larger-than-life figure of Ernest L. Martin. In putting together his New Testament "in its original order" he follows the views of Martin in his book Restoring the Original Bible. Strangely enough, in his bibliography to the New Testament edition (2003), Fred forgets to even mention Restoring the Original Bible, though he refers to it within his lengthy introductory chapters.

Where did Fred learn Hebrew? Well, apparently he didn't. Fred can correct me if I'm wrong, but I understand he bought somebody else's revision of the KJV Old Testament, fiddled around with the text a bit, then bunged it together with his 2003 New Testament to produce a complete 66 book edition.

Around the time Fred left WCG he tried out his translation skills by producing a paraphrased Harmony of the Gospels in modern English. To be honest, it was probably a good deal better than the stilted KJV-like third edition which has replaced it.

So what do the reviewers think? The BAR ad addresses this issue:

Reviewer Dan Becker of Bible Editions and Versions (June 2005) writes of this Faithful Version of the New Testament: "It [is] an excellent translation for those desiring a literal one."

And so he did, but if memory serves me, he also compared it to a telephone directory. In fact, the review as a whole could be said to have damned with faint praise. Has anybody else - a recognized journal in the field of Biblical studies for example (or even the BAR) - positively reviewed Fred's magum opus? Apparently not.

Fred translated the NT from what he regards as the most accurate Greek text, the Stephens of - wait for it - 1550! Fred is entitled to his opinion of course, but he'd be hard pressed to find a genuine scholar to agree with him. Stephens is probably the worst choice imaginable. More on this in part 3.

Then there's the issue of original order. The Old Testament isn't an issue: Fred apparently follows the order of the Hebrew Bible as set out in Jewish translations. That's not only legitimate, but perhaps even commendable, though it's stretching credulity to make the kind of grandiose claims about it that he does. There are two ancient traditions, one of which the church adopted (following the precedent of the Septuagint), the other of which the synagogue adopted, both of which have a respectable pedigree.

But what about the claim regarding the New Testament? Here's Fred's shuffled index:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts (no change, though there probably should be!)
James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude (Fred is kidding, right?)
Romans, 1 Cor., 2 Cor., Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thes., 2 Thes., Hebrews, 1 Tim., 2 Tim., Titus, Philemon (Fred is one of the last translators to imagine that Paul wrote Hebrews)

With all due respect to the labors of Doc Martin, this is completely out of kilter with reality. More on this later.

A copy of the Fred Bible could set you back $150, but Fred will sell you a copy direct - a special low price for BAR readers - for $89.95 plus postage and packing.

Funnily enough, you can get the same "low" price from Amazon.

To be continued.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Fred's Historical Landmark, Part 1

I opened the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review to discover that I had missed a "historical landmark in Bible publishing."

According to a full page ad in the Jan/Feb issue, this new Bible is extraordinary and unique... "the only complete Bible ever published - with both Old and New Testaments - that accurately follows the original canonical manuscript order..."

The bold type and hyperbole may give you a clue.

"It is a widely unknown fact that the original manuscript order of both the Old and New Testament books was altered by early church fathers."

A widely unknown fact?

"[The Bible's] books were mysteriously repositioned from their original order by fourth-century "editors." '

Oh really?

If you haven't guessed it already, we're talking about the Fred Coulter Bible which Fred is pitching at the BAR readership. Fred is, in case you've just tuned in to the wacky world of COGdom, a schismatic minister of the Worldwide Church of God who left in the late seventies.

The ad - on page 5, if you want to check it out for yourself - raises a whole truckload of issues. There's the ghost of Ernest L. Martin to contend with, a parallel project by James Tabor to produce a "Transparent English" version, and an awful lot of nonsense that needs shoveling onto the nearest compost heap.

Stay tuned.

Saturday 3 January 2009

How Then Shall We Not Live - Franky Makes Good

Francis Schaeffer was a cult-like figure among Evangelicals of a past generation, building a personal empire at a place called L'Abri around a pretentious form of Calvinism. Schaeffer produced the hugely influential but deeply facile film (and associated book) How Then Shall We Live: The Decline of Western Thought and Culture - a sort of high-brow version of The Modern Romans. Growing up in his father's shadow was Franky, the son of the legend, destined to also achieve star status in the Lord's work.

"We were earnest and my parents were sincere. Dad had a vicious temper. Mom was a high powered nut. But so what. Given the range of human suffering, I had a golden childhood."

Father/son combinations litter the world of conservative Christianity, what Schaeffer himself calls "the proudly nepotistic American Protestant tradition." Billy and Franklin, Robert H. and Robert A., Francis and Franky, Joe Sr. and Joe Jr., Gerry and Stephen, Herbert and Ted. In most cases it all ends in tears.

There are parallels between Franky and GTA. Both had a wild streak, but played their role to the full despite that. Both achieved fame as celebrity evangelists. Both wrestled with their conscience. But, sadly, only one found the integrity to turn aside and do the right thing.

Franky mixed and mingled with the Evangelical nobility; James Dobson, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and others.

"In private, they ranged from unreconstructed bigot reactionaries like Jerry Falwell, to Dr. Dobson, the most power-hungry and ambitious person I have ever met, to Billy Graham, a very weird man indeed who lived an oddly sheltered life in a celebrity/ministry cocoon, to Pat Robertson, who would have a hard time finding work in any job where hearing voices is not a requirement."

Sounds as though he's describing four COG splinter leaders instead of famous preachers who lobbied in Washington and were regarded as mainstream paragons in the Bible Belt.

Franky preached to large audiences, even appearing in the pulpit of Falwell's Liberty Baptist Church.

And then he gave it all away.

Franky Schaeffer's story appears in a tell-all autobiography published last year called Crazy for God. It's a damning indictment of the evangelical industry, and anyone who hear that siren call would do well to read it. It's also a raw - and even raunchy - self portrait redeemed by its searing honesty and a warts-and-all portrait of the Christian Right.

Schaeffer remains a Christian, but he steers clear of his former affiliations and has embraced the Orthodox faith. He now calls himself just plain Frank.

And he's probably a better man for it.

Thursday 1 January 2009


What a year!

Fox 25 News covered PCG and Gerry Flurry had a hernia over being compared to David Koresh. Oklahoma newspapers made a fortune out of Gerry's frantic - and wordy - attempts at damage control.

William Dankenbring had his nose put out of prophetic joint by Obama's victory, but not enough to knock him off the prediction-addiction merry-go-round (it's doubtful even the Second Coming could do that!)

Globetrotting Doomsdayer Ronald Weinland called down the Great Tribulation, but it was a "no show" - twice. Ronnie also called down divine retribution on his critics - a slow painful death - but instead it was Ron himself who was blessed with an IRS audit. Don't give up Ron, remember, in the words of P.T. Barnum, there's a sucker born every minute.

James Tabor launched the third edition of a book which promotes (among other things) a version of British Israelism: perhaps best described as "BI, but..." (the kind of BI you promote when you don't want it to be labeled as BI.)

Doc Michael Germano, Living University's tenuous link to academic credibility, threw away $250 on a John McCain political donation while at the same time Bob Thiel reassured us that LCG taught against such wicked worldliness.

Rod Meredith double-disfellowshipped Fred Coulter, setting something of a precedent as Fred has never been a member of LCG. Rod then fell victim to a stroke which saw him surrender the reigns to Richard Ames (Fred's views on the proximity of these two events is unknown.)

English academic David Barrett invited past and present members to contribute to his upcoming doctoral thesis on WCG's splinters via an online survey.

Raymond McNair, one of the WCG's foundation evangelists, passed from the scene, as did the church's most famous co-worker, chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer.

John Meakin jumped ship from David Hulme's sect to scamper onto the slippery decks of LCG. Out of the frying pan...

WCG's Canadian Board voted unanimously to repeal their Policy Governance Manual at the directive of the Pastor Generalissimo Tkach.

Gerry Flurry helped out the Iranian economy by buying up caramel onxyx to decorate his cloned auditorium in Edmond.

Paul Kroll and Dennis Pelley left the employ of WCG.

Yisrayl Hawkins announced Armageddon for June 12. While the nuclear weapons failed to appear in the skies, "Buffalo Bill" barely batted an eyelid.

David Pack and Don Billingsley remarried (not, obviously, to each other, though some might consider them ideally matched.)

Joel Meeker spat the dummy over the election of Aaron Dean to UCG's Council (Dean had earlier been subject to church discipline over a speaking engagement at a non-UCG venue), but later issued an apology for his outburst. The COE also put the final nail in the coffin over the plan to relocate to Texas.

WCG found a pig, put lipstick on it, and christened it Grace Communion Seminary.

Weinland kept his followers waiting and wondering about just who might join him as the second of the prophesied Two Witnesses. It turned out to be his doting wife Laura.

So, in the spirit of TIME magazine, can we find a Person of the Year out of that lot?

Envelope please...

"For sheer chutzpah in the face of disconfirmation, picking himself up off his bruised arse and pretending not to have made a complete pillock out of himself. For clinging to insane personal claims despite clear proof to the contrary..."

Without a doubt, AW's person of 2008 is Ronnie Weinland.

Happy New Year!