Monday 18 April 2016

Forgotten History: 1976 - Fools' Quest

1976, and the Worldwide Church of God was anticipating a great leap forward with the launch of the glossy magazine Quest/77 under the auspices of the AICF (Ambassador International Cultural Foundation). It was an expensive PR effort designed to gain credibility among the shakers and movers, the kind of people who wouldn't give The Plain Truth a second glance. The acquisition of Everest House Publishers followed, with offices in New York; a further vanity project that quickly proved prohibitively expensive.

The following article and accompanying photograph appeared in New York magazine, August 2, 1976.

Forty years on (has it really been 40 years?) and nothing remains. Quest magazine was short-lived, Everest House is long forgotten, Ted was to be ousted the year following Quest's launch, and even the Hall of Ad has now gone... in a cloud of demolition dust earlier this year.

Which leads one to wonder about the durability of the various vanity projects among the competing sects of COGdom today.


Retired Prof said...

One of my English department colleagues had an article published in Quest. He submitted another, but by that time Herbert W Armstrong had reneged on his promise to leave all editorial decisions up to the editor, and that article was rejected. Funny thing was, the day my friend was ranting about "that tyrannical old fanatic Armstrong," my mother happened to be visiting in the faculty lounge. She was a faithful member of the Worldwide Church of God. She didn't say anything to my colleague, but afterward, in private, she tried to defend Herbert to me--rather weakly, I'm afraid. I had abandoned the church in 1960, in part because I considered Armstrong a tyrannical old fanatic but had never ranted about him in her presence.

Redfox712 said...

Great quote accompanying the post.

Unknown said...

Vanity, Vanity, all is Vanity!

Anonymous said...

It's amazing Shnayerson lasted as long as he did...almost four years:

Sorry, you'll have to cut and paste it. Once HWA reneged on the original arrangement, the core group at Quest just up and walked out. Priceless.

Anonymous said...

I may not recall this correctly. It has been a long time ago. But I recall the pilot for Quest/77 was a magazine called Human Potential. At that time, AICF was an organization held in suspicion on the AC Big Sandy campus. The average lay member had trouble understanding why the WCG was even involved in that effort.

Then somewhere along the line, I recall hearing that HWA had submitted an editorial to Quest/77 and it had been turned down. Someone on the magazine staff described his editorial as being highly "idiosyncratic." The next thing I knew, Quest/77 was no longer around. I never knew what happened in the background. Like many lay members, I was not a member of the Inner Circle so such things seem to just happen.

Byker Bob said...

Somewhere in Ambassador Reports archives, there is an anecdote regarding some church members who worked on the magazine having complained about the language and themes in some of the articles. Somehow, they never envisioned experiencing a conflict of conscience growing out of being employed by an arm of their church. I never read Quest, but it sounded as if the language spoken of was severely blasphemous.


Pam said...

As I remember it, there were a lot of weird things to complain about. The recommendation in the full page ad on the back cover of a winter issue to buy a big decanter of a certain brand of hard liquor for Christmas. The smaller ad in the back section of the magazine for "Virginia Hams." The sci-fi type fiction piece that included, among other far-out strangeness, some guy giving birth to a pig. Another story, I hear, (or maybe it was the same story?) that had a guy masturbating in a knot-hole in a tree. And the piece about Vince Lombardi that was liberally peppered with profanity and blasphemy.

All in all, there didn't appear to be much of "socially redeeming value" in the mag. :-) Let alone even the slightest hint of spiritual values.

Anonymous said...

Here's something. I am reaching way back. This is from immediately after my Big Sandy year's. A former AC faculty member gave me a tape by Ron Dart who I believe had joined GTA in founding CGI in Tyler, Texas. (Keep me honest. This was a long time ago.) And as I recall Dart said in the sermon that AICF/Quest77 had been founded because HWA in his attempts to ingratiate himself with world leaders was embarrassed by the PT. Dart then made much of HWA being ashamed of the word of God and how this was a bellwether showing how the WCG had veered away from God. Hence, the starting of GCI had bona fides. I believe this was in 1978.

Pam said...

Yes, "Are You Ashamed of Christ?" was one of the first sermons Ron gave in the CGI, shortly after he joined GTA's efforts. Indeed, he talked a lot about Herbert openly admitting he was ashamed of presenting himself as connected to a church. He wanted to be looked at as an "Ambassador Without Portfolio" who didn't make anyone "uncomfortable" in the audiences where he spoke overseas. He would literally speak of "A strong hand from Somewhere" when describing God's intervention in world affairs.

I was so taken with Ron's incisive comments at the time, that expressed what I had been feeling for several years about Herbert's globe-hopping and photo-ops with (usually dictators!) leaders from around the world, that I made several dozen copies of the cassette tape and sent them out around the country via mail.

Here are a couple of quotes from my Field Guide website about Herbert's approach in those days.

Ministerial bulletin 6/3/75

Some weeks ago I authorized the formation of a new FOUNDATION—named the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation. It has become a necessary adjunct to this worldwide dimension of getting Christ's TRUE Gospel to the nations through heads of government…[a] whole new phase of the Work.

... One thing has been a serious handicap and caused me and my touring team no little embarrassment. We have had to say that we represent either Ambassador College, or Worldwide Church of God.

... This new Foundation is giving us great added prestige, credibility, and favor. It is something NO ONE CAN CRITICIZE. It doesn't sound 'religious' !


Member Letter 7/30/73

God has shown me HOW to present it [his gospel]... as a sensational NEWS ANNOUNCEMENT that affects their country... in such a way that their newspapers will PUBLISH THE NEWS—PRINT WHAT I SAY… I believe I can proclaim this true [Armstrong’s] Gospel as something SO NEW—so STARTLING—so SENSATIONAL—that it will get big headlines in newspapers…"

"It’s NOTHING LIKE what missionaries have taught in those countries! They will not recognize any connection WHATEVER. It will not appear as anything competitive to THEIR religions.

In Japan it will be thundered to them as direct from the CREATOR OF THE JAPANESE PEOPLE. I will not say anything against their religions. …

THAT’S OUR COMMISSION! Just the ANNOUNCEMENT of the soon coming KINGDOM OF GOD.. of course I must reveal this great announcement to these heads of state first…"

(See the next post for a final fascinating quotation.)

Pam said...

Here's one last quotation from that time period, by an author for the Jerusalem Post...

From THE JERUSALEM POST newspaper 8/24/76

Jerusalem Post "Weekly" section, page 5

Herbert Armstrong has shuttled in and out of Israel and the Arab world in the last few years at a rate that would leave Henry Kissinger breathless.

Flying in his own executive jet, the 84-year-old fundamentalist church leader and philanthropist has visited Israel alone 50-60 times since 1965. He has visited almost as extensively in Arab countries. Unlike Kissinger, he has offered his Israeli hosts neither bitter truths nor hard alternatives—only goodwill and money. It is an offer neither side has been able to refuse.

Mr. Armstrong’s current visit is in connection with a $250,000 contribution for a playground in Jerusalem’s Liberty Bell Garden…

… A decade ago, Mr. Armstrong began investing a substantial portion of the church’s wealth—each of its 80,000 heads of households tithes his income to the church—in charitable, educational or cultural projects in foreign countries. Since that time, he and Mr. Rader have been spending about two-thirds of their time abroad, generally meeting with the leaders of the countries they visit before deciding on a project. ..

The fact that religious Moslem states permit the foundation to operate in their territory—not to mention Catholic, Buddhist, and Shinto states—lends support to Mr. Armstrong’s claim that the church’s charity is unaccompanied by any attempt at proselytizing. "Fifty years ago I was sold on the idea that it was more blessed to give than to receive, " says Mr. Armstrong. "I’ve been putting that idea to work."

The quotes above are from a section of my website I call "Herbert W Armstrong, In His Own Words--The Myth & The Man: Questions about the Myth–-Answers from the Man

It includes many direct quotes from him going as far back as the 1940s, which directly contradict many "suppositions" that church members had... and many still have.


Byker Bob said...

It appears that HWA attempted to "reform" Armstrongism, at least when he presented it to world leaders. This effort seems to have left nearly undetectable long-term impact or results in terms of anyone over there remembering the Armstrong gospel. Those who were still tithing members of WCG c. 1977 not only funded the total waste of a gospel, but they also underwrote a blasphemous and profane publication as well!


Anonymous said...

"This effort seems to have left nearly undetectable long-term impact or results in terms of anyone over there remembering the Armstrong gospel."

That is a way of measuring it.
And in a way I agree some 99% with the statement.
It's ok to ignore this posting for I am aware of your dislike of the "overextension" of my wild extrapolations.

"The Armstrong Gospel was the supposed message of (the newsreporter) Christ of "the good news of a better world that was to come, here on earth not in heaven."

Granted HWA or anything cog does not ring a bell for some 8 billion people.

I think "AICF was involved in "Nudging" that "gospel" though.

Just a few of the many examples I cited in the past.
Until just a few years ago the secretary of trade and education of Japan was an AC alumnus. It seems this man was involved in the workings for a more just world in the future.
On Gary's board I made a case some time ago that "AICF" bolstered the advocates of the International Court of Justice in a minor but crucial way during its inception phase by flying Justice Singh around the world inthe GII to what later became the major sponsor countries of the institution (like Japan). Many disputes between nations are dealt with in that institution in secret.

Dr Habsburg spent a lifetime advocating a united europe. So I do not presume that AICF's efforts to "enhance his status" in the US (LA chamber, Washington etc) helped bolster his political views in any way. They just might have bolstered his feelings of personal destiny (eating from the AC gold cutlery designed for kings, being a person even forbidden to cross the border of austria).

I do know however that Dr Habsburg 5 years after the AC event felt bostered enough to withstand the Hungarian armed border guards and literally cut the barbed wire fence for the East German refugees during "a picnic" while the border guards took aim but did not fire. Setting events in motion that turned the world upside down.
At the moment the Hungarian guard took aim, Dr Habsburg must have known that this was his moment of truth, the fulfillment of his personal destiny and I am assuming that at that very lonely moment of personal courage, he must have felt not "the son of an abdicated war criminal" but the man of destiny people had called him in powerful and beautiful places (like Washington and LA.) (And I am 100% sure the commander ordering the soldier to lay down his arm was very much aware who was cutting the barbed wire.)

Any direct aicf involvement to the event. No certainly not. But they did call each other "friends" and HWA had told him in no uncertain terms that he would fulfill an important role in the destiny of Europe. That moment was to come 5 years later.


Anonymous said...

I admit being a bit embarassed by my Habsburg extrapolation.
After some further research however I found that the present handed to him at AC in 1983 was a photo of Dr Habsburg himself under a banner reading "Open the door for Christ."

Being the nominal King of Jerusalem (in succession of david and christ) I wonder even more what went through his mind when he took the barbed wire scissors, walked up the wire and the guard took aim. "Open the door for Christ", OR "I just hope this guy didn't load his gun", or both.


Anonymous said...

What a photo! The Hall of Wasted Space, now flattened and gone.