Healing, medical intervention and faith. There are few issues which are more fraught, especially where young people are concerned, largely at the mercy of their parents' convictions. Kathleen, a former member of WCG, has launched a new blog dealing with these issues. Kathleen writes:
This blog is for parents who wish to provide medical care for their children, but whose church teaches that doing so is wrong. I grew up in such a church. Children (and adults) have needlessly died because of such teachings. This is a place you can share your doubts and worries. No one will judge you.
It's a fantastic initiative. The blog is called Dying for God's Sake
, and you can find it at www.dyingforgod.com
. Check it out, pass it on. Many of us know of horror stories from times past, but here's a chance to have some impact in times present.
Readers are invited to post personal stories about this in the comments below... Shared personal stories can help parents understand that they are not alone, that while there may be consequences for rejecting your church's teaching to deny medical care to your child (or yourself), those consequences must be faced for the sake of your child.
This is something we can surely all get behind, whatever our history or standing in any of the Churches of God (or any other unrelated body with similar teachings) might be.
Let me say a word on behalf of HWA. At Big Sandy and other venues, I have been in the audience for quite a number of his sermons. I have seen him on campus at services, Bible Studies and various assemblies. And I have to admit he was quite honest in his attitude toward the lay membership. He did not, at least in this relation, put up any kind of facade.
He did not like the lay membership and unlike many other Armstrongite leaders, he did not try to conceal this. I never heard one his sermons where he was not angry and overflowing with condemnation for the lay membership. Typically, this involved many accusations about lay members not being faithful in funding his various projects. He shook his jowls at us over everything imaginable from the way women wore their hair to our inability to understand The Two Trees.
He was especially angry over his heresy regarding The Two Trees. He spoke of it repeatedly and peppered his presentation with the statement "You brethren just don't get this!!!" We had all gotten it a long time ago and were bored to tears.
It is difficult to sit in the hot,humid field house in a suit and tie in the summer in BS and listen to the same thing over and over again. But apparently he liked to pretend that we did not understand so he could gen up a righteous anger.
But you have to give HWA credit for some brand of honesty. He never ever pretended to like the lay membership. He was quite up front in telling them that their salvation was of no importance to god and god could raise up stones to help him "do The Work." He regarded us as a shameful lot who did not appreciate the rare and splendid opportunity to pour our money into the exchequer in Pasadena.
The odd phenomenon is that the lay membership passively listened to all of this gratuitous disapprobation and absolutely loved him nevertheless. It was as if they could not actually hear what he was saying to them. He treated them with disrespect and contempt and made no bones about it. He could bite the hand that fed him with disdain and impunity. To my knowlege, he never demonstrated any affection, respect or concern for the lay membership. I never heard him once address the topic of members dying as a result of refusing medical attention. He just did not care but never, ever said he did.
Otagosh just finished a review of the various COG rags. These rags are based on this same attitude that HWA consistently manifested but they are not as forthright as HWA was. Their content is lacquered, maybe thinly, with some faux empathy for the readership.
I did see HWA for what he was, and didn't understand what my parents saw in him that was so compelling. When a church's "gospel" is based on fear of the end times, making members beholden to a church, its financial escapades and endless law for one's safety, what kind of normal or healthy relationship could one expect? In HWA's mind, if he indeed believed his own prophecy, he was doing for people to whom he normally could not relate a great favor. He obviously acted in Moses' valence, carefully tailoring that script and making it his own.
I never really felt the love or even empathy that others claimed to find in HWA or the ministers. Basically, my attitude towards them mirrored their attitudes towards me. And, I don't see this as having been avoidable. That is the fruit which their so-called mentorship style automatically bred.
"The odd phenomenon is that the lay membership passively listened to all of this gratuitous disapprobation and absolutely loved him nevertheless. "
I'm going to guess that perhaps a significant proportion of his audience individually thought he was talking about "other" people, not themselves.
Either that...or they were indeed just blind and deaf to what was right in front of them because they didn't want to believe he could be that big a jerk.
Thanks for the link to my blog, Gavin. It's not directed to any specific group, as you know. It was prompted by a recent news story in Idaho about a twenty-year-old woman whose parents, members of an extreme offshoot of the LDS Church, had rejected medical intervention for her when she was born with a hole in her heart. Today her future is uncertain, at best, and she wants the State of Idaho to prosecute her parents so that other parents will not neglect their children because of their faith. Unfortunately, Idaho's child injury laws exempt such parents. I realized, when I read it, that as a former member of the Worldwide Church of God, only luck kept me from making the kind of mistake her parents made. I am writing this blog as a way of reaching out to other parents. I plan to dedicate the blog to this young woman, Mariah Walton, and all children who have suffered needlessly because of their parents' faith, I'm writing it to parents like hers who are caught in superstition and ignorance, to provide them with a safe place to share their questions and worries with others who have walked the same path. With any luck, this will keep other children from being sacrificed.
Bravo, Kathleen! You have taken up a wonderful cause. May it bear much fruit!
Our daughter was "born into" the WCG world in 1970. Gratefully, as gullible as my husband and I were to get sucked into the cult in the first place, we kept SOME of our wits. I tried to get my mind around, for instance, the anti-vaccination stance. But when our daughter was three, a big whooping cough epidemic ravaged the church and the YOU camp. Right then and there I realized how nonsensical the whole thing was, and we just quietly got our daughter vaccinated. Both my grandmother and my husband's grandmother had lost babies to whooping cough epidemics back when they ran rampant through the land before widespread vaccination. I saw no need to lose my little one to one man's warped interpretation of the Bible.
Around that same time a local church mother of three small children was in a horrible car accident. A blood transfusion was needed to save her. She literally ripped the needle out of her arm and cast it away so God wouldn't reject her from His Kingdom for her lack of faith. She died. I don't doubt if that had been one of her children with the needle in an arm, she would have done the same thing if she could get close enough to, in spite of the legal ramifications. I decided at that point that MY family wouldn't be rejecting that kind of medical help in an emergency. But I had many friends who would.
Thanks again for your efforts, Kathleen.
Thanks, Pam, for your encouragement. I hope you will visit my blog and offer encouraging comments to today's parents, who are caught in similar traps, . One reason we eventually vaccinated our children was I was deeply affected by my "unconverted" mother-in-law's story of how thankful she was when the Salk polio vaccine became available. Their next-door-neighbor's son, a childhood friend of my husband's, had been stricken with the disease. Parents were terrified for their children. Did you know that Jonas Salk never patented the vaccine because he wanted everyone to be able to afford it.
I've become aware that the failure of healings in these cults is a microcosm of, and symbolic of all the other things they cannot possibly deliver on, like safety from the tribulation that they arrogantly prophesy will happen in our lifetime.
What has happened is that over time, all of their benefits which they extolled have become devalued and failed, while cruelty and exploitation have multiplied. It's all that is left. Armstrongism has finally been distilled to its purest form.
"He did not like the lay membership..he did not try to conceal this. I never heard one his sermons where he was not angry and overflowing with condemnation"
An evil manipulative leader, just like Hitler!
A lady in our CGI congregation in the 1980s was the exact same age as I. She had been stricken with polio in the very last of the raging epidemics in the early 1950s. She was a life-long quadriplegic, with no use of her legs and only very, very minimal use of her arms and hands, and slept every night even forty years later in an iron lung. A man in our congregation had known her when he was a teenager, and she was the little sister of his best friend. He commented how she was so lively back then, and "ran like the wind." And then the polio struck.
I was born in 1946. In 1954 in the third grade, I was part of the very first large-scale testing of the Salk vaccine. I received three vaccinations over several months, but eventually found out I was part of the "control group" and only received a placebo. So I had to have another three vaccinations right after that, to actually receive the vaccine.
I was also among the first "cohort" to then receive the oral Sabin "crippled-but-live" vaccine a few years later. Like Salk, Sabin also did not patent his discovery, so that it could just benefit mankind.
Having seen first-hand the devastation of polio, I have always been grateful that the vaccines came in time for my generation, and those of my children and grandchildren.
There is no question that there are very occasional problems with this and other vaccines. But just because some few people die in traffic accidents because they are "trapped" by being in a seatbelt, I never thought it sane or sensible to not use a seatbelt! I was vaccinated multiple times throughout my childhood. My daughter was, my grandchildren were... and there have never been any problems from it. I am sorry for those few who have suffered unexpected side effects, but it doesn't change how I look at the "odds"!
And I most certainly never agreed with Herbert Armstrong that amazing health care discoveries and procedures were "inspired by the Devil." His own first wife, Loma, died a HORRIBLE death, strung out over many weeks, without even an aspirin to relieve her pain...because she had a simple bowel blockage that could have been taken care of by a simple surgical procedure. But Herbert taught that surgical procedures were somehow evil.So the poisons built up behind the blockage and eventually killed her.
Some rumors went around later that Loma had died of colon cancer, but I think those were apocryphal. Herbert's grandson Mark was heard commenting in a pharmacy when going by the "Metamucil" display... "There's that stuff that killed my Grandma." She had a life-long problem with constipation, and thus used Metamucil to alleviate that. But the label clearly says to be careful... because the product CAN swell up and block the bowel!
Yes, it wasn't just kids who died horrible, STUPID deaths from the stupid teachings...
HWA was a man of contradictions. He touted the heretical idea that humans were to become god "as god is god." This led to the pilot for Quest 77. It was entitled "Human Potential." It dealt with our wonderful, god-given potential. But he utterly deprecated the lay membership of the WCG. He wrote and stated that the lay membership was only important insofar as they supported him in the "Great Commission." The Great Commission was the important work, not the work that god was doing in the lives of the lay membership that they might achieve their full salvific potential. He accused lay members of trying to "get" salvation. He repeated this many times. And, oddly, he claimed that if lay members did not do their duty (read "send him more money") god did not really need them and would raise up stones to complete the work. This latter assertion was via a misappropriate of scripture. I always felt that a good rejoinder to this would be that maybe the lay membership should bow out, keep their tithes and offerings, and let Herbert rely on the stones.
It was actually Joseph Tkach Senior, who is probably relegated to a low estate by most Armstrongites, that wrote a column in the Worlwide News and made the anti-Pelagian claim that the most important work that god was doing was the creative work in the lives of lay members. This went clearly against the grain of classical Armstrongism, if you regard classical Armstrongism to be anything that HWA said. I pointed this out to an elder in the congregation that I was attending when the column as published and he seemed a little stunned. It was if he had never realized that HWA had been engaged in the systematic deprecation of the lay membership.
More could be said about HWA but I knew an AC student who had appendicitis at Big Sandy and refused medical care because of indoctrination. He suffered greatly for lack of a simple medical procedure and finally the skin above the appendix broke open and the appendix drained. He related this to me himself. He is lucky to be alive.
I did rely on the Stones to get me through my years in Armstrongism, but perhaps not as old Hog Jowls would have envisioned. Mick, Keith, and the boys laid down a soundtrack that functioned as an awesome antidote to Armstrong-induced depression.
I heard on the radio the other day that polio is very nearly eradicated, and that when the World Health Organization is certain that the virus is extinct, they will begin somewhat complex measures to end the program. Imagine that we have seen that in our lifetimes.
HWA: Brutal callous sociopathic dictator.
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