Friday, 17 June 2016
Number crunching and the 2016 FOT
Prestige comes with big feast sites. But just as important (perhaps more so) is money. Holy Day offerings are a huge boost to the sponsoring church's income stream. If people stay away, income will fall.
News is that LCG feast enrollment this year is sluggish, and the enforcer-ministry has been told to kick the sluggards into action quick-smart. There are growing indications, however, that LCG isn't an outlier in this trend. Other COGs may be facing an embarrassing decline in attendance this year too.
Herbert Armstrong created the Feast of Tabernacles traditions as we know them today. He ignored the Jewish precedents and largely made it up as he went. The proof texting basis for the way WCG did it - and now UCG. LCG, PCG, CGI and others - is shaky at best, and verging on dishonest. If you wanted to honor the Old Testament Holy Days, there are better alternatives.
How many brethren really, honestly save a full second tithe? How many can really afford the week away from work and school? How many despair when it comes to scraping up those additional Holy Day offerings?
And how many are heartily sick of the annual refrain "best feast ever" when clearly it wasn't.
This year's attendance figures may indicate the way of things to come.
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I had forgotten that dismal "best feast ever" refrain. It is difficult to have it brought to mind again. The expression drips of control, oppression and domination with a brutal, cold, autocratic smile.
The mindset of long term ACOG members is fairly strong. It is possible that some of these people have become tired of the abusive authority, the constant guilt tripping, and the laissez faire treatment regarding sin as pertains to ministerial "pets", but are still beholden to the basic doctrinal package. Some may be going "underground" by ditching the organizations and going independent. There are non-aligned Feast Sites, with no authority structure, meaning that the independent members can even drive a few miles, attend services at a another site, and see old friends from whom they were arbitrarily cut off by the group leaders. Well, that is, at least or until somebody "rats".
I've heard rumors to the effect that some occasionally attend sabbath services with the messianic groups, or even the SDA's.
The freedom must be like a breath of fresh air, knowing the gestapo doesn't have them under surveillance.
Dare we hope it's a positive sign that members are beginning to think for themselves, and maybe even that some of our ramblings are being read by people still 'in the fold' in one of the off-shoots?
That would be a nice thought. :-)
Have a nice weekend everyone
I wonder how many who attend the F of T skip many of the services?
Feasts for many ACoGs have become vacations with one service a day (except on the holydays and the Sabbath), replete with family days, senior get-togethers, singles activities, dinners, lunches and a whole host of activities not at all Feast related, depending upon the corporate accommodations. It's not like the Seventh Day Church of God with their Feast concentrating on Jesus, salvation, redemption and the Bible.
But still it's not enough. Perhaps its because the core of it is boring physical rituals meant to keep ancient Israelites cohesive without the slightest chance of attaining salvation or receiving the Holy Spirit.
It is in that spirit that this suggestion is made: If you're going to try to be Olde Testament Christians following the Law of Moses, but without the animal sacrifices, what you need to do is make the proceedings more interesting and challenging. The little children can go and collect the appropriate rocks. The teens can make signs and get bigger rocks. The adults can set up the observation perimeter and prepare the pits. There will be an air of mystery as the choices are made.
At the high point of the Feast as people have prepared for the main event, the chosen ones can come out dressed in their special robes and brought before the congregation at which time the real festivities begin.
We know the Armstrongists will want to do this right.
Then the people together with one mind will pick up the stones and slay the false prophets, just like it is commanded in Deuteronomy.
And when it is all over, and the broken dead bodies are piled in a heap and burned for good measure, they will be covered with dirt with a stone monument on top. Then everyone can return refreshed, from the BEST FEAST EVER!!!!
The way the FoT is kept by Armstrongites was entirely manufactured by HWA. The original OT language indicated that Israelites were supposed to evacuate their homes and stay in brush arbors. There is no mention of the Holiday Inn. HWA made an executive decision, even prior to his being defined as "The Apostle", that there would be a modern, more convenient, implementation of the OT requirements. Not many women would want to sleep in the bushes. The brush arbor approach, no doubt, would have been an impediment to the growth of church membership (read: tithe base). Money does make a difference in Armstrongite theology and how literally the Bible is to be read.
The effect of this is a re-configuration of Biblical history by Armstrongites. My guess, without a survey, is that most Armstrongites envision ancient Israelites converging on Jerusalem or some other designated location and staying in inns and eating in restaurants and going to the amusement parks of the day. Hence, they feel that the modern Armstrongite FoT observance tracks very closely with what ancient Israel did.
If Armstrongites understood the large distance between their FoT and what was done in the OT, they might be led to ask questions about the theological validity of their OT practice. Does anybody really keep the Sabbath as the OT intended? Doesn't this mean that there OT practice is just a sort of presumptuous theater?
With more and more COG members moving into Social Security mode, and with no savings, the financial pressure of the FOT is increasing.
"And how many are heartily sick of the annual refrain "best feast ever" when clearly it wasn't."
Indeed. The way the COGs observe the Feast of Tabernacles is very different from how it is described in the Old Testament. It was celebrated in one's home. They did not go to some eight day indoctrination conference far away from home. They celebrated it in their own homes. Today Jews build booths (sukkot) on their properties and celebrated at home or go to family and celebrate it there.
They do not save up a second tithe and go to some conference to meet up with everyone else. But clearly HWA did not understand such things about the Feast of Tabernacles and devised his own "man made traditions" around it.
Many other churches have a yearly conference of some sort. Often these conferences only last for a weekend so it is not necessary to take children away from school. That is what the Armstrongite FoT is. A yearly conference that inconveniently lasts for eight days.
It is terrible that HWA exploited a beautiful Jewish festival which was celebrated at home and turned it into a burden for his followers celebrated in some place far away from home.
We are supposed to grow in grace and knowledge. Does anyone GROW in knowledge at the F of T or are they simply given the same old messages that reinforce what they learned years ago? How many times do I recall HWA coming down to the gymnasium at AC in Pasadena for Friday night Bible study. So many times he would want to go over the same old sermon notes about Genesis 1. "Bohu and Tohu . . . . blah, blah, blah." There was one speaker that I remember enjoying, but he didn't speak very often at all, David Jon Hill. Perhaps he was a bit liquored up at the time, I don't know. David Antion seemed to have a heart. Herman Hoeh was incomprehensible. Roderick Meredith was just a tyrant.
The tithing system, as I look back on it today, was unbelievably burdensome. It's a wonder my younger child wasn't born with rickets from the diet I had when I was carrying her. It took us months to recover from the unpaid time off for the FOT, unpaid because my husband was a school teacher and naturally expected to take his vacations in the summertime when school was out of session. And we were better off than many members of our congregation who had jobs that didn't pay as well or were seasonal. Some members wisely used second tithe to buy decent school clothes for their school-age children, giving the clothes to them as "feast gifts."
Having been a true believer who grew up in the WCG, I had a mostly uncritical respect and affection for HWA. I remember being eighteen years old and defending his 1973 "two trees" sermon to a couple of my brighter peers, who rightly complained that it was boring. I convinced myself that these sermons were "deceptively simple," and refused to acknowledge the hypocrisy and immorality of HWA's lifestyle that was paid for by the sacrifices of church members.
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