Sunday 30 October 2016

Giving air to the sprats

I've wondered more than once whether giving prominence to the tiddlers - the sprats - in the COG fishpond is counterproductive. There are, after all, the (usually) larger higher-profile splinters, and then a ratbag assortment of nutters with memberships south of a few thousand - or much less.

These sprats are hardly representative of the "greater" COG movement. I mean, James Malm? Gimme a break. Bob Thiel is little more (IMHO) than a legend in his own lunchtime. Even PCG with its mega-expensive investments in Edmond can command only a comparatively small membership of loyal donors (did somebody mention 6,000?)

More than that the Packatollah, Mark Armstrong, Weinland et al are doctrinally  among the most deviant of the splinters. Bob is a prophet? Do tell! Give them due credit, they're "innovative", but in this case it's hardly a compliment. It's so easy to cite these fringe folk and attribute their bizzareness to "Armstrongism" in general.

Of course this assortment of one-man ministries all trace themselves back to the Herbal Empire. So do a gaggle of polygamist sects to the Mormon and Community of Christ churches. But it would be highly unfair to confuse the more sophisticated LDS and CofC with their dipstick relatives. Similarly, Laestadian Lutherans are a million miles from the ELCA (or even the LCMS); confuse them at your peril.

My point - up for discussion - is that the big targets - the ones aiming for acceptance and respectability - are the ones to go for. Malm and co. are largely distractions, yelling, gibbering and whining from the sidelines. Their leaders inevitably die, and thus the organization, such as it is. Better perhaps to ignore them rather than provide them with unwarranted publicity. UCG, LCG, COGWA are the big three (you could argue PCG's case too). They set the benchmark in latter-day COGism. They're a bit duller and fuzzier than the screechers because they play church more successfully, but they, not the others, are nonetheless the standard bearers of British Israelism, an often oppressive tithing system and a nineteenth-century abuse of Bible texts to justify a silly, and often dangerous, non-understanding of what they call 'prophecy'. And they have the critical mass to survive leadership upheavals.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Mixed bag.

On one hand, the lower retards don't have the numbers seemingly to warrant attention. Maybe concentrating on the big fish managing to spin off minnows should be targeted.

But how would we all feel if one of the guppies turned savage, a la People's Temple Jim Jones style and we missed the warning signs because we ignored it? Suppose that David Pack went off the rails with the RCG as he continues his slide into delusional madness and suddenly became an Yisrael Hawkins with a House of Yahweh, replete with child labor law violations and pedophilia (as noted on Dr. Phil periodically)?

I would personally feel much more comfortable if there was a continuing examination of the fringe sects of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia. We might be able to give a head's up to some of the members looking for answers. Heaven only knows The Journal won't. Well, actually, heaven isn't the only one who knows.

Perhaps it is well to remember a decade ago where there was an exodus from a certain sect of a cult where members were unhappy and quite dissatisfied: They finally left en masse thanks partially to those of us taking note of the behavior of their cultmeisters.

It isn't just an academic exercise. There's oppression in those small groups. They are weird and creepy and are a threat to mental health as well as sapping the time, energy and money from people who can least afford it -- along with the impact on the children in the group.

How likely is it that a kook leader gives off all the signs of giving postal and finally going around the bend? What if a group of 3,000 decides that it needs to go to Petra for a Place of Safety now, where they will be subjected to a lingering painful death? 5%? 10%? 50/50 chance?

It may be doubtful that there is anywhere north of a 60% chance of a devastating human disaster.

But just to be on the safe side, wouldn't it be better to never have to hear, "But you never told us so!"?

Byker Bob said...

Criteria is where it's at. Attention to the anchovies should perhaps be offense-based. Let's face it, who would even know that North Korea even existed if they were not ominously playing with rockets and bombs?

We're always going to need to watch Dave Pack, regardless of his dwindling numbers, because he's got a widely recognized mean-spirited history. Malm is an amusing legalist, Thiel constantly complains that nobody recognizes him as a prophet, so why should we pay him any mind at all? Eric King would plainly rather be a rock star, and David Hulme seems to have lost interest and momentum. It's not terribly likely that someone wishing to jetison B.I. would be establishing a place of safety from the Germans.

Mark Armstrong appears to have become an ultra-right wing commentator, and some of the GTA groups are chiefly interested in promoting a reformed version of Armstrongism.

UCG has isolated bad incidents, as well as breaches in ethics, but comes off as relatively benign. Nobody seems to know a heck of a lot about the COGawa. So the chief miscreants are LCG, PCG, and RCG. And, that's the way the news seems to shake out, the majority coming from those three groups, with occasional humor from the others.

In terms of damage control, I'd say shut down the free publicity for the minnows, but continue monitoring them. None of the Armstrongist groups is truly safe.


Byker Bob said...

It should also be noted that not a single splinter has demonstrated any growth potential, let alone the classic 30%. They are largely contained, but could still inflict pain or death on their own remaining members.


Miguel de la Rodente said...

I wonder. What about the reverse? Are there pro-armstrong sites where the "dissident" blog site owners and their regular posters are referred to by name and their ideas taken to task? I can recall some being named in the Journal, or in extreme cases on COGwriter. But, I believe that most of the proponents of Armstrongism don't want their members even knowing about outside sources, lest they attract members seen as being weak, making some sense along the way.

Anonymous said...

There are several really good reasons for including the small fry.

1) They may have an unusual or bizarre take on Armstrongism. You know, if they are steak and potatoes, bread and butter, rank and file, down the line apologists for the doctrines and teachings of Herbert Armstrong and just 'more of the same' they aren't very interesting and have no particular reason to be researched. But give us something deviant and really juicy... well, we're off and running! Infotainment at its best!

2) They are particularly obnoxious or downright dangerous. They should be examined if they present any sort of clear and present danger.

3) They have a disportionate impact on other Armstrongist churches of God. For example, the Eternal Church of God had a program several years back insisting that members should not eat out in restaurants on the Sabbath. They had a page for "The Devil's Restaurant". This had quite an impact, particularly for members in the UCG who quietly picked up the mantra and stopped going to restaurants on the Sabbath. Like it or not, James Russell over at the Church of God in Truth has made postponements an issue and has impacted other churches of God. Even Ronald Weinland had an impact as several other churches of God at least pondered his proposition that Christ would return on Pentecost instead of the Feast of Trumpets.


Anonymous said...

I think the sprats are mostly a curiosity. They don't seem to be a bellwether for the larger fish. My belief is that as these churches repeatedly fractionate they will become more and more idiosyncratic. A product has to be differentiated from other products to be viable. And Armstrongism, above all, is a business. This differentiation may led to more startling heresies and practices.

I regard this deep dive into idiosyncrasy by these fractals as a kind of curious sociological study. But this fractionating/differentiation process could easily lead to something pathological where people get hurt physically. (Zum Beispiel, the Branch Davidians - near cousins to the Armstrongists congregations).

The Davidians seemed to have disconnected from reality and thought the commonplace events around them were prophesied in the Book of Revelation. And they thought Vernon Howell was the Messiah or something like that. It was like they all had a bad acid trip and were experiencing mass hallucinations. This is a little creepy. I recall one of the congregations in this State broke away from the main body and before long they proclaimed that one of their members had the gift of prophesy. And then a bunch of them started moving to California because of some supposed divine directive. And I used to attend services with these people and they all seemed pretty normal.

Overall, I think it is unlikely we would know about such bizarre events until they hit the newspaper or unless they started advertising in the back of Dixon's rag. These people are secretive and carefully manage information as they learned when they were in the WCG.

I recall reading that an Armstrongist minister in Texas, somewhere near Big Sandy, had made contact with members of a small sprat that had withdrawn from society.

There are probably a lot more sprats than we know about.

Anonymous said...

NEO, to tell the truth, your observations are on spot.

Be aware that they apply to Herbert Armstrong as he broke away from the Church of God Seventh Day: The 'church' (cult) he started was a business and it became more and more idosycratic; it led to startling heresies and practices. And you may note that during the seventies, the Worldwide Church of God not only hit the newspapers but ended up with a segment on 60 minutes. The Armstrongists have disconnected from reality. Consider this example from Banned!:

"British Israelism is in fact correct. Why? Because my prayer answering God has confirmed it's truthfulness."

Not that we don't get similar nuttiness here from time to time.

The Armstrongists all seem to have disconnected from reality and thought the commonplace events around them were prophesied in the Book of Revelation.

One could argue that Armstrongism is a sprat itself, considering that the Church of God Seventh Day has 300,000 members according to its website or 400,000 if you believe "The Journey". The largest group in Armstrongism is what, 10,000 people. Isn't that a minority.

While we're on the topic of The Journal, well, it shouldn't exist. It's masthead reads "News of the Churches of God" while it ignores the largest church of God today, the Church of God Seventh Day. The masthead should read, "Advertising for the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia". It would at least be somewhat more accurate. The whole of The Journal is like those local advertising flyers we got hawking the wares of various businesses with a few articles added to try to give it an appearance of relevance and credibility. If The Journal seriously wants cred, totally drop the advertising and go straight on for the real news of the Armstrongist cult giving us such things as the statistics of declining membership and which ones have ministers under indictment for pedophilia.

People should be given clear choices.

Of course, when speaking of Armstrongism, it's all a hoax and has no viability at all except as very bad alternative world history science fiction, remembering that Donna Kossy labelled Herbert Armstrong as a kook and made a very good case for it with the accompanying crackpotology.

Byker Bob said...

As a Christian myself, I believe that God confirms things through actions and events, not through warm fuzzy feelings one gets while in prayer. So far, God hasn't confirmed jack diddley about Armstrongism. People have been fanning those flames for over 40 years past the due date, and they just never catch. The predators exploiting it sure have made a whole lot of money from peoples' fear and misery though.


Anonymous said...

"So far, God hasn't confirmed jack diddley about Armstrongism"

Indeed, all we have to do is look at Herbert Armstrong's prophetic record to demonstrate how wrong Herbert Armstrong has been.

And we all need to remember that Herbert Armstrong said that "British Israelism is the key to prophecy".

Perhaps behind the scenes, God inspired all the research to demonstrate that Armstrongism is wrong at every turn.

And if he couldn't get that right, it's a sure bet that he absolutely did not have a way to salvation for anyone; therefore, he was useless.

Byker Bob said...

I'd just love it if that person would have it confirmed in his prayers that a skunk that wandered into his backyard was a black and white house cat

Anonymous said...

It all devolves into a micro-sprat. Internal disagreement. Successive fractionation.
Until one day you have a group of seven people sitting in a little meeting room talking about how they are the one and only true church and everyone else is on their way to Gehenna. I mean, that's the way it has to be, right?

Some guy in the congregation decides that mushrooms and strawberries are unclean (a real example of an issue that led to a sprat forming in Big Sandy in 1971.) He announces it to everyone and some are convinced to follow him. The rest have rejected the truth revealed by God to them through this guy. Hence, they have lost salvation. God has not opened their minds to the truth of mushrooms and straberries. And I think maybe kiwis. I know there was something else.

This same group of mushroomers are hoarding food in order to survive the tribulation. Does this mean they have rejected Petra? I don't remember the deal there. Just think how excited they are. They know the truth and are obedient to it. When everyone else is starving they are going to be eating well. Such a surge of ego and self-gratification.

Oh,well. I don't know whatever happened to these people. Maybe there is a sprat swimming out there somewhere still.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, yes. Reminiscent of Carl O'Bern and his insistence that the Feast of Tabernacles should be celebrated by making temporary booths from literal palm fronds. He introduced this in Spokane during a Bible Study by creating a faux question on the subject and commenting that "We will be hearing more about this from Headquarters". Headquarters, of course didn't know a thing about it. The story I got is that he got an inheritance and had enough to become independent from the Radio Church of God and founded his own CoG somewhere in the Midwest. He also had some nutty ideas about when the Feast was kept that involved finding ripe barley in the spring in Jerusalem or thereabouts.

It isn't clear what has happened to him and his flock, but he was still around somewhere a decade ago.

Let's hope he disappeared without a trace.

Anonymous said...

I recall O'Beirn. I don't think he was a mushroomer. Someone told me he thought people shouldn't eat corn - that was food for animals. I think the mushroomers thought that potatoes were unclean also. Mushrooms and strawberries and potatoes don't reproduce using seeds, so they are not covered as being food by the language in Genesis. O'Beirn's daughter was attending the BS campus while I was there. I knew there was some kind of problem concerning O'Beirn but did not know the details. There was talk.

People are OT weenies only up to a point. They might be rigid about observing the Feast at the stroke of sunset. They might stress over how they parcel out their second tithe. But they are not going to live in a brush arbor for eight days or carry a little shovel with them, dig a hole to defecate in and cover it up as the OT prescribes. Can you imagine one of the COG leaders telling his wife they are not going to stay at the top drawer hotel exclusively reserved for the ministry at the Feast this coming year but will keep a real OT Feast - get your little shovel ready?

Anonymous said...

Yes, NEO, we attended the Feast with the Church of God in Peace and Truth. It was anything but. We were pretty sure that the minister had inherited the anger / warrior genes and his wife had red hair. His booklets were inflammatory and belligerent. I suppose that most ministers who suffered through the Global Church of God may have been inclined to the same sort of anger management issues.

And he was a stickler for 'the law of God', insisting that it would be in full force during the millennium with the same full force as Sharia Law and quite as Draconian. There would be no latitude for repentance and mercy. He also expressed the opinion that The Last Great Day -- second resurrection / Great White Throne Judgement -- would last thousands of years with the same Draconian Measures of the Old Testament transported forward for the hapless victims of the Government of God.

The both of us had a running joke about carrying paddles (to go off into the nearby woods to relieve ourselves) and expressed wonder that people at services weren't carrying around their paddles. We laughed ourselves silly.

And that's just it, isn't it?

All of Armstrongism is laughable (and with no real redeeming social values): Opinions of overbearing bully ministers in charge raised to the level of immutable doctrine, infractions of which would lead to the dire consequences of public flogging or worse.

For the millennium and second resurrection we can look forward to beatings, stonings and burning at the stake for thousands of years.

Peace and truth? We had the best unit of the accommodations and when the snow fell that prevented most of the rest of the congregation from services, we were warm and comfortable in our little lodge (with the big stuffed chairs and fireplace), cozy, in a millennial type setting, if you could call such luxurious settings millennial.

Living well is the best... vengeance.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the question of sprats could be resolved another way: Pick the groups that produce their own printed magazines. This would include the Church of the Great God with the Forerunner (shades of Toyota) and the Church of God in Truth with its Prove All Things magazine (which should probably be renamed to Proof Read All Things, given its propensity for some of the most funny misprints ever -- my personal favorite: Herbert Armstrong, Pasture General; oh, do watch where you step!).

Anonymous said...

There is another type of consideration: Just how weird they are and what sort of press they have.

Consider False Prophet Robert Thiel and his book outlining the impact of Hillary Clinton.

Thiel has a book at and the Presidential Election has shown what a kook he is.

That deserves coverage, I would think.

Hoss said...

And Bob was quick to denounce Don Billingsley (I'd classify COGFF as a sprat) on the attention he got for HRC's victory announced to him by revelation. Sometimes size doesn't matter...

Anonymous said...

Hoss, really??!!!

CoGFF a sprat???!!


Not with 17 pages of advertising in The Journal (once upon a time)!

Hey! That it! Cover all the groups that show up in The Journal!

Anonymous said...

American sprats will now have a president they can truly love. If he were a little more glib, he would be GTA.

Hoss said...

CoGFF a sprat???!!

Okay, I stand corrected. Maybe COGFF is a puffer-sprat.

Good call, cover the COGs that are Journal material.

Anonymous said...

But Hoss, wouldn't that temp the ACoGs to try to figure out how to get into The Journal so they can have a spot on Ambassador Watch?

Hoss said...

Sorry that I forgot the magic words that cover all such situations: Conditions Apply.

Anonymous said...

I just heard that The Donald is appointing members of his family to key positions in the Transition Team. Isn't amazing how God "works in families." Just like the WCG.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Otagosh survived the earthquake. He could be digging out.

Anonymous said...

Well, perhaps we should start to be concerned about Armstrongist groups committing mass suicide under nutty leaders in a Jim Jones / Jonestown sort of way -- some of the leaders of the cult sects are beginning to have a psycho melt down.

And when it comes to a Heaven's Gate extinction event, size doesn't really matter.

So it might be well to watch some of the sprats that may need to be on suicide watch.

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Redfox712 said...

In 2015 Gerald Flurry banned smartphones for students at Imperial Academy and the unaccredited Herbert W. Armstrong College. This was mentioned in a recent article by Stephen Flurry.

>>A teacher at our K-12 school, Imperial Academy, told me recently that many of his students fail to consistently turn in their daily homework assignments. That is alarming. Early last year, my father, who founded Imperial Academy and Armstrong College, found it necessary to ban smartphones for students at both schools. If you are a parent of an Imperial or Armstrong student, do you diligently enforce this ruling? Do you supervise your child’s Internet usage? (Stephen Flurry, God’s Interest in Our Young People, November 16, 2016.)<<

The article may be seen here:

Hoss said... you diligently enforce this ruling?

The whole monstrosity of control does not lead to a good outcome. Children will not learn the responsible use of technology, just ways to get around the "rulings". As Princess Leia put it, "the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

Anonymous said...

My what a lovely cell phone you've taken away!

All the better to cover up malfeasance, my dear!

Redfox712 said...

PCG's latest issue of their recruitment magazine has come out now. Here is a little overview of it. Sad to say a lot of it scare mongers about African Americans launching a "race war" or "race riot" against the white majority. Just shameful and disgusting.

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