30 years in the
Worldwide Church of God
Part one, Part two, Part three, Part four Part five
March 9, 2001
This long letter is an incomplete hodge-podge of things I remember from 30 years in the Worldwide Church of God. I believe in naming names, including my own. I have used full names when the individuals involved either did something good or knowingly did something bad, and withheld names when I believe the person involved was not being hypocritical. I have tried to be balanced by telling good things as well as bad things. I sincerely hope this memoir is not overly verbose, and that it helps someone who may read it someday.
May God open everyone's mind to the understanding that our minds are the most precious thing we have, and we must all someday be called into account for what we have done with our minds. I now want my mind to be open to new possibilities and tolerant of all other people, because we are all made in God's image even if we don't all think alike.
(1) Overall autobiography and church history:
I grew up in Winston-Salem, NC; graduated from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC in January, 1967 with a degree in mathematics; got into computer programming as a career; worked at Duke University in Durham, NC until December, 1969. My parents were not cult members, but rather were mainstream Christians (my dad was Episcopalian, my mom's dad was a lay minister in the Advent Christian Church, they tried the Baptist Church in my home town, then settled on a Methodist Church). I attended a Methodist Church when I was young, got into a lot of trouble in my school when I was in the eighth grade, and so my parents decided to send me to a private high school. The only private high school in my home town at the time was a Catholic school, so I attended a Roman Catholic High School for four years but remained a Methodist. I never attended any of the religion classes in my high school, but I did attend several obligatory school-wide masses, and I also really loved my four years of high school Latin, so I became quite familiar with many Roman Catholic Church teachings, practices, and the celebration of the mass.
I had an older brother who also attended the same Catholic high school that I did. He became interested in the Catholic religion, and converted to Roman Catholicism during his junior year in college. He is married to an Iranian woman now, and I have no idea as to what his religious beliefs are other than supremely ecumenical (I'm OK, you're OK, we're all OK, ... cool!). He was a professional diplomat for 20 years, so that helps explain why he is so mellow. I was always somewhat hot-headed, perfectionistic, idealistic, arrogant, superior, and rebellious. Never in my life have I suffered from an inferiority complex.
When I was a senior in college I got into some serious legal trouble (drunken vandalism, not drugs), so I had to drop out of college for a year. It was during this year that I got sucked into the Worldly-wise Cult of HARMstrong (also called the Worldwide Church of God). I prefer to call Herbert W. Armstrong by other names now, such as Pervert W. HARMstrong, since he did so much harm to so many with his strong arm. Gerald Waterhouse always used to say that God chose HWA because he had a strong arm and was named Armstrong. We know now that he ruled us with a rod of iron and the strong-arm tactics of Stalin, so he was well named after all. And his son Garner Ted Armstrong is better named Gagner Stud HARMstrong, since he now makes any rational person gag, he is a lifelong sexual studaholic, and he also has done some very strong harm. But that is getting ahead of myself.
The first time I ever heard the World Tomorrow radio broadcast was while driving home from a New Year's Eve party on December 31, 1965. It was very late at night, I was surfing the radio stations, and suddenly came upon this charismatic voice talking about the dangers of a rapidly rearming modern Germany which now had the world's fastest moving battle tank, they were going to attack the United States in a very few years and destroy us, etc. etc. This caught my attention for some unknown reason. I had never been interested in this sort of thing before.
After I got in the church, I learned that one of the favorite topics of discussion was to describe how we first heard the radio broadcast and what first interested us. "How were you first called into the truth?" was the name of this parlor game. Now we ask each other "when did you first discover the truth about the 'alleged truth' and leave in disgust?"
Anyway, I found myself listening very intently to this radio broadcast. At the end of the 1/2-hour program the man said to write in care of this station for some free literature with more information about how Germany was going to kill us all very soon, so I wanted to write in, but the station was very far away and I couldn't hear the address to which I was supposed to write.
A week or two later I was talking with a good friend of mine in college, and he mentioned some Radio Church of God program he had heard on the radio. That sounded to me like what I had heard, so he gave me the address to write to. He and I were being sucked in at the same time. We both began listening every night to the World Tomorrow radio program and wrote in for every piece of literature offered. Pretty soon he was baptized and so was I. We attended the Fayetteville, NC church together for a few months, then he graduated and moved away, so I was on my own. I attended the Fayetteville, NC church from September, 1966 until January, 1967, when I graduated from college myself, moved to Durham, NC to work at Duke University, and found myself in the Greensboro, NC church area where I attended until December 1969.
I read in the Good News magazine in 1967 about the fantastic new computer system that God had inspired the IBM company to invent just so God's work could have a bigger, better, faster, cheaper computer system than anyone else on earth. There were flashy pictures of the equipment in the Good News magazine, and an appeal for any church members who were programmers to apply for a job. Since I was a programmer and was now a true believer, I wanted desperately to go to work for God's one and only true end-time destructive totalitarian wacko cult (getting ahead of myself again). Unfortunately, I couldn't leave North Carolina then because I was on legal probation from the trouble I had gotten into back in 1965. By the end of 1969 I was off of legal probation, finally free from personal debt, had no dependents, free to move anywhere, so the Ambassador College Data Processing Center offered me a job and I immediately accepted. I moved to Pasadena and started working there in January, 1970.
I was making about $11,000 per year at Duke University when I moved to Pasadena to work for about 1/3 less. Since I had no family and no debt, I was able to afford the pay cut and the move. My dad told me I was crazy to take a pay cut, but he respected my decision. Both my parents were glad I had finally found something to believe in (my new cult), even though they didn't agree with a lot of its teachings. I joined the headquarters church choir, attended Spokesman's Club in Pasadena, worked hard programming their computer all week long, and began socializing with the single women as I was single, too.
I married a fellow choir member in December, 1970 named Bonnie Bird. She had grown up on a farm in Kansas with 7 brothers and sisters. Their mother had been baptized in the WCG in the early 1950s, so Bonnie had been exposed to the cult's poison since she was five years old. She had no choice in the matter. I voluntarily started absorbing the poison when I was 22 years old, and had already started becoming mature in many areas of life before I got hooked on the poison. This is one reason why I was less severely affected by the mind control than so many others who never knew anything but the cult.
Bonnie attended "God's college" in Big Sandy, Texas, graduated in 1968, and then moved to Pasadena where she began working as the secretary-receptionist in the News Bureau. This was the small department that had five or six full-time employees whose job it was to scour all the English language publications on earth, no matter how obscure, and find proof of how God's end-time prophecies were coming to pass. Then these stories would be copied into a weekly report that was sent to all the ministers. Many of these stories were read to church brethren at weekly Bible studies or during Sabbath service announcements. This is how we all learned about the earthquakes, floods, disease epidemics, government overthrows, rabid dog bitings, and border wars happening in such major places as the Kingdom of West Elbonia. Of course this proved that the end was even nearer than anyone could have imagined, so we should all dig deeper, send in more tithes and offerings, and God would fire the starter's pistol again announcing the 14th or 15th gun lap.
I was a low-level employee at Headquarters for four and one half years. I had a couple of unordained friends who also worked there at much higher levels. I have heard a large percent of the top ministers speak in my church career, and during my last 15 years in the cult I was dealing with the ministry fairly extensively in my local field church area.
In early 1974 a breath of fresh air finally started blowing through the reeking, stinking mess at Deadquarters. God was opening up our minds to the "new truth" about divorce and remarriage, and also about the proper day on which to celebrate Pentecost. We finally knew the true meaning of the preposition "from" and how to count from zero to one. What morons we were. I used this opportunity to do some in-depth study of my own, and decided that the church was completely and provably wrong about two trivial issues: (1) celebrating birthdays was not sinful; and (2) the original set of seven deacons were not chosen by the apostles but were rather chosen (or maybe elected) by the members of the church and then the apostles rubber-stamped the election and "appointed" the deacons, perhaps more like merely announcing the results of the election. I kept these two new "truths" I believed in to myself because I knew rocking the boat was unwise. But the seeds of doubt were now planted in my mind.
One of my closest friends at AC/HQ, someone who also worked in Data Processing, once told me that if HWA had told him to go shoot someone that he would do it. He was that loyal. I remember thinking at the time, although I never told my friend, that if HWA were to tell me to go shoot someone that I would get a gun and go shoot HWA instead. There were certain lines of loyalty that I was not about to cross. I also guess now that I never really surrendered my mind totally.
We had one child in Pasadena. Then one of the biannual budget cutbacks finally had my name written on it. I was laid off in June, 1974. By this time quite a few of our friends at Deadquarters were becoming disenchanted with the hypocrisy, scandal, and provably wrong teachings of the church and had stopped attending. Bonnie and I decided that I should seek employment on the east coast of the USA so that we could be nearer both of our families (mine in North Carolina and Washington, DC; hers in Kansas, Minnesota, and North Carolina), and also so that we would be as far away as possible from the chaos in Pasadena yet still be in the church. I found a job offer in the Boston, Mass. area and we moved there. We hated that area immediately, probably because we had just left all our close friends behind in southern California. (I live near Boston again now but am actually enjoying it this time.) We stayed in the Boston area one year, then I got a job in Rockville, Maryland and we moved to the Washington, DC area in November, 1975. We attended the Washington, DC church from then on. I finally quit attending in June, 1996, but she still attends primarily now for social reasons.
While in the Washington, DC area we had three more children, I was ordained first as a deacon (1983), three years later (1986) as a local church elder, and I found myself making plenty of money. We never suffered financially at all because of the stinking doctrines on tithing and offerings. I simply made way too much money for 25% or 30% to be a problem.
After moving away from Pasadena, Bonnie and I both suffered from culture shock, especially because we had left all our close friends behind and moved way across the country. I continued to stay in touch with many of my Pasadena church friends, some of whom had drifted away, for the next 3 or 4 years. In 1977 I unexpectedly received issue # 2 of John Trechak's "Ambassador Report" in the mail. I assume some Pasadena friend had sent a sample copy to me. I secretly read the whole magazine and had my eyes opened to a lot of hideous scandal. I went to my office one Sunday and used my employer's phone to make a five-hour long distance call to a good friend in Pasadena with whom I discussed the Ambassador Report I had just read. He told me that he had been thrown in contact with many top men in Pasadena due to the nature of his job, and that in his opinion every single man there who was a pastor-ranked minister or higher with whom he had worked was corrupt. He told me that Gagner Stud had fornicated or committed adultery with Les McCullough's and Sherwin McMichael's wives, and that they retained their high-powered jobs, even though both men were hopelessly incompetent, as a form of bribery to keep them quiet. Since then I have also learned that, allegedly, the Stud king also bedded Rod Meredith's and Dennis Luker's wives. I do not know when all these beddings took place, so it may have been before these people were married. My close friend, who had dropped out of the WCG two years before this marathon phone call, also told me that the grand Stud boy had also groped the wife of someone else I knew. I withhold his name to spare him and his wife the embarrassment that the "top" leaders of the cult richly deserve, since he was never made corrupt, as far as I know.
At the time of marathon phone call with my good friend I thought that if GTA had ever groped or seduced my wife when we were both working at HQ I would definitely have shot that filthy bastard. I remember many sermons telling us not to commit adultery. Not only is this activity evil and immoral, but it is also unwise. Solomon wrote of the foolish adulterer who gets killed by an irate husband. Where were all the irate husbands in Pasadena when we really needed them?
Speaking of incompetence at high levels, I remember hearing Les McCullough give several sermons. His were the most boring I ever heard any minister give. He would usually spend about one half his sermon time talking about moose hunting in Alaska. Perhaps "Less" would be a better name for him. And Sherwin McMichael showed up as the local church pastor in Washington, DC while I was starting to move up in the management ranks (I was a songleader by then), so I got to observe this lethargic cretin at close range. He, too, is extremely incompetent at anything except perhaps whining. More about his whining later.
I thought about the Ambassador Report's revelations for a while, and decided to take the coward's way out by falling back on my belief in Herbie's teaching about "the government of God". This meant that God would solve the problems, I should obey the hypocritical leaders, be patient, keep paying my exorbitant tithes and offerings, and keep training up my children "God's way" (give them more and more cult poison). In the early 1980s when HWA flip-flopped yet again on the sinfulness of women's makeup, I knew immediately that the new teaching was completely absurd, but I went along with it because I was a true believer in "God's government".
I stayed a true believer until 1996. When the great sweeping changes began in late December 1994, I even preached a sermonette on how we should stay with the sinking ship, be loyal, and go along with whatever changes God wanted us to make. I was a local church elder by this time. I was trying to accept all the changes, but having more and more trouble. One morning when I was out walking around my neighborhood for exercise, I began thinking a lot about all that was going on in the WCG. I worked myself up into an angry state. All of a sudden I found myself saying out loud to myself "That god-damned church." I knew right away that something was terribly wrong.
In the late 1980s I heard a sermon in which we were shown that we were not a cult. Then in 1995-1996 the top leaders were openly admitting we had been a cult. That's when I really began to start wanting out. I became disgusted at myself for having been bamboozled for 30 years by a stinking brainwashing cult, and disgusted at the top leaders who appeared to be effeminate, craven cowards and weaklings compared to HWA.
In March, 1996 I attended a ministerial retreat in Pennsylvania at which the entire Gang of Four was present to instruct us more perfectly in God's way and to answer questions. The Gang of Four consisted of Joe Tkach Jr. (the new apostle, pastor general, pope, grand high poobah, or whatever), Mike Feazell (chief practitioner of effeminate, prayerful, public whining), Greg Albrecht (aggressive spokesman with a honeyed, syrupy voice), and Bernie Schnippert (the new keeper of the money bags).
I sent up the following question: "When I first came into this church, I was taught to unlearn everything I had ever learned, start reading the Bible, look into all these teachings, and to learn this new way. Thirty years later I am now being taught to unlearn everything I was told 30 years earlier was the real truth, read all these new proofs why the old proofs were wrong, and learn this newer new way. The only thing I know for sure now is that I can no longer trust my own intellect, even though I am a very intelligent person. I am very confused by all the changes. I feel the earth move under my feet. [I can't resist throwing in an occasional song lyric!] What should a totally bewildered and confused true believer do?"
The Gang of Four answered as follows: "If you are uncomfortable with this fellowship, then go find another Christ-centered fellowship with which you feel more comfortable." I was immediately impressed, but not favorably, with the fact that God's true "church" had been watered down into being merely a "fellowship". I also realized that I was now being told to go find the church of my choice and join it. This was also the exact opposite of what Herbert the Pervert and his Stud boy had told me 30 years earlier. I needed a mental trick to play on myself to allow me to leave the WCG without feeling guilty. Since I believed I still had to obey the top leader in God's government, I was very happy when that same top leader told me that it was all right to leave. Now I could leave without guilt, because I would simply be obeying God's government again.
I thought on this mess for another three months. Finally the Gang of Four, aided by their loyal wacko minion who was my local church pastor, all of whom were apparently trying to outdo each other in inventing new and "interesting" changes to force us all to make, made one change too many for me. The back-breaking straw had finally been put onto the back of my camel. I told my local church pastor in a private planning session in his home, at which two other local church elders were present, that I thought that the legal people in Pasadena should commence the process of giving all the assets and debts to another charitable organization, that we should quit pretending we were a real church, and that the Worldwide Church of God should officially disband and cease to exist. The pastor was SHOCKED that I felt this way. I thought I saw the two other elders present silently nodding their heads in agreement with my shocking statement, and I also thought there was a faint hint of a disgusted look of approval on their faces. I immediately quit attending.
(2) Bad things that happened to me as a result of being in God's true cult:
Probably the worst overall thing was the social isolation forced on all us true believers. We were to come out of the world and not associate closely with those still in the world (deceived by Satan into unwittingly being pagans). As a single young man in a field church, my dating possibilities were abysmal. I found two young women whom I wanted to date, and both of them went off to become students at Ambassador college. After a while I decided I needed to go to Pasadena if I ever wanted to find any women to date, and I eventually did just that when I moved there to work in the Data Processing Center.
I tried to socialize with and get to know people in my local field church. Many of the single men were goofy social misfits. Others were more normal. But almost no one would talk to others about serious personal problems. This is true of almost all people, but I didn't know that at the time. Unfortunately I arrived in the cult at a time in my development when I was still learning a lot about how human beings work. The cult taught me that we must always tell the truth. I assumed therefore that all others in the cult would tell the truth. This meant to my immature mind that people with problems would discuss their problems. There is even a scripture to that effect (confess your faults/sins to one another that you may pray for one another and thus be healed), which is why I thought church members would do this. Having never heard anyone talk about his problems, I began to assume that WCG members were special, different, didn't have major problems, and since we had all been called more or less randomly out of the world that therefore people in general also didn't have many serious problems. I came to believe that the masses of unconverted people were mostly just deceived, a few were really bad and sinful, but not many people anywhere had any serious problems. Also at this time (the late 1960s) we weren't continually hearing news reports of mass murders in high schools, six-year-old children murdering two-year-olds, priests molesting altar boys, presidents lying under oath, serial killers murdering and eating their victims, fathers raping their own daughters, husbands beating their wives to a pulp, or men beating their live-in girl friends' babies to death because they wouldn't stop crying.
Years later I was shocked when I heard that someone in the local church's women's speaking club had described in a speech how she had been abused by her ex-husband. How could such horrible things be happening to anyone in our society, let alone to a church member? Boy, was I in for a RUDE awakening. After leaving the church in 1996, I learned that daughter of the man who had been my closest friend during my years in Pasadena had been raped. Then after I left my wife in 1997 (more about this below), I started dating women again. It wasn't long before I made the horrible discovery that a HUGE percent of women in the USA have been raped, molested, or abused by their fathers, uncles, grandfathers, husbands, or others. At first I felt that only women in the WCG had been able probably to escape such abuse. Now I believe that the percentages are the same in and out of the cult, but I just never had the opportunity to hear WCG women tell of such things.
I never suffered financially because of tithing and making huge donations because I earned so much, especially after I was laid off by the Data Processing Center and really got into the mainstream of the American computer explosion. But now I wish I had the $250,000 or more that I gave to the WCG invested in my own retirement program.
Another bad thing that happened was that the woman whom I first married had grown up in the cult. Of course, at the time we were married this was viewed as a good thing, because we were told not to date non-members. She had imbibed all the cult's teachings as well as her mother's own strictly interpreted cult rules for not only child rearing but also for teaching young girls what to expect out of life as one of God's virtuous women. When she and I were engaged to be married in 1970, we went to a WCG minister for the required counseling session. We spent all of one hour discussing marriage with him. His basic attitude was that we were both in our mid-20s and thus mature enough to make our own decision. This was probably typical of most pre-marital counseling available in or out of the WCG in 1970. Some churches do much better than that now, and force people contemplating marriage within that church to undergo far more extensive counseling to make sure they both know how to live in peace with another human being, treat each other with patience and kindness, etc., and thus not have to come back for divorce counseling years later. She and I were divorced in 1999, and she still has trouble forgiving her mother for the poison her mother unwittingly put into her mind about how she thought women were supposed to be subservient to their husband-masters.
I had to take a 1/3 pay cut to leave my good job at Duke University and go to work at God's cult headquarters. I had considerable status and benefits as an employee at Duke; namely, if I had been a Duke employee when my children became old enough to attend college then all four of them could have had a free college education at either Duke or any other college that was not more expensive than Duke. That would have been worth $400,000 to $500,000, as Duke costs just as much to attend as Harvard or Stanford. I had such a cushy job there I am sure I would not have left if it hadn't been for the WCG.
I absorbed plenty of bad teaching and poisonously bad doctrines from the WCG. Their teachings merely served to enhance my natural tendencies, and I became much more righteously superior, perfectionistic, intolerant of others, and a Pharisaical control freak, than I was already. Now that I have stopped drinking from the WCG's cup of mental poison, I am trying to stop being this way, and it is hard. I also get angry much too quickly, especially when thinking about everyone's wasted years in the WCG. Most of my control freaking was in my mental attitudes towards others who couldn't seem to obey even the simplest rules, like giving turn signals in their cars before making turns or changing lanes.
I have lost all interest in religion, the Bible, learning about God, etc. I try to live a moral life and apply the golden rule to all situations. Intellectually I now accept that all the wonderful "truths" Herbie taught me were sheer bunk, but emotionally I still tend to hold on to many of them. Since I internalized Herbie's teaching that all other religions were wrong and pagan, and now it is manifest that Herbie's was too, I am left with no religion which I can stomach.
I was taught to accept government, especially one from the top down. From the reading and observations I have made since leaving the WCG, I am now utterly convinced that all human government forms are seriously manipulative and should be treated with the utmost skepticism. That goes for political governments, the management in the company where you work, and religion.
I was taught that psychologists and therapists were Satanic, I still wonder about them, and thus now have nowhere to go for professional help with my messed up head. I am learning a lot about healthy, happy living now from my second wife, who is a professional nurse and who has studied human behavior a lot and knows much better than I how human beings work.
In 1980 I was the manager of the Plain Truth Newsstand distribution program in the Washington, D.C. church area. We had one outlet at a news kiosk on the sidewalk about one block from the White House. This kiosk was run by an old guy named Jimmy. He had run that kiosk in that same spot for over 30 years. I talked to him occasionally while restocking the Plain Truth at his kiosk. He told me once that President Harry Truman had stopped at his kiosk once to buy something while he was out walking. I reported this up the chain of command, and the Headquarters guy in charge of news stand distribution asked me to go back to Jimmy, have a longer interview with him, and write it up for publishing in the Ministerial Bulletin.
I went back to see Jimmy, got some good anecdotes from him, wrote it all up, and turned it in to my local pastor Sherwin McMichael. He sent my article in to the Ministerial Bulletin with only two words changed: my name as the author of the article had been replaced with his (Sherwin's), as if he had done the interview and written the article. This dishonesty on the part of one of God's true ministers upset me somewhat, but I wasn't very surprised when he did it. He always looked and acted sleazy. More about carnal, unconverted Sherwin later.
Just as I was getting into the cult around 1966, two different times I found myself dating a young woman with whom I hit it off, and we were both obviously growing to be in love with each other. I had to turn my back on both of these women because they weren't church members. Then I got into the local church and found there was no one to date at all.
The cumulative effect of having more than one source for absolute truth and law produced a hopelessly impossible struggle. Herbie taught us to tithe multiple tithes; then there was an article in the Good News that showed how we should be saving up for rainy days; then the local minister would give us more of his opinions that we listeners viewed more like commands. We were supposed to pay all the tithes, make big offerings on the annual Holy Days, respond to all the emotional letters from HWA throughout the year, and still save 5% of our income for personal emergencies. Oh, yeah, and pay lots of federal and state taxes on the income, too. After a while I learned not to ask very many different ministers their opinion on the same subject; in other words, once I got the answer I was looking for, I didn't need to counsel with any more lest I get a conflicting opinion that would also become law or an even bigger burden would be laid on me.
Not only were we supposed to tithe on our money, but there was even an article in the Good News once about how we should tithe on our time. The idea was that since there are 24 hours in a day, maybe we should spend 2.4 hours every day being in contact with God. That would include personal private prayer, personal Bible study, family Bible study, family prayer, meditating, visiting other brethren, etc. This was so ridiculously and hopelessly impossible that I never even started to try to do this.
Another scripture we were taught to obey, that almost no one ever did, was to go to your brother privately if he has offended you. In my 30 years in the cult this happened to me only once, and the person who did it actually came to me two different times. I think he was overly sensitive about a lot of things, but at least he had the spiritual courage to do what we were all supposed to be doing. Another time when I was working in the Data Processing Center at Pasadena I said something to a fellow worker once when I was very angry and upset about something. A couple of weeks later my manager told me this other person had complained to his boss, who then told my boss, who then had to "counsel" me on my bad attitude. I got even angrier than originally at this other person's spiritual cowardice for not coming to me privately to tell me what a jerk I had been, even though I could not remember who he was. My wife complains immediately now whenever I upset her, and that is one of the main things I was looking for in a new soul mate. I want to be told quickly when I do bad, otherwise I will keep doing the bad behavior, think it is good, and just get worse and worse in how I treat others. Anyway, I now know how it feels to be denounced anonymously by a coward, and it is not pleasant.
The bottom line for all you who are reading this: if someone ever offends you and you complain about it to someone other than the person who offended you, YOU ARE A STINKING COWARD.
(3) Good things that happened to me in the cult:
It wasn't all bad being in God's true cult. I have come to realize that people generally stay where they are, keep doing what they are doing, working for the same employer, shopping at the same store, stay in the same church, etc., as long as the good outweighs the bad. Many good things accrued to me by being in a fundamentalist Christian cult, and the good outweighed the bad for a long time.
I found a woman whom I married, and we had four children. Although I ended up being divorced from her, at the time it happened getting married to her and our first few years together were a time of great joy to us both. And I would never have had the four wonderful children I have now if that had not happened.
Through peer pressure I was forced into joining the Spokesman's Club, in which I received valuable training in public speaking. I went through the club twice, and then was even able to be in a graduate Spokesman's Club. This public speaking training helped me immeasurably in my career as a computer programmer, because I have given about 150 technical presentations over a 20-year period to audiences ranging from 4 to 800. I was even on the Jeopardy! TV game show once, and found that I was able to relax completely, not freeze up in panic, and answer many questions quickly because I had long since gotten over my fear of public speaking and having a lot of attention focused on me.
Besides the public speaking training, I was also given considerable leadership training. My first leadership opportunity was in song leading, and I did very well at that because of my musical talent and ease at public speaking, thanks to the Spokesman's Club and the many on-the-job speaking opportunities I was having at the same time. Then I was ordained a deacon, and began managing a rather large Plain Truth newsstand distribution program in the Washington, DC area. I was able to attend the church's leadership training program, was chosen to be in the program of visiting members in their homes, and ultimately was ordained a Local Church Elder. I never felt as though I was supposed to spy on members on these visits, either. In fact, I would have refused to do so if asked to. I made a brief note to myself of what happened during each visit so that the next time I went to visit the same home I could remember what we had last talked about, the problems they were having, etc. I had too many people to visit to try to remember everything without writing something down each time. But I never let anyone else see my notes.
Even though we were allowed to socialize only among ourselves, nevertheless I was thus able to get to know many different types of people with whom I would never have chosen to associate otherwise. Since I was actually trying to inculcate the virtues taught by the leaders, I forced myself to learn to care about all other types of people and not just people most closely like myself.
I was able to sing in church choirs for about 15 years, including the Headquarters Church Choir in Pasadena, where we had an excellent choir director who even expanded my knowledge of music in an optional, after-hours series of classes.
I learned basic Christianity, such as the need to repent and be forgiven by God for my sins, to look into my own attitudes and seek to improve them, and I even learned that I must often bring myself to apologize to someone else for causing an offense. I would never have learned how to apologize if I hadn't gotten into a church that placed a heavy emphasis on personally internalizing all the true Christian virtues. When I was baptized, I was told not to expect any sudden, drastic, visible change. About two months later, I found myself apologizing to a fellow worker with whom I had gotten unnecessarily upset. This was the first time in my life I had ever voluntarily apologized to another adult. I was amazed that I was doing it, and attributed it to the addition of God's Holy Spirit to my mind.
I began studying the Bible, got interested in Hebrew and Greek word studies, eventually became so interested in languages that I now study different foreign languages a great deal of the time, and was forced to keep reading and learning. The WCG placed a huge emphasis on personal Bible study (all right, so we were spoon-fed the beliefs), I have always been intellectually inclined, and thus I found it very easy to keep reading, studying, learning, and growing mentally rather than stagnating and watching TV every night all those years. And now a study shows that Alzheimer's disease can be prevented, postponed, or mitigated by continuing to exercise one's brain through reading, studying, learning, etc. Sounds good to me!
Speaking of TV, the church also taught us that watching TV was a grand waste of time (except for the World Tomorrow, of course). This teaching has only gotten even more correct since I exited. Newton Minow called television "a vast wasteland" in the early 1960s, and today it is still total trash. I watch an occasional educational program on the Discovery, History, National Geographic, or Learning Channel and not much else. Even the news, which we were all forced to watch (Watch world news! Germany may attack us soon! World War III could break out any day now!) has gotten to where it's either completely liberal-biased propaganda or else outright entertainment designed merely to increase the ratings and thus the profitability of the giant corporations owning the television news businesses.
I was able to travel all over the world due to having enough second tithe that I could afford to take my family to the Feast of Tabernacles sites in many far-off lands. We went to England, Israel, New Zealand, Alaska, Czechoslovakia, Hawaii, Trinidad and Tobago, and Malaysia, all paid for out of our festival tithe. We took side trips to Scotland, Wales, Egypt, Australia, Japan (twice), Russia, and Venezuela. Not everything HWA said was wrong and evil. He said once that travel is education. I found this to be true, and educated myself and my family quite a bit through all the world travel we were able to afford because of our forced festival attendance. I was talking to my 24-year-old son recently about all the bad things that happened in the church (he exited around 1996 also), and he immediately said "Yeah, but we had a lot of great trips!" Maybe I should have been saving that money up for retirement or children's college education, but we did have some great trips.
I was forced to give up smoking because I wanted to be in the WCG more than I wanted to smoke. I would not have given it up otherwise. I smoked more and more from age 13 to age 22, then gave it up cold turkey. The WCG should not have been demanding that prospective members stop smoking before being allowed to attend services or be baptized, but I am grateful for that policy because of the health improvement it had on me. Smoking may not be the worst sin we can commit, but it does no good and only damages our bodies. I probably had a much better diet because of the church's wrong emphasis on clean and unclean meats, eating whole unprocessed foods, etc. I never got into drugs, either, because of the WCG's anti-drug teachings.
The church caused me to escape the devastating effects of being in the War in Vietnam, which occurred when I was of prime military service age. I didn't get shot at, step on a land mine or booby trap, get wounded or killed, turn into a drug addict, or have my mind ruined by being in Vietnam for a year as so many young men had to do in those days. I was willing and eager to go kill Communists in 1964. In fact, while a junior in college I even joined a US Marine Corps program to become a commissioned officer upon my college graduation in 1965. But by 1965 I had been forced to drop out of college because of the legal trouble I got into, the USMC didn't want me anymore, the Vietnam War had begun to intensify, and I was in a church that taught me that killing was wrong. I was very glad I didn't have to go to Vietnam.
I made many good friends in the church over 30 years, some of whom are still my friends. I have no associations any more with current members, only other drop-outs like myself.
While working at the church's Data Processing Center in 1971, I was sent to an IBM class on a particular piece of software that was a critical component of large, mainframe computers. I specialized in this one software program for the next 10 years, and after I left the church's employ in 1974 began getting ever better and better jobs in the computer industry. In the early 1970s the WCG's data processing was run by a very forward-thinking, aggressive, intelligent person named Keith Hunter, and we were way out on the leading edge of computer usage. I have managed to stay on the leading edge of mainframe computer software ever since, and today I have a tremendously fulfilling and well-paying job with a computer company that is one of the top five in the entire computer industry. I believe the work I did in Pasadena in the early 1970s was key to getting my career off to a flying start, and I am very grateful that that happened to me.
No one can ever know what might have been if things had happened differently in the past. A lot of very good things happened to me in the WCG, and I was fortunate that nothing really bad happened to me. No one in my family ever had a life-threatening illness during all those years when we thought the medical profession was of Satan. I never felt abused by anything that happened directly to me. We never suffered financially because of tithing. I never was asked to spy on or abuse members in any way. I never had an opportunity to be tempted by the corruption rampant at high levels in the WCG. Today I feel that the WCG raped my mind for 30 years, and I can see how I was sucked in by the subtle, clever, manipulative techniques of mind control. I was lucky, and got out relatively unscathed. I ache when I read stories on the Internet of people who were not so lucky.
(4) Good things I saw others do in the WCG:
At the entry level to the cult, I believe most of the members whom I knew were totally sincere and trying to do what they thought God wanted us all to do. We all prayed, studied, fasted, meditated, and tried to walk with God and grow in grace and knowledge in spite of the abusive manipulation going on, which we didn't recognize while it was happening to us. We totally believed in the professed goals and so-called commission of the church that HWA told us was part of God's plan. We definitely wanted to make any sacrifice necessary in order to save a few more humans from the horrific evils about to befall the entire planet. We had no idea of the corruption, self-dealing, hypocrisy, and scandalous behavior at the highest levels. Even when we did hear about it we continued on in our holy quest, just as the Bible heroes did. I had several opportunities in the 1980s to give significant help to members who were in temporary need by housing them in my home. We took in some strangers, and were thus doing it to Christ. And I know of others who did the same. Good things happened to me and my family, and we always attributed it to being blessed for doing what we sincerely believed we were supposed to be doing. Many others whom I knew also spoke of blessings they felt they had received for similar reasons.
I knew fairly well perhaps 15 different local church pastors, assistant pastors, and/or ministerial trainees over the 30 years I spent in the WCG. I never saw any of these men say or do anything that I thought indicated hypocrisy, abusiveness, or a lack of sincerity, with the possible exception of Sherwin McMichael, who generally seemed incompetent and disinterested. The very last one I knew quit his job as church pastor in order to move to Indonesia, where his wife had gotten a job as a secretary in the US embassy or a consulate over there. They made this move because she could earn more as a secretary in Indonesia than he could as a WCG minister in 1997. What an unbelievable state the WCG has fallen to in order for this to be true. At least he did this for the good of his children, which was a noble thing to do.
After HWA changed the WCG's teaching on divorce and remarriage in 1974, I learned that a pastor-ranked minister at HQ named Brian Knowles had written to apologize to all the people whom he had previously told had to split up in order to be church members. I have never heard of any other minister's doing this.
(5) Bad things I saw others do in the WCG:
In 1980 my first wife and I attended the Feast of Tabernacles in Rapid City, South Dakota. Herman Hoeh was the highest-ranking visiting speaker there. One day after services he held a question-and-answer session for whoever wanted to attend. My wife attended while I was busy with something else. She told me later about the milk of human kindness and great wisdom spewing forth from the mouth of this "evangelist" (Hoeh) who had received his "doctor of theology" degree from a "college" founded by a high school dropout (HWA).
One of the people with a question for the ministry at this session was a man from somewhere in the Midwest who was a fellow cult member along with his wife. They had an infant child that had suddenly stopped breathing in its crib more than once. This often leads to suffocation of the child, and is known as "sudden infant death syndrome" in the US, which is a fancy way of saying the child died but nobody knows why it stopped breathing. This couple needed counseling about the $20,000 they were told they would have to spend to install some sophisticated equipment in their home which would monitor their child's breathing and alert them if the child stopped breathing. They were in great emotional torment over their child's condition and the burdensome strain on their finances this huge extra expense would cause.
Hoeh's compassionate reply was why don't you just let your child die, save all that money, and you will see him again in the resurrection? This "wise" counsel from this man of God produced a great and immediate outcry of protest from the other minister present at this session, namely Art Docken. He greatly disagreed with Hoeh's brilliant diagnosis. I came away from the Feast actually hoping that somebody would go and shoot that bastard Hoeh and all others like him.
I can't remember anything else truly evil happening that I knew about, but I did experience several really stupid things of an anecdotal nature.
In July, 1967 there was a terribly destructive race riot in Detroit, Michigan in which many people were killed. A year or two later I found myself sitting in a marathon sermon given by Gerald Waterhouse, in which he started talking about the coming flight of the church (this was before 1972) and national destruction of the USA. This sermon was being given around November, and Christmas was in the air, but not amongst us true believers. Waterhouse started talking about how soon the whole US would be celebrating Christmas again about a month later. Then he got to talking about the race riot in Detroit. Then he put this all together and exclaimed dogmatically, prophetically, loudly, arrogantly, and very angrily that "There will be no Christmas in Detroit in 1972, brethren!!!!" This was because Detroit was going to be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. Well, it is now March, 2001, and I believe Detroit is still standing, but Waterhouse is not ranting and raving through any more of his absurd sermons.
While working at the Data Processing Center in Pasadena in the early 1970s, one night the computer people were supposed to go as a group to a Los Angeles Lakers' basketball game. I drove to the Forum, went in, found the seats where we were all sitting together, and promptly began cheering for the home team (the Lakers). I kept noticing that no one else in our little group was cheering. After a while a message was flashed on the big scoreboard in the center of the ceiling, something like "Welcome Ambassador College Data Processing Center". I immediately started cheering like crazy when I saw that. Again I was the only one in our group of 20 or 30 employees that was cheering. A few weeks later my manager had to talk to me about something wrong I had done on the job, and after he finished reaming me for that problem he brought up my "bad attitude" at the Lakers' game. Apparently it was considered unwise to cheer when our name was flashed on the big screen, because this was calling attention to ourselves. I took my medicine manfully, but I also privately thought to myself that that was a really stupid attitude he and everyone else had. I have always been rebellious like that.
While working in Pasadena from 1970 to 1974, I had several opportunities to attend cultural events sponsored by the WCG. One time HWA arranged for a concert to be held in the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, the guest conductor was to be an Israeli name Mendi Rodan, and the main piece to be performed was called "Paths". Before the concert occurred we had been given instruction during Sabbath service announcements on how to act at a concert, when to applaud, when not to applaud, etc., as if we were stupid farm children who had never been to the big city. We were also told that the music we would hear during that concert was unusual and a little avant-garde, but definitely of the highest quality because Mr. Armstrong had personally selected it. I attended the concert, and found "Paths" to be completely loathsome and boring due to its atonal nature.
Then when the Ambassador Auditorium was about to be opened a symphony orchestra from Vienna, Austria was hired to perform in the very first concert there. This time the conductor was the world-renowned Carlo Maria Giulini. Stan Rader, the top lawyer for HWA and all his growing empire, stated then that maestro Giulini was "a very beautiful man". Many of us privately wondered about this statement of his.
Before I moved to Pasadena to work in the Data Processing Center, I had worked at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina for three years in their computer center. As a faculty and staff employee at Duke I was allowed to use the students' physical education facilities. I had a locker in the men's' locker room and played either handball or volleyball every day at noon with one or another of my computer colleagues. All I had to do to reserve a handball court was to call someone in the physical education department and reserve the court in my name at a certain time for one hour. When I played handball it was always against just one other player, and the volleyball games never had more than 3 or 4 players on each side. I got a lot of vigorous exercise during these noontime games. Then I moved to Pasadena, started working at the computer center, and noticed that in the students' physical education building were several handball courts. One day at work I talked a coworker, Ron Hooper, into playing handball with me after work. I went over to the handball court, saw a sign-up sheet for the court, put my name down on the sheet for 6:00 P.M., then went back to work. At 6:00 Ron and I went to the court to play handball, and I got into a verbal argument with a certain deacon who was playing with a local elder in the same court that I had reserved. He told me that since there was no one in the court when they arrived that it was therefore free and I was out of luck. I started to argue heatedly with this jerk when my buddy Ron, who was more highly trained in survival skills at Headquarters than I was, told me to let this bozo have his way. Being a true believer in God's government, I called up both men that night to apologize. The deacon angrily accepted my apology. The local elder told me over the phone that he thought I had been right. Deacons were typically little Hitlers, and the elder was a sincere and still humble minister.
Around 1972 the WCG started its series of America, listen! campaigns, in which various top ministers from HQ would fly to big cities and do a religious revival type series of talks. One day I saw a friend who worked in the Church Administration Department ranting and raving about Sherwin McMichael, who was one of these campaign speakers. It seems that Sherwin was all upset because he couldn't have his own private jet plane like Herbie and Stud boy. They both had one, so why couldn't he? My friend actually called him Sherwin McAsshole then. I was privately shocked at such a display of disrespect. This same person told me in 1974 that he had been drinking rather heavily that year in order to deal with all the wretched things he was learning about that were going on in the ministry.
Around 1972 some top dog at Headquarters got the brilliant idea to open up the Crown City Commissary, which was to be a place where church and college employees could buy almost anything at a substantial discount. I was renting an apartment then that had no rugs, so I talked my landlord into letting me pay to have some carpeting installed in exchange for an equal reduction in rent. I went to the commissary to arrange the deal. They put me in touch with a professional carpeting business, the commissary would actually pay them, and I would get a nice discount from the carpeting firm's normal price. We needed $900 worth of carpets, and I was to get two months' free rent for this deal. The carpeting man came, installed the carpet, and then two months went by and still I had received no bill from the commissary. One day while buying other things at the commissary I casually asked the manager when they were going to send me my $900 bill. He said they didn't do that, and were happily waiting for me to pay them the $900 on my own. HELLO??? Is this a stupid way to run a business or what? About a year later, after the commissary had gone out of business, Herman Hoeh gave a sermon in which he said he had correctly predicted the exact reasons why the commissary would close up. He never told us what his reasons were. I immediately knew one reason, and that was the total incompetence and lack of business sense on the part of the commissary's management. Now I believe more sinisterly that it must have quickly also become the vehicle for vast ripoffs, in which as many personal items as possible were "bought" by top ministers but who never paid their bills because the morons at the commissary never sent any bills to anyone. And guess who got to pay the bills. Right, all of us loyal tithe-paying true believers. So were the commissary's management actually morons or were they accomplices in on the scam?
(6) Bad things I did to others while in the cult:
While working at the church's headquarters Data Processing Center, I wrote computer programs to help automate the processes involved in keeping track of the thousands of magazine subscribers, financial donors, etc. So I was one of many workers who were thus instrumental in magnifying the abilities of the WCG to ensnare more victims more quickly. Shame on me.
I was the manager of the Plain Truth newsstand distribution program in the Washington, DC church areas for about 10 years, from around 1978 to the late 1980s when the program was mercifully abolished. I thus helped spread the poison in printed form. I remember talking to a church member who was one of the most vigorous volunteers in that newsstand program. He had first seen the magazine in a magazine rack in a hospital where he had been a patient. Then he read it, became a member, and was paying back his big debt to God for calling him by helping to distribute the same magazine to others. He had a wonderful attitude of gratefulness and voluntary helpfulness, as so many of us did. Shame on us all.
I became a deacon and then a local church elder, so I also spread the poison to members through the many sermonettes, sermons, and Bible studies I gave. I expect that my heavenly Father will forgive me, for I knew not what I was doing. My most poisonous message was probably the time I preached mindless loyalty by trying to prove that the teaching on God's government was the rock-bottom, most important teaching of all, and we all needed to believe in that one especially hard. Shame on me.
I have signed the ministers' apology web page on the Painful Truth web site, although I was never guilty of any of the worst things that many control freak ministers did. I parroted the party line, however, and that makes me guilty and ashamed. I never spied on members or tried to micromanage their personal lives. I knew that wasn't right.
I became gradually more and more spiritually arrogant, self-righteous, and intolerant of others. I let my sick attitudes out from time to time in public displays of anger. Shame on me.
My wife in the church and I gradually grew apart over the years, and never really communicated with each other in the most important area in a marriage, which was our intimate, emotional attitudes of how we felt about what each other was doing that made us happy or bothered us. There were other factors involved, too, which I would rather not go into in this public way. Finally after 26 years I began feeling so hopelessly unhappy that I began thinking of the futility of life. I had already exited the cult by this time. During this period I began to understand why some people are driven to divorce, murder, and even suicide. In order to keep from advancing to where I thought I might become suicidal or even something worse, I decided to leave and start over. I had a job offer in Sacramento, California but was living in northern Virginia. The hardest thing I have ever done was to leave my two young teen-age children and head west. I cried almost constantly for the four days it took me to drive across the country. Now I am back on the east coast working near Boston, Mass. I get to see my children several times a year, but I miss them terribly. I didn't know what to do then and couldn't see any way to survive other than by leaving.
(7) Some thoughts on mind control:
Noam Chomsky has much to say on thought control at the national, political level, and there are obvious parallels in the way cults work. In his 1984 essay "The Manufacture of Consent", he discusses the difference between how a totalitarian and a democratic system controls its people. A totalitarian system is one in which physical force, such as torture or murder, is used to force people to act the way the leadership wants them to. According to Chomsky, a totalitarian system does not care what its people think, since it controls so rigidly what they can do. On the other hand, a democratic system is one which does not murder its own people, so thoughts are controlled and manipulated instead. Once people are trained to think only within the acceptable and allowable limits, then their actions will never be dangerous to the leadership.
For the purposes of understanding the following Chomsky quotes, assume that the WCG was a "democratic system" in the Chomsky sense. This does not mean that we were allowed to select our own leaders by popular ballot, but rather that the leaders did not physically torture or murder the nonconformists. Those who did dissent in ways that were not approved were emotionally tortured by being disfellowshipped (like the Amish practice of shunning) and spiritually murdered by being "turned over to Satan". Our cult was not totalitarian in the physical sense meant by Chomsky, but rather democratic. Now consider these quotes from his essay as published in "The Chomsky Reader:
"... Since the state [church] lacks the capacity to ensure obedience by force [physical murder, torture, incarceration], ... It is necessary to establish a framework for possible [allowable] thought that is constrained within the principles of the state religion. ... The critics [dissidents in the church] reinforce this system by tacitly accepting these doctrines, and confining their critique to tactical questions that arise within them. ... they [the critics] must accept without question or inquiry the fundamental doctrine that the state is benevolent [doing God's will]. ... If even the harshest critics tacitly adopt these premises, then, the ordinary person may ask, who am I to disagree? ... It is because of their notable [and unwitting] contribution to thought control that the critics are tolerated, indeed honored ...".
What this meant in the WCG was that intellectuals were allowed and even encouraged to submit research papers to HWA on ridiculously trivial questions that did not undermine the fundamental premise of any major doctrine. E.g., the absurd teaching forbidding the use of make-up by women had, as one of its Biblical "proofs", the fact that Jezebel painted her face, she was evil, and therefore painting one's face was evil. An intellectual might present a paper that said the following: "This particular scripture does not constitute rigorous enough proof for our obviously true teaching. The same verse which says Jezebel painted her face also says she bathed herself, so our Satanic critics outside the church might use this proof of ours to ridicule us and say that therefore bathing oneself is also pagan, so why are we not telling our church members to stop bathing? Therefore, Mr. Armstrong, I humbly suggest we bolster this important church teaching that make-up is pagan by the following additional scriptures blah blah blah ... and by the following obscure references I was able to find in the Talmud, Kabbala, and buried in four pages of fine print in the holy 11th edition of Encyclopedia Britannica blah blah blah ... (followed by many quotes "proving" that people in some ancient society viewed using make-up as sinful)". Such a research paper would be tolerated and its author greatly honored, especially by us dumb sheep. The man who submitted such a fine paper might even find himself being ordained soon thereafter, or raised in rank if already in the inner circle of ordained yes men. Wilbur Berg is a good example of someone who wrote the most moronic proofs and explanations of church teachings.
This is an example of dissenting within the allowable limits. The fundamental rules could never be questioned. For example, HWA would never start to read a research paper asking why we had such brutal, dictatorial government in a church which ostensibly believed Christ's statement that he who would be chief among you must be servant of all and in spite of the fact that HWA himself had published an article in 1939 condemning the evils of "Church government". How could someone who was the servant of all be yelling at and berating others so bitterly for not doing what he wanted us to do? Why was there no example in the New Testament of Christ's ever yelling at His disciples? Why didn't the top leaders give others the benefit of the doubt as Paul said we should in the "love" verses in 1 Cor. 13? Whenever a paper was presented to HWA that questioned a fundamental teaching, it was rejected outright without even being read because the person who submitted it was "in a bad attitude". The message was that HWA would listen to the criticism if only it could be presented humbly enough. The reality was that HWA only changed teachings when absolutely forced to. Perhaps the best example of this was Ernest Martin's continued attempts to explain to HWA where we were wrong about keeping Pentecost on a Monday.
What does Chomsky say about overcoming thought control? "... For those who stubbornly seek freedom, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination." A similar thing happens to drug, gambling, or alcohol addicts. The first thing they must do to straighten out their lives is to see that their behavior is destructive and ruining their lives, they need to change, stop engaging in the destructive activity, and give up associating with their former friends who are still into the same behavior and who, by peer pressure, will likely tempt them to relapse.
Thought control is the same way. We need to learn the techniques by which HWA first deceived and then manipulated us for his own personal gain. Unfortunately, our former cult is not the only organization using subtle thought control tactics on its members. Any organization which has two or more people in it has at least a small amount of manipulation going on by one member against another. The larger the group gets and the bigger its budget becomes, the more power the group is able to wield on its own members and within society at large. And power corrupts. Just because that concept was first penned in 1887 by Lord Acton does not mean it is not true today. His exact words were "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." He didn't say that absolute power TENDS to corrupt absolutely. He said that absolute power always corrupts, and the corruption is absolute. Herbert W. Armstrong had absolute power. He was absolutely corrupted by it, and probably before it was given to him, at least according to all I have read on the Internet. He made really silly decisions in his last few years which could possibly be due to senility. But he was making equally silly and arrogant decisions much earlier in his life, too. Once a group gets a certain amount of power it will begin to attract certain men of the baser sort who merely want to wield power, and there were plenty of them available to HWA.
We are subjected to attempts at thought control every day. Turn on your radio or TV, or start to read virtually any article in any newspaper or magazine, and you are bombarded with propaganda by advertisers or writers with an axe to grind or something to sell. Abuse of power is present to some extent in all human organizations. That means our democratic and "benevolent" United States government, the "evil empire" of the former USSR, all organized religion, all educational institutions, all businesses, and even the Girl Scouts. It may not be religiously oriented mind control, but propaganda bombards us almost constantly to convince us we should buy more, consume more, spend more, we owe it to ourselves to buy such and such, etc. Our TV and print media are filled with useless stories about sports, entertainment, increasingly perverted situation comedies, inane game shows, UFOs, video games are ubiquitous, websurfing, corporate growth, space aliens, Scientology and other very dangerously successful cults, politics, gossip, Jerry Springer and similar sick reality shows, government conspiracies, etc. We are constantly encouraged to accept the irrational belief that government can and will help us, take care of us, fix our problems, give us money, etc. We have a growing segment of society with compulsive and obsessive disorders of all types drinking, gambling, drugs, sex, shopping, dieting, and virtually any normal human activity can be made compulsive if you try hard enough. It is very easy to get sucked into this national, cultural vortex of hedonistic self-centeredness.
In order to live by the golden rule, we must constantly watch what we do to make sure we are not abusing any power we might have over others. We must also monitor everything that others say and do to make sure we are not allowing ourselves ever to be abused again, or at least if it is in our power to prevent it. E.g., we cannot escape all the abuse we receive from our own human governments. There is nowhere on earth to which we can move where there is not some form of abusive human government, but we should try to remove it from our family and job relationships.
One of the cleverest things I have seen on the Internet is a bumper sticker that shows the American flag on the right, the flag of the former Soviet Union on the left with a big letter "X" through it, and the caption beneath that says "Two evil empires one down, one to go." Yes, I am afraid that the United States of America has also become an evil empire, and the amount of propaganda from our own political leaders is staggering. If you are interested, you may view this bumper sticker at http://www.fourmilab.ch/evilempire.
Chomsky has much to say about how we citizens of the United States have our thoughts heavily manipulated by our government, the news media, big corporations, and all powerful elite groups. Suffice it to say that we are steeped in thought manipulation from the time we are born from various sources, and that thought control is rampant in virtually all means of human communication. E.g., the average politically oriented article in virtually all newspapers printed in the USA is propaganda, to some extent, promoting a position on some issue which will benefit some powerful elite group somewhere. College classes are taught in propaganda, and once someone has been educated about what is going on it becomes much easier to recognize propaganda when one sees it.
The entire USA is now one giant geopolitical cult, in my opinion. Think about the analogies. In the WCG we were manipulated cleverly, had our emotions worked on rather than our reason and logic, were convinced we should give huge sums of money to the leaders, they in turn misspent vast amounts of money we sacrificed in order to give for the allegedly benevolent goal of the organization, the real purpose of the WCG's existence was probably just a money-making scam for the very top people, and the fruits of the organization were evil to a large extent. In the USA we are manipulated by our political leaders and news media, have our emotions worked on rather than our reason and logic (especially during political campaigns), have huge sums of money forcibly taken from us (taxation under threat of incarceration if we don't pay up) and given to the leaders, they in turn misspend vast amounts of tax money we pay which causes sacrifices in our lives, the benevolent goal of the country is supposed to be to disseminate our wonderful way of life based on freedom and democracy to the whole world but in fact we have become a rogue super-power terrorist state, and the fruits of our national culture are becoming ever more obviously insane and evil. We cannot easily escape from the national cult we have made for ourselves. Many of us mindlessly and viscerally follow one of the two main political parties and hate the other, when in fact both parties have essentially the same policies, which are designed to help big American corporations make more profits rather than help any individual people.
I personally have not yet started reading any books on thought/mind control as practiced by cults, but I intend to someday. I have so many other things I also am interested in and want to read. Since leaving the WCG I have been trying to relearn everything I started unlearning when 22 years old, and also trying to learn what I should have been learning from age 22 to 52. I am reading books now on history (none of which is written by a theologian but by real historians), philosophy, politics, etc. I spend as little time as possible in front of my television being entertainingly propagandized.
Karl Marx wrote in 1844 that "religion ... is the opium of the people." I now believe he was right. Unfortunately, much world woe was caused by followers of his ideas of communism, which also became a religion, and thus an opium of many people. Politics and entertainment are also religions for many. I read Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason" on the Internet recently. He makes a very good case for Deism, which is the belief in God. That's all. Just belief in God, no more, no less, no fine print, no scriptures, no hierarchy, no arguments. His proof of God's existence is the creation around us. Now that I have been given my mind back, I am letting myself read many things that used to be too dangerous to read, like Thomas Paine's essay. It sounds pretty good to me right now. A whole lot better than Herbert's mess.
(8) Miscellaneous anecdotes, remembrances, and observations:
During 1970 I was in a spokesman's club in Pasadena while I was there working in Data Processing. One of the fellows in my club was Harry Eisenberg. He had gone through the college as a student, had graduated, and was working somewhere on the campus. I had moved there to work as a computer programmer, as I had already been a programmer for three years. Harry told me once privately that he really envied me, because I already had a real career, knew what I was good at, and was already doing that kind of work. He had no idea what would happen to him. His career and future were left up to the whim of the college's "Manpower Committee", consisting of several high-ranking white male ministers who would pick and choose where to assign college graduates based heavily on gossip. He was typical of the college graduates. The best assignment, of course, was to be employed in the ministry for men and to be married to a minister for women. The next best choice was to be given a job there at headquarters. The really lucky ones were those passed over and not assigned anywhere, as they were thus forced to get a real job in a real career and start dealing with the real world. Those given all the choice assignments wouldn't find out about reality for 10, 20, or 30 more years. Reality means having no retirement (headquarters employees paid no social security), no job security (you must keep kissing ass in order to keep your job), layoffs would occur often during the once or twice a year financial crises (Herbie needed more money for restocking the Dom Perignon on his private jet), and after enough years the whole thing would self-destruct and almost everyone would lose his job (except for the very top fat cats who could ass-kiss or blackmail their way onto the Board of Directors).
Ambassador College students quite often were insufferable little twits. I started out in a field church for three years, then worked at headquarters for 4.5 years, then went back to a field church. From time to time an AC student, who was the child of some local field church member, would return to visit his parents and would thus start attending for a short while back there in the field church. I saw some of these young men and women in action, and they pretty much all richly deserved the stereotype by which we full-time field church people viewed them, and that was that they were arrogant, stuck-up, self-righteous, etc. (Of course, we all were, but it is so much easier to see it in others sometimes.) They were told at AC that they were the cream of the crud and students at God's West Point. So what did that make us out in the field churches? We were the worst of the crud. And the little cliques of AC students acted accordingly.
One of the most detestable of these cretins actually moved to the church area where I was attending. This fellow joined the local Spokesman's Club. One night I gave an ice-breaker speech in which I said I had graduated from North Carolina State University in 1967 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics. I had always felt a little proud of that accomplishment. During a break in the meeting, this prize jerk came up to me and smugly asked me how it felt going to a pagan college. I stood there for a few seconds totally dumbfounded that anyone could be so repulsively stupid and rude as to ask that. I couldn't decide whether to punch him in the face, tell him that he was a flaming asshole, or to answer his question. I ended up mumbling some kind of polite response. A few months later this absurd biped mercifully decided to move back to Pasadena. I was very happy to see him go. His first name was Jim, and I would put his last name in here too if I could remember it.
Hey, Jim, if you ever read this on the Internet, I hope you are not such a complete asshole anymore. If you try really hard you might actually become a human being.
When I first arrived at AC as a single male employee, I was told by someone in the Personnel Department that I must not attempt to date any female students. I quickly found that not to be a problem, as there were scores, if not hundreds, of single female employees there who had graduated from Ambassador College, were closer to my age (25 at that time), and thus were more clearly the type of woman whom I should be dating anyway instead of 18-year-old children. Unfortunately, there was this breathtakingly GORGEOUS blonde student who had a part-time job in Data Processing where I worked, so I saw her almost every day. Oh, man, I needed to date her SO BAD! I was rooming with two other bachelors who also worked in Data Processing then, so one Sunday the three of us had a joint unofficial triple date picnic. Somehow this gorgeous babe was one of the three young women invited. I took my guitar along, played a few things for her, and managed to spend as much time alone with her as I could (feeling guilty the whole while). Another time the whole Data Processing Center went to one of the Los Angeles area beaches during the summer for a group beach outing. This part-time employee babe was there, too, so I spent as much time as I could with her alone on that unofficial date (still feeling guilty but very happy). I would have kept on trying to date her but one day a much more mature single lady in Data Processing told me not to waste my time or life on the gorgeous young blonde babe, because she was an airhead. I had already dated this older and wiser lady many times, and I respected her judgment enough that I immediately gave up on the young student babe. And I also knew she wasn't telling me that so she could have me to herself, because we had become close brother-sister type friends rather than romantically involved. Her name was Rosie, and she was a really fine rose and not an airhead.
Everyone who came to AC, either as a student or as an employee, was required to go through a humbling process. Even Bob Kuhn, who had already earned a Ph.D. in medicine and had become a famous brain researcher, was required to work initially at some menial job in the printing press. After he was deemed to be sufficiently humble, he was then quickly moved up to the highest levels where someone of his station in life obviously belonged. He was then able to rub elbows with the top dogs, drink Dom Perignon with evangelists, etc. If Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer, or Queen Elizabeth II had been "called" by God and sent to AC, they would all have undoubtedly had to spend some time cleaning out the toilets in the dormitories, all for their own good, of course. This was very similar to the hazing one must submit himself to in order to gain entrance to a college social fraternity or to get through military boot camp.
In Pasadena around 1974, when so many were falling away into the bonds of Satan, I remember once seeing a Preaching Elder ranked minister working on a crossword puzzle during a sermon. He was still attending, at least. I'm sure he was getting a lot more out of his puzzle than the sermon, although at the time I wondered what was wrong with him.
Having come from a field church to work at "God's headquarters", I had the benefit of seeing what happened at AC from a different perspective. First I had started reading the Plain Truth magazine, then I read booklets, then got into the Bible Correspondence Course. All this was taking place out in a field church, where I also got spiritual training through weekly Sabbath services, Bible studies, and spokesman's club. Then I moved to Headquarters and saw what was going on there. It was my opinion that the closer you were to headquarters the more quickly things changed. And the farther away you were from headquarters the more slowly things changed. In other words, life as a student at AC (the ultimate epicenter of activity at headquarters) was close to chaos, and life in the remote field church was stable. I was very glad I had not become a student, and was also very happy when I was laid off in 1974 and got the chance to move far away from the chaos to a much more stable field church again.
At the Feast of Tabernacles in Jekyll Island, Georgia in the late 1960s the song leader one morning was a particularly nasty control freak minister named Robert Spence. After the opening prayer was given and we all said Amen, everyone sat down. This little Hitler reminded us that he hadn't yet told us to sit down, so he made us all stand up again, then wait for him to tell us to sit down. What a little shit he was. I hope you read this, Robert, if you are still alive. I hope you are not such a little shit anymore.
HWA said quite often that when you point your forefinger to accuse someone else that you have three fingers pointing back at yourself. This was meant to be a "proof" of his equally often stated belief that people that falsely accuse others of something are always guilty themselves of the very same thing of which they are accusing the others. While working at HQ in the early 1970s, I would occasionally see a friend humorously give what came to be called "the Ambassador salute". This was an open hand in which all five fingers are pointing away from you. This was considered to be the only safe way you could accuse someone else, since you would have no fingers pointing back at yourself and you actually had all five fingers pointing accusatively at the other person to intensify the accusation. This was quite humorous when seen, and was one of the many ways we managed to stay sane by finding some humor in the insane asylum at HQ.
I have just finished reading George Orwell's splendid little book "Animal Farm" for the second time in my life. He intended this book as a warning against totalitarian mind-controlling regimes. It is quite easy to see in his book that Napoleon was Stalin and Snowball was Trotsky. It was doubly entertaining to me this time I read it, as I was also able to see so many of Herbie's antics depicted in the cynical, self-serving, tyrannical actions of the top pig leaders in the novel. I'm sure Orwell carefully chose the PIG to be the animal in charge, as the ones at the highest level of the WCG and its daughter cults were and still are pretty much all selfish pigs.
I believe the worst thing the WCG did was to corrupt those of us who were sincere. Many otherwise decent men who happened to be natural leaders were put into leadership positions and manipulated until they became just as corrupt as HWA and Garner Ted Armstrong were.
Click here to go to 30 years in the Worldwide Church of God, Part Two
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