Freedom To Focus
Thank you very much for writing back to me as soon as you did. I got very involved with the fact that our (Michael and my) daughter, Maureen became very sick, and I ended up taking her to the open clinic Saturday with a very high fever, chills and extreme dizziness. It turns out that she has a pretty severe kidney infection that needed immediate medical attention. Now that I no longer attend wcg I can feel good about at least three things; 1.) taking my sick little girl to a doctor, 2.) taking my sick little girl to a doctor on a sabbath, 3.) giving my sick little girl the right antibiotic (along with huge volumes of cranberry juice) that is getting her well very fast, 4.) not having to worry about which principal of healthy living I or my daughter violated that got her sick in the first place, and 5.) not having to worry that seeking help from a worldly health care professional is going to affect my relationship with God.
Well, I guess that I have more than three things to be happy about. I have been thinking about you quite a bit. I have been praying about how to respond to your letter. I have been talking to my daughter, husband and son, Michael Benjamin about your situation. Everyone here is very concerned about your situation. We care, because we were there. We understand the uncertainty, guilt, shame, fear and confusion that you are probably going through as a result of your decision to stop being a member of the world wide church of god, or its many offshoots.
Mike and I had quite an advantage over you in leaving the church. You probably were not there at the feast of tabernacles when Joe Tkach Jr. was giving one of his first pastor general addresses. One of his comments that struck hard was, "we have got to start running this church like a business." In the spirit of "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks," it occurred to us that this organization was more of a business to Mr. Tkach that a pastorial charge from God. Later in a Plain Truth or World Wide News (I don't remember which) they showed how the publications were made. They showed executives writing effective ad copy for their target audience. What?! I thought! Target audience??? What the heck?! I thought that it was God who does the calling. Just get the message out and the people that God was calling would be the ones who responded to God's calling. But no, our church was only advertising in publications that catered to certain income and educational levels. I knew that was wrong, but as with all the other things that I could see wrong with even a small modicrum of common sense, I ignored the simple truth of what I was seeing. I have so many problems and shortcomings of my own, who was I to criticize the efforts of others? So, the low self-esteem so carefully groomed by all levels of wcg leadership was keeping us from asking some very simple questions that would have saved our family years of turmoil, grief, not to mention many thousands of dollars desperately needed by the family that was actually earning it.
Then, to cap it off, we had the opportunity to hear Joe Tkach Jr. again. He was saying that our church was not the only way to salvation. My husband and I looked at each other as he was speaking and we knew what each other was thinking. So, we came to the conclusion that if the church was merely an income opportunity for our leadership to be "treated like a business" and it wasn't the only way to salvation (as stated by our own leadership) WHAT WERE WE HANGING AROUND FOR?
We decided that we had been hanging around because we were afraid that our children for the sake of them not having to go through the "great tribulation." My husband and I had long since stopped caring about whether or not we lived or died, but you can be sure that we will always care about the safety of our children. There were so many hooks that the church was angling with, but our children's safety was the hook that was keeping us around for so much longer than we would have stayed for ourselves alone.
It has taken a long time to sort out all of the lies, half-lies, and half-truths that was the foundation upon which the World Wide Church of God was built by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, and subsequently strong-armed by a host of others. When a minister tells you that you will go to the lake of fire for disobeying a direct order from the ministry, they are so arrogant that they actually believe it! They actually believe that they have twice as much holy spirit as you or I because some man put his hand on his head and "ordained" it so. Mr. Armstrong went even further. He simply "realized" that he was being conferred with more holy spirit than all the rest of us based simply on the fact that his calling was "absolutely unique," and "unlike the conversion of any other person" on earth. While I am willing to concede that his relationship with God was unlike any other, I would also hasten to say that his fingerprints were also unlike any other, and certainly "unique" in every sense of the word. Many people have a personal relationship with God, and they ALL have a unique set of fingerprints, unlike any other. God is not a respecter of persons, or their fingerprints. Just because a person claiming to represent God says, "Boo!" does not mean YOU have to jump. You really don't have to.
I once had the opportunity to talk with Larry Walker right after he moved to his new home near Bend, Oregon a few years ago. He was lamenting how difficult it was to build a new house with only the one-half salary his family was now being forced to live on since he joined his new church.
I said to him, "I am not trying to criticize any one particular person in the ministry, but, I have not found one high ranking minister willing to follow the example of the apostles in the Bible." What exactly did I mean, he wanted to know. "Well," I was trying to choose my words carefully, "we are told to follow the example of the apostles of the Bible. The apostles in the Bible all held down jobs in the world, including Jesus, and the service that they gave God was offered as a sacrifice of their time and resources. But not so with our ministers. They carefully calculate the worth of their time, and feel totally justified with every paycheck they receive from the sweat of our brows. How is it," I could help but asking, "that you feel so justified being so richly compensated while we suffer so greatly to do the work of god?"
Larry Walker's response was interesting to me. "It is important for us to not have to deal with the hardship, stress, worry and trials that you go through so that as ministers, our minds will be free to focus."
Focus. Hmmmmm. Must be nice to have the freedom to focus. In Larry Walker's mind, freedom to focus was an intrinsic right of the ministry to be financed by the hardship, stress, worry and trials of the unimportant laiety. Hey, that's leadership worth dying for, wouldn't you agree?
Opps. Hubby's home and needs the computer.
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