How Do They Do It?
By John B
The recent death of Mr. Herman Hoeh provides an opportunity to reflect upon the kind of men that “God” chose to lead his “end-time church”. The first question that comes to mind is: How can you preach a particular doctrine for 45 years and then, overnight, abandon it?
Herman Hoeh was not “just a minister”. Herman Hoeh was an architect. As one of the very first students at Ambassador College in the late 1940s, Hoeh was an academic who latched on to Armstrongite theology and sought to expand it. He wrote hundreds of articles for The Plain Truth and The Good News magazines and authored a number of booklets. As an intellectual and academic, his intelligence quotient was probably greater than that of Armstrong and his sons combined. Hoeh was brilliant.
According to Ambassador Report, it was Herman Hoeh who first advanced the theory that Herbert Armstrong was an apostle. Hoeh also developed a number of fundamental doctrines that later became central to WCG belief. In a very real sense, he helped to create the Worldwide Church of God.
When the Tkach regime took over and flushed doctrine down the toilet, Herman Hoeh was one of the few high-level ministers who didn’t flee to a splinter group or form his own church. Apparently he had no problem accepting the changes, even though it meant abandoning everything he had ever taught and, presumably, believed.
How did he do that? Did he even believe the doctrines he taught, the doctrines he helped develop? Or was he persuaded that Tkach’s changes were right? (Compared to Hoeh, both Tkaches together couldn’t muster enough intellect to turn pages while he studied.)
We may never know the answer, but the question is intriguing.
I can understand how people do it in some extreme cases. Take the example of German scientist Wernher von Braun, for example; he developed the V-2 rocket before coming to the United States to head up the American space program. He worked for Hitler, so how come he gets to work for us? A valid question. Von Braun was a scientist first and foremost. He found himself in a difficult situation – in the prime of his life, trying to pursue a career, trapped in a nation that was under the ruthless iron fist of Nazi rule. What is he going to do?
I assume that, Hitler or no Hitler, von Braun was also a German patriot, so he worked for his country’s defense. I don’t know if he was ever a member of the Nazi party, but if so he may have joined simply to keep his job. As soon as it became clear that Germany was losing the war, von Braun arranged for 500 of his top rocket scientists to defect to American lines. In the United States, he found much more favorable working conditions, and after developing some strategic weapons for the military, he concentrated on peacetime uses for his rockets.
Why do I mention all this? Simply to point out that Wernher von Braun, if he wanted to pursue his chosen profession, had no choice but to work for the Nazis, and at the first opportunity, he switched sides.
Not the Same
The same cannot be said for Herman Hoeh, or any other WCG minister who rolled over and accepted the Tkach doctrine. Hoeh was under no apparent duress when he attended Ambassador College, nor when he was ordained to the “ministry”, nor when he wrote all those booklets and articles, nor when he crafted WCG theology. Hoeh was in his element – he loved to study, he loved academics, and he participated willingly in his profession.
But did he believe it? I don’t know. All I can say is that it seems mighty strange that a man could turn his back on nearly a half-century of beliefs and accept the opposite viewpoint without apparently blinking an eye.
But this article is not about Herman Hoeh. It’s about everyone who once preached or practiced a weird and unpopular religion, in many cases for decades, and then suddenly embraced the diametric opposite simply because it was ordained by “headquarters”. Thousands of lay members made that change, many of them life-long members who had cut their teeth on Armstrongism.
How in the hell do you do that?
Passing the “Test”
Don’t get me wrong - I’m not defending Armstrongism. It’s as evil as anything Tkach ever came up with, more so in most cases.
But when you’ve believed in something all your life, when you’ve been convinced that God ordained a certain teaching, how do you make the transition to the suggestion that God was just “testing” you...for 50 years? Does God “test” people by causing them to sin? What about all those who died while God was still conducting his “test”? Do they get to be resurrected too, or do they go to the lake of fire because they never had a personal relationship with Jesus?
Say what you will about those still in the splinter cults – they may be deceived, they may be brainwashed, but they remain true to their beliefs! They are clinging to the “faith once delivered”...as it was delivered to them. You have to respect them for that.
So what is the answer? Truthfully, I’m better at asking questions than answering them, but one possibility suggests itself, at least as far as the ministry is concerned. What do you do when you’ve spent your entire life preaching a particular doctrine, and suddenly the official line is reversed...and you’re past 60 years old? Where are you going to go? You can’t keep preaching the same old thing, even if you still believe it, because you’ll get fired. All those years spent dedicated to “the work” will be lost, that pension gone, the nice house and fleet car taken – and you’ll be homeless. Who’s going to hire you? You could get a job as a janitor, maybe, but that unaccredited AC degree is just about as useful as a Sears catalog in the outhouse.
And janitors don’t get fleet cars.
You have two choices – stand up for your integrity and take that janitorial job, or suck it up and sell yourself out.
I applied to Ambassador College in the summer of 1966.
Thank god they turned me down.
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