The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God
The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God.

Childhood Lost 6

REVELATION

Herbert had so many new revelations in the fifties that if the pace hadn't slowed toward the end of that decade, there would've been nothing new for him to say in the sixties. Divorce and remarriage was a particularly thorny issue. But God, he said, had finally inspired his understanding of these difficult spiritual problems. A thorough, heart rending study of scripture yielded but one conclusion. Divorce and remarriage were against God's law.

Members who had been divorced were instructed to seek reconciliation with their original mates whether they were in the church or not. Failing that, they were to remain unmarried and celibate for the rest of their natural lives, or until their former spouses died. Members who had remarried after a divorce were commanded to separate and, unless or until their first partners died, to remain separate. That many of these members had children, were happy with each other, and that their divorces and, in many cases, their remarriages had occurred prior to their discovery the truth and the way was regarded as inconsequential.

Members who objected to their families being so cavalierly torn apart were told that the trials and tribulations one must suffer in order to prove to God that they loved him and, thus, to eventually be allowed entrance to his kingdom, were never very pleasant.

They were then enjoined to remember Abraham's test. God had commanded him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. Most people, if faced with a chore like that would procrastinate, if indeed they would do it at all, but Abraham didn't dawdle. He arose early, eager to preform this grisly task and in so doing, he proved to God that he loved him.

"God tests and chastises each one of us who come before him to be called his children and this is how God knows we love him," went their rationale. A sizeable number of members bowed to the inscrutable workings of God, abruptly severing their adulterous second marriage relationships with wives, husbands and children, and attempted to abide by these and other dictums pouring out of their new center of the universe, Pasadena, California.

HW also had definite ideas about what constituted proper Sabbath day dress and decorum. Which is to say, all men should dress like him, conveniently overlooking the scriptural admonishment in James 2:1-9 which specifically forbids prejudice (let alone expulsion) based on dress. Suits and ties, he maintained, were absolute prerequisites for the worship of God; men were to wear them, or else. Those who thought otherwise were invited by the ministry to leave until they repented of their rebellious attitudes against God and Herbert.

Women, of course, were to wear loosely fitting dresses with hemlines no higher than mid calf. Nor should there be the slightest hint of cleavage above, lest the Christian gentlemen of the congregation be overcome with lust.

Furthermore, only harlots and evil women wore jewelry, or painted their faces with lipstick and rouge. The example of Jezebel was tentatively proffered as an example of this vulgar custom and, as most knew (and those who had any doubts were told), God's women were not to imitate that decadent queen.

That Jezebel also wore clothing along with her jewels and lipstick was glossed over though, women were to remain fully clothed. Few of these weighty spiritual matters directly impinged upon my lifestyle. I was too young to wear either make up or suits, but the next round of revelations hit subtly and hard.

Merely being a good person by secular standards was not good enough. After all, human righteousness, we were told, was looked upon by God as filthy rags. That being the case, there was no real way to gauge one's spiritual status since it depended almost entirely upon the Lord's whims rather than human effort. Still, they reasoned, there was no sense in taking chances. So Herbert and the clergy became much like believing Pharisees of centuries past who, in a effort to be as absolutely perfect as possible, painstakingly created their own set of "thou shalt nots," as if God had, perhaps, left some out. These they taught as doctrine.

The Lord's admonition to come out of, and remain separate from, the world became of sudden and immense interest to the ministry of the late nineteen-fifties. In their view, people of the world were likened to pigs living in a filthy sty. Members of the church, on the other hand, were the "called out ones." As such, they were enjoined to put as much distance between themselves and the pig sty as possible, while being constantly reminded that it would have been better for them never to have been born than to have escaped this evil world and the clutches of Satan and become enmeshed again in corruption.

Given a choice then, most brethren would rather have fallen into a den of rattlesnakes than be likened to scriptural "dogs returning to their own vomit," as members who reverted to the world were equated with.

As part of the process of coming out of the world, lay members were encouraged to have as little social contact with people outside the church as possible. This included unconverted family members such as parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. School activities such as dances, clubs and athletics were out, as were memberships in the Lions, the Eagles, the PTA and any labor union. In short, anything the ministry had no control over, or was not personally in charge of, was forbidden. The inspired ruling on employment came next.

After more deep and prayerful study, Herbert said, he was led by the Lord to understand that God's people were to be a "separate and peculiar people." God, in scripture, had said so himself. Military service was, of course, contravened...due to their long standing practice of not only working on Saturday's, but of killing their enemies on that and other days, as well. He'd also come to understand that there were other ways brethren might find themselves serving as unwitting cogs in the political and martial machines of this country, anyone of which was just as evil. Civil service was one. Working for the government was, in Herbert's estimation, a clear cut case of thumbing one's nose at God. Those who were employed in such capacities were told to resign.

Up until that time, my family had enjoyed a middle class existence even though the nation was in the midst of what later came to be known as the "Eisenhower depression." Jobs were scarce, especially well paying ones. Nonetheless, with faith in Herbert's pronouncements, my father quit his job, secure in the knowledge that God would provide.

Weeks turned into months with unbelievable rapidity. Having voluntarily quit his job, he was ineligible for unemployment benefits. With little food in the house and no money to pay the bills, Mom and Dad grew increasingly more irritable with each passing day. Eventually my father went to the minister and demanded an accounting. He asked why, since he had obeyed their instructions, God had not provided for him and his family. Their answer was predictable.

The ministry, then as now, operated out of two cozy assumptions. God could never make a mistake and hence they, as his ministers, could not either. Therefore, there was only one viable possibility. God had not fulfilled his part of the bargain because "YOU LACK THE FAITH BROTHER!" Dad was sternly commanded to take stock of his obviously dwindling spiritual capital and humbly repent of whatever sin or faithlessness which was prohibiting the Almighty from providing for him.

He replied, he told me years later, that they were in his opinion, the three stooges ministry, and as such were the most witless and inept sons of bitches he'd come across in all his days, and that furthermore, that "special wisdom" which they all alleged had poured into them on the day they were ordained was nothing more than a bucketful of wishful thinking. He was immediately invited not to attend services until he repented of his blasphemy, an invitation he accepted until the day of his death.

Anytime a member was disfellowshipped it went without saying they were to be shunned. Such spiritual pariahs were not to be contacted or corresponded with by any lay member of the church, and they were to be totally ignored in the event of chance encounters in public. Headquarters in Pasadena was immediately notified by the local minister. These individuals names were then marked in case they moved and tried to attend church in another locale where they were not known. Delivery of "The Good News," the church magazine intended for and,delivered only to, the baptized, was promptly discontinued. Any tithes or offerings these outcasts tendered, however, were gratefully accepted.

My parents separated soon afterwards, due in no small part, to the continual meddling of the church. They never reconciled, and what had been a middle class family of eight became a single parent family of seven living on welfare.

Our diminished circumstances precluded a once regular allowance. This was, for me, particularly vexing. Spinach may have cut it for Popeye, but I required semi moderate amounts of tar and nicotine in my daily diet. My trips to the golf course became more infrequent and, had it not been for the money we were occasionally given for hot lunches, they would've ceased altogether.


Chapter 5

 

Chapter 7

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