WCG Reorientation Journal
I want to give special thanks to the following groups and their songs for assisting me in my reorientation: The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin," The Eagles' "Hotel California," and Hank Williams Jr.'s "They're All In Alabama."
Worldwide Church of God journal references selected and edited beginning December 11, 2001...and completed December 22, 2001.
The following items are excerpts from my handwritten journal. They span the timeframe from October 10, 1996 to November 28, 2001. All of the entries are arranged by their original dates, so there may be several separate subjects addressed within any one date. All of the excerpts pertain to my ongoing, but unrecognized need to deal with my exodus from the Worldwide Church of God. All of the entries were written before I had any knowledge of The Painful Truth Website. I am intrigued by the parallels in thought I see between the conclusions I have come to about the Worldwide Church of God, and the conclusions the Editors have proffered. Do I feel vindicated? Yes. Do I feel like I am going nuts? Not anymore...
However that is just the "feel good" scenario. The "truth" has to be that the Editors and I were/was being influenced by Satan. That is the only "logical" conclusion...J
October 10, 1996 *******
All those years keeping days for salvation. Now I've got to build the Relationship and put together a life that reflects the Relationship holistically (Of course this precludes the possible fact that salvation is not necessary-12/22/01). I never could tithe (properly) and go freely to all those places. And I've always shied away from the good jawb. Those two things made you somebody in the Worldwide Church of God.
October 11, 1996
It is Campus Revival Week at the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor. I jokingly say that it is really Campus Inquisition Week. Personally I feel that I was lead to believe that I was following God for the last ten years, although Christ's name wasn't used in the Worldwide Church of God, like it is elsewhere. Changes, heartaches, loose ends, confusion, and a lack of solid direction are the watermarks (or firebrands) of the past ten years. I wonder how much the Worldwide Church of God had to do with the state of my life now? I'm thirty years old now and just now halfway through a Bachelor's Degree ...
November 17, 1996
I am reflecting on the fact that I am not tied to the Worldwide Church of God anymore. No more rigorous "Christian" duties to perform. I wonder if other people that quit Worldwide, and didn't go to a "sphincter group," discovered this strange anomaly that we have in America called The Weekend?
I remember in the spring of '93 my wife and I were gone five weekends in a row to out of town (YES/YOU) sports activities. Then, I think we got a sermon about the need for balance in our collective lives (we are the Borg, resistance is futile) and that some people need to cut their grass. No shit, in the Texas springtime grass will grow over a period of five weekends. However that sermon may be just a figment of my scarred and jaded imagination, but it is plausible for a sermon like that to occur in the convoluted priorities of the Worldwide Church of God.
In 1994, Worldwide was floating the trial balloon of the "Open House." I remember providing transportation for several people in the Killeen area that wanted to attend the Open House. I was also asked to paint a show card for the free literature table. In general, I was asked several times to assist new people to come into the fold of exclusive righteousness. The same was done for me in the Eighties. Yet I never told anyone to stop associating with their families, reading books, listening to worldly music, or watching Showtime/HBO. I didn't completely do my job. But I was serving (in) the Worldwide Church of God. I guess as a married man in the Church I had been partly rehabilitated from the sins of my tenure as a single drifter.
I'm not playing church anymore. Instead of bringing people into an exclusive group, I want to extend proper love and respect to everyone I meet. I also need to get my mind right, repair my marriage, and pay my debts. The debts came from drinking and Worldwide Church of God attendance. But why would anyone feel compelled to drink excessively in God's Church?
January 7, 1998
During all my years in the Worldwide Church of God I was filled with self-doubt. I was a student during the entire ten years, except for 1990. The first question other members would ask you was "what kind of work do you do?" I know it's basic conversation, but I got tired of the looks on people's faces when they found out I was a married man and a college student. I eventually had to start emphasizing that I was a sign painter. Which was the truth. So where am I now? Well, I am a teacher now-I completed my degree after seven years. I still have sign work that is in existence. But the Eternal Truths that drew me into the Worldwide Church of God have faded away... All I have left is a renewed control over my life (I love weekends!) and a hard bought resilience to keep reaching for my goals.
I guess the Worldwide Church of God gave us desperate souls a sense of belonging. It certainly gave the ministers good salaries to be our puppet masters.
When the Worldwide Church of God loosed its grip on the membership in the January '95 sermon, I found my chance to quietly depart, but that was not until June 1996. Wow, I hung around for a year and a half. Actually I wasn't upset over the changes. I thought it was about time. (note: I have new thoughts about this since reading the AR) but the past ten years had sucked me dry. There was nothing left. Since then I have embraced intellectualism, critical thinking and the right to form my own opinions. Lake of fire, here I come!!! Instead of waiting to be a top dog in a millennium, I have decided to contribute something to this life.
That thought reminds me of the many times the ministry advised young men to remain in minimum wage jobs, if they could get by. Of course we were reminded about tithing and avoiding fornication. We were never given any advice about career fulfillment. That was beside the point-we were called to support The Work. I remember a good friend of mine who moved to Houston to start her course work for vet school. It was also her 3rd Tithe year. The minister in Houston told her to cut back on her course work so she could work more as to enable her to properly pay 3rd Tithe. (I have learned from reading The Painful Truth that the 3rd Tithe was really the Minister's Tithe)!!!
We could say "God help us," but God wouldn't help anyone, like all of us, who were so stupid to be in such an organization!
It's interesting that all the people that dominated my life as a single church member (they told me how to spend my money, run my sign business, that I drank too much, and that Playboy was evil) have either left the Worldwide Church of God or have been kicked out. Those that went to sphincter groups all want control, which leads to more sphincter groups... ad diarreahum. If I was ever in the loop, I'm glad to be swinging my own lariat now.
January 13, 1998
In 1986 I found myself surrounded by people that were told to combine pretentious ideas with the usual mundane activities of their lives. Many people were under-employed, could not tithe, or pay their bills-but they were going to be future Kings and Priests...I tried to fit myself into the mold, but when I was close, the rules changed in January of 1995.
February 2, 1998
My father's death coincided with the Worldwide Church of God or "the church" changing its stance on Old Testament Law vs. Grace. By embracing Grace, the Worldwide Church of God had to allow room for other beliefs about eternal rewards and the fact that there were "true" Christians in other denominations. Did they allow room in their budget for losing half of their tithe base? And all this time I felt I was called to a 1st Resurrection where my friends and relatives would be reeducated by me after The Millennium. Well that waaaaaaas convenient...
There has to be more to the story than a 100,000 plus Feast keepers destined to rule a thousand years after living largely destitute lives. I think HWA was far more creative than he was inspired. For example, having Job pegged as the chief engineer of the World Tomorrow. Pure speculation to keep his audience entertained.
May 3, 1998
I see the Plain Truth is trying to be a new magazine for a new audience. It is simple marketing. You have to modify your product to meet your consumers' changing needs. Or, is it a case of the marketer changing the consumers' needs? It seems that the Plain Truth feels people have lost interest in prophecy, the end time, and dogmatism. So how will this theme of worship and reconciliation work out for the Worldwide Church of God?
May 10, 1998
I've come to the conclusion that one of the ways that the Worldwide Church of God controlled people's lives was by letting them work five days a week, making them keep the Sabbath and tithe, and finally subtly coercing them to be fully involved in The Work by helping with church programs, fund raisers, and sports events on Sundays. Those things were duties. People were really hit hard if they were married. Then again if you were single, a student, or unemployed (I have been in all three categories at once) you were closely monitored so as not to be a liability to The Syndicate-woops-I meant The Church. I have come to see that all religious groups need to monopolize their member's time and money-the two things all religious organizations need to survive.
January 14, 1999
I keep thinking about my time in the Worldwide Church of God. I keep needing to write about it. I find myself very pissed at times. Why can't I get all those odd, strange situations that psychologically eviscerated me, off my mind?
Certainly there was a time when I believed what HWA taught was "The Truth." His writings captivated me for many years. From age fourteen to age eighteen Worldwide Church of God literature was practically all I absorbed, except for the occasionally guiltily read Playboy. Also I had read nearly everything Steinbeck wrote. I wonder what the Worldwide Church of God's stance was on him. Then in 1986 I started attending services. I was 20. The Worldwide Church of God mentality took over my life. I took a look at myself in 1993 (at age 27) and was shocked at how obsessed with church life I was. I also was very intolerant of those not in the fold. Then in January of 1995 the "Eternal Truths" unraveled. Looking back, I am really relieved that these "truths" were not eternal. There are a few other things I want to do with my life. Now, it seems that every law and order fanatic from lay member, to deacon, to local elder, to minister, to evangelist is in some sphincter group trying to carry on HWA's mantel.
But none of them can touch me...
June 19, 1999
It really seems silly now to realize that I was letting a group of men being paid 40K to 60K a year to tell me what movies I could watch, whether or not I could eat in a restaurant on Saturday, that it was wrong to sleep naked, that driving through a yellow light was actually rebellion against God, or that it was wrong to give your neighbor's wife a ride to work (appearance of evil).
My first degree was in Production Art and Design, so I've had courses in advertising theory. I realize now, without looking through spiritually dung covered glasses, that HWA put together a very complete package to attract people's attention. I started reading the Worldwide Church of God's literature beginning at about age 14. The religion that HWA presented was grippingly and intriguingly different from the Baptist mysteries of Heaven/Hell that I had heard prior to age 12. Somehow an underlying, almost subliminal message was inserted that said "if you see this as The Truth, then you are being called..." There was a great deal of opposition to the "teachings of Armstrong" in my extended family, but being an iconoclast and wanting to be a part of something unique, I could see "God was opening my mind..."
Looking back now, I can see I had pretty much indoctrinated myself between 1979 and 1986. So at age 20 I asked to see a minister of the True Church which I knew to be the organization behind The Plain Truth. I wish I had known enough then to understand the import of the semantics of the last sentence. Look at the words: true church-organization-behind-plain truth. I didn't understand the dangerous import of the "church/organization" scenario. I include the word "behind" in the string because of its ass/asshole connotation.
I got my wish. I met with a minister (I will not say who, that would, as Yoda and Obi-wan would say, "take me down the path of the Dark side.") and I was at Sabbath services the next week. I guess he "discerned" that I was so gung ho that he felt I would be an easy mark. I think people were shocked that I was allowed to attend so quickly. Was I going to be a spiritual dynamo?
The first question on my mind before I arrived at services was "what are people like--that have the Holy Spirit?" What kind of aura would they have? These people are a part of the only people in the world that have the Holy Spirit!!! Ten years in the Worldwide Church of God taught me that we were just a microcosm of the society we condemned. Yet arrogantly we felt we were "the macrocosm."
I have often thought about one interesting conversation that I had with a member (a member that would later come to be one of the dominating overseers of my life). My premise in the conversation shows my mindset of pre-conceived ideas and my naivete. I was interested in going to AC, of course. This member told me I should visit the Big Sandy campus, and perhaps, meet with Dr. Torrance. He told me Dr. Torrance was a little gruff and a lot like a drill sergeant. My response was along the lines that if a person was converted and had the Holy Spirit, they would deal with a potential college student with love and accommodation. My partner in this conversation just stared off across the room. I was too young to know what a red flag was supposed to be in the back of my mind, or what it should mean. I met Lynn Torrance about two months later. I can't say he was an asshole or a prick, maybe just a curmudgeon, but I can say he wasn't any more converted than the WWII Vets I grew up with under my father's tutelage... perhaps less so. This is just an example of how I had read one man's articles in the Worldwide Church of God literature, but when I met him I saw no "way of give" or "outgoing concern" as HWA used to phrase it.
But anyway the local minister had deemed me ready to attend, which guess meant that I would be willing to swallow anything I heard from the pulpit. I believe it was called a "converted attitude." The trapdoor for The Government of God to consume my life was opened. We were told that the ministry was charged to convey the mind of God. I soon found out about the law of God concerning visiting unconverted relatives or dating a beautiful, intelligent, balanced, talented, girl at the technical college I was attending. I suppose that was to protect me from any sensible ideas coming to my mind. I'll never forget this clear and concise statement: "If you marry someone outside The Church, you have just put yourself out of the Body of Christ..."
So the ministry could tell us anything and say it was law.
Following are just of a few judgments I heard various ministers make from the Worldwide Church of God pulpit. I guess no names are necessary.
*Driving through a yellow light shows you have no respect for man's law. The Bible says obey man's laws. If you disregard man's laws you are disregarding God's laws. That is rebellion and rebellion is tantamount to witchcraft.
*There are only two acceptable positions for marital sex... (I guess we are to save the other possibilities for the weak forays into fornication and adultery.)
*It is a sin to sleep naked. If there is a fire in your home and you flee, what would your neighbors think if you ran out of the house naked?
*You can't buy clothing for the Feast with 2nd Tithe.
*It is a sin to eat a 32oz steak (at the Feast). And to think I was at Pinnacle Peak in Tucson the night before eating The Cowboy Cut...
*The moral decline in American music began with Bill Haley and The Comets.
*Women generally wear their nails too long.
*"Dances With Wolves" is an unacceptable movie for "God's" People. Was this due to the teepee scene, or was it due to the beautiful woman's name-"Stands With a Fist"?
*A bible study question that was sent up to the minister...
Question: Is French kissing okay in marriage?
Answer: Whatever that is...
*Another bible study question sent to the minister...
Question: Is oral sex perversion?
Answer: I don't think the male organ was meant to go in the ear...
*Holding hands with a person of the opposite sex is fornication. (So in a worst case, Lake of Fire scenario, what if a male church member agrees to meet with his "unconverted" sister to discuss the finances of a dying parent and they hold hands to comfort each other. Would this have been fornication, incest, or spiritual adultery? I know this is convoluted logic, or maybe logical convolution, but this was one way we were driven insane in "God's" Church.)
But these were just sideline issues. The real meat (you know meat can be a euphemism for the phallus) of the sermons had to do with GOVERNMENT, THE SABBATH, and TITHING. I remember sermons going into great detail to justify why the "God of the Old Testament" (later the One who would come to Earth with red hair and freckles and would like to wrestle) slaughtered so many pagans AND ISRAELITES. Okay, pagans died for paganism. I can live with that (sic). But many Israelites died because they asked, "Does God only speak through Moses?" Thus we got the one man one--government deal. No wonder this nation (USA) has gone to hell in a hand basket-in the 19th Century we toyed with idea of one man--one vote. Demonocracy. Hell, my spell check will not even accept that word.
June 25, 1999
Once they got the Government of God over us, then they could move on to continually hammer the tithing issue. I believe tithing was the most important doctrine of the Worldwide Church of God. It was even more important than the Sabbath.
*With the Government of God concept our minds were controlled...
*With Tithing our finances were controlled...
*With The Sabbath our time was controlled...
Now there's a "trinity."
Our minds, money, and time are basically the sum of our human existence. I feel I endangered all three.
The Sabbath did not only control Saturdays, but also several other days of the week. It was on The Sabbath that we received announcements about out of town sports activities (there go Sundays), fundraisers, Spokesman Club (now that was a time burner and an indoctrination tool), choir practice, mid-week Bible studies, Friday night YOU Bible studies... And we lived in a church area that had a 100 mile radius from the meeting hall!
It is obvious that HWA built a wealthy organization by drawing people in with a unique, albeit ultimately poisonous message. Once we were convinced it was The Truth, we had to keep supporting the Monster due to the bombardment of fear doctrine. It is interesting to note that when Joe Tkach Sr. proclaimed tithing no longer mandatory, the "offended ministers" rushed off to form organizations where tithing was mandatory. Got to keep that lifestyle up. And people went!
My mother-in-law is currently listening to study tapes from an Ex-Worldwide Church of God minister named Fred Coulter. I read one of his booklets on church government. He discussed most of the topics I wrote down in the previous entry. He also talked about "spiritual wounds" and "emotional scars." Is that what is wrong with me? There has to be some reason I feel the need to address the issue of the Worldwide Church of God. What I need to realize is that when Joe Tkach dropped the bombshell in December of 1994, I no longer felt my eternal life was in jeopardy. I was lucky to be able to make a fearless exit. I survived the ordeal and I can have a life now. But as Rod Meredith would say, "there is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof is the way of death..." He has more to answer for than I do.
July 3, 1999
Due to science, Religion was forced to accept that the Earth is not the center of the universe. I do not believe however that Religion has accepted that man may not be the center of existence.
I know, it's all about money not truth.
I can't remember if we were forbidden by the Worldwide Church of God to read The Kingdom of the Cults. I read some of it the other day.
In a cult 1) one is made to feel a part of a called, special group. 2) one is showered with love and attention. 3) one's time is monopolized. 4) one is told to avoid old relatives and friends. 5) one is told how to think. 6) one is subject to severe discipline for disobedience. I experienced all of these things in the Worldwide Church of God...
I have noticed that many people who have left the Worldwide Church of God still have a need for some kind of religion. I am wondering why I don't. I guess I think there is more to explaining our existence than what any dogma could tell us. I have come to see that Religion serves man not the Creator. I guess it's that goddamned secular education I insisted on obtaining that ruined me.
March 24, 2000
Personal note: I cannot believe I am being evangelized by my alcoholic brother. He was drinking rum the other day and he wanted to talk about Jesus. I never talked about Religion with him when I was in Worldwide Church of God, unless he drunkenly demanded it. Now he is worried about me not believing in God.
And on that subject, I have read a couple of books by the physicist Paul Davies. He seems to feel that the concept of a Creator and the concepts of Science are not irreconcilable. By the way, it's nice to be able to read what I want and not be reported to a minister. However religious dogma and science will always be in opposition. Anyway, many scientists are finding evidence that the Universe could not have been unplanned. I want to watch to see how far this trend can take us. I guess we have come along way since Giodorno Bruno was burned at the stake in February of 1600 for believing there may be other solar systems, but we have so far to go.
I remember a minister in the Worldwide Church of God saying it was wrong to "witch" for water. I used to dig many postholes when I was installing signs. I always carried two pieces of copper wire bent into L-shapes. I would hold one wire in each hand about ten inches apart in front of me. Then I would walk around the area where I was going to dig. If the wires crossed at any point that told me there was either a buried electrical line or a water line. I was never wrong. I know this probably saved me hundreds or even thousands of dollars in utility repairs. The point of all this is the two wires respond to the electromagnetic field around the electrical line or the water line. It is physics, not witchcraft goddamnit. Of course this situation is nothing new. The Catholic Church refused to allow Spanish sailors to us the compass because it was believed the compass received its powers from the Occult. We really shouldn't laugh at the stupidity of this. Now Religion says belief in extraterrestrials is demonic. For me the logical choice is to believe in the possibility of other beings from other star systems. Anyway I don't want to believe in demons anymore because them demons scare meJ.
September 10, 2000
I have realized that from about age 5 to age 13 I was living in fear of burning in hell for not walking down the Baptist aisle. Then I traded that fear in for total allegiance to the ideas of one man: HWA. That allegiance saturated my life with many anxieties ranging from being counted worthy to escape to guilt over masturbation. Religious fear dominated my life from about 1971 to 1995. But-these past five years I've not given a shit about religion. And I won't ever again.
From the scientific evidence cosmology offers, I still believe in a Creator. However I do not believe in "God." God is a societal concept designed for both security and of course control. Some human beings have a need to control others, and some human beings need the security of being controlled. How to achieve the afterlife can satisfy the needs of both groups. Oh, also Christianity has Satan. We can use the devil to blame for all the problems in our lives.
"Boy I tell ya, Satan sure didn't want us to get to the Feast this year. We sure had lots of car problems driving here to Big Sandy..."
It was probably more due to the fact of this family funneling thousands of dollars into the Worldwide Church of God. This was a common scenario, which kept many families from having decent transportation.
As we come to better understand how infinite the Universe really is, our finite concept of a Creator has to change. Why would the Creator want to be so petty as to create Religion?
July 1, 2001
My brother is concerned about my supposed atheistic/agnostic/deistic leanings? At least at this point I can write about what I honestly feel. What I say is not colored by the unwritten rule of being of being submissive to God's Government, Truth, Way, Law. The definition of any of those terms was whatever promoted Worldwide Church of God's agenda of money gathering and control. And now these sphincter groups that claim they are carrying the mantel of HWA's truth really crack me up.
It is often said that people have a "spiritual hunger" ~ a need for meaning ~ a need to know why we are here... For me, getting from point A to point B if life is meaning enough. And what about the Afterlife? Of all the thought, philosophies, and routes to paradise that man has concocted, there is not one shred of empirical proof of what occurs at death. Yet in this life people are controlled by what others tell them will occur. Eternal Damnation is the best motivational tool of all.
October 19, 2001
I looked up at clear stars last night and I said to myself, "Yes, I do believe that the Universe was Intelligently created, but I can see that Religion was not. There can be no greater affront to the Creator of the Universe than goddamn religion.
November 28, 2001
Bryan discovers The Painful Truth Website.
And he cries out, "My God, my God, why have you vindicated me???"
(My apologies to the Editor for quoting scripture 1 1/2 times in this litany...)
I found The Painful Truth website while I was looking for information on J. Michael Feazell's book The Liberation of the Worldwide Church of God. When I started reading through all the postings, I realized what I wanted to find out from him was pass‚. Being able to read everyone's experiences made me feel like Jody Foster's Dr. Arroway in "Contact." I realized, like many others have with the website, that I am not alone.
In the process of putting these journal entries together, I realized that I had gone through a change in my thought process between the middle of 1996 and the middle of 2000. I didn't realize that I was going through my healing process.
When I tired of attending Sabbath services in June of 1996, I found myself sinking in a deep pool. I was over my head in debt, in the middle of a college degree, and trying to adjust to my father's death. Somehow I instinctively knew that it was time to give the weekly trips to the enclave a rest.
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