I am not so willing to give the local ministers a pass. While I essentially agree that the guys on top knew it was all about power and money, and the local ministers were just dupes, they were evil dupes. In F. A. Hayek's book "The Road to Serfdom," chapter 10 is entitled "Why the Worst Get on Top." In the chapter, Hayek tells us why the leaders in totalitarian governments are so evil. The Worldwide Church of God was totalitarian, and I found that Hayek's explanation applied to the ministry, especially those in the upper echelon. I hope you don't mind the long quote:
They Sold Their Souls
By Mark M.
"Where there is one common all-overriding end, there is no room for any general morals or rules. To a limited extent we ourselves experience this in wartime. But even war and the greatest peril had led in the democratic countries only to a very moderate approach to totalitarianism, very little setting aside of all other values in the service of a single purpose. But where a few specific ends dominate the whole of society, it is inevitable that occasionally cruelty may become a duty; that acts which revolt all our feeling, such as the shooting of hostages or the killing of the old or sick, should be treated as mere matters of expediency; that the compulsory uprooting and transportation of hundreds of thousand should become an instrument of policy approved by almost everybody except the victims; or that suggestions like that of a conscription of women for breeding purposes can be seriously contemplated. There is always in the eyes of the collectivist a greater goal which these acts serve and which to him justifies them because the pursuit of the common end of society can know no limits in any rights or values of any individual.
"But while for the mass of the citizens of the totalitarian state it is often unselfish devotion to an ideal, although one that is repellent to us, which makes them approve and even perform such deeds, this cannot be pleaded for those who guide its policy. To be a useful assistant in the running of a totalitarian state, it is not enough that a man should be prepared to accept specious justification of vile deeds; he must himself be prepared actively to break every moral rule he has ever known if this seems necessary to achieve the end set for him. Since it is the supreme leader who alone determines the ends, his instruments must have no moral convictions of their own. They must, above all, be unreservedly committed to the person of the leader; but next to this the most important thing is that they should be completely unprincipled and literally capable of everything. They must have no ideals of their own which they want to realize; no ideas about right or wrong which might interfere with the intentions of the leader. There is thus in the positions of power little to attract those who hold moral beliefs of the kind which in the past have guided the European peoples, little which could compensate for the distastefulness of many of the particular tasks, and little opportunity to gratify any more idealistic desires, to recompense for the undeniable risk, the sacrifice of most of the pleasures of private life and of personal independence which the posts of great responsibility involve. The only tastes which are satisfied are the taste for power as such and the pleasure of being obeyed and of being part of a well-functioning and immensely powerful machine to which everything else must give way.
"Yet while there is little that is likely to induce men who are good by our standards to aspire to leading positions in the totalitarian machine, and much to deter them, there will be special opportunities for the ruthless and unscrupulous. There will be jobs to be done about the badness of which taken by themselves nobody has any doubt, but which have to be done in the service of some higher end, and which have to be executed with the same expertness and efficiency as any others. And as there will be need for actions which are bad in themselves, and which all those still influenced by traditional morals will be reluctant to perform, the readiness to do bad things becomes a path to promotion and power. The positions in a totalitarian society in which it is necessary to practice cruelty and intimidation, deliberate deception and spying, are numerous. Neither the Gestapo nor the administration of a concentration camp, neither the Ministry of Propaganda nor the S.A. or S.S. (or their Italian or Russian counterparts), are suitable places for the exercise of humanitarian feelings. Yet it is through positions like these that the road to the highest positions in the totalitarian state leads."
This describes the Worldwide Church of God ministry to me. They sold their souls to Armstrong in exchange for the power and perks of the ministry. My first pastor would denounce from the pulpit a seventy year old diabetic lady who had her leg amputated. She did not have enough faith in God and resorted to the satanic medical system. Then he would turn around have polyps removed from his nose because he couldn't breathe, and his excuse was that he would die if he didn't have them removed (not true, it was uncomfortable but a big tough guy like him should have been able to handle it).
We've all seen the types who "ran" for office. Like all political candidates, they would pander to the voters. But in the Worldwide Church of God, there was only one voter, the pastor. They would suck up to him, and would willingly snitch on their own family in order to ingratiate themselves with the ministry, as a means by which they would be ordained a deacon or an elder. We've all seen the swelled heads when all of a sudden everybody in the congregation had to start addressing a certain man as "Mister." I believe most of these men were true believers, dupes like the rest of us. I also believe they were grasping, unscrupulous seekers after power who would willingly sacrifice family and friends to attain their office. I saw it among the paid, full-time ministry, and I saw it among deacons who coveted the position of local church elder. One LCE in our congregation would walk around and let the men know when their hair was too long and that they needed to get a haircut. He reveled in the trappings of the ministry. He was a sincere, true believer of "the truth," and he was a miserable, butt-kissing son-of-a-you-know-what that decent people avoided. But those lusting for power lined up to kiss his butt, and he liked getting his butt kissed.
The ministry was full of these types. They vastly outnumbered the truly decent men who enjoyed serving the congregation. And their wives were little better. The ministers were a rotten bunch. They were sincere dupes, and they truly believed the teachings of Herbert Armstrong. But they were also doers of evil deeds who should have known better. Hitler's followers were also sincere dupes, but we didn't forgive them. We hanged them instead.
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