The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God

Why Christians Hate

by
John B.
 

Lately I've given a lot of thought to the "hate mail" that has appeared on the Painful Truth website. Letters to Bruce Renehan from people like David Stirk of Scotland, letters to Ed from the likes of the Yarbroughs and others can only be described as, at best, angry--and at worst, hate-filled. Such messages from those who claim to be Christian are enlightening to say the least, and certainly do not demonstrate the so-called "fruits of the spirit" taught by the Bible that these people try to defend. If their god is a god of love, they certainly are not true to their beliefs.
The question that comes to mind for me is, Why? If these folks subscribe to the Christian ideal, what is it that punches their button? What causes them to spew forth such anger and apparent hatred against those who disagree with them?
I certainly am no expert in psychology, therefore I cannot offer an expert opinion. But I do have an opinion, and it is based on my own Worldwide Church of God experience. I believe these people are indeed driven to hatred toward those of us who have escaped the tyranny under which they still live. But why should they hate us?
The simple answer is ...
Fear.
Hatred often, if not usually, stems from fear. Prejudice begins when one feels threatened by what one does not understand, and therefore fears it. When blacks first came to America, they looked like no one else on the continent. They were of a different color, had different features, spoke a different language. They looked and sounded alien. Many of them, since they were brought here against their will, may have displayed hostility.
Many people feared them. And began to hate them. Such emotions still exist to this day.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 spawned instant prejudice against not only the citizens of Japan, but Orientals in general and Japanese-Americans in particular. Hatred born of terror caused the U.S. government to force thousands of U.S. citizens of Japanese descent into concentration camps for the duration of the war.
Many people hate homosexuals. Why? They fear them. Why? Because they feel threatened by them. Why? Because they know nothing about homosexuality aside from dirty jokes and religious indoctrination. Ignorance breeds fear which breeds hatred.
Which often breeds violence.


 

To be a member of an unpopular religious cult, such as the Worldwide Church of God, is to live in fear. I remember well the fear that began to grow in me even before my mother joined Worldwide Church of God in 1961. Though we did not yet attend church, we heard the World Tomorrow on radio for years, and the house was littered with Plain Truth magazines and scores of religious booklets. Herbert W. Armstrong and Garner Ted Armstrong ranted daily about World War III (which was just around the corner) and the Great Tribulation. It was enough to terrify a fifth grader, and as I grew older it only got worse.
My fear intensified when we became church members. Now we not only feared war and famine, we also feared persecution. Ministers gleefully described how we would be hunted with dogs before the church fled to "a place of safety". I was 14 when I confided in my mother that I didn't trust the classmate who lived down the road. She asked me why not.
"He's Catholic," I told her. "In a few years he might turn me in."
I feared him. I never quite hated him, but neither did I trust him. (And he never did turn me in.)
As 1972 approached, my fear heightened to constant anxiety. The tribulation was only months away, and ministers hammered us with sermons about concentration camps, gas chambers, hideous tortures. They said that what lay ahead would make Auschwitz look like a church picnic. What lay ahead would be FAR WORSE THAN ANYTHING THIS WORLD HAS EVER SEEN ! ! ! (Which is saying quite a lot when you look back at the Nazi era, the Stalin era, the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, and some of the ancient civilizations that did some pretty terrible things.) Joseph Tkach, as late as 1986, was still urging people to read Fox's Book of Martyrs.
Fear of persecution became predominant in my mind. According to church legend, the tribulation would not come until after we had suffered a great deal of persecution. Therefore, persecution was a more immediate threat than the tribulation, and every world event that even suggested a fulfillment of prophecy was terrifying. To mention just a few such events:
The death of Pope Paul VI.
The election of Pope John Paul.
The death of Pope John Paul less than a month later.
The election of Pope John Paul II.
(It was reported in the Fresno congregation that John Paul II had worked for the I.G. Farbin Chemical company in World War II, the same company that manufactured Zyklon B which was used in the gas chambers. This was supposed to be significant.)
The Iranian hostage crisis.
The "attack" on Worldwide Church of God by the State of California.
The shooting of Ronald Reagan.
The shooting of Pope John Paul II.
And many others.

Probably nothing scared me more than the crisis with the State of California. This surely seemed to be a fulfillment of prophecy. The very government of the State of California was now the enemy (and I lived there!). We had been warned for years that we would be "expelled" by the government. And now here it was.
I remember my fear. I was married, with a small son and one on the way. I knew I was not righteous enough to be "accounted worthy" to escape all this. By the standards established by the church I simply could not measure up. (I found out later that no one else could, either.) So here we faced expulsion, destitution, possible starvation. How could I protect my wife and child? I couldn't. No more than the Jews of Germany in WWII, because when an entire government hunts you, you are dead meat.
I was terrified.
I hated George Deukmejian (the California Atty General).
I hated Mike Wallace (of 60 Minutes who took "their" side).
I hated those "six dissidents"--whoever they were--who had turned on us and caused all this mess.
I actually wished someone would kill them.
(!?!)

There have been other times, other events, other fears that have caused me to hate. But none more fervently than that legal crisis with the State of California.
Having revisited that entire year in my mind, I think I now understand those who flail out at Ed and Bruce and the PT website. They don't really mean to be hateful, but they can't help it. They still believe in the myth of the tribulation. They still fear the threat of religious persecution. They don't want to be starved, whipped, tortured, or burned. And who can blame them? Yet they still cling to these fears, perhaps subconsciously, that were first introduced by Herbert W. Armstrong more than 50 years ago. People who never heard his voice, yet are members of his cult, harbor these fears almost as if they were passed on genetically. The cult is their mother, their only protection, their only safety zone.
Anyone who speaks against the cult, truthfully or otherwise, is a threat.
Anyone who speaks against the cult, truthfully or otherwise, is to be feared.
Anyone who speaks against the cult, truthfully or otherwise, is to be hated.
It cannot be any other way.
I know.
I was there.
I remember.

 


 

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