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Tuesday, March 8, 2011
All Else Aside...I had to Be There
All Else Aside...I had to Be There
...in my heart of hearts, I know that I had to be there.
I was 14 years old when I heard my first sermon. It was in Idaho and it was about the universe and "God." I had been reading the booklets all week having just been introduced to the Church my older sister and brother-in-law had become convinced was close to whatever the Bible was trying to tell us. I was hooked. No one EVER gave a sermon on the Universe in our Presbyterian background. I can't remember one sermon from my youth in the . But this one I never forgot.
I devoured the Plain Truth Magazine and all the booklets I could get my hands on. It was the 60's. Hell, the whole world was going to hell in a handbasket. JFK had just been killed. MLK and Bobby were next. There were about to be Two major Middle Eastern wars endeavoring to wipe Israel off the map. (Update 2011...Go ahead, be my guest now. Wipe it off the face of the earth). I simply had to be where this church was.
For the next four years through High School, I read all I could. I talked to my girl friend who I was sure I'd marry someday. Hmmm, not going over so well there. Oh well, perhaps God was not calling her. (Update 2011...Lucky girl) I applied to two seminaries after High School. One was Roberts Weslyan which was Methodist and the other was . (Update 2011...I honestly thought it was a seminary according to what I saw in the perspectus). I chose...well you know.
Loved AC. Too stupid to know I was not getting the whole story. I used to go down to Fuller Seminary in Pasadena to study. They had a much better library. Never crossed my mind to transfer there because, well...they just weren't called like I was. Made lots of friends at AC. Most are now players in "Days of our Lives...The Wildworld and It's Many Faces." (Update 2011...Thank you God for not letting me keep following your true Church all over creation the last 20 years.)
But...I had to be there right up until the moment I realized I no longer could.
I made my choices over the years of turmoil and scandal. Ok, people are weak but so was David and of course....DAVID WAS A MAN AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART, so see, it all works out. While embarrassing and that niggly little voice was telling me get out during the receivership era, well...Satan really hated God's Church so of course stuff like this is going to happen. Besides, it is cleansing and we will be better than ever. I called once a week to hear recordings by "God's leading evangelist updates on the situation, and we were winning!!! (Update 2011...you know, like Charlie Sheen is "winning...duh! )
So I had to be there and NOTHING you could have done would have talked me out of it, until I talked myself out of it and even then, had to be pushed. I hated letting the local church down but when push came to shove, they all disappeared like I had the plague anyway. Big wake up there!
Somewhere along the way, I'd say around '94 or '95, I started to crack. I read outside the WCG box and devoured Spong's book, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism.
Hmmmm....this guy just answered almost every question I had about what never made sense about the Gospels. I loved his books and his honesty. I wrote JSS and told him how much I appreciate his perspectives and how helpful they were to me and in answering questions I had wondered about over the years that my Church never addressed. Actually they didn't know there were questions to ask. JSS wrote back personally...
"Thank you very much Dennis for your kind words and I am pleased I have been able to help. I'm glad you appreciate my work...however...
...you won't survive.
Wow...the man was not only a Bishop, but also a Prophet. I continued on reading JSS's works on the Birth and Death stories of Jesus. Craaaacccck.....I wove wonderful things in to my sermons for a time. I read all of Raymond Brown's books on the Birth and Death of the Messiah. Big books, long books, deeply thought out books....and I wove them into my sermons for a time. I was asked to teach at the local Catholic Church Bible studies on the topic of Jesus Birth Narratives. was a great RCC scholar and well respected. and I had become friends having met at the Annual AIDS something or other and it was there I actually was able to make a contact for my local WCG to meet that was much nicer. It was an actual church building and very nice. Of course, I was teaching in the RCC study what I dare not ever teach to my own congregation. They even paid me!!!
The Priest and I got along so well with our biblical interests that he asked me to do the marriages the RCC would not do. I was kinda like a bastard well hidden priest doing for the congregation what the real Priest could not do for them. Ccccrrrrraaaackkkk. I was learning there was so much more in the world of theology than what I had been told. Of course, I prayed my own congregation did not ask me much about it although a few did come and loved the studies on the Birth Narratives of Jesus.
I still had to be there. I think WCG was falling apart out in Pasadena, but my denial was keeping me in and hoping the church would just grow up. Maybe I could help it do so.
But it got bad. In 1996 I did win that's years essay contest in Biblical Archaeology Magazine on "we have the money to send you to any dig in Israel...why should we send you?" Long story short, out of all the people in the world that year, I won. I spent over three weeks at BAR's expense digging in Har Megiddo (The Valley of Megiddo) I was in ho..., cow heaven. I came home and shortly after that I was terminated.
I wonder at what point I would have made my own decision to leave. Everything was coming unglued. Transitions are messy and I was no exception to that truth. Everything suffers. New perspectives replace old ones and those who used to inspire no longer can or do.
But up to that point. I had to be there until I didn't. No one made me stay and once the damn broke in my mind, then and only then could I leave.
My last Festival Sermon was on "The Politics of the ." You know, the who was the really? Why does he call Peter James and John "reputed pillars" and then add, "I learned nothing from them..." etc. What was going on? Who was on whose side and did they all really speak the same thing? I loved giving that sermon. I had a ball. We laughed (passive aggressive humor is my style and yes I was serious even if it was funny) and when it was all said and done, 8000 kind folk applauded on and on when it was FORBIDDEN :) It was worse than running with scissors.
That Spring, it was over. Lots of things were over.
But I had to be there, until I no longer could be. I made my choices. No one made me stay too long. I had a wonderful mix of denial and hope for a time and denial bit me in the ass finally. Denial still does that to me at times even now.
But for all that time, I had to be there until I no longer could be. I accept responsibility for my choices, staying longer than some or even most and not wanting to "take our local church Dennis and let's just be our own selves." Uh..no. I told those guys that they'd have me for lunch within six months and I had a life to get back in order. Still working on that...
But I had to be there until I no longer could and I accept responsibility for all my choices that have brought me to where I am today.
Where am I? :) I have no idea, but I am NOT stuck in the never ending story of WCG/UCG/PCG/RCG/ and all the other COG's and men who have never yet read Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism and to this day, have no idea they do not yet understand the Book well enough to teach the truth about it.