Friday, January 20, 2012

Guest Writer Andrew on "What Is Wrong with the COG's?" UPDATED

What Is Wrong with the COG's?

In short, the thing that is wrong with the COG's is they are crazy. Crazy does not describe the splinters themselves, so much as it describes what you become when subjected its many contradictions. When I say contradiction, I mean, when your senses, your instincts, and your innate intelligence all tell you one thing, and every human being you come in contact with offers a totally contradictory account of the same or similar experiences. You become divided, one half believing your observations, the other half believing the social proof. We have good reasons to believe both, even though we know, somewhere deep down, that both cannot be true simultaneously, nevertheless, we bend everything else around to rationalize them, to try to make them both make sense simultaneously. That is how people who are searching for something, can become more lost than ever. Organizations that they trust will help them make sense out of life, instead create environments that facilitate the twisting of young, naïve, or weak people's psyches until they resemble a carnival's hall of mirrors. For anyone who has seen the film, just like the talking computer HAL from Stanley Kubrik's "2001: A Space Odyssey," who went crazy from contradictory instructions, so too do we became "crazy" in exactly the same way.

The biggest example of crazy I have come to perceive within Armstrongism (the recognition of which has begun to shepherd me in the general direction of sanity) is as follows:

1) The only things that are recognized as sins in COG's are not tithing, not keeping the sabbath or holy days, keeping the world's holidays, eating unclean meats, murder (that's criminal), not showing sufficient deference and respect for a minister (the eleventh commandment), and sexual dalliances (although those are "private" matters, which should be covered up). And then there are the pet peeves that are splinter-specific, like sacred names, new moons, calendar, etc. Everything else is just a shoulder issue, like hair length, proper attire, substance abuse, or not praying and studying daily, which might be regarded as sin technically, but in practice no one ever makes a big deal about. That's the whole enchilada right there.

2) But by anyone's standard, you can lie, cheat, steal, and abuse others in COUNTLESS other ways, and no one is even going to raise an eyebrow, so long as you otherwise put on a show of niceness, reasonableness, and otherwise general respectability. The Golden Rule is, "Do unto others before they do it unto you." Even though the bible is pretty clear that these things are all sins too, (lying and stealing are part of the Ten Commandments even) the reason why this is not recognized as being sin within the COG's is because this type of behavior is the "minister's" bread and butter. They make their living off of abusing other people and making it seem "reasonable," and as a result, it becomes "normal" and "acceptable."

When we try to rationalize these two sets of facts, and force them to make sense in relationship to the bible, the result is we start to become "crazy." And rightly so, because if we succeed, then we have lost touch with reality. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about Armstrong, Meredith, Pack, Flurry, UCG, COGWA, or the bounty of self-appointed prophets and apostles. They are ALL like this.

But I wrote "by anyone's standard" because, if you go to any other religious organization, the Catholics or Protestants, or any other Christian outfit, some of the things in the FIRST paragraph are going to change, but NOTHING in the SECOND paragraph will change. (Notice that I numbered these paragraphs for easy reference. I will keep referring back to them.)

Jesus said that the pharisees were hypocrites because they tithed and were careful about all the nitpicky observances, but completely neglected "the weightier matters of the law." And that is my point. The FIRST paragraph is the obvious, but "non-weighty" portion, while NOT DOING the SECOND paragraph is the less obvious perhaps, but definitely "weightier" portion. If the general outlines I have laid out here are essentially correct, then Christians, by and large, are basically hypocrites. Using that definition, there are approximately 2 billion Christian "pharisees" in the world today. How sad.

But why stop there? Let's consider all the secular organizations too, including for-profit corporations, governments of all sorts, and, heck, why not even throw in the Mafia for good measure. Hey, there's honor, even among thieves. Just change the FIRST paragraph. Simple. Everybody does the SECOND paragraph. Everybody.

Christians are different though. No, it's true. Just not in the way that they would have you believe. They will TELL you they're different because they play by the rules of Jesus, instead of the world's rules. They would have you BELIEVE they are different UNDERNEATH. But this is just a charade. Certainly at the organizational level, if not the individual level, people don't play by Jesus' rules. The only thing that makes Christians different is the charade. The REAL difference with Christians is that they're the least likely to be HONEST about themselves. The real difference with Christians is the charade. Al Capone may have been a murderer, but one thing he wasn't, was a hypocrite. The bottom line is we're ALL the same underneath because we all do the SECOND paragraph. Yes, even Christians.

HWA and all the COG's trying to preserve his legacy have always thought of themselves as being so DIFFERENT from the rest of Christianity, but from this point of view, they are actually quite MAINSTREAM. Perhaps even ORTHODOX. From this point of view, there's just as much difference between a COG and the Catholics as there is between the Catholics and the Mafia. Which is to say, the differences between all three of them are superficial. When it comes to how they LIVE as opposed to merely what they preach, COG's have much more in common with everyone else in the world than they would like to believe. For example, during the process of copying and pasting the Evangelical's FIRST paragraph over to become WCG's FIRST paragraph (becoming "doctrinally" mainstream), the Tkach's made HEAVY use of the WHOLE SECOND paragraph as though there was nothing wrong with doing any of that. And no one even noticed.

How come? Because Christians, not just the leaders, but the lay members too, think the stuff in the FIRST paragraph is ALL there is to being a Christian. They are literally BLIND to HALF, the more IMPORTANT half, of what SHOULD BE their doctrine! Maybe it's not half, but let's just say half for simplicity's sake. Anyway, because they are blind, they cannot see anything wrong, AND because of their blindness they DECEIVE themselves into believing they can see BETTER than anyone else! Tragic really.

I could here use the bible to eviscerate not just the COG's, but also the entire establishment of Christendom regarding blindness, being deceived, Laodicea, Emperor's new clothes, and so forth, but will limit myself to the earlier statement of Jesus that I have already cited, regarding hypocrisy, which is my point.

Not being distracted by all the petty "doctrines," non-religious people can see both halves clearly, but generally think that avoiding doing the SECOND paragraph is the only part that is important, and so they merely DISPENSE with the entire FIRST paragraph. Not coincidentally, while that wasn't exactly what Jesus said to do, it might be CLOSER to what he said than what Christians do.

Is it possible that non-believers who don't participate in formal religious observance, but nonetheless make a good faith effort to live moral and ethical lives, are actually better at practicing the teachings of Jesus Christ than those who profess to be Christians? I didn't say they were perfect. True, they don't tithe on their mint, anise, or cumin. Also, don’t forget that everyone practices the SECOND paragraph. But here's the rub: non-believers don't have the same vested interest in being DISHONEST about that fact.  Unwittingly, they are free to be MORE observant of the "weightier matters" both because they are not blind to it, and because they believe that is where the emphasis should be placed. I suppose there remains the issue of faith still to be resolved. I wouldn't expect even a "good faith" non-believer to claim faithfulness. On the other hand, are they any LESS faithful than the pharisees? If we just called that particular death-match a draw, it seems that the "good-faith" non-believer comes out ahead of the average professing Christian by a fair margin. Notice, I stopped short of declaring any "winners" here though.

If it were not for this terrible example of hypocrisy that Christianity sets, there would probably be a lot fewer atheists and agnostics. Christianity certainly puts a lot of wind in their sails. I am sure part of the calculations of the typical non-believer include the fact that they find the abuse in religious institutions morally and ethically objectionable, and can't fathom that any higher power could possibly be at work there because the whole thing is so sickening. That sickening feeling may be the foundation upon which they then conclude that the religious are silly people who will believe anything without good reason, atheism's major talking point today. Or maybe it's just the main reason why people wind up leaving Christianity to become non-believers.

Despite all the money Christians spend trying to get out the "gospel," their example powerfully negates their message. What a waste! How counterproductive! But isn't that exactly what we should expect from people who are so deeply divided within themselves? Shouldn't we expect self-sabotaging behaviors to be among the symptoms of being diagnosed as a certifiable Christian?

Whenever people form any organization, secular or religious, the scum always seems to rise to the top. Everyone else either follows or they get forced out, thus purifying and concentrating the scum. But only the Christian variety of scum claims that the only suitable preparation for an environment (heaven) where no "sewage" can seep in, is to spend the rest of your life soaking together in "sewage!" But then the COG’s declare that not just any "sewage" will do. No, it must be THEIR specific concoction of "sewage!" Did I say crazy already?

If Jesus is who he said he was, then I cannot imagine that he would sponsor ANY Christian organization, because such organizations don't seem to be able to stop themselves from teaching through their example that a life of systematic lying, cheating and stealing is "God's way." They don't seem to be able to help but to lead people AWAY from what everyone EXCEPT Christians intuitively seems to know are the weightier matters of life. Organizations always seem to be hostile environments for practicing the teachings of Jesus Christ. They're great places for practicing Christianity though. Isn't it crazy that those two should have so little in common?

Crazy, yes, but when you are finally able to sit down and think it all through clearly, and in the proper context, it all winds up making perfect sense. That's when the confusion subsides and you can begin moving to the next stage of the grieving process: anger.

"Men go crazy in congregations, they only get better one by one." -Sting, "All This Time"


Mish-Mash said...

Man, you really hit the nail on the head. Most religious people (including myself up to a few months ago) walk around in a self-deluded haze. I still believe but I am going to lose that zombie drunkeness of being enamored with any organization, group, minister or Rabbi. Each person is an entity unto themselves. The commandment, love thy neighbor starts at with your closest neighbors, your family. Cherish and honor them first. That is going to build the kingdom, not psychotic organizations. Don't have a family, then do the same with your friends and co-workers. Preaching the gospel (of love and mercy) can start with any one of us. But I am going on and on here. Time to have a glass of wine and enjoy a cold, snowy Friday night.

Black Ops Mikey said...

Armstrongism is illogical and unscientific. It is irrational.

For that reason, it creates excruciatingly loud mental noise for those who are attuned to logic and reason.

Andrew speaks to this in the first four sentences.

The only way that the human mind can manage this obvious cognitive dissonance is to suppress logical reasoning and allow emotions to guide thinking.

Unfortunately, the Armstrongists create secondary and tertiary resonant consequences of irrationality.

The leader starts with propositions which are inconsistent and cannot be fulfilled. Followers make an attempt at rationalizing, compromising and striving to implement the propositions, which leads to heavily conflicted and less than successful results.

This in turn creates an entirely dysfunctional environment which makes no real sense.

This dysfunctional environment affects family, friends, associates in an expanding wave, creating chaos.

Fortunately, there are limits to how much chaos is created, but it can be considerable as the implications of bad premises turn into aberrant bad behavior. High concept ideas cannot be implemented and hypocrisy results.

When people discover the lies and find they cannot change them in their lives, they become apathetic. If they find they can do something about the lies, they become angry and rebel.

This community is further complicated by the fact that for the most part, the Armstrongist leaders are angry. Their anger fuels dissatisfaction and depression, affecting the people coming in contact with the members. The whole venue becomes a dirge of negativity, replete with prognostication of death, devastation, destruction.

There is no way to begin to mitigate the impact without leaving the cult that generates the mental noise.

All Armstrongist associations are cults and there can be no reformation or redemption of the entire Armstrongist community.

Andrew said...

COG organizations and their adherents don't seem to be able to avoid preaching through their example that a life of systematic lying, cheating, stealing, etc., is what the bible says is "God's way." So, the leaders especially have a nasty habit of pissing on you and telling you it's raining.

If you stick up for yourself and call them on it, first they accuse you of having a bad attitude, saying you shouldn't say such things to a leader, second proceed to insinuate that it's your fault and you had it coming because you're such a [fill in the blank], so under the circumstances, it was reasonable for someone like you to get pissed on by someone like me. Third, better not call me on the fact that I lied and told you it was raining, or else I'll make things worse for you. And finally, you do want eternal life, don't you? Because what you're doing right now isn't pleasing God. (As if he would know...)

If we can successfully rationalize that this could be "God's way," or moral, or ethical by any stretch, or from any point of view, forcing it into some kind of pretzel sense, then we have just lost touch with reality.

When I hear reports of ministers saying things like, "God backs up a minister, even when he's wrong," or "The people shouldn't say anything, it is only God's responsibility to correct a minister," I just cringe because of the abusive intent behind such statements.

A spade is a spade is a spade, no matter what anybody else says.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I concur.

To paraphrase what you wrote, "A cult is a cult is a cult, no matter what anybody else says.

Any attempt to say their product is defective in any way will be countered with the accusation that fault is the consumer's.

Things like-

"You don't have enough faith."
"You have a bad attitude."
"You need to be more patient."
"You need to be more forgiving."
"Don't be so self-centered."
"You're not working the program correctly."

I find most cheesy, the pre-packaged responses which rhyme, like-

"You have stinkin' thinkin'."
"Your attitude needs gratitude."
"You need less farts and more smarts."


DennisCDiehl said...

Nicely spoken Andrew..

Black Ops Mikey said...

first they accuse you of having a bad attitude

No, they have a more effective tool that is similar, but harder to counter.

They tell you You're Bitter.

How are you going to counter that?

Andrew said...

Can't argue with that analysis, Doug. I see it like this, anytime you allow someone to define you, you've already lost the war.

John said...

Didn't Jesus ask his disciples on the Mount of Olives that when he comes again "shall he find the faith on the earth"?

Not just faith, but the Faith. I think the answer is that he won't. Definitely not in a collective or corporate sense.

I think his message has been so corrupted over time that it has led to it becomIng so institutionalized and corporatized that it is really no longer recognizable with the original message. I think he actually came to do away with "religion." Didn't at his death the Temple veil tear apart symbolizing--to quote a favorite book of mine by Bruxy Cavey--The End of Religion? I think that's why the religious establishment of the day found him such a threat and wanted him dead. Because he taught our relationship with God and each other was of greater importance than the rules they wanted us to focus on. Was there a temple in Eden? Will there be a temple in the new Jerusalem? I think that tells us something about where He is trying to lead us. Back to the future.

Byker Bob said...

One could write a much shorter and concise essay about the things which accidentally ended up being right about the ACOGs.